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Types of Gossip and How It Kills a Church

Those for whom Christ died are precious to Him. He has offered His own life for their redemption and has given them the promise of sharing in His glorious resurrection on the Day of His coming. So when division and strife are found unchecked in the local church, it not just a sad day in the life of a people, it is an occasion that Christ hates. Thankfully, He has given His people all they need to be free of divided hearts and the grace to be reconciled if they ever find themselves in such a place.

Of all the sins that could plague the local assembly, none are more heinous than gossip. Gossip means ‘whisper’, in the Greek the word ψιθυρισμός, [Gal 2:20] even sounds sinister. Pronounced “psithurismos”, it is also used to describe the subtle murmuring and chants of a snake charmer. It denotes silent slander or private accusation toward someone and it is found in scripture to be listed among some of the vilest sins, even to the point that those who practice such have no inheritance in the Kingdom of God. While lying is certainly a form of gossip, what about speaking what is true? What happens if we “think” something is going on with someone else, is it gossip when we get counsel? What other instances are considered gossip in the church? Let’s consider a few of them.

Quiet Murmurs 

These are the small and subtle thoughts that plague the mind and end up on the tongue, text, private meeting, phone call etc. Even when prayer is the central motivation, the details and names of people are off the table. Yes, prayer meetings are often the largest gossip sessions in the church. There are the discussions about someone else without them being present. When the subject of any sin, rebuke or testimony is not the first to be informed, the one speaking on the matter is doing the work of Satan. Talking ‘around’ the subject of a conversation, concern or critique is one of the largest attacks that the enemy uses to destroy the intimacy of the church. If the local body would adhere to the word of God, they would find that anyone who participates in such practices in either the capacity of the voice or the ear, should be brought publicly to the church immediately. Public warning of division, which includes quiet murmurs, is found in many New Testament epistles. The general prescription is that if they do it after the second warning, they should be excommunicated from the church. Bear in mind that often times, this type of gossip is first done in ignorance with good intentions, but it needs to be corrected so that the church is protected from the deceit of the enemy.

Secret Attacks

These could look much like the above practices but with the intention of making problems or sin known to others. Secret attacks against another sibling in Christ is actually an attack on Jesus directly. It is birthed from a desire to make sure everyone “knows” about the sinner among us, or worse, that there is someone that is not living as they “say” they are living. It only takes a few days for this type of thing to get out of control and cause serious damage to the unity of the church. Not only is it demonic, it is intended to do damage. This is often seen in the local church when someone doesn’t feel right about something and begins to keep tabs, make judgments, and then spread such things. For example, they see a sister always coming in late to service, leaving quickly afterward and not engaging. They will begin to watch this person intently, each week, and make notes of her actions. Then they will assume that the sister is in sin because she is not setting the example of timeliness and in their judgment have decided that such should be dealt with, after all, this person teaches a bible study on Thursdays. So they begin to call, talk, pray for and make it known that this teacher should be called out for her lack of holiness. What the person doesn’t know, is that the devil has snared them. How? First, the devil has made them notice this, not God the Spirit. Second, their judgment is evidence of their heart: they have a problem, not a solution. Third, they intention is not even for the joy of their sister, but for her pain and correction. Fourth, they fail to know that their judgment is bearing false witness because they don’t even know the truth of this person’s medical condition, schedule, or the fact that she prays with the leaders before and after church. And quite frankly, it is none of their business. Busybodies are also murderers in the church. That’s another post.

Self-Righteous Comparisons

The causes of these offenses in the heart of a believer are difficult to discern but there are some things that actually are the seed of the sin of gossip. An immature believer who isn’t living in subjection to the word of God is typically very conflicted and often times tossed around like a leaf in the wind, not knowing what to do or how to do it. They usually pray for God to give them hope and guidance, but they rarely obey the basics of the new life: such as being committed to the body in gathering, prayer and the learning of the Word. This type of Christian easily finds fault with others. They misunderstand that love covers a multitude of sin and they feel slighted if they find sin in the lives of others. By harping on such things, they become snared as stated above, and it becomes one of their greatest hangups. In reality, they forget the forest of logs in their own eyes and succumb to being spiritual police rather that spiritual siblings in need of Grace. This type of person doesn’t always gossip, but if they are left in this state, they will tell someone why they feel burdened: this is gossip. They forget that they don’t have the role or authority to deal with the sin in other’s lives because they have plenty of their own. This is the prescription, sin must be dealt in one’s own life before he or she can move on to someone else. Even then, there is a clear prescription to only deal with sin that is directed toward them. Jesus says, “When someone sins AGAINST YOU.”  Observing failings and sins that do not lead to death are to be prayed about, quietly and with all fear lest the temptation grab the observer. (1 John 5) The full reality of such things is a self-righteous heart. Let’s be reminded of the fact that this is a sign of spiritual ignorance. But it cannot remain.

Pastoral Accusations

Generally, these types of matters go unnoticed among the congregants of the church for decades. And while it causes division in small pockets and between families, an unbiblical church doesn’t deal with it and in a matter of time, the subject of such evil will be the pastors of the church. Satan has a wide chest of tools. Some of the most deadly are those who discuss the pastor in secret. 1 Timothy 5:19 says that accusations against a pastor should be done only with two or three witnesses. It may also be wise to yield to the structure of the letter in that it was written to an elder, thus any accusations brought public for an elder should really be through the plurality of elders. This is to guard the church against continued attempts of the devil to destroy the life and ministry of the pastor. It is good to remember also that general life matters and personal offenses fall under the mandate of Matthew 18:15-20, and a pastor is treated as a brother. Anyone who speaks of a problem with the pastor and anyone who receives a complaint before the pastor is aware of it has fallen into the sin of gossip and should be brought under correction. When a pastor is confronted and does not repent, the church should be told and just like any other member, if he repents, everyone rejoices, if he doesn’t, then he is removed from the church through excommunication. A pastor should not be confronted about every little thing unless it is absolutely obvious that he is living in continued, unrepentant sin.

Log Blocked Pet Peeves

In life, there are many things that bother us. There is certainly a list of things that cause grief, anger, frustration etc. but these things are not necessarily sinful. For instance, we can get annoyed at the someone’s personality, but it doesn’t make that person guilty of sin. When gossip is dissected, often it can be found to be over a pet peeve, not a sin. That makes it all the more egregious, that one would spread whispers and discord on something that is not even worth discussing. We have to take a very close look at what we see (and remember that we are not to peer into each other’s lives to find problems) and discern if that person is committing sin generally or sinning against us. If others are sinning generally, it is a wise and loving thing to inquire and be an encourager with hopes to bring joy into their lives, not hurt them and make them act the way we feel they should. What would it feel like if every time we missed church we were called and rebuke because it is a sin? What if every time we asked for prayer because we were fearful, those around us rebuked us and called out our unbelief? What if every time our children didn’t pay attention in church the elders brought us in to discuss our failed parenting? What about being asked daily if we prayed? What about service to others? What about submission to our husbands, loving our wives, laboring for our neighbors, keeping our minds and lives pure? What would happen if with every soda we drank someone reminded us of the body being the temple? What about our love for pagan holidays, or nice clothes, etc. that continually brought spiritual FBI enforcement to our door? Who is the measure of modesty? After all, the word means to draw attention. Sometimes the greatest of jewelry is immodest. Get the point?  One’s own view of holiness that is not prescribed in scripture is never to be pushed on someone else. And the failure of others to live the way we feel we should in our convictions is not sinful before the Lord. These are personal preferences and pet peeves that have no place in the gracious economy of the church. Love does not keep a record of wrong, it forgives and when it sees the same thing a little later, it calls it the first offense. There are many people looking for a body that looks just like they do, and in the end, they are miserable because, in their attempt to make everyone righteous in their own eyes, they have become alone and isolated.  So when small annoyances are there, even small failings and sins, we are to leave them be, not always be on the prowl to make sure everyone gets the specks from their eyes. It should also be said that someone “stumbling” has nothing to do with their views on things, but rather the fact that it causes sinful lusts or desires against a conviction. We give up liberties for the sake of our weaker siblings, but at the same time, we teach them to grow up and mature in Christ, because there is always a long line of devilish carrots hanging before the lives of men.

Gossips breed the fruit of all things unholy and suffers the church greatly. Here are just a few things that gossip causes.

Demonic Suspicion

When the church hears what they’ve never heard relating to someone else, the devil uses this information to cause distress and suspicion against people. It causes fear that something must be done and causes animosity with those who don’t see things in the same light. Suspicion multiplies like cancer among the whole of the church and then people are pitted against each other and families against themselves. Truth should be open, kind, humble and often. Not hidden behind assumptions and whispers until the “time is right.”

Satanic Division

Proverbs 6:9 reveals that a false witness is one who lies and also one who sows discord. The spirit of even calling out true sin as found in Matthew 18, is never to do harm or to expel one’s self from the ‘wickedness’ but to bring encouragement, lif,e and liberty from the offense. The motives are usually fleshly when things do not go as prescribed in scripture.

