The reason for the church

If you conducted a survey where you asked randomly, “What is the reason for a church?”, the answers would be as vastly unique as the individuals queried. The atheist or non-believer might say that the church is a corrupt business cloaked in religion. The nominal or carnal Christian could suggest that church is where you go to feel better, or it’s what you’re supposed to do on Sunday. Another individual might add that church is where you go to learn about God’s love for all mankind. All of these can be counted as valid answers, because whether perceived as true or actually true, this is the way the vast majority of modern mainstream churches have conducted themselves.

If you did a similar survey where you asked pastors of these mainstream churches, “How do you know your church is successful?”, I guarantee that 9 out of every 10 would make reference to growth; whether monetarily, attendance, church size or conversions. It’s no wonder, with pastors and church leaders conducting themselves more like CEOs than shepherds, that the church is perceived as a business. While there is certainly nothing wrong with growth and being capable of providing, it should not be the measure of success nor even a primary reason for the church. The modern mainstream church has become secularized.

People are demanding ‘feel good’ worship services that are both entertaining and non-confrontational. The mainstream church, with its focus on success, gives them what they want and these churches are flourishing. Messages about sin, damnation, apostasy, wrath, and Hell are not popular so they are not being preached on, out of fear of losing potential growth. To take it a step further, some are even preaching in favor of social and cultural agendas that have traditionally been seen as contradictory to Biblical Truth. This routine of catering to sin not only makes powerless the saving truth of Christ, but it breeds ignorant groups of unbiblical ‘Christians’ whose theme is “Judge Not!” the sinner – Matthew 7:7.

If you were to ask me what is the reason for the church, I wouldn’t be able to give a perfect or definite one size fits all answer. I would suggest however, that the church is responsible for at least these two things: The spiritual welfare and spiritual growth of God’s people, and to be a beacon of light or the example for the world. Though some might disagree, the church is made up of broken and sinful people. The reasons the atheist or non-believer calls us hypocrites is because no one is able to live up to the standards preached. The Christian recognizes these truths, the end results of being imperfect before a prefect God, and the unequivocal need for Christ. Christians have a dire need for a biblical church, and so does the world in order that God’s love might be shown through His people.

Nashville Statement

Recently there has been a lot of traffic in social media in response to the Nashville Statement, since it’s release on Tuesday (08/29/2017). It is no surprise to me that the majority of the responses are very negative, coming both from people who identify as Christians as well as non-believers. I can understand the reasoning for the negative responses coming from the non-believers, especially those who are advocates for the LGBTQ community. The thing that concerns me are the individuals who call themselves Christians, most especially the leaders of Christian churches/organizations.

Everything that was put into the articles of the Nashville Statement serves as a ‘line drawn in the sand’ regarding the Biblical interpretation of marriage, gender, and sexuality. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that in the past few years our country has attempted (yet again) to redefine these terms as traditionally understood.  And just like the Danvers Statement of 1987 addressed the issues brought about by feminism, the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW) again attempts to affirm where the Church (that is, the body of Christ) must stand regarding same sex marriage, transgenderism, and sex outside of Biblical marriage.

The Bible is full of offensive truths, and the reason that it is so offensive is because it often hits close to home. We are ALL sinful creatures, and the laws of God are offensive to the sinner. Even the Pope, who is considered the most holy representative of Christ, is a sinner! Some Christians do understand this concept, believe it to be true and know that only through God are we able to overcome our struggles with sin. For those who do not understand this concept, it is easy to claim that most Christians are unsympathetic, judgmental and/or otherwise hateful towards other sinners.

Though God’s Word offends, it doesn’t make it any less true. The Bible is clear about the circumstances of how God made man and woman, and how the man is to leave his family and take the woman as his spouse (Genesis 2). The Bible is also very clear about sexual immorality and it’s view as inexcusable sin. (Leviticus, 1 Corinthians, Matthew 5, Ephesians 5, Colossians 3, Romans 1, and many more) Sexual immorality encompasses a variety of terms such as homosexuality, adultery, transgenderism, marital rape, etc.  Despite what people’s feelings dictate, these are sin and sin cannot be tolerated by God.

There are Christians who want to use love as their defense for sin. The greatest commandment IS to love God and love people (Matthew 22), however that doesn’t mean you’re permitted to accept and encourage their sinful behavior. In Romans 1, Paul clearly says that those who deserve to die are not only those who practice sin, but those who also give approval of that sin (v. 28-32). Since all struggle with sin, it can be easy to sympathize and at times even show love as commanded, but as Christians we must not condone their sin.

Then there are those who want to quote the most misused verse in the Bible, “Judge not..” (Matthew 7). So if God doesn’t want us to give approval of sin, how are we to determine whether it is sin or not if we do not judge an individual? Jesus said: “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment” (John 7) That is to say to judge by the authority of God’s word to correct a brother who might sin against them. “Better is open rebuke, than hidden love….Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27).

While the Nashville Statement is a fallible man made doctrine, it does well the purpose it was drawn up for. I am sure that most churches already have their own statements regarding sexuality that they subscribe to, this one seems to me a broader reach out across multiple denominations and not just Reformed Christians. The hope is to bring truth to those in mainline churches that might be struggling one way or another with these topics. To God alone be the Glory!

