Jesus4King.net – The Spiritual Revolution

2008-01-15

Transformation of character v. Go through the motions

We’ve been contrasting organized religion with New Testament Christianity. Unfortunately, many who rightly reject religious bureaucracy mistakenly think they’re rejecting Christianity. On the contrary, Jesus came to set people free from collectivist religion by enlightening, empowering, and equipping the individual.

Robert Biggs sent me an email last week in which he said, “I’ve made the mistake of centering my life around O.R. instead of Jesus Christ. O.R. meaning organized religion. Yah it’s like an operating room [O.R.], but when you wake up from the anesthesia you still have the same old problems, nothing has happened, you’re not cured.”

Though genuine emotions aren’t excluded, Biblical Christianity is not a clergy-led, hyped-up, emotional experience. Nor did Jesus die on the cross so we would keep a bunch of meaningless rules and ceremonies and mindlessly go through the motions. External controls don’t transform the heart.

The Purpose of God

Transforming the character of each Christian into the image of Christ is the plan of God (See Rom 8:29). If you don’t know what this means, please stick with me for a minute because this is exciting stuff.

Like victims of O.R., many people spend thousands of dollars on personal development coaches and other gurus to transform their lives. Why go to the store and buy air if it’s available to everyone for free?

Jesus Christ already paid the highest price possible to make you a new creation through the forgiveness of sin and the gift of the Holy Spirit, and He wants to be your lifetime coach. Only God has the resources to accomplish such a feat for all who sincerely want it, and also make them an heir of the riches of His glory! That’s my daddy!

Many think they’ve already tried Christianity and it didn’t work, while in fact what they tried was O.R., which doesn’t work. Entrusting your spiritual growth to a religious bureaucracy is neither Biblical nor profitable. They have salaries and overhead to pay for, which is part of the incentive for their infamous manipulative techniques. Power trips are the other source of their inspiration.

Transformation of character and true worship are part of the same package. You tend to imitate the one you adore. That’s why marketers plaster images of people’s idols all over their products. If your idol eats/wears/buys something, you’re likely to do the same. Imitating the One who defined love to the world produces love, joy, and peace. This is exactly what most people want.

Do You Get It?

Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. (Gal 6:7-9)

People are deceived who think the laws of the harvest don’t apply to them: each one will reap what he sows; there is a time delay between sowing and reaping; the harvest comes back multiplied; and the more you sow, the more you will reap.

Encouragement from others is great, but the laws of the harvest teach us that each individual is primarily responsible for his own spiritual growth. Transforming lives for the better is not accomplished through emotional hype, guilt-driven manipulation, or going through the motions. Do not be deceived, transformation only happens if you sow to the Spirit.

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. (Rom 12:2)

Learn how to worship in spirit and learn to love others enough to consider how to stimulate them to love and good deeds. The best way to learn something is to teach it to others. Dig deeper and revolutionize your life by reading the Transformation study guide.

 

Next up: Saints are holy new creatures v. Sorry sinners are nothing but forgiven >>>

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2008-01-09

Worship in spirit all the time v. Worship in a building at designated times

What picture do you think the average person has of worship? A “worship service” led by clergy? (Where is that picture found in the New Testament?) Those who have that picture are also likely to ask: Should I worship at Church A or Church B?

A Samaritan woman probed Jesus in a similar way: “Our fathers worshiped in this mountain, and you people [Jews] say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.” (The whole discourse can be found in John 4:20-24.)

Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”

Old worship required you to physically go to a designated location; either the temple in Jerusalem or one of the competing idol temples if you were an idolater. Man has a body, a soul, and a spirit. (See 1 Thes 5:23) True worship is not done with the body; according to Jesus, it is done with the spirit!

True worship takes place 24/7, everywhere your spirit goes. The only question is whether you are worshiping God or idols. Ephesians 5:5 says that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ!

Romans 8:6 says that the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life. A covetous or immoral mindset is idolatry. A mind set on Christ is true worship. It’s a simple life or death decision. Whatever you consistently set your mind on is what you consistently act like.

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself. (Luke 10:27)

Christians want to act like Christ and love others just as He loved us; which is the new commandment (See John 13:34). This is why we assemble, considering ahead of time how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds through psalms (songs), teachings, and exhortations.