Pastoral Grief

Hebrews 13:17 says,  Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” (ESV)  A pastor that is continually trying to live up to a life that even the greatest of Christians cannot obtain is a pastor that is dead in his spirit and grieved, unable to have joy. It is also not profitable for a church member who gossips or receives gossip because they heart is bent against obeying what is taught, thus they live in dishonorable rebellion against God because they feel they cannot sit under a man’s teaching who isn’t perfect.

Dead Church

Long after the gossips have gone and resolved their problems, they leave a scarred remnant who has never gotten through it. They leave the dried seeds of Satan to be watered down the line to give birth to more dissension, bitterness, suspicion and harm. This church is all but dead and nothing will revive it again except discipline through the word of God. Often times a congregation has to just flush all members and start the process over so that only those willing to yield to Christ with evidence of humility and submission are allowed to stay. Let’s leave gossip at home, let’s not be spiritual police and let’s realize what is a sin and what is a life of sin.

Rest well beloved,

Pastor James

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A Quick Point on Racial Unity

Social change is everyone’s dream. Well, most people desire to see a better community, fairness, affection and unity in all areas of life. OK, let’s be honest, ‘some’ people do. The question then is how can social change be found? A dear brother in the faith has been tasked with the burden to have this conversation specifically on racial tensions, racially divided fairness etc. Gladly, he is a marvelous man of God and has the heart to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ and for that I am thankful. The conversation is also necessary, but what is the actual change agent? I pray this little-bulleted article will help keep all who desire such a dialog on task without creative polarizing generalizations that sweep vital parts under the rug, or worse, out of the door.

The Body is Manifold

God has built His church and has placed the parts of the body as He sees fit. (1 Cor 12:18)  All parts of the body are important for the building up of the body, so, there is no one person in the church of Jesus Christ who is not there by the will of God for the purpose of each other. This is vital in order to have a right understanding of the matter of racism. The body of Christ is not comprised of white Christians and black Christians etc., it is made up of believers only, whose identity is not in culture or color, but Christ.  While some Christians are blind to the problems of hate, racism isn’t like all other sins in that when it is allowed to breed among the people of God, it voids the power of Christ and His cross.

Change Happens Only in Christ

Throughout the ages of our country (the United States) civil liberty and equality as been on the lips of men. Even during the expansion of colonies, white men stood side by side with black men to cry out about the injustice of slavery. The reason God does this is because when someone is birthed by God into the Kingdom, they are wide awake and no longer slumber on issues of hatred, especially among the church. Jesus says that all the laws of the prophets are hinged on two: the love of God with all of one’s heart, mind and soul and the love of each other in like manner, as one loves himself. Therefore, to turn a blind eye to blatant sin in the church is an egregious sin. So how does the church affect change? By preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ who saves through the hearing of His word (Romans 10:17) and then by making sure people are held accountable to living out the gospel. (1 John 3) Only then we will see actual change in the community of faith. Whether we see change in the world will be determined by the overarching reach of the gospel within the hearts of men.

The Issue isn’t the Issue

Racism is not the issue. Sin is the issue. Bishop Clark in Oakland said very plainly during our talks on this matter in 2009, “Racism isn’t a skin issue, it’s a sin issue.” That resonated greatly. But the question then is what is the issue? Well, the church has failed. It has failed in many ways, let’s name a few:

  1. Failed to uphold Scripture as the final authority over the church.
  2. Failed to exercise church discipline when sin is found within the church.
  3. Failed to keep to the task of submitting all things related to the new life to God but relegating such efforts to the human will, and by doing so, puts the burden back on men to do what they cannot do apart from God.
  4. Failed by turning a blind eye to racism as if it doesn’t exist.
  5. Failed by having a quick answer instead of actually listening to others who are the body (remember point one)
  6. Failed by being segregated in the first place due to cultural distinctions. (This breeds racial division).
  7. Failed to honor the Lord with their hearts by loving their neighbor.
  8. Failed to make disciples and teach the nations to obey Christ.
  9. ….. this list could keep going.
  10. Failed to preach the power of God unto salvation!

The issue with sin is that all men are slaves to sin. Even those well-meaning pious groups of pale folks back in early history who preached a gospel while living a lie and owning slaves. But God was eventually gracious to “some” of them, who renounced such things and came to know and to believe that all men in Christ Jesus are one body.

Saying, ________ isn’t the Answer

There are many things that are said that are not “the” answer. Sadly, our emotions and hearts are destined to become fleshly when we are passionate about being heard. Here are a few things that need to just disappear from our language because they don’t even work to open the issue to the eyes of people, they just place the Church in more division:

  • White men are ignorant and shallow.
  • Black men are ignorant and shallow.
  • White men have greater access to Christ.
  • Just preach the gospel.
  • If you don’t believe what I’m saying, you’re racist.
  • You can’t see my pain because you’re privileged.
  • You can’t understand my argument because you’re uneducated.

These statements have been said in the last month in my presence and in my inbox. They are not working toward a solution but rather create more division. The quickest way to make someone ignore what is said is to create a strawman that they are not willing to try and put back together. Those who are in Christ must be willing to have engaging conversations that are not fixed to 140 characters or quick statements. Food for thought must be given in such a way that it is actually engaging within the reality of empiricism, not ambiguity. To say (or think) that any person is grounded in a certain set of beliefs because of their experiences is bearing false witness about their heart and defaming the grace of God. Stating what scripture says is good, but making a dogma out of one’s own experiences is wicked. The example is this. If I want you to know my heart, it is best I say to you, “I feel like there are many that just don’t see the wickedness of hatred and racism. For instance _____, _____, _____.” Because if I say, “Anyone who doesn’t see my hurt or this sin is an idiot”, well, I’ve just sinned against you, violated scripture, exposed my heart as fleshly and spoken not out of the Spirit.

The difference comes when there are actual statements by actual people who need to be corrected and called out. For instance, if I say, “just preach the gospel” and it isn’t actually a thought out, faith-based response, then someone should call me out for clarity. If I stand on the fact that it means a dialog on racism shouldn’t happen or doesn’t matter, then I must be brought to the table of correction. If I say such things because I hate people without my skin tone, then I must be removed from the life of all those who claim Christ. But if I mean it to say what Paul meant it to say in 1 Corinthians 1, that there was no other purpose in life than to preach the Gospel of Jesus and to do something else would cause the cross to lose its power, then I am right. The implications of the Gospel of God are far and deep. So let’s stop just using simple cliches and start teaching, learning and living as Christ enables us to live.

Living the Gospel Mission

Living in the light includes not only loving each other, our brothers and our enemies of all skin tones. It also includes the continued discipleship of those who profess to be in Christ and those who don’t. Making disciples of those who are not yet walking in Christ is called Evangelism. It is long overdue for the Christians of the land to be known for their supernatural affection and obedience to Christ. It is time for believers to speak out against sin at all costs. Not so that people will change, we’ll cover that later, but so that it will be clearly seen what is tolerable and what is not.  December 19, 2016 I spoke at a Unity Conference hosted by the MLK Observance Committee in Evans County. During this message I gave several applications that must take place if the church is to see hearts change in our culture:

  1. WE must be in unity. Same faith, same Christ, same message, same mission.
  2. We must be intimate. I can love you, but if I continually am divided in my life, I am not a true friend.
  3. We must be prayerful. We know that there is no way anything will happen for good if God does not do it, so we pray for that to happen WHILE we work and labor toward it.
  4. We must be missional. In doing so, we need to recognize that unity is not the point, it’s the glory of God.
  5. We must be real. This means that we must be willing to accept the fact that those who hate Jesus Christ will hate each other. Back to #1
  6. We must be accountable. If we are to be the LIGHT in darkness, then we have to be accountable as commanded in scripture. First in our own hearts, second in our homes, then with our congregation and finally with each other. This applies that when someone promotes racism and hate, I am supposed to rebuke and correct it; every time!
  7. We must continue the conversation. WE can’t just meet four times a year and say, “Look, we love each other.” No, are we serving our fellow siblings? Are we being served by them?
  8. WE must stop calling those who look like us, “our people.” This is not true. Only those who are born of God are my people, everyone else is unified as objects of wrath.

When we live, it is not us who lives but Christ who lives within us. (Galatians 2:20-21) So we hold fast to Him because He has held fast to us!

The Church is the Agent

The Civil Rights movement did little to blend racial harmony, but it did a great thing to open the eyes of the country to the truth of the matter.  Those living in the MidWest had little experience with the bigotry that plagued the SouthEast, and the movement made it all clearer. But now 53 years later, the unity and love for humanity are still absent. While laws have protected basic civility, the overarching bigotry is still perpetuated by the very people who are supposed to stand against it. No matter how much work is done in the culture, without the church being a LIVING LIGHT and LASTING SALT, there is no hope.

