to have sound health, i.e. be well (in body); figuratively, to be true in doctrine.
We are examining the American Church and the prospects of doctrinal corruption due to ecumenical initiatives. We stated that the church is in trouble with a capital T. Our focus today is on the Scriptures. 66 Books that are truly one Book. From Genesis to Revelation there is one theme, the incredible story of Redemption provided by the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ to purchase a people for himself. His death did not merely make salvation possible. It actually accomplished salvation for his chosen people (Rev. 5:9-10).
And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.
The OT provides the history of Israel. The NT informs us of the body of Christ, the church. It is through God’s gracious revelation to man that we have knowledge of the church, heaven, hell, and eternity.
The Nature & Authority of the Bible, is the single most critical factor in identifying Theological Orthodoxy, sound doctrine. Error on this essential virtually guarantees there will be a multitude of unorthodox and flat out false doctrines issuing from those who embrace such error. Church History confirms this fact.
What is the Nature of our Bible? It is God’s Word. The orthodox position on the Bible for thousands of years has been it is inerrant and infallible. It is our guide for faith and practice. Many denominations have abandoned this perspective. This is a major factor in the decline of the American church. When this principle is compromised it is all downhill from there. The PCUSA as a Denomination has lost 21% of its membership in just the past 4 years as a result of abandoning the Authority of Scripture. Are you in a church that has done this?
What is the Authority of Special Revelation, our Bible? It is the final arbiter, the ultimate source of TRUTH absolute. Jesus said straight up to Pilate that his purpose in coming was ‘to bear witness to the truth.’ (John 18:37) The culture of America has become saturated with relativism. The claim of our culture is there is no such thing as Absolute Truth. The Bible is TRUTH Absolute. All Scripture is inspired and profitable. Case Closed!!
What does the church that you are a part of believe and practice on this vital matter?
Leadership – research has revealed as the #1 cause of decline in the American Church – Leadership.
The Francis Schaeffer Leadership Institute surveyed over 1,000 pastors. This research disclosed that 75% of pastors responding stated they were not prepared to lead well by their colleges and seminaries. 81% stated they had no strategic and intentional disciple making process. These statistics lend credence to the major cause of decline is a leadership issue. Seminaries teach a man to study the Bible. They do not teach a man to pastor with effectiveness.
Further validation of this principle is this. Men who lead well serve churches that are for the most part thriving.
Metric – This brings us to the final factor we will consider. The vast majority of churches measure ministry effectiveness by mere activity. They look at numbers; how many, how much, and how often. The NT criteria for ministry effectiveness are Transformation. This principle is a clear NT objective for all believers:
Romans 12:2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Future – Joshua issued a compelling challenge to the people he lead. Choose you this day whom you will serve. This is where the American church is positioned. The old aphorism is true – - ‘When you always do what you’ve always done, you will always get what you always got’. Poor grammar – sound logic.
The church cannot continue to engage in dysfunctional ministry practices and expect to have the blessing of the LORD. He honors his word. The text states clearly when we seek him he will be found. However, he will only be found on his terms, not some substitute that is an eclectic conglomeration of practices borrowed from the culture around us.
If the dysfunctions we have noted are present in the church you lead, address them. Do so with courtesy and dignity but with a real measure of tenacity. Failure to change leads to continued persistent decline. The rate of decline is accelerating. The time for action is NOW.
Delay is deadly. Act NOW!!
Dr. George Guthrie teaches at Union Univ. in Jackson TN. Each year he administers a Literacy Quiz to incoming freshman. These are young people from SB churches. Theoretically they are the ‘cream of the crop’. This quiz is very simple. An example of the questions, ‘Who preached the Sermon on The Mount?’ The average score on this quiz – 57. Stunning, absolutely stunning! You cannot obey what you do not know!
The Prophet Amos grappled with literacy in his ministry:
“Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord GOD, “when I will send a famine on the land- not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD. (Amos 8:11)
Listen to the observations made concerning Biblical Literacy by men who teach in Christian Institutions.
