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Archive for March, 2016

God of the Living

March 31st, 2016

He is not the God of the dead, but of the living… (Mark 12:27)

The Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection. Nor did they accept the Old Testament as the Word of God except for the first five books, or the Pentateuch as it is called.

They put a hypothetical question to Jesus about a woman who had morally married seven different brothers during her life. It was the command of the Law that if a brother died without children, that his younger brother must marry his widow (Deut. 25:5). So in their imaginary story seven childless brothers had married the same woman, all dying one after another. Then finally the woman died. Their question was: “Whose wife will she be in the resurrection?” (Mark 12:23, see also Matt 22:23-33 and Luke 20:27-40)

All of the synoptic gospels repeat the story, so the argument of the Sadducees must have been a rather popular one - hypothetical and far-fetched though it was they and the people of that time seemed to think it carried weight.

How little we know of eternity: The Bible does not explain to us all there is to know about eternity. We have many questions about the afterlife. Jesus said to Nicodemus, “If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things?” (John 3:12) The Lord does not burden our minds with details that we are unable to comprehend.

Jesus did explain a little, however, about our future life. He said that we will be “like the angels in heaven” (Mark 12:25), that is we will not be given in marriage. It does not say that we shall become angels, only that in this respect we will be like them. The Bible describes angels as “ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit eternal salvation” (Hebrews 1:14). Since we redeemed humans are those who will inherit salvation, it should be clear that there are different roles given to us and given to angels. We will be similar to them but not identical, but one of those similarities will be in the area of marriage. We will not be married to our earthly spouses in heaven.

The emphasis on the living relationship with God: There were many places in the Old Testament where the resurrection was taught, none stronger in their proclamation than Job:

As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, And at the last He will take His stand on the earth. Even after my skin is destroyed, Yet from my flesh I shall see God; Whom I myself shall behold, And whom my eyes will see and not another. (Job 19:25-27)

But the Sadducees did not accept any book beyond the Law of Moses, so Christ met them on their own terms. He quoted Exodus 3:6, where God revealed himself to Moses. “I am the God of Abraham” (Mark 12:26), was said centuries after the death of Abraham. God did not say that he “was” the God of Abraham but that he “is” the God of Abraham. The meaning was that Abraham still lived in some capacity and God was still his God.

This is the miracle of God’s interaction with human life, that he brings life and immortality to our lives. We are more than merely earthly or physical creatures. Humanity was made in God’s image and that means that there is a spiritual dimension to humanity. The lost world speaks of the spirit also, but they can only connect it to human emotions or to some vague sense of a spirit world. Only in Christ does the spirit of man truly come to life.

Paul wrote, “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins” (Eph. 2:1). We cannot be deader than dead, and the description of our existence without Christ is one of desperate lostness. We were by nature “objects of wrath” (Eph. 2:3), and it would require a miracle of God’s grace to awaken us to our need and turn our hearts to Christ and to his salvation. but this is exactly what happens in the gospel: “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ” (Eph. 2:4-5).

The Sadducees were “badly  mistaken” (Mark 12:27). Their religion only had room for man, not for God. They saw only the reality of human life and decisions, nothing of the spiritual dimension of the power and life of God. Our hope is in the living God, and when we trust in Christ we enter that moment into life.

Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life. Very truly I tell you, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. (John 5:24-26)

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Why Some Churches Are Unhealthy

March 29th, 2016

Don’t be deceived: God is not mocked. for whatever a man sows he will also reap, because the one who sows to his flesh will reap corruption from the flesh, but the one who sows to the Spirit will reap eternal life from the Spirit. So we must not get tired of doing good, for we will reap at the proper time if we don’t give up. (Galatians 6:6-9)

Not all churches are unhealthy. Many are vibrant, healthy displays of God’s grace working among people. All churches have some problems because all churches are made up of imperfect people, but the healthy ones are intentionally seeking to follow Christ as he leads them by his Spirit. They are conscious of their weaknesses but have committed themselves to obey and follow Christ.

