Posts Tagged ‘church’

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Spiritual Maturity?

Tuesday, May 12th, 2009

From time to time I receive notifications of the surveys Barna Group does relating to religion, and specifically Christians and Christianity. The title of the latest survey is “Many Churchgoers and Faith Leaders Struggle to Define Spiritual Maturity1

The results, though distressing, are not surprising. The sad truth is the results should not surprise anyone familiar with the study the Barna Group released on the 10th of April titled “Most American Christians Do Not Believe that Satan or the Holy Spirit Exist”2

It is an essential and integral part of Scripture that the Holy Ghost exists, is a real person, and the third Person of the Godhead. It is also clear from Scripture that Satan exists and is a real person as well. Thus, without having a basic trust in the Scripture and what the Scripture teaches, how could anyone ever understand what spiritual maturity is, let alone try to get there?

When the study on the existence of the beliefs of “Christians” demonstrates the following:

Four out of ten Christians (40%) strongly agreed that Satan “is not a living being but is a symbol of evil.” An additional two out of ten Christians (19%) said they “agree somewhat” with that perspective. A minority of Christians indicated that they believe Satan is real by disagreeing with the statement: one-quarter (26%) disagreed strongly and about one-tenth (9%) disagreed somewhat. The remaining 8% were not sure what they believe about the existence of Satan.

Although a core teaching of the Christian faith is the divinity and perfection of Jesus Christ, tens of millions of Christians do not accept that teaching.3 More than one-fifth (22%) strongly agreed that Jesus Christ sinned when He lived on earth, with an additional 17% agreeing somewhat.4 Holding the opposing view were 9% who disagreed somewhat5 and 46% who disagreed strongly. Six percent did not have an opinion on this matter6.

Much like their perceptions of Satan, most Christians do not believe that the Holy Spirit is a living force, either. Overall, 38% strongly agreed and 20% agreed somewhat that the Holy Spirit is “a symbol of God’s power or presence but is not a living entity.” Just one-third of Christians disagreed that the Holy Spirit is not a living force (9% disagreed somewhat, 25% disagreed strongly) while 9% were not sure.

Can we then really expect the following findings to be any different:

5. Pastors are surprisingly vague about the biblical references they use to chart spiritual maturity for people.

One of the reasons churches struggle with making disciples may relate to the lack of clarity that pastors have about the underlying biblical passages that address the process of spiritual maturity. This is most clearly reflected in the huge proportion of pastors who give generic responses when asked to identify the most important portions of the Bible that define spiritual maturity. In fact, one-third of pastors simply said “the whole Bible.” Other generic responses included “the gospels” (17%), the New Testament (15%), and Paul’s letters (10%). In all, the survey showed that three-quarters of pastors mentioned some type of generic answer to this query. In addition, one out of every five pastors gave a semi-generic response, such as “Romans” or the “life of Christ.”

As for verse-specific responses (mentioned by just one-fifth of pastors), the most common passages included: Galatians 5, John 3:16, Ephesians 4, Matthew 28, and Romans 12:1-2. Just 2% of pastors specifically identified the Galatians 5 passage relating to the “fruits of the Spirit,” which includes love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control. Theme specific answers represented just 7% of responses, including the Sermon on the Mount, the Great Commission, the Great Commandment, and the Beatitudes.7

The thing that is highlighted most prominently in both studies is the lack of Biblical knowledge and understanding — especially among Pastors. If pastors cannot properly identify spiritual maturity, how in the world are their congregations supposed to grow and be more spiritual? Simply put — they can’t. They are limited by the knowledge and understanding of the under-shepherds who are supposed to feed them.

It is amazing, yet it is not. The amazing part is that they continue to call themselves Christian, yet have little to no idea of what a Christian is, because they won’t read the Scriptures. One of the most important things a child of God must do, is read the Scriptures. This is not go read a book someone wrote about the Scriptures, but actually read the Scriptures themselves.

Why?

