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

Archive for the ‘Fellowship’ Category

Setting The Standards

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.

 

How Can I Help?

We serve a Saviour who came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (Matt. 28:20b). We are called by Him to be servants ourselves. He gives this great teaching through his own example in John 13:1-20. He says If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. (John 13:14-15)

The Christian has a bias towards serving others. If there is not that bias in the heart and attitude of servant we can rightly question whether they are a true servant of the greatest master of all.

Accordingly a question that should be in our hearts always and on our lips frequently, is “How can I help?” We ask this question because in a Christlike manner we want to use all our energies to help others.

So in the church, and any situation in fact, don’t just wait to be asked, be asking others about how you can help. If you are such a person then you will be a delight to have around. And you will be a living demonstration of the life of your Lord and Saviour.

You Must Have Time With The Lord

This is essential for the Christian; you must have your personal time alone with Him. You put your life in peril if you do not. Church fellowship is essential and we need to be experiencing that to grow in the Lord. Worshipping in the family at home  must also be there in our schedules. But we must not neglect being in the secret place with the Lord.

You have to find out what works for you. You may be able to operate on a spontaneous basis, whereby in the natural flow of life you are having space to worship the Lord and be with Him. However, for most of us, I suggest, that this is not the case, We need to be more disciplined. we need to set aside a specific time to be alone with our Father and our Lord Jesus. Regular habits are normally good in this respect.

And if your Quiet Time or personal time with the Lord is becoming dull and lacklustre then mix it up. Try whatever works. Try reading a few passages of good Christ centred books. The Puritans are good here and Richard Sibbes is always a good place to start. Try prayer lists. In all this make sure that your prayings and worshippings are Bible framed so you must have the Word.

Living Christians are always God’s presence Christians. No time in the presence of the Lord means death to your soul and impoverishment in spiritual desires and worship.

And of course our Lord Jesus sets the pattern here. He was so keen to spend time with his Father that he would get up early to make sure it happened. Perhaps that is what you need to do (and me). You need to be thinking about getting up a bit earlier and having time in His presence.

I have written about personal devotions at further length here if you are interested.

S.S. SIOSA

It is good to have S.S SIOSA as a motif for life. To embrace teh principles within thsi acronym is to set yourself up well for life. Livinng out S.S. SIOSA will make you a valuable person to have in any community of people. So what am I referring to here?

I am thinking about those situations in life where you are responsible for causing a difficulty, problem or just generally messing others around. Upon being aware of this immediately call S.S. SIOSA to mind. So you will:

  • Say Sorry: Go to the person(s) involved and apologize for what you have done wrong. Apologise to the doctor if you have missed an appointment. Apologise to your boss if you have forgotten to do some work. Wherever you are responsible apologise for your actions or non-actions.
  • Sort it out: Speak the matter through with the relevant parties so that you all now know how you are going to move ahead. Alternatively you may just have to write an email to inform others how you are going to rectify things.
  • Straight Away: When you become aware of having messed someone around unnecessarily get on to the matter immediately; do not delay. Allow no wounds to fester; allow no confusion to drag on. Leaving matters for a time tends to poison matters as people stew upon why you messed them around.

So enlist the S.S. SIOSA in your life and you will have gained a good life skill. And if everyone one lived out this motif marriages, families, churches, work places, communities and nations would all be better and happier places.

For Whom Christ Died

1 Corinthians 8 addresses the issue of how we interact with one another when we see things differently. In particular it is when we see that we have freedom in Christ to act in a certain way, whilst another Christian does not feel comfortable in engaging in that same behavior.

In such a situation we need to be careful about how we speak and act towards such a fellow Christian. Our freedom should never be a means for bringing the other brother to stumble in their faith.

Paul reaches the apogee of his argument when he speaks of how the brother you souls stumble is one for whom Christ died (see 1 Cor. 8:11. Christ gave up all of His freedom. That freedom entailed eternally and joyously being in the favour of God and heaven. He relinquished that in order to go to the degradation of the cross.  And he did all that in order to bring eternal blessing to your brother.

In view of that won’t I (and won’t you) be very careful about indulging our freedom in Christ. We should always act circumspectly to encourage our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Moreover, the passage continues in 1 Corinthians 8:12 to say:   Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. How serious this all is. When you act to hurt your brother you hurt one who is in the body of Christ. Thereby you hurt Christ. 

It is one of those things to have always in our minds in dealing with fellow Christians that they are ones for who Christ died. “One for who Christ died” is the label they wear.

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Church Membership And Disobedience

The assumption of the New Testament is that every Christian is a member of a church in their locality. In this church they share fellowship, serve their Lord and submit to the elders.

Two scriptures that alert us to this expectation are:

  • 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. This is the instruction of Hebrews 13:17. Clearly implicit in this text is that the elders know who they are responsible for and the church know who they re responsible to.
  • So when you are assembled and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh,so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord (1 Cor, 5:4-5). Paul here is indicating that the the man guilty of outrageous sin in having an affair with his step-mother should be removed form the church. In v13 they are told to expel him. This person is handed over to the realm of Satan; that is the world. there are only two realms the world and the church. If you are not a church member you are in Satan’s realm; the church.

I suggest that there are only two reasons why a Christian is not in church membership:

  • They are in the process of regularizing their situation and becoming a church member. They must sort this out as soon as possible.
  • They are “under discipline” and thereby excluded from church membership. In such a situation they need to repent and be restored to the church.

I feel we too easily excuse Christians from not becoming church members. It is after all very much the spirit of the age not to commit to things. However, this is all surely wrong. We should, I feel, name it for what it is and that is disobedience.

I feel that we should be more inclined towards treating any professing Christian who refuses to be a church member as a non-christian. They have after all chosen the realm of  Satan, the world over against the realm of God, the church. So they should be treated as unbelievers.

I Need Other Christians

I need to see their faces, I need to know that they are still trusting in Christ. Their attendance at church is important to me because it means they are still determined to affiliate with those who want to confess Christ. They may come and be there and play no public part, but their being there has a power in itself.

I need them because I am weak. I so easily drift towards unbelief. Sometimes life can feel overwhelming. But when I know that there are saints who have traversed and are traversing the pathway of grace through some difficult trials, I can be encouraged to know that this is the right path. Christ truly is the Way.

It is hard for me to understand how Christians can regularly absent themselves from the congregation of the saints. They must be stronger Christians than me! When I pray with other believers it can be such an encouragement to know that we share the same God through the same Saviour by the same Spirit.

Now, no doubt we can meet other believers online or in our history books and that can be very good. But there is something special about seeing them face-to-face. I close with John’s desires concerning the elect lady:

I have much to write to you, but I do not want to use paper and ink. Instead, I hope to visit you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete (2 John 12).

(Originally published at Venabling on November 23rd 2017)

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