News, Views and Whatnot for 3/31/2012

Pastor Matt discusses freedom of religion, conscience and enterprise in YOU THINK YOU’RE FREE? (03/27/12).

Pastor Matt is also reading through the Constitution: READING THROUGH THE CONSTITUTION–ARTICLE I, SECTION 4. I’m enjoying this series.

David Murray – So how do you know if you are a workaholic? Workaholics Anonymous – yes, there is such an organization – provides 20 questions. They include: Workaholism.

Robert Spencer is blogging again! He has always been one of my favorite reads. Check him out at Gospel Chronicles. I’m excited about this!

So Good: Everything (Jesus) Is Amazing And Nobody’s Happy over at Holiday at the Sea.

“I worry that we’re simply emphasizing our culture’s consumeristic tendencies rather than challenging them. I find it instructive that the church actually thrives in cultures of persecution and lulls itself in to complacency in most of the free world.”

Pastor Dave muses on when followers of Christ have liberty and when we are just engaging in license (HT: Matt Rawlings).

Please Stop Apologizing – We have become a nation of pansies. “I don’t want to be, ahem, ‘offended’.” Who cares if someone says something you don’t like? Grow a backbone and shrug it off. It’s called freedom of speech.

The Most Aggressively Inarticulate Generation

Your Right Hand Upholds Me

A Psalm of David, when he was in the wilderness of Judah.

63:1 O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
2 So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
beholding your power and glory.
3 Because your steadfast love is better than life,
my lips will praise you.
4 So I will bless you as long as I live;
in your name I will lift up my hands.

5 My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food,
and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,
6 when I remember you upon my bed,
and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
7 for you have been my help,
and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.
8 My soul clings to you;
your right hand upholds me.

9 But those who seek to destroy my life
shall go down into the depths of the earth;
10 they shall be given over to the power of the sword;
they shall be a portion for jackals.
11 But the king shall rejoice in God;
all who swear by him shall exult,
for the mouths of liars will be stopped.

The Gospel is so rich. You can not not find the Gospel in this Psalm. Here are my thoughts in bite-size thoughts on the first eight verses:

  • We can only seek God in the Gospel (through Christ) v. 1
  • Jesus is the water of life; He is the One we thirst after. v. 1
  • The sanctuary of God is wherever God lives more specifically with true believers. David looks upon God via memories of corporate worship. v. 2
  • God Himself is better than drawing breath. v. 3, 4
  • David finds all of his longings met in God. v. 5, 6, 7
  • David clings to God with all his might, yet God’s right hand upholds him. We cling to God but Jesus (God’s Right Hand) upholds us in our clinging. v. 8

This is the Gospel. The Gospel is the power unto clinging and the Gospel upholds us in our clinging. It is all of God in Christ.

Pursuing the Gospel Or Its Fruit ?

The Gospel Changes Everything.

But if the Gospel changes everything, why do we reach for “doing” rather than “believing”?

People love, love, love their religion. Religion makes us feel good. When we participate in religion, we gain a sense of accomplishment. A sense that we are actually doing something good for God. We think we are accepted by God based on our doing.

Surrender to God? Check. Loving others? Check. Seeking peace? Check. Acceptable to God? Not so much (See Isaiah 64:6).

These things are fruit. Fruit of the Spirit–the Spirit of Christ that dwells within us.

There is a difference between focusing on the Gospel and focusing on the fruit of the Gospel.

Focusing on “surrender” inherently draws our attention and action inwardly. “Can I muster enough effort to surrender enough?” But focusing on the Gospel automatically motivates me to surrender.

Do you see the difference? This is subtle but so freeing. One is looking at the fruit, but the other looks to the Tree of Life (Jesus and His Gospel) and the fruit of looking at the Gospel is produced in our lives.

Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

The fruit of the Spirit mentioned in Galatians 5 is not an exhaustive list. We could add surrender to Jesus, humility, wisdom, godliness, growing in faith for faith, eating and drinking to the glory of God, abhorring and running from sin, orphan care, and the list could go on and on.