Because the Scriptures are the heart and mind of the LORD God toward man. In the 49th Psalm, the 107th Psalm, Isaiah, and many other places in Scripture, the heart of the LORD God toward man is plainly revealed, as it is here:

Hear this, all ye people; give ear, all ye inhabitants of the world: Both low and high, rich and poor, together. My mouth shall speak of wisdom; and the meditation of my heart shall be of understanding. I will incline mine ear to a parable: I will open my dark saying upon the harp. Wherefore should I fear in the days of evil, when the iniquity of my heels shall compass me about?
They that trust in their wealth, and boast themselves in the multitude of their riches; None of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him: (For the redemption of their soul is precious, and it ceaseth for ever:) That he should still live for ever, and not see corruption. (Psalm 49:1-9)

And here:

Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness. Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David. Behold, I have given him for a witness to the people, a leader and commander to the people. Behold, thou shalt call a nation that thou knowest not, and nations that knew not thee shall run unto thee because of the LORD thy God, and for the Holy One of Israel; for he hath glorified thee.

Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it. (Isaiah 55:1-11)

And again here:

Therefore, O thou son of man, speak unto the house of Israel; Thus ye speak, saying, If our transgressions and our sins be upon us, and we pine away in them, how should we then live? Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel? (Ezekiel 33:10-11)

Additionally, there are many other passages that speak to the very same thought and desire of the LORD God that every single soul be saved and reconciled to Him. The LORD God would that every person repent and believe in Christ as their Saviour.

In like manner, the LORD God has published the standard for spiritual maturity. However, if one never reads the Scripture or only reads their “pet” books, or their pastor only preaches from certain books, and on certain subjects, then what do we expect? I would certainly hope that we would not expect spiritual maturity to appear out of thin air and without extensive instruction and admonition from the Scripture. The LORD God has provided in Scripture both the standard for spiritual maturity, and how to get there. He expects us to read the Scripture, be taught by it, and walk in its instruction. It is amazing how very easy it is to find both the standard, and how to get there. In fact, the standard for spiritual maturity ought to be obvious:

For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. (Romans 8:29)

Moreover, the LORD gave indicators and markers so that we could know and understand how we are to work toward that maturity in Christ:

And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. (II Peter 1:5-11)

And He expects all His children to work toward the end of being conformed to the image of Christ:

Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.8And this will we do, if God permit. (Hebrews 6:1-3)

Knowing that the end of it all is charity, the love of God being continually expressed in everything we do:

Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity. (I Corinthians 13:4-13)

Understanding that the love spoken here is not the world’s kind of love, but the love of God in which we are rebuked, chastened, challenged and tried so that we may know of our witness and testimony, whether we are growing or not, and be reassured that we are indeed the children of God:

Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin. And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby. (Hebrews 12:4-11)

The problem is, most American “Christians” are without any chastisement at all. Hence, they cannot grow and be spiritually mature. How can this be said? The proof is in the surveys referenced and quoted above. How can one be a Christian when one does not even believe what the Scripture, which is the word of God, states? And how can one be a Christian when one does not honor the LORD and His word? After all, it is plain in the Scripture how high a position of honor the LORD God gives His word:

I will worship toward thy holy temple, and praise thy name for thy lovingkindness and for thy truth: for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name. (Psalm 138:2)

Thus, spiritual maturity begins in the word of God — the Scripture. Without the message of the gospel from Scripture, salvation in Christ and subsequently staying in the Scripture and learning, no spiritual growth can or will occur. The problem with American “Christians” is not that they are not growing spiritually like they should. The problem is that the express conditions for spiritual growth are simply not there. It is no wonder they can’t “put a finger” on spiritual growth and how to achieve it.

