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Church Discipline

September 11, 2017

Church disicpline ought not be thought of as mere punishment. Discipline is not the response of an angry or vengeful church. In fact, a church or Christian that is mad at someone will not bother with the process of church discipline. They may jump cast someone out of the church but they won’t take the time to go through the Biblical process.

Genuine church discipline is preventative and restorative. Church discipline seeks to correct the problem, not just remove the person. Because church discipline is therapeutic in nature it is not slammed down upon the individual without warning. Church discipline is a relationship with believers that begins long before sin becomes evident. Church discipline must involve a commmitment to care for one another’s spiritual wellbeing. Restorative church discipline involves encouragement, comfort, teaching, correction, warning and rebuke. The removal of someone from membership is the final, extreme measure when all other attempts at restoration have failed.

Matthew 18 is the foundational teaching on church discipline which lays out the reason for discipline, the goal of disicpline and the process of discipline. The first step is goign to a brother who has sinned agaist you. The offense and the correction is personal. Go in private to that person to address the sin between you and he alone. No one else should be a part of this process, no one else needs know about the wrong. If the sinning brother heeds your correction then you have gained your brother.

If the sinning Christian doesn’t hear private rebuke then others need to be brought into the process. This is not to gang up on the sinner, but to bring greater weight to the importance of the sin, to offer wise counsel in the matter and to exercise loving care for the sinner. The others will testify to the sin and add their voice to the call to repent.

If the person does not hear the small group, then the sin needs to be communicated to the entire church. The church then has opportunity to call the person to repentance. If the sinner refuses to hear the correction of the entire church, then the church is to remove that member.

See how much interest there is reconciliation and restoration! The process gives multiples avenues of exhortation calling the sinner to repentance. Except in certain cases of heinous sin, the sinning Christian is to be removed only after repeated rejections of Godly admonition. When a Christian is removed from the church the church is to be ready to forgive. If repentance follows, then forgiveness and full restoration should be extended immediately.

Why does a church practice discipline among its members? The Bible gives at least six reasons.

  • First, is for the repentance of the sinner (1 Corinthians 5:5; Titus 1:13)
  • Second, is for the restoration of sinning brethren (Matthew 18:15)
  • Third, is for the purity of the church (1 Corinthians 5:6; Hebrews 12:12-15)
  • Fourth, is for the protection of the unlearned (Romans 16:18)
  • Fifth, is for the protection of the unity of the church (Titus 3:10; 1 Timothy 6:4)
  • Sixth, is as a warning to all (1 Timothy 5:20)


Pray for Them

September 7, 2017

“But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.”
– Matthew 5:44

The story of Israel’s exodus from Egypt is a familiar one. After the death of Joseph the Israelites were made slaves in Egypt. Their long years of suffering culminated with Pharaoh’s command to slaughter every infant son. Eighty years later God sent Moses to Egypt to lead Israel out of bondage. Pharaoh refused even to let Israel go into the nearby wilderness to offer sacrifices to God. As a result God distressed Egypt with ten plagues culminating in the death of the eldest of every house in Egypt.

God’s plagues were not just punitive. When God sent Moses to Egypt He told him that Pharaoh would not release Israel. God planned to use Pharaoh’s rebellion to show Israel, Egypt, Pharaoh and all the world that He alone is God.

The second plague to trouble Egypt was an infestation of frogs that overran every home in the land. Pharaoh asked Moses to pray to God for the frogs to be taken away. Moses agreed to do so. He “cried out” unto the Lord. Moses made no half-hearted request. His prayer for Pharaoh was made with great fervency. He prayed in this fashion so Pharaoh would see and know, “that there is none like the Lord our God.” (Exodus 8:9)

Pharaoh refused to allow the Israelites to leave despite his promises, Moses’ prayer and God’s power. God sent further judgments upon Egypt. Pharaoh asked Moses to pray for the land to be delivered from the plague of flies. Moses prayed for Pharaoh though he had good reason to doubt Pharaoh’s sincerity. Moses prayed for the people that had held the Israelites in bondage to be eased of their suffering. He prayed for the king who oppressed, persecuted and deceived Israel to be relieved from his affliction.