The bottom line: Pursuing the fruit establishes religion. Looking to Jesus and His Good News (the Gospel) produces fruit.

Pursuing the fruit is religion. Pursuing the Gospel is Christianity.

Preventing Orphan Care

Sadly, orphan care is necessary. More than 100,000 orphans are waiting to be adopted in the U.S. right now.

Yes, many circumstances are beyond the child’s control but more to the point, many circumstances are beyond the control of parents.

But much of the control is within the control of the parents.

“Children are suffering from a hidden epidemic of child abuse and neglect. Over 3 million reports of child abuse are made every year in the United States; however, those reports can include multiple children. In 2007, approximately 5.8 million children were involved in an estimated 3.2 million child abuse reports and allegations.” via ChildHelp.org.

  • A report of child abuse is made every ten seconds
  • Almost five children die every day as a result of child abuse. More than three out of four are under the age of 4
  • It is estimated that between 60-85% of child fatalities due to maltreatment are not recorded as such on death certificates
  • 90% of child sexual abuse victims know the perpetrator in some way; 68% are abused by family members
  • Child abuse occurs at every socioeconomic level, across ethnic and cultural lines, within all religions and at all levels of education
  • 31% percent of women in prison in the United States were abused as children
  • Over 60% of people in drug rehabilitation centers report being abused or neglectedas a child
  • About 30% of abused and neglected childrenwill later abuse their own children,continuing the horrible cycle of abuse
  • About 80% of 21 year old that were abused as children met criteria for at least one psychological disorder
  • The estimated annual cost of child abuse and neglect in the United States for 2007 is $104 billion
  • Abused children are 25% more likely to experience teen pregnancy
  • Abused teens are 3 times less likely to practice safe sex, putting them at greater risk for STDs

Read more statistics here.

The issue of orphan care is not just about orphans; it’s about potential orphans, but more specifically parents who have the power to prevent children from becoming orphans. It’s not just about children. This is about parents who are being parents.

This is why parents need the Gospel. Because of the Gospel, “be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. … Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. (Ephesians 5:1-2; 6:4).

The Gospel changes everything even the prevention of doing orphan care.

Why Church Membership? Humility

Note: In short, read the book Humility: True Greatness by CJ Mahaney for a popular yet fuller treatment of Humility.

This is a short treatment of why I believe church membership is a biblical practice. Yes, Scripture does not explicitly command membership. However, implications of the five reasons addressed leave no other conclusion but church membership. This is a rough draft and certainly not complete in thought, but the intent and conclusion should be evident. The overarching question to consider while reading is, “Am I truly living humbly before God as He desires me to live? Am I humiliating myself as Christ humiliated Himself even to the extent of becoming a member of humanity and ultimately dying for all who believe in Him- even the death on the cross?”

My simple aim is to demonstrate the biblical necessity for church membership. The details regarding church membership are beyond the scope of this tiny series. Once we have established the biblical necessity for church membership, we must then deal with the details- which is something I do not want to take the time to go through at this time.

Let me say right out, there is no perfect church. There can’t be. Every local body of believers is FILLED only with fallen people- in need of a Savior, in need of fellowship and breaking of bread and the constant reminder we are not Lone Ranger Christians. We are a BODY of believers – not a group of individuals. Like the eye can not take the place of the rest of the body, neither can we being a part of the body substitute the whole.

Like you, I once (and still do at times) resent the idea of church membership. However, I began to realize, this hard grace of God is necessary for our edification and sanctification.

With this said, please read this in the spirit in which it is intended- to share the necessity of this grace in which we live.

“Contrary to popular and false belief, it’s not ‘those who help themselves’ whom God helps; it’s those who humble themselves.” ~ C. J. Mahaney, Humility: True Greatness (Multnomah Publishers, Inc., 2005), 21.

“It is evident that man never attains to a true self-knowledge until he has previously contemplated the face of God, and come down after such contemplation to look into himself.” ~ John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, vol. 1 (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1990), 38 via C. J. Mahaney, Humility: True Greatness (Multnomah Publishers, Inc., 2005), 21.