 

TULIP

A breakdown of the Calvinist Doctrine referred to as the Doctrine of Grace or simply TULIP.

Exactly what condition did the fall (Our forefather’s disobedience toward God in eating of the forbidden fruit) bring mankind? The fall brought mankind into an inherent condition of sin and misery. That all of mankind, on that day, in losing communion with God had been made liable to the miseries of this life, subject to God’s wrath, and cursed to death. No man is able to redeem himself, unable to maintain the law with each transgression in thought, word or deed. This is the depravity each of us is born into, totally unable to span the distance between God and man on our own.

Did God leave ALL of mankind to endure alone under the curse brought upon by Adam, to suffer and perish in an inescapable state of misery and sin? No. Out of His mere good pleasure He established a covenant of grace and at the point of creation elected some to everlasting life in order to deliver them out of the current condition and into salvation by way of a Redeemer. These elect, who belong to the Christ, are given to Him by the Father not because of any merit in them or choices made by them but by the sovereign grace and mercy of the Creator only. This is the unconditional election of Christ’s people.

By what means are Christ’s people made partakers of this salvation? By the effectual application of the redemption by the Holy Spirit, the righteousness purchased by Christ’s sacrifice. In this application, we are convinced of our sin and misery and enlightened in our knowledge of Christ. We are persuaded and enabled then to embrace Jesus as it is freely offered to us in the gospel. This event at any given point in time occurs for some, also does not occur for others. This is the limited atonement in that Christ died for ALL of His people.

Can the application of Christ’s redemption and His saving grace be denied? From birth all do resist, and the hard of heart persist until the appointed time where one is transformed by the Holy Spirit. Would the lifelong and stalwart Atheist suddenly change his tune of his own free will and, having all his life’s work discounting the existence of God undone, choose such a path? Why would he not remain hard of heart, like so many others? Only the Spirit of God can affect this realm of men, that is the spiritual one, by making everyday events, including the reading and preaching of the Gospel, effectual to one’s salvation. This personal experience, while unique in respect to the individual’s circumstances surrounding the event, is for each an irresistible and irreversible change.

What benefit does a person gain by this life changing event? We must first remind the reader that the decrees of God are eternal according to His will. All that He has put into motion, the means and the end, will come to pass. Those called partake of justification, adoption and sanctification. Justification being the pardon of all sins and acceptance as righteous by way Christ’s righteousness. Adoption being received into the number and rights of the sons of God. Sanctification being the continual renewal where we are enable more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness. This is the preservation of Christ’s people, enabled to endure this life’s challenges with guidance of our Helper, in order that way may glorify God.

Compassion

We live in a world of hurtful, self-centered, and unforgiving people. The modern morally deprived person (and the so-called ‘righteous’ one) has a bad habit of judging an individual for just about anything. We are less likely to do this towards someone who is attractive, similar to us or wealthy/popular than one whom we consider to be “no good” in our eyes. It is human nature, but is it something we can overcome? Is this the way we should be treating our fellow human beings? Do we have no faults of our own that we are permitted to point out the faults of others? And when our fellow man makes terrible life choices, mistakes, or even hurts us, does this give us a free pass in cruel judgement? I would say this is something we can and should overcome indeed and it starts with the individual!  “And the word of the Lord came to Zechariah, saying, “Thus says the Lord of hosts, Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart.” (Zechariah 7:8-10)

How do we change this current trend of treating others without compassion? We should start by treating each and every single person we meet, regardless of gender, age, ethnicity, size or shape, culture, religious beliefs, social status, wealth, hair or eye color, clothes worn, music preference, etc. as we would treat ourselves. Be generous, forgiving, and understanding to a friend as well as an enemy. Be willing to give your excess to those truly in need, especially when you have more than enough. Show compassion for both the people who care for you and for those who have caused suffering. For the Christian, tell the story of Christ to those who have no hope. Do this and you may plant the seed of salvation in the most unlikely people. Be the example that lifts the veil of those around you and Lord willing, lead them to Christ. “Then [Jesus] said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” (Matthew 9:37-38)

All are equal, for there is no distinction in His creation. Who are we to pass judgement on the work of the Creator? It is not our charge to do so, but what we are to do is to treat everyone as we would treat ourselves (Golden rule, anyone?). Have compassion on all you meet as the opportunity presents itself. We all struggle through this life, and what better way to distract ourselves (selfish, I know) than by helping others. Trust in the Lord if He has put this challenge in your path. Take the time out of your busy, self-indulging schedule to treat someone who is different, fairly and get to know them. Be patient, kind and understanding to ALL. Your effort will make the world a better place. “Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the Lord your God that he has given you.” (Deuteronomy 16:17)

A godly woman

At the time of creation God recognized that Adam by himself was not right. God, always having the relationship of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, knew that man needed companionship as well. In His final work He made Eve, the crown jewel of His creation, out of the rib of man. God created Eve not exactly like man, who came from dust, He made her the most beautiful creature to love and support Adam. Ever since then man and woman have been joined as one before God. The world may measure a woman by her physical features, but in the Bible we understand that beauty is truly defined by her character. “She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy. She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.” (Proverbs 31:20,26)

