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”.

Scripture speaks of the power of Christ. The power of the cross, the authority of Jesus, the power of the gospel etc. all speaks to the power of Christ. While you may consider the power of Christ the manifestation of miracles, supernatural knowledge or signs, the reality is that the apostles make the claim that the power of Christ most glorious is the transformed heart of the believer toward truth and love for the brethren. Teaching through John’s writings gives us a constant reminder of this fact. That there are many who “live” in a manner they feel is worthy of Jesus Christ in their own eyes, but when they refuse fellowship with others, they, in turn, are displaying “unregenerate” powerlessness. 

Paul speaks to the Corinthian church about the power of Christ. He says that he will know if Christ is in them if they heed the authority of his writing and instruction. Mainly, that they forsake themselves and “COMPLETE” all the restoration between them. This means that they will be intimate, together, free, and in fellowship. 

2 Corinthians 13:11–14 Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. 12 Greet one another with a holy kiss. 13 All the saints greet you.
14 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

Several hours, if not days can be expended on this holistic reality. But for now, let’s say this. One of the primary expressions of regeneration is that we are sealed by the same Spirit. God the Holy Spirit in us brings our unity and because of this, there is NOTHING that can separate us from the Lord and from each other. When factions come between the church and cause people to scatter, it is always wicked. Sometimes it is due to ignorance but most of the time these things happen because of an active and living flesh. IF we have the same Spirit within us there is nothing that would cause divorce amongst the brethren.

In the end, this teaching is extrapolated continually throughout the New Testament through the instruction and commandments for every Christian to be subject to the Word, the Elders of the church, the Assembly (that is the church, only when it gathers) and exercising the gifts God has given them for the benefit of the assembly. We can feel justified in doing “home” studies and “online” sermons, but in reality, that type of existence as a believer is a continual rebellion against the teaching of God. So, in the sense of the text, true regeneration produces a complete unity that nothing will stop and to say otherwise is to refuse to love the brethren, thus, according to John, the Love of God is not in us. 

We may see that all the works of the law, all the dressing of worldly “righteousness” and all the prayers, pleadings, purity and the like are not the measure of the Power of Christ in us. But it is the evidence of TRUTH by the LOVE we have for each other. Love well beloved by the grace that is YOURS in Jesus Christ!  Amen.  While this is not exhaustive, it is truth. Are you listening?

00Over the last year, I have been inundated with numerous calls per day from unknown numbers, local number, toll-free numbers and even numbers I know only to find a telemarketer on the other end trying to either sell me something or trick me into thinking I had to hear their pitch. The list of ‘blocked’ numbers has grown to over 150 and quite honestly, I have become quite frustrated with the constant intrusion. Due to the fact that I receive a ton of calls every day that are legitimate when you add the garbage calls, it makes a phone a hated tool and sometimes it causes me to miss good conversations.  For 2018, it has been a different story.

I have started answering every call that comes to my phone when appropriate without fail. And in an effort to do all things without complaining and have joy while doing everything for the glory of God, I have found that answering every call as an opportunity to share the gospel is the best way to handle what otherwise is a means to frustration and sin. 

There is never a short supply of opinions. If the US Treasury could tax them, the country would be trillions in the black. These pesky little opinions are ever so frisky and they have a tendency to move about and change rapidly causing frustration, confusion, and sometimes anger. Theological discussions are not immune to such fodder and in fact, if anyone is ever in short supply of a sack of opinions, let them come down to the nearest social hangout, denominational office, men’s breakfast or their own household and it is assured they will find the plethora of mixed thoughts and logic drowning the passers-by. To the point: while there is always room for us all to have our feelings and thoughts about matters, we cannot think in contradiction to the sound truth taught in Scripture. There is no room for the thoughts, freedom, will and wisdom of human beings to stand in contradiction and question God or His actions.

While I’m not naming names or pointing out labels, consider the fact that each person in the realm of theology/biblical studies carries a label and each of those labels exists to define their position on some section or ‘point’ of doctrine. These labels can be helpful, for example, being a baptist identifies someone who holds to the belief that baptism is supposed to be for those who profess faith in Jesus Christ as well as to the belief that the proper mode is to be submerged under the water. Now, Baptist doctrinal statements have changed through the years, but that particular matter has stayed unscathed. In contrast, Presbyterians consider baptism more a sign of a covenant than the outer sign of profession. Therefore, they baptize their children as a sign of covenant and those that hold to this position are well suited for the Presbyterian doctrine of baptism. Now back to opinions. When it comes to whether the mode or expression of baptism, people can hold differentiating opinions and in good conscience, still be considered brothers in the Lord through faith alone in Jesus Christ. However, when the opinion becomes a matter of biblical contradiction, there is a problem. Some people hold to the teaching that without water baptism, one will remain in a state of condemnation. We call that contradiction a matter of urgency because it directly relates to the biblical teaching of salvation or soteriology. When opinions become biblical contradictions they are called heresies and when heresies undermine the gospel of Jesus Christ, they are damnable.

