≡ Menu

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)

{ 0 comments }

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

{ 0 comments }

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

{ 0 comments }

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

{ 0 comments }

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

{ 0 comments }

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

{ 0 comments }

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

{ 0 comments }

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.

{ 0 comments }

On Good Works

It absolutely amazes me the number of individuals who argue that works of faith and good deeds justify them before God. While I have 1000 points that can be argued to the biblical teaching of justification, I stand befuddled that so many people actually believe that they live a life so pleasing to God that He takes note and “credits their obedience” as justification.

Peeling through my resources I came across Dr. Edward’s short to-the-point essay on the matter of good works… so enjoy.

Jonathan Edwards:

That those who are God’s workmanship are created in Christ Jesus to good works; or, in plainer terms, all those who belong to God, and are created anew by His Spirit, are enabled by virtue of that new creation to perform good works. In pursuance of this proposition, I will show —

1. What good works are.

2. What are the qualifications of them.

3. Why they must be done.

4. Apply all.

I. That we may understand WHAT IS MEANT BY GOOD WORKS, we must know that there are habits of grace, and there are acts and exertments of grace; and these two are different from one another, because these acts flow from those habits. These acts are two-fold, either inward or outward. The inward are such as these — a fear and reverence of the Almighty, a love of God and all goodness, and a love of our neighbours (which is called the work and labour of love, Hebrews 6:10), which, though they be not outwardly acted, yet are properly the works of the soul, for the not producing them into outward action hinders not their being works. For the mind of man may as properly be said to work as the body; yea, if we consider the true nature of things, we may rightly assert that the soul is the principal worker in man, and that all the outward exertments of virtue in the body flow from the mind of man, and take thence their denomination. These outward acts of grace which are exerted by the members of the body, and are apparent in the practices of holy men, are the good works generally spoken of in the Scripture. They are no other than visible exertments and actual discoveries of the inward graces before mentioned. Thus our reverencing of God is discovered by our solemn worshipping Him, and that in the most decent and humble manner. Our faith in Him, and love to Him, are showed by our readiness to do His will and obey all His commands. It is true good works in general comprehend all works morally good, whether they be adjusted to the law of nature or the revealed law; but I shall chiefly and principally consider good works as they are conformable to the revealed rule of the gospel. And so I proceed to the —

II. Thing I undertook, viz., to show WHAT ARE THE QUALIFICATIONS OF THESE GOOD WORKS, that is, what is absolutely required in these works to make them good. I shall speak only of those qualifications which are requisite in evangelical good works, namely, such as are necessary to eternal salvation.

1. In a good work it is requisite that the person who doth it be good. By which I mean not only that he be inwardly good and righteous, according to that of our Saviour, make the tree good and his fruit good (Matthew 12:33); but I understand this also, that the person who performs good works be one that is reconciled to God; for if the person be not accepted, the work cannot be good. It is said, “The Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering” (Genesis 4:4). First unto Abel, and then to his offering. The sacrificer must be accepted before the sacrifice.

2. As the works are good because of the person, so both the person and works are good because of the righteousness of Christ, in whom God is well pleased. “He hath made us acceptable to the Beloved” (Ephesians 1:6). What we do is favourably received as we are considered in Christ. By virtue of our relation to Him, who is our Righteousness, our performances are accounted righteous. This qualification of a good work the devout Mr. Herbert assigns, saying, “It is a good work if it be sprinkled with the blood of Christ.”

3. A good work in the gospel sense and meaning is a work done by the grace of God and the assistance of the Holy Spirit.

4. It must be done in faith, for the apostle tells us that “without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6), and, consequently, as he adds in another place, “what is not of faith is sin.”

5. In all actions that are really good there must be lawful and right means used. Acts of justice and honesty must be clone by ways that are lawful and good. We must not be just among ourselves by being unjust to others. I must not steal that I may be charitable to the poor. I must not promote the best cause either by persecution or by rebellion. Though it be God’s cause, it ought not to be fought with the devil’s weapons.

6. Good works must be adjusted to a right rule; they must be according to the will and commandment of God. They must not be after our own inventions, but according to this Divine command (Micah 6:8). That is good which God requires.

7. Every good work must proceed from a right principle; and by a right principle I mean these following things —

(1) That our works proceed from sufficient knowledge. No action done ignorantly is good. He that acts without knowledge cannot be said to act morally, much less Christianly. We must first know that what we do is our real duty, and we must also understand why it is so. Religion must not be blind; reason must always go first, and carry the light before all our actions, for the heart and life cannot be good if the head be not enlightened. The understanding must make way for the will. Which brings me to the next particular.

(2) Good works must proceed from a free and voluntary principle. As he that acts ignorantly, so he that acts unwillingly cannot be said to act well. To the will is to be imputed whatsoever is ill or well done by us. There is nothing good or bad but what is matter of choice and consultation.