Organized religion depends on false ideas in order to stay in business. Instead of edifying each other and building the body because we worship God, they teach people to sit at their feet to worship God. But just because a body is sitting in a pew, it doesn’t mean the mind is engaged.

We need a massive reeducation campaign to help people see how they are being duped. First take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. Dig deeper and revolutionize your life by reading the Transformation study guide.

 

Next up: Transformation of character v. Go through the motions >>>

2008-01-01

Meet in homes v. Maintain a building

Why maintain a church building? I’m not condemning those who do, I’m just asking why. Is it really necessary? Is it the best meeting environment for the Lord’s church? Why not meet from house to house as described in the Bible? I think these are valid questions as I don’t think God wants Christians to practice blind obedience to the traditions of men.

Those accustomed to modern denominations have a hard time imagining a highly relational home church because they imagine formal church in a home. Forget it. If you want authenticity, try turning off all of your preconceived ideas and taking a fresh look at the New Testament.

If holding title to property and maintaining a building were the ideal situation and best meeting environment, don’t you think God would have mentioned something to that effect in the New Testament, the blueprint for His church? Somebody help me out; I haven’t found any such idea.

Church Buildings Are An Unnecessary Expense

Jesus said to go make disciples, baptize them, and continue to teach them to observe all that He commanded. He did not say to go buy real estate, build buildings, put a sign out front, and entertain visitors in hopes they drop something in the offering plate.

Billions of people around the world lack nutrition and lack the gospel while churches keep their investments in real estate. Many do just enough good works to create a facade as they build their portfolios and legacies based on worldly wisdom. How many billions of dollars have been spent acquiring and maintaining church properties?

Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. Why not invest those billions in helping the 1/3 of the world’s population who have never heard the gospel? Did Jesus pay the ultimate price for acres of land or for the souls of men?

Why Won’t They Change?

Some wise guy once told me that reforming entrenched institutions won’t work because of the power brokers who have something to lose. What’s required is an exodus and a new start. With sincere intentions I ran some experiments and found this advice to be accurate.

Look at Jesus’ example and how He exposed the Pharisees and Sadducees in Matthew 23 and other places and you’ll see that power and control is one of the biggest motivators of organized religion. They killed Jesus for it. Don’t be surprised when they persecute you.

God has always had more confidence in common people than any religious bureaucracy has ever had. The word of God was written for common people. Those who want to control people have a hard time with the idea of meeting from house to house. What really scares these guys is people discovering that they don’t need a ‘professional’ in order to connect with God.

Mega-Church Mindset

Churches get further away from an environment conducive to meaningful relationships the larger they get. Cramming lots of people under the dominion of a religious bureaucracy is not the goal of Christianity. The professional entertainment system invented by church-growth gurus:

Compare this to the humble New Testament church that met from house to house in a simple, relaxed, real life environment. They spread the gospel all over the world. Each one had a psalm, a teaching, an exhortation. Mutual edification, accountability, and genuine relationships were expected.

Sanctuary Mindset

A formal, almost rigid atmosphere resides in church buildings. This likely has roots in the erroneous idea that the building is a holy place. It leads to a split lifestyle: holy in the holy place and profane everywhere else. Makes me think of the supposedly godly nations of modern America and ancient Israel. Jesus called the Israelites hypocrites. Hypocrite means actor; someone who puts on a show.

Anyone who’s honest will acknowledge that church as most know it is not producing the desirable fruit described in the New Testament. Continuing to practice church as most know it will only produce more of church as most know it. It has been tweaked, repackaged, and sold a zillion different ways, but the various brands of organized religion taste pretty much the same.

Christianity is a way of life, not a series of religious events. Life doesn’t happen at an orchestrated religious performance. Life happens every day and is composed of meaningful relationships. Instead of compartmentalizing it, why not bring Christianity home? You, your family, and everyone else in your life will benefit.

 

Next up: Worship in spirit all the time v. Worship in a building at designated times >>>

2007-12-26

Meet together v. Divide into age groups

Picture a big family get-together where everyone is happy to encourage others. This is what church is supposed to be like and Scripture teaches us how. The church we’re talking about is not organized religion. That’s a formal ceremony rather than a joyful family gathering. Formal ceremonies and children don’t go well together.

This is part of a discussion about the contrast between organized religion and the highly relational home churches described in the New Testament.

