The Blunted blade!

12 For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Hebrews 4:12 (N.I.V.)

How few in this current age of the Church are willing or able to wield this “double edged” sword?

The typical sword of the times of the Bible was an, if you will pardon the expression a “hacking and slashing” weapon wielded with a great deal of brute force.

This phraseology speaks to me more of a surgical blade cutting only in order to remove diseased tissue and probing for problems.

Yet there is no escaping the fact that a sword is a weapon used in warfare and throughout the history of Christianity it has been used to great effect as such.

This passage raises the question of how we are to use the Word of God today.

images play swordsIt can only be said that the tendency of many in the church and among Christians generally, is to “blunt” this blade of the scriptures and and make it less an offensive or defensive weapon and more a self help book.

As I said previously we are at the stage where those “seekers” who come into our modern services are not confronted by what the Bible says about their current lost and sinful state or their alienation from their Maker. Indeed apart from a few carefully selected and paraphrased verses they are not taught very much about what the Bible says about anything. If they do receive any teaching it is only at a later stage in their development and at their discretion

The situation is today that the rush to get people into church has meant streamlining the way of salvation to the stage that it is little more than upraised hand or a signed card followed by baptism that is all that is required to profess and be regarded Christian.

While this may be adequate for acceptance to church membership, much more is called for by the scriptures in order to be called a Christian.

We do not hear today much of repentance and being born again. We hear nothing of entering the narrow door that leads to the narrow way that leads to salvation. We hear nothing about the holy living without which no one will see the Lord. Yet this is scriptural and biblical, however little interest is shown by our modern preachers and teachers and church leaders.

Worst of all there is little thought given to these fundamental failings by the average person in the “pew”.

When we turn back to the actual teaching of scripture we are left with a powerful “weapon” which has fallen out of use and no desire on many people’s part to wield it.

Perhaps some might say that it is for the Spirit of God to wield this weapon and we are best to leave it to Him and therefore become less liable to cause offense among those we hope to win to Christ.

While it is true that the Blessed Spirit of God works in and through the Word and works mightily indeed, the fact is the Word is in our hands, is it to be a closed book opened only on certain occasions and only among certain audiences?

Again, many will say that the Scriptures as the Word of God and the preaching of it, no longer has any authority with the World at large and therefore we must find other means of spreading the message of Christianity.

Whether this line of argument is correct or not still leaves us with the dilemma of what to do with this “spiritual sword” which we were obviously expected to use frequently and vigorously.

I think it is true to say that for most non believers the Bible has never had more than a sentimental place in their lives.

The sad fact is that for many Christians today, the authority of the Bible as the word of God is waning, especially on issues where professing believers want to fall into line with Worldly thought and values and morals.

I say again. We all have the sinful tendency to seek to blunt the force of the Word of God when it goes against our fleshly desires and self will. The fact is that in this modern age we see this practice soaring to new heights in the church with the consequences that there is no moral and spiritual force behind anything we say and do in our Christian teaching and doctrine.

Better to be called “simplistic” and “old fashioned” and unashamedly preach the Word of God to all and sundry, without fear or favour, relying on the Spirit’s power working with the Word to open the hearts, minds and souls of men and women to God’s salvation in Christ.cropped-Sword11

This has always been the tried and true “power of salvation” and nothing; even in our modern relativistic age is needed more in our dealings with other believers and the whole World of unsaved sinners.

The “Bush Tuckerman”

Les Hiddins recounts the story of two German aviators who in 1932 crash landed in the “Kimberley’s” in North Western Australia.P282

In a hostile and unfamiliar environment they survived for some time but became so weak that they resigned themselves to death.

They were found sheltering in a cave by a group of Aborigines who brought them food but the men were too weak to chew it, so the Aborigines chewed it for them.

After being lost for 53 days they were taken overland to hospital in Wyndham.

hqdefaultHiddins adds that if they had known what to look for in the edible plants and environment around them, they would have found sufficient food to keep them alive until rescued.

In a spiritual sense we to are surrounded by the food we need to grow as Christians. The problem is we do not have the appetite, understanding and faith to benefit from it.

Many of us are satisfied by the milk and water “baby food” on offer at many churches and never progress to the strong meat of the Word of God.

Some Christian leaders are calling for Christians to be “Self feeding” thus making Christian preaching and teaching unnecessary on a Sunday.

Rather we should seek to the faithful preaching of the Word wherever we can find it and reinforce it with our on prayerful study of the Scriptures.

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The Blunted blade!

The God who reigns and rules!