Considering some of the application previously mentioned. We must hold a light to darkness and we must hold it accountable while remembering that it is all for God’s glory! I am often disturbed by the vast number of agencies and groups, including Christian conferences that operate outside the local church. It’s like a rally, everyone agrees, but there is no lasting intimacy. We have intimacy with our churches (I pray) and we have the opportunity for intimacy in our communities. So, the local bodies all over the nation are the central connection points for such a task.  This little article will in no way even rightly touch on everything, but it is a reminder of things we should not forget.  Most importantly, let’s stop looking at other Christians as our enemies and rejoice that God has put some of us together for this grand task of giving Him glory through His gospel that transforms the lives of some people.

Church Discipline is the Key

That transformation is indeed supernatural and it is accountable to the local assembly. When there is racism found in the church it should be approached and corrected just as any sin would. If someone cheats on their spouse, the church responds with warnings, rebuke, encouragement, and discipline. If the sin continues, the entire body, widely in an area are to be warned of the sins of such a person so they do not contaminate other congregations. The same is true with racism. The problem though is its sometimes hard to see it.  Maybe we could consider the following:

  1. Are people often offended by the discussion of racial tension and the call to unity?
  2. Does their social media presence appear to be in favor of racially divisive and hateful things?
  3. Does their speech exude bigotry?
  4. Does their life exemplify segregation?
  5. Is it you?

What if we find it? What if we find it, call it out, and the person wasn’t even aware? This could be the case. But, if we have approached them sinfully like I mentioned before, then we have lost the opportunity to be a change agent and a disciple maker. But repentance brings forgiveness and God is honored in restored relationships. Let’s rejoice in the Lord when someone sees and let’s rejoice in the Lord when we see what He has shown us in our own hearts.

Division will Birth from Righteousness

One final application I left until now is that when God’s people stand united and intimate in Christ against any darkness, it will cause great division. Some who were thought to be brethren will depart. Others who we thought to be bigots will join the praise. In the end, standing for righteousness has always created division with the world. Be forewarned.

A Final Thought About “My People”

We were not a people but now we are a people because God has chosen to call us His own and has made us alive in Jesus Christ. Let us rejoice in that and endure until the end. As we part the sea of iniquity in our own hearts by the Grace of God, be ever mindful that even those who seem to be in this conversation may not like it when “others” who are not “their people” begin to talk. This is a sad reality and reveals an even bigger bigotry than is usually displayed. It says, “Our people want to stay our people and have nothing of ‘you people’ involved in it…” Sometimes it is because we cannot fathom that anyone could understand our position. But God gave Paul, from the tribe of Benjamin, the heart to understand a pagan life that he had never even witnessed. Beloved, we are the people of God and in Him, we are able to move mountains!

For His Glory by His Grace,

Pastor James


Pastor Tippins serves as Pastor of GraceTruth Baptist Church. More information about GraceTruth and more teaching can be found at GraceTruth.org

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Dealing with Conflict in the Church – Interpersonally

We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.” For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. (Romans 15:1-7 ESV)

Let’s begin with this scripture. It’s a good reminder of our OBLIGATION toward each other in the power of Christ.

Conflict is unavoidable, it will always be before us and only death will bring an end to our relational conflict in this life. The good news is that we who are in Christ Jesus are no longer bound to the ways of the world. We are no longer unable to deal with the feelings that go along with our desire to avoid problems. We understand that one evidence of the gospel is that we work out our differences for the glory of God, and most assuredly, by His power. The time involved to exegete every passage relating to conflict and resolution between individuals would take a lifetime to complete. So, we’ll just look at a few basics that will get us thinking in the right direction.

CONFLICT LIVES

I’ve already said this, but it’s worth repeating. It is going to happen. And if we are involved in each other’s life, we will surely find the opportunity for hurt, confusion, poor words, misunderstandings, blatant sin, fights, malice, and strife. The Gospel reveals that these matters provide an occasion for the reconciliation, which is our duty and our empowered existence. Any conflict that goes unhealed is one of the common division among the church. Greater than grievous acts of sin and even greater than false doctrine. As a matter of face, the lack of reconciliation is proof of a lack of genuine, Christ-empowered love. So in the living element of conflict, let’s embrace its reality but more so, let’s embrace the glory of reconciliation.

SCRIPTURE SPEAKS

I’ll put this here and then move on to the actions of properly dealing with conflict. Scripture speaks to how to handle when someone sins against you in Matthew 18. Jesus says that our first response is never to avoid, run or dismiss sin, but to confront it with hopes that the offender will be restored to intimacy. The major dilemma with this section of scripture is that it is often difficult to determine what the “sin” of offense actually is. If one has sinned against us, it is an action of word or deed that is a personal affront toward us, not a pet peeve from which we hope to escape. And it is surely not a heart of, “I wish they would be holy like me.” If this is an offense, then YOU are the offender, not the other person.

DAMNABLE ACTIONS

Why use such a harsh wording? Because that is what poor response to disunity actually is; a reflection of the old man, which is condemned or either dead in Christ. When the church doesn’t work to make things right, it proves that God is not among them, much less in them. It is vitally necessary for us to bear with other’s failings and not to hold anyone to a standard that is not prescribed in scripture. There is no place for the lack of teaching each other in the church. If we are obedient and mature, we know that God shows us other’s weakness and in doing so He has: given us pause to see if it is in our own lives, and has given us the opportunity to inquire and offer help to the weak.

DELIGHTFUL RESPONSE

Consider these.

  • Instead of hiding from the conversation, prayerfully ask God for help and make yourself available to be a catalyst for maturity. (1 John 5:16)
  • Stop looking at the weaknesses and ‘off’ areas of each other’s lives and start waiting to see how they handle them. Maturity is never gained in perfection, but in doing what is necessary, even if it seems to be a repeatable matter.
  • If you are in a church, you cannot just leave, expecting to honor the Lord. You must confront the problem and be reconciled. In a true church, one who abandons the flock is brought under discipline. Let’s not find ourselves in the Hebrews 6 camp.
  • Do not speak about the matter to anyone else. Even your pastor in detail. By speaking ill of someone before confronting them you’ve become a murderer at heart through gossip. There is no such thing as non-gossip counsel except when you seek counsel on the response without giving details, names or offenses. This is one of the most heinous areas of division in the church in my lifetime and I have seen good reconciliation come between people only to have others left in the wings to be bitter and suspicious toward the offender.
  • If you are the listener and do not stop and rebuke the aforementioned murder, you are also guilty of such sin. It takes about 10 minutes to correct this problem and another 5 minutes for that person to get in touch with the offender and start reconciliation. Recognize that when we sin against the church and the word, it is not a personal offense, but a matter that can be directly taken to the church.
  • Delight in the beauty of God’s power in bringing divided people together. Because out of reconciliation comes a strong intimacy and a stronger worship toward the Lord. After all, it is HE who brings people back together.

A few final thoughts. When we fret, we sin. When we live in anxiety, we sin. When we are burdened beyond prayer, we sin. So, our only hope is the beautiful grace of God through Jesus Christ who is our righteousness!  Hold on to Him who is granting you to live in harmony with His people!  Lord have mercy, the Lord be praised!

May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. (Romans 15:1-7 ESV)

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How Assimilation in the Church has Subverted the Gospel

I remember the early days of ministry in 1996 when great men of God were surrounding me and advising me on matters of church life, scripture, and ministry. At the time, those days seemed long and tedious, they were exciting yet unable to produce a quick enough reward. Out of most that I have been taught in the years following, one of the most misguided and erroneous teachings is that of assimilation as a ministry plan or effort. For those who don’t know, assimilation is the process whereby one is plugged into and take ownership of something, or some plan of the local church. It’s the word used to fully integrate the ‘observer’ or ‘attender’ into a committed position or role among the local body. For nearly a decade I developed most everyone around me with this end in mind and after 2005 I came to see that not only it as a waste of time, but it is a grand demonic scheme much like the garden temptation through which the gospel of Jesus Christ is shelved in all areas of church life to the point where there eventually is no church.

PHILOSOPHY AND CORPORATISM

From the onset, without giving a treatise on what scripture teaches about the assembled and called ones, let’s just state that these practices are nowhere to be found in history except in recent years. After the general bloom of corporate expansion in the 1950’s, congregations begin to adopt corporate policies and procedures and appoint leaders based on business acuity instead of biblical qualifications. This led to boards, trustees, programs, and all sorts of things being birthed. Now, while there can be some good to gathering people in a plan and process, doing so is a man-centered desire that is based on a neo-ministerial ecclesiology. It eventually trickled down, and as a company would vet in their employees and fill voids within a company, the church began to do the same.