In our next discussion, we’ll be talking about the differences between meeting in homes and meeting in buildings; totally different atmospheres. Here we’re talking about meeting together v. dividing into age groups. Our last discussion was about parents teaching children v. anyone but parents teaching children. These topics are all closely related.

The Bible says the church is a family that is to be devoted to loving one another just as Jesus does. In a highly relational home church, all age groups learn how to respectfully interact with and relate to all age groups.

Related Scriptures

Deuteronomy 31:12 says that men, women, and children were to assemble to hear the word of the Lord. Most children understand a lot more than many people give them credit for.

According to Psalm 127:3, “Children are a gift of the Lord. The fruit of the womb is a reward.” This idea has been aggressively attacked. It is common for people to sacrifice their children for reasons ranging from convenience to careers. Add some disastrous parenting philosophies and you have a recipe for children being regarded as nothing but a nuisance.

Luke 18:15-16 tells how the apostles rebuked parents who were bringing their babies to Jesus. The apostles were accustomed to organized religion. But Jesus rebuked them, saying, “Permit the children to come… for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”

Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and a house divided against itself falls. (Luke 11:17)

Dividing Into Age Groups

The child evangelism Sunday school movement is only a couple hundred years old. A natural extension of organized religion, it has evolved into youth groups, camps, children’s church, vacation Bible school, etc.; and is commonly used as a marketing ploy.

Youth programs are often entertainment driven. God says that bribes corrupt the heart (See Ecc 7:7), and yet bribing has commonly been used to increase attendance, compliance, and participation in class activities.

Competing in today’s religious climate is a tough business. Maintaining manmade traditions has often taken highest precedence. Desperate to find victims willing to teach a group of today’s untrained children, guilt has been used and immature and otherwise undesirable teachers have been used. Those who’ve had their arm twisted to get them to take their turn don’t make very desirable teachers, and neither do child predators who can easily fill the void left by parents.

Recipe For Disaster

Organized religion has invented a new entry level position that’s often called youth minister. Youth ministers are typically young and responsible for entertaining hormone-raging teenagers. Has your town, like so many others, been touched by one of the almost inevitable scandals?

After considering just these few points, it’s not surprising that so many children raised in organized religion reject it when they become adults. They’re Biblically illiterate. They haven’t learned to interact well with other age groups. They’ve been entertained all their life, and entertainment is what they continue to pursue.

What’s More Biblical?

Let me remind you of the reality that everyone’s eternity is at stake. Christians are supposed to teach the whole message of this life; everything pertaining to life and godliness. Parents have been entrusted with a stewardship for which they will be judged. Children grow up and make decisions based largely on their upbringing.

Why don’t we do what God says and teach parents to raise their children in the instruction and discipline of the Lord? Offering all of these unscriptural youth programs enables parents to think that someone else is doing their job so they can continue to neglect their parental responsibilities.

All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. I have just scratched the surface of this issue. What else should be considered?

 

Next up: Meet in homes v. Maintain a building >>>

2007-12-11

Parents teach children v. Anyone but parents teach children

There are myriads of theories about education. How are parents to sort through the options and make the best decision for each of their children? I felt a little overwhelmed when approaching this subject with my wife.

We did a lot of consultation and investigation, and asked God for lots of wisdom. We found that the best way to cut through the confusion was to start with a foundation based on the word of God. We believe that the One Who made us knows best.

So what does God’s word say about education? Proverbs has a lot to say about it, but the following two passages, one out of the Old Testament and one out of the New Testament, really summarize the Bible’s teaching on education. As you read them, ask the ‘who, what, when, where, why, and how’ questions:

Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. (Deut 6:4-7)

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. (Eph 6:4)

Education is a private enterprise. Fathers will answer to God for the stewardship they have been given.

Let’s Come At This from a Different Angle

You may recognize this line, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” (The Declaration of Independence)

Did these guys know what they were talking about? Does God endow all men with certain unalienable rights? Show me the B.C.V. (book, chapter, and verse) for human rights.

The commandment, “Don’t murder,” means that your neighbor is not supposed to murder you. It grants you the right to life. The commandment, “Don’t steal,” means that your neighbor is not supposed to steal from you. It grants you the right to enjoy the fruit of your labor, which is the difference between a slave and a free man.

