Archive for the ‘The Church’ Category

Not of the World!

posted by pastorken
Jan 15

We would soon hear all the dogs of Hell baying with all their might against us!

(Charles Spurgeon)

“If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.” John 15:19

There would be much more persecution than there is if there were more real Christians. But we have become so like the world, that the world does not hate us as it once did. If we would be more holy, more true, more Christ-like, more godly – we would soon hear all the dogs of Hell baying with all their might against us!

Remember, my brethren, whoever you may be, that if there is no distinction between you and the world around you then you may be certain that you are of the world. For, there must always be some marks in the children of God to distinguish them from the ungodly. There is a something in them which is not to be found in the best worldling something which is not to be discovered in the most admirable carnal man. A something in their character which can be readily perceived and which marks them as belonging to another and higher race, the twice-born, the elect of God, eternally chosen by Him and, therefore, made to be choice ones through the effectual working of His grace.

“I have given them Your word and the world has hated them–for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world.” John17:14


This Is No Gospel!

posted by pastorken
Sep 15

The Evangelistic Methods of Our Present Golden-calf Christianity!      (A.W. Tozer)

 

Any objection to the evangelistic methods of our present golden-calf Christianity, is met with the triumphant reply, “But we are winning the lost!”

And what are you winning them to?

To true discipleship?
To cross-carrying?
To self-denial?
To separation from the world?
To crucifixion of the flesh?
To holy living?
To nobility of character?
To a despising of the world’s treasures?
To total committal to Christ?

Of course, the answer to all these questions is NO!


They Will Never Perish!

posted by pastorken
Sep 1

If Only One of God’s Sheep were to Perish!   

                                                    (Darvin Pruitt)

“My sheep hear My voice, I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish – ever! No one will snatch them out of My hand!” John 10:27-28

If only one of God’s sheep were to perish
. . .
the purpose of God would be frustrated,
the power of God would be resisted,
the promise of God would be broken,
the faithfulness of God would be a mockery
and the Word of God proved to be a lie.

“I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord!” Romans 8:38-39


Aug 15

The Matchless Wisdom of God which Devised this System of Salvation!

(Charles Spurgeon)

“Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her!” Ephesians 5:25

The more I consider the doctrine of substitution the more is my soul enamored of the matchless wisdom of God which devised this system of salvation. As for a hazy atonement which atones for everybody in general, and for nobody in particular; an atonement made equally for Judas and for John – I care nothing for it. But a literal, substitutionary sacrifice, Christ vicariously bearing the wrath of God on my behalf – this calms my conscience with regard to the righteous demands of the law of God, and satisfies the instincts of my nature which declare that, as God is just, He must exact the penalty of my guilt!

 “I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep!” John 10:11


These are not Suggestions!

posted by pastorken
Jul 1

These are not suggestions

about what God’s people ought to be:

                                                       (Don Fortner)

“We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10

Since God has ordained that His people walk in good works, we are assured that God will graciously cause them to do so by the sweet constraint of His grace.

Grace experienced, makes Christians gracious.

Mercy tasted, makes Christians merciful.

Faith bestowed, makes Christians faithful.

Kindness known, makes Christians kind.

Forgiveness enjoyed, makes Christians forgiving.

Love felt, makes Christians loving.

These are not suggestions about what God’s people ought to be
, but statements of fact about what all true believers are.

Believers are a people who, being saved by grace, ruled by love, and motivated by gratitude–seek the will and glory of God in all things.

“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age” Titus 2:11-12



Suffering Financially before the World

by David Briones; Tabletalk Magazine, 2016

Financial suffering is a reality in the lives of many Christians today. Many of us are familiar with the vulnerable moments of financial crisis. Will I be able to get a job this month? Will I have enough money to pay rent? Will I be able to make my car payment? Will I be able to put food on the table for my wife and kids?

