Archive for May, 2008

The Church God blesses (Pt 5)

Which leads us to #4.  God blesses Churches that faithfully practice the Biblical ordinances.

 

There are lots of places that mention baptism and communion, but let’s start in Matthew 28:18-20;   And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

 

Of course you know the main imperative in this text is to make disciples which is supported by 3 participles (Go to them, baptize them, & teach them).  Believer’s baptism is a NT Ordinance.  It’s an outward symbol of inward faith in Christ.  When someone is drawn to Jesus they should be instructed from the Scriptures with reference to baptism (it’s the first step of obedience for genuine believers, etc, etc).

 

The Lord’s Supper (or Communion) is the other N.T. church ordinance-  In Luke 22:19-20 , Jesus  took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”  And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.

 

1 Cor 11:23ff instructs us that Communion is an opportunity for the church to remember.  As humans we’re prone to wander and forget.  “So lest we forget Gethsemane, lest we forget Thy love for thee, lest we forgot thy love for thee, led me to Calvary.”  We should do this in remembrance of the Lamb of God who took away the sin of the world.

 

The Lord’s Table also gives the Church a chance to rejoice.  Christ died for our sins once for all; the just for the unjust. It’s also an occasion for us to examine ourselves and to confess our sins.  Paul offers a caution in 1 Corinthians 11 that should lead us to faithfully examine our hearts and our lives before God.  1 Corinthians 11:26 notes, For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

 

(#4)  God blesses Churches that faithfully practice the Biblical ordinances.

What type of Church does the Lord love to bless? (pt 4)

God blesses Churches that are #3 Committed to personal and corporate holiness.

 

If you’re familiar with your Bible you know that God is a God of holiness! (Is 6)  He is perfectly set apart from sin…in a league all of His own!  It’s a tragedy so many people today try and bring God down to make Him more relatable or politically correct.

 

When God saved you and I He called us to become who we are in Him.  He declared us to be something we were not (righteous) on the basis of Christ’s life and death (2 Cor. 5:20-21).  We receive this alien righteousness through faith in Christ.  Of course we realize soon after our conversion that practically we still struggle with indwelling sin (read Romans 7).  Positionally we are righteous, but practically we are in process of becoming who we are in Him.

 

1 Peter 1:15-16, But as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct,  since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”  God wants us to be holy people.  To be set apart from our fallen culture.  To be holy as He is holy.

 

God wants His Church to be set apart from the world too-Note Ephesians 5:25-27  Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.

 

In light of texts like these Christ’s bride should take sin seriously!  In fact, it was Jesus Christ who instituted what many today call “church discipline”.

 

For time sake I can only reference Matthew 18:15-20.  In this text we find that professing Christians (who won’t repent of clear cut sins) should be humbly confronted.…And the final step in the Church discipline process is to put an unrepentant (professing) Christian out of the church. 

 

What are some of the reasons why Jesus instituted “church discipline”?

 

1) Because if a church wants to remain blessed of God she must be committed to cooperate and personal holiness (And a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough, 1 Cor 5:6).

 

2) The ultimate goal of this process is restoration (not discipline per say).

 

3) For the sake of the churches’ testimony and for the sake of evangelism  (note the outcome of Acts 5)

 

4. Because Christ wants His Church to be holy and chaste!

 

Now if any of this sounds a bit over the top let me encourage you to read the following real life stories:

 

A) Nadab and Abihu (Lev 10)

B) the story of Uzzah (1 Chron 13)

C) Isaiah’s vision (Is. 6)

D) Ananias and Sappira (Acts 5)

E) the Corinthian church saga (1 Cor 5)

 

All that to say, God still blesses Churches that: #1  Rightly identify and worship the Lord Jesus Christ that #2 Submit themselves entirely to the Bible; & that are #3 Committed to personal and corporate holiness.

For goodness sake…

For goodness sake…can’t the church be more gracious to their pastors? 

I talked with a couple friends last week that shared similar heartaches.  One is a layman and the other is a pastor.  Both were struggling with men within the church that were trying to undermine the lead pastor.

When people within the church rise up and try and subtly take out their lead pastor what would God have you to do?  I must admit each situation must be considered on a case by case scenario.  Sometimes a pastor is given too much grace for way too long to the detriment of a local body.  But more often Diotrephes’ are allowed to run unchecked.  

One would hope that in moments like this a fellow elder or deacon would step in and defend the truth and God’s servant of the truth.  Sadly, I have heard of too many instances when this does not happen.  A Pastor is left defenseless as his congregation and his leadership team stand aloof.  

