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!!
nor did they repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts. (Revelation 9:21)
As I write in the quiet stillness of a new day (04/23) the News & Social Media is all a buzz concerning the death of Prince. I must confess I do not recall ever listening to a single song that he did. Not my musical taste.
Having so stated, it is always sad when one dies. Death is a consequence of the curse of the Fall. Like all others following this event, I know very little of the facts surrounding his death. I refuse to speculate. The autopsy will shine the light of Truth on that cause. If the reports that have circulated to this point are true, it will show a relationship to/with narcotic drug use.
Note the verse of Scripture above. The word translated in the ESV ‘sorceries’ is pharmakown, drugs; (medicine, remedy, drug – Greek Lexicon of The New Testament, Bauer, Arndt & Gingrich, #3, p. 862). This is in the context of the Trumpet Judgments, number 6 as found in Rev. 9. I cite this simply to say that the rampant use of drugs will be an issue when the judgment of the LORD comes.
I my lifetime famous people (Elvis, Michael Jackson, and now Prince among others) have died as a result of attempting to find peace and purpose in life through the futile and empty pathway found in drugs and a variety of other mind numbing substitutes.
While I lament death, I grow weary of the celebratory atmosphere that is consistently ramped up when such a figure dies. If the cause is indeed an over dose of a narcotic, this is a self-induced consequence. It is the reality associated with a life style that incorporates such practices. No surprise here. Just a matter of ‘when’ not ‘if’! The use of opiates and narcotics is an out of control reality in our nation. Thousands of people are addicts and there is a growing litany of deaths each and every day. Rather than celebrate, we should focus on the TRUTH – fulfillment and peace will never be found in a syringe that delivers a short term buzz and ultimately addiction and death. The user becomes a prisoner, a slave, to the pseudo savior of pharmacological deception.
Jesus said, I am The Way, The TRUTH, and The Life. Repent and yield to Him unconditional surrender. Peace is not found in pharmacology or circumstances. It is in the Person of Christ. Each one who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved. That is true PEACE!
but declared first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all the region of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance. (Acts 26:20)
The passage quoted above is from the Apostle Paul’s message to King Agrippa. Please note that in Paul’s theology of repentance and redemption there is more to repentance than a mere verbal expression. In the case of genuine repentance there will be corresponding deeds that are consistent with repentance. Repentance is a turning from sin and that turning is validated by changed conduct. It is being made new by the indwelling presence of the Holy spirit who enables the believer to put off the old life and put on the new.
The quote that follows is from a review of some of Joel Osteen’s writing. He persists in equating repentance with a simple verbal confession.
Perhaps with a nuance here and there, this kind of appeal rests right at the center of the standard perceptions of what is involved in repentance and faith. Repentance consists of saying the words “I repent.” Faith consists of an invitation to Jesus to come into one’s heart, and sincerity in the process is sealed by the supplicant making Jesus “my Lord and Savior.” So confident of the saving efficacy of such a decisional transaction is the preacher, that he continued, “Friend, if you prayed that simple prayer, I believe you have been ‘born again.’ I encourage you to attend a good, Bible-based church and keep God in first place in your life.” The new birth constitutes God’s response to our act of repentance and faith.
Why do I raise this issue? There are thousands of people that are members in good standing in the churches of America. They have uttered a formulaic response to the gospel. This includes a statement concerning repentance. But, there is not one scintilla of Transformation evident in their life – NONE!
The validation of Regeneration is Transformation. No Transformation is sure and certain objective evidence that there has been no work of grace, no new birth, no Holy Spirit initiated and completed work of salvation. Such persons are flat out lost and on their way to a Christ-less eternity.
When the message we proclaim harmonizes with what the text says we will see a Reformation and Renewal in the American church. Give due diligence to the preparation and delivery of your message. It must correspond to ‘What the text says’, not what a popular consumer driven distortion has morphed it into.(Selah)
I write in the quiet serenity of Good Friday Morning. The bright sun shines in the window of my Study.
I am filled with mixed emotions.
In one sense my soul jubilates and dances. Jesus died but He is Risen! His substitutionary sacrifice purchased my redemption from sin. His declaration of forgiveness is a forensic certainty that I am free for time and eternity. What JOY!
In another I am grieving. On Social Media I encounter a plethora of trinkets associated with His death. No ‘bookstore trinket’ could ever begin to capture the sheer weight of His Holiness and Sovereignty as LORD of all.
So, for this glorious morning I choose to focus on the former. He is RISEN and I am FREE. Praise God from whom all blessings flow!!!
Decide or Die!
The data is irrefutable. The church in America is in decline. That decline is evidenced in both spiritual impotence and declining numbers. Reversing this trend requires a decision. Here are three options that people embrace. I encounter these when working with pastors and church leaders. Where do you stand on this matter?
1. Denial – this posture ignores reality and concludes no change is needed.
2. Delay – this posture recognizes the need but postpones a decision indefinitely.
3. Decide – this posture musters the wisdom & courage to engage the change process.
There is genuine wisdom in addressing the decline early rather than later. The following is a quote from the work of Jim Collins in How The Mighty Fall. I urge my readers to secure this title, read it carefully, and apply the principles his research has developed. He makes a cogent case for avoiding the ravages of delay in making critical organizational decisions. The future existence of the organization depends on wise, prudent, and timely decision making.
I’ve come to see institutional decline like a staged disease – harder to detect but easier to cure in the early stages, easier to detect but harder to cure in the later stages. An institution can look strong on the outside but already be sick on the inside, dangerously on the cusp of a precipitous fall. (p. 5)
When you make a decision, you can do one of two things. You can spend a lot of time, effort and energy considering what it would have been like if you had made a different decision and searching the internet for more tips on decision making processes. Or you can spend that time, effort and energy on making your decision work. You get to decide.
So, will you Decide or Die?