  1. http://www.barna.org/barna-update/article/12-faithspirituality/264-many-churchgoers-and-faith-leaders-stru
    ggle-to-define-spiritual-maturity
  2. http://www.barna.org/barna-update/article/12-faithspirituality/260-most-american-christians-do-not-believe-
    that-satan-or-the-holy-spirit-exis
  3. If you DO NOT accept this teaching and doctrine, you are NOT SAVED, and NOT a Christian — END OF STORY!
  4. The same note applies here.
  5. And the same applies here. Why? Because if Christ Jesus sinned, then he had his own sin to pay for, and could not pay for our sin. Secondly, if Jesus Christ could sin, then God could sin. If Jesus Christ did sin, then Jesus Christ, who is Almighty God in the flesh, is not Holy and Righteous, and thus God is not Holy and Righteous. And just what religion are these folks now?
  6. Christian? Really?
  7. There is not a one of these passages and verses mentioned that have to do with spiritual maturity. All the references given either apply to the church, or to attributes that are given to every believer at salvation. Spiritual growth is beyond just having attributes that you begin to use. Rather, it is about changing, not just the very way you act or your attitude, but your entire concept of existence, and the way you think about everything. In short, to be spiritually mature is to look at everything, including yourself, the way the LORD God knows everything to be, and letting that knowledge drive everything about your life.
  8. You know, these really are the “first things.” Yet, how many truly born again believers actually get beyond these?
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A Mislabeled Can

Monday, April 13th, 2009

From time to time I received notifications of The Barna Group’s studies and surveys of American Christianity. It is helpful in understanding why this country is in the mess it is in, and how supposed Christians seem to have little to no influence on this nation. Well, the latest Barna Survey shows exactly why “Christians” have little to no influence in America today.

Plainly put — they are mislabeled.

Now granted, they are self-identified as Christians. But, doesn’t that make the report all the more condemning? After all, a bunch of folks out there identify as “Christian,” and they do not have the foggiest notion of what a Christian really is.

I wonder where the fault lies for this one: America’s churches, perhaps?

The report is here:

Most American Christians Do Not Believe that Satan or the Holy Spirit Exist

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Covenant

Saturday, August 30th, 2008

The word covenant is a very interesting word in the English language. Its roots are Latin and Old French with The Compact Edition of the Oxford Dictionary of the English Language giving its first quote from 1300 AD. This word’s Latin equivalent convenire means “to agree, be of one mind, come together .” The Old French word is convenant, which means “an agreement.” Both of these words were used to develop the English word covenant which carries the very same meaning as both root words. Since 1300 AD, the English language has taken this word and expanded its application to cover the various forms of agreements found in civil society, religion, and law. However, in all the various applications, the essence of the word remains the same:

We are of one mind concerning . . .

This word also has certain synonyms that are frequently used when the construction of the language permits. Among these are testament, contract, pledge, and engagement. In the case of the Bible, the Old Testament and New Testament are referred to occasionally as the Old Covenant and the New Covenant. This is not inappropriate as that is exactly what is covered in each of them. The Old Testament refers to the Lord’s covenant with Israel, and the New Testament covers the Lord’s covenant with His church.

This is a point that perhaps we should study more carefully; this covenant the Lord has with His local, visible, independent church. If we consider what we are supposed to be of one mind about, and who it is that we are of one mind with, we ought to come to some serious conclusions about our duties under this covenant. In other words, this is not a light, trifling matter. Rather, it is a very serious issue to be concerned with. We are engaged with someone who does not take the shirking of duties well at all.

But first, how many of us really know what our duties are under this covenant? Did we not enter into this covenant willingly? Isn’t it then incumbent upon us to find out what we are supposed to do. The Lord declared that He would be faithful, and has always been so. Thus, He conveyed to us one of the first duties we are to fulfill:

Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful. 1 Corinthians 4:1-2

Interestingly enough, this is also one of the first duties of a soldier.

How many people, who are members of a church are actually “of one mind” with their brethren?

How many are actually “of one mind” with the Lord Jesus Christ?

Just something to think about . . .

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Not From God

Monday, May 19th, 2008

While looking through the classifieds the other day I ran across the following Help Wanted ad:

DIRECTOR OF Adult Discipleship for large membership church. Responsible for adult Sunday school classes, short-term studies, small groups, development, leadership recruitment and training. Bachelor’s degree in education or related field required. Experience in education or working with adults helpful. Salary commensurate with experience. Send letter and resume to Martha Barnes martha@fumcwired.com First United Methodist, Springdale, AR or fax to 479-751-4612

And to add to it, today I found this ad:

PART TIME pianist for vital, growing congregation. Interested applicants please send resume and 3 letters of reference to First United Methodist, 20 Boyce Drive, Bella Vista, AR 72714, attn: Dr. L.E. Zehring, Director of Music Ministries. Phone (479)855-1158. Email fumcbv@cox-internet.com. Website www.LeadLearnLove.com

Now, to most of the world this may not seem out of place. However, for what is supposed to be, or purports itself as a New Testament church, this is ludicrous.

