Church

Denominational Preference Should Never Supersede Doctrinal Faithfulness

I do believe it’s tenable for a denominational tradition to be doctrinally faithful. For Paul clearly said in 2 Thessalonians 2:15, “So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter.” Thus, the traditions of the Judeo-Christian worldview do play a vital role for interpreting Scripture.

However, they do not take the primary role. Denominational preferences or traditions should be superseded if they violate the clarity of Scripture. This means there are doctrines, most notably salvation, that are so clear from the reading of God’s word, that to violate it’s objectivity in favor of keeping a denominational tradition is tantamount to unorthodoxy.

The most notable example is Matthew 15:1, where the Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus and said, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat.” Jesus answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?”

Clearly, the law of Moses never mentioned that washing hands before a meal was necessary to keep oneself clean. It was introduced into the Babylonian Talmud and over time became wrongly equated with God’s law.

In conclusion, I am not anti-denomination. I am only suggesting denominations should be open minded to changing their doctrinal views if it is found, after careful investigation of their “statement of faith”, to be opposed to the clarity of Scripture.

I realize all denominations, including those who are non-denominational, fall into a set of theological presuppositions. That’s okay, as long as the church does not replace the word of God with a doctrinal creed. And I believe this is clearly articulated in Paul’s letter to Timothy: “All Scripture is God-breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness.”

What does God say about Church Discipline?

Photo Credit: Junior Libby

Photo Credit: Junior Libby

Today, church discipline is perceived as an unkind action. People don’t like the idea of confronting another person because of its supposed negativity. Consequently, few churches are practicing church discipline today. In this essay, I will argue church discipline is a biblical command, and when done properly, strengthens the health of the church.

Jesus told us in Matthew 18:15-17 if someone sins against you, go and point out their fault between the two of you. As Christians, it’s our responsibility to tell the truth in love (Eph. 4:15). If someone is in a state of continual disobedience, the word of God says they need to repent or will perish (Lk. 13:5). Since we don’t want our brothers or sisters to perish, it’s truly loving to confront them about their sin. The ultimate goal is to restore them to a proper relationship with Christ, which can only happen through honesty and integrity.

If the person doesn’t listen, then the Bible says to take one or two along, so that every matter may be established by the testimony of more than one witness. Beforehand, you were being sensitive by not informing others about a certain struggle another friend had. However, if that individual is unwilling to give up their sin, then you are encouraged to bring another individual with you to confront it. I believe the importance of bringing a witness is to show the sinner it’s not just you, but there are others who agree change is necessary.

If they refuse to listen to a group of believers, then it’s time to tell it to the church (Matt. 18:17). For example, if someone betrayed their spouse by committing adultery, should the church pursue him and call him to repentance, or let him go on in the lifestyle of this destructive sin? Of course the loving response is to confront the man. The ACBC website says the purpose well: “Discipline of erring Christians is not optional but mandatory, since it is intended to protect God’s reputation, to reconcile and restore sinners, to maintain the purity of the church, and to deter sin.[1] Thus, it’s important to have godly men and women speak truth to an erring person so they might be reconciled back into a loving relationship with God.

Finally, if a person doesn’t listen to you, a group of believers, or the church, then the last course of action is to treat them as an unbeliever (Matt 18:17). The Bible gives an example in the Corinthian church of a man who was sleeping with his father’s wife. The apostle Paul stated, “Shouldn’t you have gone into mourning and put out of your fellowship the man who has been doing this (1 Cor. 5:1-7)?” According to this passage, the most loving reaction toward sin is to deal with the perpetrator first. If he doesn’t want to change, then the church is obligated to protect their people by keeping the warped man from having contact until he is rightfully restored back to God.

Church discipline is not an easy task: Either churches are too lenient and allow sin to infiltrate the Church or they are too strict and cause division and hardship. The key is to tell the truth in love and make it a goal to restore the person back to proper fellowship with God and His people. I believe this is the correct role church discipline should play in biblical counseling.

