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The Point: A Thought on Ministry and Love

ThePointSketchAs long as there has been sin in the world there have been people with problems. Adam’s first issue was the fact that he was naked and then ashamed; Eve likewise. Since then the problems of humanity have compounded to an immeasurable proportion and it is very likely that things are not going to get better for humanity any time soon. The Good News is that Jesus Christ has suffered temptation, suffered in the flesh and risen from death and ascended into Heaven to “prepare” us for the presence of God (Among Many Things found in redemption…). So, those who know the love of God IN and THROUGH Jesus Christ ALONE can have joy in the midst of the problems. As believers, we know that all things are for our good and in time we will see the outcome of such in all circumstances. We understand that God is sovereign and that nothing is out of His touch and decree and that even in the worst of times His love for us is visible, effectual and known.

To this point then let’s remind ourselves of the love of God.  First, God is love. So, He is known as love in His nature, love, holiness, character and actions. Second, if we love God it is only because God first loved us. Third, God’s love is only known through Jesus Christ the Son whom HE (God) put forth to satisfy His judgment against us and bring justice for our sin according to His holiness. We learn that there is no greater “love” than for a man to lay down his life for a brother, therefore, God loved the world in this way (so loved) that HE gave His Son.  So, we summarize the love of God in the following way:

  1. God is love.
  2. God’s love is only known through the GIVING (sending and killing) of Jesus His Son.
  3. God loves us in the giving of Jesus Christ to die for our sins in that we cannot pay for them ourselves.

So, if we understand God’s love this way according to scripture, then we can rightly assume that to DISAGREE with God’s love through the Son is to REJECT the love of God. Those who reject the love of God are condemned already (John 3:16-18) and are subject to the wrath of God’s hatred for sin and sinners. Hmmmm….. Let that soak a minute and now let’s move to the point of our conversation.

Ministry often times is man-centered. It can been seen in a selfish light of “I want a friend”, “I want a shoulder to cry on”, “I want someone to pity me.” Of course this is not exclusive nor is it the rule but everyone can resonate with such statements. Let’s consider true ministry as “An attempt or effort to love others as God has loved us.”  Thinking this way should have already opened your eyes. So, if God ONLY LOVES in the giving of His Son, then in the same manner (like in Ephesians 5:22-25) we should love each other as God loves us. We are unable to put Jesus the Son on the cross for He has already fulfilled His ministry as the Lamb but we are able to POINT TO THE LOVE of God for us and in doing so we are LOVING each other.

Ministry takes on a whole new light when we think biblically and especially when people come with their problems.1 Thessalonians 5:14 teaches that the church should be admonished when idle, encouraged when downhearted and strengthened when weak.

Everyone needs a good ear from time to time and it is always good when a believer seeks out counsel from a brother or sister in the local family of faith. In this seeking of counsel often times it comes to the point of just listening to someone whine about how bad things are rather than seeking good counsel. In the end it is always improper (according to our understanding of love) to allow someone to just fall into pity and self-centeredness for any reason. Our love for them should point them to the promises of God through His word and in the admonishing of the idle a stern warning comes first to BE IN THE WORD and BE IN THE BODY.

Without these two things no counsel will work, no hope will stick, no joy will arise. To give someone a shoulder to cry on while they live in continual disobedience and rejection of what the scripture teaches on how they are victors is “like” casting a diamond into the sea in hopes it would swim to a new family for their wealth or maybe like throwing a pearl in a pig sty. In other words, it does NO GOOD at all to just allow someone to ignore the power of God and His gospel just to have a pity party.

The answers to life come from God’s word, the power of victorious living come from the word, hope and courage come from God’s word… grace comes from God’s word. The letter of James tells us that those who see and do the word of God are victorious and rest on a solid foundation and just like Psalm 1, their feet will be planted and produce great growth. So, when someone needs wisdom, we go to scripture and show them to “ask and it will be given.” When someone needs comfort we exhort them to believe Jesus Christ when He says, “come to me all who are weary.” When one comes broken in their battle over sin we show them that Christ has suffered in every way and with every temptation but has sinned not. Others come with worry and in need of answers to their problems that they would find an escape and Godly council says, “stand fast in the fiery trials” and “do not be surprised” when they come.