Sadly, this form of suffering is frequently written off as a First World problem. After all, physical persecution is the only way a Christian can suffer on behalf of the gospel, right? Not according to Paul. He certainly suffered physically (2 Cor. 1:8–9; 4:8; 11:23–26), but he also suffered emotionally (11:28), spiritually (v. 29), and financially (1 Cor. 4:11–12; 2 Cor. 6:5; 11:27). Even so, little consideration is given to how God uses financial suffering in the church to shine the light of the gospel in a dark world. But we can learn a rich lesson about enduring poverty from Philippians 4:10–13.

This passage is well known for all the wrong reasons. Many well-intentioned Christians misuse, misinterpret, and misapply the divine promise of Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” They assume that it means God will provide anything and everything they desire in this life. They cling to this verse like a lucky rabbit’s foot, rubbing it while repeating the promise in order to receive all that they desire. For many, this includes monetary gain. But Philippians 4:13 doesn’t make that kind of promise. When read in context, we see that God promises contentment, not by pulling us out of financial suffering but by empowering us to endure it with contentment. We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us, and the world will notice it.

Let’s consider the context of Philippians 4:10–13 for a moment. Paul penned these words from a jail cell (1:7, 13, 14). Unlike today, prisoners in the ancient world relied entirely on friends and family members to provide food and clothing. The state offered very little help. Paul was completely dependent on the mercy of others. He was vulnerable and in need. He was suffering physically and financially. Thankfully, the Philippian believers expressed their concern tangibly by sending material gifts to their imprisoned Apostle (2:29–30; 4:18). Surprisingly, in response to the Philippians’ generosity, Paul “rejoices in the Lord” (4:10); that is, the “Lord Jesus Christ” (1:2; cf. 2:11, 19; 3:8, 20). He alone “revived” the Philippians’ concern for Paul, which allowed Paul to experience relief from his financial suffering in prison. “I have received full payment,” Paul declares, “and I abound” (4:18). The Philippians’ gift placed Paul in a state of material abundance.

And yet, Paul prohibits the Philippians from thinking that his joy in the Lord is entirely over their material gift. That is why he immediately includes a disclaimer, “Not that I speak according to need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content” (v. 11). From the world’s perspective, contentment comes from within oneself. One strives in one’s own strength to become content. This is self-sufficiency at its finest.

But for the Christian, true contentment comes from outside oneself. “I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things [lit.] in Christ who strengthens me” (vv. 12–13). This is not self-sufficiency but Christ-sufficiency. The source of strength to experience contentment on both sides of the economic spectrum is found “in Christ.” Our union with Christ by faith enables us to endure lowliness, hunger, need, and even the most severe financial suffering with contentment. For the branch “can do nothing” apart from the vine (John 15:5). But “in Christ,” we can do all things. We can abound financially or suffer financially with contentment.

While the world looks to itself in financial suffering, the Christian looks to Christ. This is precisely how believers shine as lights in the world. I will never forget my wife’s concern about our finances when I was completing my Ph.D. in England. A fierce argument ensued. Anxieties and fears were disclosed.

And there were many tears. But when we came to our Christian senses, we fell on our knees, prayed to the Lord, forgave one another, and listened to His voice in Scripture. In God’s timing, a sense of peace fell over us—to the point where we not only read but also proclaimed Habakkuk 3:17–19a:

Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength.

Many Christians are acquainted with this peace that surpasses all understanding during financial crises. Though the world looks for contentment in all the wrong places, Christians can cope with financial suffering in a manner that demonstrates their utter dependence on Jesus Christ. While the world may commend the strength of your faith during financial hardships, you can declare the strength that Christ provides by faith in the gospel. The good news is that despite your financial situation in this life, Christ suffered and died for the sins of His people, delivered them from eternal suffering, and will ultimately bring them to eternal rest with God. And since He has pledged His love for you in the gospel, He will never leave nor forsake you—even when you suffer financially (Heb. 13:5).


