Important Questions: Baptism

It came to my attention that I have never addressed the topic of baptism online before. Baptism is an important topic that is considered “elementary” to the Church, that is, it is foundational to the Church.  Yet because there are so few scriptures it can also be a difficult topic to address.

SCRIPTURES:  

  • 1st Peter 3:18-22;
  • Galatians 3:26-29;
  • Romans 6:1-6;
  • 1 Corinthians 12:13-14;
  • Matthew 3:11;
  • Matthew 28:19-20 (cf Mark 16:14-18);
  • 1 Corinthians 1:17

A PLEDGE: 1st Peter 3:18-22

For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that He might bring you to God, after being put to death in the fleshly realm but made alive in the spiritual realm.  In that state He also went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison who in the past were disobedient, when God patiently waited in the days of Noah while an ark was being prepared. In it a few—that is, eight people—were saved through water.  Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the pledge of a good conscience toward God) through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Now that He has gone into heaven, He is at God’s right hand with angels, authorities, and powers subject to Him.

Peter shows us that baptism is an antitype of Noah’s flood in which all the wickedness of the flesh was wiped away leaving behind only the righteous souls who were housed in the covenant of God.

The parenthetical statement sometimes breaks up Peter’s thought, so we’re going to take it out and read the sentence through before replacing the parenthetical thought: “baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”  Peter says that baptism, as it corresponds to Noah’s flood, saves us through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Baptism is not the substance or power of our salvation; it operates through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  “If Christ is not raised” as Paul said, “we of all men are most pitiable”.  It’s the resurrection of Jesus Christ that gives baptism its meaning, and God chose baptism as the mechanism through which we are conformed to the resurrection of Christ. Then if we put Peter’s parenthetical statement back in, we see that baptism is not about the outward cleansing of the body, as were the Jewish baptisms of the Law, rather, it is our pledge of a clean conscience towards God.

Baptism, then, is our pledge of a clean conscience towards God by which we are saved through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

PUTTING ON CHRIST: Galatians 3:26-29

For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.  For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ like a garment. There is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, heirs according to the promise.

It is said that the word of God is many-sided; and so it is that Paul reveals the same thing as Peter by approaching it from another side of God’s wisdom: baptism is how those who are children of God through faith have put on Christ.  Here we see faith and God’s covenant working in baptism.

Baptism never works by itself because baptism is not the substance of God’s work in believers.

BURRIED WITH CHRIST: Romans 6:1-6

What should we say then? Should we continue in sin so that grace may multiply?  Absolutely not! How can we who died to sin still live in it?  Or are you unaware that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?  Therefore we were buried with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too may walk in a new way of life.  For if we have been joined with Him in the likeness of His death, we will certainly also be in the likeness of His resurrection.  For we know that our old self was crucified with Him in order that sin’s dominion over the body may be abolished, so that we may no longer be enslaved to sin,

The believer is joined to Christ in both the likeness of His death and resurrection in baptism, and offers this act as proof that it is impossible for a Christian to continue in sin.  By joining Christ in the likeness of HIs death sin’s terrible grip on us through the flesh is done away with so that we can join Him in the likeness of His resurrection and walk in a new way of life!

Every baptism which does not result in the death of sin’s hold over the flesh and the new life of the believer is a counterfeit.

BY ONE SPIRIT INTO ONE BODY: 1 Corinthians 12:13-14

For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.  So the body is not one part but many.

Baptism is the act by which the Holy Spirit brings us into the body, and it is offered here as a proof for Christian unity (c.f. Ephesians 4:1-6).  Of particular note here is that the agent of baptism is the Holy Spirit.

WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT & FIRE: Matthew 3:11

I baptize you with water for repentance, but the One who is coming after me is more powerful than I. I am not worthy to remove His sandals. He Himself will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.

John the baptist clearly delineated between his baptism and the baptism of Jesus; his baptism was with water for repentance, but Jesus’ baptism is with the Holy Spirit and fire.

