Thursday, February 28

YouTube - Pragmatic, Seeker-Sensitive Satire

This was simply too good to pass up. While the video contains a good deal of sarcastic humor it is still laced with legitimate truth regarding the Church Growth Movement. This is a good reminder that earthly "success" does not always equate godly approval.



HT: Steve Camp

Labels: , , , ,

Thursday, February 21

Want Proof of Total Depravity? Here You Go ...

Jeremiah 17:9 in action:

A central Illinois couple faces first-degree murder charges in the death of their 5-month-old baby, who was found unresponsive in a car seat that had been placed in a crib.

Both Tracey Hermann, 21, and James Sargent, 23, appeared Wednesday in Peoria County Circuit Court in the death of Benjamin Sargent.

The charges state the parents' actions or lack thereof, were "brutal and heinous . . . indicative of wanton cruelty," factors that could mean they face up to 100 years in prison if convicted.

The 5-month-old was dropped off at his parents' house on Feb. 4, strapped into his car seat. Eight days later, he was found in the same position, said Peoria County State's Attorney Kevin Lyons during a bond hearing for the parents.

"He died from starvation due to neglect from these two defendants, his parents," Lyons said. "It's the worst case of child neglect we have seen since the turn of this century ..."

Reading from a prepared statement, Lyons said police found the infant sitting in his own waste, all the while strapped into the seat which was in a crib.

During the eight days the baby was strapped in the seat, both Hermann and Sargent were home, "playing video games, watching TV, feeding and caring for themselves," Lyons said.
Read the FoxNews.com story in its entirety HERE.

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, February 20

What I've Learned About Youth Ministry

For the past fourteen years, I have been involved in local church youth ministry. The majority of those years I have been directly involved in ministering to youth as an Associate Pastor. I have also served on two state association youth committees, and on the Board of Trustees of a Christian camp. I have facilitated numerous youth events, several of which drew more than 700 attendees.

But this post is not about me. In fact, not many people know the aforementioned things about me. And that's ok ... in fact, I questioned whether it was wise to include those facts in this post. I chose to for this purpose alone: I have some experience. I am not the most experienced. I am not the most qualified to address this topic; but the Lord has taught me much during those years of ministry to youth, and by His grace I have learned several valuable lessons.

So in light of Mike's previous post on why our young people are leaving our churches in droves, I share a few of those lessons I've learned while ministering to youth.

Lesson 1: Young people want to learn theology. They want to know the God of the Bible. In the past five years, I have taught both topically and expositionally with our young people. We have discussed issues like homosexuality, forgiveness, and dating; and I have taught through chapters and even books of the Bible (including Habakkuk).

Still, our young people want to learn more. They want to know more. They want to know why they believe what they believe. In fact, they want to engage in theological discussion outside of Wednesday night class ... and even outside of the church walls. While many inside evangelicalism (and even fundamentalism) are opposed to the idea of building a youth ministry upon teaching theology, I am convinced it's the only practical and biblical thing to do. And our church's young people agree; they want to know God.

Lesson 2: Many young people struggle with constant doubts regarding their conversion. I've come to expect this. And our young people aren't alone. Scripture seems to indicate that many struggled with assurance and doubt regarding their conversion. Peter once told Christ to depart from him because he was a sinful man (Luke 5). Thomas is known as the doubter (although probably undeservedly). And Isaiah confessed how unworthy and dirty he felt in God's presence (Isaiah 6).

Our young people need to be taught and assured that salvation is all of God's grace ... and only by God's grace (Ephesians 2 & Titus 3). They need teachers and pastors and leaders to honestly and biblically answer their doubts and their lack of assurance. They don't need to look at dates written on the fly-leaf of their Bible ... they don't need to remember when they raised a hand or prayed a prayer; they need to be taught the biblical proofs of conversion from 1 John. They need to be shown that "the just shall live by faith" (and that means something much different than "the just shall live because of faith"). And they need to be taught that sanctification (like justification) is God's grace at work in us (1 Corinthians 15:10) rather than an attempt to earn or keep God's favor.

Perhaps our young people are leaving the church in droves because we have failed to answer their questions biblically. Perhaps conversion should be more meaningful than a date on a fly-leaf. Perhaps they are so full of doubts and confusion regarding their conversion that they have become disillusioned with the church altogether.

Lesson 3: Young people want to be integrated into the entire church ministry. They don't want to be a sub-group. They don't want to be the church's step-children. They want to be a part of the ministry. This generation of young people (as with my generation) want to belong to something real and tangible and significant. They want to be a part of something bigger than themselves. They long for community ... they long to be a part of the church.

So let's let them. Better yet, let's encourage them. Let's ask them to pray in a worship service. Let's ask them to read Scripture publicly. Let's encourage them to sing in the choir and play in the orchestra. Let's give them an outlet--a place they can apply what they are learning. And let's give them community--something of which they can be a part ... and something in which they can play a part.

Lesson 4: Young people don't want more activities, they want more meaningful activities. And by meaningful, I don't mean extravagant. By meaningful, I mean purposeful. So why do we do what we do with our young people? Why do we spend thousands of dollars to rent ginourmous inflatables? Why do we take them to amusement parks and big-league ballgames? Why do we fail so miserably when we try to out-entertain the world with our youth ministry?

Is it because we really have no solid, biblical purpose driving the things we do ... and the activities we plan? So is there anything wrong with plane rides and paint ball outings? Of course not; but if these activities are driving your youth ministry, trouble is on the horizon. There is only so much you can do to entertain before the thrill is gone. Remember Atari? It was all the fad until Nintendo came along. And if the church thinks it can out-entertain the world, she's in a world of hurt.

Lesson 5: Young people don't want you to change the message in an attempt to make it interesting. It's really quite comical to watch grown men trying to be funny when it comes to teaching and preaching to teens. Well, it's quite comical to me ... but our young people despise it. Honestly, they do. They don't want somebody trying to be funny; they don't want an adult trying to speak to them in their lingo. They don't want their teacher or pastor to be somebody else; they want them to be real and genuine.

Young people want teachers and pastors who will teach and pastor them like they teach and pastor the adults. They don't want you to change the message in an attempt to make it funny or more interesting. They like things raw and uncut and unedited. They want someone to shoot straight with them. They know the Bible is relevant ... and they know that when a teacher or pastor tries to make it relevant, they themselves become irrelevant.

So let's let Scripture speak for itself ... let's present it raw and uncut. Because if we want them to believe in the reality of Scripture, the one presenting its truth needs to be real. It's really quite amazing: our teens simply want their teachers and pastors to grow up!

If only we would listen ...

Labels: , , ,

Monday, February 18

Blessed Are The Merciful

Following is yesterday's sermon from Matthew 5:7. May the Lord use it for His glory.
__________

“Blessed Are The Merciful” Matthew 5:7

In high school athletics, when a team is suffering a humiliating defeat at the hands of a superior opponent, the mercy rule takes effect. The officials keep the clock running, thus shortening the game, and showing mercy to the over-matched, underachieving team. Having been on the losing end of several mercy rule games, I can tell you that the mercy rule rarely lessens the sting of such a resounding defeat.

