The Reformation

October 30, 2007

“A mighty fortress is our God…Let goods and kindred go, This mortal life also; The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still, His kingdom is forever.”

So, 490 years ago, almost to the day, Martin Luther posted the 95 Theses to the door of Castle Church in Wittenberg. And here we are, thinking and thanking the Lord, who used Luther to proclaim the gospel message, “reforming” the way one thought about the doctrine of justification, which is God’s act of declaring a sinner righteous, by faith alone. Luther began teaching that salvation or redemption is a free gift of God’s grace, attainable only through faith in Jesus as the messiah, contrary to what the Roman Catholic Church was teaching. So, Luther came to understand justification as entirely the work of God. Amen to that!

“Jesus said, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'” John 14:6

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9

Thanks be to our God, who is sovereign over all things, and who uses sinners like us, to proclaim the truth of His Word to all. May this be our praise and prayer this week or until Christ returns.

Frightening for Some

October 26, 2007

This quote was taken from ‘Bible Doctrine’ by Wayne Grudem:

“If people persist hard-heartedly and repeatedly in following sin over a course of time, God will eventually ‘give them up’ to greater and greater sin (cf. Ps. 81:12, Rom. 1:24, 26, 28),”

And what does sin lead to? Death. We see this all over the Old Testament, God giving the wicked Israelites over to their sinful passions and desires. I’ll give you an example, it’s from first Samuel, chapter three through chapter eight. Samuel has been a judge, leader, and prophet for God’s people, the house of Israel, and he was a very good one at that, one who was called by the LORD early in his life (1 Sam. 3). Later on in chapter three, we read, “And I declare to him that I am about to punish his (Eli’s) house forever, fo the iniquity that he knew, because his sons were blaspheming God, and he did not restrain them.” We continue to read in chapter four, that the Israelites were defeated by the Philistines, and lost the ark of God to them in the battle. Once that happened, the people of the LORD, turned to their ways, weeping and worshipping foreign gods (1 Sam. 7:3). At that time, Samuel arose and rebuked them and called them to direct their hearts to the LORD and to serve him only. And they did just that, but only for a little while. When the Phillistines heard that the Israelites were near them, they saddled up and took seige against the Israelites. Samuel had confidence in the LORD and there, at Mizpah, the LORD defeated the Phillistines through Samuel. The ark was returned to Israel, however, the people grumbled and complained about wanting what the other wicked nations had, a king to rule over them. Samuel just got back the ark of the covenant, which is huge, and the people wanted Samuel to give up his power. How foolish. Samuel prayed and the Lord had this to say in response, “Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. According to all the deeds that they have done, from the day I brought them up out of Egypt even to this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are also doing to you. Now, then, obey their voice; only you shall solemly warn them and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them.” And we all know who they picked, Saul. Ouch! So, we see that persistent sin, leads to destruction.

Now, for the unbeliever, this has to be frightening. And for the believer, this has to be a call for us to get into people’s lives, to tell them about the good news that they can be saved from God’s wrath, if elected, by the perfect sacrifice of Christ on the cross, to share with them saving grace. Christ is our propitiation (Rom. 3:25). This should stir us on to love and good deeds, not for our on glory or boasting, but for His and His alone.

Gurdem concludes with three responses to the doctrine of common grace, and I want to share with you the the three points but elaborate on the final point. He says this:

1. Common grace does not mean that those who receive it will be saved.
2. We must be careful not to reject the good things that unbelievers do as totally evil.
And finally,
3. The doctrine of common grace should stir our hearts to much greater thankfulness to God.
When we walk down a street and see houses and gardens and families dwelling in security, or when we do business in the marketplace and see the abundant results of technological progress, or when we walk through the woods and see the beauty of nature, or when we are protected by government, or when we are educated from the vast storehouse of human knowledge, we should realize not only that GOd in his sovereignty is ultimately responsible for all of these blessings, but also that God has granted them all to sinners who are totally undeserving of any of them! These blessings in the world are not only evidence of God’s power and wisdom, they are also continually a manifestation of his abundant grace. The realization of this fact should cause our hearts to swell with thanksgiving to God in every activity of life.