NO BIBLICAL  PRESCRIPTION

What’s wrong with that? Well, there is no Biblical prescription for such actions. Church offices, leadership roles, teams etc. have taken over the Christ declared (decreed) offices of the church and the church now in America cares more about what they can provide for the community instead of how they will grow and glorify God in living together as a people. Paul says that anything not done from faith is sin, so as the church has gone these ways, assimilating people into the church through worldly means and secular example is certainly not a matter of faith. Sin is too strong of a word for most professing Christians these days, and sadly many church growth lovers will defend their methods to the death and divorce of their fellow siblings, thus proving their continued wickedness. Bottom line, people are the church, and the prescription for what she is to be is found clearly in the words of Christ who is her head.

PROGRAMS OVER PEOPLE

I remember several times in my life when the practices and programs of so-called ministry had taken precedence over people’s lives. When disaster struck, there was no occasion to meet needs and preach the gospel, because the work had to go on; as a matter of stewardship, the conference had to continue. I find it very interesting that so often congregations build everything but people. They amass grand schemes, answer great needs, provide superb answers, but fail to see the simplistic power of Christ and the Spirit of God through the bible. Paul teaches the Corinthian Christians that the building of “the church” with anything but the foundation material is wasted and that which is not eternal will fail and be burned. Sadly, the church has forgotten that ALL MINISTRY is to, and for the sake of people. Each individual life is vital to the whole and none is more important than the other. So, to spread wide the means through which people may feel at home in the church while ignoring the ONE who said He would grow His church is mere stupidity. We are not to build people by plugging them into anything but our LIVES with the WORD at heart and in hand. Organizing these opportunities is a must, but in reality, each believer should be investing in the lives of others, not working to assimilate his or her neighbor into a ministry program. After all, anyone who is built apart from Christ is burned up and dies.

PLACATING TO THE MASSES

There will come a time — a scary reality of the future that has surely been apparent in my entire lifetime.  A time when people will NOT ENDURE (that means they will not stand for it) sound doctrine (teaching). There has never been such a time in history where people hate sound teaching so passionately. The idols of men have no boundaries and now ministry is more popular than worldliness. Sadly, there is little distinction. I remember a dear friend and fellow pastor saying to me once, “You seem like you would be more at home in a smaller church.” At the time I resented that statement, now I wholeheartedly agree. But it wasn’t the size of the congregation that bothered me, it was the fact that the bigger we became, the less holy we were. Fewer and fewer did we see gospel-powered lovers of the word. It was more that people loved the ‘idea’ of the fellowship than actually loving each other. Bible study was less and less influential, and more and more people began to feel burdened to leave just to find rest in their consciences. It was a troubling but sanctifying time and I am blessed to have been through it. When the body of Christ begins to feed the masses, the masses will constitute its DNA. This means that the more of the world that comes to enjoy the products of the body of Christ, the less of the body of Christ is there. In short time, the church is now no longer the church of Christ, but a gathered club with bible trivia instead of a bridge game.

FEEDING THE FELT NEED

The more the world that is in the church the more it needs to feed. When someone can come into a fellowship of Christ followers and find solace in anything but Christ, they have missed the point of the gospel. The joy and affection of Jesus Christ is indeed one outcome of true rebirth. When we consider what the culture needs instead of what Christ says they need, then we have fed them to their flesh. The assimilation into programs and opportunities that take them away from prayer, fellowship, and scripture, feeds the sinful lusts of the mind and body. Some say that is harsh, but beloved, when the church gives a feast that is not the Bread of Life, it feeds death into the lives of those who partake.

SECURING THE UNREGENERATE

When someone fills up on things that are not Christ, they seem to be full. They plug in and play away at the game of ministry to the point that they feel secure. After all, are they not serving the Lord?  Well, the Pharisees served the Lord with gladness and holiness but Jesus told them they would never see the Kingdom of God if they were not born again. When people are OK with just being a part of some activity, but not part of each other’s lives, something is gravely wrong. Many unregenerate people can live good and moral lives while serving the ministries of others just like them. They can even teach some life’s lessons and call it scripture and have prayer meetings, that are nothing more than gossip sessions. If one isn’t careful, the entire church, including the pastor, could be completely unregenerate. Where is the power of God? Where is the awe in view of His ineffable glory? Where is the dynamic and glorious miracle of the new birth? Where are lives being transformed in broken sorrow over sin and at the same time worshipping the Lord Jesus for His glorious grace? When people can so easily be put to the “lord’s” (ahem) work without being confronted with the gravity of His righteousness, something is dead. And in horror, it may stay dead.

STARVING THE SHEEP

All congregations do not start out this way. Let’s face it, monkey see, monkey do- this works for the church as well as for our toddlers. When the ‘church’ down the street is growing in numbers and money and activities, it’s natural to figure out a way to compete or at least have a Jesus that is just as cool as the rest. In this battle to find the answer to why the narrow way is so less crowded the sheep of Christ are starved. And you might know what happens then: They either leave to find the pastures of their Shepherd or they get sucked into the assimilation game. (Sounds like a horrible movie). When Pastor’s do what they should be doing, the sheep are protected. To starve them brings some very harsh consequences according to James 3 and other places in scripture.

MOCKING THE POWER OF GOD

The most egregious matter is that God is mocked by man’s attempt to supposedly draw and keep people in a manner that scripture directly forbids. In 2 Corinthians 4, Paul teaches that there is no tampering with God’s word or using cunning to reach the lost. The bold statement of the word of God is all that is needed to secure the people of God in salvation, unity, faith and life. God is not mocked and His wrath is not cooled by such things. What would God say about those who argue that it is better to have people ‘at church’ through any means, rather than teach the truth? I know what Jesus will say to those who are not His, “Depart from me, I never knew you.”  May the Lord grant us all the grace to see when we approach such vain ideas. There is nothing wrong with having a plan or hosting an event, but make no mistake, these are not the prescribed actions of the church, and they should not be the mainstay. They surely should not comprise the ministry of the body. When assimilation is the means through which people are secure in the church, know that the word of God has been relegated to the status of a tool, not the Word of Christ. It has lost its power and such is the cross of Christ; powerless.

The purpose of this rant is in some way to remind me of what I left behind. I did so because God’s word opened my eyes to a busy and hurting people who would never have the fullness of joy because the rest of their body was too busy for them. It doesn’t take steps of commitment and investment for a believer to be united with a people, it just takes God bringing a dead man to life. He will then love his brothers and sisters as they live life together for the glory of God.

Desperately seeking to rid my life of idols,

James

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Some Thoughts on Faith

I have a problem. Every time I think (which is all day long), I feel compelled to bring every thought to a final point and exhaust all arguments. Because of this, I am often very verbose, and lack the discipline to say things in part due to the fear that I may misapply by redaction, and lead someone to “hear what I have not said.” So, this post, by the Lord’s grace, will be a beginning of the end of such things. I have for months been peeling through my thoughts about saving faith and what that means for the joy and peace of the believer. So, those of you who read this and say I’ve missed so much, you are right. Add your voice to the conversation and as the Lord wills, I will do the same.

Faith is Real

Faith for many people appears to be a mythological or mystical experience. While some facets of faith may impose such things, faith is a very tangible thing. It is a constant hoping, striving, longing, and holding for and toward something that is not currently seen, but is certain and true. Faith is an ongoing reality and it always has an object.  For someone to say, “I have faith” and have no object of faith, have a blind faith. Blind faith is to believe in something but not know what that something is. Real faith is a constant believing in Jesus Christ and all that He is and has done. Jesus Christ is the object of saving faith, in all ways.

Faith is Alive

The writing of James and Paul have been at odds among higher critics and theologians throughout history. While the ‘astute’ reader sees no conflict, the teaching of both Romans and James is true. Faith alone gives life and Faith is not alone as a dead single experience. Faith is a living reality. As people hold to a point in history when they did something, they mistake that doing with believing, while mistaking cognitive affirmation as faith. While all of that embroils faith and belief, the faith of the believer is a living faith, not a historical point or logical affirmation. This means that faith is always at work, it doesn’t get put aside, but rather is exercised during doubt, temptation, unbelief, fear, hopelessness, good days, bad days and every season in between. The faith of Adam, Noah, Abraham, David, Peter, John, and Paul all reveal that all of life is lived by faith. To live otherwise is sin. A believer who lives a life of faith is one who trusts and rests in the LIFE of the faithful one, Jesus Christ the Righteous. The believer’s life is lived in Christ who is the centrifugal power and author of all good things.

Faith is a Gift

One has to realize that faith in itself is a gift of God, given only through Jesus Christ. Faith is not something that the natural man, one who is still dead in sin, can accomplish.  Jesus teaches in John 3 that those born in the flesh is flesh. Paul reveals faith as the gift of God in Romans 3, giving all glory to God as the one who is the “justifier” of all who believe. If God is the one making the declaration of justification as an act of mercy, then the work and fruit of faith is also His. Paul teaches this in Ephesians 2 explicitly, that faith is a gift of God so that no one can boast.  In like manner, Jesus (John 3) tells Nicodemus that salvation is the work of God, and that faith (part of good works) is carried out by God. While some hate this truth, those who are saved love this truth because it no longer puts our rest in our ability, but allows the beloved to rest in the sufficiency of Jesus Christ. Alone.