(3) With the understanding and will must be joined the affections. And this includes in it these following things —

(a) Integrity of heart. As servants are bid to discharge their duty in singleness of heart (Colossians 3:22).

(b) An entire love of God is required in every good work. All our actions must flew from this principle, for if we love not God, we cannot do the works of God.

(c) There must be an entire love, not only of God, but of goodness itself, and the intrinsic excellency and perfection that is in it. There must be a delight and pleasure in the ways of God, and in all those good and virtuous actions which we do, and that for their own sakes.

(d) Not only a love of God, but a fear of Him, must be a principle from whence all our holy actions are to proceed, a fear of acting contrary to the purity of God’s nature, a fear of displeasing and offending Him. Joseph acted out of this excellent principle when he cried out, “How shall I do this wickedness and sin against God?”(e) Humility is another principle from whence we must act. Every good and righteous man lays his foundation low; he begins his works with a submissive and self-denying spirit; he proceeds with lowliness of mind, and a mean opinion of himself, and of all he can do.

(f) Alacrity, joy, and cheerfulness, and so likewise a due warmth, zeal, and ardency, are other principles from whence our good works should spring. We must with gladness undertake and perform them, and we must serve the Lord with a fervency of spirit (Romans 12:11).

8. This is another indispensable qualification of a good work, that it be done for a good end. As there are fountains or principles of actions, so there are ends or designs belonging to them all. You must necessarily distinguish between principles and ends if you would speak properly and significantly. Fountains and springs of actions are those from whence the actions flow; ends and aims are those to which the actions tend. There is a vast difference between these. I have told you what the former are; now I will set before you the latter. The right ends which ought to be in all evangelical actions (for of such I intend chiefly to speak) are these three — our own salvation, the good of others, and in pursuance of both God’s glory. This was it which spoiled and blasted the most solemn and religious duties of the Pharisees. When they did their alms, they sounded a trumpet before them, that they might have glory of men (Matthew 6:2). Whey they prayed, they did it standing in the corners of the streets, that they might be seen of men (Matthew 5:5). Likewise when they fasted, they disfigured their faces, that they might appear unto men to fast (Matthew 5:16). Yea, all their works they did to be seen of men (Matthew 23:5). All was to gain esteem and reputation, all was for applause and vainglory. This wrong end and intention made all they did sinful. When I say all our works are to be done for the ends above named, I do not by this wholly exclude all other ends. As two of the great aims of our actions, namely, our own happiness and that of others, are subordinate to the third, God’s glory, so there are other lesser and inferior ends which are subordinate to all these. He evidences this by such ways as these — He never lets these temporal things stand in competition with, much less in opposition to, those which are greater and higher. He never so seeks his own as not to seek the things which are Jesus Christ’s. He doth not one with the neglect of the other.

9. To comprehend all, a good work is that which is done in a right manner. Good actions are such as have good circumstances and qualities, and evil actions are such as have undue and evil ones.

III. Having instructed you in the nature of good works, I am to show you, in the next place, HOW REASONABLE A THING IT IS THAT WE SHOULD TAKE CARE TO DO THESE GOOD WORKS. I will present you with those arguments and motives which I apprehend are most powerful to incite you to this. First, I might mention the reason in the text, where first we are said to be created unto good works, that we might walk in them. This is the very design of the spiritual creation or new birth, that we should exert all these acts of piety and religion which I have before mentioned. It is the purpose of heaven in regenerating us that we should walk in the ways of holiness, and conscientiously perform all the parts of our duty towards God, towards men, and towards ourselves. Again, it is said, we are said to be created in Christ Jesus to this. This is the end of Christ’s undertakings. “He gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a peculiar people zealous of good works” (Titus 2:14). Moreover, it is added that God hath before ordained these works. This was the good will and pleasure of the blessed Trinity in their eternal consults before man was made. Why then should we, as much as in us lieth, frustrate the purpose and decree of heaven concerning us I Further, this (as the apostle saith of sanctification) is the will of God (1 Thessalonians 4:3). This is that which is commended to us by the example of the saints; they have all been zealous practisers of good works. This is the grand evidence of the truth of our inward graces. This is that whereby you show your thankfulness to God for your election and redemption. I add, this is that which is the great ornament and lustre of our Christian profession; this will set forth and commend our religion to the world. But there are these two arguments yet behind which I will more amply insist upon — good works are necessary to salvation; good works glorify God.

1. Though our good works are conditions of salvation, yet they are not conditions as to God’s election, for He decreed from eternity out of His free will and mercy to save lost man, without any consideration of their good works. Predestination to life and glory is the result of free grace, and therefore the provision of works must be excluded. The decree runs not thus, I choose thee to life and blessedness on supposal or condition of thy believing and repenting; but thus, I freely choose thee unto eternal life, and that thou mayest attain to it, I decree that thou shalt believe and repent.