Under the British constitution the king or queen reigns but does not rule.

buck-houseIt seems to me that there are many in the Church today who would be glad to be able to say the same of God. They would have the blessings and glory of his reign but not be under his rule and law as to obedience. They would be glad to be able to live as they list and indulge in sin and yet still be able to call on an indulgent and unexacting Heavenly Father.

They would be glad to welcome anyone and everyone into the Church and yet not have to tell them about their sin and the Holy God they have offended.

They would by all means avoid the necessity of teaching them that their lifestyle or vices are displeasing to God and must be cast aside and striven against.

They would gladly clothe them in the righteousness of Christ, but as to  telling them that they themselves must turn away from greed, lust and covetousness, this is to distasteful to  the modern “Easy believe-ism” teacher , they would rather let God handle that task,  instead of faithfully telling them the truth from God’s inspired Word.

Regardless of the wishes of these well meaning but sorely deluded people God does both reign and rule and He is not mocked “As a man sows so shall He reap” Galatians 6:7. Whether claiming to be a Christian or not “without holiness, no man shall see the Lord”Hebrews12:14.

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Edom: the peril of false brethren

If Babylon typifies the Christian hating world it is the nation of Edom that typifies the brother who ultimately proves false and is in many ways worse.

The people of Edom were the descendants of Isaac as well as Jacob. While Esau came to a certain amount of reconciliation with his brother Jacob , his later descendants although treated respectfully and kindly by Israel, proved at last to be hateful ,vindictive and cruel to Israel  in there extremity. This is shown by the Old Testament prophecy of Obadiah.edom_petra

Seemingly secure in its mountain strongholds Edom did not seek to help its kinsman, Israel when besieged and conquered nor did it merely content itself with non-interference and simply looking on. These people forgetting their common routes seized the opportunity of Israel’s weakness and peril and proceeded to plunder, killing and turning in the refugees of their fallen brother.

As Obadiah prophesied this would not be forgotten by Israel’s God. While fallen Israel would rise again and endure, Edom would receive upon themselves the wrath of God and fall to rise no more.

Again I am compelled to say that there are many so called Christians who are playing this part in the Church today. These people prove at last that they are false brethren in that they deny the Bible as the Word of God, reject the scriptural means of God’s salvation through Christ’s atoning and satisfaction for our sins and seek to call those things good which God in his Word calls evil.emerging church

If some do not go so far as these apostates they still seek the name of Christian and “evangelical” yet still attempt to proclaim the gospel yet shaved of anything offensive to sinful man or those things which are contradicted by modern science .They also make sinful concessions to worldly trends and “New Age” morality , thus in their attempt to re-package the gospel for the modern man they present instead a message which ignores God’s just demands and makes man’s sensibilities the end of all they do.

 

In the end these false brethren will find themselves worse off than the World which never owned God in the first place.

Feeding the Sheep or amusing the Goats?

There is no question in my mind but that any gospel ministry that abdicates parts of it responsibility for any reason is failing in its God appointed duty.

The minister who sees his own role as exclusively dealing with the new comers in the congregation may be just as derelict as the one who deals solely with the job of building up believers and then delegate’s evangelism to specialists or task groups. The Church is the body of Christ. While we call and invite all to come to Christ, it is as the body of Christ that they meet sunday by sunday, not as “seekers” merely but as heares of the Word of God.

Like a steward in a large household the minister of Christ is to portion out every person their due.

The Apostle Paul, while his ministry was not limited to a single church or area, laid down an example by teaching the doctrines to be preached and declaring the role and functions to be perform by the shepherd’s of the flock who he appointed to succeed him. This he did by virtue of apostolic authority. No minister today can truly lay claim to this sort of authority rather they have their “marching orders” and must obey them with all faithfulness and diligence.

It is by failing to obey and live up to this ideal of ministry of the Pauline stamp that explains the sorry state of many churches and church groups regardless of large attendances and worldwide notoriety.

The leaders of these groups may lay claim to apostolic authority to command and dictate to their followers: They may abrogate this or that and excommunicate the people who will not get with the program, Christians though they be: Yet when it comes down to reality it is more about the cult of personality than the Word of God.

These people are far from the New Testament ideal of the self effacing and sacrificing servant and minister of the body of Christ.

When Paul came among the people he was not regarded as a great speaker. He says of himself that his “presence” was base and timid among the Corinthians (2Cor 10:1). What a contrast this is to some of the bombastic and loud mouthed preachers of today.  How much arrogance of attitude is seen amidst the gaudy lights, loud music and night clubbish accoutrements of the modern place of “worship”?

