I have been asked many times over the last few weeks about what is required to “know” in order to be saved vs. what is considered “growth”.

Everywhere we look we see the idea of studying the Bible. Well maybe not everywhere, but in every Circle of Christianity it seems that there’s always someone talking about studying the Bible.  As a matter of fact, most likely every religion in the world has some writing that requires being studied. From study comes knowledge, and from knowledge comes belief. While every truth claim cannot be true. For the Christian, we believe that the Bible is truth. Jesus says in John 17 when he prays that eternal life is knowing the one true God and knowing the son whom he has sent.  So in this line of thinking, studying the Bible is actually the study of God which is actually the knowledge of God which is actually salvation.

 For many churchgoers, however, the study of God’s word has been relegated to just mere pragmatism or topical investigation. Sadly, this type of study that we find very normative in our culture, is not sufficient for salvation. Neither is it sufficient for a right understanding of the gospel of grace. And because the right study of God’s word is waning in our present economy of faith, many pastors and teachers have gone the way of teaching moralism and humanism and calling it Christianity.  All of this type of teaching results in a different type of learning. So that the believer or the professing Christian if I can, have no idea what they’re talking about because they are listening to the wrong information. Now we could go on and on and discuss types of interpretation and different ideas related to what the Scripture is actually teaching. But if we are honest, the simplest syntax of the holy writ is very easy to understand. So when I ask the question, “are you. listening?”,  I am asking if you are truly listening to the word of God.

 Let’s all be very honest, every day we hear thousands and thousands of words. We see hundreds and hundreds of images that teach us something. We are inundated in our society by information overload. Some of which we go and seek and others that are just imposed upon us without our knowledge or permission. Because this is true, many people have developed a worldview that is so foreign in comparison to Scripture, that it’s no wonder that so many congregations do not look like the people of God any longer. The remedy to this is not more teaching about how to be or how to look like God’s people from a humanistic point of view but is direct and simple teaching straight from the Bible.

If many pastors were to poll their congregations they would find very few congregants actually read their Bible every day. Now many people may do a small devotion or read a short paragraph related to some scriptural teaching. And these things are not bad in and of themselves, but they are not sufficient for the knowledge of truth. So often when I make a statement like this, people will say,  “I’m not a theologian.” To which I respond, well you should be. A Christian that is not learning is a Christian that is not growing. In the Christian that is not growing, is a Christian that is not living.

There’s much to be said about this particular dilemma and there is plenty inside the Bible that give us a clear picture that Scripture is necessary for the health and joy of every Christian and in turn every congregation.  So as we consider this idea today let us take a moment and hear the word of the Lord written by the apostle Paul to Timothy.

2 Timothy 3:14–17

[14] But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it [15] and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. [16] All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, [17] that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (ESV)

This text shows us that the Bible is enough for a successful Christian life and it’s also sufficient for the knowledge of the truth. No one needs extra-biblical revelation or extra-biblical instruction in order to rightly live for the glory of God. And Sadly, those who look to other sources find themselves in a very precarious position. Either weak and immature in their faith or at worst, totally unregenerate. But we’ll talk about that in future discussions. From this point let me encourage you to pick up your Bible and read it.  It is through Scripture where you will find peace in the midst of frustration and it is there that you will find intimacy with Jesus Christ, the eternal God of Heaven, the creator and savior. So guard your heart and mind to the power of the Holy Bible.  And you will begin to experience what Scripture teaches as the peace that surpasses all understanding.

 If you would like more information about how to study the Bible or if you have questions related to Bible passages or theological issues, please contact us and we will be more than happy to help you.  We look forward to hearing from you. soon and until then rest well in the gospel and grace of Jesus Christ who lived a life of obedience and died a substitutionary death for the glory of God the father in the redemption of his people.

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

To suppose universal agreement on anything is to rake one’s own eyes with sand and think avoidance of tears be possible. So, something dear to my soul presently is the nature of what so many so-called Christians seem to continually reflect as the Evangel, or Good News. No, I am not referring to the theology of God who saves through His Son, I am referring to the tenacity and affection held for such things engaged in the name of Christ that are so often temporal meals devoid of glory.