No matter how many people have held to such belief, it doesn’t change the error to truth. Paul teaches the Christians of Galatia that if they were to adopt the idea that circumcision would better secure their salvation they would forever be cut off from Christ. How? Because to believe in Jesus Christ Alone, plus something else is “no gospel” according to the Bible. In our example, if one believes baptism is a requirement in addition to grace and faith, then it is “no gospel”. This is problematic. Because the one trusting by faith in something that they do in order to secure or merit salvation is condemned like Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3. They are condemned because they are not believing in Jesus Christ and His work, but their own. Jesus called this type of thing, “darkness.” Now let’s move to the theological circles of other doctrines. Such as a works salvation.

Works, good works, obedience, sinless perfection, and all sorts of things related to humanity’s ability to cognitively decide and follow after Christ, are in the realm of being “another gospel” and as such, a damnable heresy. There are two matters though that need to be clarified. Some people are born of God and believe on Jesus Christ while later taught that they better work hard to persevere and then they get confused and disturbed, like the Galatians who were called “saints” and “brothers” by Paul. Other people just love the false gospel of working their salvation into existence. They love the ability to stand before God and declare, “I did it! I made the choice, I’ve followed the rules, I am obeying you!” While it may not seem strange, these words are demonic expressions akin to the words of Satan when he said, “I will, I will, I will…” and then God condemned him and threw him out of Heaven. In like manner, Jesus Christ will throw those who stand before Him and say, “Didn’t I do this and do that and say this?”, into the lake of fire. Make no mistake, those who trust in the freedom of their choice to choose and believe are dead in their sins. I pray that many who seem to fight for their ‘fair rights’ in the economy of grace DO NOT FIND them. Because the fair right of all people is to be damned by a loving and gracious and holy God.

God, being gracious and loving, has given life through Jesus Christ alone to be received by grace through faith. Let’s not continue to jump into labels that contradict this. Philosophy has no place in the study of God and when the mind of men get tangled into the ineffable glories of God, well, man just finds himself turned over to reprobation, confused, lost and alone. So what label do you like to wear? Is that label honoring to the Lord? Does it fit well with the sound synergistic and supernatural revelation of Scripture? If not, I would consider removing it you as quickly and as far as possible. Because in the end, we could all be wrong, but we cannot all be right and those who are wrong are condemned already and God’s justice and wrath remain. Let us see the light of the good news in the face of Jesus Christ and settle our opinions at the cross where Jesus took our sin after living our obedience so that we are now the righteousness of God! Amen.

Pastor James

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

The Body is Manifold

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

Change Happens Only in Christ

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

The Issue isn’t the Issue

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

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

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

Saying, ________ isn’t the Answer

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

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

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

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

Living the Gospel Mission

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

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

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

The Church is the Agent

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

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

Church Discipline is the Key

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

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

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

Division will Birth from Righteousness

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

A Final Thought About “My People”

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

For His Glory by His Grace,

Pastor James


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

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

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.

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

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

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

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

For His Glory,

Pastor James

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: (Luke 18:9 ESV)Assumption Rant

I am absolutely convinced that assumption in the heart of a Christian is one of the largest sins to invade their lives.  The center of assumption is bearing false witness within one’s heart about another.  We all do it, we’ve all done it, and many of us will do it again in the future.  So what makes it a sin and how do we combat it?  Assumption normally comes from what the mind “feels”.  Even when based on some evidence of words or actions, it is necessary to have wisdom in making judgments on a person or situation.  Failing to be wise, especially in truth, is either highly prideful as if we know all things, or highly wicked as if we don’t care about truth.  While assumptions are normative in our lives things related to weather, society, etc., when we assume others are a certain “way” based on external similarities, we are indeed murderers at heart.  Murderers?  Well, if our assumptions are that certain people are evil, wrong, misled, devilish, untrustworthy, unable to change etc., then yes, we are murderers.  This is especially true when we haven’t obeyed scripture in the slightest to talk, pray and reason together or to encourage one another.

Enough of the vague rambling, let me get to the point.  In the circles of theology and doctrine, it is very easy for the self-righteous and the guardians of truth to find fault with everyone else.  And it’s equally easy for that same person, who has several forests in their eyes, to “think” they see a speck of dust in another’s eye that they can’t even see for the hedges blinding them.  (Even if they did see the speck or the log, they have a responsibility to help remove it, not be judgmental.)  The point is that each of us knows a person, a pastor, or a so-called friend who makes accusations about a conversation, or worse, makes a judgment based on conclusions instead of seeking the truth.  If we peeked through the lens of Christendom we would find what many would call erroneous doctrine in every circle.  Calvin believed that paedo-baptism was good and biblical; A.W. Pink was apostate by  disobeying God’s command to “not forsake the gathering”; Spurgeon smoked like a train and suffered from depression to the point of self-pity; and the list goes on and on.  So, the perfect “Christians” of this world feel it necessary to point out all the bad things in so many people to the point that they themselves have become like god… sound familiar? (See the fall of Satan.) It’s also very ironic that so many who have the standard are more disobedient that the one’s they judge.