It is all calculated to attract the interest of worldly and excitement seeking sinners looking to add a “spiritual” dimension to their shallow lives.

God forbid that we who name ourselves Christians should follow the undiscerning multitude in whoring after the Beast posing as a minster of the gospel which is in fact not the gospel at all.

The Diminishing Gospel!

We are often confronted with the reduction of product amount and size while continuing to increase the price. Sometimes this is done in a very clever way by the redesigning of packaging to make it look the same as previously yet containing incrementally less product.21M_PRODUCT_SIZE_GRAPHIC(Example from Britain)

Biscuits or cookies as the Americans call them that were as big as your hand 10 years ago are now only one or two bites.

Blocks of chocolate which were sold in great slabs are now one third the size. This trend is likely to be ongoing.

While this may not be as bad as adulterating good products with cheap substitutes it still savours of cynicism and leaves people feeling cheated.

I wonder whether we are seeing this type of design in the preaching of the Word. How little depth we see in Bible teaching and preaching? How little exhortation to practice Christian behavior and living?

The little weight and value of modern preaching is little regarded by moderns because they give very little thought to whole counsel of God given in Scripture. They are more interested in the lively worship and the excitement generated by loud music.

The modern makes a profession of faith so called in Christ but have no real understanding of sin, salvation and holy living and are allowed to remain in their ignorance because modern minister shun the need to expound scripture in any great depth for fear of offending the newcomer.

A low view of Scripture, preaching, and the role of the Church explains the short weight and low value of the fruit and decline in grace we see in a great deal of its activities despite the much vaunted growth in numbers.

The sad thing is that people who have gone to church in better days are content to receive short weight and deficient scriptural teaching and not question it at all.

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The God who reigns and rules!

“The idiots guide” to grow your” Church?

display_d4c4341e-c1bf-493e-b896-2215c9139aa9As many are currently pointing out, much of what goes on in the church today is simply a process of taking Christianity out of the context of salvation from sin, reconciliation with God and holy living and placing it into one of God simply waiting and calling for man to return to Him so that He can shower blessings upon the returning prodigal: hopefully making them better people in the process.

In many places this change of emphasis is having impressive results. The numbers attending some of these churches are in the multi thousands. Add to this, by making your church service as unlike a traditional worship service as you can you draw multitudes to attend it.

Nowadays all it takes is a satellite dish and a feed and you can plug into this revival and multiple sites can benefit from the upbeat and positive teaching of your favourite speaker.

The more conservative and less convinced church groups can pick up on elements of the teaching and the music and introduce them into their own program on a smaller scale and expect similar results.

As I have written before America is the capital in the writing of “How to” books or in this particular case if you like “The idiots guide to grow your Church”.

Australia has made its own contribution to this global trend and “franchised “its own brand of modern Christianity. (It is enough to make the very hills to sing and the planet to shake).

A saying often attributed to Napoleon is that “God favours of the big battalions”, in other words the larger your numbers, organization and the more clever your strategies, the more likely you are of success.

Let’s face it, the only business model the Apostle Paul could apply to Christianity was that of making tents and new times and the new thinking demand new methods.

In a World full of gimmicks it is not unnatural to find some in the church using them to; after all if the church is to survive it must move with the times and speak the language people understand. One motto that should be written in stone (if some had their way is that) “the church must be relevant”.

Although I have tried to do so, it seems “You cannot argue with success”. The only question is, being separated from historical Christianity and devoid of the preaching of the whole counsel of God, how long will this success last?

Ah! dear friends, one half of the emotions excited in our places of worship are of no more value than those excited at the theatre- Spurgeon

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The problem with following Christ is that the way He takes invariably leads to a cross.

It leads first of all to the foot of Christ’s own Cross upon which he atoned for our sin and satisfied our holy God.

Our Saviour showed here the sinfulness of sin and its abhorrent nature enslaving and enthralling sinful men and women.

Yet at the same time it shows the love of God, in taking the due penalty for our transgression and placing it upon his own dear Son while at the same clothing the believer with his own righteousness and enabling us, through His Son to enter the holiest of all, God’s very own presence.

Secondly in following Christ, we find a cross of our own; which we are called to take up and carry after Him.

By doing this we declare ourselves to have renounced sin and  self, turn our back on the world and walk in the way of holy and loving living by following His wonderful example and relying on His abundant grace through  His  indwelling Spirit.

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“The idiots guide” to grow your” Church?