What props up the heart of you? What yields to your love and heart at all times? What thing, system, belief, activity, skill or service supplies your soul with joy? Is it Christ? Is it the people of God? If these two be far from the drawing of your mind and soul then it would be a good moment to arrest yourself and test your place before the Lord.

The Church, when she is known for things other than Christ, has made herself a whore, reaching out for lovers that will never quench the thirst. What is that you love about being saved? What is it that draws you to smile when you think of “church”? How is it that so often we can be engaged in so much, so often, for so long that is really a wasted life with nothing more to show as fruit except rosters?

Catch the point? Here it is: The church of Jesus Christ must not be known for substitute glory. She should be known for who she is, as the body of her savior. She should be known for affection around God’s word for the sake of His people.  She should be BUSY about the business of building lives around the power of the cross of Christ so that as the family sits at home in the evening, they are resting in the supremacy of God rather than the social joys of playing life.

When the church fails to put the Word of Christ at the center of purpose and principle, she places Christ as a secondary affection. When the church engages in the worldly pursuits of events and society she displays a false hope to the world and becomes a darkness within darkness thus blending fully with any other people. The church of Jesus Christ should be able to exist completely without real estate, without plans and staff to undergird programs. She should be able to richly exist in power without distraction. The bride of the King Jesus should never have to ask, “What shall we do?” for Jesus has answered that question with, “This is the work of God, that you believe on Him and the Son who He has sent.”

Learning Christ is not a pursuit of special called individuals but is the real proof of true salvation at the bottom of the foundation. We live to learn that which we love most. And when all the worldliness existing in the s0-called church is gone, where will the power of God be? In those who are truly born of Him. Never forget that Jesus called all the special religious work of Nicodemus darkness and never forget that Jesus said Nicodemus loved it.  When we love events, programs, get-togethers, and places to plug people in, we are unable to see the great glorious picture of light.  Come out of darkness and put these things in their right place… the bottom.

May the Lord have mercy.

[10] For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. [11] More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (Romans 5:10-11 ESV)

As long as humanity has been itself, the investment of togetherness has been a reality. For the first people, this unity embraced an inclusion without shame, concern, rejection or any type of insecurity. As Adam and Eve were naked, they knew not that they were thus their union in all things was purely the enjoyment, security and fellowship of each one with the other. At the fall this nakedness was revealed. Insecurity and timidity arose immediately and they were ashamed, not only before each other, but most importantly before God. They desired to hide their shame by covering themselves with their own provision to no effect bringing precarious want and emotion ringing into the garden and into the lives of all humanity after them.

Christ has taken away our shame by placing Himself at the center of guilt, though innocent, and thus endured the shame and thus the wrath of sin from the hand of God the Father. In doing this, while we still bare the marks of sin in our flesh, our fellowship with God is without shame and our nakedness before God as justified children reveals a purity that would not exist without imputation from Christ. Thus our common unity with God through Jesus Christ further protects our unity as the body of Jesus Christ and now as we are able to fellowship together in Christ, our living life together is not jarred or covered by a lack of transparency because we can be ‘naked’ and unashamed before God and before each other.

Before one takes the zip line to crazy town I want to make clear I am speaking metaphorically and most importantly, spiritually. Being naked before God and each other is expressed in the reality of our lives together in that we are not hiding behind facades of man-made philosophies or self-contracted ideals but rather we are exposed and visible with integrity as we really are. For some this exposure is seen as the work of God through solid faith and holy passions while in others, the pocks, scars and trials still abound. The sum of this is the reality that even though we are sinners who have past and present failings, we are forgiven in Christ and even “if” we sin in this present day, we are forgiven for Christ is our propitiation so that there is nothing more that is due God’s justice.