So, are you thankful that the Lord has shown all common grace in one form or another (i.e. physical, intellectual, societal realms)? Will this stir up in you a desire to evangelize to you friend, co-worker, neighbour? Are you, as a believer, thankful that you have been shown not only common grace, but also saving grace? Thank God for five things that you see in an unbeliever’s life that points to common grace. Thank God for his awesome saving grace in your life. If you don’t know what saving grace is, please drop me a comment, I would love to explain it to you.

He is No Fool

October 24, 2007

“True ministers of Christ are happy to be despised, if, by their being despised, somehow the gospel is displayed. Our goal is to display the gospel of Jesus Christ. As Paul would later write to the Corinthians (quoting the Lord’s response denying his request), ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That’s why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong’ (2 Cor. 12:9-10). We know the bargain summarized by Jim Elliot: ‘He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.'” (taken from Together for the Gospel: Preaching the Cross)

So, how have you been “inconvenienced” by living out the gospel to bring glory to the One who laid His life down for you? How have you been persecuted in your little worlds? How, in your weaknesses, have you relied more on Christ? Or have you relied on yourself and your strength instead? Have you made decisions based upon comfort rather than sacrifice? Do you grumble and complain when things don’t go your way or do you have a mindset and a heart to accept and to see that He is working in your life to make you holy? Do you want to be a “true minister” of the Word? If you have been called, expect that you will be insulted, etc., but be confident in Christ and the Cross.

Seven

October 21, 2007

Here are seven fruits of sanctification, offered by Mr. Robin Boisvert from “Caught in the Gap Trap”:

1. God is glorified. When we are holy, we give weight to our claim that God is as real and wonderful as we say he is.
2. Ongoing fellowship in this life with the Godhead. It’s a tremendous joy and comfort to have the abiding presence of the Father and the Son through the Holy Spirit.
3. Fellowship with other Christians. “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” (1Jn. 1:17)
4. Assurance of salvation. Though our salvation is not based upon our pursuit of holiness, assurance of salvation is most certainly connected with it.
5. Evangelism. Our witness to the world.
6. Understanding, wisdom, and knowledge. These treasures are laid up for those who seek God wholeheartedly (Pr. 2:1-11).
7. Seeing God. “Blessed are the pure in heart,” Jesus said, “for they will see God” (Mt. 5:8).

So, how will you respond to what you have just read?

Luther Quote

October 16, 2007

Meditate on this quote from Martin Luther:

“This life, therefore, is not righteousness but growth in righteousness, not health but healing, not being but becoming, not rest but exercise. We are not yet what we shall be, but we are growing toward it; the process is not yet finished but it is going on. This is not the end but it is the road; all does not yet gleam in glory but all is being purified.”

What stands out to you at first? What do you pull away from it? How does the centrality of the gospel, in your life, relate to this quote? Or how doesn’t it? How is the Spirit transforming you more and more, day after day, into a person who looks like Christ?

Go To Church

October 14, 2007

Read Ted’s blog here: http://www.boundlessline.org/2007/10/my-appeal-go-to.html or you can read it since it’s pasted below, along with a few other posts and comments from his blog.

From Ted, ‘My Appeal- Go To Church’:
“If you are not a member of a church you regularly attend, you may well be going to hell.”*

And what if you’re not even attending church?

Many of our readers are in college. And many college students drift spiritually, largely because they don’t hang out with other Christians or go to church. I’m concerned that some of our readers are backburnering church attendance. Maybe even backburnering being part of InterVarsity or Campus Crusade or Baptist Student Union or one of the other great campus ministries.

The thing is, if you’re not going to church, your spiritual life is being hindered. It may very well even die.

Thabiti talks about it. Steve talks about it. Candice talks about it. Matt talks about it. Nathan talks about it. Joshua talks about it. Suzanne talks about it.