Being out of the word of God and away from God’s people is like asking God to save you from burning as you set yourself on fire. Well maybe not quite as dramatic… but you get the point. At the cusp of this matter lies the ministry of the church of Jesus Christ, who are ambassadors of the living God through the redemption that is theirs in Christ. Sadly, many who want counsel want more than what the Word of God offers or want to be free from the pain of this life and sadly apart from the Word they will never find answers.

So what is the point of this rambling treatise? For all of those who diligently minister to those in need, please remember that the greatest ministry is the ministry of the word and the greatest friend is found in the body of Christ. So as we labor to answer the questions of life for others and we point them to the word of God we put our hope in Christ not ourselves. If we find some who refuse to hear and heed the word but they keep coming back for something else, it may be that we have to just clearly show them we have nothing more for them. Part of the pain of the Father’s discipline is being alone when we reject the Father’s instruction. Not to say we abandon others but we surely have to be clear that there is little we can do to help if they will not hear.

Warn the idle, encourage the downhearted and strengthen the weak through the word of God – if they do not listen, pray that God will cause them to listen and in their silent and lonely search for hope, God the Spirit will guide them back to His written word and back into the intimacy of His Holy People!

Lord Bless!

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God is Not Mad

God is Not Mad

Along US 25 in Waynesboro, Ga, Maranatha Community Church felt it was a good idea to post this sign. The message seems to be that God is never mad at anyone for any reason. The sign is clearly visible from the highway although best visible to northbound traffic. It is a permanently constructed, not easily changed sign, obviously constructed to last for a long time. For me this sign symbolizes for us the weakness and collapse of the evangelical church.

Examining it in the light of scripture, you can find that this sign is just flat contrary to scripture. If you look at Rom 1:18 it says “For the wrath of God is revealed against all ungodliness and unrighteous of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness”. Later in this chapter we learn that this refers all people who are not Christians. Thus we learn that God IS mad at all people for all sort of reasons. So this sign is a false teaching and a deceptive and false prophecy.

Now you could say, well, we’re just talking to Christians here. After all, Christians are not under the wrath of God (1 Th. 5:9). If that is so, then the sign should have been qualified so as not to be misleading. It should say “God is not mad at CHRISTIANS …” but that is not how it is written. It is also not placed so only Christians would see it. We therefore have to conclude that the intended audience is everyone passing by on US25.

If the objective, then, is to encourage “seekers” to enter the church with the idea of then giving them the true gospel, wouldn’t that be a bait and switch? If you are going to ultimately present them the gospel of sin, condemnation, Christ’s sacrifice and repent and faith, this would seem to start off in a deceptive direction which would make you look like a liar and turn people off immediately.

Now I know nothing about Maranatha Community Church, but it would seem that the sign is an actual expression of their belief and that they want to encourage unbelievers to come to their church with the promise of inclusion and acceptance of them no matter what their state or mode of life. The call might be “we don’t care what you are or what you do, we offer you the peace and acceptance of Christ. Come join with us! We don’t care if you an LGBTQ or if you are mafia hit person or a drug abuser, come join with us and received the acceptance of Christ!” If true, this would be a denial of the Gospel which calls for people to die to themselves and become slaves of Christ. The people who would compose such an assembly while they call themselves a church would in fact be an effective denier of Christ and thus an anti-Christian assembly.

This is what Schaeffer spoke of in Death in the City. Church, knowing the truth, have turned away from it. They propose externally focused religion, rejection of the Word of God, toleration for specific sins, and adoption of the world’s practices as the way to go rather than following the Word of God. In so doing the ministers trample God’s vineyard, scatter the sheep, distort and misuse God’s word. This not only leads God’s people astray, it also creates the wrong impression of God and His requirements in the hearts of people. This results in a diluted/destroyed witness and a lack of influence on society. As more and more assembly’s adopt this kind of teaching, the churches are weakened and polluted and the world receives more and more reason not to pay attention to it.

