Man Made Mandates

In Romans 14 Paul gives instruction to brothers in Christ who happen to disagree on diet, days and drinks. Some eat the meat of pagans and some think it’s a sin to do so. Some keep special holy days and others don’t. Some only drink water while others enjoy wine. This chapter has been made famous for dealing with “weaker brothers.” Paul’s advice is not to force someone to do something they are not comfortable with. Don’t push alcohol on the teetotaler nor think less of him who does drink. Don’t mandate or forbid holidays. The same goes for the food you eat, avoid it if it makes someone else uncomfortable. That is how the weak and the strong can get along in the same body. By the way, it is the strong who have liberty to do such things and the weak that forbid it. So as the strong and liberated let’s not flaunt our freedoms.
I encountered some weaker brethren this week in social media. They were mandating that Christians not allow their children to attend public schools. Because the “clearly biblical” thing to do is home school or private school. While there were no clear Bible references given to support the sinfulness of parents sending their kids to public schools. Many bad examples from around the country were sited as to the failure of governmental education. Basically if your children attend public schools you are a weak Christian at best and you might not be saved. Or so they said.
This legalistic approach to education is a text book weaker brother moment and here’s why. The Bible is not cut and dried on the methods of educating your children, save that the parents bear the responsibility. The Bible does not condemn governmental services or our use of them. Every school district is as different and every set of parents. This is why a binding statement in Scripture can’t be found on this subject.
So how should a strong brother respond? We have the liberty to decide for our family the educational system that best suits our needs. It we choose in home, private, or public it’s none of their concern. Nor do we hold the right to force our preferences on them, it their choice as well. Problems will only arise when one brother tries to force the other. Be strong, don’t do it.

No Absolutes

We clearly live in a society that does not like absolutes. Conversations are filled with statements like these: “you can’t know right or wrong, what’s right for one maybe wrong for another.” ” No one knows what is right for me to do since they don’t know me or how I feel.” “We can’t be sure about anything because there is so much science hasn’t discovered yet.” Some people claim to be unsure of their own gender. A few even claim there gender changes from day to day. Never mind that science discovered there to be only two genders (both evident at birth) many millennia ago. But hey, who are we to set up such absurd absolutes as male and female?
The problem is not merely that the facts haven’t been given to this wishy-washy generation. Its that our society does not want facts. They would rather operate on feelings. If you feel OK about something then its OK for you to do it. Who are we to judge how someone else feels? After all, insensitivity and hurt feelings are the worst things anyone can experience in our society. The problem with feelings is that they can change over time but absolutes never change. So a society built on feelings tends to become very fluid and eventually falls further than anyone ever imagined possible.
Before you try to take the high ground and distance yourself from the responsibility of these societal leanings. This attitude didn’t start last night, we’ve all been programmed this way. Consider these phrases that have been around for years: “Follow your heart” “Trust yourself” “Whatever makes you happy.” At least four generations were raised hearing this message from parents, schools, friends and the media. Is this not “feelings” driven advice?
No one likes to be told they are wrong. No one wants to hear about the negative consequences of their own actions. When a society lives without absolutes, it ends up as in Judges 21:25 “In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes.”
As Christians we embrace absolutes. We have an absolute ruler in Jesus Christ. We have absolute truth in the Bible. Therefore we are not free to live our lives based on our feelings. We base our lives on Christ and his Word. This is what makes Christians stand out in an ever changing world.
A word of caution is in order here for every believer. Just because you embrace Christ and his Word does not mean you can force others to feel the same way. Some Christians want to legislate moral absolutes. You were not forced to accept the absolutes of Christ and Scripture by legislation, but rather by the Holy Spirit. So why try to force others to your position when the Bible calls us to exemplify it every day among them? I Peter 2:12. “Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation.” The absolutes of Scripture apply to Christians and when we embrace them we demonstrate His lordship in us.

Lessons In Taking Liberties

In Philemon verse 13-14 we can learn a great deal about how to handle other people’s possessions. I would venture to say that more hurt feelings and more broken friendships are caused by taking liberties with out asking than anything else. This can refer borrowing items, using property, or simply assuming it’s ok without ever asking. How we treat the property of others says a lot about who we are.

In out text the Apostle Paul had led Oneisimus (a run away slave) to salvation in Christ while he was imprisoned in Rome. Paul knew his owner Philemon personally, and was sending Oneisimus back the be repent and be forgiven. Paul wrote this letter to encourage Philemon to accept Philemon as his brother in the Lord. Lets look at Paul’s view of taking with out asking.

13 Whom I would have retained with me, that in thy stead he might have ministered unto me in the bonds of the gospel: 14 But without thy mind would I do nothing; that thy benefit should not be as it were of necessity, but willingly.

Paul’s Destitute Condition v13 Paul’s first thought was to keep Oneisimus in Rome as his servant till he could be released. He also implies that if Philemon were in Rome, he would have providing this service himself, hence “in thy stead.” Paul is “in the bonds of the gospel.” Literally imprisoned for preaching the gospel. In first century Rome many people died in jail because food and clothing were not always provided. So could he have used a servant at this time? Who needed this servant the most? Imprisoned Paul or wealthy Philemon? Surely Philemon wouldn’t care considering the circumstances? We often use our circumstances to justify taking liberties with someone else’s stuff. We think we need it more or since we are friends, they won’t care.