Any man or group of men who violate your rights will answer to God. On earth, civil government is supposed to protect your rights, not assist those who would violate them. Is there a difference between someone who steals the fruit of your labor and someone who’s elected to steal the fruit of your labor? In other words, if criminals gang up on you, does that make it right? What if they say it’s for the children?

Someone once said that democracy is two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for lunch. Democracy is rule by majority. It is a temporary form of government, lasting only until theft by vote leaves nothing else to take.

The Founding Fathers of the U.S.A. understood that rights come from God and cannot be legitimately taken away by the majority. So they founded a republic, which is rule by law (has nothing to do with political parties).

There is no area of life that is exempt from the authority of the word of God!

No man has the right to steal from you to feed or educate his family. He has a responsibility to work and provide. There is no such thing as a free lunch. If a man won’t work, neither let him eat. (2 Thess 3:10) If anyone doesn’t provide for his own family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. (1 Tim 5:8) This is a salvation issue.

Those who profess to be Christians should teach the whole counsel of God; everything pertaining to life and godliness. How can we be silent about an area as important as the education of children? Unfortunately, this has been the case.

As a result, our society has become saturated with deceptive philosophies. Parents have been convinced to surrender responsibility for their children’s education. Now, anyone but parents teach children! Many anti-Christian ideas are taught, and it’s often paid for by stealing the fruits of our labor!

I pay for the home education of my children and I pay for the education of my neighbors children (public education costs ten times as much per child). At the same time, I am happy to volunteer to help my neighbors home educate their children.

“Restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, so that I will not come and smite the land with a curse.” (Malachi 4:6)

 

Next up: Meet together v. Divide into age groups >>>

2007-12-03

Adult baptism v. Child baptism

What kind of religion goes after naïve children rather than sophisticated adults? Humanism & Atheism (public schools), Islam (suicide bombers), and counterfeit Christianity (child baptism), among others.

The person who sins will die. The son will not bear the punishment for the father’s iniquity, nor will the father bear the punishment for the son’s iniquity; the righteousness of the righteous will be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked will be upon himself. (Ezek 18:20)

I don’t think it gets any plainer than that. God doesn’t judge you for anyone else’s sin. So the question is: At what age does God judge you for your own sin?

I only know of one example in the Bible where God puts an age on it. After God brought the Israelites out of Egyptian slavery He was going to give them the promised land. But only two of them, Joshua and Caleb, believed that He could do it.

As a result, God told them, “Your corpses will fall in this wilderness, even all your numbered men, according to your complete number from twenty years old and upward, who have grumbled against Me. Surely you shall not come into the land in which I swore to settle you, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun. Your children, however, whom you said would become a prey — I will bring them in, and they will know the land which you have rejected.” (Num 14:29-31)

Those under the age of twenty were not judged. Parents are supposed to judge their children; for which they will be judged by God. When the above account is retold in Deut 1:34-39, it is revealed that God regards children as having no knowledge of good and evil, as was said of Adam and Eve before they sinned.

The fact is that children do not physically or mentally mature until sometime around twenty. A five year old can know the Ten Commandments, the Law of God, but that doesn’t mean they will lose fellowship with Him if they violate it. Here is a much more in depth study on child and youth immersion.

Paul said in Romans 7:9, “I was once alive apart from the Law; but when the commandment came, sin became alive and I died.”

There comes a point when God judges you for your sin. At that point you die spiritually – you are separated from God as Adam and Eve were when they sinned by disobeying His command not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Without forgiveness you will be cursed forever.

Here’s how Paul puts it in Galatians 3:10, “Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the Law, to perform them.” And in verse 22 he says, “The Scripture has shut up everyone under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.”

The bad news is supposed to get our attention so we will listen to the good news found in verses 13-14 of the same chapter: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us – for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree” – in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.”

But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. (Gal 3:23-27)

You are cursed by the Law, the Old Covenant, because of your sin. You are blessed when you enter into the New Covenant through Christ Jesus and experience a death, burial, and resurrection with Him (Rom 6:3-7) through faith in the working of God:

Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, so that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God. (Rom 7:4)

Having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. (Col 2:12)

Baptism now saves you – not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience – through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 3:21)

Children are not cursed. Adults are cursed. Adults who have obeyed Acts 2:38 by faith are no longer cursed: “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name. (Acts 22:16)

 

Next up: Parents teach children v. Anyone but parents teach children >>>

2007-11-27

Autonomous churches v. Corporations and franchises

He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all. (Eph 1:22-23)

No pretenders need apply. God has already installed the commander-in-chief of His church. There’s no need for a legislative body, either, because all legislation has already been recorded in the word of God. Woe to him who would add to or take away from what is written.

