Tuesday, May 31, 2016

3 Things About The Mission



The verse under consideration is Acts 2.47, the second half:

"And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved."

Note:

  • Adding to the church is something the Lord does.  Only he can do it.  Who else can open the eyes of the blind, but the Lord?  Who else can bring life to a dead heart, but the Lord?  He does this through his church, to be sure... through the faithful worship and works of mercy and Bible teaching of the church, and through the everyday love and witness of its members.  But note well that HE does it. 
  • Being saved means being added to the church.  Jesus does not save people without adding them to his church.  Salvation and the life of the church go together.  If you profess salvation through faith in Jesus Christ but are estranged from his church, something is very wrong and very broken.  
  • In the book of Acts, Jesus was doing these things "day by day."  This was not an occasional thing; it was not a big, special event kind of thing.  It was a daily thing, as regular and on-going as their worship and life together.  Now, notice the word "and" at the beginning of the verse.  We should check out what was going on before the "and," right?  In vs.42-47a, the church's worship and life together were described.  This is what the Lord was crowning and honoring, "day by day," with converts.  If we want to see more of v.47b, perhaps the place to start is v.42... working and praying our way there.
 





Tuesday, May 24, 2016

My Brother's Keeper



I once asked one of my children: "Where's your brother?"  The response: "I dunno.  Am I my brother's keeper?"  Me:  "Oh no... you didn't kill him, did you?"

But let's think for a moment about what it means to be my brother's (or sister's) keeper in the family of Christ...

First, it means that the classic "loner" is a very broken individual.  We were not made to be loners.  We were made for community, for one another.  We need fellowship.

Secondly, we need to realize that just being in the crowd on Sunday morning does not automatically equal "fellowship."  Just being in the crowd does not necessarily mean that you are getting to know and genuinely care about those around you.  It does not mean that you are letting them know and care about you.

In fact, the larger the crowd becomes, the more difficult that will be!  The larger the crowd, the less likely it is that the individual souls in the crowd will really and truly know one another.

There's nothing wrong with a big crowd, of course.  But we need to realize that just being present in a crowd is not what the Bible means by fellowship... by church... by being your brother's keeper.

In fact, being in a big crowd can sometimes just accentuate one's sense of loneliness.

Gospel community plug here: look into becoming a part of a community group, a life group, or a really good Bible Study... a group of people who are genuinely and practically learning what it means to have fellowship in Christ.

A crowd is a poor counterfeit for community.  Don't cheat yourself.

Thirdly, realize that God designed the church so that you might grow into maturity there—in the context of all those human relationship, with all their ups and downs.  (Much like God's purpose in the natural family—that's where God intends human beings to grow into maturity: in that network of relationships, with all their ups and downs.)

In the natural family, you learn to become who God has made you to be inside this network of people called mom, dad, brother, sister, uncle, aunt, cousin, grandfather, grandmother, neighbor, etc.

In the family of Christ, you learn to become who God has called you to be inside this network of people called brother, sister, deacon, elder, pastor, Nori, Lolita, Lucinda, Scott... (& those are only the first four first names on the membership roll).

Yes.  You are your brother's keeper.  And your sister's keeper.

"Behold, how good and pleasant it is..." (Psalm 133)

NOTE: there will be a discussion of gospel community tonight (May 24), at DPC, at 6:30 pm.  If you'd like to join us, you are most welcome.  Trace, Sean, and I will be leading.


 


Wednesday, May 18, 2016

1st Summer Read



"By remaining faithful to its original commission,
by serving its people with love,
especially the poor, the lonely, and the dispossessed,
and by not surrendering its doctrinal steadfastness,
sometimes even the very contradiction of culture
by which it serves as a sign,
surely the Church serves the culture best."
~Walker Percy~

Just started this book, but I highly recommend it so far.

From the introduction:

"... from the very beginning, Christian values were always more popular in American culture than the Christian gospel.  That's why one could speak of 'God and country' with great reception in almost any era of the nation's history but would create cultural distance as soon as one mentioned 'Christ and him crucified.'  God was always welcome in American culture.  He was, after all, the Deity whose job it was to bless America.  The God who must be approached through the mediation of the blood of Christ, however, was much more difficult to set to patriotic music or to 'Amen' in a prayer at the Rotary Club."