Why?

Well, the Scripture has something to say about how churches get the teachers, preachers, and various ministers that carry out the ministries in a New Testament church. For instance:

Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.) And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: . . .(Ephesians 4:8-12)

And again from Acts:

Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. (Acts 13:1-2)

And from I Corinthians:

But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will. (I Corinthians 12:7-11)

But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. (I Corinthians 12:18)

Now, could it be that the phrases:

“And he gave some”
“whereunto I have called them”
“For to one is given by the Spirit”
“But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.”

and the statement:

“But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.”

are actually not intended of the LORD God to mean anything? Or, is it that, as far as the Methodist Church is concerned, the above statements are just the fabrications of men, and the Bible really doesn’t reflect accurately what God intends?

If so, why bother? Why not just advertise for the job position and call yourselves the Methodist Social Club? Why pretend? After all, if you are not going to depend upon the LORD God to provide for ministry positions as He plainly states He does, why pretend to be a New Testament church?

You know, it really would be better for all if the Methodist Church would simply quit pretending — that, or honestly return to following the LORD and His word.

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His Unspeakable Gift?

Thursday, April 24th, 2008

Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift. (II Corinthians 9:15)

Judging from the way a lot of folks behave when asked about serving the LORD, you would never know the above statement is true. After all, they refuse to change their lifestyle, they refuse to serve in a proper church, and they refuse to continue learning about the things of God along with changing their way of thinking to the LORD’s way of thinking. Now, I am not talking about those who are very young in Christ and are learning what the LORD desires of them in some of the more elementary things, who continue to follow after Christ. Rather, what I refer to are those who, after they are saved, begin to rebel against putting things out of their lives, and submitting themselves to the will of God in service to Him in His church. It is as if they are not at all cognizant of what the LORD has done for them in Christ, and what it means to owe everything to the Lord Jesus Christ for the saving of their soul.

That is what brings one to consider what the apostle Paul meant when he, under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, penned the statement above. For instance, what does make this gift “unspeakable?” Moreover, why should we thank God for it? And, Just what are we thanking God for?

I think it is lost on so many people who claim Christ, precisely what He has done for them, and what the gravity of the entire situation is when one is without Christ, and dead in trespasses and sins. After all, they still walked around on this earth. They still breathed air, worked a job, etc. etc.. In brief, physically, nothing changed at all. What did, or should have changed was their spiritual life. They should have experienced a radical change in their relationship with the LORD God. They should have gone from having the unease and tension of being in constant conflict with the LORD God, to having peace in their soul. Moreover, that terrible fear of death and the dread of it should also have passed away. However, since most people shove the very thought of dying out of their minds totally, I suspect this was not particularly noticed when it happened. Nonetheless, what everyone who is saved should have been well aware of, is an absolute change in where they were headed upon passing form this life to the next. Undoubtably, those who are lost do know that hell awaits them upon drawing their last breath. Even so, one who is saved ought to remember that dread and fear, and know the Lord Jesus Christ saved them from that, and their eternal destiny is with the Lord in heaven. These things alone make the gift “unspeakable.”

However, those things are not all. It was not man that was able to reach to the righteousness of God. No, only God Himself is and was capable and willing to stoop down to bring man back from the abyss, the pit that all men were destined to enter. No, all we could do is dread the day of our death. In man’s feeble attempts to appease God and make himself righteous and acceptable to God, we erred all the more. Man’s ideas of what pleases God were and are utterly skewed and far from the mark. For this alone, those who are saved by the grace of God in Christ, ought to be fully cognizant and utterly appreciative.