Yet, the people to whom Christ is speaking in the Sermon on the Mount knew no such mercy rule. They were captives in their own land—living in occupied territory. The Jews were under Roman rule—as was much of the world in Jesus’ time. And although Roman rule was known for many things, mercy was not one of them. Later, Roman Emperors would fill public arenas with thousands of people for the purpose of watching lions devour Christians. This practice was driven by the philosophy that mercy was “the disease of the soul.” According to the Romans, mercy was a sign that you did not have what it takes to be a real man. To them, mercy was a sign of weakness, and was despised above all other human limitations.


In his commentary on Matthew, John MacArthur writes this (pgs. 188-189): “During much of Roman history, a father had the right of patria opitestas, of deciding whether or not his newborn child would live or die. As the infant was held up for him to see, the father would turn his thumb up if he wanted the child to live, down if he wanted it to die. If his thumb turned down the child was immediately drowned.”


Lest we think we have come all that far as a society, we live in a land where mothers have the right to determine whether that child God implanted in her womb has the right to live … or whether they are sentenced to death. In stark contrast to the unmerciful and even hateful practices of that Roman society and this American society, Christ describes his followers as those who show mercy. His followers are those who protect and preserve justice for those who cannot protect themselves. His followers are those who love their enemies and pray for those who spitefully use them. In our world, a world that often defines greatness in terms of flaunting power rather than showing mercy, Christ’s words remind Christians to embrace mercy as that life to which we’ve been called.

WHAT MERCY IS

1) Mercy is a gift of God. Its source is in God.
You won’t find commercials on Television marketing this kind of mercy. You won’t find this kind of mercy lauded in the public political arena. It’s not natural; it’s not of this world; it’s supernatural and out of this world! Mercy that forgives rather than seeks vengeance; mercy that overlooks and hides others’ faults rather than magnifying and taking advantage of them; mercy that goes above and beyond what’s expected is a supernatural work of God in His people. Therefore, this kind of mercy is a description of those who know God by faith. It’s this kind of mercy that will attract the attention of the lost to the light here at Delhi Baptist Church. It’s what Christ said just moments later in verse 14, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.” When we as God’s people express God’s mercy, we shine as God’s lights to a darkened world!


2) Mercy is the practice of those who are “poor in spirit.” In fact it seems as if the second four beatitudes are the practical outcomes of the first four. For example, those who are poor in spirit will be merciful. Those who mourn over their sin will be pure in heart. Those who are meek will be peacemakers. And those who hunger and thirst after righteousness will be willing to suffer for righteousness’ sake.

So there is a prerequisite to being merciful—it’s being poor in spirit. Until we realize how much we’ve been forgiven … until we comprehend how unworthy and undeserving we are of the grace God has bestowed upon us in Christ … until we understand how merciful God has been to us—until we are truly “poor in spirit,” we will not express a godly mercy to others. But when, by His grace, we understand our own unworthiness and spiritual bankruptcy, and that we’ve been spared what we deserve by God’s great grace, we will grasp the great mercy that’s been extended to us in Christ’s cross. And with Christ our prayer will be for those who do not deserve mercy, but are in great need of it. And our actions and attitudes will reflect His at the cross … as He pleaded with His Father to bring His accusers to repentance: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”

3) Mercy seems to be best defined as compassion in action. This definition is derived from the popular parable Christ told about a merciful Samaritan: Luke 10:29-37. What mercy is—compassion in action—is best described by what mercy does.

WHAT MERCY DOES

1) Mercy sees others’ needs.


2) Mercy responds with an inward desire to relieve another’s pain and suffering.

3) Mercy responds outwardly by giving of oneself to relieve that pain and suffering.
Mercy is practical and outward. It isn’t a philosophical thing. It isn’t only an inward thing. Mercy sees a need, sympathizes with the suffering of another, and then mercy gets involved in an intensely practical way. Like the Samaritan, mercy gets dirty in others’ dirt; mercy gets bloody with others’ blood.


4) Mercy gives of oneself regardless of the deservedness of the one in need.
Did the Good Samaritan stop and ask the Jew if he was a republican or democrat or an independent? Did he stop and ask if he was a union member, or if he only bought domestic vehicles? In fact, what the Samaritan did shines even brighter when we understand that the Jews hated the Samaritans. The Samaritans were half-breeds; part Jew and part Gentile. They came from a warped religious tradition. Yet, he stopped to care for the Jew … he stooped to care for and relieve the pain and suffering of one who considered him a worthless and hated half-breed. But mercy doesn’t consider whether one deserves our compassion and help. Mercy shows others compassion because God has shown us compassion when we were undeserving. Mercy expresses kindness toward others because God has expressed kindness toward us in Jesus’ Cross: Ephesians 4:32 (ESV), “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”


More than likely there are some questions popping into your minds. Questions like, “Is there ever a time when we are to withhold mercy. I mean, did not God institute capital punishment? Is killing ever merciful? And what about corporal punishment—are we to consider spanking our children as merciful? And does Jesus call to mercy disqualify Christians from being policeman or prosecuting attorneys? And can a church ever discipline an erring member and still shine as a light of mercy in its community?” Let’s consider the answers to these questions … because there are a couple of things mercy does not do.

WHAT MERCY DOES NOT DO

1) Mercy does not sacrifice justice on the altar of compassion. That’s what God tells us through the pen of Micah in Micah 6:8: “He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” Notice that God ties justice to mercy and walking humbly with God.

So what does that mean on a practical level? It means that if someone breaks into our home and threatens the lives of Joanna and Elizabeth and Noah and Hannah and Mary … my wife and children will get mercy and the bad guy will get justice. You see, mercy demands love; and love demands justice. So it is not only possible to do justly and to love mercy simultaneously; God commands us to do so.


John Piper puts it this way: “God's will is that sometimes we recompense people with what they deserve, whether punishment or reward. That’s justice. And God's will is that sometimes we recompense people with better than what they deserve. That’s mercy. In upholding the claims of justice, we bear witness to the truth that God is a God of justice. And in showing mercy we bear witness to the truth that God is a God of mercy.”


So while the Christian prosecuting attorney may argue that a murderer get justice and be sentenced to death, he can do so out of mercy for the family of the victim. But he may also show mercy by visiting the criminal and his family, and sharing the love of Christ with them. As Christians—whether we are teachers who must give a failing grade—or as parents who must discipline—or as policemen who must arrest lawbreakers—it is possible to show mercy while standing for justice … because …


2) Mercy does not encourage or enable someone to continue in sin.
If, in the name of mercy, we provide a woman a ride to the abortion clinic, we have just become party to murder. If, in the name of mercy, we give an alcoholic a ride to the convenience store to buy some liquor—because we think it’s better for us to drive him than for him to drive drunk, we have become party to his alcoholism … and we may be unwittingly contributing to a drunken driving accident when we’re not there to take him to the store tomorrow. In so doing, we are not being merciful, we are being enablers. We are enabling the drunk to continue in his sin … and we are enabling the pregnant mother to seek to escape the consequences of her sin.