Fellowship among the saints then needs to come into the light of nakedness without shame. We need to realize that the true Church are those who live together, assemble together and worship together in an effort to grow into maturity and go into the darkness as light. We need to remember that we are all redeemed in Christ and that our tragedies belong to each other as well as our victories in Christ. The church ‘are’ the people of Christ who are called out to live and walk in light together and who are to carry the burdens of the weak, be patient with those who doubt, forgive as much as they are forgiven. Sadly though, many Christians live in fear of rejection and hide behind of charade of “idealism” that isn’t true. It is time for the people of Christ to be honest and open among their spiritual family and realize that just as God has forgiven them, just as they are facing doubt, just as they are going through trials; so the rest of the body follows.

We are indeed a people who should have no shame because Christ took it and nailed to His cross with His body!

Why do so many Christians live a lie?  Here are just a few thoughts:

  1. They feel as though they are the only ones with problems/sins/doubt/depression/issues.
  2. They feel as though others in the church would treat them differently if they were honest about their needs.
  3. They are right to feel that way because some would.
  4. They are not taught the gospel when assembled and are more pressured into fitting into a social mold than into the likeness of Christ.
  5. The culture of the church family insists on issues being a result of “faithlessness” or “apostasy”.
  6. They forget that the enemy of God is the accuser of the brethren and accusation begins within.
  7. They fail to remember the glory of God’s grace in Christ Jesus as their only hope.
  8. They don’t see that one of the purposes of Christ’s church is to grow into maturity.
  9. They fail to realize that suffering, pain, sin etc. can be and will be used by God to bring glory.
  10. The are too busy doing religious things instead of being enabled to minister to others, so they cannot perceive how anyone could minister to them.
  11. …….

When we fail to live truthfully, we fail to be God’s people in reality. Then we fail to worship, fail to learn, fail to really love and fail to really live.

Press into Christ, be in love with His people and live for His Glory!

Pastor James

 

 

Due to some churches who are newly introduced to the idea of biblical church leadership, I felt that it would be good to review the role and rule of the elder and consider John MacArthur’s thoughts on the matter to be very truthful and biblically based.

I pray that you might grow in your understanding of God’s desire for the church.

The following is adapted from the Grace Church Distinctive on Biblical Eldership and is posted fully below:

Biblically, the focal point of all church leadership is the elder. An elder is one of a plurality of biblically qualified men who jointly shepherd and oversee a local body of believers. The word translated “elder” is used nearly twenty times in Acts and the epistles in reference to this unique group of leaders who have responsibility for overseeing the people of God.

The Office of Elder

As numerous passages in the New Testament indicate, the words “elder” (presbuteros), “overseer” (episkopos), and “pastor” (poimen) all refer to the same office. In other words, overseers and pastors are not distinct from elders; the terms are simply different ways of identifying the same people. The qualifications for an overseer (episkopos) in 1 Timothy 3:1-7, and those for an elder (presbuteros) in Titus 1:6-9 are unmistakably parallel. In fact, in Titus 1, Paul uses both terms to refer to the same man (presbuteros in v. 5 and episkopos in v. 7).

All three terms are used interchangeably in Acts 20. In verse 17, Paul assembles all the elders (presbuteros) of the church of Ephesus to give them his farewell message. In verse 28 he says, “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers [episkopos], to shepherd [poimaino] the church of God.” First Peter 5:1-2 brings all three terms together as well. Peter writes, “Therefore, I exhort the elders [presbuteros] among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, shepherd [poimaino] the flock of God among you, exercising oversight [episkopeo] not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God.” The different terms, then, indicate various features of ministry, not varying levels of authority or separate offices, as some churches espouse.

A Plurality of Elders

The consistent pattern throughout the New Testament is that each local body of believers is shepherded by a plurality of God-ordained elders. Simply stated, this is the only pattern for church leadership given in the New Testament. Nowhere in Scripture does one find a local assembly ruled by majority opinion or by a single pastor.