Pharaoh continued his rebellion against God and refusal to release Israel. During the plague of fiery hail Pharaoh asked Moses to pray to God to stop the horrible precipitation battering the country. Moses prayed for Pharaoh. Moses knew Pharaoh would not fear God but he prayed any way, “that thou mayest know how that the earth is the Lord’s.” (Exodus 9:29)

The plague of hail was followed by a plague of locusts which threatened to destroy the little that was left from the depredations of the first seven plagues. Pharaoh hurried to call Moses and Aaron to him. He again asked Moses to pray for Egypt’s deliverance from the plague. Moses said nothing to Pharaoh but he went out and prayed for God to turn the locusts away.

Four times during the ten plagues Pharaoh asked Moses to pray. Four times Moses prayed though he had no reason to be kind to Pharaoh and every to reason to believe Pharaoh was insincere in his promises. Moses’ faithfulness in praying for his eneym is a vivid example of how the Christian ought to pray for others. Moses shows how a Christian can pray for those who persecute and revile. Moses illustrates how a Christian can pray for the enemies of God. Christians can genuinely pray for the benefit of their tormentors so that they may know the power of God and that they may know the God of heaven. When Christian’s pray for their enemies God is at work to show His power and accomplish His eternal purposes.

Doctrine that Divides

September 4, 2017

A primary tool in the debates over morality is control of the terminology used. It is no coincidence that those in favor of abortion are called pro-choice nor that they call pro-lifers anti-abortionists. The issue is often framed in terms of women’s rights and health. How we talk about stuff matters. How we talk about things shapes the way we think about it. Calling someone an abortion provider conveys something far different than calling him a murderer of babies. The terms shape thinking.

This is true within the church as well. In today’s church culture those who insist on sound doctrine are considered to be divisive and unnecessarily contentious. Those who embrace doctrinal vagueness and openness are said to do so to promote unity and grace in the church. Despite the popular nomenclature the Bible teaches something quite different about doctrinal rigidity.

The impact of false teachers on the church is horrible. The effects of apostates and heretics upon American Christianity has been catastrophic. The doctrine of the false teachers was described in Acts 15:24 troubling and turning away Christians. False teaching shipwrecks faith and blasphemes the name of Jesus. (1 Timothy 1:19-20) False teaching overthrows those who receive it. False teaching breeds ungodliness and spreads like a terrible infection. (2 Timothy 2:14-15) When it comes to the clear doctrines of the Bible Christians cannot agree to disagree. The church of Jesus Christ cannot join hands with teachers of all sorts and stripes. God’s church must affirm truth. God’s people must defend truth. The church must be protected from error.

Romans 16:17-18 says, “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.”

Those who teach false doctrine are the ones who create division and cause harm to the church. False teachers do not serve the Lord. They do not love him or His church. They love the satisfaction of their own desires. They use their convincing, appealing speaking to deceive many. New believers are susceptible to the manipulations and deceptions of these doctrinal charlatans. False teachers are not to be tolerated. They are to be marked out, removed and avoided. Christians who love one another will oppose false teachers. The loving Christian will not give false teachers an audience. He will give them rebuke.

Those who defend true doctrine are defenders of the church and of unity. This is what Paul is telling Titus, the churches on Crete and all New Testament churches. “A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject;” The opposition of false teaching and the rejection of false teachers is essential for the good of the church, the protection of Christians and the repentance of the false teacher.

Spiritual Alchemy

August 28, 2017

Alchemy is an ancient pseudo-science that believed elements could be turned into other elements. The most famous alchemist pursuit was the search for a formula to turn lead into gold. The alchemist labors day and night in a tiny, dark shack to convert a lump of lead into gold. He lives on the edge of starvation and exhaustion. He spends every penny on new, mysterious ingredients. He spends every possible moment combining his concoctions and testing them on his unchanging hunk of lead. Outside his bleak hovel is a cave full of the purest gold. Gold nuggets hang from the walls waiting to plucked like ripe fruit. This alchemist is a fool. He has vast riches at his doorstep and he is wasting his life away in the pursuit of a fraud.