“Humility is honestly assessing ourselves in light of God’s holiness and our sinfulness.” ~ C. J. Mahaney, Humility: True Greatness (Multnomah Publishers, Inc., 2005), 22.

“If you were to speak to any of my friends, they would confirm how I continually surprise them with fresh discoveries of my inadequacies. I even provide them a certain degree of entertainment, especially when it comes to the hands-on and the mechanical.

One day my daughter informed me that our car was making a strange noise, so I went out to investigate. She tired to prepare me, but in no way did I anticipate the violent shrieking that assaulted my ears upon starting the car. I immediately turned off the engine.

In such a moment, wisdom demands one course of action only: Get out of the car, walk back into the house, and call a trustworthy auto-repair service.

That would have been the appropriate and prudent response. Instead, I followed the arrogant male instinct, which requires at bare minimum that the male lift the hood and stare intently at the engine. After all, neighbors might be watching, and we want to at least give the appearance that we have some mechanical knowledge.” C. J. Mahaney, Humility: True Greatness (Multnomah Publishers, Inc., 2005), 25-26.

So often “church” is giving the appearance that we have some spiritual knowledge and awakening, yet we often do not want to humbly place ourselves under the Leadership and Lordship of Christ over our lives in and through the church as members.

“At every stage of our Christian development and in every sphere of our Christian discipleship, pride is the greatest enemy and humility our greatest friend.” ~ John Stott, “Pride, Humility & God,” Sovereign Grace Online, September/October 2000, http://www.sovereigngraceministries.org/sgo/v18no5/prt_pride.html (accessed August 3, 2005) via C. J. Mahaney, Humility: True Greatness (Multnomah Publishers, Inc., 2005), 29.

If we have not placed ourselves in covenantal membership in a local assembly, can we say we are truly living humbly before God?

“As I sat with my family at a local breakfast establishment, I noticed a finely dressed man at an adjacent table. His Armani suit and stiffly pressed shirt coordinated perfectly with a power tie. His wing-tip shoes sparkled from a recent shine, every hair was in place, including his perfectly groomed moustache.

The man sat alone eating a bagel as he prrepared for a meeting. As he reviewed the papers before him, he appeared nervous, glancing frequently at his Rolex watch. It was obvious he had an important meeting ahead.

The man stood up and I watched as he straightened his tie and prepared to leave.

Immediately I noticed a blob of cream cheese attached to his finely groomed moustache. He was about to go into the world, dressed in his finest, with cream cheese on his face.

I thought of the business meeting he was about to attend. Who would tell him? Should I? What if no one did?” ~ Attributed to Pastor James R. Needham in a 2004 illustration from www.preachingtoday.com via C. J. Mahaney, Humility: True Greatness (Multnomah Publishers, Inc., 2005), 123-124.

My Own Cream Cheese Moment
“Let me tell you about a cream cheese moment in my life, one of many such experiences that have helped convince me that no sin is more deceptive than pride.

I’m in an accountability group with men who care for and watch over my soul. In a meeting with these brothers, I was telling them of a specific pattern of sin I had noticed in my life in the past week. I’d become aware of this sin and been convicted about it, and I’d confessed it to God and received His forgiveness. Now I wanted to inform these men about it as well–then move on, because there was another particular issue I was more concerned about and wanted to discuss with them.

But as I described in detail my sin from the previous week, my friends started to ask caring and insightful questions about the root issue behind the sin. I assured them the root issue was obvious: It was pride. I even transitioned into a brief teaching on pride, then let the guys know I wanted to move o n to something else I thought was more important and more serious. I’m sure there was mild irritation in my voice.

But the men had more questions. They had observations. And they began to challenge me to look deeper at the pattern of sin I had shown in the previous week.

Again I felt irritation. I assumed I understood that particular sin completely. Why were we spending so much time on something I’d already figured out?