Schaeffer’s solution is to preach the true gospel, live the true Gospel and to call out those who are distorting the Word and misleading the people. Again, not knowing anything about Maranatha Community Church but that sign and what it means, we call on them to either correct that sign to represent a true statement or to take the sign down altogether. We further indicate to all people on the authority of the Word of God, that that sign does not represent what God would have us to know about Him and our relationship to Him.

Dr. Cuellar can be found on Facebook

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A Rant & A Revelation

Made in God by Christ Jesus

I often peel through forums looking for vintage chess sets. I love to play, am teaching my kids to play and next school year will start a chess club with our local Christian Educator’s Association. Recently looking for a specific period style I have noticed several auctions online that state: “Vintage/Antique Authentic French Regency, Mid 18th Century: Authentic.” And while each title is different the gist is the same, they want the buyer to see the auction, consider it real and pay them money for the merchandise. If you don’t know what you’re looking for you could pay $50 for a chess set worth $5 and in some cases for high-end collectors (of which I am not) you could pay $40K for a chess set worth $5. If you don’t know what you’re looking at, it is easy to be duped.

One such auction caught my eye today and after several minutes of examining the seller, messaging back and two and seeing several pictures, I asked for a specific picture of the bottoms and sides of several pieces and the box. To my surprise the pictures came over and what in bright gold foil did I see? “Made in Taiwan” clearly marked the bottom of two kings and the box. While I am not opposed to Chinese manufactured merchandise, at this juncture I was discussing an authentic antique item that looked very much real until the mark of the maker was noticable. After making reference a few times with the seller, it came to light that he actually bought the set thinking it was authentic in order to make a profit. Sadly, he was burned, and while he had a very nice set to play with, it was not worth his buying price nor his asking.

So, this set me on a small internal rant of how people take advantage of so many so often for profit. Then it hit me, in some way many people who are “among” the church do the same thing. They look, talk, dress, act, schedule and appear to be born of God but in reality the stamp of their origin is hidden. They are not God’s but rather they belong to the world, the flesh, the culture, the enemy. Eventually, just like in the case of the chess set, the truth of the origin is made clear. So often people continue to hang around God’s people so that they can feel better, get more personal affection, be provided for and put on the appearance of Godliness but in the end they deny the power of God because they walk away from the faith that was never theirs to begin with. As they depart we can see that they were not made by God to be righteous in the image of His son, but are indeed still in the world.

Where this could go in application is continual and never-ending. So, I’ll leave it right here for all of us to ponder.  A good place to consider is John 3, John 6, Hebrews 6 and Hebrews 10 along with 1 John etc. etc. etc.  The fruit of God’s faithful salvation is able to be seen but it is not salvation as many of the worldly and lost can put on the garments of acting and often times believe that they are the genuine article. God preserves His people until the end; are you standing fast in the confession of the hope in Christ Jesus? I pray so.

For His Glory,

Pastor James

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Hearing & Knowing the Spirit of God

Preparing to teach a short course on God the Holy Spirit, I came across and older excerpt from Ferguson on John Owen entitled, “The Trinitarian Devotion of John Owen“.  Ligonier posted the excerpt in 2015 and today I share it with you in summary.

As it is, many protestants are absent in knowledge of the Spirit and have no real access to understand His nature and working and thus ignore and misapply much. Likewise in different scale, some place the “acts” of the Spirit as foremost in evidence and both groups would do well to discern that the Spirit of Truth is opposed to the Spirit of Error.  Owen suggests that the believer needs to discern the difference between the Serpent’s leading and the Holy Spirit’s leading.

Here are short summaries of Owen’s thoughts:

The Regulum

This is the RULE of SCRIPTURE and is the guiding canon of how one is to discern the Spirit. God the Spirit will never change the “rule of life” but rather He works to give understanding on the “rule of Scripture”.  So any leading that is not consistent with the Word of God is not the leading of God the Spirit.

The Non Burden Commands

The rule of Scripture completes the believer and doesn’t employ undue or “grievous” pain when obeying Christ, but the believer who is “submitted to the Word will find pleasure in obeying that Word, even if the Lord’s way for us is marked with struggle, pain, and sorrow.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

The Order

2 Samuel 23:5 reveals that God’s covenant is orderly and certain, ergo, the working of the Spirit are also orderly. A spirit of love, order and a sound mind are hallmarks of God’s spirit which are opposite of disorder and “restlessness”.  “We see some poor souls to be in such bondage as to be hurried up and down, in the matter of duties at the pleasure of Satan. They must run from one to another, and commonly neglect that which they should do. When they are at prayer, then they should be at the work of their calling; and when they are at their calling, they are tempted for not laying all aside and running to prayer. Believers know that this is not from the Spirit of God, which makes “every thing beautiful in its season.”

