Tuesday, May 26, 2020

God Given Rights

Recent weeks have seen a social and political outcry, demanding the “God Given Right” of Christians to assemble in church buildings for regular Sunday worship. It is a wonderful thing to be a part of the Body of Christ, to have Christ as our head and to have committed to live as slaves in His service. Being recipients of a new nature, having been born anew through the gifts of faith and repentance we have a kinship together as children of God — our good and perfect Father. Desiring to gather together for worship is a good and real affection that we, as the body of Christ, should obediently express regularly. Missing this gathering is good and obedient.

But as we make demands and express desire to gather together physically, we are forced to ask ourselves if this is the only command for the Church that we are pursuing, and if that pursuit is rooted in obedience or selfishness.

It is good to desire gathering as the Church. Good Ecclesiology doesn’t end with simply gathering in a particular way in a particular building. I fear that is the extent of thought for so many who are clamouring and fist shaking at the government for the right to gather at this time. The doctrine of the Church, or how a Church should obediently express worship and ministry together under the authority of God involves far more than simply sitting in a pew in a building once a week.

It is good to desire gathering as the Church, but it shouldn’t rooted in a passion for a building or particular traditions, it is rooted in a person, the person of Jesus Christ. The Church is a people, one of the greatest downfalls that I think we have fallen subject to in Western Christianity is the propensity to refer to a building as the “Church”. Though this may seem equivocal, I think it has led to a larger confusion about just what it is that constitutes the Biblical Church.

It is good to desire gathering as the Church, Christians are of the Church, the body of Christ, His bride, elect, set apart for righteousness. The command isn’t simply to meet once a week and sit dumbly on our pew and be consumers, the Church serves and submits, it works and labours together. I fear that for so many, this desire to gather is an attitude borne out of selfish consumerism. A product has not been delivered as expected and that product is a weekly service that is used as a salve to serve and enable me for the week to come. This kind of gathering is not obedient gathering, this is a kind selfishness that ignores the centrality of Christ and commands of submission and worship. The desire for obedience is good, but we must ask ourselves if it flourishes in all areas of Christian living or simply in this aspect of gathering for my own personal benefit.

It is good to desire gathering as the Church, the Church gathers to bring mutual glory, honour and worship to the King. We submit to Him, He continues to sanctify us so that we might bring Him glory and honour. While we consider the reality of meeting together, and just why we should desire this. It is incumbent upon us to consider all of the other areas we are commanded to obedience in. We are to have a spirit of humility and obedience, to serve in our churches and give of ourselves. Under the authority of our local church we must engage in reaching out to neighbours and friends with the message of the Gospel. Biblical Church membership submits humbly to pastors and elders — to correction and rebuke, it gives financially of it’s abundance. We submit to the headship of Christ and shirk worldliness, we redeem our time and offer thanks in all things. As we demand our right to gather, have we committed to redeeming our lockdown time invested in reading God’s Word and prayer? I need to reflect on that.

It is good to desire gathering as the Church. Social Distancing and this context of worshipping at home — together but apart — has given us an opportunity to look critically at our relationship with the Church. If Church is simply your name on a list and a spot on Sunday morning to consume a sermon and music, then obedience to gathering is only one area of obedience you should be concerned about. We have an opportunity to consider our relationship with the Church, both in gathering and in submitted service to the King, the head of the Church. Don’t simply pursue what you perceive you have lost, pursue Christ and strive for a deep, committed, humble faith that informs your worship and ultimately is for the Glory of God.

We must all return to gathering together again in person as Christians for corporate worship, at the appropriate time. This is an obedience that cannot be set aside. What we must examine in the meantime is our attitudes and affections in approaching this return to gathering. Every Biblical Church should be flourishing with humble submitted Christians chomping at the bit to serve God together, having invested their lock-down time in a faithful pursuit of God in His word and in prayer.

Our affections right now, as always, should be the pursuit of God in Christ by His Holy Spirit.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Dining With Wolves

“Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravaging wolves.” Matthew 7:15
During this time of social distancing, so many of us have been engaging with preachers and teachers online in ways we have never considered before. But have we considered the importance of employing good discernment as we do this?

As much as there are fantastic resources and wonderful gospel teachings available right now — there is also available an abundance of bad teaching and heresy. It is vital that Christians very carefully consider what they consume and what they share. It is vital that Christians point their brothers and sisters in Christ and their unsaved friends, family and neighbours to resources that proclaim the truth.

Here are a few guidelines you can use as you consider whether or not a particular teacher is suitable for you to listen to and share or disregard and denounce.