No godly Pastor wants to take up his own cause and risk the perception of being viewed as prideful or being perceived as a ‘personal kingdom builder type’.  Sometimes good men are led by God to take “the high ground.”  They’re forced out of the church without a new ministry opportunity to go to.  They choose not to have another round of debates within their leadership circle.  They just quietly leave, in fear of another Christ dishonoring church-split taking place within a particular community.

Other times godly men are led by God to humbly raise some questions with reference to their own ministries.  I think of Paul’s own example in 2 Corinthians 10-12.

The sad thing in all these cases is that Pastors are forced to make a decision in matters they never should have to agonize over.  This is where i believe sanctified and mature congregation members and especially elders and deacons should step in and intervene on behalf of their pastors.  In the words of Rob Wilkerson, “These are the kind of friends who are loyal to him (the pastor) because of their belief in the hand of God in their pastor’s life.  This was the case with at least some of those who were Saul’s companions, 1 Sam 10:26-27.”  

If some within the Corinthian church would have done this imagine what the book of 2 Corinthians might have read like?

I am qualified to write this post because by God’s grace I’m not speaking to my own situation.  I grieve however when i hear about fellow ministers of the gospel being forced into situations when they must choose between either defending themselves and their ministries or picking up their Bibles and going somewhere else.   It’s in this context i ask: For goodness sake, can’t the church be gracious to their pastors?

Answered Prayers

After much prayer I have accepted the First Baptist Church of Freeport’s call and will serve as their next Senior Pastor.  Thank you so much for your prayers!  Andrea and I are very excited to start this new chapter in our ministry lives.

The Blessed Church (pt 3)

The inner three had an encounter with God on the Mount of Transfiguration (Henry Blackaby would be very impressed with this experience).  We don’t have time to go into the details of what happened here other then mentioning it was an event no believer would ever forget.  On that mountain Jesus revealed a special manifestation of His incarnate glory and the God of the universe spoke audibly.  It was a true mountain top experience (note 2 Peter 1:17-21).

 

Peter says I experienced the ultimate experience but I have something to tell you.  “We have something more certain then even that.  We have the prophetic word made more sure.”  Scripture is more certain than an eye witness encounter with Jesus on a mountaintop. 

 

My point dear friends is that in the Scriptures we have the very words of God.  They’ve been faithfully preserved for us in 1 Book…the Bible.

 

Is it any wonder why God calls us to preach, teach, study, memorize, meditate, examine, and immerse ourselves in this Book? Let me summarize everything I just said like this: Every church ministry must come under the authority and sufficiency of God’s Word!  Children’s ministries, teen ministries, Ladies Bible Study, the churches doctrinal statement, the music ministry, the pulpit ministry, the deacon board, the mission board, the elder board, the churches’ counseling ministry….Then, and only then, will God pour out His abundant blessings upon a church!

 

This thought is perhaps captured best in Isaiah 55:10-11,“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,  so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

 

I am a Pastor wholly committed to Bible because I believe God knows better than anyone else what His sheep really need!!!

 

The Church God loves to bless (pt 2)

Which leads us to #2, God blesses Churches that Submit themselves entirely to the Bible.

 

It’s easy for Churches to claim in their doctrinal statements that they submit themselves to the authority and sufficiency of the Word.  To leave something on paper is not very difficult.  Many churches say they are committed to the Word 100%

 

How does Christ exercise His Lordship over the church today?  Christ governs His Church through the written Word.  It’s Christ’s church, thus where the Bible speaks we have an obligation to both listen and obey.

 

The Bible must remain central or human wisdom and pragmatic thinking will slowly take over a Church.  One of the great tragedies in the American church today is that so many congregations have abandoned the Word of God… Yet most don’t do this wholesale.  In time, small deviations lead a ship totally off course!  Church begin to water down the sermon.  45 minute theological expositions are replaced with shallow 30 minute evangelical principlizing pulpit lessons.  Churches begin to gut the Sunday School curriculum and it’s the current trend to shorten doctrinal statements (if one even bothers posting one on line).

 

Yet we know that God has given us His Spirit and the Word as roadmaps for life.  He has not left us here without guidance and direction.

 

Hebrews 4:12 says,  For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

 

2 Timothy 3:15-17 remind us the Scripture is sufficient to save and to sanctify!  2 Timothy 3:15-17, 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.  All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,  that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.  If we had more time we’d dig into Psalm 19 and Psalm 119.

 

In reading through the Scriptures it’s clear to me that God blesses Churches that submit themselves to His Revelation.  For the most part I don’t care what your church name is (First Baptist, Crossroads, Grace Community), but I do care about what your church is known for.  In that regard we all should be known as BIBLE churches (whether we call ourselves Freeport Bible Church or not).