Mercy understands that the compassionate thing to do is to always stand for justice and righteousness. And so, there are times when Christians who are teachers will have to give a failing student a failing grade … and the teacher will hurt more than the student. There are times when Christian bosses will find it necessary to terminate a lazy employee—even if that employee has a wife and children to care for. And the boss’ heart will ache. There will be times when Christians—after doing all within their power to restore an erring, unrepentant brother to the truth—there will be times when for the cause of truth and righteousness, they will discipline a member out of the fellowship of a local church … just as a Christian parent will discipline their children. But because the Christian loves mercy, discipline will never be a pleasant thing. In fact, sometimes the parent will cry when he spanks. Sometimes church members will weep openly over the unrepentant church member. Mercy does not delight in the pain and suffering of another; mercy feels that pain and wants to relieve that pain, but mercy is likewise unwilling to enable someone to continue in sin.

It’s this kind of righteousness-loving compassion that Christ showed the woman in John 8--the woman who had been caught in the very act of adultery. While Christ showed mercy to her, He also demanded something from her in response to His mercy: “Go and sin no more.” And with those words of mercy, Christ teaches us that it is neither right nor merciful to enable others to continue in their sin.

WHAT THE MERCIFUL WILL RECEIVE

So where did God showcase His mercy to sinners … mercy that is not opposed to justice … but mercy that results from a love for justice?


It was on the cross. The cross proves that mercy and justice are friends and not enemies. It was at the cross that Jesus got the justice the law demanded as a payment for our sin. That’s what Isaiah says in Isaiah 53:4-6 (ESV), “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”


So Jesus took the justice the law demanded as a payment for our sin. Jesus got justice—and what do we get? For all who by God’s grace, repent of their sins and believe on Christ, we get mercy. Jesus got justice—we get mercy. Jesus got Isaiah 53; we get Titus 3:5, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Spirit.”


And with this saving mercy comes the desire and ability to show mercy to others. It’s not that showing mercy earns God’s mercy … as some have taught … but that wouldn’t be mercy; it would be a wage. Salvation is all of God’s mercy … and through Christ’s cross, we are made recipients of that mercy!


So as the recipients of past, present, and future mercy from a Just and Holy God, let us reflect that same mercy to others. May the Lord open our eyes to the physical and spiritual needs of those around us, and may we respond to those needs with real, tangible, Christ-like compassion. And if the church will faithfully show mercy to an infinitely needy world, we will shine as lights in this world. And we will be a city on a hill … a city that cannot be hidden. By God’s grace and for His glory, let us be that city! AMEN!


Labels: , , ,

A Weekend with Steve Camp

Steve Camp from Audience One Ministries graciously spent this past weekend at the church that I pastor doing a weekend worship conference, preaching the Word on Sunday morning and ministering in song and the Word on Sunday evening. If you know Steve Camp, you know how gifted and talented he is as a musician. But you would also be aware of the fact that Steve articulates biblical doctrine as good as anyone. By God's conviction back in 1994 Steve was led of the Lord to stop charging ticket prices and minimum honorariums for his music and preaching ministry. Because of that, churches like mine, who would not normally be able to host a well known artist had the privilege of hearing from one of Christendom's best. Steve's music is a testimony to the fact that music can have both theological depth and contemporary style as well.

Labels: , , ,

Friday, February 15

Attention: Young People Leaving Our Churches in Droves

What is the real problem here? What are the real solutions? Do we still as conservative evangelicals and or fundamentalists still have the real answers for the young people in our churches? Have we become "out of touch" with the real issues? Are the public schools to blame? Are the Christian schools to blame? Are our standards and convictions to blame? Please let me share with you for a moment or two some things that I've been musing on for a few months now. Every pastor (and parishioner for that matter) should have a long term vision and goal for every group of people in their church. It should be clear what the specific goals are for each age group that passes through the doors of your church who entrusts you with the shepherding of their soul.

When I was converted at the age of 17 it struck me as odd to see the lukewarm attitude that was conveyed by so many young people in my age group. Why were they not charging hell with a squirt gun like I was? It is not that I was the prime example of what a young person should be. I fell on my face ten thousand times over as a very young babe in Christ sharing my zeal in my new faith. But I did know that God had done something real in my life and that I had been changed from the inside out. That affected both my worldview and the way that I practically applied that to my life.

Within a few years I saw the vast majority of young people that I went to church with either marrying outside of the Lord (to be specific marrying an unconverted person), marginal or incredibly delinquent in their church attendance, in jail, heavily involved in either alcohol or drugs, or openly bringing shame on the name of Christ that they had once heard preached and had sung about on hundreds of occasions. The question that I asked then and the question that I ask now is - WHY? The easy thing to do would be to blame the pastor, the youth pastor or mom and dad. No doubt to some extent they share some responsibility for what had happened...especially if they avoided biblical confrontation, church discipline and restoration. But to blame them entirely would be excluding the factor of personal responsibility and accountability for the Lord which I trust that we all hold to (Romans 14:12). But I propose to you this morning that it goes much deeper than that and that the reasons for this after watching this both from the pew and the pulpit is much more profound than just "getting right with God" or "having a better quiet time" or "just do right till the stars fall". Some reasons here:

  1. Entertainment Reasons - After all, not all of those who grew up in solidly evangelical churches that take a strong stand for the gospel are completely out of church. Sadly though, many have been duped into thinking that in order to serve God then God must be "fun" or "entertaining". As a result we have seen many turn to a more "user friendly" version of God where the gospel is minimized and cultural relevance is maximized. But let's admit it here friends, many a fundamentalist has been guilty of making God into some sort of heavenly punisher just waiting to pour out His wrath on us for going to the movie house or playing a game of cards. Honestly, there has been many a fundamentalist who has made God into being.....well....boring. Sad but true. One thing I NEVER want to convey with either my preaching or my life is that God is somehow boring. Now I do not think that I need a drum-set or "relevant" worship (whatever that is) to make serving God exciting. But I do think that there should be a vibrancy and excitement from those of us who take the gospel seriously.
  2. Inconsistencies - Both at home and with church leadership. Please keep in mind here that I realize that no pastor or parent is totally consistent with their children or their congregation. That is where humility and oftentimes open repentance is needed both with our congregations and families at home. But when we carry the Bible to church and fail to model biblical reading and living at home we produce nothing but confusion with our young people. Christian parent - are you in the Word consistently? Do you read it to your children consistently? I'm not asking if you slap them upside the head with your Bible but at the very least if we bring it to church then we should be reading it at home. If it is imperative to read it from the pulpit then it is imperative for you...yes YOU Christian parent and young person to be reading, memorizing and living both corporately and personally! Young people need to see confession, repentance, and the granting of forgiveness both from their church leadership and their parents when needed and called for on a consistent basis.
  3. Simplistic Answers to Real Problems - This is the kicker as far as I'm concerned. Our young people know what is wrong....but they do not know why certain things are wrong. When forced to defend their positions biblically, they simply have no choice but to wave the white flag to unbiblical and secular worldviews. This is where the anti-intellectualism of hysteric fundamentalism has been incredibly detrimental. Believing the Bible does not equate to ignorance or cultural stupidity. We can engage culture on ANY issue because we do believe in objective and propositional truth. Instead of teaching that sex outside of marriage is wrong because "preacher said so" let's be sure that we can actually exegete Scripturally why we believe that. This goes for all of the other subjects and issues that we should be engaging in as followers of Christ - things like abortion, marrying the unregenerate, marrying the lukewarm, pornography, homosexuality, lying, drunkenness, or facing real temptations in real life. The answers to these questions is not simply "go to church more", or "have a better quiet time" or "memorize more verses". All of those things are wonderful but it goes much deeper than that. Young people and adults alike must be able to articulate biblical truth to real life and not just have a church mindset for Sunday but also realize that they represent Jesus Christ 24 hours a day 7 days a week.
  4. A Wrong View of Conversion - The honest question that we must ask is this.....Is a person who grew up in church and made a profession of faith and once they have reached adulthood and have shown no evidence of regeneration really converted? I'm not asking if they asked "Jesus into their heart" when they were four due to the pressure of mom and dad or the lure of some evangelistic campaign. But are they truly converted? Christianity not only effects our heart but it also effects our minds, our actions, our homes, our marriages, our work ethic, our integrity and ultimately what we do on Sunday morning and our involvement in a solid local church. Have we honestly taught our young people the truths about repentance and faith in Jesus Christ and that salvation is so much more than some glorified fire escape from hell?
We have a lot of work to do here. I think that we can vouch for that. The temptations and trials that our children and the children of our churches will face are real. But glory be to God that the answers He provides for these problems in His Word are real too!