The Apostle Paul left Titus in Crete and instructed him to “appoint elders in every city” (Titus 1:5). James instructed his readers to “call for the elders of the church” to pray for those who are sick (James 5:14). When Paul and Barnabas were in Derbe, Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, they “appointed elders for them in every church” (Acts 14:23). In Paul’s first epistle to Timothy, the apostle referred to “the elders who rule well” at the church at Ephesus (1 Tim. 5:17; see also Acts 20:17, where Paul addresses “the elders of the church” at Ephesus). The book of Acts indicates that there were “elders” at the church in Jerusalem (Acts 11:30; 15:2, 4; 21:18).

Again and again, reference is made to a plurality of elders in each of the various churches. In fact, every place in the New Testament where the term presbuteros (“elder”) is used it is plural, except where the apostle John uses it of himself in 2 and 3 John and where Peter uses it of himself in 1 Peter 5:1. Nowhere in the New Testament is there a reference to a one-pastor congregation. It may be that each elder in the city had an individual group in which he had specific oversight. But the church was seen as one church, and decisions were made by a collective process and in reference to the whole, not the individual parts.

In other passages, reference is made to a plurality of elders even though the word presbuteros itself is not used. In the opening greeting of his epistle to the Philippians, Paul refers to the “overseers [plural of episkopos] and deacons” at the church of Philippi (Phil. 1:2). In Acts 20:28, Paul warned the elders of the church of Ephesus, “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which God has made you overseers [plural of episkopos]” (Acts 20:28). The writer of Hebrews called his readers to obey and submit to the “leaders” who kept watch over their souls (Heb. 13:17). Paul exhorted his Thessalonian readers to “appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction” (1 Thess. 5:12)—a clear reference to the overseers in the Thessalonian assembly.
Much can be said for the benefits of leadership made up of a plurality of godly men. Their combined counsel and wisdom helps assure that decisions are not self-willed or self-serving to a single individual (cf. Prov. 11:14). If there is division among the elders in making decisions, all the elders should study, pray, and seek the will of God together until consensus is achieved. In this way, the unity and harmony that the Lord desires for the church will begin with those individuals he has appointed to shepherd His flock.

The Qualifications of Elders

The character and effectiveness of any church is directly related to the quality of its leadership. That’s why Scripture stresses the importance of qualified church leadership and delineates specific standards for evaluating those who would serve in that sacred position.

The qualifications for elders are found in 1 Timothy 3:2-7 and Titus 1:6-8. According to these passages, an elder must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not addicted to wine, not pugnacious, gentle, uncontentious, free from the love of money, not fond of sordid gain, a good manager of his household, one who has his children under control with dignity, not a new convert, one who has a good reputation outside the church, self-controlled, sensible, able to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict, above reproach as God’s steward, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, loving what is good, just, and devout.

The single, overarching qualification of which the rest are supportive is that he is to be “above reproach.” That is, he must be a leader who cannot be accused of anything sinful because he has a sustained reputation for blamelessness. An elder is to be above reproach in his marital life, his social life, his business life, and his spiritual life. In this way, he is to be a model of godliness so he can legitimately call the congregation to follow his example (Phil. 3:17). All the other qualifications, except perhaps teaching and management skills, only amplify that idea.

In addition, the office of elder is limited to men. First Timothy 2:11-12 says, “Let a woman quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet.” In the church, women are to be under the authority of the elders, excluded from teaching men or holding positions of authority over them.

The Functions of Elders

As the apostolic era came to a close, the office of elder emerged as the highest level of local church leadership. Thus, it carried a great amount of responsibility. There was no higher court of appeal and no greater resource to understand the mind and heart of God (as revealed in the Scriptures) with regard to issues in the church.

The primary responsibility of an elder is to serve as a manager and caretaker of the church (1 Tim. 3:5). That involves a number of specific duties. As spiritual overseers of the flock, elders are to determine church policy (Acts 15:22); oversee the church (Acts 20:28); ordain others (1 Tim. 4:4); rule, teach, and preach (1 Tim. 5:17; cf. 1 Thess. 5:12; 1 Tim. 3:2); exhort and refute (Titus 1:9); and act as shepherds, setting an example for all (1 Pet. 5:1-3). Those responsibilities put elders at the core of the New Testament church’s work.