Healthy churches are led by spiritual people who desire the will of God more than anything else. They are generous, faithful, sincere, gracious, patient, wise, loving, committed, biblical, and knowledgeable about the Bible. Christ is being formed in them (Gal. 4:19). Their goal is the glory of God and they have put aside their own desire to control and dominate others. They are humble and they die daily to their own egos and selfish plans and desires, and live in the reality of the Spirit of God.

Why do some churches miss it? But sadly, not all churches are healthy. Why not? How is it that they missed the way? How is it that they have stifled the work of the Spirit? There can be many reasons on the surface why this is so, but I want to address those deeper problems, because I think that is where the true root of unhealthy churches lies. Here are just a few of the main reasons that churches are unhealthy.

They accept spiritually immature leadership: They have no one who is spiritual enough to truly lead them in the right direction and in the right attitude. Or perhaps they have spiritually qualified leaders among them, but they select instead compromised people who have major problems in their lives. Their leaders have major areas of their lives where they have compromised their Christian witness and testimony.

The common trait of the spiritually immature is that they have rejected the standard of God because they deemed it too costly. They do not get up in the morning and read the Bible and pray because they are too lazy. Their lives are filled with inconsistencies. They do not tithe. They do not pray. They do not witness. They judge, criticize, and gossip about others. Yet they think they should be in charge of leading the church, and the church has let them. They are proud and arrogant, not humble. They seek to be served, not to serve. They are offended when questioned, and do not teach the truth with love, graciousness, and patience.

They do not know how to lead people to be more Christ-like because they themselves are not daily following Christ. They have quenched the Spirit in their own lives. They have allowed significant strongholds of Satan to exist in their lives, and they think this is acceptable. They are either too proud to admit their immaturity, or too blind spiritually to be aware of it, or perhaps a combination of both. Yet somehow they have come into power in the local church.

How will they lead? They will not lead like Jesus. They will lead the wrong direction and by the wrong methods. They will use worldly methods, not God’s methods.

They seek the shortcuts of unbelief rather than the narrow ways of faith: Immature Christians lack faith in God, so they will be stingy in their giving and not generous. They do not trust God to provide for them and they will falsely take too much credit for their own possessions. They will think that the cheapest preacher is the best preacher, the cheapest church program is the best program. They do so not by logic - would you want to be operated on in a hospital that boasted “We have the cheapest doctors in the city!”? They do it because they lack faith and commitment.

They mind the things of men not the things of God: It is a trait of unhealthy churches that the roles are somehow reversed, that the ones with the least biblical knowledge are constantly questioning the the leaders of the church. They are more concerned with setting a pleasing example to the world than maintaining the standard of God.

But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” (Matt. 16:23)

The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.
(1 Cor. 2:14)

If a church wants to be a worldly church all it needs to do is to simply to complain about every spiritual standard, compromise themselves with selecting worldly leadership, and to ignore all of the urgings of the Spirit to repent and follow Christ.

It should be noted that this standard is often taken up with the excuse that they do not want to appear to be unbending, unkind, or inconsiderate to others. We are commanded to teach the truth in love, and we must do that, but it must be the truth we teach. Where the truth is suppressed and the standards of Christ are deliberately ignored, then the truth is not being presented. Neither love nor the truth should be watered down. A church that does not teach the truth well will not love well either.

A sermon on the Prodigal Son was entitled “How to Ruin Your Life.” The sermon went on to explain to ruin your life all you needed to do was: (1) reject the love of those who truly care for you; (2) spurn the best advice you have ever received; (3) spend energy and resources like the day of reckoning will never come; (4) associate with people as shallow as you are; and (5) get prepared to live with the pigs.

A sermon on the Prodigal Church could make similar points: (1) reject the leadership of the Spirit; (2) ignore the biblical standards of holiness; (3) forget that judgment begins in the house of the Lord; (4) find “Christians” who are shallow and uncommitted; and (5) prepare to exist without the blessings of the Lord.

No church needs to be a prodigal church. People can repent and return to Christ. Christ said: “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me” (Rev. 3:19-20). That is the remedy to an unhealthy church.

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