So then, what are we thanking God for? It is not merely that we have eternal life. It is not merely that we get to go to heaven. And, it is not merely that we allowed to fellowship with God. Don’t get me wrong, those are not “mere” things at all. Nonetheless, so many professed “believers” act as if they are, and that their salvation is a light thing. No, it is none of the above things in and of themselves, rather, it is that we are actually alive.

You see, before we came to know the Lord Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Savior, we were dead. Yes, we walked around, talked, ate, slept, and did all those thinks that we associate with living. However, that which we do in the physical is not life, but a shadow of life. Why? Because real life is spiritual.

If we remember, it was the Lord Jesus Christ who stated specifically:

Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. (John 14:6)

As an aside, grammatically, the three things Christ mentions above (way, truth, life) are all addressed as singular. Plainly, it is conveyed that only one way exists to come to the Father, only one truth exists, and there is only one source of and for life — the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. Thus, to physically cease to function without Christ is to be sealed forever in a state of death. Moreover, this state is not a state of unfeeling and unconsciousness in which one rests. No, the LORD God intends for everyone leaving this life without Christ to understand they have utterly disregarded His express commandment to repent and believe the Gospel. Hence, the LORD designed a place of eternal torment in which the suffering is unimaginable. Those who elect to go there will know and experience pain and agony beyond anything that can be inflicted on this earth. Moreover, it is inescapable and unending. For those who elect death, and to remain dead and without Christ, this is their expected end.

For those who have chosen to trust Christ, life is given. One is made spiritually alive and able to personally communicate with the LORD God on a one on one level without any intermediary. Moreover, this life gives access to understanding and wisdom that the world cannot know, and cannot see. Whereas those without Christ do not know, and cannot be assured of the future, the believer can be, and is assured the LORD God has all well in hand and the end will be what He states it to be. Not only this, but a promise is given to the child of God in Christ — that we can come to God anytime, anywhere, and ask whatsoever we need to know, and He will answer. In addition, we can look forward to an everlasting time of constantly learning about the things God has done. It is indeed the comfort and joy of being with the source of all life, for all eternity. On considering this, I am reminded of the passage from Colossians, chapter 2:

For I would that ye knew what great conflict I have for you, and for them at Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh; That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ; In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. (Colossians 2:1-3)

That alone is such a gift — to have access to all the wisdom and knowledge that exists. However, the gift the child of God in Christ has been given is indescribable. As the Apostle Paul put it:

Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift. (II Corinthians 9:15)

This being the case, why is it some who claim to be children of God in Christ, cannot seem to appreciate it? Why is it they seem to be utterly unwilling to submit themselves to serving the LORD who has done so very much for them?

Perhaps they cannot understand how wonderful the gift is, as they have never really received it?

But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. (Romans 8:9)

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Anti-Christ

Sunday, April 20th, 2008

Throughout most of the last 20 centuries, separate, independent, groups of Christians, generally labeled “ana-baptist” and specifically called Paulicans, Novatians, Donatists, Henricans, Waldenses, Albigenses, Bogomils, Lollards, and many other less complimentary names, have been persecuted for holding fast the specific teachings of the New Testament. They consistently held the New Testament church to be a local, visible, autonomous body of believers covenanted together to serve their Lord and Savior. For this, they were horribly persecuted by their opponents. The fiercest of these opponents was not the pagans that they invariably lived among. Rather, it was a church that called itself “Christian” — the Catholic Church. Its head, the Pope, was declared to be the vicar of Christ by their own councils. In so doing, he became Anti-Christ. They shut up the Bible to the “common” man declaring that it would “only cause confusion,” and then proceeded to warp and twist the doctrines to insure that their followers have no chance for salvation. The list of the sins of this horrid institution are so numerous as to almost defy cataloging. Yet, the Pope is honored by the governments of today.

My how we have forgotten history!

So we will remember, the following is from J.M. Carroll’s Trail of Blood. This excerpt briefly details the falling away that led to the formation of the Catholic Church and it’s ungodly head. Many more works, such as The Martyrs Mirror, and A History of the Baptists detail it more completely.

From The Trail of Blood . . .