In the end, the essence of such thinking eliminates the gospel all together.  Let’s put the voice in the right perspective: If we think that we have the end runs on biblical understanding we are deceived.  If we think that we are more careful than others in our holiness, then we are deceived.  If we think we are better off without the body of Christ, we are deceived.  If we think we have the authority to personally divorce ourselves from each other, then we are deceived.  If we are deceived on all of these things, then how in Heaven are we not deceived about everything?  Well, here’s a kicker: when we are right in our interests, our studies, and even in our wisdom and are not investing these things into the body of Christ, we are rebellious and ultimately have no hope in the gospel that we claim has saved us.  When we think that the family is superior in its temporal reflection of the church’s eternal glory we have lost sight of the cross. (Until death do us part… not the church brethren.)  When we think that we should not invest our time and learning into the life of the church for her good and growth, we are deceived.  When we continually find ourselves in fear, paranoia and panic over the infestation of error, we are deceived and according to Hebrews 6, there remains no more sacrifice for sins.  (What??? Yes, the sin of assumption, doubt, fear and the like are just like the sins of unbelief because that is what they are.) Scoffer’s make light of such things by childishly arguing, “The Spirit gave me this understanding.”  That may be true, but when the Spirit of God teaches His people it ALWAYS is congruent with the whole of Scripture. So, those who claim that the wisdom they hold in their judgment is of God while ignoring the scripture, they are indeed being led by the spirit of evil.

The final outcome of this aggravated rant is to expose my own futile and sinful dogmas that leech the very life out of my soul when I worry.  God’s people, His true people will work through the darkest of days and be PATIENT… those who just leave, divorce themselves from the fabric of the body of Christ, divorce from the living Christ and the salvation of Christ and the hope of Christ.  “Well, I don’t need the church to be saved…” one has recently said to me.  “You’re right… you are the church if you are saved… so be her and live as she WILL live.”  Spending hours each week in the letter of Jude has been refreshing and uplifting as well as empowering and convicting.  Sometimes I believe that those who “have crept in unnoticed” are not those with wild heretical doctrines, but those with SUBTLE LYING practices that deny the power of the gospel in their lives.  They are those who feel the fear of cultural high-roads that they desire to enforce on others while pushing the sheep of Christ into a box of legalism and demonic ideals as if a Pharisee. This can also be witnessed with the continued personal discussions, blog posts, videos, cards, letters and emails that proclaim all the evil of the world when the so-called “devil” they point to is not even aware.  If a redeemed soul really loves Jesus Christ, then he would certainly want to make disciples of those who have been misled.  No, but instead this would-be disciple would rather assume the worst, hate another, and fear instead of love.  He would rather make up his own mind and allow the lie to be the banner rather than the cross.  He would rather be known as the heralder of caution than the heralder of hope.  He would rather gather himself a following of graceless goats than get dirty with Jesus who bled and suffered for the sheep.  Do not be deceived, all who cause division among the body will be corrected; either by the body in grace and forgiveness or by Christ who will cast them into the lake of fire.  I am glad to know that no sin can place me into the depths of hell and more glad to know that Christ has empowered us all to walk in Him, against the flesh which is crucified in Christ.

Love demands giving and growing for the sake of each other.  So where is the body of Christ?  Let’s see…. Here’s a thought: Do YOU speak of others the way Jesus speaks of you to God the Father?  What if HE spoke of you the way you think and speak of others?  It would be a different story for you and your eternity.  After all, JESUS knows the real you.

For His Glory by His Grace,

Pastor James

 

Caveat: If you think this rant is about you, you may very well be one who has been deceived.  Stop thinking so much about your feelings.  However, if you are guilty of such things, let the grace of God abound to you as you come boldly before His throne.  While there are many many circumstances and individuals who could pave this over their own issues in life and ministry, this comes from the direct study of God’s word in Jude and is expounded from continued persecution toward the body of Christ by many who profess to be the same.  Just rest in God’s grace beloved as we fight the good fight until we receive the crown of righteousness.

This series contemplates the reality that in so many circumstances, the people of God act and live as though the Gospel has no power in their lives and in as much, the Gospel must not work.  Over eight weeks in preparation for the “Horrors of Christmas” (wrath, judgement, horror and hell) series, we have discovered that the Gospel IS power in the life of the church and when we fail to rest by faith in the gospel of Christ, we are the problem, not Christ.  Worship with us through this look and pray as God prepares us to move into Titus in January.