There is never a day when I don’t have some sense of a spiritual struggle. Even in the best of days, the enemy is at work, my flesh enjoys the ride, and the Spirit within is at war. Thankfully, I don’t have to come to rest in my struggle in order to be assured and secure in Christ; he’s done that work in my place. But there are many things that I have noticed cause a worse struggle within, namely, some of the things I put into my mind at times…

Now that’s the standard. As a child I remember well all the times I heard that phrase. My mother’s family was a family of large steel contractors who built commercial brick and metal buildings. There are very few churches and schools in my hometown that don’t have the “Adams” or “Pro Builders” plaque somewhere on the grounds. The standard of workmanship, technique, work ethic and tool quality was always reinforced to me in my youth. One particular was the popular brand of plumbing fixtures that garnished the name “American Standard.” By name, that particular sink or toilet was the standard in America. It was considered the best whether it was is beside the point, they claimed they were, so the professionals that trusted in that claim made them a household name. The standard is that which everything else is to be measured and compared. It is the best experience, ideal, example or quality of something.

Obedience has always been a part of my life. As a child, I was taught that obedience was connected directly to love and fear. If one has a love for an authority they will desire obedience and ‘pleasing’ that individual. On the other hand, if one has fear of that authority they will obey out of a desire to avoid the consequences. So, my question for today is “what is the standard for obedience when it relates to obeying God?”

First, let me make clear that the STANDARD is absolute perfection without which one will never see the Lord apart from His wrath. So, we have the open statement that Jesus the Christ is the standard of obedience in His humanity because on He is perfect. To fail in following the command of God in any way, no matter how small, makes one guilty of violating the glory and holiness of God. Therefore, one must recognize that there is NO SUCH thing as obedience to God in a manner that satisfies God’s demands and therefore there is no obedience from any human (apart from Christ) that makes Him pleased with them.

Now, to the point. Apart from the perfection of Jesus Christ, who is the next best thing? That is my question to people constantly when they come for counsel from feeling the pressure of pleasing God while time and time again are unable to obey fully. For example, many come to me desiring for their internal thoughts and emotions to be more Christ-like while others are just unable to obey the simple aspects of the Christian faith like being in a local assembly of believers under the direction of the Lord’s word through elders. Others are unable to forgive and others are just so caught up in trying to please God they have created their own set of laws and live by them very well. As I ask them to show me the standard each of them are quick to answer Jesus. To which I reply, “Why do you try to be God?”

This, of course, startles them. But in reality, this is exactly what we are trying to do when in any part we think we can come close to the glory of God in perfection. Now some people have been quick to then accuse me as antinomian which in itself proves they are not in the love of God nor do they understand the gospel of grace. And in essence, they hate the rebuke that all of their “holiness” or “obedience” is worthless. It saddens me to see people stuck in this type of thinking but if they are not regenerated there is little to be done to help them see. Thankfully God teaches that He will open the eyes of His people in His timing through the hearing of His word. So, I rest the assurance that the Lord will do what He wishes with His people and I am only a voice for Him. Sola Deo Gloria!

So back to the standard. Let’s review a few of the immovable saints of old and see how they compare and see if we actually desire to be like them:

  1. Adam & Eve. Well, we know they were righteous and perfect without sin and depravity and they couldn’t last a day in the garden with Satan. So, we’ll leave them right there. They didn’t have a good standard of obedience to God.
  2. Cain. What? Why him? He didn’t have obedience to God…. yes he did. He offered the first fruits of his labors with all the trimmings. The only difference is he thought of his offering as sufficient because it obeyed the rules given by God when he actually hated God evidenced by his continued measurement of his righteousness by his own standard; the law! He obeyed better than most everyone I know in life over four decades already, so there’s that.
  3. Noah. Well, he wasn’t the patriarch of obedience as most consider him. After all, while he had faith in God, his justification was not granted him by his works as God produced the works unto His own glory in Noah. And then there’s the drunkeness…. “that’s only one thing” people argue. Well, how many of you would look down on your deacon or pastor if it were known they were getting drunk? I rest my case. Noah is not a standard of obedience to God at all.
  4. Abraham. Really? Where did he every obey God? For thirteen years after God saved him and gave him the promise, he walked in obscurity lying and making excuses for his own benefit. But all the while he never trusted in himself but always believed God would be his hope, even when he didn’t live as though he believed it. Abraham never really showed himself the standard of obedience.
  5. Moses. Nope. He started out as a murder in the plan of God and didn’t want to “go”. But God worked in him all that was necessary for God’s redemptive shadow of true salvation; the Gospel of Grace.
  6. David. Please. Obedience to God was not on his radar most of the time, yet, he was a “man after my own heart…” – God.
  7. Oh, let’s talk about Elizabeth and Zachariah. What about John the Baptist? What about the disciples?
  8. Peter. Nope. Peter’s obedience to God was wishy-washy. Hardly ever not fueled by a fleshly zeal.
  9. PAUL!  He’s the one!  No, he isn’t. Paul was a murder, a lost and hopeless cause yet he obeyed the law perfectly, even in his murderous heart he was justified by the law he understood! Paul is not the standard and never will be. Let’s not work to be like the Apostles, as a matter of fact, let us not work at all to be like anyone, even Christ!

That may rock many of you, but in reality, that is the truth of the Scripture. While we may emulate and copy from time-to-time the nature, heart, and mind of Jesus, we will never be like Him until He takes us unto Himself. Being obedient to God is not about perfection, though that is required of us, it is about faith. Our striving and living here is to be a manner worthy of the calling (effectual call of regeneration) that we have been given of course, but it is not a call that leads us to a continued slavery in sin, especially the sin of self-assurance, works-fruitfulness, and most of all, legalistic and judgmental worthlessness. When we fall prey to this way of living we no longer live by faith and then we begin to measure other people by our standards and not the standards of God and His merciful grace. Obedience to God is required of every man and obedience to God is impossible for every man.

We become jaded and find fault with others as we sit thinking we are doing better than they in their walk with Christ. We find ourselves measuring spiritual leaders with a stricter judgment than prescribed in Scripture and in practice we blindly become God in our own minds. I personally believe those that live in this manner, by the evidence that they refuse to hear of the grace of God coupled their hatred of the brethren, are most likely unregenerate. Let’s be certain that we are not counted in that number. Rest in the finished work of Jesus Christ. Let the word of God dwell in you richly that you may fulfill the perfect work of God by believing only in the name of Jesus Christ!

In closing, we need to realize that obedience is not fully obedience. It is never satisfactory and it is never to be measured by the standards of culture and personal righteousness. If anyone wants a measure of life without discipline let it be seen that we believe in the finished work of Christ; that is the gospel of God who saves His own people from His holy wrath. Let us remember that we are given the Spirit and the thus the mind of Christ and we will love the brethren through teaching and encouragement toward love and good deeds for the benefit of the body of Christ. So often people disfellowship over their version of the law and when doing so, we must be patient, loving, kind and gentle while holding fast to the finished work of Jesus as our assurance, hope, and life. Let the Lord’s discipline work in His people, we are not God. Those who do not see were never His and to that, we pray God will grant them repentance and life so that He would be glorified in our unity, love, worship, and hope! Amen.

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?

With today’s culture of constant interaction, information, and interruption, getting ‘away’ from it all has taken many forms. It appears as if instead of scheduling time away through short trips or vacations periodically, most people feel the need to ‘vacate’ every day. With every week containing 168 hours, most people spend 40 laboring to live. That leaves 128 hours of time that has to encompass sleep, eating, restroom breaks, bathing, preparation, and relationships. Let’s take 56 out for sleeping 8 hours per day leaving 72 hours every single week for necessities and obligations. For the Christian, there should be a minimum of 3 to 4 hours a week in fellowship, if we never make excuses to miss work, we should not make excuses to miss fellowship with the saints, it’s actually stupid to do so.