In “The 9 Most Important Issues Facing the Evangelical Church,” theologian Michael Vlach cites “Biblical Illiteracy in the Church” as his final concern. George Barna’s assessment is that “the Christian body in America is immersed in a crisis of biblical illiteracy.”
New Testament scholar David Nienhuis summarizes his understanding of the situation in an article titled “The Problem of Evangelical Biblical Illiteracy: A View from the Classroom”:
For well over twenty years now, Christian leaders have been lamenting the loss of general biblical literacy in America. … Some among us may be tempted to seek odd solace in the recognition that our culture is increasingly post-Christian. … Much to our embarrassment, however, it has become increasingly clear that the situation is really no better among confessing Christians, even those who claim to hold the Bible in high regard.
In 1986, Neil Postman published an influential cultural essay titled “Amusing Ourselves to Death.” Postman wrote:
What George Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Adolphus Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture.
Turn off that phone, read, and discover what God’s word says!
Monergism is a theological perspective that boldly and unapologetically declares that ‘Salvation is of the LORD!’ This perspective was dominant in American Christianity until the mid-1800’s. One of the primary architects of the transition was Charles Grandison Finney.
Finney was a disgruntled attorney who became a preacher. He had little or no theological training. The consequences of this change have been nothing short of tragic!
Remember the phrase ‘it’s the economy stupid!’ “It’s the theology, stupid.” The dominant moralism of the fundamentalist/revivalistic evangelicalism of the 60′s and 70′s gave way to the dominant moralism of the attractional/”contemporary” evangelicalism of the 80′s and 90′s and we — the American Church — discipled our people right into this mess. When we traded in biblical exposition for self-focused how-to’s, when we blended up a syrupy syncretism of Americana and “Judeo-Christian values,” when we stopped prophetically proclaiming and started handing out trite inspirational slogans, when we started treating congregants like customers and church programs like consumer products, when we moved the gospel to the end of the service and then escorted it out of the sanctuary altogether, we basically asked for this. We set these wheels in motion.
What I want for the faith perspective of the American church is more than theological agreement in the mind. I want us to experience a theological change of the heart. If we truly believe in the Doctrines of Grace, our zeal will be complemented with humility and our earnestness with compassion. Those who embrace the absolute sovereignty and unbreakable love of God, in light of our own moral inability to do good or to please him, will be struck with awe and overwhelmed with meekness.
The Father chose us, the Son died for us, and the Holy Spirit awoke us when we were rebelling, refusing, and resisting. Salvation is truly of the Lord, leaving us no room for boasting or pride. We should be passionate about doctrine but patient with people, for apart from the working of God, how will their minds and hearts be changed?
Before we set out to correct others with the Doctrines of Grace, be sure we apply them to our own heart. Preach to ourselves before we preach to others. Only then will doctrinal precision be accompanied by compassionate persuasion. Others will more easily see the glory of these truths when they see how they have already changed us.
Salvation is truly and only of the LORD.
Jesus warned us, there is great cost involved for those who would know God. He said they hated him and they will hate us. When we seek to follow and obey him with uncompromised fidelity there is a price to be paid. Athanasius is a leading figure in church history. He paid a high price for defending theological orthodoxy.
Athanasius lived from 295 – 373 AD. He led the doctrinal struggle to define God as a Trinitarian being, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Athanasius spent his life defending and articulating the Doctrine of the Trinity. Once he assumed leadership of his church, Athanasius was exiled five times for his stance on the Trinity. While in prison for the third time he was viciously tortured. The members of his congregation were executed because they refused to deny the Trinity.
We benefit from the loyalty of Athanasius to the TRUTH by drawing these lessons from his life and ministry:
1. Defending and explaining doctrine is for the sake of the gospel and our everlasting joy.
2. Joyful courage is the calling of a faithful shepherd and faithful people.
3. Loving Christ includes loving true propositions about Christ.
4. A widespread and long-held doctrinal difference among Christians does not mean that the difference is insignificant or that we should not seek to persuade toward the truth and seek agreement.
5. Pastors should not aim to preach only in categories of thought that can be readily understood by this generation. Rather, we should also aim at creating biblical categories of thought that are not present.