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone. (Eph 2:19-20)

The apostles and prophets recorded everything one needs to know to be a Christian. We don’t need any manmade organizations creating laws where God hasn’t. Anyone anywhere can follow the word of God and develop an autonomous church, resulting in the development of the gift that God gives to each Christian.

And He gave… some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ. (Eph 4:11-12)

Those who are more mature in the faith are to help each Christian develop the gift that God gave them. These local or itinerant leaders are accountable directly to God, and mutually accountable to all the saints.

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you. (Heb 13:17)

Our headquarters are in heaven, not on earth. There’s a chapter in The Good Story eBook that briefly tells how we got these modern big businesses that many mistakenly think of as Christianity. These are a light year away from the simple New Testament pattern. Manmade institutions and organizations, even when started with good intentions, have always become corrupt within a few generations.

Here are two modern abominations:

  1. Church Corporations
    a. Filing with the state as a corporation makes the church an entity of and accountable to the state. It is unnecessary.
    b. The corporate structure requires an unscriptural board of directors.
    c. If John the Baptist were a member of one of these, his problem would not have been losing his head for exposing Herod’s immorality, it would have been the so called brethren telling him to shut up so they didn’t lose their tax exempt status.
  2. Church Franchises
    a. Franchisees submit to the dictates of the franchise. This may include the trademark name, schedule, doctrine, programs, and fellowship with other Christians.
    b. Conformity is enforced and the traditions of men take precedence over the word of God.
    c. The Christians in Corinth were severely rebuked by the apostle Paul for being devoted to various men and creating divisions as a result.

Unless the church is being run like a corporation or franchise, there is no reason to have a trademark name. This may sound radical because many today have never even considered this idea, but New Testament churches didn’t have a trademark name in the sense that we think of.

“For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.” (Matt 18:20)

By definition, church is an assembly. It is a gathering of Christians – people – not a building or an institution. We want to build people, not institutions. That’s the example Jesus and the apostles left for us, and that’s the purpose of assembling in Jesus’ name.

The pattern Christians are supposed to follow is the one found in the New Testament. This was the original intent of the Restoration Movement. Unfortunately, most today seem to be more interested in maintaining the traditions of men than they are in actively pursuing pristine Christianity.

 

Next up: Adult baptism v. Child baptism >>>

2007-11-20

Elders lead by example v. Elders are a board of directors

Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock. (1 Peter 5:1-3)

It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do. (1 Tim 3:1)

The words overseer (bishop), shepherd (pastor), and elder (presbyter) are used interchangeably by Scripture in different translations to describe one role.

Any man who desires to do the work of an elder can do so. Doing the work is the process by which new elders become evident. Not everyone who does the work gets the title, which is not what it’s about, but everyone who gets the title had better do the work.

Whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many. (Matt 20:26-28)

What is the work that elders are supposed to do as an example for the flock to imitate; and is there any part of this work that should not be imitated by mature Christians who don’t have the title?

Elders are supposed to have an impeccable character and hold fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able to teach, exhort in sound doctrine, and refute those who contradict (See 1 Tim 3:1-7 & Tit 1:5-9). This includes what we talked about in Mutual Edification and Each One Has a Teaching.

Paul told the elders at Ephesus to, “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.” (Acts 20:28)

A model shepherd is one who feeds and guards the flock. He has to be aware of each and every sheep to oversee their spiritual growth. This can only be done through close, personal relationships. We are all to consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds (Heb 10:24), but leaders will give an account for the flock (Heb 13:17). What are some areas that elders should help develop in the life of each Christian?