2. Though faith and obedience be conditions of happiness, yet the performance of them is by the special help and assistance of a Divine and supernatural power. God, who decrees persons to good works, enables them to exert them.

3. Nor are they conditions in this sense that they succeed in the place of perfect obedience to the law which the covenant of works required. I am convinced that no such conditions as these are consistent with the new covenant, the covenant of grace. Works, if they be considered as a way leading to eternal life, are indeed necessary to salvation; they are necessary by way of qualification, for no unclean thing shall enter into heaven. Graces and good works fit us for that place and state; they dispose us for glory. We are not capable of happiness without holiness. It may be some will not approve of saying, We are saved by good works, but this they must needs acknowledge that we cannot be saved without them; yea, we cannot be saved but with them. Some are converted and saved at the last hour, at their going out of the world; but even then good works are not wanting, for hearty confession of sin, and an entire hatred of it, sincere and earnest prayers, hope and trust in God, desire of grace, unfeigned love, and zealous purposes and resolves, all these are good works, and none can be saved without them. In the next place, good works are for God’s glory, therefore they must be done by us. As I have showed before that it is a necessary qualification of good works that they be done out of an intention to glorify God, so now it will appear that this is one great reason why we are obliged to perform them, viz., because thereby God is glorified. “Let your light so shine before men,” saith our Saviour, “that others seeing your works may glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). The light of our works came from God, and it must be reflected to him again.

(1) Because of the wicked, that you may stop their mouths, and take away all occasion of speaking evil against you. Again, for the sake of good men, we are obliged to be very careful how we walk; we are concerned to do all the good we can, that they may not be scandalized and hurt by our evil examples, and consequently that God’s name may not be dishonoured thereby. By our holy and exemplary lives, we may be serviceable to stir up the hearts of the godly to praise God on our behalf. “They glorified God in me,” saith the apostle, of those Christian Jews who took notice of his miraculous conversion, and of his extraordinary zeal in preaching the faith (Galatians 1:24).

IV. By way of inference, from what hath been said of good works, we may correct the error of the Antinomians, we may confute the falsehood of the Roman Church, we may make a discovery of other false apprehensions of men concerning good works; we are hence also obliged to examine whether our works be good; and lastly, if we find them to be such, we must continue in the practice of them.

1. What I have delivered on this subject is a sufficient check to the Antinomian error, viz., that because Christ hath satisfied for us, therefore there is no need of good works; Christ’s obedience serves for ours. What need we do anything since He hath done all? And all this is conformable to the doctrine of our blessed Lord and Saviour, who tells us that He came not to destroy the law, but to fulfil it, and make it more complete and perfect. By His doctrine and practice He taught the world that the moral law obligeth the faithful under the evangelical dispensation, and that obedience to the former is not opposite to the grace of the latter. He constantly promoted good works and holy living, and bid His disciples show their love to Him by keeping His commandments (John 14:15). You see then how fondly they discourse who say that, because Christ hath done and suffered all things for man’s redemption, therefore there is nothing left for us to do. Indeed, we have nothing to do that can further our salvation by way of merit, but we have something to do whereby we may show our thankfulness for Christ’s undertakings; we have a great deal to do whereby we may discover our obedience to the Divine commands and injunctions. Though good works and obedience are not conditions of justification, yet they are of salvation; they are requisite in the person who is justified, although they are wholly excluded from justification itself. Or we may say, though they do not justify meritoriously, yet they do it declaratively, they show that we are really of the number of those who God accounteth just and righteous.

2. The falsehood of the Romanists is hence confuted. They cry out against us, as those who utterly dislike, both in doctrine and practice, all good works. They brand us with the name of Solifidians, as if faith monopolized all our religion. Indeed, all that profess the reformed religion affirm that faith is the root of all graces, that Divine virtue is the basis and foundation of all good works; this they maintain, and have good reason to do so; but still they hold that good and holy works are indispensably requisite in Christianity, and that no man can be excused from performing them, and that those whose lives are utterly devoid of them have no right faith and no true religion. This is our unanimous belief, profession, and doctrine, and the Papists are maliciously reproachful when they accuse us Of the contrary.

3. From what hath been said, we may discover the wrong notions and apprehensions which most men have of good works. I will instance more particularly in charity, which is eminently called a good work, but there is a great and common mistake about it. And so as to other good works, all understanding men agree that they ought to be done, but they greatly mistake what good works are. They think if they do the outward acts of religion they do very well; if they fast and pray, and hear God’s Word, and receive the eucharist; if they perform the external acts of justice and charity, their doings cannot but be good and acceptable, and they need look after no more. They never consider whether their fasting and praying and other exercises of devotion and piety proceed from God’s grace and Holy Spirit in them, whether they be accompanied with faith, and be the result of good and holy principles, and be done for good ends, and in a good manner. Alas! these and the like things are not thought of. This discovers the gross mistakes in the world.