It is a mistake to take this passage to mean that there is no water baptism in the Church, as many do.  This passage does not teach that Jesus did away with the element of water in baptism, but that the substance of Jesus’ baptism is the Holy Spirit and fire.  Of particular interest is the Levitical laws pertaining to baptism and fire; water was used for such things as could be cleansed outwardly (such as our bodies), while fire was used for things that were so infected that the entire entity had to be destroyed, such as a building infested with mold.

IN THE NAME: Matthew 28:19-20

Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

The prophet Ezekiel foretold by the words of God that God would vindicate His great name in the days that He would put His Spirit within us (who comes in His name- John 14:26) and take out our hearts of stone and give us new living hearts (Ezekiel 36:22-27).  In fact, Ezekiel reveals to us by the words of God that the reason for God’s act of redemption is on behalf of His great name!

It is by baptism that we enter as co-heirs into the name of our Father, His Son, and His Spirit.  But here I feel compelled to stop and note how concerned, and even terrified, I am by how trivial and ritualistic the recitation of this passage has become during the act of baptism in the Church.  I worries me that so many Churches stand without hallowed reverence to baptize men and women into the name the Holy Name.

NOT SENT TO BAPTIZE: 1 Corinthians 1:17

For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to evangelize—not with clever words, so that the cross of Christ will not be emptied of its effect.

As powerful and important as baptism is, Paul’s testimony here serves to sober the mind of churches regarding baptism where baptism has become the primary focus and end objective; Paul understood the work of preaching the gospel, not baptizing, to be the central work of the Church, for he knew that it is the “gospel that is the power of God for salvation to all who believe”.  Paul neither diminished the necessity of baptism, as we’ve seen in his other writings, nor exalted it to some measure of success like many today have done.

MISSION FELLOWSHIP

At mission fellowship we believe that baptism is our pledge of a clean conscience towards God in His holy triune name.  We practice a full body immersion in water, which we understand is an antitype of the flood and the sign of our being joined to Christ in the likeness of His death and resurrection by the Holy Spirit and fire.

We believe that any genuine baptism of the Holy Spirit always results in the death of “the old person” and the giving of life to “the new”.

Though baptism has been trivialized in the West, the testimony of life and death which it bears is a powerful one that we have witnessed firsthand in China when one of our brothers, whose father was a member of the communist party, asked if we would be willing to baptize him in front of his father.  We were eager to participate in sharing this witness and explained to his parents the significance of what baptism represents- the death of Jesus Christ and His resurrection by which we join Him and are saved- the testimony was received with great impact in his family, who were later saved by his on going witness and the change from the “old man” to the “new man” that they saw in him.

GET CONNECTED WITH US

If you don’t have a Church body where you call home, and live in the Kansas City area, we welcome you to get connected with us.

May the grace, mercy, and peace of Christ fill you, amen!

There is a Generation…

The scripture is inundated with prophecy, and Jesus told us that we should watch for the prophetic signs of the time so that we do not stumble in them.  When prophecy is ignored, the Church goes to sleep and becomes disobedient to Jesus’ commandment to keep watch!

I am, therefore, compelled to bring our attention to the following prophetic utterance regarding the generation of the end time:

There is a generation that curses its father and does not bless its mother.  There is a generation that is pure in its own eyes, yet is not washed from its filth.  There is a generation—how haughty its eyes and pretentious its looks.  There is a generation whose teeth are swords, whose fangs are knives, devouring the oppressed from the land and the needy from among mankind.

~Proverbs 30:11-14

But know this: Difficult times will come in the last days.  For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, proud,blasphemers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, without love for what is good, traitors, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to the form of godliness but denying its power. Avoid these people!

~2 Timothy 3:1-5

First, let me speak this word of encouragement to my brethren; you’re not alone in this wicked world, neither has God abandoned you!  There is a great multitude, even if that multitude is small when compared to the great sea of people around it, that has kept themselves unpolluted from the filth of this world.  If you hunger and thirst for righteousness, and you worship God in the beauty of holiness, do not be discouraged, for God is faithful forever! 

This generation, foretold in Agur’s prophetic utterence, and revealed again by Paul, portrays a self-righteous and haughty generation who disregards its parents and treads underfoot the helpless!

PURE IN ITS OWN EYES

In this generation they will deny their own guilt and claim to be innocent, but they never turn from their iniquities!  Paul called them an “irreconcilable” people who “hold to a form of godliness but deny its power”.