So now we’re down to 68 hours.  That’s time enough to take on another FULL-TIME job still leaving 28 hours to spare.  Where does the time go? Well, I could write for ages on the wasters of time in the name of profitable things. How many of us have one full book of the bible memorized? OK, how about one chapter? Maybe one portion, let’s say the introduction to the Gospel of John? That’s 18 verses… I know for a fact there are several people recently who know each lyric of each song on their iPhone. That equates to five verses of music times 400 to 600.  Why?  I know many people who know the lines out of movies verbatim. But can’t tell a clear story of Jesus life and ministry.  A movie that takes two hours vs. a story that takes 25 minutes? The problem here is not time, it’s idolatry. But that’s not the point of my writing.

Out of all this waste of time, it seems that people want to meddle in worthless areas of life while professing that Christ is enough. See, the scripture shows us what to do when we feel overwhelmed, broken, fearful, worried, angry, forgotten, martyred, etc.  We are to “think on the things that are eternal….”  The matter is simple. When we want to “escape” we often pray that God would help us get out of the matter at hand or change our circumstances, our hearts, or our minds. The conflict arises out of a misunderstanding of how to pray and how to listen to the scripture. See, getting away from everything can be found in books, media, movies, sports, vacations, games, etc., but those things are just temporary deflections. They do not actually set us in any real place or give us any real benefit at all. Without quoting myriads of research on the matter, psychologists have long known the effects of constant avoidance of life through natural or ‘artificial’ means. They have a word for it, addiction.

Addiction to stuff, feelings, thoughts, stories, interaction, social media, phones, games, sports, solitude, or whatever robs us as believers of the core of God’s presence which is found in the Bible. Some argue, “well, I read other books and the bible, can’t I just enjoy escape in reading, after-all, the bible is a book right?” No, is my answer. NO! The Bible, while a book in its form, is not a book. It is God’s word, thus it is the utterance of God speaking to us. Scripture teaches that the basics of salvation come through hearing the Bible (Rom 10:17) and that comfort comes from putting our minds on the scriptures. The error rests in the attitude of approach. That is that so many times we just peek into the bible for answers rather than digest the scripture in order to be intimate with Jesus Christ. Scripture reading is intimacy. So putting our minds on eternity is to literally put our minds on the teaching of the truth of Jesus. Who He is and what He’s done. We don’t run after Jesus in the biblical texts to find His “message” about our problems, we run into Jesus through the Holy Writ because while we read God the Spirit interacts with us. So, reading Scripture puts our mind on the very thing that we will ETERNALLY be focused on: Jesus Christ and HIS GLORY!

So here’s the point: Read Scripture for your escape. It will not rob you of glory and power but will put you in an intimate place with God. Through scripture, God will speak, settle us, and give us the ability to rest in His promises as He comforts us. Our relationship with God is only found in His word. And for those who are constantly reading, listening, gleaning, and hounding after other “theological” arguments, stop that also. Find more time in the word so that your joy will be full.  “These things are written…”  This is found many times in Scripture to the following end: that you may BELIEVE in Jesus Christ and so have ETERNAL LIFE. This life beloved is NOT eternal and I think it’s time that we as the church spend out time thinking on better things.

Unity, unity, unity….. 

These words are spilled out of the hearts of many well-purposed individuals who desperately desire to see people “get along” and “love” each other as Christ loves. What does it mean to love each other as Christ loves? The world has been fed a lie and many who are in the proximity of the local assembly of believers (the church) have bought this lie. Beloved, hear this. Jesus Christ did not come to bring unity and peace among fallen human beings. He did not come to stamp out hatred and remove obstacles so that this life would be a pleasant Mecca of good and glorious harmony. The very nature of the Gospel of Jesus Christ prohibits such a claim. Jesus came to bring peace by bringing division.