 

Let’s return to Matthew 16 for a moment.  Matthew 16:17-18, And Jesus answered him (Peter), “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.  And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

 

What Jesus said in v. 17 is startling…Blessed are you for giving the right answer (Peter)…But don’t get puffed up my brother, “for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.”

 

I don’t think Simon Peter received a special vision from heaven telling him who Jesus Christ really was.  I don’t think Peter had a Damascus road encounter like Saul did.  Simon Peter received God’s revelation by hearing the words of Jesus Christ!  Every Word that came out of Jesus’ mouth was Divine.  Jesus only spoke that what God revealed to Him.  His bread was to do and speak the will of His Father in heaven.

 

Peter was able to answer Jesus’ question correctly because God revealed it to him.  Now some of us want to stop right here and say, “That’s not fair!  I’d give up my right leg for the chance to have been one of Jesus’ disciples”

 

 That of course is where 2 Peter 1:17-21 comes in.  For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain.  And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

What Type of Church does the Lord love to bless?

What Type of Church Does the Lord Love to Bless?

Selected Scriptures

 

During my recent candidation trip I taught 2 sessions on the following topic: What type of Church Does the Lord love to bless?  This is an essential question to consider since all of us want the Lord’s blessings upon our own lives & upon the ministry of our particular local church.  No one wants to devote time, money, talents, and resources to a sinking ship.  As believers we want to be in the sphere of God’s love and in the center of His will.

 

Now if you believe that the Lord doesn’t really care about what goes down here on earth, particularly with reference to His Church, just read Revelation 2-3.  There we discover 7 letters from God to 7 real churches.  God wanted these churches to know what they were doing well but also to understand what they needed to change, and in some cases, what they needed to repent of.  The Apostles wrote many inspired letters to various local churches to help ensure there spiritual vitality.  We have many of these inspired letters in our NT canon. 

 

We also have of course the ultimate example.  Jesus Christ loved the church so much that He gave His very life for her (note Eph 5, Acts 20:28).  The Church is infinitely precious to God!

 

In light of these considerations, it is essential that we believers keep ourselves and our churches in the sphere of God’s blessing.  I think it would be well worth our time to invest a little energy answering the question: What Type of Church Does the Lord Love to Bless?

 

God blesses Churches that: #1  Rightly identify and worship the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Let’s first examine Matthew 16:13.  Here we find one of the great accounts that transpired during the life of Christ.  Matthew 16:13-15  Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He began asking His disciples, saying, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”  14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.”  15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”

 

We are bombarded with so many questions during our lives:

a) 85 Bears or the 72 Dolphins?

b) Regular or decaffeinated? 

c) Diet Coke or Diet Pepsi?

d) Deal or No deal?

e) NASB or NKJV?

 

 

Our response to so many questions in life is really not that significant.  Not so with this inquiry.  Verse 15 contains life’s most important question.  Jesus said to the 12, “But who do you say that I am?”  If you get the answer to this question wrong you have no hope of spending eternity with God in heaven. If you get this question wrong you don’t have a true Church.

 

Which is exactly why Jesus says in John 14:6, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”  Peter understand our Lord’s teaching on this subject which is why he declared in Acts 4:12, And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.

 

It should go without saying, but let me say it anyways: If you’re a child of God’s, by default you’re also one of Jesus’ disciples; which means He is both Savior and Lord of your life.

 

So Jesus asks in v. 15,  But who do you say that I am?”  And Simon Peter (the spokesman for the 12) answered and said, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

 

Peter received Divine insight to correctly ID Jesus as both Messiah and God!  Jesus wasn’t just another prophet, a great human teacher, or a fancy miracle worker. He was God very God (in human flesh)!  Immanuel.  The Lamb of God who came to die and redeem lost sinners (Mk 10:45). 

 

God only blesses Churches that: #1 Rightly identify and worship the Lord Jesus Christ.  He is Lord of the Church (Col 2:18)!  Church leaders and pastors are undershepherds.  Their is only one Chief Shepherd and it’s His Church!

 

 One only needs to examine Revelation 4:9-11 & Revelation 5:9-11 to catch a glimpse of what’s going on in heaven.  Revelation 4:9-11, And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever,  10 the twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying,  11 “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”

 

Revelation 5:9-12, And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation,  10 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”  11 Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands,  12 saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!”

 

Is it any surprise then that God blesses churches that are Christ-centered!  Churches with Biblical Christology’s.  The Church gets to experience a little bit of heaven on earth when she rightly identifies and worships the Lord Jesus Christ!

Amillennialism and Two-Age Interpretive Grid

Whenever I read this argument from amillennialists (“The Two-Age Model as Interpretive Grid”), I find myself wondering how they might respond to this (“Amillennialism and the Ages to Come”). Perhaps someone out there can tell me.

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