Allow me to give you some guidelines for taking liberties with out asking.

  • 1 Only in an emergency. If it is not an emergency, then ask first and wait on their response. Anything that can be put off, should be, untill permission is granted.
  • 2 Is it a matter of life or death? If it is, don’t ask, just act! Nothing is more precious than saving a life.
  • 3 Look at the value of what you are taking. Risking a $1000 item that doesn’t belong to you to save a $10 item that does, is never a good idea. However, I’m sure any friend wouldn’t care for you risking his $10 to save your $1000, in a pinch.
  • 4 Is this really an emergency? We tend to over exaggerate, so ask yourself again. BTW 4 missed calls to a cell phone in under 5 minutes is NOT waiting patiently. Don’t try to justify not asking first.

Paul’s Duty To Consult v14a “Without thy mind” doesn’t imply that one of them was crazy. Paul is waiting for Philemon’s consent. Paul would not take a liberty that did not belong to him. So he sent Oneisimus on a 1300 mile journey to Colosse rather than keep him in Rome with out Philemon’s approval.

You may say “He’s chained to a Roman soldier! This is a pretty serious situation.” Yes, it’s a bad situation, but not an emergency. According to verses 1, 23 and 24 there were at least six other men with Paul to take care of his needs. “But Paul was on a mission trip. He is doing the work of God.” some will reason. What we are doing and the cause it goes to support does not give us the right to take what is not ours. Many will say “They are such good friends. Surly he wouldn’t care. Why even ask? Just send him back later.” The closeness of your friendship can easily be destroyed by actions like that. However, your friends are sure to grow closer by treating them the way Paul treated Philemon. We should always respect their property.

Philemon’s Decision To Consent v14b When Paul referred to “thy benefit” he was referring to the reward Philemon would receive for his aid in spreading the gospel. Had Paul kept Oneisimus it would have been to Philemon’s benefit. But that was not Paul’s decision to make. That is why he wants Philemon to make his own decision “willingly” and not out of “necessity.” Paul was not seeking acceptance for his actions. He was seeking permission to act.

This is hard for people to take some times. If I have seen it once, I’ve seen it a hundred times. A friend asks a favor and the other friend says no. Just because they are friends does not require the other party to comply with their request. They have a right to say no. We have a responsibility to accept their answer, even if it’s not what we expected to hear. Remember, this is not an emergency or a matter of life and death, it is a favor.

Here are three words to take away from this study:

  1. Condition: If it’s not an emergency, you are in a position to wait.
  2. Consult: Take the time to ask permission. Your relationship with them or the good cause that this will support should not matter.
  3. Consent: Accept their decision and thank them regardless of their answer.

 

 

 

 

Four Reasons For Forgiving

We have been studying the book of Philemon on Wednesday nights and it has been a real joy to read a personal letter from Paul. Before asking Philemon to forgive Onesimus, Paul praises Philemon as an example to others of how a Christian lives in verses 4-7. Then in verses 8-10 he lays out four reasons for him to forgive Onesimus before he makes his request known. I hope we all can learn the importance of forgiving others. My outline for this text is as follows:

#1 Obeying a command of a leader. v8 Paul had the right as an Apostle to require his forgiveness. But he chose not to force this on him.

#2 Obedience to Christ’s love. v9a “for love’s sake” Because we have experienced the love of God, we should share that love with others.

#3 Observing a compassionate life. v9b Paul refers to himself as the “aged” in reference to the miles more than the years of his life. II Cor 11:23-28

#4 Obligation to a changed life. v10 Paul reveals that Onesimus is now a believer and a new creature in Christ. This alone warrants forgiveness, love and encouragement.

Luke 9:57-62 Outline

Three Versions of a Shallow Superficial Faith
Luke 9:57-62

V57 A Charismatic Faith: Built on emotion and a swift decision.
V58 Downfall: The loss of personal comfort.
Example: Lot’s Wife Gen 19:26

V59 A Convenient Faith: When ever it fits into your plans.
V60 Downfall: The pursuit of cash.
Example: Young Ruler Mat 19:16-22

V61 A Confused Faith: Looking to others for approval.
V62 Downfall: The prospect of coming home.
Example: Family and God Luke 14:26-27

This is a simple outline I used in a Bible study to demonstrate that all who claim to believe may not truly believe. True faith is not built on emotion, advantage or what others think. True faith comes from God to convict of sin and causes us to place our only hope in the work of Christ Jesus. True faith is visible in our lives by the choices we make and the lives we live. Regardless of the cost true faith will forever stand.

Election Thoughts

These were my first thoughts at 10:30 last night.

#1 It is not the end of the world.

#2 It might be the end of America as we know it.

#3 I can rejoice that I’m a citizen of Heaven, and this world is not my home.

#4 Now, back to praying for our President and nation.

A Mighty Fortress Is Our God

A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;
Our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing:
For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and power are great, and, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.

Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing;
Were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing:
Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He;
Lord Sabaoth, His name, from age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.

And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us:
The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.

That word above all earthly powers, no thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours through Him who with us sideth:
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.

Words & Music: Martin Luther, 1529

SO TRUE!

When we treat the unbeliever as our market, and the gospel as our product I’m afraid we remove the offense of the cross. For central to the meaning of the cross is this- You are not in charge; you are in trouble. God has no need to satisfy your demands, but you must satisfy His. – R.C. Sproul, Jr.

Random Quotes #4

The church is not an audience of spectators; we are a fellowship of disciple-makers. David Platt
The Lord Jesus, our Mediator and Savior, possesses all power and authority over all things. That means no one else has any power or any authority over anything. Don Fortner
God is weening us off ourselves with afflictions, suffering, and trials. Akash Sant Singh
God’s unblemished holiness is reflective of His unrelenting hatred of sin. His undeserving mercy is inconceivable in view of His unyielding justice. Yet His unconditional love is grounded in His unmerited grace. Mike Gendron
It is the mark of a hypocrite to be a Christian everywhere but home. Robert McCheyne
The day is coming when hypocrites will be stripped of their fig-leaves. Matthew Henry
How vast the benefits divine which we in Christ possess! We are redeemed from guilt and shame and called to holiness. But not for works which we have done, or shall hereafter do, hath God decreed on sinful men salvation to bestow. Augustus Toplady
Let me beg you, not to rest contented with the common place religion that is now so prevalent. Adoniram Judson
It is scarcely possible in most places to get anyone to attend a meeting where the only attraction is God. A W Tozer

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meaningful Membership Pt 3 Membership Management

This is the final lesson in a series of instruction on biblical church membership. Part one Membership Minimums can be found here: http://leecreekbaptist.org/wp/?p=52 It deals with the basic requirements needed to join a church. Part two Membership Matters can be found here: http://leecreekbaptist.org/wp/?p=99 It shows the biblical teachings of church membership and why it is important.

In our final lesson we will deal with the practical issues of maintaining a healthy church membership. As we have seen in our previous studies the Church was designed by God to show forth his glory in the Earth. How can this be done when most churches have members who hold no resemblance to their heavenly Father. The church must work hard to help cultivate holiness in the lives of it’s members. This is done through discipleship, fellowship, and accountability.

The church has a responsibility to it’s members just as the members have a responsibility to their church. It is common practice in our day to let a person join a church and remain a member there forever, regardless of their current religious beliefs, lifestyle or lack of attendance. This is a recent trend and not a historical pattern. It is a sad commentary on this generation that these principles seem strange of different when they were common in every Baptist church 100 years ago. Many in our generation have never heard of church discipline. (the process outlined in the Bible by where the church tries to correct and restore a wayward member back into the fellowship) While we may be concerned why someone would leave a church and seek their return. Often times they don’t return, and they are left on the roles of the church. Over time a church’s membership can swell to ten times it’s attendance.

Such was the case here at Lee Creek. The church was established in 1994 and by 2012 it had a current membership of almost 300. However only fifty of them attended on a regular basis. Most of the other 250 were unknown to the congregation. Many were added as children and had moved away or had different last names. So what do we do about it? Turn a blind eye and let this continue farther? No, we chose to take action. We contacted all the people we knew and encourage them to return to church. We mailed church newsletters to every address we had with an invitation to come back. We found out that some had passed away, some had joined other churches, others had no intentions of returning to any church, and many were never able to be located.

In order to keep this from happening in the future we took some steps to prevent it. The very requirements given to join the church should be maintained while you are a member of the church. We as a church affirmed these five principles and set up some guidelines to keep us on task and faithful to each other. Here are our resolutions:

#1 Believe: Only believers are allowed to join the church and remain in the church. The only biblical way to know this is by their profession of faith and fruit. We will accept your profession and we will do all we can to help you lead a fruitful Christian life.

#2 Baptism: Only baptized believers can join and remain in the church. Before we baptize anyone we want to here their profession of faith in Christ publicly. If someone can not tell what Christ has done in them, they are not yet a candidate for baptism.

#3 Agree With Our Doctrine: We as a church have affirmed the 1742 Philadelphia Baptist Confession of Faith as a general summary of our  doctrine. This document is not authoritative or binding but it helps us clearly show our beliefs.

#4 Accept The Leadership: A complete list of these expectations can be found in the 1742 Philadelphia Baptist Confession of Faith Ch 27 points 9,10 & 11.

#5 Attend: Those who are able to attend and refuse to do so should be contacted by the church in a loving way to resolve any problems. If this process fails, after one year of absence they will be removed from the church membership.

Some may view these resolutions as harsh or unloving but that is certainly not their design. We want to be upfront and honest about what we believe and where we stand on church membership. It is not a trivial thing in the eyes of God and it should not be trivial in our eyes either. We want every member of LCBC to grow in their knowledge of and service to God. May we never have anyone on our roles whom we do not know and love or anyone with whom we did not try to reconcile with. May God be glorified in His churches.