To venable (verb): To randomly muse upon this and that.

Archive for the ‘Church’ Category

Committed To A Church.

A Christian who is not a Church Member is like a bird without a nest, or a squirrel without a drey, or a rabbit without a hole. Such people can be likened to those those living rough, out on the streets, whilst there is a home available to them. Every Christian should have a home of which they are a part; they should be members of a church. They should be in the home that the LORD has ordained for them. Now each of us may have to work hard and pray hard in order to decide which church to settle in, but we all must settle, commit and be a member of a church and that will our home. This is God’s pattern.

Right at the beginning of the church age, we see the pattern set for how people should be committed to a church. We read in Acts 2v42 concerning the first Christians that, after they had confessed Christ and been baptised, they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Here we see how the first believers of the church age came together as a living testimony to the LORD. Church membership was not something they deliberated upon. Rather, a commitment to a church was the natural flow-out from them coming to Christ and following Him.

But can it not just be the case that you go to a church and if you attend regularly enough then you are considered a church member? It appears looking at the situation of the church in Corinth, that there was a clear understanding of who was a member of the church. In 1 Corinthians 5:2 Paul writes to them concerning a man who was having an affair with his step-mother. He writes Shouldn’t you rather have gone into mourning and have put out of your fellowship the man who has been doing this? To put someone out of your fellowship, you need to know who is in the fellowship. There seems to have been a clear knowledge of who was a member of the church in Corinth.

If we dwell a little further concerning the functioning of the church at Corinth we will see that the person who was no longer considered to be a church member was to be delivered unto Satan (see 1 Cor. 5:5a). This dramatic act demonstrated that he was now deemed to be out in the world, which is the realm where the evil one, Satan, has sway. This again alerts us to the big issues appertaining to a Christian choosing not to commit to a church. In doing this they are, in a sense, aligning themselves with the world. The way that this whole issue is developed in the New Testament indicates that someone is either a church member and blessed in the fellowship of God’s people or they are not church members and therefore out in the world; out in Satan’s domain.

The fact that it is known who is actually in a fellowship is also seen by looking at the issue of church leadership. Church leaders are given responsibility to look after a flock of God’s sheep. In Hebrews 13v17 we read Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you. The clear inference here is that there are a group of Christians who know who their leaders are. Accordingly it is to these men that they have a responsibility to submit. This whole theme is hinted at when we look at Paul’s observation of the elders being recognised in Ephesus. He says of them that Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood (Acts 20v28). The elders in Ephesus knew that there was a flock and they knew who was in it because they were to care for all the flock.

The above mentioned themes also alert us to the fact that church membership is restricted to one church. Although fellowship can be enjoyed and shared with other churches, our commitment is to one church and to be submitted to the leadership of that church.

The celebration of the Lord’s Supper also adds a certain poignancy in respect of these issues. In 1 Corinthians 10:16-17 Paul writes Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all share the one loaf. Whenever we celebrate the Lord’s Supper we declare our oneness as the people of God. Whenever we eat and drink together at the feast we declare that we are a part of each other and we are together in the local representation of His body. There is then an inherent contradiction if someone is celebrating the Lord’s Supper and is still refusing to commit to that fellowship. The Lord’s Supper is not just declaring a commitment to the LORD, it is also declaring a commitment to one another.

Finally, for those of you who are Christians and are church members, remember to live out what you are. When you commit to a church you become an insider to that church. The sad thing is that many who have committed to a church then choose to live as outsiders to that church. They live a contradiction. So fellow Christians when you have committed to a church make sure your live out that commitment by being steadfast in supporting the leadership, activities and fellow believers in Christ in that church.

Taken from the Feltham Evangelical Church newsletter of May 2015

Who Is The Book Of Revelation For?

One of the key issues which is often overlooked in looking at the book of Revelation is: who is it written to? I think being aware of this, gives us great help in seeking to gain benefit from the study of the book. The pertinent verses here are: On the Lord’s Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet, which said: ‘Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea. (rev 1:10-11). The book of Revelation, that is the whole book not just the specific letters of chapter 2 and 3, was written to actual churches.

This is important in making sure that we approach the book in a sensible way. When we read Revelation we are very often preoccupied with how the book fits in with our eschatological perspective. It is understandable that, that is the case. However, whatever our view of future events and how Revelation is to be interpreted, we should never forget that the material, with all of its visions and prophecy, was written to actual churches. It was written to encourage them to live for the Lord. It was written to encourage them to keep going for the Lord.