A godly woman of such character is one that strives not to go against her true purpose in which she was created. The woman came from the side of man, and it is there she is to return. Not at his feet to be trampled on, and not at his head to compete for leadership, but equally at his side under his protecting arm. This is not a position of humiliation, but a station of honor. God’s charge to women to submit to their husbands is great, but the responsibilities given to man are far greater. He is to honor her and love her in such a manner as to mimic the love of Christ for the Church. To care and provide for her in all the things, and cherish her always. “Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain life that he has given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life and in your toil at which you toil under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 9:9)

To submit to another is not an easy task, but it is a godly choice. Submission is a matter of trusting in God’s will. Though the wife submits to the husband, the husband must first submit to Christ and learn from His example. Jesus doesn’t neglect, ignore, or abuse the Church. He doesn’t treat her with demeaning disrespect. He never acts arrogant or insensitive toward her. He also doesn’t criticize her or make her feel invaluable. So while God gives the husband a position of leadership in relationship to his wife, He also requires a price of self-sacrifice from him. “Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.” (1 Peter 3:7)

It is difficult to discuss such things we find to be culturally challenging in this day in age. Many ‘progressive’ individuals would say that what is said about women is out of date, and too patriarchal. But let me remind you that in all things we do to glorify God, sacrificing your selfish ambitions for the sake of others is the greatest thing we can do, second only to loving God. For the godly woman, in sacrificing the independence of her youth and submitting to her husband as her head, has the single greatest position of honor and glory to God. “But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.” (1 Corinthians 11:3)

Forgiveness

While we as Christians have the saving grace of God upon us and the guiding work of the Holy Spirit, we are still human, we are still sinners, and we are still prone to hurting other people. Forgiveness of past, present and future sin as well as eternal life spent with God is the greatest gift Christians have been given. But forgiveness is also a gift we can give to our fellow man as a sign of our love for one another, regardless of the circumstances. But why do we have such a hard time forgiving each other? Forgiveness is hard because it’s not our instinct or nature to ignore a debt that is owed to us. You could say that this is part of the way we were made in God’s image.

Forgiveness is an unselfish act defined in Wikipedia as “the renunciation or cessation of resentment, indignation or anger as a result of a perceived offence, disagreement, or mistake, or ceasing to demand punishment or restitution.” Forgiveness is a power tool of good and it is wrong to withhold this from each other. I heard a story one day on the radio about a man who had raped a young woman and she became pregnant. This event is an unforgivable thing in our opinion, but this child changed this hate-filled woman’s heart. The woman visited the man in prison and she forgave him of the rape. When he asked her why she said “God has forgiven me, and none of us are without sin”. This affected the man in such a way that he sought out the Truth about God and was saved.

Forgiveness of people who have hurt us is being obedient to God. Jesus said “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:44-45) Though it is not easy to forgive, because we’re a self-preserving people, forgiveness is a choice and the right one to make. As a Christian we must work harder to set the example in our demonstration of love for friend, families and enemies alike. We are not the judge of other’s wrongdoings therefore we must rise above our pain and pardon them. After Jesus told a man the first and greatest commandment he said this “And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:39)

The Cross

One of the most recognized religious symbols in the world is the Cross. You’ll often find some Christians who wear this symbol as a necklace. Many churches adorn them on the outside and within. In the United States Army, spiritual leaders known as Chaplains wear it on their headgear instead of their rank. What does this symbol truly represent? Why is it so significant? To find these answers one must fully understand the one Divine man who gave Himself freely to His enemies to die upon the Cross. “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:18)

In the beginning Adam, having been made to love only God, selfishly rejected Him when he ate the forbidden fruit. This incurred a debt for humanity having turned into self-centered sinners. How is debt handled? In most cases there are two options, pay the debt or the debt is forgiven. The price for sin is spiritual death, a complete removal from God. Even if a debt is forgiven, someone has to pay for it. If you loan someone your computer and they break it, no matter who pays for it, there’s still a cost. God has forgiven us of this debt and paid for it through Jesus, the man who was also God. “For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.” (1 Corinthians 15: 21-22)

The Cross is a reminder of this man, the Son of God, who paid the debt that we owed Him. The Cross is a symbol of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Cross itself isn’t to be worshiped for fear of idolatry, but it’s to remind us daily of who we owe our life to. The God who created us has also died for us so that we may live and not truly die as He did. He suffered more than just a physical death because the price he paid was for sin, our sin. He suffered a far worse death when He was torn away from The Father and the Holy Spirit, becoming spiritually empty. Then after three days He was restored and returned to Heaven by The Father. “Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last.” (Luke 23: 46)

You must understand just how much God loves us. We didn’t deserve any of this, and yet He has freely given us so much. We must give Him thanks for His grace and praise for His mercy daily by doing good works in picking up our cross and sacrificing ourselves. “He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.” (Psalms 103: 10-14)