Faith is the Security

This sufficiency is the point of faith. Jesus Christ has done all that is required for salvation, righteousness, and satisfying the judgment of God. He has secured salvation apart from man’s will and ability and God has granted faith to those who have been born of Him by His Spirit. (John 1) Faith IN the person of Jesus Christ brings security in all things which also reveals a peace that “surpasses all understanding.”

This security is the security of LIFE. Knowing that eternity is secure in Jesus Christ is a grand reality! Peace comes when one has faith that Christ has secured this peace. It is known experientially when life seems to constantly remind us of our sin and separation and in these moments, when we hold fast, pleading and praising the Lord for “His glorious grace”, we see the glorious power of Jesus, who is OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS. (Eph 1) This security of life is the birthplace of joy! JOY in Jesus Christ is the power of God that wipes the fear away and the horror of uncertainty, and brings HOPE in times of hopelessness. So often Christians are distraught concerning their salvation, or they are dull, hoping in their own actions and responses, rather than hoping in Jesus Christ alone. There is no joy where there is no hope, and there is no hope where there is no joy of certainty. Confidence at its root means “with faith.” So, confidence in Christ is wrapped up with HIS giving security of life, joy, hope and ENDURANCE.

Do you see the place now where I desire to preach/write for hours on these glorious and beautiful things! May the Lord place in us the desire to get into His word and seek these truths for our growth and for His glory! Faith is ALL OF CHRIST, and none of man. While we exercise faith, it is clearly a gift from God and most assuredly, we have the peace that comes from faith in that the object of our faith is immovable, eternal, and omnipotent. Jesus in all His glorious power is able to do all that is required to keep us in Himself. I have recently been learning the song, “He will hold me fast” to be sung during our assembly. The truths of this sing to my soul, and my soul is at peace and “it is well.” This truth is taught by Jesus Christ in John 6, “And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.”  Until we talk again, let’s keep working out our faith by the power of God, which is trusting in ALL OF CHRIST, all the time, for all of eternity.

“When I fear my faith will fail Christ will hold me fast
When the tempter would prevail He will hold me fast
I could never keep my hold Through life’s fearful path
For my love is often cold He must hold me fast”

Those He saves are His delight Christ will hold me fast
Precious in His holy sight He will hold me fast
He’ll not let my soul be lost His promises shall last
Bought by Him at such a cost He will hold me fast

For my life He bled and died Christ will hold me fast
Justice has been satisfied He will hold me fast
Raised with Him to endless life He will hold me fast
Till our faith is turned to sight When he comes at last

He will hold us fast beloved. HE WILL!

Pastor James

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Why the Virgin Birth is Essential to Salvation

As another Christmas comes to a close, the effects of the flesh and fallenness of humanity are very visible. The very idea that the Christmas holiday centers on the advent of Jesus Christ into this world is a bit offputting for those who read his word often and are amazed by his glory, beauty, and grace. Laying all that aside, let’s suppose for a moment that we did indeed celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ as a culture. What is it that we are celebrating? What is it that we believe happened some 2000 years ago? Who is this Jesus? And why does it matter?

I could create a list of numerous ways that Christmas reveals a disregard for the teachings of the New Testament. The way the holiday is exercised and celebrated in our culture promotes materialism, breeds covetousness, expresses entitlement, harbors resentment, purveys a compulsion of reciprocation even when one has no resources to do so, and is often a reflection of one’s stewardship, affection, drive, and heart. A better use of a Christian’s time and resources would be to honor Christ by helping each other, sharing the gospel, and living with a divine purpose and power that could only come from Christ. For those who are in Christ Jesus, the celebration of his Advent includes the celebration of his living righteously before God. The life of Jesus Christ in obedience to the holy commands of Scripture is what gives his sacrifice the value of atonement. Jesus Christ can redeem his people because his death held power and value and worth that pleases God the Father and appeases his righteous wrath.

Jesus Christ was sent to earth so that he might save sinners. So, if Jesus is to save sinners, how he was conceived and born is just as essential as how he lived and died. Jesus birth is of the gravest importance because if he was not born sinless, he could not die sinless. If Jesus the Christ did not die pure, he was raised from the grave for nothing except to ascend into heaven only to face the judgment of God.  While many people would say that the virgin birth is a given, there are pastors, even this weekend who have refuted the validity and the importance of Jesus being born of a virgin and conceived of the spirit. Consider these few thoughts and do not seek a “medicine” for your religion by simply glazing over deep things of God that are plain in the Holy Writ.

BIBLICAL AUTHORITY

When the Things taught in Scripture are invalidated by those who stand in pulpits, what they do not realize is that they are undermining the very authority of God who speaks through Scripture. By doing this, they allow a listener to come to terms with whatever doctrine they do not like by dismissing it as myth. While things in Scripture can be difficult to believe because of their mystery, they are not up for consideration without calling into question every aspect of the Scriptures which include salvation. The very nature of God as revealed through his word becomes fair game, and a reader can now discern, based on his intellect, as to whether or not God’s revelation is through Scripture. God promised the “seed of a woman” would crush the head of the serpent and He who is able, not conditioned toward sin, is Jesus Christ. Dismissing the validity of the virgin birth creates havoc against ALL the promises found in scripture and eliminates all hope for the elect of God by argument.

ATONEMENT

The atonement is necessary because of the sinfulness of humanity. 1 John 1:7 teaches that the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all unrighteousness. This cleansing is not a “mending” or a “betterment,” but it is a grand security that one who was once born of the flesh in Adam, dead in his trespasses and sins, has been made alive through Jesus Christ and are now At One with the Father. Man in the natural flesh cannot take away his brother’s sins. It is impossible. This idea is the heresy of absolution perpetrated by the Roman church for centuries. God promised the Messiah, who would be the victor of His people through the sufficient sacrifice. A part of such atoning worth is that Jesus Christ propitiated for us, that is He satisfied the wrath of God’s righteousness for us in full. If Christ was not born of God but had an Earthly Father, He could not satisfy God’s judgment, and He could not bring us to the Father.

TITLE OF JESUS

Jesus is His name, Christ is His title, Lord is His office! He is Jesus, the Holy Anointed One of God who is the Ruler of all things! If Jesus is a mere man infused with Spiritual power, then He is not the Christ, for He did not come from God. If He is just a man conceived in adultery, then He is worthy of damnation like the rest of humanity and is subject to the Law of God as a guilty person; thus He could not be the Lord of the Law. (Jesus said He was the Lord of the Sabbath) So the very name of Jesus, His very title is embroiled into the essence of His birth.

So just in a review of the Scripture, the Atoning power of Christ’s death and the name and title of Jesus we can see that the virgin birth is of grave importance. Think deeply how the teaching of the Bible would be moot if Jesus conception were not divine. Consider your justification. How can God declare us justified if there is no worthy sacrifice for sin? How are we to be made and matured to the “likeness of Christ” if He is just an excellent and highly moral man? What reconciliation is in effect toward God if Jesus needed His debt to paid as a sinner? (Hebrews 7:26-27) How can we be adopted as sons and daughters in Christ Jesus if Jesus is a brother in the lineage of Adam? How then can we have a High Priest who continues the work of advocacy if Jesus is just like all the other priests of man? How is God not a liar if He promised “Emmanuel” (God with us) through the Son and He sent a man to do the work of perfection?  What about John’s gospel that says, “These things are written that you may believe on the Son and have life in His name” if Jesus is not the Word of God made flesh?

People calmly and passively accept anything they hear with no discrimination (discernment), and it is the time to hope not with our eyes and ears. Jesus is the God of Heaven who created all the cosmos and who came to Earth through the womb HE created and took human form while remaining sinless.  Jesus had no sin, but He became sin by taking on the guilt of all who believe so that God would be JUST in forgiving them. So, as Satan acts out this grand play of deception in your presence as the scene downplays the necessity of the virgin birth, scream BLASPHEMY and with tears plead with those around you to hear the truth.  Who might purvey such a damnable lie? Many who sit in the most famous pulpits of our nation. 1 John 4:1-3 teaches that anyone who denies the truth of Christ deity and humanity is anti-christ. So those who preach such things are to avoided and rebuked as publicly as they spew such treacherous heresy. Lord have mercy.

Jesus is GOD, evidenced by Scripture and vindicated by His resurrection. Jesus is also MAN, evidenced by His birth, and His crucifixion. Know Him, Love Him, Worship Him… He is God become man so we might be made worthy of the presence of Father blameless.

…Pondering the ineffable glory until I see Him face to face!

Pastor James

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Is My Pastor a False Teacher?

Never has there been a short supply of error regarding the understanding and teaching of Holy Writ, but error in ignorance and the guile of wolves are distinct. False preachers, pastors, teachers or whatever they may be named, are seemingly more populous as they are popular. Sadly, many people have been snared by the force of such enemies of the cross, while they sit as prisoners of lies rather than victorious saints of Christ through His true word.