May 15

The Christian Life as Pilgrimage

by Derek Thomas; Tabletalk Magazine, March 2016

Who would true valour see,
Let him come hither;
One here will constant be,
Come wind, come weather.
There’s no discouragement
Shall make him once relent
His first avowed intent
To be a pilgrim.

A half-century ago, I sang these words in school assemblies set to music composed by Ralph Vaughan Williams. The words appear in Part 2 of John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress as part of Mr. Valiant-for-Truth’s testimony. Earlier, Valiant had introduced himself to Mr. Great-heart and his companions with the words, “I am a Pilgrim, and am going to the celestial city.”

All Christians are pilgrims heading to the celestial city. Bunyan was simply reflecting the Bible that he loved. Scripture affirms that Christians are pilgrims. In the paradigmatic covenant made with our father Abraham, God promised him Canaan as “the land of your sojournings” (Gen. 17:8). And in the New Testament, Peter reflects the same idea when he describes his readers as “elect exiles” (1 Peter 1:1; cf. 1:17, “the time of your exile”). Similarly, in reviewing the faithful believers of Old Testament history, the author of Hebrews refers to them as “strangers and exiles” (Heb. 11:13).

The Christian life is a road trip, a journey of the most exhilarating kind. It has a starting point and a terminus. It is a metaphor of movement. Christians do not stay in one place too long, for they are set for another location. Early Christians were referred to as the followers of “the Way”—a reflection that they seemed determined to follow a different path (Acts 9:224:14).

Several issues arise. First, there is the idea of an adventure. Yes, adventure. If Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit initially shunned adventure because it upset the equilibrium of his routine way of life in the Shire, he would later record his extraordinary journey in a breathless tale bearing the subtitle There and Back Again.

Christians explore a somewhat different journey—Here to There, perhaps. But it is nevertheless a journey equally as exciting, fraught with tales of valor and danger. There is something exciting about the Christian life. New glimpses of God’s provision, intervention, and rescue await at every turn. We have no idea what a day may bring forth (Prov. 27:1), but we may be assured that nothing happens without our heavenly Father willing it to happen. We are called to follow our Master wherever He leads us—in green pastures beside still waters, as well as in the presence of enemies and a valley of shadow and death (Ps. 23).

My friend and predecessor at the church I now serve, a name familiar enough to readers of Tabletalk, Sinclair Ferguson, often ended his sermons with an exclamatory “Isn’t it wonderful to be a Christian!” Yes, it is a thing of great wonder, an exciting adventure every second of the way.

Second, pilgrimage is evocative of the transitory nature of this life. “Here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come” (Heb. 13:14). “The things that are seen are transient” (2 Cor. 4:18). What does it mean to refer to this life as “transient”? The answer lies in the tension evoked in the New Testament between the “now” and the “not yet.” Christians are those upon whom “the end of the ages has come” (1 Cor. 10:11). Something of the world to come has already perforated our spacetime existence and has claimed us as citizens of another realm (Phil. 3:20).

This perspective raises fundamental tensions. In one sense, we live here with a variety of responsibilities as citizens of this world. The reclusive life of withdrawal and abstinence is not a biblical worldview. This bizarre view of life is caricatured in Simeon Stylites the Elder, a man who climbed a pole in Syria in AD 423 and remained there for thirty-seven years until he died. This is a denial of Christianity, not its affirmation. Christians get involved in society. Christians reshape society. They are lights in dark places. A new affection has overtaken Christians that makes everything else seem paltry and trite. In the words of Thomas Chalmers, the Christian life is ignited by the “expulsive power of a new affection.”

A third aspect of pilgrimage is a sense of direction, a goal, an end point. The journey has a destination. Christianity provides a shalom, a sense of wholeness and completeness. Christians know who they are and where they are going. Aimlessness and drift characterize so much of life without the embrace of Christ.

Christians “look” for “things unseen” (2 Cor. 4:18, where the Greek verb “to look” suggests an intense, steady gaze). It sounds like a paradox: we look for something that cannot be seen. Glory awaits, and Christian pilgrims maintain a steady but determined discipline of facing forward. What lies ahead fills our vision and keeps us expectant. What awaits steady pilgrims surpasses expectation and defies explanation.