In essence, there was cream cheese all over my face, and I didn’t know it. My underlying sin had decieved me. I was blind. I didn’t see it and couldn’t see it. But they saw it clearly.

In my pride, I thought no one understood my heart as well as I did. But Scripture doesn’t support such a conclusion. Actually, God’s Word tells me, ‘No, C. J., sin is subtle, sin is deceitful, and sin blinds you. And you need feedback from others in order to understand your heart.’

By God’s grace, because the men seated around me in that room are true friends who care for me and aren’t afraid of me, they persevered. Though I was arrogant–not only in assuming I fully understood my sin and its root issue, but also in my relunctance to explore it more deeply–those men persevered in kindness. And only by their kindness and perseverence, and only by God’s grace, did I finally begin to perceive how much my sin had indeed deceived me. I saw that my confidence about fully knowing my soul in this situation, and in assuming I needed no one else’s eyes upon it, was actuallyy the hieight of arrogance.

They were guarding my heart and helping me to see the true extent of my sin. I thought I’d already wiped the cream cheese from my face and it was gone, but they were faithfully telling me, ‘It’s not gone; we’re staring at it! And were telling you this because we love you.'” ~ C. J. Mahaney, Humility: True Greatness (Multnomah Publishers, Inc., 2005), 125-127.

Again, are we truly humiliating ourselves to such a degree that we truly demonstrate the humility of Christ to others?

Eschatology 101 – Four Major Views

If none of this makes much sense, hang with me through this series. Hopefully, it will make sense soon.

  • Dispensational Pre-Tribulation, Pre-Millennialism
  • Historic Pre-millennialism
  • A-millennialism
  • Post-Millennialism

Four major views exist regarding Eschatology, each within the general realm of orthodoxy. They are Dispensational Premillennialism, Historic Premillennialism, Amillennialism, and PostMillennialism.

We must remember, each view:

  1. Accepts all scripture as the inspired word of God; therefore, each professes their view to be based upon Biblical teachings.
  2. Teaches that there will be a future, visible, and bodily return of Christ.
  3. Believes that Jesus Christ is the promised Son of God, that He is God, and that He died as the atoning sacrifice for our sins.
  4. Holds that every human being will at some time receive a resurrected body which will live eternally in either Heaven or Hell.
  5. Holds that the difference in belief comes from the lack of ability to interpret the Bible properly rather than from a lack of loyalty to the Bible.
  6. Acknowledges that the other views are held by able conservative and evangelical scholars.

Dispensationalism
Dispensationalism isn’t so much an Eschatological viewpoint as it is a way to read Scripture. The Old Testament (OT) takes priority over the New Testament (NT) for the sole reason that the OT can stand on its own two feet relating to meaning of words. Words have a specific meaning and we ought not to reinterpret them. Further, we ought not to take a fuller revelation (NT) and read it into the OT.

Secondly, Dispensationalism sees a hard distinction between Israel and the Church – neither shall the twain meet.

Traditionally speaking, Dispensationalism is the only Pe-Tibulation, Pre-Millennial view – Meaning they believe Christ will return before the Great Tribulation and before the Millennium. Within their view, the Rapture (where Christians are taken out of the world) happens before the Tribulation and before the Millennium, hence everything is still future. You could also say Dispensationalists are Futurists.

Historic Premillennialism

Somewhat akin to Dispenationalism’s view is Historic Premillennialism. Historic Premil also sees Christ’s return as coming before the Millennium, but after the Tribulation (Post Trib). They see Scripture as more of a single story about a single people but still draw a soft line between Israel and the Church. Historic Premils can also be classified as Futurists.

As far as Premillennial views go, Historic Premil is the traditional viewpoint. The vast majority of folks who hold the Premil view, also held the Post Trib view. Hence, Historic Premil is the historic, traditional Premil view.

Amillennialism

Amillennialists claim A-millennialism suffers from an unfortunate name. Contrary to popular belief, A-millennialists do, indeed, believe in a millennium. The difference between A-millennialism and Pre-Millennialism is the millennium has been inaugurated during Christ’s first advent, is happening at this very moment, and will be consummated at Christ’s second coming, whereas, Pre-Millennialism believes the millennium is yet solely in the future.