Personally, I would have a pre-millennial and pre-tribulation rapture view of the future. All that of course influences how I look at Revelation. Those with my perspective very easily treat revelation as a source of mental titillation and curiosity. Endless arguments about minute details of how things fit together can predominate. In doing so we lose our way and forget the basic truth that the book of  Revelation is for churches, and therefore for us, to encourage us to live for Christ now in the light of the future. Revelation teaches us that sin is vile and will be judged, Jesus is triumphant and the righteous saints will be blessed. Therefore church of God wherever you are go on and hate sin, love Christ, and live for righteousness.

Giving Notices

The giving of notices as part of our church services is one of those things which is regularly performed, but I am persuaded, is little thought about. So I want us to stop and ponder and ask some questions:

  • Should we have notices as part of the service.
  • If we do:
    • Should they be before the service during the service or after the service?
    • Should they be given verbally or placed on a news sheet or on a screen. Or should there be a mixture of one or all three of these things?

The answer to the above questions will depend upon the prevailing circumstances including the availability of relevant technology. But in working this whole matter through I want to make the following observations:-

Worship: When we are gathered together for the worship of the Lord in congregation as a church any giving of notices should be given thoughtfully in that context. Some would, therefore, argue that notices should never be given in the midst of a service because they take away from the flow of worship. I would not necessarily conclude that that should be the case, but as you give notices be aware of the context in which you are giving them.

Fellowship: One key reason to give notices is for the developing of fellowship. The announcing of notices in church is for prayer and attendance. Thoughtfulness in doing  this means we can enhance the sharing of God’s people in the work of His grace in each others’ lives and in the church.

Concise: One danger of giving notices is that they become a time for waffle. Be precise and concise if you are giving them. People have not gathered to hear you give the notices. If the details are on the screen or in a news-sheet the congregation already have access to the relevant information. If that is the case then focus on one or two key issues.

Distraction. At one meeting I recently attended a lengthy notice of a forthcoming activity was appended at the end of a meeting. This, for me, was far too long and took away from what we have been gathered tor. In fact I think it was counterproductive I was almost put off attending the advertised event because of the effusive way in which it was advertised.

So let us give some thought to how we give notices.

 

To Be In His Favour.

How do we view our relationship with the LORD? Are our views constructed in a very negative way or in a positive way? Do we think of the LORD as a tyrant who we do not want to offend for fear of the consequences or as an adoring grandmother who will always say nice things and do nice things for us? Asking such questions gets us to consider the heart of our existence because to know God is to be fully human. In fact to be a Christian is to be a knower of God; it is to be brought into a relationship with God.

Before we are Christian, we exist under the wrath of God and are facing time and eternity under His fearsome anger. Whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them (John 3:36) is how John starkly presents the situation. So, for the unbeliever their relationship with God is framed within that of being a law-breaker who has to face the consequences of their criminality through experiencing due punishment. The ultimate defiance that the unbeliever demonstrates is in refusing to believe in the Son.

When we are converted our situation changes radically. Peter puts it like this: Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God (1 Peter 3:18a). The Christian has come to know God. He has come into a living relationship with the LORD. The sins that brought forth the wraith of God against us was borne by our LORD on the cross. So, as we read in Romans 8:1, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. We are now, because of Christ, in God’s favour because Christ is in God’s favour. We are possessors of eternal life. We do not have eternal life with caveats; we have eternal life. As the first part of John 3:36 says Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life.

Let us get into some of the implications of this. A lot of of us live before God in a similar way to the way children who can’t grasp that they are in their parent’s family. We are always fearing that we might be kicked out of the family. But we need to realise that we are now in the family of God we have the relationship of being sons and daughters of God (see 2 Cor. 6:18) and all of us have the privilege of being sons of God (see Rom. 8:14). We are not on probation. And our staying in this relationship is not based upon our performance, but rather upon our being in Christ Jesus. And, since Christ Jesus, being the very Son of God cannot be kicked out by God, so neither can we.

What is our goal then as believers – it is to live for the pleasure of God and to enjoy His pleasure. The fundamental thing is that God is on our side and we are on God’s side. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39) And dare I say it we cannot separate ourselves form the love of God in Christ Jesus.