Jesus Taught It

Jesus says, [34] “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. [35] For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. [36] And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. [37] Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. [38] And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. [39] Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. (Matthew 10:34-39 ESV)

When Jesus arrives on the Earth it brought Peace “to” Earth, therefore Peace (Jesus) was on Earth. But peace was far from the result of Jesus’ birth. Herrod desired to have the child killed and a massive hunt and massacre of infants far and wide ensued. What did people think of this child? Did He really bring peace to their lives as they soldiers burst through the doors and cut their children in half? I can only imagine the animosity that arose from the existence of one infant/toddler in the face of tens of thousands. Why couldn’t this family just come forward and give up their son for the sake of others? Little did the world know that is exactly what Jesus would do.

Likewise, Jesus first public teaching in Luke 4 reveals a very divisive outcome. Jesus enters the synagogue and He is handed the scroll of Isaiah and after reading He says, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” They marveled at His graciousness! But not for long, because as soon as they esteemed the grace of the Lord’s proclamation was for them, Jesus stated otherwise and said that it was for them in judgment. The masses sneered at Him and the Scripture says they “were filled with wrath.” This surely does not sound like the unity and peace that most people claim Jesus wanted. The matter was so polarizing that the hearers grabbed hold of Jesus and took Him to the edge of a cliff, but miraculously, Jesus escaped.

The public teaching of Jesus continually revealed a very divisive result. In all of John’s gospel, it is clearly seen that everything Jesus taught was contrary to the understanding of the most pious and religious of His day. They hated Jesus for it and schemed to destroy Him and those who followed Him because they could not bear to hear His teaching as it conflicted with their idolatrous and self-glorifying traditions. This reminds me of many church members of this present age.

Peace Comes through Division

True peace surely comes through Christ. But in order to have peace in one area, it is at the cost of the peace that was once known. True peace is found when a sinner is reconciled with Christ. The peace that follows is peace with God whereby the sinner is no longer in fear of the justice of God’s wrath. Peace then also naturally flows to those who are in Christ; as they are now unified in the bonds of love, the love of God, the sealing of the Spirit, etc. So in order to have peace with God, humans will be enemies with the world, which is comprised of sinners who hate the authority of God’s word and the peace that costs them their lives. They would rather gain the world they know, and lose their souls, than to gain peace with God, and lose their lives in this world.

Jesus Christ is our peace. He has come to snatch us out of “the domain of darkness” and has made peace with God through His flesh on the cross. To say that peace is a unilateral harmony amongst all peoples is not just coy and childish, it is overly asinine and stupid. Now before everyone takes offense at that statement, I surely desire to be known for the foolish and stupid message of the cross. It’s how the world views it and it is the foolish things that God uses to bring down the wise. Who, by the way, think they are wise when they are actually fools. (Romans 1) I think that every professing believer needs to consider what he believes and in what his trust has been placed. We have enough people of the world on a fool’s errand of trying to be together with darkness. And most of that darkness is parading around as light when indeed it is dead darkness.

The point: When we have peace with God by Faith Alone in Jesus Christ, we will be at WAR with the world, sin, darkness and everything else. Only those who have intimacy with Jesus Christ (through His Word) are unified and at peace with each other. Disunity among so-called Christians is proof of God’s decree of reprobation at times. He causes them to believe the lie that they are safe in their religion, church membership, professions of faith, and the like. He makes them believe what is untrue, so they will suffer destruction. Don’t take my word for it, just read it in Scripture. (2 Thess 2:10-12)

The Word Divides and is Authoritative

Many who hear preaching and read words like these often take it personally. And for that, I am sorry. My writing is not to any person, but to anyone who cares to know the truth. In the end, ONLY those who believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ will have eternal life. Those will learn and grow into an understanding of truth and they will not sit in what they “knew” a year ago but they will always be learning and growing. I find many people in the buildings called churches who have no clue of the gospel. They do not know Jesus Christ, even by the statements of the word of God, much less by faith. They take great offense and yell, “division, division… you’re causing division!”  You better believe it brother. Jesus Christ, when He is proclaimed, will divide ALL people against Him if they are not with Him. Scripture is our authority, not the leaders of churches, nor the Baptist heads of state, Jesus Christ as He teaches through His Word is the FINAL court of arbitration, despite what any pastor or denominational leader may say.