Literally speaking, A-millennialism means, “no millennium”. “A-” meaning no and “millennium” meaning 1000 years. Together mean “no millennium”. As those holding to the Amil position say, apart from this straw man argument against A-millennialism, it is a false charge. In reality the use of its “true meaning” is really the trick of “poisoning the well” in disguise of a “reason against” A-millennialism.

PostMillennialism

PostMillennialism is also PostTribulational. They view Christ’s Second Coming as coming after the Tribulation and After the Millennium. At first glance, you may think, “but that’s what the Amil position holds”. True enough, however, the characteristic of the Millennium is what the disagreement is about between Amil and PostMil.

Amil sees the Millennium in a negative light and PostMil sees it in a positive light. In other words, Amil sees it as “growing worse and worse” and PostMil sees it as becoming essentially “Christianized”.

Both A-millennialists and PostMils view the millennium as beginning at Christ’s first coming and will consummate at Christ’s second coming. The 1000 years (Revelation 20) is viewed as symbolic of the complete church age. Notice it is not viewed figuratively but symbolically. Due to the nature of the book of Revelation as being apocalyptic, These two views see much of the descriptions in the book of Revelation as symbols for very real realities, whereas, figurative language is a metaphor or descriptive of something non-literal or simply a figure of speech:

e.g. Figurative: Luke 13:32 “…Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I finish my course.” vs. Symbolic: Psalm 50:10 “For every beast of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills.”

Of course, Jesus is using a figure of speech to describe a person because the person is not literally a fox. Jesus is conveying the meaning that a person is cunning and/or crafty.

And God owns more than just those cattle on a thousand hills. The meaning of “1000 hills”, and “1000” more specifically, is “total” or “every” or “completely”. In other words, God owns every cattle on every hill. He owns everything. He owns all of them without exception. The 1000 signifies a greater reality. The 1000 is symbolic of a greater meaning. (see 1 Chronicles 16:15)

But with all of this said, the discussion of Revelation 20, the passage which starts the discussion, ironically, should be the last part of the greater discussion of Eschatology. So we will get to Revelation 20 at the tail end of the discussion. For now, there’s a LOT to get your head around with what’s already been presented. We’ll continue another time.

We Are Not Worthy – That’s Why There is Grace

This kind of thinking is no gospel. Where is the good news?

This writer says, “If your love is distracted by someone else then you are not worthy. If your love is not given completely, then you are not worthy.”

But isn’t that the point? None, may I repeat this, none of us is worthy (Isaiah 64:6).

Scripture tells us we love God because He first loved us. We are not worthy of God’s love but that’s Who God is (God is love just don’t confuse with love is God…). God loves us and demonstrated His love for us by sending Jesus to die for our sins and even our bad motives for good things we do.

Even our very effort to be worthy falls completely short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23). Even if I can love God completely, I am still a fallen creature in need of saving.

I can’t pick myself up by my own bootstraps and “be worthy”. It’s impossible.

This is why we need grace. We’re not worthy of anything God gives us except His wrath, and Jesus is our propitiation (He satisfied God’s wrath for us and in our place). Without Christ, we are children of wrath but with Christ we are children of grace.

I am not worthy of God’s love but He certainly is worthy of my love and devotion. Thankfully I rest in Christ’s work on my behalf and not on my own effort or merit.

I am not worthy but Christ is worthy for me and in my place. That’s good news.

God Did Not Call us to Adoption but to Adoption

God has not called my family to pursue adoption, but God has called us to adoption. Let me explain…

My brother and his family pursued adoption because God led them to pursue it. As a result God led my family to pursue adoption– what I call extended adoption. Adoption does not happen in a historical vacuum, nor is adoption limited to the immediate family. Those of us in the extended family have been called to adoption along with them.