So, what makes a false teacher? How can one identify a false teacher and what should one do if they recognize a false teacher? Some clear indicators can set the truth sayers from the truth slayers.

  1. False teachers have a low view of Scripture.  Those who never expose the text of the Bible, never appeal to its argument, never hold a continued filter through it are most certainly going to fall into wild and wicked error. Scripture must be settled as the highest authority over the church and must be the final court on all matters doctrinal. False teachers play the game of pleading to logic and appealing to social norms rather than to the actual written words of God. Any person who claims to teach truth but rarely contextually reveals an argument of scripture should be warned, then avoided. These liars are also very politically minded and find solid time for naturalistic and humanistic sermons while overlooking the entire counsel of the word.
  2. False teachers ignore conversations related to their views of scripture. For believers and lovers of Christ, the bible and its conversation are continued joy. Those who lack the desire to invest in a continued learning and dialog over biblical things are not only void of the Spirit, but also typically those who do not feel they are accountable to discuss such things with “lower level” individuals such as a mealy congregant.
  3. False teachers are quick to jump on the slam wagon without argument. This means that those who continually fail to be faithful to the truth of scripture are more often able to deflect the spotlight by creating a strawman out of those who would oppose them. It is very common for a false teacher to even pray or publicly curse others who would oppose them which is a clear and certain reality they are not in Christ.
  4. False teachers are lovers of pride and people pleasers. They will say anything to make a friend and they will turn any truth to door to get the right response and affection from someone. They preach for power and profit, even if both of these are ego-driven, they gloriously feed the false teacher who is always on the prowl for the next magnificent compliment. They are often quick to narrate their own lives and compose the grandeur of their ministry before men who applaud them and stroke their fur for attention.
  5. False teachers pick their own sermon topics. What is meant by this is that they choose what is low, easy, usable, and self-serving as preaching instruments rather than to secure the glorious doctrines found in the text of Scripture. Avoiding difficult doctrines and ignoring the depths of God’s grace is their practice. They refuse to preach what is good for they desire the praise of men and the mathematics of personal growth over the grand reality that Christ will grow His church in-depth and desire.
  6. False teachers speak from their minds, hearts, wisdom and visions. Prophets are those who speak the words of Christ eternally secured by the written Word. Those who preach what they know and have been told are the devil’s bawds providing demonic insight in order to twist the lives of men around their power while claiming it as God’s. These demonic practices are born of the serpent who questioned and revised the tongue of God to fit his passions. Such practices are never done in ignorance but always by the power of the dark one, the enemy, the devil who has devoured the souls of such men that they would purvey the woes of judgment disguised as light.
  7. False teachers prey on poverty and pain. These courtesans of death promise a better living and a faithful treasure on Earth while the Apostles and the Christ heralded a death sentence for those who are found in Christ as they will be hated by the world. Many would offer the justice of reciprocation and devour impoverished people who plant seeds of faith while eating the shells of the false teacher’s glory. These teachings undermine the satisfaction of the Cross and make manure of the good news of Jesus as a living hope by causing delight in covetousness rather than Christ. Those who are ill and poor are the faithless they say, while they feed on their positions by demanding a proof of faith in monetary offerings. There shall be an eternal weight of damnation on those who teach such things and the crushing of their skulls forever under the winepress of the fury of the judgment of God by the feet of Jesus.
  8. False teachers make much of the ability, will, freedom and honor of men and preach a man-centered gospel which is NO GOSPEL. While sometimes there are well-meaning people who have been taught wrong in practice, the devil has his shepherds and they know his anti-gospel. With golden tongue they spew falsehood like morays slither in the deep teaching people that their works, their efforts, their faithfulness and even their tithes would bring them to security. Easily they forget the transcription of Jesus Christ who said it was the broken and powerless publican who was justified, not the Pharisee. This false gospel is easily adopted and agreed upon because it affords the flesh a sense of completeness that stays the conscience from digging and dreading the possibility of guilt. The true Gospel of Jesus is a hope-filled promise while this man-centered trash is nothing more than a fake ticket to a false ball that leads to death.

Many more attributes and realities could be said of the false teacher. What say yee?  See the depth of their deceit?  See the continual replication of the deadness of man’s soul who hangs on every word? Is your pastor a false teacher? Well, are YOU a false listener?  What do you do? Try it out and see, note the patterns and sit down to bring to light what is bad so that Christ would be glorified. If it wins him over, then praise the Lord together. If not, then run for your lives.

Also though let each of us ask ourselves? Are we proclaimers of truth or error? Do we recapitulate the traditions of men through false teachers while saying it is good?  May the Lord keep us all in check by His word and through His Spirit lest we also find ourselves apostate.  Trust in Jesus Christ Alone brethren, He is our guide, our God, our hope, our life, our truth, our peace and all that is in us that is Good!

Some thoughts to ponder,

Pastor James

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How Intimacy in the Body of Christ has been Destroyed

tears of separationIt saddens me to consider the reality of how many times I have had conversations with church members through the years who swear upon their very lives that they love the church more than anything. But yet, they seem to not love the people of the church, and even worse, they have little desire to be patient and kind and giving of their lives for the sake of another. Scripture teaches us that Jesus Christ came in the flesh in order to put sin away, and for those who trust fully in him, they become like him in his affections. This marvelous miracle of a transformed heart, is one of the grand evidences of the rebirth. John, in his first epistle, actually uses the love for the brethren as the litmus test of true saving faith. Or at least he uses it as the litmus test of the certainty of one not being in the faith-that is if they lack brotherly affection.

Ironically many people adhere to becoming part of a local fellowship without ever understanding what they should believe and what’s required of them as Christians to live in community. That being said, I cannot imagine that the first church concerned themselves with the great detail of so-called “ministry” because they were too busy learning and living together for the cause of Christ as well as loving each other with the love of Christ that they could not imagine  anything else. What caused this? Why are today’s Christians not intimate, engaged and focused on glorifying Christ accurately and in sync with the scriptures?

  1. What we do has replaced who we are. – the church are those for whom Christ died, who believe in Him, who live together for the sake of each other to His glory etc. The church has never been nor will it ever be a place or any program. A body cannot be defined by its plans but its people.
  2. Spiritual growth now means ministry involvement. Loosely, “ministry involvement” is seen through assimilation and “ownership”.  These things do not make growth.
  3. Taking care of people has been relegated to programs.  Long gone are the days (as the norm) where the whole church cared for itself, taught each other and were concerned greatly for maturity, holiness, benevolence etc. Now people with problems and needs are turned over to a system, not a sister.  They are pushed off on a benevolence council instead of a brother.
  4. Church is now a place rather than a people. We don’t go to church. WE don’t ‘have’ church… we are the church. Sad that we’ve lost that focus as a whole.
  5. Pastors feel the need to make leaders rather than disciples. Leadership development is SO FAR DOWN the list of priorities of a pastor that he should never use the term. Pastors should replicate themselves in other men who will teach the church and teach others to do the same. We don’t need professionals, we need idiots for Jesus.
  6. Business has taken over necessities. There is always some “business” when dealing with a large family, but it is the major matter in most congregations. People are just a vote or a small part of something GRAND and that grand thing is not even glorious or eternal, it’s just a worldly thing with Jesus stickers on it.  There is nothing more grand and glorious than Jesus Christ revealed in the lives of those who love Him: TOGETHER!
  7. Working in ministry has become “doing church”. Laboring in prayer, study, teaching, love, rebuke, discipline, etc. is no longer the norm. Rather, people say they work in ministry and haven’t done anything with anyone for their good. Planning and vision-casting is not ministry. Promotion is not ministry. Having 1000 people at an event is not ministry. Having more baptisms is not ministry… anyone can do these things; only God the Holy Spirit can bring real ministry into the lives of real people.
  8. Appealing to the masses and drawing to the “stuff we do” has pushed out preaching. Bring em and keep em… with what will bring em. Nuff said. Reaching people now means getting them to come rather than going out to them with the gospel. As long as people are “in the pews” they seem to be OK “in the Lord.”

How many more could we imagine? SO, how do things like these damage intimacy? Well, where does the “one” get solace in them?  Where does the hurt, depressed, injured, angry and maligned find hope in this type of work? What are so often people who need life shuffled around while those who live a false life given bread to eat? The church has lost its bearing and the only correction is to FLUSH it all and get back to the task given to us by the Lord Jesus Christ:  TO TEACH everyone to obey what He has commanded….. by His authority and power!

It’s time for a fresh look at our ecclesiology and for the people of God to either reform their families or find actual families that will live and learn and love with them. Because the ERROR has become the NORM, when a church desires to live like they should, it scares many people away. Why are you afraid of intimacy when it is the place you find peace and hope and life; first with Jesus and then with His people.

Something to consider.