And of course, Christ talks about it, calling it his beloved bride. His beloved bride. Surely if he loves the church, we should as well.

Please forgive the brashness of my appeal to you: For the sake of your soul, please find a decent church and at least make it part of your weekend routine.

*A bit hyperbolic, but when Pastor Mark Dever says this, it gets his listeners’ attention.

A post responding to Ted’s article and to other people’s posts:

I have read all of those articles in the past and I reread them at your suggestion. There are zero citations of verses where church membership is required or even suggested. As far as the cited benefits of formal church membership, such as accountability and intentional “exclusivity”, I think those are very good things…but things that can be achieved regardless of the paperwork and committees. My church doesn’t require formal membership, but when a regular attendee is found to be living in sin (a man having an affair, for example), the fact is briefly announced from the pulpit in both services, and a letter is distributed to all the attendees. In the letter is given the details of the sin, what steps the elders have taken to remedy the sin, how the person is to be treated (shunned), and how their family is to be treated (loved).

The church is also very organized in the way it keeps “reins on” the members (regular attenders). There is a formal hierarchy of authority and leadership, and each elder has other men and their families “under” his leadership.

I am not saying my church does everything right (they don’t) or should be the template. But I guess it’s always been pretty obvious to me that membership is not a prerequisite for church discipline or accountability, and the church my family attends just seems to be a good example of how this can be done. One needn’t have an interview and formal conversion statement to be a dedicated, committed “member” of a local church body.

And if all this fails, I will always come back to the fact that there is nothing I’ve ever read in scripture that would prop up such a viewpoint.

Again from the same person:

I know this wasn’t necessarily the main point of the post, but I also do not understand how it is more scriptural to be an official “member” of a church, as opposed to a dedicated attendee. Could someone provide some Scripture for that, as another commenter requested?

Of course I’m asking because I am pretty sure there isn’t any. Maybe we could have a Boundless article that deals with official church membership?

This is what I posted:

Wow! I’ve read just about every post and I see that just about everyone, me included, needs to be a better student of the Word. And with that, we are fear the Lord and to submit to those who have authority over us, and how is that implemented, well, it’s being covenanted to a local body. Yes, we are all members of the universal body of Christ, for those who have understood the problem of sin, repented from it, and have put their faith in Christ. But, we should also understand that the body has many parts, and that we have been gifted by the Holy Spirit to serve the church. And with that, we should understand that there are “white-heads” and “non-white-heads” that have been called by the Lord to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ at an earlier age than we have and so we should submit to their rule and godly wisdom in order that we can not boast in ourselves, but in the Lord and to build unity in the church. For those who question becoming members, maybe you shouldn’t for the time being, cause the church should be an example and a witness of our Saviour, and for those who want to be out of the fold, well, you are missing out and are in sin. I’m afraid to say it, but you need to do some soul searching and some major study of the Scriptures. For those who have grasped the command, then we ought to come alongside these weaker vessels and to instruct them about the benefits and the importance of church membership, especially concerning baptism and celebrating the Lord’s supper. I would like to recommend a very good website, http://www.9marks.org, in which it’s geared towards pastors but I see it extremely helpful to lay persons as well. Plus check out the blog site on 9 Marks. Remember, humility is a huge component of Christianity, so prayerfully consider your comments and your life as you get into relationships and churches. May the Lord be glorified in and through this post.

This person replies back to my comments:

TW, you said: For those who question becoming members, maybe you shouldn’t for the time being, cause the church should be an example and a witness of our Saviour, and for those who want to be out of the fold, well, you are missing out and are in sin. Most people here are not talking about being out of the fold. As far as I am concerned, I believe in devotion to and involvement in the local church body, including and not limited to attending corporate worship meetings. I’m certainly not “out of the fold.”