Those who spend their time in looking for hidden meanings in the Bible, chasing down numbers, names, secret codes and undiscovered mysteries are like the foolish alchemist. The treasure of the Bible is at hand. A little labor in reading and studying the Word opens eternal treasures far greater than the secrets “discovered” between and beneath the text. The Word of God is precious and priceless in its simplicity.

The Bible contains everything the Christian needs for life, Godliness and complete equipage to do good works. The Bible contains all the information needed for the child of God to live for His glory. God’s Word is enough for living in these days. His Word is enough for the need of the nation and the conversion of the lost. His Word supplies all essential answers in times of trouble. His Word is enough for life.

The Bible is fully sufficient. God, in His infinite grace, has given in the Word all things needed for the Christian life. In this ancient book are found instructions on work, family, home, government, church, study, money and every other thing that is of this world. Scripture gives direction on combating evil, conquering sin and changing habits. In the Bible God teaches all that is needed to be Godly.

The Word teaches all that is necessary for this life, but it is not an instruction manual on better living. The Bible is God’s revelation to men disclosing who He is, what He has done and what He requires of men. The Bible is the sufficient explanation of God to men.

The promises and warning of the gospel are clear enough in the Bible. God does not need men to dig the gospel out of genealogical codes. The revealed mysteries of God are deep enough. Christian’s do not need to search for secret meanings hidden beneath the text to find that which staggers the imagination. God’s Word is deep, rich, plentiful and sufficient for the Christian.

“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.”

Men Wanted

August 24, 2017

One of the greatest ads of all time is probably a myth. “Men wanted for hazardous journey to the South Pole. Small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger. Safe return doubtful. Honor and recognition in case of success” The story goes that Ernest Shackleton ran this ad in a London paper before his polar expedition. He was inundated with responses.

America needs small town missionaries. Men who will give no thought to fame, success or fortune. Men who plant churches, restore churches and pastor churches in small places. America needs pastors who will love the people of her small towns. These are communities where there is one gospel preaching church in a 45 mile radius. These are communities where a run to Wal-Mart takes up most of the day and may happen once a month. The biggest event on the calendar takes place at the high school. The locals actually know every one by name.

These are places that suffer quietly. Just because small towns are rural or remote does not mean they are safe from the troubles that afflict cities. Small towns have their own ghettos. Some are their own ghettos. They may not have gangs (some do), but they have the drugs, the promiscuity, the government dependence, the homosexuality, the poverty, the despair and the hopelessness of inner cities. These are places that need the gospel.

Most small town churches will be lucky to reach triple digits. They will never be mega. They will not be hip. They will not build bigger and better buildings. Their entire annual budget will be less than that of many metropolitan households. The church will be filled with parents who have watched their children leave to bigger cities and better opportunities. They will watch their community slowly dwindle. They will all grieve when a local teenager commits suicide. They will struggle together against despair and fear. Their parents, grandparents and great-grandparents carved out a living in that place turning a wilderness into a community. They live there because it is home.

These communities need missionaries. Pastors are needed who will live in and become a part of their small community. Who will not labor for notice. Who will not expect invitations to speak at the next mega conference. Who will help a neighbor slaughter chickens in the morning, sit with an elderly widow in the afternoon and attend the high school football game in the evening. Whose outside speaking engagements will include preaching at the local nursing home, praying at the rotary club and leading a Bible study in the county jail. He will be content because he knows these ministries open doors to share the gospel with other individuals in the community. He will not receive lifetime achievement awards, honorary doctorates or get his picture on the cover of the denominational magazine. He will be content in anonymity because he is not trying to achieve accolades. He is trying to win the soul of Aunt Viola, to gain a hearing from Bobby’s addicted cousin, and to find an open door to share the gospel with Billy’s grandma.