[1] “Church Discipline: Association of Certified Biblical Counselors.” Available at: http://www.biblicalcounseling.com/before-you-begin/theological-considerations/church-discipline/

Having a Unity of Mind for Spiritual Growth

unity

“Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble (1 Peter 3:8).”

When I was in college, I swam for the University of Indianapolis. Our opponents pejoratively called us the “international team” and accused us of recruiting illegal immigrants. I think they were jealous because our team, full of diversity, would win by a large margin at our swim meets.

It’s true that our swim team was culturally diverse. We had Greek Cypriots, Turkish men and women, Canadians, and a man from Israel. The different languages, cultures, and religious beliefs can produce tension. For instance, there was a fight between a practicing Muslim and Jew because one accidently kicked the other in practice. The coach immediately took care of the situation, kicking both of them out of practice.

This was the only conflict I recall in the three years I was on the team–other than that, our group not only cooperated but became best friends. Why? We had the same passions, goals, interests, and dreams. Our desire to work together, win meets, and become successful was contagious. My senior year, our team ranked in the top 15 nationally. We were victorious.

How much more should we cooperate with one another as believers in Christ? We are not only after the same goal, but we are brothers and sisters in Christ. We are united by the spirit of God. Neither life nor death can take away our relationship with God and the church family.

Do you believe that? Are you living that life today? Are you checking up on your brothers and sisters? Believe me, people are struggling more than you think. This is convicting because oftentimes I am concerned more about my own situation than others. It is my prayer this week that the church recognizes their unique calling to love, help, and motivate the people of God for Jesus’ glory. Amen.

What is the Spiritual State of the American Church?

megachurch-map

We are living in exciting times for the growth of the Church. There is no doubt about that. Large churches are growing all around the United States, adding 1,000s to worship Jesus on Sunday morning. In 2008, an American evangelical denomination reported that 2.5 million decisions were made for Christ. Yet, with all the excitement about the contemporary church in the United States, it seems that the statistics are revealing a darker side.

An American Barna group study found that 45 percent of those who profess to be born-again Christians believe that gambling  is morally acceptable. 41 percent also think the Bible, Koran, and the book of Mormon are all different interpretations of the same spiritual truth–despite the book’s vastly contradictory teachings on truth, salvation, the nature of God, and the afterlife. Is there something wrong with this picture? Jesus warned us that in the last days, many false prophets and religions will appear and deceive many people (Matt. 24:11).

The darker statistics continue. Almost half of professing U.S. Christians believe that living with someone of the opposite sex before marriage is morally permissible–despite the Bible’s prohibition against it. Promise Keepers, an organization for men and women devoted to maintaining sexual purity, found that 53 percent visit porn sites every week. More alarming, an internet survey of 6,000 Pastors conducted in 2002 found that 30 percent of pastors had viewed internet porn in the last 30 days.

The Bible says in 1 Corinthians, “No sexually immoral person will enter the Kingdom of Heaven?” Is that you today? Are you letting a harlot visit you through the television or computer screen? Are you flirting with a co-worker in the office who is not your spouse? Are you reading fictional Romance, even Christian ones, that are distracting you from your own husband? If so, remember Proverbs 5:

“For the lips of the adulterous woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil; but in the end she is bitter as gall, sharp as a double-edged sword. Her feet go down to death; her steps lead straight to the grave. She gives no thought to the way of life; her paths wander aimlessly, but she does not know it.”

Think for a moment about these sobering facts and figures. Here we have millions of “believers” who profess Jesus as Lord, and yet their theological understanding, ethical views, and daily lives are evidence they don’t know God. The shocking fact is that these statistics are not based on the unbelieving world–It’s not the culture outside of the walls of the church; it’s talking about the people sitting in the pews and at the pulpit. That means some people who are reading this message might possibly be the ones described in Matthew 7:21-22, who don’t enter Heaven, but are cast into Hell.