  • A firmly grounded faith
  • Loving God with all the heart, soul, mind, and strength
  • Transformation of character
  • Bringing friends, family, neighbors and the world to Christ
  • Being aware of and guarding against the schemes of the devil
  • Keeping marriages intact and thriving
  • Raising children in the instruction and discipline of the Lord
  • Managing time and finances Biblically
  • Having a godly influence in one’s community
  • Developing one’s gift to serve the body of Christ

Scripture teaches authentic relationships. Christianity is about practising righteousness in this life, and in the life to come. Maturing saints look for lost souls to help. Families disciple families and their lives become intertwined. Christians encourage one another day after day.

True elders are mature. They lead by example in all these things, which is easily a full time job worthy of financial support. (See 1 Tim 5:17-20) They don’t do everything themselves. They duplicate themselves.

Contrast this with a modern day board of directors elected to make business decisions for corporations that call themselves churches. They are often given the title of elder, which creates the appearance of following Scripture. But these are businessmen, not spiritual men.

They hire a servant to do their job and call him a preacher. To justify the expense they write up a job description and have him do everything the body should do, thus stunting the spiritual growth of everyone else.

Some guys get into the manmade ‘preaching’ business with a naïve idea about actually reproving, rebuking, and exhorting immature Christians to obedience and maturity, and equipping the saints for works of service, namely, evangelism.

But the board of directors fires their hireling if he starts preaching obedience to all Scripture. Running the church like a business requires that the customers are all happy. In this faulty system, complaints from unrepentant sinners can get the hireling scolded or fired.

But most hirelings aren’t naïve; they’re slick and they quickly learn how to speak out of both sides of their mouth, tickling the ears of as many as possible. They work the system, building their resume so they can move on to bigger churches that pay fatter salaries.

The average amount of time that a ‘pulpit minister’ spends in one pulpit is three years. The church they leave behind is just as helpless as it was before, and the spiritually immature elders-in-name-only scramble to hire another servant.

He gave some as… evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. (Eph 4:11-13)

True shepherds equip the saints for the work of service. They send preachers out to preach rather than hiring someone to be their ‘pulpit minister’ (regardless of the title used, who invented that position?). Every Christian is a minister, but their ministry can only be developed by rejecting bogus traditions of men.

 

Next up: Autonomous churches v. Corporations and franchises >>>

2007-11-12

Each one has a teaching v. Designated teachers

Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment. (James 3:1)

I love contrasting Scripture because it always gives you a better understanding of God’s intended meaning. Teacher is one of the gifts listed in Romans 12:7, 1 Cor 12:28, and Eph 4:11. A measure of authority is implied (See also Acts 13:1, 1 Thess 5:12-13, Heb 13:7).

But the presence of a gifted teacher no more limits others from teaching than the presence of a gifted evangelist limits others from evangelizing. How else can these gifts be developed? One of the main purposes of an assembly is to give everyone who has considered how to stimulate others to love and good deeds an opportunity to do so.

Read Hebrews 10:24-25 and 1 Corinthians 14:26-40. The thrust of 1 Corinthians chapters 12-14 is the various parts of the body working together in love, and no part is any more or any less valuable than any other part. All parts are necessary.

When you assemble, each one has a psalm, a teaching, an exhortation…
This appears to have been standard practice in the first century church.

Things were getting a little chaotic at the church in Corinth, so Paul told them to limit the number of speakers; and not to interrupt each other. You can add it up yourself; but it looks like they were to limit it to around a dozen speakers per assembly. Of course, you could rotate speakers between assemblies so everyone who had considered how to stimulate others to love and good deeds could still do so.

These restrictions were because of a bunch of fleshly, immature Christians at Corinth. For example, look at 1 Cor 3:1-3, or just read the whole book. Within reason, these restrictions don’t entirely apply to every church, but would certainly apply to a bunch of fleshly, immature Christians.

Children need many restrictions. If all goes well, they eventually pass from immaturity to maturity and enter the adult community, just as Christians are supposed to pass from immaturity and become mature Christians. Mature people have different roles, and some have more wisdom than others, but all have equally valid participation.

Imagine a man who should be mature, but who perpetually depends on his parents to run his life. The clergy/laity system is like a dysfunctional parent/child relationship; the kids never grow up and become mature Christians. It produces perpetual immaturity.

For those accustomed to the rigid clergy/laity format, where the masses pack the pews and the ‘professionals’ tell them what to think, a dozen different speakers per assembly may seem chaotic at first glance. But done properly and in an orderly manner, this is actually rather refreshing. Everyone gets to enjoy the benefits of different perspectives and teaching styles. Those who prepare and deliver an exhortation can tell you that they learn a lot more than they do when just listening.