Labels: , , , ,

The Fields Family's Favorite Commercials

It's unanimous ... none of the famed Super Bowl Commercials make the grade, but the freecreditreport.com commercials do!

How bad do we have it for these commercials? The kids beg me to turn up the radio when either of the following is airing:






Not sure there's much redeeming value to this post--other than Christians ought to have good credit. And they ought to enjoy good commercials as a family, too!

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, February 13

Spurgeon on Who Limits the Atonement?

Charles Spurgeon, the historic Baptist pastor, argues that those who deny particular redemption are the ones who actually limit the atonement (from page 117 of The Doctrines of Grace by Boice and Ryken):

"We are often told that we limit the atonement of Christ, because we say that Christ has not made a satisfaction for all men, or all men would be saved.

Now, our reply to this is, that, on the other hand, our opponents limit it: we do not. The Arminians say, Christ died for all men. Ask them what they mean by it. Did Christ die as to secure the salvation of all men? They say, 'No, certainly not.' We ask them the next question--Did Christ die as to secure the salvation of any man in particular? They answer, 'No.' They are obliged to admit this, if they are consistent. They say, 'No. Christ has died that any man may be saved if"--and then follow certain conditions of salvation.

Now, who is it that limits the death of Christ? Why, you. You say that Christ did not die so as infallibly to secure the salvation of anybody. We beg your pardon, when you say we limit Christ's death; we say, 'No, my dear sir, it is you that do it.' We say Christ so died that he infallibly secured the salvation of a multitude that no man can number, who through Christ's death not only may be saved, but are saved, must be saved and cannot by any possibility run the hazard of being anything but saved.

You are welcome to your atonement; you may keep it. We will never renounce ours for the sake of it."

Labels: , , , ,

Hoosiers Appear To Join Patriots As Major Rule Violators

For Illini fans, what's about to go down in Bloomington, Indiana, takes the sting out of the whole Eric Gordon debacle.

We will wait and see if the Hoosiers are really serious about protecting the squeaky-clean image they claim to possess. And for IU fans, it promises to get ugly.

Andy Katz of ESPN.COM shares the latest:

The NCAA sent a notice of allegations to Indiana University last Friday detailing major violations in its men's basketball program, multiple sources told ESPN.com.

Larry MacIntyre, assistant vice president for university communications at Indiana University, confirmed to ESPN.com that the school did receive documentation from the NCAA last week.

The Associated Press reported on Tuesday night that the school will make the allegations public on Wednesday. University trustees president Stephen Ferguson told AP that school officials this week reviewed the report, but that the NCAA is not expected to make its ruling until this summer.

"There won't be a hearing till this June," Ferguson told AP. "It's just been reviewed, and I think everyone is analyzing it now."

MacIntyre said he was unable to provide any more information. But MacIntyre said he was working on providing a copy of the documentation after ESPN.com requested one through the Freedom of Information Act.

But ESPN.com has learned over the last week that the NCAA uncovered new information since Indiana self-reported violations under second-year head coach Kelvin Sampson in October.

Sampson had been sanctioned after making impermissible phone calls while he was the coach at Oklahoma. Indiana then revealed more bad calls while Sampson was at IU. Multiple sources told ESPN.com that the NCAA was looking into whether Sampson did not tell the truth about those calls, resulting in the allegations of major violations.

This new information that helped result in a major violations tag could leave the Hoosiers' season, and Sampson's career, under a cloud of uncertainty.

ESPN.com made multiple efforts to reach Indiana athletic director Rick Greenspan over the past week and he never returned calls. Sampson didn't return a message Tuesday.
Continue reading HERE.

It's no wonder Illini fans are unwilling accept Sampson's word that he did not actively recruit Gordon.

Hoosier nation, say goodbye to your once-proud tradition. Your basketball program is losing credibility quicker than you can say "Roger Clemens never took steroids"!

Labels: , , , ,

Monday, February 11

John Piper On "How a pastor upholds good doctrine in a denomination that doesn't."

From Desiring God:

You certainly want to help your church get clarity. You don't want them to be confused. Probably staying there long enough and teaching in a faithful, biblical way will remove the confusion and replace it with conviction. And you should draw encouragement from other ministers, wherever you can find them.

I know that in England there are hundreds of faithful evangelical ministers. They relate in various groupings, like the Proclamation Trust, and others. And England is not a very big place.

But mainly, stay close to the Bible, stay close to God, and love your people. Teach them so faithfully that they recognize that what other pastors are denying is clearly a denial of Scripture, not just a denial of their pastor's opinion. The key there is going to be that, week after week, he doesn't just preach Reformed theology; he preaches the Scripture in such a way that they infer Reformed theology.

Continue reading HERE.

Labels: , ,

Why Is the Lord's Supper So Important?

Last evening, our church dedicated an entire evening to the observance of the Lord's Supper. Rather than tacking communion on to the final fifteen minutes of our service, we constructed every part of the service to point to the realities represented by the bread and wine (umm ... grape juice!). From the choir selection to the hymns; from the fighter verse recitation to the prayers and Scripture reading and the sermon; everything directed our attention to Christ and what He won for us at the cross.

Hoping that the following will encourage all to understand why we believe what we believe about the Lord's Supper, here is the sermon I preached from the Table at last evening's service.
_______________________________________

“Why Is the Lord’s Supper So Important?”
1 Corinthians 11:23-34

Sometimes the best question asked is a little three letter word that in itself; and by itself is not only a question, but a complete sentence. It’s the little three letter word, “Why?”

