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?

Imagine showing up for church in the morning and the pastor just not being there. What would happen? What would people say? Now imagine if he did that anytime he wanted and gave no real reason except that he just couldn’t come, or that he was tired, or that something came up and he needed to go out of town. I wonder how long this could take place in the life of the local church before congregants would begin to become upset, angry, frustrated, or even a little perturbed. Well consider this, the qualifications and requirements for the pastor are just a listing of true qualifications of every believer among the church of Jesus Christ. Paul just listed them in the New Testament so that those who are called to the pastorate understand what is required of every Christian. Sadly, many churches (s0-called) would bring a pastor under discipline if he did something like this even once.

Interestingly enough, Hebrews chapter 10 teaches that one of the primary litmus tests of Christian faith and dedication is gathering together with the Saints of Jesus Christ. I’m going to write a little bit more in the weeks to come on this topic, for the sake of encouraging Christians to understand that they are not to attend the gathering of the saints, that we call church service, under compulsion; but are to be there out of the absolute desire of the core of their soul. After all, did Jesus not raise our lives with him? When a Christian fails to attend the local assembly  the entire body suffers, the Christian who is not in attendance find themselves waning in their faith, becoming more fleshly, lacking the faith and the grace of God to face life. Those who regularly skip out on congregating with the people of God ultimately fall prey to fleshly lusts and entertainment in the name of need and entitlement.

Now back to the idea of what would take place in the hearts and minds of the local church if I, the pastor of the flock, worked and operated as many who claim to be in Christ do every single week. I mean why could not I have a day of rest with my family vacationing because of my fatigue and pain and life’s frailties. After all should not my personal needs come before the church of Jesus Christ? Should I not model for my children that it is okay to  have no concern for the people of God? Isn’t it okay for my neighbor to see me barbecuing on the Lord’s day in an attempt to show them that Christians are not bound to some legalistic ideal? Doesn’t the Lord want me to sleep in after I’ve been up nearly all night due to an illness, or just insomnia? Don’t I just deserve a day? Of all people, Christians understand such things and should be willing to just let them go without any consequence, without any questions, without any frustrations on their part. Aren’t there many men in the church who can just stand up and preach? Aren’t there those amongst the body who labor every day all week for the sake of the joy of the Saints? Even in a pinch, can’t someone just stand up and read the Bible for an hour?

Of course this is written to prove a point. First, that any pastor who would have such a heart should resign from the ministry and never speak of it again. And if this is true for a pastor, it should be true for you. Second, when the Saints do not desire to assemble together, it is a clear indicator that something desperately is missing from their understanding of the regenerative power of the Holy Spirit. They are not comprehending with the Saints the depth and the breadth and the height and the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ, nor how his grace is sufficient to sustain us and bring us together for mutual benefit and mutual strength and service. Third, Christians who regularly just skip out on meeting with the children of God can lose their joy, can lose their spiritual eyes, and are just a hair away  from a seared conscience. This is why Scripture teaches that failing to meet together is the first ring in the ladder of apostasy and that anyone who considers themselves not important to the body at large, has become so nearsighted and myopic and selfish that they bring discipline from the body on themselves by the command of God. Failing to heed these warnings by one who professes to walk in the light, leaves no more sacrifice for their sin and nothing left but judgment.

So, our hearts should leap with joy, our faith should rise above our fatigue, and our purpose in life should be that we work all week so that all that we do and all that we gain and all that we have be given away for the sake of our siblings who have been purchased by the blood of our Savior, Jesus the Christ. While there are certainly opportunities to remain isolated from the gathering of the saints, they are extreme and are not normative and one’s own heart should be checked each time this temptation arises. Beloved you are more than just a seat-filler, you are a necessary and loved part of the body of Jesus Christ and your absence is more detrimental to you and to the church than if the pastor just failed to show up.

For His Glory by His Grace,

Pastor James

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:19-25 ESV)

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

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

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

For His Glory by His Grace

Pastor James

I was presented with this message today in a sound bite and would love to share this with all. Please take a moment and listen when you have 73 minutes, you will be glad you did.