“During the first three centuries, congregations all over the East subsisted in separate independent bodies, unsupported by government and consequently without any secular power over one another. All this time they were baptized churches, and though all the fathers of the first four ages, down to Jerome (A.D. 370), were of Greece, Syria and Africa, and though they give great numbers of histories of the baptism of adults, yet there is not one of the baptism of a child till the year 370.” (Compendium of Baptist History, Shackelford, p. 43; Vedder, p. 50; Christian, p, 31; Orchard, p. 50, etc.)

7. Let it be remembered that changes like these here mentioned were not made in a day, nor even within a year. They came about slowly and never within all the churches. Some of the churches vigorously repudiated them. So much so that in A.D. 251, the loyal churches declared non-fellowship for those churches which accepted and practiced these errors. And thus came about the first real official separation among the churches.

8. Thus it will be noted that during the first three centuries three important and vital changes from the teachings of Christ and His Apostles had their beginnings. And one significant event took place, Note this summary and recapitulation:

(1) The change from the New Testament idea of bishop and church government. This change grew rapidly, more pronounced, and complete and hurtful.

(2) The change from the New Testament teachings as to Regeneration to “baptismal regeneration.”

(3) The change from “believers’ baptism” to “infant baptism.” (This last, however, did not become general nor even very frequent for more than another century.)

9. “Baptismal regeneration” and “infant baptism.” These two errors have, according to the testimony of well-established history, caused the shedding of more Christian blood, as the centuries have gone by, than all other errors combined, or than possibly have all wars, not connected with persecution, if you will leave out the recent “World War.” Over 50,000,000 Christians died martyr deaths, mainly because of their rejection of these two errors during the period of the “dark ages” alone–about twelve or thirteen centuries.

10. Three significant facts, for a large majority of the many churches, are clearly shown by history during these first three centuries.

(1) The separateness and independence of the Churches.

(2) The subordinate character of bishops or pastors.

(3) The baptism of believers only.

I quote now from Mosheim–the greatest of all Lutheran church historians. Vol., 1, pages 71 and 72: “But whoever supposes that the bishops of this golden age of the church correspond with the bishops of the following centuries must blend and confound characters that are very different, for in this century and the next, a bishop had charge of a single church, which might ordinarily be contained in a private house; nor was he its Lord, but was in reality its minister or servant. . . All the churches in those primitive times were independent bodies, or none of them subject to the jurisdiction of any other. For though the churches which were founded by the Apostles themselves frequently had the honor shown them to be consulted in doubtful cases, yet they had no judicial authority, no control, no power of giving laws. On the contrary, it is as clear as the noonday that all Christian churches had equal rights, and were in all respects on a footing of equality.”

11. Up to this period, notwithstanding much and serious persecutions, Christianity has had a marvelous growth. It has covered and even gone beyond the great Roman Empire. Almost, if not all the inhabited world has heard the gospel. And, according to some of the church historians, many of the original churches organized by the Apostles are yet intact, and yet loyal to Apostolic teachings. However, as already shown, a number of very marked and hurtful errors have crept in and gotten a permanent hold among many of the churches. Some have become very irregular.

12. Persecutions have become increasingly bitter. Near the beginning of the fourth century comes possibly the first definite government edict of persecution. The wonderful growth of Christianity has alarmed the pagan leaders of the Roman Empire. Hence Galerius, the emperor, sent out a direct edict of more savage persecution. This occurred Feb. 24, 303 A.D. Up to this time Paganism seems to have persecuted without any definite laws to that effect.

13. But this edict failed so utterly in its purpose of stopping the growth of Christianity, that this same emperor, Galerius, just eight years thereafter (A.D. 311) passed another edict recalling the first and actually granting toleration–permission to live the religion of Jesus Christ. This was probably its first favorable law.

14. By the beginning of the year A.D. 313, Christianity has won a mighty victory over paganism. A new emperor has come to the throne of the Roman Empire. He evidently recognized something of the mysterious power of this religion that continued to grow in spite of persecution. History says that this new emperor who was none other than Constantinehad a wonderful realistic vision. He saw in the skies a fiery red cross and on that cross written in fiery letters these words–“By this thou shalt conquer.” He interpreted it to mean that he should become a Christian. And that by giving up paganism and that by attaching the spiritual power of the Christian religion onto the temporal power of the Roman Empire the world could be easily conquered. Thus the Christian religion would in fact become a whole world religion, and the Roman Empire a whole world empire.

