Good Spirited Examples!

I can count the number of times I have had to discipline my kids with our hickory paddle. Just the thought of it terrified all five of them at an early age. And while my children have all been very different with varying qualities and personalities there has been one common, for the most part, with all of them. They love to laugh and be goofy. Of course, there is a time for being serious, and especially when correction is being applied, but even then, the Lord has given my children an oft laughing mindset when they receive correction. Now, this is not always the case, but in small things like, “sit still, be quiet, let’s pay attention” it seems the norm. Abigail, who is four, is the ham of the household and her facial expressions have been causing us to lose all sense of civility since before she was one. 

There is always something to learn from children. Their brutal and innocent honesty is something that we could all learn from, especially in the “Southern Hospitality” belt where we are all cordial, fake and dishonest as we preface our gossip with, “Lord bless his soul…” Something I’ve been learning from my kids is that our discipline is rooted in love, even though it’s not always at the heart of love. We see this in their ability to smile, even when guilty and ashamed for disobedience. Abigail, for instance, has a frown, an angry scowl, and selfish cry, and a broken grimace/smile when she’s very saddened by her sin. It is good to see often though a funny face, not in disrespect but in confidence. She has the confidence to know that while she has made an error in behavior (not rebellious) that the correction she is given is for her good. So, cheerfully she responds with a smile or some weird face that tells us she is taking seriously the instruction, but also overreacting in her expression as if the matter is grave.

 I wanted to share my thoughts and most of all, record them, and this goofy face for posterity. I wish I had journaled more through the years. This picture was taken by my son during a theology class this past Tuesday. She was making a little noise and in the correction, she came back with this face. Then silenced the noise… what in the world are we going to do with this one?  Pray more often for sure. Here’s one from a few years ago…(2016) it will give you the first pushes on the boundaries of actions with daddy.

This scowl turned to hidden tears just by my facial expression. I surely pray that we all would have that same loving sensitivity to the Lord Jesus when we see His word and His spirit shows us our failing. Thankfully, there is truly no condemnation in Christ because He took our guilt and shame. Amen.

“Why do you have four bibles on the table? You don’t have that many eyes!”

Behavior Modification is Not Needed!

We all wish people would act better in society. And if we are honest, we all have a standard by which we live and could easily impose that standard on others. God has written the standard in His law, so why don’t we just start there? Well, because we can’t have people live a certain way over them actually being ALIVE!  The gospel is the most vital message, not behavior. The law and the government can deal with these things, and for the saints, church discipline.

We appreciate your listening and look forward to seeing this podcast get off the ground with great force. By the Lord’s grace, we’ll continue to provide more and more teaching on this and other pastoral subjects. 

Also, get ready to start listening to our weekly hour-long podcast “Theology Answers” that can be found over at “TheologyAnswers.com” and is a part of the Christian Podcast Community.

“Some people seem as if they would rather see people “act” like Christians than actually be Christians.”

 

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What is God Teaching Me?

I get this question often as so many times people think that the experiences they live through continue until they “learn” the lesson God is trying to teach them.  Scripture alone is the source of learning from God and there are no other means through which God will teach. Now, we are reminded and experience the truths of God’s word and promises throughout our lives as we are reminded and apply the truths therein. Rest in the perfect will of God and no longer be tossed to and fro by superstition or doubt. 

 

“WE have all spiritual blessings in Christ. There is nothing being withheld in wisdom or blessing from our Father.”

Discipline is one of those terms that for most people creates a negative feeling. After all, isn’t discipline punishment? This podcast will discuss a brief look at the necessity for church discipline as a corrective promise, not a punitive coercion. Church discipline is how the Church handles problems, disputes, error, false teaching, and sinful behavior. Most of all, church discipline’s primary purpose is to prove those who are in the faith and those who are not, no matter their profession, church discipline will establish a judicial expression of God’s sovereign election.

  1. Discipline is commanded by the Lord
  2. Discipline is corrective by the word
  3. Discipline is private and public
  4. Discipline proves her are the church. Those that stay in fellowship vs. those that do not.
  5. Discipline is exercised only on the matters commanded by Scripture: Violations of Doctrine, Unbelief, Sin against another, judgment hearts, willful disunity, abandonment, pride, being unkind, harsh words, self-righteousness, bearing false witness, covetousness and any other sin listed and revealed by the Scripture that causes disunity and harm to the church.   
  6. Discipline in the end for the church is purifying; for the lost, identifying.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lord Bless!

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Taking a poll would likely reveal that most everyone who has ever been around church folks has seen nasty, negative, nit-picking abrasiveness that has caused relational strive and separation among the brethren.  Well, that’s not what we should see in any form among the people of God as the scripture says:

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7 ESV)

So, a treatise on the above mentioned attitudes and actions would be as necessary as writing a song about gossip, which is murder.  The point is that there is a time, place and practice for a rebuke and the scripture not only reveals in narrative, but commands it in doctrine.  A quick look at Titus and Timothy (both) would suffice along with a jog through Galatians.  To stick on a particular wave on this subject, I propose looking first at the occasion of rebuke and correction and then the tools of correction closing with the practice of correction.