Glory of God

Dr. Ferguson states this properly, “The “motions,” or promptings of the Spirit, Owen says, always tend to glorify God according to His Word. He brings Jesus’ teaching into our memories; He glorifies the Savior; He pours into our hearts a profound sense of the love of God for us.”

How, then, does the Spirit act on the believer? The Spirit comes to us as an earnest, a pledge, a down payment on final redemption. He is here and now the foretaste of future glory. But His presence is also an indication of the incompleteness of our present spiritual experience.

Owen here writes in sharp contrast to those who spoke of release from the influence of indwelling sin and struggle through the liberty of the Spirit. Precisely because He is the firstfruits and not yet the final harvest, there is a sense in which the indwelling of the Spirit is the cause of the believer’s groaning: “We ourselves who have the firstfruits of the Spirit groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” (Romans 8:23) The presence of the Spirit brings us already a foretaste of future glory, but also, simultaneously, creates within us a sense of the incompleteness of our present spiritual experience. This, for Owen, is how communion with the Spirit—understood biblically—brings joy into the life of the believer and yet a deep sense that the fullness of joy is not yet.”

In the end brethren, the Spirit is God and He does all things in accordance with the nature and character of God. Be blessed, encouraged and empowered by the glorious working of our God. You can get this resource by clicking the book below.

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When Our Lives Prohibit Our Prayers…

I have met few Christians who say they have never prayed. People pray for God’s wisdom, guidance, assistance, will, knowledge, grace, mercy and provision. Prayer for the sick and the lost and lost relationships conjoin with prayers for God to give us joy and peace and endurance as we traverse this life amongst darkness. Sadly, many times people offer up prayers, requests, petitions, supplications and thanksgiving and as it has often been said, ‘they don’t make it past the ceiling.’  So what causes a lack of hearing on God’s part concerning our prayers? What would cause Him to stop listening and stop answering us?  Here are a few thoughts to consider if you find yourself in this position.

  1. Praying against scripture. This is seen when we pray for something that is not promised in scripture such as vast riches or eternal health but more so it is evident when we fail to submit to scripture in the first place and offer lip-service through prayer thinking God will work according to our circumstances and thus provide an answer to our needs that scripture doesn’t prescribe.
  2. Praying apart from Scripture. No matter how often or passionately we pray, if we are not in the word of God we reveal a darker reality of our hearts. This shadow seems to offer a reality that we may want God to work for us but we are not interested in an intimate and powerful relationship with Him. The source of Grace and Hope is found only in scripture so to be out of God’s word and to pray is much like a fool’s errand; after all, it is through scripture that we find how we ought to pray.
  3. Self Centered Lives – While this seems to explain itself, let me give you a few examples of how this type of life will never allow God to hear our prayers.
    1. When our relationships with others are tainted with selfishness that is evidenced by strife, unforgiveness, hatred, etc. God will not hear our prayers. His grace is our hope in Christ Jesus and we are forgiven, so our relationships with others are of utmost importance in this vein. Praying while in discord with friends, neighbors, family or enemies is worthless.
    2. Desiring our fleshly hopes. This is not just in general but also in our payer lives. When we LIVE for ourselves and the gratification of our flesh we are not in unity with God’s will for our sanctification and purity and also, when we pray for selfish things or with self interest God will never answer those prayers. (see James 4)  This can also be seen in demanding our liberties that are often culturally frowned upon. Don’t expect God to hear our prayers when we are OK with offended our weaker siblings for whom Christ shed His blood. We give up our rights for the sake of others, that is love.
    3. Continued Sin and Idolatry. I am not saying that “if” we sin we don’t have an advocate in Jesus, but scripture is clear that continued rebellion against the glory of God’s great holiness allows no room for answered prayer. For instance, we cannot seek out escape from trials with our flesh and the world and then on top ask God to provide peace. Either we are trusting in Him or we trust in our flesh, we cannot do both.  Praying while engaging in continued unrepentant sin is foolish except that prayer be labored for God to do what it is He does in His children, which is empower us to put to death the flesh.  We cannot run to the world and her answers while running to the infinite Father of power and grace. Man can NEVER serve two masters.