Now, honestly, for most of you, everything you hear tonight will be review. Some of you, in fact, have known these truths … and loved these truths longer than I have been alive. Yet, from time to time, it’s necessary to remind ourselves of some of the fundamentals of our faith, and to review why we believe what we believe and why we do what we do.

It’s no different than asking yourself why you have chosen to invest in mutual funds—which is a very good question to be asking right now! Some of us may be asking why we bought that expensive piece of exercise equipment when it serves only as a glorified clothes hanger!

Why is a simple, but profitable question. And it’s the question I aim to ask and answer tonight regarding the Lord’s Supper.

Why do we come to this table every month? Why has the Church observed the Lord’s Supper for the past 2,000 years? Why did Christ gather His disciples in a rented upper room on the night of His betrayal, the day before His death?

Let’s turn our attention to the place we are given answers to these questions—1 Corinthians 11:23-34.

WHY THE LORD’S SUPPER IS SO IMPORTANT

1) Because in partaking of this Table, we are obeying Christ’s command (vs. 23-25):

With obedience, comes promise of blessing: John 13:17, “If you know these things, happy are you if you do them.”

2) Because in partaking of this Table, we are proclaiming the Gospel to ourselves and others (vs. 26):

We are telling ourselves, our children and grandchildren something eternally significant tonight. By our presence at this table we are saying that there is hope for sinners. We are saying that there is someone who took our sin upon Himself; there is someone who died our death; there is someone who’s blood is so holy and perfect and powerful and precious that it is capable of saving even the most vile and wicked sinners. We are saying that Christ’s blood has opened heaven’s doors for all who repent of their sin and trust in Him alone for salvation. Tonight, by our presence at this table, we are proclaiming the truth of Hebrews 10:19-20 (ESV), “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.”

So as one who will be partaking of communion alongside of you this evening, I proclaim this good news to myself and to you and to our children and grandchildren: through His broken body and shed blood, Christ made a way—the only way—to God! And that is good news for sinners who have offended an infinitely holy God with our sin. Christ did what the OT Law and Covenant could not do. As the mediator of the New Covenant, He made it possible for sinners to be reconciled to the God whom we have offended. It’s through His broken body and shed blood. And that’s the hope of the gospel we proclaim tonight: that through the broken body and shed blood of Christ, it is possible for unworthy sinners to enter the presence of God!

And that truth has practical benefits for the believer, too. Truths we should be reminded of as we come to this table tonight. You see, the good news of the gospel is not relegated to unbelievers. The Gospel isn’t only the power that justifies; the Gospel is the power that sanctifies! That’s what Romans 8 is all about—especially verses 26-39. It’s in these verses that Paul links Christ’s cross (verse 32) to the believer’s …
1. Confidence: that God is for us … and hears us … and that He will complete the work He has begun in us. And our confidence is inextricably linked to what Christ did on the cross-what we are remembering tonight!

2. Assurance: vs. 33-38

3. Hope: verses 28-30

4. Help: In the cross God says to all who belong to Him, “I am not against you … I am for you.” The Spirit intercedes for us when we don’t know how to pray. Christ intercedes for us—representing us before the throne. And the Father is working all things for our good. So even when we are called to suffer; even when we are called to face great danger as followers of Christ; even when others throw our sin into our face; because of His cross “we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us!” That’s the Gospel we proclaim to ourselves and one another tonight by our presence at this Table!
3) Because in partaking of this Table, we are experiencing Christ as the Bread of Life (vs. 26): There is much more happening here than simply eating a cracker, and drinking a few ounces of grape juice.

The Lord’s Supper is a time in which we feast on Christ. Now let me explain what I mean by that. The elements—the bread and juice—are only symbolic representations of the body and blood of Christ. Yet what we are doing here has great spiritual significance because it is actual communion with Christ. These physical elements point to a spiritual truth … and as we eat and drink them, we are feasting on Christ spiritually by faith for the satisfaction of the hunger and thirst of our souls. John 6:35, "I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst." “In the Lord's Supper we feed our souls on all that God is for us in Christ” (quote from John Piper, referring to 1 Corinthians 10:16-17).

In other words, the Lord's Supper is a proclamation of the gospel which brings about a solemn remembrance of the Lord Jesus himself. But it does not stop with an intellectual agreement with historical facts. In the act of partaking, we actually feed our souls by faith on what the broken body and spilled blood achieved for us—a justified and sanctified fellowship with the risen Christ.

4) Because in partaking of this Table, we are acknowledging our need for regular and open repentance of sin (vs. 27-32): Solomon writes this in Proverbs 28:13, “He who covers his sins shall not prosper; but whoso confesses and forsakes them shall have mercy.”

And so tonight at this table, we are reminded that we are unworthy sinners. And as we are reminded of the price that was paid to redeem us from our sin and to reconcile us to God, we are reminded that our righteousness is nothing more than filthy rags. And although we’ve been redeemed and justified and forgiven, sin continues to cling to us.

Just as the disciples needed their feet washed in the Upper Room at the Last Supper, we need our feet washed tonight—to cleanse us of the sin that still clings to us. As Jesus told Peter, we don’t need a full body bath—that happened at salvation; but we do need a foot-washing. And tonight provides us the opportunity to do so … so let us confess our sins—repenting of them and being mindful of the words Jesus said to Peter in John 13:8, “If I do not wash you, have no part of me.”

So let us come to this Table clean, taking comfort in Jesus’ words that those who make confession and repentance a regular part of their lives are giving evidence of genuine conversion.

5) Because in partaking of this Table, we are heeding Christ’s call to love one another (vs. 17-22, 33-34): We do not come to this Table alone … and we do not come as individuals. We come as God’s chosen family to the family table—the Table of our Lord. That’s the way it happened in the Upper Room … and that’s the way it still happens today! And our presence here is encouraging each of our brothers and sisters in Christ to:

Obey the Lord’s command to come and partake.
Proclaim the Gospel to ourselves and others.
Experience Christ as the Bread of Life.
Acknowledge our need for regular and open repentance.

And finally, our presence at this Table is a fleshing out of Hebrews 10:24-25: “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” (ESV).

As we gather together at this Table tonight, we are encouraging one another to hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering. We are provoking one another to love and good works. And together we are anticipating the Day in which Christ will return.

So out of love for our Lord and one another, let us come to this Table tonight, and let us partake. In so doing, we are proclaiming our Lord’s death until He comes!

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, February 10

Tim Keller Admits to NOT believing in Literal Six Day Creation Account

To put it mildly, I am a bit troubled by this. I have respected Tim Keller for sometime and I have respected his contributions to Christendom. Especially in regards to his emphasis on mercy ministries. But to publicly deny his affirmation of belief in the six day account of Genesis 1 is to me another foundational reason to be sure that we wisely practice separation with grace and wisdom. Not only that, but I find someone not holding to a literal six day creation as seeing through the lenses of science and not Scripture.

Is this really that big of a deal? To compromise the first chapter of the Bible inevitably leads to a skewed and shaky understanding of the creation account. Some may wonder why we would go public with this. Well, this is a public matter since it is being printed in one of the most widely read news publications (Newsweek). Another question that I would have about not believing in six literal days is what biblical evidence do you have that proves the days of Genesis are not literal 24 hour days? This is a slippery slope that I simply do not want to fall into.