4. Then you are really concerned to examine your lives and actions, and to see whether you be not of the number of the mistaken persons.

5. When you have examined the true nature of good works, then urge upon yourselves that you are indispensably obliged to do them. Being thoroughly persuaded of the necessity of them, press the practice of them on yourselves and on others.That you may successfully do so, observe these four plain and brief directions —

1. Beg the assistance of the Spirit. These are no mean and common works which I have set before you as that duty. They require great strength and power to exert them.

2. Study the Scriptures. There, and there only, you will find instructions for the performing of works acceptable to God.

3. Set before you the example of the saints, for by viewing of them you will not only learn what to do, but you will be taught not to be weary in well doing.

4. Redeem and improve the time. Fix it on your thoughts that you have a good deal of work to do, but your time to do it in is short and soon expiring.

(J. Edwards, D. D.)

{ 0 comments }

Oh God, my life is over!

My life is half over by all estimation and while on side it’s a half full glass the other hand reveals a very depressing reality: I have wasted much of it.  I have wasted my life on meaningless endeavors, invested in idols that have never paid a return, breaded the meal of the flesh too many times to count only to be burned and held nothing in the end.  I have so many things, seasons, moments and dreams that will never be as it relates to my marriage, my children and God’s people – and in retrospect, I am satisfied.  Why? Because while I wish I had labored differently, I do have today.

This day is a gift from God and it is honorable not to waste it but to redeem the time.

Redeeming the time is not to catch up on past waste, but to manage what is mine this moment and be a Christ-filled steward of it. Here are a few thoughts from my journal as of late:

  1. With actual minutes and seconds: knowing that I have just moments in each day I resolve that it belongs to the Lord who created it for His glory. Remaining mindful of this, filled with time in the word and prayer, I pray He will honor my time and help me use it wisely.  Remember, God can do more with nothing than I can do with everything, so I need no MORE TIME, I just need HIM!
  2. Thoughts are my worst enemy. So I must put to death thoughts that carry me away from my Lord.
  3. Fleshly pursuits are not just greed, idolatry and sin, but also measuring my “needs” incorrectly and spending time on worthless s0-called enjoyable things that result in no fruitfulness.  This can include idleness, misaligned study, youtube, facebook, text messages, tv shows, music, books, etc. We must pay attention to these things.
  4. Invest in the GOAL, not the rest stops. This means that I should not spend time redeeming memories and lessons of life with my kids, but knowing that my role and most vital part of their lives is feeding them truth, showing them Christ, and walking with them into adulthood as a Christ’s siblings together. We often spend countless hours fretting on the “steps” and “memories” thinking they matter, but they don’t.  The End Does!
  5. Praying more for the Lord’s help, use, and purpose in all things gives me the perspective I need. So, if I am talking with someone about life, then I pray the Lord would help me hear them and HIM so that I may respond seasoned with saltiness, not worthlessness.
  6. Investing in what is clearly eternal. Time, friends, events, travel etc. Is it worth it? What matters for all eternity? Invest in those things; they bring the greatest joy and the highest reward.  For me, I write, think, pray, sing, listen to the Lord’s word, invest in other’s lives and pray the Lord would put me in the lives of others while not WORRYING about anything.  (Of course, I cannot do this… so the Lord must do it in me!)
  7. STOP TIME MANAGEMENT – At all costs!  Many years ago my time management actually had to be scheduled.  NOW, I live by boundaries and goals that NEVER change, ever. Period. I put the phone down at certain times, period. I won’t look at emails until it is time. Period. I refuse to alter some things, and I refuse to be a slave to the time management, leadership development cult machine.  It is not good, but boundaries are. When we live with boundaries we are more apt and able to invest in the lives of others, especially in crisis.  See my thoughts on Pastoral Ministry boundaries here.
  8. I often pray and say in my heart continually something like this, and it is my prayer this day….

Oh, how this day must be gleaned for opportunity that will shine the brightest light on the glory of God in all things! May this moment be expanded toward eternity by sharing, speaking and savoring the supernatural radiance of the magnificence of the Lord’s Light through the Son Jesus Christ in all conversations, all thoughts, all meditations, all time, all labor and all matters. While we cannot make up for time that we’ve lost, relationships that we’ve mismanaged, opportunities that have fleeted, the time is now to exult in Christ Jesus. After all, there is nothing greater and nothing more powerful to pull two people together with an intimacy that surpasses the logic of the greatest mind.

So for you:  Run to the Lord Jesus, cry for His power upon you, be filled with all His fullness, pray for others’ joy and peace and labor unto that end until the Lord returns or until the breath in our lungs has passed. Either way, it is a joyous and meaningful tarry.  Maranatha!

DV,

Pastor James

{ 0 comments }