John Calvin once wrote, “the gospel is not a doctrine of the tongue, but of life. It cannot be grasped by reason and memory only, but it is fully understood when it possesses the whole soul and penetrates to the inner recesses of the heart.”  This is a people in whom the gospel did not take root, but was stagnated by the traditions of men, as the LORD spoke through the prophet Isaiah, “these people approach Me with their mouths to honor Me with lip-service— yet their hearts are far from Me, and their worship consists of man-made rules learned by rote— therefore I will again confound these people with wonder after wonder.  The wisdom of their wise men will vanish, and the understanding of the perceptive will be hidden” (Isaiah 29:13-14).

But how can we cleanse our ways?

“How can a young man cleanse his way?  By taking heed according to Your word” ~Psalm 119:9

“Just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of the water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.” ~Ephesians 5:25-27

HOW HAUGHTY ARE THEIR EYES

This generation greatly esteems itself; it scoffs at God and thinks it can chasten Him!  This generation has not walked humbly with God, but became boastful and proud in heart, even disregarding the judgments of God!

They do not heed the prophets, nor listen to the preachers; they drowned out the voice of their teachers with flatterers and charmers!  They refused to humble themselves before the judgments of God, but sought those for hire who would speak smooth words to them, despising God’s way as too harsh!

WHO DEVOUR THE POOR & HELPLESS

This is a generation who consume the poor to satiate their wretched lust to accumulate more!

They buy for cheap what was built on the empty stomachs and unlivable conditions of the poor- and they did not want to see their suffering, so they moved them to far away lands!

Therefore, “thus says the LORD:

For three transgressions of Israel, and for four, I will not turn away its punishment, because they sell the righteous for silver, and the poor for a pair of sandals!  They trampled the heads of the poor on the dust of the ground and pervert the way of the humble.” ~Amos 2:6-7

There is no fear of God to be found among this people- nothing is found in their presence to halt this swarm from consuming the whole world!

AVOID THEM!

Wherever the righteous are, whoever esteems pure things, avoid all such as these and have nothing to do with them!  They despise whoever is righteous, and betray them for gain.

Let not the righteous man harden his heart, but hear the prophetic utterance and live!

Important Questions: Should the Church Name & Oppose False Teachers?

There’s a new kind of wisdom being preached that says it’s fruitless to name and oppose false teachers, and that, instead, we should apply ourselves to other more fruitful endeavors.

So that is the question we will be address.

Should the Church bother itself with naming and opposing false teachers?

LIMITTING THE BODY

Double standards are something that I try to keep an eye out for when considering what I’m hearing, and I both see and experience a double standard when I encounter this kind of wisdom; namely, that those who say that it is fruitless to oppose false teachers because we should be applying ourselves to more fruitful endeavors then apply themselves to opposing anyone who names and opposes false teachers.

So, while it may not be every member’s place in the body to name and oppose false teachers, we have to ask ourselves if there is a place for that function anywhere in the body, and, if so, does this new wisdom limit those parts of the body in which this work has a place?

GOD’S STANDARD

Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron… If you instruct the brethren in these things, you will be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished in the words of faith and of the good doctrine which you have carefully followed.

~1 Timothy 4:12-6

Among those things that Paul exhorted Timothy to be a good minister of Jesus Christ in instructing the brethren in was the dangers of deceiving spirits and demonic doctrines that false teachers speak in hyposcirsy.

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. ~1 John 4:1

John follows Paul’s exhortation by encouraging the brethren to test every spirit to see whether or not they are from God because of the multitude of false prophets that have gone out into the world.

The Bereans were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of the mind, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so. ~Acts 17:11

In God’s standard, no one was exempt from being tested; not even an apostle! Far from being criticized for testing all things that were said, the Bereans were praised for their diligence.

Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ. ~Jude 3-4

Jude found it necessary to exhort the brethren to contend earnestly for the faith because of the false teachers who had crept in unnoticed.

When we tell members of the body that they are fruitless for opposing those false teachers and false prophets who sneak in bringing destructive heresies into the body, we do not uphold God’s standard, we oppose it.