I am not attacking Keller's integrity, sincerity or love for the Lord. In all sincerity, I appreciate what he has done regarding the local church and the articulation of biblical doctrines that we hold dear. But I cannot help but scratch my head in amazement while scholar after scholar fall into the trap of allowing secular science to dictate their position on what God has made so clear.

Labels: , ,

Thursday, February 7

Fundamentalist Subcultures

Do you find any redeeming value with the things of this world? Can you find God's image being manifested out even in lost people's talents and gifts? Do you even go so far to say that you appreciate some of the accomplishments and even ideas that have derived from those who reject Christ? If you and I are ever going to reach culture we must be sure that we engage culture. By that I am NOT implying that we conform to culture, but that we, without intimidation, engage with culture on the issues that we believe the Bible speaks about authoritatively.

Instead, we as fundamental Christians seemingly live on some sort of glorified Indian reservation with our own music, movies, friends, habits, cliques, sports teams, and social clubs. Nancy Pearcey addresses this brilliantly in her book "Total Truth" where she deals with the fear that many Christians have with dealing with the culture of this world:

"There is no need to avoid the secular world and hide out behind the walls of an evangelical subculture; instead, Christians can appreciate works of art and culture as products of human creativity expressing the image of God. On the other hand, there is no danger of being naive or uncritical about false and dangerous messages embedded in secular culture, because a worldview gives conceptual tools needed to analyze and critique them. Believers can apply distinctively biblical perspective every time they pick up the newspaper, watch a movie, or read a book."
--Nancy Pearcey, Total Truth (Wheaton Crossway, 2004) 56


Labels: , ,

Limited Atonement and 1 John 2:2

In the comment section of THIS POST the topic of limited atonement came up once again (surprise, surprise). One of our favorite readers and frequent commenters gave this challenge to all five-point Calvinists. (Is there any other kind?)

How do you understand 1 John 2:2? I have yet to hear a solid exegetical defense of this verse from one who believes in the traditional understanding of limited atonement. [The comment has now been amended to include 2 Peter 2:1. This post will be long enough dealing with 1 John 2:2, so I will leave 2 Peter 2:1 for another day.]
I found that to be an odd statement since anyone dealing with the extent of the atonement is forced to deal with 1 John 2:2. And since a vast number of Calvinists have dealt with this passage I am led to believe that their explanation must not have been satisfactory. I am not an imminent scholar, nor a Calvinist apologist. So I am under no illusion that my feeble explanation will somehow convince where other more prominent men have failed. Yet, as one who held to the unlimited atonement position as little as a year ago, I thought I would try and take a shot at explaining what convinced me to change my position to particular redemption. Especially in light of one of the most important texts of Scripture on the subject.
2:1 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2 He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:1-2; ESV)
1. The importance of understanding who the recipients of this letter are.

Must this passage be read in the following manner? Or is there room for another possible interpretation?
He is the propitiation for our (Christians) sins, and not for ours (Christians) only but also for the sins of the whole world (every person who will ever live).
I believe that the previous reading is possible, but I don't believe it is our only option. If John was writing an open letter to all Christians these verses could be viewed in the previous manner. But when the particular audience of John's letter is taken into view it can be read naturally and normally with a limited redemption view.

John is writing to Christians, probably Jewish Christians. He is not writing an open letter to all Christians, but to a particular audience in time and place. They are his "little children." He is not giving them any new commandment but an old commandment which they had heard "from the beginning (2:7)." Therefore when John writes that "He (Christ) is the propitiation for our sins" he is referring to himself and his specific audience - these Jewish Christians. So when John goes on to write that Christ not only satisfied God's wrath for him and them (his particular audience), but also for the "whole world" he is not referring to every single person in all places and all times, but for all Christians throughout the world in all places and at all times. Christ did not just die for Jewish believers, especially these specific Jewish believers, but for all believers in all places and all times.

Is this view of John's use of "the world" supported by John's writings elsewhere?
9 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.” (Revelation 5:9-10)
Not every person has been ransomed, but some people from every part of the world.
49 But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all. 50 Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” 51 He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, 52 and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. (John 11:49-52)
Christ did not just die for those of the Jewish nation, but for His children, believers, from all over the world.

2. The importance of understanding the aim and intention of this letter.

Writing to Christians John seeks to deal with the reality of continuing sin in the life of the believer. All Christians have been forgiven (past tense) of all sin (Colossians 2:13-15), yet there is an aspect of that forgiveness that Christ purchased with His blood that includes continual (present tense) cleansing (1:7). He asserts that every believer still sins (1:8, 10), yet there is relational forgiveness and cleansing from daily sin (1:9).

Why is John writing? So that they will stop sinning. But since every believer still sins John seeks to encourage and comfort them with the truth that they have an Advocate (Jesus Christ) who continually intercedes for them before the throne of God (2:1). The reason Christ is their Advocate is because He was the propitiation for their sins (2:2). The extent of the advocacy is linked to the extent of the propitiation. If the propitiation is unlimited than so must be the advocacy. Is Christ an Advocate for every person in all places and all times?
I cannot conceive how this can possibly make any thing to the end proposed, or the consolation of believers; for what comfort can arise from hence to them, by telling them that Christ died for innumerable that shall be damned? Will that be any refreshment unto me which is common unto me with them that perish eternally? (John Owen, The Death of Death, p. 221)
Christ only intercedes on behalf of His children (John 17:9; Romans 8:31-34; Hebrews 7:25). In reading Robert Lightner's views on this passage (The Death Christ Died; p. 81-84) I found he did not deal with the connection between Christ our propitiation and Christ our Advocate. I believe this is the strongest point for limited atonement in this passage and a point that all those who hold to unlimited atonement must answer.

3. The importance of understanding the meaning of "propitiation."

In a minimal sense this word means "satisfaction, appeasement, atonement." Christ's death satisfied all of God's righteous demands on the sinner. Sin has been atoned for, the payment has been made. Has the sin of every person who will ever live been paid for? If you believe in unlimited atonement, you must say, "yes," according to 1 John 2:2. If all sins have been paid for and if God's wrath has been satisfied toward all men, then how can God's wrath be poured out on sinners for eternity in the Lake of Fire? What is He still angry about?

If you hold to limited atonement you are able to articulate the fact that Christ Himself is the propitiation for the sins of the elect. God's wrath toward us has been satisfied. And since God's wrath towards the non-elect has not been satisfied through the blood of Christ, they will spend eternity in punishment under the wrath of God (John 3:36).

I have done my best to stick to the text and context at hand. At some other time, in the distant future, I plan on writing about how substitutionary atonement makes limited atonement necessary. Christ did not die to make salvation possible, but actual. He died in the place of sinners. He took their sin and gave them His righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 2:24). Substitutionary atonement was one of the strongest arguments in my change of position.

Labels: , , , ,

Wednesday, February 6

Guest Blogger: Will Hatfield Ordination Prep, Part 6

Here is Will on Ecclesiology.