“Not everyone who says to me Lord, Lord, will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but He who does the will of my Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to me on that day, Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles? And Jesus will declare to them, “I never knew you, depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.”

Think about how seemingly spiritual people can be and still not make it to heaven. They called Jesus Lord, they weren’t ashamed to prophesy or cast out demons. These people seem to be more spiritual than the average churchgoer, and yet they will be rejected on the day of Judgment by the Lord Jesus Christ.

What is the solution? Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith ( 2 Cor. 13:5). Are you producing fruit or are you an empty branch? The fruits of the spirit are: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Do these virtues describe you? Are you trusting in Christ? If not, then critically analyze whether you have been born again.

You are not saved by doing good works, but your good works help you identify whether God’s spirit is in you. James said, “Faith without works is dead.” Let me make it clear that we are saved by grace through faith. It’s a free gift from God, not of works, lest any of us boast about our spiritual maturity. All of us have sinned and we fall short of the glory of God. With that all said, it’s still important to be honest about your relationship with God. If it’s not there, then you should repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand. Seek the Lord now, while He may be found.

Are women to remain silent in Church?

Unknown

This topic has widely been debated, from those within the different denominations of Christianity, to atheists, skeptics, feminists, and others who are passionate about the equality of men and women. Before we begin, it’s important to recognize that no one is arguing that women are less intrinsically valuable or inferior to men. It’s my hope that rational, loving people would recognize that this is not the argument at hand.

There are two basic thoughts. The first  theological view is called complementarianism. It is held by some in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, that men and women have different but complementary roles and responsibilities in marriage, family life, religious leadership, and other areas of service. The second theological view is called egalitarianism. It states that “all humans are equal in fundamental worth or social status,” according to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. So the real question is, “Do men and women share the same roles and responsibilities?” Let’s see the passage that talks about women remaining silent in church and then make a final assessment.

1 Corinthians 14:33-35 and 1 Timothy 2:12 state: “I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet.” Earlier in the same epistle, 1 Corinthians 11:5, Paul mentions that women were praying and prophesying in church, and that older women were teaching younger women (Titus 2:4). Therefore, 1 Corinthians 14:33-35 must not be an absolute command for women to be silent in church. The concern of 1 Corinthians 14 is about order and structure. In that assembly, no one was exercising any authority. No elder, deacon, or pastor is even mentioned in these epistles. It’s quite possible that everyone in the church service was “most likely” doing whatever they wanted, whenever they desired. Those speaking in tongues were yelling chaotically, others were receiving a person, emotional experience from God, and no one was concerned about interpretation or what to do if an unbeliever walks in and sees chaos and confusion. Consequently, the women were trying to take the lead instead of allowing the husbands to assume their God-given responsibility to help the church (1 Tim 2:11-15).

This could be the reason why Paul was telling the women to remain silent, not because of their inferiority, but because of the problem with that particular church. It’s important to realize when engaging in hermeneutics, the scientific principle of biblical study, not to take one passage and justify it as an absolute. There are other scripture references that teach women are co-equal with men, and in no way are less superior to them. They just have different roles. For example, in Galatians, Pau told the church, “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave or fee man, there is neither male or female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” This passage validates the fact that both men and women are created equally in God’s eyes and are intrinsically valuable.

For more information, see article here.

RETHINKING CHURCH

Flight back to Houston: Crazy Love, Pretzels, ...

Francis Chan, former teaching pastor of Cornerstone Community Church in Simi Valley, CA and author of the best-selling book Crazy Love, discusses four aspects concerning the mission of the church.

1. The Church is a family that loves one another.
2. The Church is determined to get the message of the good news of Jesus Christ to a world in need of a Savior.
3. The Church is focused on communion, prayer, and learning Scripture.
4. The Church equips leaders and instructs others how to serve the Lord.