Pastor James

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When is it OK to Miss Church?

locked-church-doors

This question makes me cringe. Primarily because it says a good deal about the one who asks it and is difficult to answer without getting into the meat of who the Church is and what she is to be doing. The quick answer is, “You should “skip” (miss) gathering with the Saints as little as possible, but if necessary, only if you would also skip work, pleasure, family, vacation, etc. for the same reason.” When you are ill, contagious, etc. you should feel greived that you cannot make the assembly. The problem isn’t knowing when to miss gathering together, the problem is in the fact that so often professing believers seem to think that the local assembly (the church) is a social function.

The church is (are) the called of God who are redeemed in Christ Jesus for the sake of God’s glory and who are sealed with the Holy Spirit who LIVES within them. If that is you, then the rest of this article will surely apply; if not, then you’re under no obligation to your siblings in Christ, because you are not alive in Christ. To that end, please seek salvation through Jesus Christ Alone, by Faith Alone, not of your own doing but believing fully that God has come in the Flesh in the Son Jesus and has paid the ransom of your sins. Now back to a few questions that come to mind in response to this question by believers. Keep in mind that the church is THOSE GATHERED, not a place… so, on the onset, correct this in your mind.

Why would it cross your mind to “miss/skip” gathering WITH the rest of church?

The body of Christ is compelled to honor and glorify Him at all times and in all things by the NEW MIND and NEW HEART we have been given (which is your in Christ Jesus) through which we are enabled and find great affection for the LORD and the Lord’s PEOPLE – the church. So to have the Lord means to be driven by the Lord, who has us. Therefore, our desire to be in fellowship with other believers as a family is one of our TOP PRIORITIES in life.  This is above all things because the body and its gathering is eternally driven.  All other relationships in this life are temporal and fleeting.

What else would be more beneficial in life than being with the Lord’s people and under His word?

Seriously, where else do we want to be? What else do we want to be doing? Why are those things HIGHER in affection that Christ? Oh, you don’t see it that way, then beloved it’s time you understood the point. Christ saved a people in order that He might be glorified in them and that through His manifold wisdom He would put to shame and dumbfound the powers of darkness. This is seen fully in the love for the church. (the assembled) Anything else that pulls your heart strings away from God’s people is an idol or an excuse to live in unbelief and idolatry.

Where in the world will you find strength apart from God’s word and accountability and encouragement apart from God’s people?

You won’t. Plain and simple. There is no real wisdom, no real love, no real encouragement, no real worship, no real relationship with Christ apart from His bride. It is our continual striving together that makes Christ glorified. When you feel like you just can’t face another moment, when sin seems to have you by the throat, when you just don’t have enough strength to move another muscle, it is then you should be with God’s people the most. If your assembly doesn’t offer such a refuge, maybe it’s time you find a body that will honor Christ in your gathering… another point later in the year.

What reveals your true affections more than being assembled at the cost of unbelievers or young believers?

Skip church and show them that your relationship with the Christ is only a convenient thing OR tell them that nothing will interfere with the majesty of God and that they are welcome to join you in worship or sit at home and become second, as they should be. There is never a time to allow others to dictate our following of Christ and our joyful response to grace with God’s people. While some may read these words and disagree, I implore you to examine your heart. We are not bound to rules, we are bound to Christ and LOVE HIM with all the affection of God as we love each other with all the affection of Christ! If you have never looked at your Christian life in this way, I’m sorry that you have stayed so segmented and I pray that you would endeavor to quit placing Christ on aspects of your life but that He would be found in all corners, cracks and crevices of your soul.

Why should holidays put our faith on hold, especially those holidays that supposedly are about Jesus?

Oh my, haven’t we expressed this enough? I cringe again. As this year happens to see a holiday on the Lord’s day, it would be a tragic blasphemy of grand proportions to refuse to worship together in place of pagan traditions, family gatherings, and materialistic gain while saying that such holiday is about Jesus Christ.  Don’t get me started… I’ll write about Christmas later. I guess the point should be to ask, “What do I love most?” If you do not love the church, then you cannot love Christ. Something is greatly wrong in your heart if this is the case. And when I say the church, remember I am not talking about the things done, place attended, or programs employed; I am saying the PEOPLE OF GOD who are your eternal siblings.

Does it really matter?

As I have said before, it matters because it is reflective. Our love for God is directly relative for our love for the body. Jesus says it first and all the apostles concur. It matters that your heart is right because NOT being with the body regularly is the POINT of Hebrews 10:19-39. (take a look) – and it matters because so much is at stake, our joy, our hope, our prayers, the sharing of our faith etc. It matters because where there is no commitment, there is no transformed heart. The first century church saw explosive change in culture because when God saves His people, they leave the world’s ways and have no more affection for it. Imagine if every Christian daily laid their thoughts, lives, hearts, money and purpose captive to Christ. The world as we know it would be change.

What do you do if you don’t have this affection? Well, it may be because you’re with the body of Christ once a month or less. In 20 years I have been out of the pulpit once. We scheduled all trips and time off where I would only be gone no more than two Sundays in a row and then I was teaching elsewhere. Why? Because I cannot imagine not seeing my spiritual family for which I live, labor and thrive to see joyful in Christ. Sadly, most church goers would not tolerate an 80% commitment from their pastors but expect him to tolerate much less from them.  Brother Tom Ascol (Founders.org) made a comment recently on Facebook that “…what I have found even more egregious, to argue loudly for regenerate church membership and to remain undisturbed as a member or pastor for years in a church with 50-70% of its membership unwilling even to show up for worship on the Lord’s Day.”

The uncommitted mindset of Christians is ultimately a matter of discipline and in the same sense, should be corrected through discipline. Anyone who cries legalist should silent that ignorant claim and read the New Testament for a change where a life of transformation is evidence of a life redeemed and a loving brother is one who rightly opposes worldliness and friends, skipping the assembly on purpose is worldliness, just like drunkenness, adultery, malice and greed. Let’s be in fellowship tomorrow and every opportunity we have to the PRAISE of HIS glorious grace.

Pastor James

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While these conversations are always on the table, the two “sides” are both biblically rebuked. First, the person who suggests that he is right before God due to his works is fighting for the place of his own security in his own might. Much like the Devil who argues that he is worthy to “share” the light of the glory of God due to his beauty. He forgot that he was created to reflect the light of his creator, not his own.  Second, the person who argues that good works are not even on the radar of “faith alone” and “grace alone” wants to maintain the record of fleshly so-called joys and ignore the premise of the reality of the good news: rebirth and new heart and mind.  The love we have for Christ employs our obedience toward Him, not for our justification, but as a result.

Bonar gives great insight on this matter below. You can get a printed copy of this from Chapel Library.

Good Works and the Justified

Horatius Bonar (1808-1889)

“Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt”—Romans 4:4.

Does [Paul] by this speech make light of good works? Does he encourage an unholy walk? Does he use a rash word, which had better been left unspoken? No, truly, he is laying the foundation of good works. He is removing the great obstacle to a holy life, viz.,[26] the bondage of an unforgiven state. He is speaking, by the power of the Holy Ghost, the words of truth and soberness. The difference between working and believing is that which God would have us to learn, lest we confound these two things and so destroy them both. The order and relation of these two things are here very explicitly laid down, so as to anticipate the error of many who mix up working and believing together, or who make believing the result of working, instead of working the result of believing. We carefully distinguish, yet we as carefully connect the two. We do not put asunder what God has joined together; yet we would not reverse the divine order, nor disturb the divine relation, nor place that last which God has set first.

It was not to depreciate or discourage good works that the Apostle spoke of not working, but believing; or of a man being “justified by faith without the deeds of the law”; or of God imputing “righteousness without works” (Rom 3:28; 4:6). It was to distinguish things that differ. It was to show the true use of faith in connecting us for justification with what another has done. It was to stay us from doing anything in order to be justified. In this view, then, faith is truly a ceasing from work and not a working. It is not the doing of anything in order to be justified, but the simple reception of the justifying work of Him Who finished transgression and made an end of sin (Dan 9:24). For the one justifying work was completed eighteen hundred years ago, and any attempt on our part to repeat or imitate this is vain. The one cross suffices.

Nor was it to undervalue good works that our Lord gave, what many may deem such a singular answer to the question of the Jews, “What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?…This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent” (Joh 6:28, 29). They wanted to work their way into the favor of God. The Lord tells them that they may have that favor without waiting or working by accepting at once His testimony to His only-begotten Son. Until then, they were not in a condition for working. They were as trees without a root, as stars whose motions, however regular, would be useless, if they themselves were unlighted.