So how does God’s law bear on all this? Many believers view the law as something they have to keep in order to make sure they get the pass-mark in God’s exam and therefore keep God happy with them. Rather, the law should be viewed as the revelation of what pleases God and we should be wanting to adhere to God’s law because in doing so we can know we are enjoying the pleasure of our Father. If we do fail to obey our Lord’s commands, as we all do, we come back repentantly to our Father and can once again know the enjoyment of his favour.

At the heart of the issue is that of how we relate to God now. Is he our Judge or is he our Father? Through Christ we are cleared in the court-room of God; we are justified. We are right with God and can never be not right with God. Now we are in the family of God and He is our father. However, this does not makes us casual in our relationship to Him because we have the deepest respect for our Father. We know who He is – the ruler of the universe who has our lives in His hands. And we know that it stands abidingly true that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. (Prov. 9:10)

So where does this leave us? It leaves us with a driving passion to abide in the love of God. In this context we hear the Word of our Saviour Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me (John 15:4). This makes us conscious of the need to be always seeking to walk in a way that keeps us in favour with our LORD. We are therefore persistent about drawing near to God. So we heed Paul’s call in Philippians Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. (Phil 4:4-6)

With all this rejoicing in God and seeking God and thanking God, Paul states the outcome to be And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Phil 4:7) And that takes us to the heart of what it is to live a fruitful contented life in the LORD. It is to be in His favour and in His peace because we so love the One who has loved and continues to love us so much.

(Taken from the Feltham Evangelical Church newsletter of September 2015)

Age Of The Church.

This is the age of the church. We live in the church age. We live in the time when God is choosing to bring glory to His name through the church. The church is the bride of Christ, the temple of the Holy Spirit, the body of Christ and more. The universal church of all believers is being built and that church is manifest in all the individual churches which have been created for the honour of our Lord Jesus.

The book of Revelation gives specific messages to this world for the strengthening of God’s people and it gives them to churches. The letters to the seven churches indicate to us that God makes a priority of revealing Himself to and through His church.

All this should remind us of the priority we should give to the church. There seems something amiss when a Christian is casual about church. In doing so they are being casual about something that God sets a high honour to.

We need to think about Him speaking to churches as well. He delights to speak when the people are together in church to hear and consider His Word. So we surely must set a priority on being in church to hear His Word.

Living And Serving.

We have now looked at the necessity for all Christians to consider becoming church members. Following on from this we need to look at how we should live as church members. Interestingly the basis on which we become church members can significantly affect the manner in which we conduct ourselves once we have come to enjoy the privileges of being a member of a church. Someone who drifts into becoming church member seemingly oblivious to what it means is likely to have little commitment to that church. On the other hand someone who makes a determined commitment to be a member of a church fellowship is likely to live as a committed church member, but what does it really mean to be committed to a church?

One helpful image for us in this context which is presented in the Scripture of a local church is that of a body (see 1 Cor 12:12-31). The argument in this passage is that every part of the body is valuable and useful. No-one can argue that they are so insignificant that they have nothing to offer in the church; all have something to give. Moreover, if someone decides that they are not going to support the church and its activities then the church suffers as a result.

The principle that underlies this is that “privilege leads to responsibility”. It is a great privilege to be a part of a local testimony which is established to the glory of God.

This privilege leads to the responsibility to live a life which is appropriate for those who are in church fellowship and to serve to the end that the church will be built up.

We need to be aware therefore that the way we live is vitally important for the life of the church. Not only should we live godly lives in Christ Jesus in the church, but we should also do so in our homes, workplaces and communities. Any failure to do so ultimately reflects detrimentally on the name of the church and more importantly on the name of our God.

One of the sad consequences of David’s sinful acts towards Bathsheba and Uriah was that he had “shown utter contempt for the LORD” (2 Sam. 12:14). How sad it would be if we were to hear the church in Feltham spoken badly of because of the lax ways of one of the members. Let us therefore take heed to how we live. How great it would be if, like Peter and John, people would realise that we “had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13b) because of the righteous quality of our lives.

One of the ways in which we display our commitment to the local fellowship is by supporting the services and activities of the church. Obviously some, through certain circumstances, are hindered from physically being present in church life. However, in many cases, those who are limited in this way, show their commitment by their prayerful interest in the church. Notwithstanding this we should endeavor, like that first church in Jerusalem did, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 2:42), and we should take heed to the exhortation to the Hebrews to be not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing (Heb10:25a).