Have at him, everyone!
________________________________

The Delivered Community

Story. After delivering mankind and choosing those who He would make into the image of His Son, God is putting his delivered saints into a new community, the church. He has commissioned the church to be Christ’s representatives on earth and to make disciples of all nations.

Our identity

Christ delivers us from sin by identifying us with himself. The Holy Spirit accomplishes this for us by baptizing us into Christ. The baptism of the Holy Spirit introduces the new believer into a new community–the body of Christ (I Cor. 12:13)–as well as a new relationship– being unified with Christ (Gal. 2:20). The result of this is having the Holy Spirit indwelling one forever as well as having brothers and sisters with whom to glorify God. He is the Head of the body which implies direct control and authority over the body. Being part of Christ’s body involves performing Christ’s work and being a testimony of His presence. The metaphor also notes the importance of believers’ relationships to one another as well as the unity of the body. The church is also referred to as a building. Peter refers to Christians as “living stones” (I Pet. 2:5) being built into a holy temple. Christ uses the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit, and the saved on earth to build His church. Local churches, or groups of Christians who gather together and are organized, are the local expressions of Christ's body. These churches are the subjects of most of the letters of the New Testament. The local church is comprised of saved, baptized individuals who are obedient to God's Word (Eph. 1:1; I Cor. 6:11; Acts 2:41‑42).

Our purpose

The primary mission of the church is to make disciples of all nations by witnessing to what God had done and is doing with the world (Matt. 28:19-20; Acts1:8). Christ is restoring what was originally destroyed by sin! The mission is accomplished through the Holy Spirit’s power presence. Some things which support discipleship and go along with it include evangelism, worship, fellowship and teaching. Evangelism includes proclaiming and living the gospel. Worship involves glorifying God (I Cor. 10:31; Eph. 5:19-20). Fellowship involves encouraging and helping other believers, using the spiritual gifts for mutual edification. Teaching involves equipping believers to do the task of making disciples (Eph. 4:12; Acts 20:28). These should all be characterized by servanthood which is a direct reflection of Christ (Mark 10:45).

Servanthood can also be reflected in our mission as we reach out to the world. Helping people helps them “hear” our message. Therefore, meeting needs of people in this world should be a part of how we reach out to them. We are to support our Christian brothers as the need arises (Gal. 6:10) but this also includes helping others as much as possible. If we are to reach the unlovely and unloveable we must show them we care. This can only be done through tangible means. The cost is not too great for men’s souls. We must remember to keep the message rather than the method primary, however. The church’s mission is to make disciples that are characterized by humility and love.

Our pattern

Since discipleship is primary, developing people of joyful character is primary. We do this by getting back to Christ’s model for developing character in His disciples. A discipleship group is the best way to help people move the gospel of God from their minds into their lives – to put off their old ways and to put on Christ.

Since discipleship is primary, our leaders must be men of character as well (Acts 6:3). We need leaders who will be bold for the truth, suffering hardship for it (Acts 5:40-42), as well as very tender with other disciples because we are all struggling with sin and its results (1 Thess. 2:7-8). The New Testament seems primarily concerned with two offices in the church: bishop and deacon (I Tim. 3). The terms elder, bishop, and pastor all refer to the same office in the church. This can be seen by the use of all three terms referring to the same group of individuals in Acts 20:20ff. as well as I Pet. 5:1-4. Elder refers to the nature of the office (maturity) and comes from the Jewish context. Bishop refers to the function of the office (oversight) and comes from Greek culture. Pastor refers to the motivation of the office (care) and comes from the imagery God employs in describing Himself and His people (I Pet. 5:4; 2:25). Deacons serve the physical needs of the church and assist the pastors (Acts 6). The New Testament contains several qualifications for church leadership (I Tim. 3). These qualifications deal mostly with the character of the individual under consideration. He is to be faithful to God, his family, and his ministry.

The pastor, elder, or bishop is given the oversight or shepherding of a church (Acts 20; I Tim. 3; I Pet. 5:1‑4). The duties of the pastor include his ministering the Word by teaching and evangelism (II Tim. 4; Acts 6:4), reproving the wayward, equipping the saints for service (Eph. 4), leading the people, protecting the flock from false teachers without and ambitious people within (Acts 20:20ff) , being an example, and serving the spiritual needs of the flock. Elders rule through their teaching and example.

The function of the deacon is to serve the church as is found from the meaning of the word and why they were started (Acts 6). The focal ministry of the deacon is to support the pastor as seen from Acts 6 where they are to free the pastor to the ministry of the Word and prayer. This involves taking an active part in the caring ministry of the church. The number of deacons, their choosing and installation, as well as the permanence of the office seems to be up to individual churches to decide.

Since discipleship is primary and all believers are priests before God and involved in discipleship, we make decisions as a congregation about the choices God puts in front of us. While Christ is the head of the church, the local assembly or congregation is used to determine His will and carry out authoritative decisions. This can be seen from such passages as Matt. 18:17, Acts 11:27-30; Acts 15; and I Cor. 5. Especially in the I Cor. 5, if a pastor was responsible for what was happening, he undoubtedly would have been addressed, but the church as a whole is addressed. The language in Acts 11 and Titus 1 referring to the appointment of elders seems to suggest that the churches had “a raising of hands” to elect their officers with the apostolic appointee’s approval. Acts 6 also shows that the congregation chose their officers rather than the apostles.

What a great gift we have in the mutual community God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit has created for our good! We need to appreciate it, encourage it, use it, and build it up. This is accomplished by depending on the Holy Spirit and God’s Word and by faith obeying their guidance.

Discipleship

In Ephesians Paul starts with the great things God has done in saving us from sin & death: choosing us, forgiving us, and giving us an inheritance. He has brought us from death to life through and in Jesus Christ and put us in a new community created for His glory and our joy. Paul repeated in his epistles encourages us to walk worthy of God’s work in our lives by being a part of the church – giving up a selfish and futile worldly lifestyle and walking together in love and truth. By letting God’s Word and the Holy Spirit control us, our relationships are filled with proper love and humility and our spiritual battles ring with victory.

As a faith community we are to encourage one another to submit to God’s Word and the Holy Spirit, to see God’s love for us, and to strive for God’s work through us. This is done by recognizing how God is working to transform each of us to our new identity – the image of His Son. The Holy Spirit uses God’s truth and the circumstances of life to mold our hearts to sing His praise. [diagram] We are commanded to love God instead of the world (1 John 2:15-17).

The Holy Spirit’s Gifts

The Holy Spirit uses each one of us in the discipleship process through gifts that He gives to the church and to each individual (Eph. 4 & 1 Cor. 12). Spiritual gifts are for the edification of the body. To get more specific one needs to look at Ephesians 4: 11-13. Here we can see two purposes for spiritual gifts. The gifts to the church are for the equipping of the saints. These saints are equipped for the purpose of the edification of the Church so that it can accomplish its task. As members of the body or individuals with various gifts we are all to be doing our part so that the body can grow. Only when individuals are being effective in using their gifts will the body be effective in its task of glorifying Christ by witnessing of Him. The effectiveness of an individual’s use of his gift(s) is directly related to how much he is allowing his gift(s) to be done in love (1 Cor. 13). Therefore, the purpose of spiritual gifts is to edify the body of Christ and to help that body accomplish the task it has been given.