To say to a groping, troubled spirit, “You must first believe before you can work,” is no more to encourage ungodliness or laxity of walk, than to say to an imprisoned soldier, “You must first get out of your dungeon before you can fight”; or to a swimmer, “You must throw off that millstone before you can attempt to swim”; or to a racer, “You must get quit of these fetters before you can run the race.” Yet these expressions of the Apostle have often been shrunk from, dreaded as dangerous, quoted with a guarding clause, or rather cited as seldom as possible, under the secret feeling that unless greatly diluted or properly qualified, they had better not be cited at all. But why are these bold utterances there, if they are perilous, if they are not meant to be as fearlessly proclaimed now as they were fearlessly written eighteen centuries ago? What did the Holy Spirit mean by promulgation[27] of such “unguarded” statements, as some seem disposed to reckon them? It was not for nothing that they were so boldly spoken. Timid words would not have served the purpose. The glorious Gospel needed statements such as these to disentangle the great question of acceptance, to relieve troubled consciences and purge them from dead works, yet at the same time to give to works their proper place…

In another’s righteousness we stand, and by another’s righteousness are we justified. All accusations against us, founded upon our unrighteousness, we answer by pointing to the perfection of the righteousness that covers us from head to foot…

Protected by this perfection, we have no fear of wrath, either now or hereafter. It is a buckler to us; and we cry, “Behold, O God our shield, and look upon the face of thine anointed” (Psa 84:9), as if to say, “Look not on me, but on my Substitute. Deal not with me for sin, but with my Sin-bearer. Challenge not me for my guilt, but challenge Him; He will answer for me.” Thus, we are safe beneath the shield of His righteousness. No arrow, either from the enemy or from conscience, can reach us there.

Covered by this perfection, we are at peace. The enemy cannot invade us; or if he try to do so, we can triumphantly repel him. It is a refuge from the storm, a covert from the tempest, a river of water in a dry place, the shadow of a great rock in a weary land. The work of righteousness is peace; and in the Lord we have righteousness and strength.

Beautified with this perfection, which is the perfection of God, we find favor in His sight. His eye rests on the comeliness[28] that He has put upon us; and as He did at viewing the first creation, so now, in looking at us as clothed with this divine excellency, He pronounces it “very good.” He sees no iniquity in Jacob and no transgression in Israel (Num 23:21). “The iniquity of Israel shall be sought for, and there shall be none; and the sins of Judah, and they shall not be found” (Jer 50:20). This righteousness suffices to cover, to comfort, and to beautify.

But there is more than this: we are justified that we may be holy. The possession of this legal righteousness is the beginning of a holy life. We do not live a holy life in order to be justified; but we are justified that we may live a holy life. That which man calls holiness may be found in almost any circumstances of dread, or darkness, or bondage, or self-righteous toil and suffering; but that which God calls holiness can only be developed under conditions of liberty and light, and pardon and peace with God. Forgiveness is the mainspring of holiness. Love, as a motive, is far stronger than law, far more influential than fear of wrath or peril of hell. Terror may make a man crouch like a slave and obey a hard master, lest a worse thing come upon him; but only a sense of forgiving love can bring either heart or conscience into that state in which obedience is either pleasant to the soul or acceptable to God.

False ideas of holiness are common, not only among those who profess false religions, but among those who profess the true. For holiness is a thing of which man by nature has no more idea than a blind man has of the beauty of a flower or the light of the sun. All false religions have had their “holy men,” whose holiness often consisted merely in the amount of pain they could inflict upon their bodies, or of food which they could abstain from, or of hard labor which they could undergo. But with God, a saint or holy man is a very different being. It is in filial,[29] full-hearted love to God that much of true holiness consists. And this cannot even begin to be until the sinner has found forgiveness and tasted liberty and has confidence towards God. The spirit of holiness is incompatible with the spirit of bondage. There must be the spirit of liberty, the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, “Abba, Father” (Rom 8:15; Gal 4:6). When the fountain of holiness begins to well up in the human heart and to fill the whole being with its transforming, purifying power, “We have known and believed the love that God hath to us” (1Jo 4:16) is the first note of the holy song that commenced on earth and [is] perpetuated through eternity.

We are bought with a price that we may be new creatures in Christ Jesus. We are forgiven that we may be like Him, Who forgives us. We are set at liberty and brought out of prison that we may be holy. The free, boundless love of God, pouring itself into us, expands and elevates our whole being; and we serve Him, not in order to win His favor, but because we have already won it in simply believing His record concerning His Son. If the root is holy, so are the branches. We have become connected with the holy root and by the necessity of this connection are made holy too.

Forgiveness relaxes no law nor interferes with the highest justice. Human pardons may often do so: God’s pardons never. Forgiveness doubles all our bonds to a holy life, only they are no longer bonds of iron, but of gold. It takes off the heavy yoke in order to give us the light and easy. Love is stronger than law. Whatever connects our obedience with love must be far more influential than what connects us with law.

The love of God to us and our love to God work together for producing holiness in us. Terror accomplishes no real obedience. Suspense brings forth no fruit unto holiness. Only the certainty of love, forgiving love, can do this. It is this certainty that melts the heart, dissolves our chains, disburdens our shoulders so that we stand erect, and makes us to run in the way of the divine commandments.

Condemnation is that which binds sin and us together. Forgiveness looses this fearful tie and separates us from sin. The power of condemnation which the Law possesses is that which makes it so strong and terrible. Cancel this power, and the liberated spirit rises into the region of love and in that region finds both will and strength for the keeping of the Law, a law which is at once old and new: old as to substance—“Thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart” (Deu 6:5)—new as to mode and motive—“for the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death” (Rom 8:2); that is, the law of the life-giving Spirit, which we have in Christ Jesus, has severed the condemning connection of that Law which leads only to sin and death. “For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh (i.e., unable to carry out its commandments in our old nature), God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” (Rom 8:3, 4).

The removal of condemnation is the dissolution of legal bondage and of that awful pressure upon the conscience that at once enslaved and irritated; disenabling as well as disinclining us from all obedience; making holiness both distasteful and dreadful, to be submitted to only through fear of future woe…But the message, “God is love,” is like the sun bursting through the clouds of a long tempest. The good news, “Through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins” (Act 13:38), is like the opening of the prisoner’s dungeon gate. Bondage departs, and liberty comes. Suspicion is gone, and the heart is won. Perfect love has cast out fear (1Jo 4:18). We hasten to the embrace of Him Who loved us; we hate that which has estranged us; we put away all that caused the distance between us and Him; we long to be like one so perfect and to partake of His holiness. To be “partakers of the divine nature” (2Pe 1:4), once so distasteful, is henceforth most grateful and pleasant; and nothing seems now so desirable as to escape the corruptions that are in the world through lust.

We undergo many false changes, which look like holiness, but which are not really so…Time changes us, yet does not make us holy. The decays of age change us, but do not break the power of evil. One lust expels another; frailty succeeds to frailty; error drives out error; one vanity pails, another comes freshly in its room; one evil habit is exchanged for a second, but our [flesh] remains the same. The cross has not touched us with its regenerating power; the Holy Spirit has not purified the inner sources of our being and life.

Fashion changes us; the example of friends changes us; society changes us; excitement changes us; business changes us; affection changes us; sorrow changes us; dread of coming evil changes us; yet the heart is just what it was. Of the numerous changes in our character or deportment, how many are deceitful, how few are real and deep! Only that which can go down into the very depths of our spiritual being can produce any change that is worthy of the name.

The one spell[30] that can really transform us is THE CROSS. The one potent watchword is, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me” (Joh 12:32)…“For their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth” (Joh 17:19). Christ presents Himself as the Holy One, Consecrated One, to God that His people may partake of His sanctification and be like Himself—saints, consecrated ones, men set apart for God by the sprinkling of the blood. Through the truth, they are sanctified by the power of the Holy Ghost. “For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified” (Heb 10:14); so that the perfection of His saints, both as to the conscience and as to personal holiness, is connected with the one offering and springs out of the one work finished upon Calvary. “By the which will we are sanctified, through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Heb 10:10). Here again the sanctification is connected with the offering of the body of Christ. Whatever place “the power of His resurrection” may hold in our spiritual history, it is the cross that is the source of all that varied fullness by which we are justified and purified. The secret of a believer’s holy walk is his continual recurrence to the blood of the Surety and his daily intercourse with a crucified and risen Lord

Want of sensitiveness to the difference between truth and error is one of the evil features of modern Protestantism. Sounding words, well-executed pictures, [and] pretentious logic carry away multitudes. The distinction between Gospel and no Gospel is very decided and very momentous; yet many will come away from a sermon in which the free Gospel has been overlaid, not sensible of the want,[31] and praising the preacher. The conversions of recent years have not the depth of other days. Consciences are half-awakened and half-pacified; the wound is slightly laid open and slightly healed. Hence, the want of spiritual discernment as to truth and error. The conscience is not sensitive, else it would at once refuse and resent any statement, however well argued or painted, which encroached in the slightest degree upon the free Gospel of God’s love in Christ; which interposed any obstacle between the sinner and the cross; or which merely declaimed about the cross, without telling us especially how it saves and how it purifies.

From The Everlasting Righteousness, available as a paperback from Chapel Library.

Horatius Bonar (1808-1889): Scottish Presbyterian minister and prolific author of tracts, books, and hymns. Born in Edinburgh, Scotland.

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