It is just to answer today’s question by asking another question: should the Church bother itself with opposing those members who feel led to name and oppose false teachers? Invariably most people who do not feel comfortable with one will engage in the other.

OPPOSING BY NAME?

This charge I commit to you, son Timothy, according to the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, having faith and a good concsience, which some having rejected, concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck, of whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I delivered to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme. ~1 Timothy 1:18-20

One function of naming a false teacher or prophet is that it makes it more difficult for them to sneak into an assembly unnoticed and introduce their destructive heresies elsewhere. Paul did not shy away from naming people who were in error;

And their message will spread like cancer. Hymenaeus and Philetus are of this sort, who have strayed concerning the truth, saying that the resurrection is already past; and they overthrow the faith of some. 2 Timothy 2:17-18

The message of false teachers was viewed as a cancer not to be ignored; both the message and the messenger were named and opposed.

I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctring that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naïve. ~Romans 16:17-18

The unity and liberty of the body was of such importance that Paul instructed the brethren in Rome to keep watch for individuals who bring division and bondage and avoid them because they do not serve the Lord Christ, but their own appetites. The duty to keep watch is not reserved for an apostle only, but for the brethren as a whole.

LETTING THE BODY WORK

A city that shames its watchmen will be overthrown when the enemy invades. I believe we need to acknowledge individuals who know God’s word and heed their warnings when they sound the alarm against the wolves they spot trying to sneak into the assembly.

Our shepherds need to keep watch over the flock; let us not reject their tending.

When I hear the new wisdom that discourages watchmen from sounding the alarm, I look at the state of the Western Church and I find little reason to trust this new wisdom. But what really dismays me is that those who don’t want to put their fingers on the name of false teachers will so readily apply themselves to shaming anyone who does.

This is the real travesty; our watchmen have become the hunted!

Important Questions: Social Justice

SOCIAL JUSTICE

Do Christians have to be proactively engaged in matters of “social justice”?

The reason why this is an important question is because a lot of people see the alarming trend of Churches pushing aside matters of doctrine in favor of social justice concerns as very concerning and have reacted by decreasing their involvement in the community, some have even begun downplaying or out-right opposing social justice matters!

So we need to start by defining our terms: “social justice” here refers to Christ-minded care and involvement in the community.  It does not refer to any mindset or movement whereby other concerns of God’s word, like doctrine, worship, holiness, or prophecy, are diminished and/or replaced.

A LITTLE BACKGROUND

Historically matters of charity have been almost entirely handled by the Church.  Movements like the Methodist movement were heavily involved in building orphanages and hospitals, but today the Church has all but completely abdicated that role to government, and, as the government has taken over, the Church is now being restricted from serving the poor.

So we’re not only asking whether or not the Church should be proactively involved in such community matters, but, whether or not the Western Church has actually sinned by abdicating this role to other entities such as the government.

PURE & UNDEFILED RELIGION REQUIRED?

James 1:27   “Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world.”

Even though the word “religion” has a bad reputation these days, let’s look at it through God’s eyes: James teaches that true religion, the kind that is pure in God’s sight, is to be holy and look after the helpless.  This teaching sets Biblical “social justice” apart from other worldview’s because it is not only concerned with meeting the needs of the helpless, but also with personal holiness; indeed, matters concerning social justice were not isolated from personal holiness, nor did they come before our personal devotion to God.

There is a genuine concern over much of what is called “mission work” in the Church today because it has no regard for personal holiness, communion with Christ, or glorifying God.  But, we must be careful not to allow the disobedient to direct our beliefs by reacting to their disobedience, for surely this will end in our disobedience too!

What James said is simple enough: true religion is to keep ourselves unstained from the world while helping others; if we have either one of these elements, but not the other, we do not have pure religion in God’s sight!

Micah 6:8   Mankind, He has told you what is good and what the Lord requires of you: to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” (HCSB)

God requires that we act justly and love mercy.  This is not an option, and it follows that He expects us to show His justice and His mercy, not world’s “justice” and “mercy”.