Throughout my short life I have always had idols in my heart. They are everywhere, and just when I think they’re licked, poof, another one pops out of my heart.  At times I wonder if I am just a joke when it comes to my profession of believing in Christ, being I am such a continual idol factory. The question of the security of my salvation is always on the forefront of my mind and recently has been a topic of heated debate amongst my peers and colleagues.  Throughout the last few years, (two years in VA and now almost a year in California) the Lord has given me the gift of a deep depression and the greater gift of His mercy through it, so that now I can rest in the assurance of Christ more and more each passing moment. Before that I realized that, my hope was in a forever tug-of-war with my mind and what I knew as truth.  Let me explain.

Early in my life I felt the call of God’s good news and have loved Him for as long as I can remember. During my adolescent years I remember harboring great fear because there was very seldom an hour that went by that I didn’t find some sin in me. At 9 years of age, this seemed out of the norm, but for me, it was a daily struggle. Each evening I labored in prayer, asking God to secure me in Heaven through Jesus Christ alone and each morning I awoke with a sense of mercy and hope that would last me a very short time. After many months of this internal debate, I realized that my hope was in Christ, not in my ability, not in my holiness, not in my sinlessness and could not be found in “me” at all!  That same week I was confronted with my continued struggle by a family member who assured me that “all I needed to do” was “receive Jesus”.  This language was different from what I had read in scripture, but in over an hour, I was led to believe that my salvation could be secured if I just “prayed” the right prayer.  While it was the same prayer I prayed every day, that the Lord would save me, seal me and keep me through eternity in Jesus Christ and His work, this small and maligned meeting would steer my “hope” into idolatry quickly.

For many days I didn’t doubt. I found my life centered on Christ and my joy was full; that is until temptation tapped my shoulder at school. Temptation for me came in the form of anger, pride, self-glory and a very high view of myself, especially when bullied or confronted with what I referred to as “stupid” investments. Then the doubt and “joyless” mindset began to creep back in. But this time I had an anchor!  I prayed for salvation, I prayed the prayer, I said the magic words and ALL IS WELL! My salvation experience had become my newest idol.

For nearly 15 years this was my motion. I would put my FAITH in my FAITH!  I found I had a love affair with my salvation experience (as it was called) and not my savior!  This was a devastating curse in my life that caused great pain and strife, because while I had hope in my actions, they didn’t produce any power of confidence (with faith) in my eternal life. So even when seeking counsel I was reminded that I had “done what was required to be saved” and I should be “at rest” while the Lord was working on me.

There are 400 pages of personal journals and stories that center on this very thing, but I will say to you this: Having faith in your faith; faith in the fruit of your faith, or faith in anything but Jesus Christ is no faith at all and worse, it is a condemning faith that is misplaced and non-effectual.  Beloved, turn from the self-reliance, the cultural questions and the blatant disregard for the truth of scripture. Run to Christ Jesus alone for salvation, rest in His work, His righteousness, His Good news, His love, His mercy, His grace!  Believe on Christ and not the ways of the world. Stop measuring your assurance on the “day” of your believing, but on the faithfulness of the one in whom we have life! Regard your abilities as nothing and realize that all good that is done is done because God has worked in you.  No man will stand justified before God because of His works; but all who are justified before God are so because of the works of Jesus Christ – nothing else saves.

My heart has been troubled for many seasons, and while I am still working through a lot of this, even my own darkness, I know that my hope and light comes only through Jesus Christ, not my work, but His. The GOSPEL is for us, it is only for those who believe… while it brings dead men to life and unbelievers to faith, it is for us first to salvation, then to daily hope and power!  Preach the gospel to yourself when you doubt. Preach the gospel to your heart when you sin. Preach the gospel to your mind when you grow weary. Preach the gospel to your household, your neighbor, your enemy!  Proclaim the good news that Jesus Christ completed the work of redemption once for all!  Stop slaving away at a false hope, the bad news stays bad when we do!

With all the foolishness and all the affection of Christ!

Staying Stupid,