The Occassion

Anytime any sin or weakness is revealed affords a good opportunity for correction among the fellowship of faith. However, the attitude on every matter is to be done in humility, knowing that except by God’s grace, each would be in the same station of error and may very will be there in the future.  Later on this.  For now, let’s quickly examine a “few” but not “all” thoughts:

  • Sinful Actions
  • Sinful Affections
  • Sinful Attitudes
  • Wrongful Doctrine, False Teaching, Poor Preaching
  • Rebellion of God’s Commands
  • Evidence of Unbelief, Lack of Trust in Scripture
  • Doubt, Fear and Anxiety
  • Divisiveness, Cliques, Favortism
  • Unforgiveness, Resentment, Bitterness
  • Gossip, Slander and Giving Ear to either
  • Anything that is unbecoming of the Lord’s Name or the Holiness of Christ’s Body
  • Anything that puts a stumbling block
  • Legalism, Self Righteousness, Moralism
  • Lack of Joy
  • Hatred
  • “Your List Here”

You see, there is a never ending list of reasons for correction and training and rebuke.  And never forget that correction is part of the purpose of the church, not to modify behavior, but to make much of Christ who has given His life for the holiness of His people.  True love is love that says hard things and does hard things, it isn’t “utopia” la, la, la happy-town, but sometimes tearful quests of challenging relationships for the good of everyone.

As each Christian looks deeply into their own lives to remove the log from their eye, they are also helping their Christian siblings get the specks from theirs.

The Tools

Well, this portion could be done in one phrase: The tools of correction and rebuke are the words of God.  The Bible.

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV)

See, there is no need for “counseling” or “programs” or the like in order to work through sinful issues among God’s people.  His word is enough.  Take this to the bank of Truth, that if God’s Word is not enough, then those who consider it in need are not in the faith at all for only through God’s word can one even be given the grace to believe. (Ro 10:17, John 3) Nuff Said.

The Practice

The meat and potatoes of Christianity are found in the application of theology and doctrine of scripture. So, here we’ll take a quick succession of snapshots on several places in order to get a “feel” for what the bible teaches.  One of the most beloved places in scripture for the purity of the church is Matthew 18 where Jesus strictly resolves conflict between “TWO PEOPLE” in the fellowship by telling them to work it out together.

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” (Matthew 18:15-20 ESV)

If they don’t listen, get some help.  If they still don’t listen, let the whole church help. If then they don’t listen, kick them out until they come to faith and repentance through God’s grace.  We don’t have time to pull out the full theological implications here, but simply that this text is written to people who have been SINNED against by another. It doesn’t include aggravation (sin) or “feeling” slighted, but obvious sin.  So in the first matter of practice, individuals should KEEP SILENT and work it out with no one else finding out in an attempt to keep things between them.

This text does NOT however have anything to do with PUBLIC sin or PUBLIC error in doctrine.  Public sins, divisive teaching that is public, bearing false witness in gossip, community known actions and behaviors and the like are not counted as personal offenses and are immediately and publicly rebuked before the church. While wisdom and affection are paramount to these matters, the protection and unity of the flock is severe and must be upheld at all cost.

Scripture commands such things as revealed through the example of Peter with Ananias and Sapphira even though their sin was “hidden, God the Spirit revealed it to him. Paul did not require a meeting with the brother engaged in incest in 1 Corinthians 5 neither did he meet with Peter privately in Galatians when he rebuked him in front of everyone. Paul openly expresses rebuke toward Euodias and Syntyche in Philippi and warns Timothy about Alexander due to doctrinal errors. He tells Titus to reject any erring individual in matters of doctrine. Many other places such as 3 John and Jude do not follow Matthew 18 in regards to private rebuke.

In the end, the purpose of correction and rebuke is that this is nearly half of all true discipleship and if the church is to bring life into its heart as a people, then the word of God must be true in its full counsel among them.  Church discipline then is the training of God’s people by God’s people through His word for the sake of their holy and healthy pursuit of life together for His glory.  When people continually rebuke the gospel message and evade detection while leading others astray, they are to be publicly outed until they publicly repent and correct their error.  After all, isn’t love for the good of others?  Corinthians 12:7 through 15 teaches that it is.

For His Glory by His Grace,

Pastor James

A few thoughts on the point of the shepherd’s job and calling can be read here.

RELATED: In an recent visit to Rome, Dr. Rick Warren made some very grievous statements about the gospel as it relates to Romanism. Many prominent leaders have given public rebuke to these statements.