One question that people often have is about whether gifts like tongues and healing are for today. Hebrews 2:3-4 points to the authentification of the message of the apostles as the purpose of these sign gifts. Eph. 2:20 also states that the apostles and prophets were the foundation of the church. The sign gifts as part of the verification of the apostles and prophets ministry were part of the foundation of the church, permanently there but no longer given today. Therefore, any of the miraculous gifts would be considered temporary and no longer given today. More important than having any particular gift is being filled by the Spirit and letting Him control (Eph. 5:18) so that one loves others (1 Cor. 13).

Membership & Ordinances

One of the ways we love the church is by declaring our love for Christ publicly. One way we do this is by joining the church in membership. While there is no record of Christians joining churches, there is evidence of membership in that they elected their own officers and could be excommunicated (Acts 6; I Cor. 5:13). In Matt. 18 and Acts 6 it mentions the church making decisions over various issues. How can a church decide something unless one knows who is in the church? Who do I trust to help me grow in Christ without some kind of recognition process?

Another way we publicly show what God has done in us is baptism. Several modes of baptism are practiced in Christendom today. These include sprinkling (aspersion), pouring (affusion), immersion (‘dunking’) . Immersion is practiced two ways: 3 times forward (trine) and once backward (single). Sprinkling usually goes back to the Old Testament and Ezek. 36:25 for any scriptural proof which is very tenuous especially as related to the New Testament pattern. Pouring seems to be a midpoint between sprinkling and immersion and may have been practiced by some churches when there was little water to be found. Immersion is the only Scriptural pattern. This is seen from passages such as John 3:23; Matt. 3:16; Acts 8:35-38, and the symbolism of Rom. 6. John the Baptist baptized at the Jordan “where there was much water.”

The actual meaning of baptism points to immersion. Baptizo means to immerse or wash. Bapto means to dip. The clearest example that shows the meaning of baptizo is a text from the Greek poet and physician Nicander, who lived about 200 B.C. It is a recipe for making pickles and is helpful because it uses both words. Nicander says that in order to make a pickle, the vegetable should first be ‘dipped’ (bapto) into boiling water and then ‘baptised’ (baptizo) in the vinegar solution. Both verbs concern the immersing of vegetables in a solution. But the first is temporary.[1] At other times ships were referred to as baptized when they sunk at sea.

Trine immersion does not seem to fit the symbolism of baptism (as discussed under in the next paragraph) and misunderstands Matt. 28:19-20 concerning the “name” of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

The meaning of water baptism is symbolic. In Rom. 6 it explains how in the Spirit we are baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection. This is the reality that water baptism pictures. We are lowered down into the water showing His death and burial, and we are raised showing His resurrection and our identification with Him (Col. 2:11-14). Baptism is, therefore, publicly showing our identification with Christ. There are some who see it as removal of original sin, dedicatory, or a sign of the covenant of grace. None of these views are taught in Scripture, however.

Baptism does not save, however. Some look to passages such as John 3:5 and Acts 2:38 and proclaim that one must be baptized to be saved. While understanding that in the MidEastern culture baptism was the profession of faith. The Bible does not seem to teach baptism as necessary for salvation. One key passage which refutes baptismal regeneration is Acts 10. This is where Cornelius and other Gentiles receive the Spirit (are saved) as Peter is preaching and then are baptized, not before.

Communion is a memorial of Christ’s death on the cross and a reminder of His promise to return one day. In I Cor. 11 where Christ says, “This is my body,” He is referring to it figuratively. Christ was there in the flesh, but His body would soon be broken for us.

This is in distinction to the other views concerning the significance of communion. The Roman Catholics believe in transubstantiation–the cup and bread turn into the actual blood and flesh of Christ recapitulating His sacrifice. Lutherans believe in consubstantiation–the body and blood are ubiquitously present in the bread and cup. Calvin believed in a “real presence” which gave a sanctifying aspect to the Lord’s Table. The Memorial (and correct) view focuses on “do this in remembrance of me.” The focus is not on a mystical union but on remembering what Christ has done for us. The purpose of communion is to promote fellowship and unity, remember the Lord’s death and promise of return, and promote self-examination among Christians.

Discipline

Another way we love the church is church discipline just like because we love our children we discipline them. Christ teaches in Matt. 18 that sin is to be dealt with in the church. Leaving sin unchecked leaves the church open to defeat and destruction. When an erring brother has an unrepentant attitude to sin, the church should seek to restore him to a love for Christ. This is the only place where he will be truly joyful! Sin should be dealt with in the manner prescribed in Matt. 18:15-17. A brother goes to the offending party and approaches him about his sin. If the offending brother refuses to hear his brother, the original person should go back with two or three witnesses who should see the truth in the matter. If these determine he is sinning and he does not listen to them, they should bring it before the church. If he refuses to heed the warnings, he is to be no longer to be considered a member of Christ’s body and put out of the church. This means the church when it comes in contact with him should repeatedly reaffirm their love for him, warn him of the consequences of sin and implore him to return to Christ. They should not fellowship with him or spend time with him. If he repents, he is to be forgiven and joyfully restored in the church.

The purpose of discipline as it relates to the offender is to restore him to fellowship with Christ and the body (Gal. 6:1). As it relates to the corporate body, it is to purify the worship and message of the church so that it is not “lukewarm” in God’s eyes (Rev. 2:14-15). In relation to the individual believer, it is to assist in the maintenance of one’s conscience as well as to confirm individual responsibility to one another (Heb. 3:13). As it relates to the faith, it is to protect the teaching of the Word from perversion and error (Titus 1:10-13).

Relationships between churches

The local church needs fellowship not only amongst itself but also among other churches. It is another way we love others. This was done in New Testament times (2 Cor. 8; Acts 15, et.al.). I believe there are certain distinctives to Baptist belief: Individual Soul Liberty which means that each person is responsible to God for themselves and Autonomy of the Local Church which means each church is not responsible to any other organization for its decisions. To uphold the autonomy of the local church careful attention must be given to the structure of the fellowship between churches. There are four approaches to this: the Convention, Association, Fellowship, and Society. Without going into all four, the Association approach is usually chosen because it least affects autonomy while giving accountability. The Fellowship is usually of pastors rather than organizations. The Society tends to allow churches to be part of it and other societies. The Convention tends to control through monies given. Association structure is used by the GARBC within itself. Society structure is often used in relationship to mission agencies.

Times come when churches must separate from error because churches are the “pillar and buttress of truth” (1 Tim. 3:15). Therefore churches will need to refrain from fellowshipping with other churches who deny or obscure key biblical truths about the gospel in order to maintain a clear witness to the truth of the gospel. Single interest groups like pro-life groups or colleges aren’t churches and therefore don’t necessarily fit into this model.


[1]Strong, J. (1996). The exhaustive concordance of the Bible : Showing every word of the text of the common English version of the canonical books, and every occurrence of each word in regular order. (electronic ed.) (G907). Ontario: Woodside Bible Fellowship.

Labels: , , ,