Saturday, February 16, 2013

Not For The Faint of Heart

Your best life now. Everyday is a Friday. Positive messages for broken people. Our church is relevent. We are an inclusive congregation. God doesn't hate. Doctrine separates. The Bible is true because I believe it. That church doesn't have enough programs for my kids. There's not enough people my own age at that church. I want...

No doubt you have heard many of these statements. Titles and phrases like these are a glaring testimony to the state of the church today. For instance: "relevance". We unknowingly hold such a low view of God and His word that we have to declare our teaching "relevant", as if God's word alone somehow isn't. In its context, what is really meant by "relevant" is: "Our church will give you everything you  desire and we will make you feel good in the process".

Returning to biblical Christian living has been a difficulty for every generation. It is not for the faint of heart. The early Church was forced into a steadfast position on truth. Many were required to renounce Jesus Christ or be killed. Hence, we see the message proclaimed in Romans 10:9-11. This reference is not a recipe for a "sinner's prayer" but probably to a public acknowledgment of the personal lordship of Jesus Christ. Christians were forced to bow to Caesar or be killed; young and old, women and children. But, as time went on, the early Church eventually got off track. They left the simplicity and authority of Scripture and began adding to it human "wisdom". It wasn’t until the Reformation that these false ideas were renounced and "Scripture alone" became the hallmark. 

Many believers today think that suffering is reserved only for some future time of tribulation. Some purport that the Church will never suffer the hardships which believers have in fact undergone. The Church will be removed from judgment but not from suffering (1 Thessalonians 4:31, 5:9).  It is because of our unfamiliarity with Church history that we make such assertions. Christians have suffered greatly down through history and in many countries around the world, believers today are being violently persecuted.

The Church in the USA is suffering, but in a different way. There is a silent killer devouring the Church. However,  this suffering and destruction at the church door is self-imposed. Churches are choosing the broad way, not the narrow way.  What is this silent killer? Two words: The first is Covetousness (Exodus 20:17).  Under the supervision of pastors parent's hearts are turned to everything BUT their children. They wouldn't verbalize this but their actions speak loudly.  In general terms, both parents today work 40-60 hours a week to afford two new cars, a large home, and expensive vacations. Wives and mothers are sent to work because for some, the thought of having a smaller, older home, older car or possibly educating children at home is not even a possibility. Career goals, ambitions and dreams have become the priority. We want stuff and things. We want security that we think is found in abundance and ease. Is Matthew 6:33 relevant to this discussion? Men, what about the admonition in Titus 2:4-5? Isn’t this a direct admonition for women to manage their homes. If our wives are working 25-40 hours a week outside the home how are they able to manage things effectively at home? Why doesn't this verse bring conviction to us? This is what covetousness looks like. We sacrifice spiritual fruitfulness so that we can settle for meagerness. We don’t want to walk by faith but by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). We don't consciously consider that God's word and work are at stake. We don't consider that sending our wives out to work may result in The WORD OF GOD BEING BLASPHEMED (Titus 2:5).  Covetousness clouds our judgment and changes our priorities.

The second word is Selfishness.  When arriving home from a long day at work TV, golf, hobbies, time with "the guys"etc., complicate our evenings. Men go on long hunting trips, ski trips or other outings with their friends leaving their families behind.  Would we consider giving up those things for a time to make investments in our kids?  Some would say this is legalistic and radical.  To which I say "yes it is".  The Christian life is not a bed of ease where we continue on like we are single and let others teach and train our kids. It is our Job.  What about singing with our families in the evening and teaching them the richness of the Hymnal? What about discussing theology and making it practical our your kids? What would happen to our families if our children knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are our priority?  What if they knew that we could not wait to get home to play ball with them, do projects with them or just spend time with them?  I know a single mom who is forced to work full time.  She recently became a believer and saw the danger her two teens were subjected to in the public school.  She pulled them out and is teaching them at home after she gets home from work. She goes into work extra early to be able to get home early enough to make that investment.  She is also going through a book study in the evenings with them to insure that they are getting teaching throughout the week in addition to online sermons.  She is not selfish.  She gets it. Unfortunately, too many do not.

What does Deuteronomy 6:4-9 have to say about this? 1 Peter 5:5 and Ephesians 5:21 admonish us to submit one to another.  Submission to one another simply means that “your needs compel me more than my own”.  Mom and dad, do the spiritual needs of our family come first in your planning? Do they compel you? When considering sports or activities are you first thinking about the spiritual impact?  Is the soul of your child more important than things and careers? Most of us would answer in the affirmative. But, what are we doing about it? If you asked your children what is really important to you, what would they say?  