We support, accept, and love these children who have been adopted. In fact, I can’t help but treat the adopted children like any other child in the family. After all, they are Cruvers. They have the full rights and privileges of the Cruver household – even the extended Cruver households.

Adoption is a family affair, an extended family affair. It is a community affair.

God, Who is the eternal Community of Three in One, extended Himself in the Spirit to include all those who believe in Jesus, thereby establishing an extended community of persons. (See this video for background to what I mean). All those who believe in Jesus are included in the family of God with the full rights and privileges of being God’s sons and daughters. We are born into God’s family within the confines of community.

Likewise, those adopted in a family are also adopted into the extended family, into the confines of familial community.

God did not call us to adoption but to adoption.

Why Church Membership? Living the Gospel in Practice

John Piper once said,

“Could it be that we are so bent on having immediate, measurable results that we have defined the gospel and evangelism in a way that enables people to understand and respond even without spiritual comprehension and heart change? I fear this is largely why we are so weak as a church. The very foundations have been laid wrongly.”

This directly relates to the issue of Church Membership. Many (American) evangelical Christians, and I will also take the liberty of saying most, do not realize the significance of Church Membership. Most think it as an option of a smorgasbord of choices. But American (insert other free country name here) Christianity is atypical Christianity – by far.

Amercian Christians have never seen true persecution. A “minor” law being passed here and there, maybe, that might have direct impact upon Christians, but generally, nothing comes of it. However, I do not want to minimize the importance of fighting against such laws, by and large, American Christians know nothing about what it is to be truly persecuted. American Christians do not lose their lives for the sake of the Gospel, little alone being mocked and scorned because of their faith. Granted, there may be exceptions, but that’s the point. They are exceptions.

The American government does not darken the door of any church building for the express purpose of jailing all those in attendance simply because they were participating in a non-government sanctioned worship service. Whereas, even in the past month, Christians in China have been persecuted in such a way. American Christians do not lose their lives for the Gospel, but in China, many Christians have died because they rebelled against their human government in this matter.

American Christians take Church Membership for granted, but Christians in other parts of the not-so-free world put their lives in danger when they are baptized in public. I would even say that baptism itself in the not-so-free parts of the world is Church Membership. Their obedience to God can immediately lead to the loss of their own life!

And American Christianity takes Church Membership for granted. It has become a commodity, of sorts, with which we barter and even choose not to use if we don’t feel comfortable within any of the local churches available to us. We don’t want to become a member of any church because the church is “not perfect” or “filled with hypocrites!” This is why many churches have more attenders to services than they have actual members; and even then, many of the members are attending other local churches. We rationalize within our hearts, “if none of the churches in my area meet all of my proposed needs, I will not directly identify with any of them. I will, however, participate to gain the benefits, but I will not participate in such a way that I gain responsiblity.”

Amercian churches have been relegated to a group of selfish, uncommitted, and loyal-less individuals who take everything they can get without the thought of giving in return. Discipleship is for someone else; not me, and accountability is skirted. But the benefits are a-plenty!

This lax attitude toward Church Membership has led to the lack of true Christian authenticity. D.A. Carson says,

“What is at stake is authenticity. . . . Sooner or later Christians tire of public meetings that are profoundly inauthentic, regardless of how well (or poorly) arranged, directed, performed. We long to meet, corporately, with the living and majestic God and to offer him the praise that is his due.”

This thought is intense. It reminds me of the Psalmist’s words, “Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge. I say to the Lord, ‘You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.’ As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight” (Psalm 16). At first glance, David seems to be promoting two very different statements – “I have no good apart from you” and “the saints… are … in whom is all my delight.” The reality of the true believing Christian is the believer’s partaking of God’s very nature (2 Peter 1). When we, as a true believing community, join together in corporate worship, our longing to meet with the living and majestic God and to offer him the praise that is his due is fulfilled! True authentic worship is displayed and God’s glory is proclaimed.