Furthermore we should commit ourselves to the work of the church. We are not here to build mini-empires in the church like Diotrephes in 3 John:9, but rather to labour together for the faith of the gospel. In all our labours in the church let us remember that we are seeking to set forth the great gospel of our God. So whether we are cleaning the toilets, doing some painting, visiting people at home or preaching the Word we all need to focus on the fact that we are assisting in maintaining a testimony for the LORD.

One crucial way in which we support the church is in having a proper attitude towards those whom the LORD has set to have authority in the church.

Paul says “to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work” (1 Thess. 5:12b-13a). In this anti-authoritarian age we must be careful to assist the elders and deacons in their work. In doing this we are supporting the proper ordering in the church which is all to the LORD’S glory.

So to recap on some of the issues we have considered, this week, we note that a Christian should be baptised and a baptised Christian should be a church member. Finally we have come to the issue we have dealt with in this article that all church members have a responsibility to diligently follow the LORD in the church to which they are affiliated.

Church Membership.

Having confessed faith in our LORD Jesus by being baptised the next stage for someone to consider is that of becoming a member of a church.

There are many Christian organisations around. However, it is the church which is the organisation with which all Christians are associated. In Scripture God has set this institution forth as the great means to display His glory in this world. The LORD Himself said I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it (Matt. 16:18b).

There are two aspects to the church which must be differentiated. The first aspect is that of the “church universal”. Every true Christian is a member of this church. The other aspect is that of the church in its local manifestation. There is one universal church, but there are many local churches. The word church in fact gives the idea of being called out. So in the local church there should be those who have been called out of the world to belong to the LORD Jesus.

In a similar way to how the scripture expects all Christians to be baptised, there is also the expectation that all believers should be church members. Let us look at 1 Cor. 5 to gain some perspective on this and establish the principle of how important it is to be in local church fellowship.

In verses 1-2 we see there a man, who is a church member, has committed something evil. Upon becoming aware of this Paul calls upon the church hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh (v5a). Satan is the one who is the prince of this world (John 14:30a) and the god of this age (2 Cor. 4:4a). Paul is thereby saying that this man should be removed from church membership and placed in the realm where Satan dwells which is “the world”. The purpose of this is to lead the man to repent so that he can return to the blessed position of being in the local church (see 2 Cor. 2:3-11).

We learn, then, from this that there is a division between the local church where God rules (and as a loving Father provides for and protects His people) and the world where Satan rules. If someone is not a church member, for whatever reason, he is effectively, out in the world and that is serious.

Following on from this we can say that when someone commits themselves to a local church they are saying that they are committing themselves to the institution where God rules (the local assembly of Christians) and disowning affiliation to the other place, the world, where Satan rules.

Summing this up, we conclude that it is a serious thing for a Christian to decide to be a lone ranger, and refuse to join in testimony with a local assembly of Christians.

This raises the question though about which church we should join. There are so many around.

However, which church is the one for us? The answer to this must be that everyone must move carefully and prayerfully before the LORD. Three things we might say in general you should look for are:

  • A church which holds to the holy Scriptures as the word breathed out by God which has everything to equip a church for its construction and ongoing life (see 2 Tim. 3:16).
  • A church where the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ as the only Saviour of sinners is held to and declared (see 1 Thess. 1:8a).
  • A church where Jesus Christ is known to be LORD to the glory of God the Father (see Phil. 2:11b)

Having established this we must be aware that being a church member has to do with fellowship. It has to do with a sharing together in the things of God. So when someone finds a church they believe is seeking to follow the three things stated above, then it is necessary to go through a process of establishing that there really is fellowship between the individual and the church.

This process does not need to be overly formal, but needs to be undertaken otherwise church membership can just become a ticket to joining an organisation rather than, what it really is, a commitment to fellowship with a group of like-minded people.

When the church (duly led by the elders) and the individual are happy to commit themselves to one another then this is sealed by the formal joining of the church and becoming a church member.

We have considered then, the necessity for and means of becoming a church member. All this follows on from becoming a Christian. The order is in fact seen exemplified in the life of the first church at Jerusalem (see Acts 2:41-42) where the people were saved (they gladly received the word), were baptised and continued steadfastly together (as members of the church).

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