Therefore, when we consider Christ, who “became for us righteousness, sanctification, and redemption” “while we were yet still helpless sinners“, we must consider that the justice and mercy of God is proactive towards those who are unworthy; namely, that God considered it “just” to seek that which was lost, and “merciful” to show kindness to those who were unworthy- but not only this, that He also considered it “just” and “merciful” to take those who were unclean and make them clean and spotless!

ISAIAH 58:1-7   “Cry out loudly, don’t hold back! Raise your voice like a trumpet. Tell My people their transgression and the house of Jacob their sins. They seek Me day after day and delight to know My ways, like a nation that does what is right and does not abandon the justice of their God. They ask Me for righteous judgments; they delight in the nearness of God. ‘Why have we fasted, but You have not seen? We have denied ourselves, but You haven’t noticed!’ Look, you do as you please on the day of your fast, and oppress all your workers. You fast with contention and strife to strike viciously with your fist. You cannot fast as you do today, hoping to make your voice heard on high. 

Will the fast I choose be like this: a day for a person to deny himself, to bow his head like a reed, and to spread out sackcloth and ashes?

Will you call this a fast and a day acceptable to the Lord?

Isn’t the fast I choose to break the chains of wickedness, to untie the ropes of the yoke, to set the oppressed free, and to tear off every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, to bring the poor and homeless into your house, to clothe the naked when you see him, and not to ignore your own flesh and blood?”

Breaking the chains of wickedness is intermingled with sharing our bread!  God wants our housing the poor and homeless to be coupled with setting free the oppressed!

Jesus is our perfect example in this; He broke the bonds of iniquity and led free a host of captives, but He also fed with bread the empty stomachs of those who were hungry!

Israel’s sin was that they sought God daily but abandoned His justice!   Are not many of our churches guilty of the same sin today?  Let us stop our sinning and take up the pure religion of Jesus Christ!

Important Questions: Are Sending Churches Necessary?

Does a minister need a sending/sponsoring Church to be legitimate?

We’re addressing this question here because it affects the course the minister will take into ministry.  It has great bearing on the mobility, accountability, capability, and flexibility of ministers everywhere. But sometimes it get’s taken for granted and doesn’t get asked out-loud.

So let’s ask this question out-loud.

WHAT IS A SENDING CHURCH?

Before we begin it will help to define what we’re talking about: the term “sending Church” refers to a Church that provides counsel, financial support, and spiritual encouragement to the ministers they send out.

The emphasis on this subject is usually placed on ministers receiving financial support, so we’ll give the topic of financial support its due attention, but I also want to address the other elements of a sending Church as it pertains to the minister’s legitimacy.

GOD’S STANDARD

So, does the scripture address this topic?  Not directly, however, it does indirectly address our questions:

2 Corinthians 11:7-8    Or did I commit a sin by humbling myself so that you might be exalted, because I preached the gospel of God to you free of charge?  I robbed other churches by taking pay from them to minister to you.

The apostle Paul  did actually receive wages from other churches so that he could minister the gospel free of charge to other churches.

This liberty is given in scripture:

Luke 10:7    Remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they offer, for the worker is worthy of his wages. Don’t be moving from house to house.

Where the scripture gives liberty to receive sustaining support from the Church, it is altogether silent on any instruction that would bind ministers based on receiving financial support from the Church, or that would elevate ministers who do to positions from which to look down on those who do not.

But I don’t want to miss the fact that Paul made most of his livelihood from his own tent-making labors; our lucrative financial support system would have been very foreign to Paul and the early Church Christians.  The support Paul received from other Churches seemed to be aimed at sustaining Paul and enabling his ministry, not enriching his 401k.

My intent is not to bind ministers in the opposite direction, saying that it is wrong for them to benefit in surplus from the grace and love of their supporting congregations, rather, to caution against an arrogant spirit I have encountered in the Western Church among pastors who look down on other ministers who fulfill their ministry’s without charging the Church; consider that your surplus is reason for lowliness of spirit (James 1:10), not haughtiness.

As touchy as this subject can be, I hope for an open ear from pastors because of how much error has been witnessed in our century with pastors where money is concerned; the haughtiness, pride, and sin that often times follows those who place too much importance on being paid ministers is evident to all.

WHO SENDS MINISTERS OUT?