15. So under the leadership of Emperor Constantine there comes a truce, a courtship and a proposal of marriage. The Roman Empire through its emperor seeks a marriage with Christianity. Give us your spiritual power and we will give you of our temporal power.

16. To effectually bring about and consummate this unholy union, a council was called. In A. D. 313, a call was made for a coming together of the Christian churches or their representatives . Many but not all came. The alliance was consummated. A Hierarchy was formed. In the organization of the Hierarchy, Christ was dethroned as head of the churches and Emperor Constantine enthroned (only temporarily, however) as head of the church.

17. The Hierarchy was the definite beginning of a development which finally resulted into what is now known as the Catholic, or “universal” church. It might be said that its indefinite beginnings were near the close of the second and beginning of the third century, when the new ideas concerning bishops and preacher-church government began to take shape.

18. Let it be definitely remembered that when Constantine made his call for the council, there were very many of the Christians (Baptists) and of the churches, which declined to respond. They wanted no marriage with the state, and no centralized religious government, and no higher ecclesiastical government of any kind, than the individual church. These Christians (Baptists) nor the churches ever at that time or later, entered the hierarchy of the Catholic denomination.

And the head of the Catholic Church is honored by the rulers and governments of today. How very shameful.

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What Constitutes Worship?

Tuesday, April 1st, 2008

There are many answers to the above question. Some are correct, some have elements of truth to them, and other answers one would receive are simply in error. Of course, it is this way with every subject from Scripture one might bring up. However, we would expect the answer from the head of a theological school to be more exact, and accurate than the average person. We certainly would expect their answer to be more centered around service to God than politics. Unfortunately, this is not the case, and it is certainly not restricted to the individual that came to my attention late last week. Now, to be fair, the subject at hand was not worship, but the addressing of the subject intruded into the arena of what constitutes worship, and the individual drew no distinctions.

Before getting going on this, it is only fair to give a brief background of the individual so their qualifications can be duly noted and kept in mind. The following is extracted from the brief bio posted with her column at the Newsweek/Washington Post website, Faith section:

Rev. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite is president of Chicago Theological Seminary and senior fellow at the Center for American Progress. She has been a professor of theology at the seminary for 20 years and director of its graduate degree center for five years. Her area of expertise is contextual theologies of liberation, specializing in issues of violence and violation. An ordained minister of the United Church of Christ since 1974, the “On Faith” panelist is the author or editor of thirteen books and has been a translator for two translations of the Bible.1

I won’t even get into all that is in error in the writeup. Not that it is not her history. It is. It is that her endeavors run so counter to the express commandments of God. Perhaps that is why it never impinged upon her conscience to address the issue of “note takers” during the time of the sermon somewhat differently. Some quotes of what she wrote follow:

“A member of Trinity United Church of Christ, the church once led by Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Wright and where Senator Obama is a member, told me there are “spies” among them in the pews, strangers who take notes during the service and try to record the message.
Check it out for yourself. Go to the Trinity UCC website, select “Why The Black Church Won’t Shut Up!”, and listen to Rev. Otis Moss politely ask that there be “no recording equipment.” He repeats over and over, “We are in worship. We are in worship.” When visitors are asked to stand, you can see those with paper and pencil in hand. Are these folks members of the press or political operatives? Impossible to know if they don’t, as Rev. Moss requests, sign in.
This is what happens when politics intrudes into the sanctuary of the church, a sacred space.”

“Challenging your pastor’s freedom in the pulpit is bad. Spying on people at prayer is reprehensible.
Is this what the assaults of the past decades on the wall of separation between church and state has led us to? Is there no such thing as sacred space anymore?”

“A church is sacred space and to violate that space by engaging in “Swift-boat” type distortions and even spying is un-American. This is not us, this is not the bedrock principle of our founders and those leaders we have most respected. Our churches and our faith commitments are out of bounds in the tumult of political contests.”

