I fear that we are far too lackadaisical in our approach to the affairs of church life. We accept standards that are far too low as regards to how we order our church affairs.
I fear that this is all to do with the fact that we are in essence a volunteer entity. If you are employed a contact and financial remuneration determine that you need to perform to a certain standard. In church though, generally there is no contract and no financial remuneration and or standards can slip.
So we very easily give the impression of casualness and disorderliness. But this should not be so. As Paul says we are the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth (1 Tim. 3:15b)
We are the church of the living God. Each true church does not stand as some insignificant entity whose activities are of no consequence. No each church stands to represent the God who is God and that God alone.
How can we be doing anything other then striving for excellence when the One we serve is the all beautiful ruler of the universe. We are not some tin-pot republic we are the Lord’s temple.
Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:2 But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practise cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. The clear implication of Paul’s teaching here is that we should be not be underhand in any of our methods in seeking to advance the cause of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Mr Hinton (I have written about him here) took our wedding some twenty three years ago. I always remember him saying in anticipation of the wedding that we were inviting people to a wedding and not a gospel meeting. Now, I admire that attitude that determines upon making the gospel known at weddings and funerals, for example, but we should never forget the purpose of the occasion. Yes it may well be that people are in a situation where they can hear the gospel for one of the few times in their lives, but we should never forget the purpose of the occasion they are attending.
Those attending should know that they are at a funeral or a wedding and should not feel that a slight of hand has been pulled to use that occasion as a means of cornering them with the gospel.
Of course our Lord Jesus is most precious to us and we should want to make known the message of the Lord’s grace that focuses on Him. And we can do this sensitively and appropriately at both weddings and funerals. But let us not appear manipulative in doing this.
If people suspect what we are being deceitful then all the power that comes through a true God-honouring funeral or wedding conducted for the Lord’s glory can be lost because people suspect what we are up to.
This same principle applies in arranging other events such as evangelicalistic meals. If there is going to be a talk tell people beforehand. So people know what they are coming to.
Here is our church newsletter for August 2019. It contains an article on persecution.
This is an interesting clip by Peter Crouch (see here). It touches on the whole issue of having those among us who set the highest standards. When you have individuals, or a group, in a community who are committed to the most exacting standards then the standards of that community are generally elevated. So Peter Crouch describes how having people, such as Steven Gerrard, who really are demonstrating that only the best will do, then this impacts the whole of the group.
Oh and how we need these people in our churches who pursue godliness with a passion. Those who will not settle for a lacklustre Christianity, but rather will pursue the highest demonstration of the life of the Lord. Such people are gold to a church. And when you get a group of them it will only enhance the life of the church.
However, as Crouch says in the podcast some will not want to fall in with that regime and will rather fall away. As long as there is no intimidation, but solely a pursuit of godliness which repulses people then that is to be expected even though we do not welcome it.
In 1 John 2:19 we read: They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us. Here it is a rejection of the standard of doctrine concerning Jesus Christ that is the issue. The false teachers rejected the doctrine that Jesus is the Christ manifest in the flesh. But this has a wider application as to when people in a church conclude that they do not want to adhere to the standards in that church and decide to opt out.
Let us the seek to those who set the highest standards in our churches for our Lord. Let us be praying for people of this ilk. We need to remember as Crouchie says in the podcast, that as a result of having people setting the standards then the standards in “the club” rise. However, if they are not around the standards fall. Your godliness influences the levels of godliness in your church.
It seems to me that we Christians in the UK are far too complacent about the loss of our buildings. When a church has ceased to function in a building the normal recourse is to dispose of the premises on the open market. Such an event leads to the accrual of certain funds. This can lead us to being happy that we are being faithful servants of the Lord in the dispersing of funds for gospel purposes.
I am not saying that this approach is to be rejected. It may be the appropriate course of action. Such situation would be, for example, where an area has been depopulated and there are little or few people in an area. Also it may well be an application of the principle that our Lord set for his disciples that if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town (Matt. 10:14).
However, I still would want to make two strand assertions on this subject:
- The loss of a building generally equals the loss of a testimony for our Lord in an area. In the losing of the building there is a losing of a place where the gospel of our Lord Jesus is honoured and declared. Accordingly, we have to ponder upon whether we have lost our gospel vision to make sure that many can still have opportunity to hear the gospel. This loss is compounded in its significance and poignancy when false religions take them over to propagate lies.
- Many churches normally meet in public buildings such as schools and village halls. There are many good reasons why this is a sound approach to existing and living as a church. However, we need to get real and realise that this cannot be a situation that continues indefinitely. The fact that the biblical perspective on homosexuality and transgenderism is so at odds with that of the present zeitgeist in our country means that the doors to public buildings will metaphorically and literally soon be closing. When this happens will we be woken up and wonder why we did not take more action to keep church buildings within the church.
I urge some thinking on this issue.
Whatever, happened to “conviction of sin”?
How is the gospel presented so very often today? It is presented as a means of improving your life. People are told that their lives are not what they should be and if they “come to Jesus” they will be improved. Therefore in embracing Jesus their average “run-of-the-mill” lives are pepped up so that they are now fulfilled. But is this right?
The Bible speaks of the work of salvation in far more radical terms. The Bible speaks of us getting a new life and not an improved life. That is the implication of the “born again” term. Technically this is referred to as the doctrine of regeneration. Upon believing in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour we are granted new life. Those who are dead in sins are made anew.
Critical in the experience of salvation is the conviction of sin. Our Lord Jesus said that when the Spirit of God comes he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgement: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me;concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgement, because the ruler of this world is judged. Sin is the barrier that keeps us from salvation and we need to be convicted of our sin.
To be made aware of our sin is not a human construct. Rather, it is constructed by being in the presence of God. It comes about through becoming aware of who God is and how He and His standards are revealed in His Word. The Holy Spirit uses such means to convict us of our sin and bankrupt state before God. It is only those who have been ransacked by the Word who cry out for the rescuing mercies of God which are found in our Lord Jesus.
The challenge is for us as Christians whether we be preachers or not to be faithfully declaring the need for people to be broken before God because of their sin.
Oh the joy of my first foray into the blackberry harvest this summer. So first thing this morning (at about 7.30 actually) I was out with May Lin picking in Blenheim Park here in Feltham which is a short distance from our home (see photo here). There was a sense of returning to many happy exploits in gathering fruit among the brambles over previous years.
I am left wondering why there is such a sense of enjoyment with this activity. One must be the sense of accomplishment. To see the container fill and be filled with blackberries gives a very tangible sense of having achieved something. After a Sunday when you really do not know how much was accomplished through the preaching of the Word, the pastoring of the Bible and the seeking to live in (and lead others into) the ways of Christ, Monday morning was different. The two containers filled with blackberries mean that my labour has got results. But what of my labour yesterday some would say they appreciated things, but that does not necessarily translate into transformed lives. So a Monday morning comes as a happy relief in terms of labour bringing immediate tangible results.
The sense of adventure is also appealing. Seeking to push through the brambles to reach the recessed fruit gives a certain fulfilment. This, combined with a few scratches on the legs, arms and body, all add to the feeling of the harvest having been achieved through some cost.
And then there is the eating of the fresh fruit. There is something special about having breakfast with the fruit that has just been picked. Others can share the blessing through eating the fruit picked and the am that May Lin might make with the blackberries.
So it was a happy start to the day.