We need pastors content to labor in obscurity loving the 20 sheep entrusted to his care and doing everything possible to see them grow in Christ. Men are needed who will live for the applause of God and the recompense of His reward rather than the notice of men. Men are needed who see the small church as a worthy place to devote their lives not a stepping stone to a bigger ministry.

Some of these small town churches have ministered in their communities for over one hundred years. The community is smaller than it once was. Generations of pastors have come and gone, but a shepherd is still needed to care for the flock of God. Who is going to pour out his life to see souls in small towns snatched from hell? Who is going to invest in the mechanic who will spend his life under a car? Who is going to spend hours in prayer for the logger who will live and die in the woods? Who is going to tear his heart out each week preaching truth to fast food workers, retail clerks, painters, mill workers, janitors and the thousands of people who never get rich, never get ahead, but do get callouses, back aches and dirty fingernails every day of their life? Who is going to minister to the single moms, the abused children, the drug addicts, the alcoholics and the delinquents who have been forgotten by all? America needs pastors with ambition to serve God faithfully and to invest their lives in the most precious thing on earth, the eternal souls of the people filling our small towns.

Men wanted for sacrificial service in a small town. Small wages, rejection, long years of battle against spiritual darkness. Constancy required. Notoriety doubtful. If faithful, honor and reward from the King.

Practical Confidence

August 17, 2017

“Faith, in actual common use, tends to mean a practical confidence. Rarely, if ever, do we use it of a mere-opinion, however distinct, lying passive in the mind. To have faith in a commander does not mean merely to entertain a conviction, a belief, however positive, that he is skillful and competent. We may entertain such a belief about the commander of the enemy with very unpleasant impressions on our minds in consequence. We may be confident that he is a great general in a sense the very opposite to a personal confidence in him. No, to have faith in a commander implies a view of him in which we either actually do, or are quite ready to, trust ourselves and our cause to his command. And just the same is true of faith in a divine Promise, faith in a divine Redeemer. It means a reliance, genuine and practical. It means a putting of ourselves and our needs, in personal reliance, into His hands.”

-H.C.G. Moule
Bishop of Durham

Our Triune Savior

August 14, 2017

“In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began; But hath in due times manifested his word through preaching, which is committed unto me according to the commandment of God our Saviour; To Titus, mine own son after the common faith: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ our Saviour.” (Titus 1:2-4)

“Not purloining, but shewing all good fidelity; that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things. For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;” (Titus 2:10-13)

“But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour;” (Titus 3:4-6)

Salvation is ours because we have a Savior. The Savior is God the Father and the Savior is the Lord Jesus Christ. These are not contradictory statements. The salvation given to men is the work of the Triune God.

God is Trinity. He is One God who is comprised of three Divine Persons. Each person of the Trinity is fully God, and fully distinct from the others. The Father is fully God, but the Father is not the Son or the Spirit. The Son is fully God, but the Son is not the Father or the Spirit. The Spirit is fully God, but the Spirit is not the Father or the Son. This the great mystery of the Trinity, God is One who is Three.

All three persons of the Trinity are actively involved in your salvation. Salvation is not the idea of the Father forced upon the Spirit and the Son. Salvation is the work of the Son imposed upon the Father and the Spirit. All three persons of the Trinity were and are actively at work in bringing salvation to men and in your own salvation. In love the Father sends His Son to save. The Son suffered to accomplish salvation. The Spirit applies the work of salvation to the person. Salvation is the work of the Triune God.

God’s Love Toward Man

August 7, 2017

Salvation is not a reward. Salvation is not a wage. Salvation is a gift. Salvation is never given because of some work of righteousness. God did not look through the ages to see who would do good things for Him and then determine to save those ones. God did not look at the individual’s basic goodness, devotion or obedience and determine to save those worthy of His pardon.

Salvation is given according to God’s mercy. God’s mercy shows kindness and favor to those who do not deserve it. His mercy witholds judgment. God’s mercy is pity towards guilty men that stirs Him to defer judgment. The mercy of God gives pardon to those who deserve punishment. The mercy of God saw man’s deplorable condition and stepped in to rescue us from death.