“Onward and upward! To Narnia and the North!” is a statement in C. S. Lewis’ Narnia tale The Horse and His Boy. All pilgrims of the cross agree: onward and upward!


May 1

There’s no cost of being a Christian in America!

(Leonard Ravenhill)

I went to a church not along ago, they got thirty acres. So what are their plans with it? They want their own football field and tennis courts. Dear God, do we go to church to learn to play tennis? God help the preachers!

We have such an accommodating Christianity today.

The best title of the professing church of God today, in my judgment, is “Unbelieving Believers.” There’s cancer in the church tonight!

At this grim hour, the world sleeps in the darkness–and the Church sleeps in the light.

You’ll never get me to believe that the church today believes in Hell.

We’re a million, billion miles away from New Testament Christianity!

I doubt if 5% of professing Christians in America are born again!

Entertainment is the devil’s substitute for joy. The more joy you have in the Lord, the less entertainment you need.

Is the world crucified to you–or does it fascinate you?

The apostles had no gold, but lots of glory. We have lots of gold, but no glory.
The book of Acts shows us the church before it became fat and short of breath by prosperity!

Who or what takes priority over God in our lives?

Where, oh, where are the eternity-conscious believers?

Where are the souls white-hot for God because they fear His holy name and presence and so live with eternity’s values in view?

There’s no cost of being a Christian in America!

I’d rather have ten people who want God than 10,000 people who want to play church!


Mar 1

The Right Kind of Freedom

by Nate Shurden; Tabletalk, 2/2016

They were truly delightful. Probably in their late fifties, recently retired, just relocated to Franklin, Tenn., to be closer to their grandkids. They started attending the church several months earlier and had just expressed excitement about participating in the upcoming inquirers’ class. Hearing this, I was encouraged but mistakenly concluded that signing up for the inquirers’ class meant they were exploring the possibility of membership. I innocently began to ask about churches they were members of in the past when the conversation shifted.

“I’m sorry. I’m afraid we misled you,” they said. “Even if we attend the inquirers’ class, we won’t be joining the church.” Surprised, and a little confused, I asked why that would be the case. “We don’t do membership. We’ve found it comes with certain expectations about attendance and involvement, and we just prefer to be freer than that.”

Though rarely expressed so honestly, such sentiment is representative of a significant number of professing Christians across North America. It seems many are happy to maintain a loose a liation with a church fellowship, but consider membership just a little too much commitment for their tastes.

To be fair, some of the views or feelings expressed about membership stem from bad experiences in local churches. It is true that some churches and denominations have a history of using membership as a legalistic billy club. If someone is coming from that background, it will take time to heal, build trust, and reshape what biblical church membership is supposed to look like.

Other Christians have simply never been taught a biblical view of membership and instinctively connect the word with the Rotary Club and Costco. For this person, the idea of membership feels like an exclusive clique where only those who pay the dues are welcome. Again, biblical instruction coupled with loving care will often lead these brothers and sisters into joyously committing to membership.

In my experience, however, an increasing percentage of professing Christians resist making the membership plunge for the reason the couple of above stated: “We prefer to be freer than that.” Here’s the question though: Is the freedom of non-membership the freedom God wants for us?

When we take an honest look at Scripture, it is clear that we are redeemed not to be alone or loosely associated but to be numbered among the body of Christ. And contrary to how it may feel at times, membership is exactly the kind of freedom for which we have been designed.

At first blush, it may seem odd to call membership the kind of freedom we’re designed to experience, but that is the way Scripture speaks of it. One of the primary ways Scripture speaks of membership is with reference to the metaphor of the physical body.

In Ephesians 4:1–16 and 1 Corinthians 12:1–27, Christian membership is analogous to the membership shared by the various parts of our body. The way your hand and foot are attached to your physical body is the same way individual Christians are to be attached to Christ and other Christians. The Bible is giving us a picture of a fellowship that is so interrelated and interdependent that true life and belonging cannot be expected without each part’s being connected to one another. Very simply, we cannot be ourselves by ourselves (Rom. 12:5).