The struggle that Athanasius engaged is known in church history as the Arian Controversy. Arius taught that Jesus Christ was a created being rather than being co-equal with the Father, having no beginning and no end as the writer of the book of Hebrews declares (Heb. 7:17). Jesus Christ is a Priest after the order of Melchizedek, had no beginning and has no end.
Here is a warning for all pastors. Do not adapt doctrine “to the seekers,”. Do not dumb down biblical language for the sake of contextualization. Be committed to “the pilgrim principle of confrontation”. In many obvious ways, the lessons of the 4th century have not been learned by pastors today. Stand and declare Sound Doctrine!
What price are you willing to pay for the glorious privilege of Knowing God?
Christians are redeemed by the finished work of Christ. However, they are still sinners. That sin, when not mortified, produces selfish conduct. That selfish conduct leads to conflict. A study completed by the Hartford Seminary revealed that 85% of church conflict is driven by control issues. The issue may be finances, types of music, or any number of other factors. But, mark it down, the issue is seldom the real issue. The issue is almost never one of doctrinal significance. The real issue is inordinate CONTROL which always produces conflict.
An article titled 7 reasons People Leave Their Church reveals that relational conflict plays a major role.
Marginal church members tend to drop out at the first hint of even minor interpersonal conflict. Very active members are more resilient, recognizing that church members are not perfect. But, if the conflict becomes severe, some of the very active church members will leave as well.
People seldom if ever disclose the true reason for their departure. There should always be an Exit Interview conducted when people leave. Much valuable insight is gained through this process.
So how should a church deal with conflict? Apply the ‘Barney Fife Principle – nip it in the bud!’ Here are the steps for addressing church conflict.
1. Pray for wisdom and much grace in dealing with all parties.
2. Get the facts, the real story and validate their accuracy before addressing the issue.
3. Address the participants individually before bringing them together. Their accounts of the issue will differ.
4. Bring the parties together face to face and present the issue objectively.
5. Apply the appropriate biblical texts to the situation and get genuine consensus from all parties that they will abide by what the Scripture declares.
6. Follow up and monitor the conduct and relationship of the parties involved.
7. Conflict will always get worse not better if permitted to go unresolved – deal with it in a timely, biblical, and comprehensive manner.
Churches split, the gospel is maligned and the Name of Christ suffers because of unresolved conflict.
There are approximately 19,000 church splits each year in the American church. That is 50/day! This figure is supplied by Peacemakers.net. This is an organization focused on equipping churches to avoid church splits.
So, are the relationships healthy in the church where you serve?
What does it mean to be redeemed and what is the credible theological evidence that a person is genuinely saved?
When Adam sinned mankind was plunged into a depraved God hating condition. Adam and Eve were not just Covenant Breakers. They were most certainly that. What is worse, they wanted to be the Covenant Makers. Their desire was to inform God how the universe would be run. It would be according to their rules, not his. They became rebels and brought that blight upon all mankind.
The issue in conversion is not merely the little peccadilloes, the ‘sins’ (plural) that we commit. The greater issue is one of SIN (singular). The Fall brought us a sin nature. We are not sinners because we sin, we sin because we are sinners!! We have depraved minds and wicked hearts. God sent the Noahic Flood because the ‘thoughts and intent of man’s heart was only evil continually!!
The American Church has dumbed down the understanding of Conversion. Most churches practice what Bonhoeffer labeled ‘Cheap Grace’.
Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without Church discipline, communion without confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.
The evangelical church has corrupted the glorious doctrine of Conversion by the things they practice. People raise their hand, ‘walk the aisle’, and sign a membership card. This is not CONVERSION. The evidence of conversion is a transformed life. If there is no objective and observable transformation that person is not saved.
The Southern Baptist Convention claims to have 16 million members. But, on the best Sunday morning of the year there are less than 7 million people in attendance. Why? They are simply not redeemed.
True conversion brings a new nature. The Fall made man a sinner by nature. In true conversion the ravages of the Fall are replaced with the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. Man is enabled to live a righteous and Christ honoring life. That righteousness is real and there is growth in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.