      “If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened” (Psalm 66:18)

So beloved, pray, but also know that your strength to pray, to live, to love and to believe comes from God through His word. Know that your life is secure in Christ and His promises. Pray and the Father will hear. Pray for the Lord to help you pray and to live as one who desires God to hear and answer prayers.

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Some Good Thoughts on Patience by Dr. Sam Storms

The following is an article posted yesterday by Dr. Storms. I found it useful and thought I would share it. Find other great resources at his website.

WHY PATIENCE DOESN’T COME NATURALLY

May 31, 2016 | by: Sam Storms

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shhpicJust a quick thought:
 
I know it is well meaning for many of us to just post things about the Lord, the Scriptures, Jesus Christ, the Gospel and how God works, is, thinks, acts etc. One thing needs to run through our minds before we hit the “post” button.
  1. Is what I am saying true? If I think yes, then go to number 2.
  2. The proof of what I am saying is in the context of the bible and it is found in the book of _______ chapter ___ verses ___ through ___.
  3. If number two cannot be filled in, delete the post and move on.
 
Why should I delete it? Because God does not take his name lightly.
 
Isaiah 48:9-11 plus numerous other places and examples of His wrath and glory being upheld because people acted or spoke apart from His word.
 
For my name’s sake I defer my anger, for the sake of my praise I restrain it for you, that I may not cut you off. Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction. For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another.
 
Why? Because God brings ruin to all those who defame Him and speak for him wrongly.
 
James 3:1; Eph 4:14-15;
 
I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book. Rev 22:18-19
 
What if MY thoughts on God are different that the bible? Well, then you should surely be quiet. Because ANYTHING or ANYONE that speaks apart from Scripture, according to Scripture, are condemned and are NOT IN THE LIGHT.
 
Romans 16:17-20 I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. Such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive. For your obedience is known to all, so that I rejoice over you, but I want you to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil. The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
 
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—7 not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed
—1 Corinthians 16:22
 
So, be careful or be quiet. God has never promised any of the following in His word:
 
Prosperity in money or materialism.
Eternal Healing.
Power or prestige in this life.
Knowledge outside the written word.
Prophetic Authority apart from scripture.
Will power over circumstances.
A promise to avoid pain and suffering.
Bigger faith, bigger gifts.
Speaking ANYTHING into being.
A requirement to plant seeds of faith to receive anything.
 
What has God promised?
 
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
 
In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
(Ephesians 1:3-14 ESV)
Have a problem with this?  I would humbly accept an audience with you, in front of anyone as long as we can bring our bibles.
For His Glory by His Grace,
Pastor James
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What is Conversion? Is Salvation Supernatural or Human?

In a recent conversation with a brother in Christ, the matter of the invitational system arose whereby he inquired about the biblical nature of such things. When he confronted the practice with the question of its biblical authority, the brother was led to history and tradition as the backbone of the practice.  This evening I read a post on Facebook related to the same subject and felt it would be good to share some of the points as taught by Dr. WR Downing on the true nature of salvation, which is the new birth, not a choice of man.  While I personally could tragically kill such practice with general elementary exposition of biblical text, especially John 3, Dr. Downing’s thoughts on the nature of conversion ring loud and clear.  More importantly, the scripture speaks to the nature of God’s work ALONE in salvation, thus the following:

True conversion is spiritual. It is much more than merely a question of man’s will or seeking to redirect it under preaching. Conversion is the result of the effectual work of the Spirit of God in regeneration. Conversion is the immediate and spontaneous outward manifestation of regeneration or the “new birth.” The very nature of the regeneration itself reveals its utter necessity before man can savingly believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. The necessity of regeneration or the new birth is found in the utter spiritual impotence of man (Jn. 3:3, 5; 1 Cor. 2:14), the blinding power of the devil (Matt. 13:4, 19; 2 Cor. 4:3–6), the eternal redemptive purpose, and the righteous character and omnipotence of God. If any human being is to be saved or delivered from the reigning power of sin, his own innate animosity toward God, the blinding power of Satan, and ultimately delivered from eternal hell, God must initiate the work of salvation (Isa. 64:6; Matt. 13:3–4, 18–19; Acts 16:14; Rom. 1:18–25; 3:11, 27–21; 8:5–8; 1 Cor. 2:14; 2 Cor. 4:3–6; Eph. 2:1–10; 4:17–19; Titus 3:5; 1 Jn. 5:19). To say all this is to declare that salvation is by grace; anything less would be a denial of the same.

There are six essential spiritual realities which comprise regeneration, or the “new birth.” If any one of these realities is not true or actual within the personality, the individual is yet unregenerate: first, the impartation of Divine life (Jn. 3:3, 5; Eph. 2:1, 4–5). Unless the individual receives such a principle of spiritual life, he cannot even “see” the kingdom of God, much less enter it. He may perceive, know or understand much, even so as to be without excuse, but his will is bent toward sin and evil and his inner being is darkened (Rom. 1:18–25; 1 Cor. 2:14).

Second, the breaking of the reigning power of sin (Rom. 6:3–14, 17–18, 20, 22). Every human being by nature is a willing bondslave of sin. This power is broken by God in a definitive act of grace, and a radical cleavage is made with the reigning power of sin in the life. This aspect of sanctification—definitive sanctification—is contemporaneous with regeneration.

Third, the removal of natural heart–enmity against God and his truth (Rom. 8:7–8; 1 Cor. 2:14). Man by nature has an innate aversion to God and his truth. This animosity is removed by a sovereign act of God, enabling the sinner to savingly turn to God in the context of his truth.

Fourth, the re–creation of the image of God in principle (Eph. 4:22–24; Col. 3:1–10). Both these passages refer to a past act, not to an entreaty. Man was created as the image–bearer of God. In the Fall, this image was devastated spiritually, morally and intellectually; the thought–process became fragmented and given to futility. The physical body, with its appetites and desires, assumed a controlling influence over the individual (Rom. 6:6, 11–14; Eph. 4:17–19). In regenerating grace, God re–creates the image of God anew in principle in righteousness, holiness of the truth and knowledge—a spiritual, moral and intellectual transformation. With the mind thus freed, and a holy disposition given to the personality, the sinner is enabled to freely turn to Christ in faith as presented in the gospel message.

Fifth, the removal of satanic blindness (2 Cor. 4:3–6). Above and beyond all matters of the will or heart, looms the awful, evil power of Satan, who specifically blinds sinners to the truth of the gospel. He further seeks to remove any influence of the gospel in any way he possibly can (Matt. 13:3–4, 18–19; Mk. 4:4, 15; Lk. 8:5, 12). This blinding influence is removed by an act of God’s grace.

Sixth, the gift of saving faith (Eph. 2:4–10). Conversion, or repentance from sin and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, is inseparable from regeneration. Conversion is the infallible and immediate consequence of the work of the Holy Spirit upon and within the personality (Acts 16:14). The Scriptures usually consider regeneration and conversion inclusively as one. It is conversion, pointedly personal faith in the Lord Jesus and repentance from sin, which necessarily and infallibly expresses the work of God within the personality (Acts 13:12, 48; 14:1; 16:14, 27–34; 17:4, 11–12, 34; 18:8, 27; 19:18; Rom. 10:9–10, 13, 17; 1 Cor. 2:4–5; Eph. 2:4–10).

So beloved, let us hold dear to the person of Jesus Christ and His infallible word through which one can find salvation by grace alone through faith alone. Anything else is just demonic.

Grace & Peace,

Pastor James

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Is My Church Healthy?