The blessed liberty for ministers to receive support from the Church for their gospel work settles the question of whether or not a minister can receive financial support from a Church; although there is nothing that requires a minister to be paid, the liberty is given.

Next we want to ask who commissions the Lord’s ministers?

Romans 10:14-15     “How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed?  And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard?  And how shall they hear without a preacher?  And how shall they preach unless they are sent?”

Matthew 9:37-38     “Then He said to His disciples, ‘The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few.  Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest’.”

Matthew 22:2-4     “The kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who arranged a marriage for his son, and sent out his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding; and they were not willing to come.  Again, he sent out other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and fated cattle are killed, and all things are ready. Come to the wedding.”’

Fundamentally, it is God alone who commissions and sends out His servants.  Unless He raise up and establish His servants there would be no one to work in the harvest; He has to send them out, that is why the Church needs to be praying for more laborer’s!

One of the symptoms of a church that has lost sight of God’s supreme place of sending out laborer’s is that she does not pray to God for more laborer’s but employs other methods of obtaining them for herself.

God gives the grace to appoint ministers to various ministries according to His own will.  The Church primarily recognizes that divine appointment and supports the Lord’s work through what every joint supplies.

There is no doubt that Overseer’s were heavily involved as God’s instruments to acknowledge and support the ministers that He appointed; the apostle Paul often directed Titus or Timothy to go or stay in certain cities for work that was needed, and in Paul’s case, he was separated by God for three years in Arabia before he went to Jerusalem to see Peter and James for 15 days; he then went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia and ministered the gospel for fourteen years before he went up again to Jerusalem by revelation with Barnabas and Titus to communicate to them the gospel that he was preaching to the gentiles.  It was then, when the apostles saw by the proof of Paul’s work that the gospel for the uncircumcised had been committed to him in the same way that the gospel for the circumcised had been committed to Peter, that they extended to Paul and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship (Galatians 1:11- 2:10).

What the scripture presents to us is a Church in which Overseer’s recognize and acknowledge ministers upon whom the grace of Christ has been poured out and provide appropriate counsel, wisdom, and oversight to those ministers.  Sometimes we see prophetic words being spoken about a minister, like Timothy, but we do not see the Church setting up programs to certify ministers apart from the proof and working of God demonstrated in them.

Again, this is not to invalidate the benefit that a minister who has been called out by God can receive from a program that trains ministers in doctrine and builds them up with sound wisdom and counsel, but, it is to point out the great potential for error when we assume that someone who has completed a man-made program is called out and sent by God into ministry.  There is no scriptural basis for that, and, the present condition of the Western Church seems to suggest that this approach is wrong.

ANOTHER WAY

If you have been called out by Christ and given the grace to minister in some capacity, you may be asking yourself if there is another viable alternative to getting financial sponsorship from a sending Church, and there is; though there are many instances in which a minister needs financial support from the Church to do his work, there are many cases in which it is actually harmful to the Church when ministers seek support for ministries that do not need it because it needlessly ties up resources in places that do not need it.

The most effective option for entering a mission field where little support exists or is needed is for the minister to become self-supporting and start building from the ground up using simple evangelism approaches.  As disciples are made the Church’s ability to take on more ministry will grow in a self-sustaining way.

For missionaries with their eye on local U.S. cities, there may be very little support available because the city you feel drawn to is not a priority, or, for missionaries who are looking to some fields abroad where employment opportunities for U.S. citizens are abundant, you may be able to free up Church resources by supporting yourself.  It’s part of being a good steward in the Kingdom of God to discern whether or not it is appropriate to tie up Church resources in the work that you are doing.

LIBERTY ABOVE FORMULA

My conclusion is that we need to gladly live within the liberty God’s word gives to us rather than bind formula’s on those who are trying to do God’s work.

During different seasons I have been “salaried”, “unpaid”, and “love offering” based, and in every season I have seen the fruit of God that endures.

I also want to encourage those brothers and sisters out there who have experienced an outpouring of Christ’s grace for a ministry but who are already meeting resistance from people who want to require you to meet human standards before you do the Lord’s work; do not be discouraged when you meet people who are more concerned with the appearance and titles of ministers than with the fruit of God’s Kingdom- set your hand to the plow and do not look back.  Guard against arrogance and pride, and never grow weary in doing good!