The Bones
Does the sermon expound scripture? Is the sermon an exposition of the text, explaining it’s meaning and applying it to the Christian life? Just because a teacher or preacher opens their Bible doesn’t mean they are adequately preaching the Word. If they are simply using the text as window dressing to prop up their ideas — a red flag should go up in your mind. So often a preacher will simply read a few passages and then move on with their narrative. Proper exposition will walk through the text and proclaim each part in clarity. If the preacher never opens their bible — flee from their teaching.
“All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17
The Meat
Does the teacher proclaim the gospel? Is it made clear what it means to be a Christian or how to follow Jesus? What I don’t mean is that they must have an altar call and big appeal to conversion. The message of Jesus is applicable to every day of the Christian life and the reality of it needs to be included in every message.
“Leave Christ out? O my brethren, better leave the pulpit out altogether. If a man can preach one sermon without mentioning Christ’s name in it, it ought to be his last, certainly the last that any Christian ought to go to hear him preach.” ~ Charles Spurgeon
The Face
The preaching of God’s Word should be primarily about the text of God’s Word. Sometimes application can and should be made to current events, when the text demands it and the circumstances warrant it. I have unfortunately seen a number of “sermons” making the rounds on social media of late that are anything but; they are overly conspiratorial and political and qualify only as speeches, not sermons or biblical teaching. If the primary thrust of the sermon is rooted in opinion and void of Scriptural truth you should pause, evaluate and check for meat and bones. The central figure to the message should always be God.
“Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for God’s glory.” 1 Corinthians 10:31
The Feet
But what if there is some truth we can glean from any teacher? All I can say is this, a drop of poison in the cup still kills the one who drinks it. Either a teacher is trustworthy and submitted to scripture or they are not. There are so many false teachers that use just a drop of truth, or who sound trustworthy at first - for this reason we must exercise wisdom and faith. I would suggest you ask your own pastor to help you in discerning if the teachers you are engaging with are suitable and appropriate. Once you determine if a teacher is a false teacher or not be engaged in denouncing those who are false.
“Don’t participate in the fruitless works of darkness, but instead expose them.” Ephesians 5:11
The Eyes
Scripture gives us guidance for recognizing and false teachers and heretics, and it gives us commands to avoid and denounce these. We are disobedient and at risk when we cease to employ biblical discernment. Christian Grace doesn’t tolerate those who lie about our Magnificent God for the sake of social politeness. We can, and should, be kind and polite, but we should never tolerate or consume the teaching of those who are preaching another gospel.
“If anyone teaches other doctrine and does not agree with the sound teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ and with the teaching that promotes godliness, he is conceited, understanding nothing, but has a sick interest in disputes and arguments over words. From these come envy, quarreling, slander, evil suspicions, and constant disagreement among people whose minds are depraved and deprived of the truth, who imagine that godliness is a way to material gain.” 1 Timothy 6:3-5
As you spend time at home, away from your Church family, enjoy wonderful teaching online and in books. But as you do, God has commanded you to be wise.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

The Days Are Evil, We Don't Have To Be

It can feel like prison. Quarantine, self-isolation, lock-down, social distancing; a new cultural "normal" has confronted all of us in various ways. Depending on where we live, this is walked out in different ways — wearing masks, avoiding crowds, visiting back and forth with just a single family. It can all be so very overwhelming and confusing. The seemingly totalitarian leadership of our governments, the conspiracy theories proliferating social media and the aggressive response from neighbours on various sides of the issue.

Our Chains
Our current state of quarantine coupled with earthquakes, tornados, locusts, wildfiresgiant hornets, food shortages, violence, aliens, government overreach and civil unrest can leave us feeling like 2020 is out of control (it isn't!). What is a Christian supposed to do? How do we have any hope?

Ultimately, there is only one true prison. Temporal discomforts aside, no matter how evil or unjust our governments may become or how mistreated we may feel, even if our leaders turn to a very real and measurable persecution of Christians — true freedom only ever exists in the person of Jesus Christ. When enslaved to sin (Romans 6:20), our only lot is to hold as tightly as we can to our affections; to fight and claw to protect and maintain whatever thing we hold most dear. When enslaved (1 Corinthians 6:20) to Christ (1 Peter 2:16), our hope and joy is in holding fast to our good and holy God; striving to simply obedience in all things (Ephesians 6:6), open handed and in faith.

This holds true in 2020. This Covid-19 pandemic, no matter what the conspiracies, reasonings, abuses or oppressions, no of it holds any power. Ultimately Christ is King (even during a pandemic), and His commands hold true for us today as they did yesterday. We need not fear any of the world events that seem to be mounting to a roiling crescendo (2 Timothy 1:7), we need to fall on our faces before our good and holy God (Ecclesiastes 12:13) in obedience and fear.

Our Hope
The absolute worst possible outcome for anyone is death. For the Christian this is a great hope and comfort (John 11:25). Our only true concern in these dark days should be obedience and faith. No matter what is spinning outside the window or how corrupt the media may become, we need only remain faithful and obedient, giving thanks always (Ephesians 5:20, 1 Thessalonians 5:18). The Christian is commanded to deny self (Matthew 16:24-26), set ourselves aside and hold Christ as the central figure of our lives (Colossians 1:15-17). To live in a posture of repentance (Luke 13:3, Acts 3:19) and faith (Ephesians 2:8). And to surrender the entirety of our affections to our good and set apart God (Matthew 22:37).

Consider Paul, he was an actual prisoner — persecuted directly because of his faith. His times in prison were punctuated by faith and obedience, exemplifying a greater concern for the spiritual wellbeing of those separated from God than for his own physical comforts or "rights" (Philippians 1:3-11).

Redeeming the Days
Do we spend our days wringing our hands, complaining about our lot, fighting with people online who are just "wrong" about oh so much. The temptation is real and creeps into my own heart from time to time. Christian, I want to challenge you — as I challenge myself, consider these evil days as Paul commands in Ephesians 5 (I encourage you to read the entire chapter).
“Pay careful attention, then, to how you walk—not as unwise people but as wise— making the most of the time, because the days are evil.” Ephesians 5:15-16
We have all of this time available to us that we can be using to love our neighbours, care for their needs, preach to them the gospel of Jesus Christ. We can begin redeeming the time by first obeying the command at the outset of chapter 5 of Ephesians; “Therefore, be imitators of God, as dearly loved children. And walk in love, as the Messiah also loved us and gave Himself for us, a sacrificial and fragrant offering to God.”