I’m afraid to say it, but you need to do some soul searching and some major study of the Scriptures. For those who have grasped the command, then we ought to come alongside these weaker vessels and to instruct them about the benefits and the importance of church membership, especially concerning baptism and celebrating the Lord’s supper. I’m not sure what all you are referring to here concerning baptism/communion. But I would say that a “major study of the scriptures” would be recommended for anyone who claims to find “the command” of formal church membership in the Bible! Please show me someplace in Scripture that addresses church membership, not merely church involvement (where you and I probably agree completely).

I respond back:

_______, to address your direct comments to my post and to your earlier posts, I would like to direct you to a very knowledgeable and godly man whose speciality is church membership. You can read more here: http://www.9marks.org/partner/Article_Display_Page/0,,PTID314526|CHID775984|CIID2264222,00.html
In terms of biblical references for church membership, Scripture does not directly set guidelines for membership in a contemporary way, however, it is deduced from Scripture so let me try to explain. We both probably agree that, “Healthy churches are congregations that increasingly reflect the character of God.” The Corinthian church was living immoral lives, and so Paul wrote to exclude a man from their assembly. So how can one formally be excluded if that person is not formally included in the first place? (1 Cor. 5:1ff) Two, think about the references to the Lamb’s book of life (Phil. 4:3; Rev. 21:27). Three, consider our sinful natures, it is better for us to be consistently hearing the gospel message and to be surrounded by fellow-likeminded believers in order to help us in our sanctification, of course along with the Holy Spirit (Heb. 10:23-25). I agree that you’re “not out of the (universal) fold”, but how does one obey those in authority, when they aren’t committed to a local body? Can’t that person in sin move from church to church, without being restored? That’s the purpose of church disicipline, moreover church membership, right? Being restored to the faith is the goal, therefore, bringing glory to our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ and making that church all the more ‘healthier’. Let me conclude with pointing you to a very small, but extremely helpful book, it’s called ‘What is a Healthy Church?’ by Mark Dever. You can pick it up on the 9Marks website for just a few dollars. Again, I hope that this post has been helpful and not burdensome, but if you or others would like more clarity, I hope that I may aid, with the wisdom of the Spirit, in it in later posts as necessary. Soli Deo Gloria! Also, check out these passages, Acts 20:28; Heb. 13:17; 1 Cor. 12:12.

Once again, I respond:

_____ and _____, this is what Pastor Dever had to say from the 9Marks blog site today concerning church membership, he says this, speaking to a pastor:

“…preach clearly what a Christian is, and also, as has been suggested, the benefits of clear church membership (e.g., enables the church to encourage care and community [all the one another passages], recognize its responsibilities for one another [I John; John 13:34-35], practice church discipline [Mt. 18; I Cor 5-6]).”

Again, not to beat a dead horse, but you and others have been asking for biblical references to church membership, so I thought this would be helpful in your quest to understand the benefits of being committed to a local body of believers, by prayerfully searching the Scriptures and seeking godly wisdom from other faithful and well read elders.

Thoughts on Ted’s statements and quotes? Are they in line, biblically? What are your thoughts about this whole discussion? Typical for young, immature, untaught Christians, nowadays? How do I come across? Do I make a clear defense? How can I be better in my explanations?

Individualism Hard at Work

October 12, 2007

Here’s an interesting article:
http://sports.espn.go.com/oly/trackandfield/news/story?id=3057203

Read the article first, then read below.

So, Jones’ teammate doesn’t believe she ought to “suffer the consequences for someone else’s bad decisions”, which leads me to say this…

Isn’t that what we consistently observe in our culture today? Individualism. Even though this person was part of a team, along with Jones, Perry, Edwards, and Gaines, now she wants nothing to do with this guilty individual. She believes she doesn’t deserve handing back her medal, even if it’s a bronze one, since she hasn’t done anything wrong. And so she doesn’t want to be associated with her since she’s now a confessing doper.

This is a mindset that plagues our society and our culture, and sadly even the church. We are seeing more and more a belief system that we choose our salvation and a church that fits us best. And when the “going gets tough, the tough gets going.” They get going in the wrong direction. They are deceived and ensnared in the sin which puts ‘numero uno’ first. It’s the sin of pride.