Gaging health in the local church is one of the favorite chatters of our culture. Sadly, because the word of God has fallen to a guide or tool rather than the authority, anyone can search and find plenty of pundits giving measurable scales to health. The difference in my thoughts today is that I want so submit to scripture, not culture, not tradition (beware of people who use this word for anything), not history, but the immutable word that demands our time. (Sadly, I won’t exhaust the text either… for fear or perfection will tarry the completion of these thoughts and render them silent.)  This will not be exhaustive nor will it be inclusive of all areas and it should clearly be understood that a healthy church is wrought with problems, trials, complaints, pain and failure because people are the church. The gospel overcomes these things. So, any church that is so perfect is no church at all.

PEOPLE

Is your church comprised of people? Are you able to see that the very blood flow of your congregation is the people? Remember, any church that is not people is not a church. The term church means called out ones, not place people go. Your church should emphasize the family of God ALL THE TIME and when it appears that programs and property are the point, your church is not just unhealthy but dead.

Are people cared for, prayed for, lived with? Do you find that you are drawn to individuals who give up their time and passions for you? Are you doing the same?  Is the culture of your church able to continue doing all it does if everything stops but life? The point of the Cross was to purchase a people and sadly we have lost sight of that. Are you just a leader investing in some portion of something that you are told to “plug” people in?

Paul prays for the people, never what the church is doing. The point of being the church is for the church to grow up in Christ and in love with each other as the LEARN Christ so that they may be filled with all the fullness of God.  “[17] so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, [18] may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, [19] and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:17-19 ESV)

PREACHING

Is the preaching teaching you things? Are you learning scripture? Test your doctrine for a minute. What is the meaning of justification? How has Christ propitiated your sin? Describe the eternal nature of Jesus Christ and how all the New Testament letters reveal it. What attribute of God is most dear to you in worship?

Having problems? Then you have never been taught scripture because all scripture in its context reveals these things at its core. Does your pastor preach the text or does he use the text to provide answers to his outline? Are you in AWE of the God of Heaven and His glory? Are you more moved by the special music than the word of God? Is Scripture utilized to make the preacher’s point but cannot be found in the context of the passage? Are you equipped to LOVE CHRIST, LOVE HIS CHURCH and throw this world away after the sermon is done? Now don’t shoot me because I am appealing to “feeling” or outcome? A good biblical sermon could be given and the heart of the hearer could be cold. The point? Is the preaching pointing to Christ’s WORD or the preacher’s word?

Is your church centered on understanding scripture, being trained in righteousness, learning to APPLY the Gospel among the life of the church? Is the only time you hear any Good News is at the end of service followed by some human condition to salvation or a heart-tugged missionary story? Do visual aids, skits, object lessons or stories make the points that Scripture should? What do you remember about God and His infinite glory? Do you know the God of the bible? After all, knowing God and His Son IS ETERNAL LIFE! (John 17) Run from such so-called preaching that rings anything but Scriptural power and glory. Run.

PURPOSE

What does your church exist? Do you know? Is it the primary focus of all things that happen among you? Are programs done in the name of “reaching” the lost but no lost are reached? Are you busy busy busy with everything to the point of being tired and then told to not grow weary in the Lord’s work? Are you able to really see the Gospel foundation as the walls and trusses of all that is done in the name of Christ? Will the work done in the lives of people effectively result in ETERNAL FRUIT? Look at these two texts and see what you think:

[10] According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. [11] For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. [12] Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw—[13] each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. [14] If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. [15] If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire. (1 Corinthians 3:10-15 ESV)

[1] Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. [2] But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. [3] And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. [4] In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. [5] For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. [6] For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:1-6 ESV)

Is GOD’S GLORY the ultimate purpose of all things? Are you SHOWN God’s ineffable majesty and does the life of your church REVEAL Him? Some gathered people say that every engagement is for the sake of pointing people to Christ or creating a relationship with Christ. This purpose, while honorable on the exterior is usually void of any solid preaching of God’s word thus removing any possibility of salvation from any participant. People are saved ONLY by the word of God being given to their ears when the mercy of God gives them hearing. (Romans 10:17)

The church exists for the purpose of God’s glory. Period.

PLANNING

What is your church known for? Asking anyone in the community will reveal the planning of ministry that will birth from the purpose. So, is your congregation known for having cool events? A school? A wonderful children’s ministry? A great music program? How is it that the body of the Risen Christ are to be about HIS business but very few professing churches are actually in the business of Christ at all? For many, the calendar will prove whose they are. If a church takes more time to administrate events that in preparation for learning Christ together it may be a very clear sign that the church is dead.