Do you have a 1st summer read picked out yet?

If not... join me!  Russell Moore, Onward



Monday, May 9, 2016

A Most Inconvenient Vow



In much the same way that the 4th commandment is the most ignored and neglected of the 10, the 5th membership vow (in a PCA church) is the most inconvenient and neglected of the 5:

Do you submit yourselves to the government and discipline of the church, and promise to study its purity and peace?

And yet, as inconvenient as it is for us all (including myself at times), this is precisely where God has commanded his great blessing!  That's what Psalm 133 says: "Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!.... For there the Lord has commanded the blessing, life forevermore."

One of the great works on this is Dietrich Bonhoeffer's book "Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Christian Community."  Enjoy some excerpts:


“Nothing can be more cruel than the leniency which abandons others to their sin. Nothing can be more compassionate than the severe reprimand which calls another Christian in one’s community back from the path of sin.”

“A Christian fellowship lives and exists by the intercession of its members for one another, or it collapses. I can no longer condemn or hate a brother for whom I pray, no matter how much trouble he causes me. His face, that hitherto may have been strange and intolerable to me, is transformed in intercession into the countenance of a brother for whom Christ died, the face of a forgiven sinner.”

“Let him who cannot be alone beware of community... Let him who is not in community beware of being alone... Each by itself has profound perils and pitfalls. One who wants fellowship without solitude plunges into the void of words and feelings, and the one who seeks solitude without fellowship perishes in the abyss of vanity, self-infatuation and despair.”

“If my sinfulness appears to me to be in any way smaller or less detestable in comparison with the sins of others, I am still not recognizing my sinfulness at all. ... How can I possibly serve another person in unfeigned humility if I seriously regard his sinfulness as worse than my own?”

“God is not a God of the emotions but the God of truth.”

“It may be that Christians, notwithstanding corporate worship, common prayer, and all their fellowship in service, may still be left to their loneliness. The final break-through to fellowship does not occur, because, though they have fellowship with one another as believers and as devout people, they do not have fellowship as the undevout, as sinners. The pious fellowship permits no one to be a sinner. So everybody must conceal his sin from himself and from the fellowship. We dare not be sinners. Many Christians are unthinkably horrified when a real sinner is suddenly discovered among the righteous. So we remain alone with our sin, living in lies and hypocrisy. The fact is that we are sinners!”

“The person who loves their dream of community will destroy community, but the person who loves those around them will create community.”

“Christian community is like the Christian's sanctification. It is a gift of God which we cannot claim. Only God knows the real state of our fellowship, of our sanctification. What may appear weak and trifling to us may be great and glorious to God. Just as the Christian should not be constantly feeling his spiritual pulse, so, too, the Christian community has not been given to us by God for us to be constantly taking its temperature. The more thankfully we daily receive what is given to us, the more surely and steadily will fellowship increase and grow from day to day as God pleases.”

“There is a kind of listening with half an ear that presumes already to know what the other person has to say. It is an impatient, inattentive listening, that despises the brother and is only waiting for a chance to speak and thus get rid of the other person. This is no fulfillment of our obligation, and it is certain that here too our attitude toward our brother only reflects our relationship to God. It is little wonder that we are no longer capable of the greatest service of listening that God has committed to us, that of hearing our brother's confession, if we refuse to give ear to our brother on lesser subjects. Secular education today is aware that often a person can be helped merely by having someone who will listen to him seriously, and upon this insight it has constructed its own soul therapy, which has attracted great numbers of people, including Christians. But Christians have forgotten that the ministry of listening has been committed to them by Him who is Himself the great listener and whose work they should share. We should listen with the ears of God that we may speak the Word of God.”

“Those who love their dream of a Christian community more than the Christian community itself become destroyers of that Christian community even though their personal intentions may be ever so honest, earnest, and sacrificial.”