“Let us pull back from this disastrous course of mixing religion and politics before we destroy something so unique and precious it has been the envy of the whole world.”2

Notice something odd about her response to the issue at hand? In reading all the comments about her column, I noticed something missing there as well. What is it? It is the acknowledgement of a major component of worship — learning. Now, it is not necessary to take notes to learn, but it sure helps retain what was spoken. Moreover, we have the express invitation of the Lord Jesus Christ to learn of Him.

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)

You know, when you don’t care about someone or something, you don’t bother learning about them, or it — at all. To me, it is telling that Hannah of ancient Israel knew far more of what the LORD God is about than the head of a theological school.

Talk no more so exceeding proudly; let not arrogancy come out of your mouth: for the LORD is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed. (I Samuel 2:3)

Somehow I don’t think the Lord Jesus Christ would have been at all upset if someone had sat in front of Him taking notes while he preached and taught. What mattered to the LORD was the heart of the person, and their desire to learn of God. After all, since He was preaching the truth, He had no concerns about what they wanted to do with His words, as He knew the effect the words would have upon them.

The Pharisees heard that the people murmured such things concerning him; and the Pharisees and the chief priests sent officers to take him. (John 7:32)

So there was a division among the people because of him. And some of them would have taken him; but no man laid hands on him. Then came the officers to the chief priests and Pharisees; and they said unto them, Why have ye not brought him? The officers answered, Never man spake like this man. (John 7:43-45)

No, the Lord Jesus Christ spoke openly because He knew the time was not yet, and He knew that it was necessary that the word be preached openly. Moreover, since the LORD God is a God of knowledge, it is essential that people learn. I don’t see the Lord being displeased with this at all.

Knowing this, we can come forward to our day and time and understand that if people have to take notes, or record the message to recall what was said later, then there ought be no problem with that. If one preaches expressly from the Scripture, then all that need be done in defense of what was said is point to chapter and verse, and show that the Bible does indeed say that.

The problem here is that worship, and what constitutes worship is not at all understood. When someone is a “fan” of an actor, or performer, they try to learn everything they can about that person. If someone is a fanatic about golf, fishing or guns, we find that they always take notes, record, or otherwise preserve a record of the things said about the subject they worship. We also find they are devoted to their particular interest, almost to the exclusion of everything else. It is like some popular television shows — there are some who can never get enough information about a particular show (Star Trek and M.A.S.H. come to mind), and they record or otherwise obtain every scrap of information they can about the series.

Funny how that is not the case when people come into the house of God. Instead, they are discouraged from taking notes and recording the preaching, and are told they need to have a “worshipful” attitude. It makes one really wonder why doesn’t it?

You know, we needn’t worry what man will do with the words spoken from the pulpit. No, we need to be concerned about what God has determined about the words spoken from the pulpit.

Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:19)

O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things. But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned. (Matthew 12:34-37)

Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite misses the point.


  1. http://newsweek.washingtonpost.com/onfaith/susan_brooks_thistlethwaite/2008/03/is_nothing_sacred.html
  2. ibid
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Whatever Happened to Simply Believing the Bible?

Monday, September 3rd, 2007

I read the news, not generally from the newspapers, though that occasionally does happen, but on the internet. Most every link in my Bookmarks is to some news source, technical or religious site. The problem with reading the news is that the bias of the reporters must be accounted for, and the truth of the matter has to be carefully discerned. I wish it were the case with the following.

On Thursday, August 23, MSNBC ran a story of a megachurch in Tampa, Florida that is having some trouble. Specifically, the church’s pastors are divorcing. Now, I know this is not something new to modern day America. But it does highlight a very real problem — one of claiming to follow God, all the while being totally disobedient to His word. It does not take the proverbial “rocket scientist” to see the very clear differences between what the pastors of this church were doing, and what the Bible plainly states.

In looking at the problem, let’s begin at the obvious: the fact that the church’s pastors are divorcing. In Scripture there are specific instructions given for pastors, including the requirements to be a pastor. . . more

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