One of the major motivations for maintaining the clergy/laity format is control. They can’t have people thinking for themselves or they would go out of business.

What if someone says something unorthodox? OK, so now truth seekers have to examine the Scriptures daily to see if these things are so. Is that so bad? Open and honest discussion leads to greater depths of understanding and discovery of the riches contained in the word of God.

Why should anyone allow a man or group of men to do their thinking for them? Entrusting your eternity to ‘the clergy’ is plain foolish. Sadly, spiritual growth is stagnated by organized religion, and multitudes are turned off by this dysfunctional misrepresentation of Christianity.

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil. Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of instruction about washings and laying on of hands, and the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment. And this we will do, if God permits. (Heb 5:12-6:3)

Give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching. (1 Tim 4:13)

 

Next up: Elders lead by example v. Elders are a board of directors >>>

2007-11-06

Each one has a psalm v. Designated song leaders

How many church squabbles and divisions over music could be avoided if people would simply follow the Biblical pattern? Part of the problem is that people put way more emphasis on music than God does; so much that some give the impression that music is what church is all about.

What if nobody in a church knew how sing? Would an assembly be less godly if they didn’t always have music? Some have gone so far in trying to maintain a traditional, professional image that they hire pagans to entertain them?!?!

Let’s look at the New Testament pattern for music:

When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching… Let all things be done for edification. (1 Cor 14:26)

Be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord. (Eph 5:18-19)

Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father. (Col 3:16-17)

These three Scriptures are pretty much the extent of New Testament teaching on music. Let’s ask the basic questions:

When: The assembly is mentioned, but music is certainly not limited to the assembly. Do all in the name of the Lord Jesus.

Where: New Testament Christians proclaimed the gospel publicly, but they assembled from house to house. Picture highly relational home churches meeting several times each week.

Who: Each one who had prepared an edifying psalm to deliver did so. This allows much diversity in each church and promotes tolerance. Variety is the spice of life. Contrast this with the modern tradition of a designated style of music led by designated song leaders. Disagreement over the designated style has caused many church splits.

What: We’re not interested in just any music. The Scripture says spiritual songs that teach and admonish one another, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Someone could teach and admonish the assembly with a psalm or lead the assembly in a group song. Let all things be done for edification.

Why: Music fills you’re mind with images, good or bad. Philippians 4:8 can definitely be applied: whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.

How: Psalmos, the Greek word for psalms in the Scriptures above, is the same Greek word that the New Testament uses to reference the book of Psalms in the Old Testament. (See Luke 20:42, 24:44; Acts 1:20, 13:33) The book of Psalms describes a tremendous variety of music.

psalmos (psal-mos’); NT:5568 from NT:5567; a set piece of music, i.e. a sacred ode (accompanied with the voice, harp or other instrument; a “psalm”); collectively, the book of the Psalms.

psallo (psal’-lo); NT:5567; probably strengthened from psao (to rub or touch the surface; compare NT:5597); to twitch or twang, i.e. to play on a stringed instrument.

(Biblesoft’s New Exhaustive Strong’s Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Copyright (c) 1994, Biblesoft and International Bible Translators, Inc.)

If you’ve never heard, you’ll be surprised to know that some denominations claim that musical instruments are not to be used in the assembly of the saints. How do you think God feels about people creating laws where He hasn’t?

In vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men. Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men. (Mark 7:7-8)

It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery. (Gal 5:1)

If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, “Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!” (which all refer to things destined to perish with use) — in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men? These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence. (Col 2:20-23)

God didn’t have a problem with musical instruments in the Old Testament; He doesn’t have a problem with them in the New Testament; and He doesn’t have a problem with them in heaven. (See Rev 5:8, 15:2) If God doesn’t have a problem with them, why should we?

It is good to give thanks to the LORD and to sing praises to Your name, O Most High; to declare Your lovingkindness in the morning and Your faithfulness by night, with the ten-stringed lute and with the harp, with resounding music upon the lyre. For You, O LORD, have made me glad by what You have done, I will sing for joy at the works of Your hands. (Ps 92:1-4)

 

Next up: Each one has a teaching v. Designated teachers >>>

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