Because of its heritage of democratic values and its long history of congregational church government, modern American evangelicalism often views the concept of elder rule with suspicion. The clear teaching of Scripture, however, demonstrates that the biblical norm for church leadership is a plurality of God-ordained elders, and only by following this biblical pattern will the church maximize its fruitfulness to the glory of God.

Although there is much that will be said and speculated.  The call of the church is for her to petition the Lord of all things for His sovereign grace in these matters with Pastor Mahaney as well as with all of us.

Mahaney’s board has stated:

“The charges against C.J. are serious, but his response has been one of self-examination and, when possible, specific confession to those sinned against.  However, given the numerous events, people, and perspectives involved, the work of an independent panel will be vital to fully examining these charges and arriving at an objective conclusion, especially on those charges with which the board does not agree.”

Mahaney issued his own lengthy statement here.

“These charges are not related to any immorality or financial impropriety, but this doesn’t minimize their serious nature, which include various expressions of pride, unentreatability, deceit, sinful judgment, and hypocrisy.”

“I believe God is kindly disciplining me through this. I believe I have by the grace of God perceived a degree of my sin, and I have been grieved by my sin and its effects on others.  I have had the opportunity to confess my sin to some of those affected in various ways by my sin.”

In light of this, let us pray for our brother, his ministry and greatly for the glory of God to be revealed through His grace.  Let us also reflect continually on our own hearts, our own pride, our own wickedness and sin and resolve to tremble before the mighty hand of God who gives grace by His own desire, not of human decision or merit.

1 Peter 2:18-25 (ESV)
18 Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust.
19 For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly.
20 For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God.
21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.
22 He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth.
23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.
24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.
25 For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

An article detailing this can be read here: http://blogs.courier-journal.com/faith/2011/07/08/serious-charges-vs-popular-pastor-author-mahaney/

Never Forget Part 1 AUDIO

Today has been one of those days that has got me thinking as I ponder the reality of Christ and His glorious revelation of God the Father to and through us.  I really don’t think the average believer spends enough time thinking about the Eternal Son of the living God and I can honestly say that for a long time, I thought too much about thinking too much rather than just meditating on the Word.

In my rapid and refreshing thoughts today I began to write down some things that I don’t want to stop thinking about in my walk with Christ as a father, husband and pastor.  Some of them I have listed here and now feel inspired to reflect on them individually over the months to come.  For today, I have just listed a few.  If you have some that God has revealed to you, please add them to the list as we journey through these things together for the glory of God.

  1. Never forget that it is the WORD of God alone that builds the church, draws the people and saves them.
  2. Never forget that we should desire to see more people come to faith much more than we desire to see people come to church.
  3. Never forget that the foundational command of each Christian and each church is to make disciples, period.
  4. Never forget that Christians should be thinkers and wrestle with the scriptures daily and grow in their knowledge of God and His eternal grace.
  5. Never forget that multiplication of the Kingdom is not bigger congregations but more congregations in every town, city and community; church planting is the call of scripture for every church.
  6. Never forget that the community of believers are supposed to exercise discipline over counseling so that God’s word and His worth are clearly displayed.
  7. Never forget that God is HOLY and Sovereign and has established Himself as the END of all things.
  8. Never forget that the chief end of mankind is to GLORIFY God and ENJOY Him forever.
  9. Never forget that the church is a present and visible body created to display the glory of God and HIS eternal power.
  10. Never forget that Christ is the head of the church.
  11. Never forget that Love is the evidence of the church.
  12. Never forget that Jesus is LORD and the consequences thereof.
  13. Never forget that DOCTRINE means teaching and ORTHODOXY means right thinking.
  14. Never forget that we are all called to study, worship and teach the gospel.
  15. … more to come by all who share in the FAITH!

For His Glory by His Grace

Pastor James