In general, church leaders are allowing and even encouraging this abdication (discarding) of parental duties and responsibilities. We are so concerned with "growth" and building payments that the message preached becomes watered down. Mentioning the truths outlined above becomes too big of a risk. Some parts of Scripture are hard to hear for all of us, but we teach the whole counsel of God without apology (Acts 20:27). If people cannot handle truth spoken in love they may be a "weed" in the garden (Matthew 13:24-30) but we do not soften the message. Those of us who would teach the "radical" ideas outlined above are labeled by many as narrow minded family worshipers and legalists. In reality, we are simply identifying the root of the problem and calling out those who are perpetuating it. We will look at statistics in this area in our next post.  

As a result of poor leadership, this community of church goers is allowing the philosophy of the world's system to "raise" its children. The Church has not been alerted to the admonition of James 1:27. TV, movies, various events, concerts and peers frame the thinking of our youth rather than Scripture. James 1:27 is not just instructing us to abstain from gross immorality but also wrong thinking, wrong philosophy (Colossians 2:8), and wrong assumptions about life, family and church. Generally, Christian kids are raised in the same way as non-Christian kids. The only difference is that the former goes to church weekly. But, attending a church that is trying to make the content "relevant" and does not teach parents the tough truth, will subtly erode their view of the word of God. They are getting human ideas and human philosophy, not truth that hits them between the eyes and changes them. The point is this: if parents are not being conformed to Christ's image (Romans 8:29) in the community of church through teaching, preaching and fellowship then they will not know how to pass that along to their children.  It will simply be an illusive, moving target that they can neither define nor hit.

In subsequent posts we will look at how a local church can help in this area.  Preview

This is not for the faint of heart. Proverbs 24:10

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Majoring on the Majors. On Purpose

Consistent Theology.  The attributes of God.  Family integration.  Plurality of Elders. Consistent hermeneutics. 1689 London Baptist Confession.  Church history. Evangelism.  Biblical manhood and womanhood.  Vision for our families.  Individuals seeking to minister.  "Standards".  Leadership in the home.  Keepers at home.  Home education.  Ministry mindset.  Music under God's Lordship. God-centered worship.  Creationism. Involvement in the public square.  Current events. Parental discipline, ie. training children. Careers. Missions.

This list is not exhaustive.  All these ideas are important; even essential. Putting them together can help a  local church and its individual members become usable and fruitful.  But taken individually, they can easily become "the issue" and "the focus".   It is so easy to become preoccupied with one idea or another and lose the overall vision that Scripture lays out for us.

Our focus must be on Christ alone by feeding on His Word.  A heart for Christ will influence our thinking about each of these areas listed above.  Christ is the theme of Scripture and Scripture is our basis for all of living.  Mary and Martha illustrate this important lesson for us in Luke 10:38-42.  One focused on serving.  And, incidentally, lost her joy in the process.  The other focused on literally "the best things" and was commended by the Lord.  What were those "best things"? The teaching of the Word of God by the Lord. Hearing his word.  It is here where serving is rooted and the foundations of fruitfulness are built.  Hearing and focusing on Scripture is where the underpinnings of our passions must be.

The power of God is not in methods, however biblical they may be.  The power of God is in receiving and obeying God's word. Attending a church that has the "right" doctrine and methods is needful.  But, hearing and reading are only the first steps to believing and doing.  James warns us to be doers of the Word not hearers only, deceiving our own selves.  Hearing God's Word, by design, produces faith, real faith.  If our faith is real it will literally be life changing. As parents, living a life changing faith is the only way of seeing the product of this in our own children.  If  we are going through the motions and we are not living a real, life changing faith, we will not be passing anything of lasting spiritual value down to our children no matter how many bible studies and conferences we attend. God does not call us to know it, but to live it.

What so many today fail to understand is that good doctrine produces life. But, in the Church today, people are bored by doctrine and have heaped to themselves teachers that provide self help ideas and success principles.  Understanding Theology, Ecclesiology, Soteriology and the like are not taught and so then are not understood by the Church.  We have a surface level understanding of God and so focus on what God can provide for us.  Even worship is focused on our desires to give God what WE want to give Him instead of asking what He would like for us to give Him.   We are content today for God to be ANYWHERE but on His throne because we have little understanding of God and His ways. We want Him to bless us but we do not understand that we are here for His glory, not the other way around.  The Church does not even understand what God's blessings are. We pray for what we do not understand.

This blog will explore the ideas listed above as well as other essentials like:

  • What does a "mature" son or daughter look like? 
  • What is the price of discipleship?
  • What are foundational character traits we and our children must develop?
  • How do we identify our real "needs" that God is pointing out to us in daily living?
  • How can we help men and women to see the "issue"?  How can we help them to develop a "whatever it takes" attitude when  it comes to knowing God and passing it on to those in their care?
Blessings to you and yours.

Scott Eckles for Bethel Baptist Fellowship

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