May the grace, peace, and mercy of the Lord Jesus Christ abound to you all, amen!

LOVE

Love is patient and is kind; love does not envy. Love does not brag, is not proud, doesn’t not act inappropriately, is not selfish, is not provoked, and takes no account of evil; love finds no joy in unrighteousness but rejoices in the truth; love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. ~1st Corinthians 13:4-8

Meditate on these things, my brothers and sisters, they deserve greater room in us than brief thought.

~~~

LOVE…

Jesus said to be perfect in love, even as our Father is perfect, and I believe this command is secured for us by the blood of Jesus Christ and the resurrection power of the Holy Spirit.  This command is the central work of regeneration in the new believer; namely, that though it was once true of us that we did not seek God, nor knew the way of peace, the light of Christ was made to shine brightly in our hearts and we have been washed and regenerated so that we now hunger and thirst after righteousness and enjoy the communion of the Holy Spirit.

Patient

Love is patient.  Love grants time and space for the sake of others without regard to its own suffering- and doesn’t grow dim as time wanes onward.

Kind

Love is kind.  Love chooses to be gentle rather than gruff, to exercise tender care rather than rough handling of others.  Its desire is to show benevolence towards those who need help, even at great cost to itself.

Does not envy

Love does not envy because love rejoices with others when they receive blessings.  It finds satisfaction in others success.

Does not brag

Love does not brag. Love does not take stock of its own accomplishments to parade them before others eyes, nor try to invoke envy from others but protects them from the stumblings block of envy and bitterness.  It does not boast in its own accomplishments or use them against others.

Is not proud

Love is not proud.  Love considers other people above itself and desires to meet other peoples needs above its own.  It does not measure itself against others nor count itself higher than others.

Not inappropriately

Love does not act inappropriate.  Love considers the acceptable behavior for whatever environment it finds itself in and rejoices in behaving in such a way that builds others up in their natural element.   It does not insist on its own customs, but learns proper behavior for the sake of others.

Not selfish

Love is not selfish.  Love does not seek to meet its own needs and wants because it is compelled with an open heart towards others.  It is willing to spend and be spent for the sake of others.

Not provoked

Love is not provoked.  Love does not avail itself to injury or respond to harms with anger, outbursts, and wrath.  Rather, love turns away injury and seeks peace.

Keeps no record

Love keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not remember injuries received.  It is quick to forget hurt and harm and looks for ways to find reconciliation, mercy, and forgiveness.

No joy in unrighteousness

Love does not rejoice in unrighteousness.  Love is grieved intensely by the unrighteous fruit that brings death.  It never seeks out the dry parched desert of unrighteousness.

Rejoices in truth

Love rejoices in truth. Love finds green pastures and cool shade for rest in truth.  It welcomes truth and does not resist it.

Bears all things

Love bears all things.  Love is willing to endure all trials and suffering for the good of all.  It is willing to receive abuse and be treated spitefully for the Holy Name from Whom love comes.

Believes

Love believes all things.  Love trusts with a secure heart.  It is not double minded because it is convinced of greater things to come.

Hopes

Love hopes all things.  Love has greater expectations for the future than what is currently seen or understood.  It is not disappointed by current trials because it has a secure future.

Endures

Love endures.  Love does not grow weary in doing good or burn out when pressed.  It is refined by the heat of the day and remains when hope is realized.

Never fails

Love never fails.  Love has no end.  It is forever!

BE BLESSED

May all the children of God be blessed in peace and grace.  Let love be pure and undefiled, and guard against the sin that so easily strangles love and causes it to grow cold.

1 Corinthians 1:10-17 Unity vs. Denominationalism

We’re continuing our lesson series on the Corinthian letters with 1st Corinthians 1:10-17.

I believe this section from Paul’s writings is one of the most timely exhortations for the Church in our day as we find ourselves smack in the middle of 37,000 distinct denominations, countless scholarly opinions on each verse, and an ever widening schism in the brotherhood!

Marriage & Christ

Any time you enter into a relationship with someone, it alters your life.

When I married Mary, my life changed forever. My time, my efforts, my thoughts and feelings, all began to gravitate towards her. And nothing has changed so far; my time, thoughts and feelings, and efforts still gravitate towards her, even on my busiest weeks, the gravity still pulls us back together because we are God-pronounced as one.