“21. … Where is that true communion the body ought to have with the head, and the uninterrupted influence the head ought to have again upon the body Where are the vital emanations which must needs attend so close an union and the real effects derived again from this union, upon the life, manners, desires, thoughts, actions, and the whole internal and external conduct of a Christian? Again: if the body be considered in relation to the members; where is then that sweet fellowship to be found in our modern church-societies which one member ought to bear to the other, and which makes every one employ its particular gifts for the profit and benefit of the whole, in a manner most abounding and universal, free from hatred, envy, bitterness, strife and animosities, as things utterly inconsistent with the nature of the church, body, and spouse of Christ? Where is that spiritual: sympathy and fellow-feeling, wherewith those that are not dead, but living members of this spiritual body, must needs be affected among themselves? Where is that divine coherence and symmetry not so much in particular opinions, forms, schemes, and modes of an external way of worship, as in spirit, in power, and in reciprocal acts of an endearing love, and of a most cordial friendship?” ( Jacob Boehm – HT: Howard Davis)

Church Membership is not like becoming members of a social club. It is a formal identification of our union with Christ and His body. How shameful it is that Americans take such an identification lightly. In any other context (outside North America), the practice of baptism is the process of Church Membership because the mere public identification with God’s people can be a death sentence.

An objection to church membership may be expressed as, “the first century church did not have church membership, why should we?”

Formal Church Membership, as we know it, was not needed. Mere identification with the church was membership enough. The church(es) of Rome bears witness to this. The Roman Empire was ruled by one man, namely Caesar, whose official titles included ‘son of god’ and whose birthday was proclaimed as ‘good news’. The fact that the church was proclaiming allegience to a King in place of Caesar was to sign a death warrant. When Paul wrote his letter to the Roman church(es), he was sentencing all members of the church in Rome to death; that is, if the letter fell into the wrong hands, namely loyalists to Caesar.

Another objection to Church Membership may be, “but we want people to come to church! If you coerce/force them to become members, they won’t come!”

Although there are false assumptions on which this objection is based, I will only deal with the most forceful of points. Hebrews 13:17 bears heavily upon this objection. “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” For the sake of the undershepherds of a local church, become a member or attend another local church. Undershepherds will give an account for those souls of whom they keep watch!! If I were an Elder/Pastor of a church, I would want to know for whom I will be giving an account!

If you come to my local church to check it out, then come! If you want to join my local church, please do so! But if you want the benefits and none of the responsiblities, then let me direct you to other good, local churches in our area. This is a serious matter! When we take Church Membership lightly, we take the Gospel itself lightly! Even Christ loved the church and gave himself for it.

Oh that we in America would submit to something as small as Church Membership and give ourselves wholly to Christ’s body!!!

THIS Is Grace

Paul writes in his second letter to the church at Corinth, “But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

I awoke to a song on the radio about grace. Mmm…. Grace.

My thoughts turned to what is commonly known by theologians (pardon the pun) as common grace, as well as, special grace.

Both kinds of grace are mediated through Jesus.

John 1:3 explains, “All things were made through Him, and without Him was not any thing made that was made.” In other words, everything that exists is because it was created and made by Jesus. Romans 11:36 conveys this fact, “For from Him (Jesus) and through Him (Jesus) and to Him (Jesus) are all things. To Him (Jesus) be glory forever. Amen.”

Do you realize, you are alive this very moment by the power of Jesus? Hebrews 1:3 tells us, “He (Jesus) is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature, and He upholds the universe by the word of his power.”

This is common to all of creation. All of creation is upheld by the word of his power!

Mmm…. Grace!

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

It is this special grace that saves us. Paul continues in Ephesians, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

Mmm… Grace!

It is grace in Jesus that creates us. It is grace in Jesus that re-creates us through faith in Him. This is nothing of our own doing.

We have nothing to do with our first birth, and we have nothing to do with our second birth. It is all of grace.

And those good works we so want to do for God? Jesus is fruiting through us. In other words, it is the fruit of what Jesus has done on the cross that blooms in our lives (See Galatians 5).

This is good news! This is the Gospel because it is all of Jesus. This is grace.