Those who do not hold the Scripture as the highest authority can be certain of one thing: they will be destroyed in Judgment. Because without Scripture, one cannot be saved. Without salvation, one has no peace. Many hold to a lesser view of Scripture by saying, “Well, I believe the bible, but there are some things in there that need to be considered ‘out of date’ or ‘lacking’.” Goodness, that statement alone is the very practice of Satan in the Garden of Eden as well as his tactics to tempt Jesus in the wilderness. The devil uses the word of God every moment and God purposes his use of Scripture in order to bring deception. In the end, many who use a bible will be found in the end to belong to Satan, whose rule will be the dominant world-view until the Day of the Lord.

[12] Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, [13] while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. [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. (2 Timothy 3:12-17 ESV)

The word of God divides humanity. It separates those who are still in the world and pulls some out of the darkness into the light. It is the source of peace and points to the one who is our peace and righteousness. When we stand with the Word, despite who may say they love us, if they are not in Christ, they will hate us. We will be persecuted, not for living in morality, for there will always be moral circles, but for standing on the rock of salvation, the gospel of Christ!

Paul continues to teach Timothy of the power of God’s word and charges him, and all pastors, to preach, even when the season is gone. Beloved, the seasons of preaching the true peace of God has long gone in America! Let us herald that truth that He may be glorified in saving souls!

2 Timothy 4:1-5

[1] I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: [2] preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. [3] For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, [4] and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. [5] As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. (ESV)

Two Groups of People

At the end of time, there are only going to be TWO unified people: Those with a false peace and those with true peace. Unbelievers, self-righteous ones, churchmen, and the wicked will all be unified in their destruction. But for the saints of God, there is eternal peace as we stand in the presence of our Lord, redeemed, beloved, sanctified, glorified, worshipping from a pure heart and exulting with all the saints, the glorious grace of God who is Jesus Christ! God has sent His Son to stand in the place of sinners. Jesus stood in the place of sinners in His life by obeying ALL THAT IS REQUIRED OF MEN. Jesus stood in the place of sinners in His death by receiving ALL THAT IS DUE SINFUL MEN. This great exchange continues in that the good news is this; while we were still sinners Christ died for us, the ungodly, and we are the righteousness of God because He gave us all the obedience of Christ which is something we could never receive.

Peace comes through Jesus Christ and it is not found in the world. Jesus comes to bring division, the Sword of His mouth, His word, divides us from the darkness, divides our flesh from its wages, and sets us as sons and daugthers of God!

Ephesians 2:11-22

[11] Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands—[12] remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. [13] But now in Christ Jesus, you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. [14] For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility [15] by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, [16] and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. [17] And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. [18] For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. [19] So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, [20] built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, [21] in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. [22] In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. (ESV)

Amen

Pastor James

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

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

Quiet Murmurs 

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

Secret Attacks

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

Self-Righteous Comparisons

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

Pastoral Accusations

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

Log Blocked Pet Peeves

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

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

Demonic Suspicion

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

Satanic Division

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

Pastoral Grief

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

Dead Church

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

Rest well beloved,

Pastor James

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

The Body is Manifold

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

Change Happens Only in Christ

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

The Issue isn’t the Issue

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

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

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

Saying, ________ isn’t the Answer

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

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

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

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

Living the Gospel Mission

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

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

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

The Church is the Agent

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

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

Church Discipline is the Key

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

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

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

Division will Birth from Righteousness

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

A Final Thought About “My People”

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

For His Glory by His Grace,

Pastor James

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

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

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

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

CONFLICT LIVES

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

SCRIPTURE SPEAKS

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

DAMNABLE ACTIONS

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

DELIGHTFUL RESPONSE

Consider these.

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

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

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

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

locked-church-doors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Does it really matter?

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

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

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

Pastor James