So, have you been transformed, or, did you merely ‘walk the aisle’? Are you growing in grace? Is Jesus Christ Lord of your life? Eternity rides on an honest and objective response to this question!
Our focus in this 06/15 News Letter is Exemplary Leadership. King Saul is exhibit ‘A’ of failed leadership. What specifically was his failure? What wickedness was he guilty of that cost him his role as King and deposed him as the leader in Israel?
Let the text of Scripture answer this question.
Saul said to Samuel, “I have sinned, for I have transgressed the commandment of the LORD and your words, because I feared the people and obeyed their voice. (1 Samuel 15:24)
Saul feared the people more than he feared the LORD. That single act of cowardice resulted in his removal from the office of king.
Consider such leadership failures as recorded in the text of the Old Testament.
1. 10 Spies – the 10 spies brought a bad report to the people. (Num. 13:32-33)
2. Moses – struck the rock rather than speak to the rock as he was commanded. (Num. 20:11-12)
3. Saul – he feared Goliath more than he trusted the LORD; dismayed & afraid. (1Sam. 17:11)
In each instance a single failure resulted in very costly consequences. The 10 spies died in the wilderness and their cowardice consigned the nation to 40years of wandering. Moses was denied entrance into the Promise Land, a destination for which he had labored for 40 years to achieve. Saul, while blessed with significant physical stature, had a heart that lacked courage. This is a monumental flaw for any leader.
The lesson is this. The LORD is Sovereign. His word is the ultimate authority in life, ministry and leadership. Do what he commands. Never ever yield to the voices of the people you are leading when their voices are urging you to ignore the LORD and disregard his directives. Engage a study through the Scriptures of the instances when the voice of the people was heeded. This is a very revealing endeavor. This study will equip any leader with the historical pattern and consequences on this crucial aspect of leadership.
In a recent Face Book post Pastor John MacArthur said the following:
To preach the gospel in the professing Christian world today, is to engage in more spiritual warfare than to preach the gospel to the world of the lost.
This observation is painfully true. I appeal to my readers that serve as a leader in the body of Christ. Your task is beyond difficult. You must lead with unflinching courage. You must lead with genuine compassion and love for those you lead. You must at all cost resist any attempt by those you lead to modify or abandon what God has clearly commanded. The consequences of disobedience are horrific both for time and for eternity.
Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak. (Ephesians 6:14-20)
Man began in a garden. When the Consummation of The Ages is ushered in by the Sovereign Providence of our all wise God, man will once again find himself in a garden. The LORD will be the Light and man will enjoy the Presence of the LORD for all eternity, no sorrow, no pain, no suffering and no sin!
There is a particular ambiance about a garden. It is peaceful, quiet, and often aromatic due to the many fragrances that emanate from the floral bouquets that grow there. The birds provide a melodic serenade if you just pause and listen.
About a month ago our son came over with his tiller. We created a garden spot in our back yard. It is modest in size, about 125 feet long and 15 feet wide. It is just enough to grow some cantaloupe, squash, water melons, and tomatoes. I planted both Cherry for salads & Beef Steak. The latter for BLT’s.
I have a small Patio Table & Chair beside the garden. I am an early riser. Often you will find me in that chair with a piping hot cup of coffee, my Bible, and a settled and a peace drenched soul as the sun peaks over the horizon to announce another new day. I commune with my God. He is always there with me. He speaks to me from his word. The message of the Scriptures has a special penetrating power and authority in the stillness of a new day.
I must confess that in 47 years of ministry I have not honored the Sabbath very well. This garden spot has modified my disobedience. It is amazing how 30 minutes ‘in the garden’ brings a proper perspective to each new day and the challenges it holds. There are many. I languish in earnest desire to see the American church submit to Reformation & Renewal. Intercessory prayer is most certainly one of the means God will use if that is ever to be accomplished.
Let me encourage you to find a ‘Garden Spot’. Invest time there. Pray. Read God’s Word and most of all look with anticipation to that time when the LORD will once again place man in the garden of His making at the end of the age. Maranatha!!