I’ve heard it said, and tend to agree, that one of the best indicators that trouble is on the horizon between a husband and wife is when this gravity is broken and one of the spouses begins to retake their time, attention, thoughts, and feelings, and invests them in other pursuits.

Many couples are living in virtual-divorce; they occupy the same space, but live completely separate lives, pursuing completely different goals, and share relatively few commonalities together.
This same principle applies to our relationship with Christ because we are His bride.

One of the best indicators that our relationship with Christ is in trouble is whether or not we have broken the gravity that pulls us together with Him. There are a lot of Christians who are living completely separate lives from Christ, pursuing completely different goals and sharing almost nothing in common with Him- they are living lives virtually divorced from Christ. They have retaken their time, and invested it elsewhere, and they’ve retaken their hearts, and invested them elsewhere.

We need to understand that it’s usually when the gravity between a husband and wife has been broken that one of them is in the most danger cheating with someone else. Rarely does someone become unfaithful when they are utterly in love with their spouse and that gravity remains in tact. Their time, attention, thoughts and feelings all act to reinforce their relationship. Likewise, a Christian who is no longer drawn to Christ in these real and tangible ways is in extreme danger of being seduced by the World.

It’s worth mentioning that a lot of husbands deceived themselves into thinking that their relationship was good with their wife because they were out working 60 hours a week “for her”, but yet their relationship deteriorated and they fell for someone in the office because they had broken that gravity with their spouse. “Ministry” is not the same thing as a relationship with Christ. Nothing can replace our time in fellowship with the Lord. Nothing. When someone has a vibrant relationship with Christ, then their ministry and kingdom-work is meaningful and fruitful.

I hope to encourage my brethren to give meaningful consideration to their relationship with Christ; it is the most meaningful and life-altering relationship you have.

Sermon: 1 Corinthians 1:1-9 on April 4th 2015

Paul’s epistles to the Corinthians are an incredibly timely message for the Church in the U.S. Corinth was an epicenter of trade, wealth, political power, culture, and idolatrous religion; the ancient world made the term “corinthianize” synonymous with “practice evil”. Amidst all this wickedness and spiritual oppression, the Holy Spirit inspires Paul to pen a letter that many today claim won’t hold up to modern challenges.

Please join us as we take a look at this amazing letter.

Why Redemption?

It is natural after we hear the gospel preached to ask “why did God chose to redeem us?”

The answer is given great prominence in catechisms, but is so often lost to our distant thoughts, and scripture weaves the answer so extensively throughout its pages that we often “read over” it.

The reason for redemption is that we have been chosen for the glory of God so that we may proclaim His praises as a royal and holy priesthood. As  A.W. Tozer put it, “Jesus was born of a virgin, suffered under Pontius Pilate, died on the cross and rose from the grave to make worshippers out of rebels!”

Unfortunately, anyone listening in on what Christians are saying today would run a far better chance of thinking that God’s purpose in redemption was to give us healthy, prosperous lives, than that His purpose for us is to be instruments of praise!

There is no reason for a god of health and prosperity to reveal himself to us in such intimate ways as the God of Heaven has chosen to; the god of health and prosperity would have no reason to dwell in us, nor to enlighten our hearts with the light of Christ.  But that is what our Father has done; He dwells in us, and among us, and He gives His only begotten Son as a light to enlighten our hearts and drive away the darkness!

God wants us to come close to Him and know Him because we are His priests, appointed to declare His praises from generation to generation.

If you read the scriptures you will find that we are appointed to proclaim the praises of His great wonders, of His judgments, of who He is, and of His great mercies, grace, and love!  It follows that God does not want mere academic acclaim to these praises, as we get when we merely read about them in a book, He wants praises that flow from those who have encountered the glory of each one of these aspects of God, and turn around and praise Him for them!

Do you know your Father?  Are you fit and able to proclaim His praises forever and ever?

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