Now, from a certain angle, one could argue that a hand or foot’s attachment to the body is restrictive. It is true that an attached hand or foot is not experiencing the “liberty” of being unattached from the body. The question we should ask is whether the so-called liberty of being unattached to the body is the kind of liberty the hand or foot is designed to experience. Can the hand or the foot be what they are supposed to be without the body? Can we expect the hand and foot to function and develop without the body? The obvious answer is no.

To be honest, the situation is far more serious than a matter of functioning and development. It’s a matter of life and death. When a hand or foot is dismembered from the body, the very life of the hand or foot is drained out of it. It ceases to live. This is not to mention the fact that it’s very disturbing to see a part of the body cut off. Interestingly, when a hand or foot is attached to a body as it’s designed, it strikes us as the most ordinary thing in the world. But if you see a hand lying on the ground, it’s traumatic—the stuff of horror movies.

It makes sense, then, why John Calvin, leaning heavily on the early church fathers, argued that the church is the “bosom [in which] God is pleased to gather his sons, not only that they may be nourished by her help and ministry as long as they are infants and children, but also that they may be guided by her motherly care until they mature and at last reach the goal of faith … so that, for those to whom he is Father the church may also be Mother” (Institutes 4.1.1).

Far from being restrictive to our freedom, membership in a local church is the exact condition and constraint that makes for a healthy—and free—Christian life. In the end, membership really is the right kind of freedom.



Are you not put to shame by every little bird that sits upon the bough and sings, though it has not two grains of barley in all the world?

(Charles Spurgeon, “A Good Start!”)

 

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life what you will eat or drink; or about your body what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. Matthew 6:25-32

Undue anxiety is very common among the unsaved I suppose they cannot help it. Yet Christians must help it; for the Lord’s precept is plain and binding: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus!” Philippians 4:6-7

Fretful anxiety is forbidden to the Christian!

It is needless. “Look at the birds of the air,” said Christ: “they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” If you have a Father in Heaven to care for you are you not put to shame by every little bird that sits upon the bough and sings, though it has not two grains of barley in all the world? God takes charge of the birds of the air, and thus they live exempt from anxious care – why do not we?

Our Lord also taught that such anxiety is useless as well as needless; for, with all our care, we cannot add a single hour to our life!

Can we do anything else by fretful care? What if the farmer deplores that there is no rain? Do his fears unstop the bottles of Heaven? Or if the merchant sighs because the wind detains his ship laden with goods will his complaining turn the gale to another quarter?

We do not better ourselves a bit, by all our fretting and fuming. It would be infinitely wiser to do our best and then casts our care upon our God!

Prudence is wisdom for it adapts means to ends. But anxiety is folly for it groans and worries, and accomplishes nothing!

Besides, according to our Savior, anxiety about worldly things is heathenish: “For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them!” They have no God and no providence and therefore they try to be a providence to themselves. Let the heir of Heaven act a nobler part than the mere man of the world who has his portion in this life, and lives without God and without hope.

Our distrust of our God is both childish and dishonoring. I was driven through the streets one day by a friend in a four-wheeled carriage, and he, being a good driver, must needs drive into narrow places, where it seemed to me that we would be crushed by the vans and omnibuses. I shrank back in my timidity, and expressed my unwise alarms so freely, that with a smile he laid the reins in my hand, and said, “If you cannot trust me would you like to drive yourself?” From that ambition I was wholly free, and I assured him that he might drive as he liked, rather than make me the charioteer!

Surely, the great God might well put the same proposal to those who are complaining of His providence. If we cannot trust Him could we manage better ourselves?

If we are Christians, let us believe in our God, and leave the governance of the great world to the Lord God, our heavenly Father, who will surely cause all things to work together for good to those who love Him!