And as our churches fall to the clutches of looking more and more like the world and culture around us, the gospel is fumbled and lost, confusing those who are weak and leading people astray.

That’s why its critical to be a part of local body of believers, knowing the ‘He loved us first and chose us’ and to be covenanted to a church that preaches the whole counsel of God and brings glory to the Saviour by having the gospel at the center. Without being a member of a local church, church discipline is somewhat impossible to enforce. It’s impossible for the authority figures of the church to know and to shepherd a congregation and likewise for the congregation to be submissive to the elders of the church and therefore be obedient to the Word.

Believers need to be surrounded by other like-minded brothers and sisters in Christ, to aid us in our walk, especially in a time where that individual is struggling spiritually. When one weeps, we all should weep, and when one rejoices, we all should rejoice as well (Rom. 12:15). The church is a check and balance system for us, and if we don’t go to church to hear the gospel, and if the pastor doesn’t teach about church membership, and if church isn’t covenanted with each other, and if, and if…then we have churches that are unhealthy. We’ll have people who will continue to see everything in an individualistic mindset. And we won’t have people understanding the “old gospel” and what it truly means to be a part of a body of believers.

So as the accused and the old teammate go through their situations dividing the team, may that not be so with the church, unless it’s biblical, and I’ll explain more what I mean later on.

Our church has in place elders who govern, and a congregation that rules. In our constitution and bylaws, we want to see that brother or sister in church discipline restored in the faith. We want to protect the church from a false witness, keeping it pure, being a good witness to non-Christians, and to bring glory of God by reflecting His holy character.

So, we should see that it is far better to be a part of a local congregation, knowing that it aids us from falling into sin, which grieves that Holy Spirit, and keeps us upright bringing glory and honour to our Saviour Jesus Christ.

So, as Jones’ teammate grumbles and complains and believes that she doesn’t deserve anything but the best for her character, divorcing from the team and teammate, the church should not abandon ship or a shipmate in this example, but should hold fast to the Word, not swerving to the right or to the left. For we have a Great High Priest, who has gone before us and can sympathize with us, yet He is without fault. He loves us and cares for us. The Spirit gifts us for one purpose, to display His glory in the bride of Christ.

Yes, Jones did something awful, but should it mean exclusion for her and for others? Well…only if Jones continues to deny the truth, not wanting to fix it and pay for her mistakes. What about the others? Should they throw stones at the accused? Or are they to take a stand for her? What about the one who doesn’t want any part of the accused? Is she being selfish or is she being wise not to associate with her? All good questions.

In the church, we are to pray and rebuke, teach and train, if and when necessary, for the one accused, again hoping that the person would be restored. However, if that person continues to refuse help and sins still, well, the church should protect its witness to the world and to those in the church, by excluding that member from the Lord’s Table and possibly other things as well. Yes, final judgement is the Lord’s, but the church is commanded to judge itself, not for vengeful purposes but for redemptive purposes (1 Cor. 5, 6).

So the church should be concerned about its witness/character, protecting itself from looking and acting like the world, but never forgetting that individual, who has been created by God and who has been uniquely gifted for the body (1 Cor. 12:12). But as the Holy Spirit convicts them of their sin and comforms them more to the image of Christ for those who have repented, we too ought to come alongside that struggling brother or sister in Christ, disciplining them. As we read in Scripture, our goal is to restore that individual to the fold (Matt. 18:15-17). But, the last thing the church should do, again to protect itself and the good deposit, is to excommunicate that person in habitual and unrepentant sin. It’s a fine line, but done well and followed by the clear examples laid out in Scripture, that person could be restored to the faith, again as the Spirit leads and does the work in and through that individual.

Even though our culture is more individualistic now more than ever, our churches shouldn’t be. Pastors are to preach the gospel and to equip the saints, while the body is to support each other, growing in the fear and admonition of the Lord, all the while bringing glory unto His Name.

Hello world!

October 12, 2007

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