POWER

In reality, is your church powerful?  Are those who are your family among you enable to live with power, joy, exultation, satisfaction and grace? The power of God is ALWAYS evident among His people who are healthy.  The power of God in JOY is visible.  The POWER of God is effectual and the church that is His will have AFFECTION for Him through His Spirit given through HIS WORD ALONE! If a church is powerless and is easily identified as successful by the work of men and human invention, then not only is the church you attend very very ill, it is not a church at all. May the Lord grant you power to know and see and understand the vastness of His merciful affection toward His people in Jesus Christ! May you run to the the Lord Jesus and escape all traditions that encapsulate the essence of humanism including those so-called Evangelical and Protestant gatherings who are nothing more than liberal Romans.

Mercy,

j

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Voice in the Wilderness is NOT a voice on Social Media

screaming child

The lazy Christian has his mouth full of complaints, when the active Christian has his heart full of comforts. – Thomas Brooks

I written many times on subjects like these mainly because I see grave damage, division and distance happening among the people of Christ due to opinions, correction and the like in the name of “truth” being purveyed on social streams. It is never incorrect to want to correct error, but it is not the call of the church to correspond with every fool and his foolishness. It would be a better practice to privately message folks that you feel the need to help and most of the time, to just stop continued theological error from showing up in your data feeds.

Polemics are necessary, but FEW are actually gifted in the wisdom of doing it. Paul was the master of polemics, and yet, he never chastised false teachers or responded to their continued errors. Rather, he spoke the truth in love for the sake of the church. He wrote letters concerning their listening to errors and condoning such. He politely questioned the Greeks in an effort to preach the gospel so that ‘some’ would be made alive in Christ. The point is that we are to be preaching truth NOT to correct all the world’s lies, but to afford the great grace of God its supreme power to transform lives.

This world is not about us and while we should be stirred in our spirit when lies are shared and stupid theology is “memed”, we should recognize our calling and be about the business of our Father and not the business of the devil. The world will never change, the lies will never stop, the heresy will never cease and our job is to make disciples, rebuke, teach, and correct… with all respect and all the affection of Christ.  After all, the reason the body teaches truth is for God to get the glory in its planting and sprouting.

Let’s look at 2 Timothy 2:23-26 for a minute.

Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.

Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels.

Do you see this? Have nothing to do with means just that. Stop involving yourself with quarrelsome people. Scripture is clear that when you warn a brother of false teaching and he doesn’t heed, that you should have the church make noise and move him away from you. Just a reminder, you don’t divorce yourself from the fellowship of true saints but rather cut the bad ones out.

And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness.

Even when we are to engage, it should be done with KINDNESS. Even to the apostate and WICKED evil doers who desire to blaspheme. We can be kind while being firm and strong in Christ and His word. We are to TEACH with ability, not promoting commentary from others as “copies” of another’s insight, but through the word of God taking another to truth and showing them error. Too often we like to feel right because someone else has shown us the wrong in others.

PATIENCE is the key. It took YOU and ME a long time to see some errors… afford others the time for the Lord to work in them. After all, WE may be just the vehicle He has purposed to use for their joy in truth! So we patiently ENDURE evil. We put up with it for a season waiting for the Lord to do His gracious work as we GENTLY correct our opponents.

God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.

See the MOTIVE behind it all?  That God would save these evil ones. That He would graciously open their eyes to the truth. That they would be given the GIFT OF REPENTANCE so that they would find the knowledge of THE TRUTH.  This is salvation. This is the work of God. This is the reason we correct, not just to keep the flock safe and pure, God does that by the way, but that those who are lost among us will find Christ as their only hope and turn from their self sufficient non-gospel religion.

So the next time you feel the need to answer the internet, just don’t. In response, share the gospel, not the NotGospel… and watch your heart be at peace and the work of God continue through you. There is always a time and place for every debate, but the billboard approach of indirect self-righteous “rightness” doesn’t do it for us, a holy people.

Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself. Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes. (Proverbs 26:4-5 ESV)

Stay full of Joy beloved.

Pastor James

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