God initiated salvation. When man was in sin God’s kindness and love toward men appeared. “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (1 John 4:10) Salvation is available because God so loved the world. He saw man’s need and stepped in to redeem. No one is saved because he realized how much he needed salvation and sought out God for deliverance. Those who are saved are saved because God in His compassion provided a means for men to be rescued from their guilt and condemnation. You are saved because of the kindness and love of God that provided the means for you to be saved.

God in His mercy washes away sin. God the Spirit washes by regeneration. At salvation the heart is cleansed. The sinner is born again and made new. The prayer of David in Psalm 51 is also the promise of God to those who will believe Him. “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Blot out all my iniquities.” At salvation, the Christian is delivered of all guiltiness before God. Pardon is given and the sin stained heart is made clean. “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” (Is. 1:18) “The blood of Jesus Christ God’s Son cleanseth us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7)

Not only is sin washed away, righteousness is given. The grace of God gives righteousnss to those who believe. The grace of God does not give the ability to become righteous. The grace of God does not make it possible for the faithful to earn salvation. The grace of God gives full salvation. The grace of God has provided everything needed for a full salvation. The grace of God does everything needed to save. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.” Salvation is entirely God’s gift. It is His work fully accomplished for those who believe.

Why I Don’t (Usually) Preach Topical Sermons

August 3, 2017

Though verse-by-verse expositional preaching has been gaining in popularity it is still unfamiliar to many church goers. One of the most common types of preaching is topical. A topical sermon is one that starts with an idea and then draws from various, disconnected passages of Scripture to build the outline and content of the sermon. Topical sermons address a wide range of topics, covering things like marriage, the importance of church, the inspiration of the Bible, addiction recovery, the latest national tragedy or the most recent political controversy. In the last five years I have preached less than a dozen topical sermons during the Sunday morning service.

Instead of following the topical method I usually preach a verse by verse exposition of an entire book of the Bible. An expositional sermon draws the key idea and major points of the sermon from a single, unified passage of the Bible. The sermon may refer to other portion of Scripture to support the key points of the sermon, but it draws the major ideas from a single passage. Expositional preaching is not necessarily verse by verse, but when I preach I start at the beginning of a book and work through every verse until reaching the end of the book. Why do I preach like I this?

I believe the Word of God is sufficient for everything the Christian needs for a Godly life. (2 Peter 1:3) I believe the best way for Christian’s to grow is on a steady diet of God’s Word (1 Peter 2:3) I believe only the Word of God is powerful enough to pierce the heart, convict of sin, bring to saving faith and transform the person. The study of the Bible is not the advanced course for those who really want to be spiritual. The study of the Word is the basic, kindergarten level course for Christian growth.

I preach this way because God has commanded me to preach the Word (2 Timothy 4:2). Paul instructs the man of God to “Give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.” (1 Timothy 4:13) The words of Paul follow the same pattern as that found in Nehemiah 8:8, “So they ready in the book of the law distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading.” As a result, I strive to read a passage, give understanding of the meaning and help the person make sense of how the Biblical truths apply to their life.

Expositional preaching is the only truly timeless and always timely preaching. Expositional preaching is the most relevant preaching on the planet. Discourse and lecture on the opinions of the preacher, constant responses to the latest major news event or appeals to the longings of the community will ultimately leave the congregation with little real Biblical training.

This is not to imply that every topical preacher is in error, nor that every preacher should follow my method. The real issue is not what order the minister follows in preaching the Word, provided he rightly preaches the Word. Topical messages and consecutive exposition can both be used as platforms to launch the preacher into his own ideas and opinions. Handling the Word rightly requires the preacher read, explain and apply Scripture.

The Word of God is the authority over my preaching calendar. The preaching of Scripture is the center of the church gathering. I want people to hear the Word read, explained and applied. I want them to love the Word and to obey the Word. I want to draw to the church people who truly want to know truth. In the end I preach this way because God’s Word is enough. No matter what is going on, the careful consideration of God’s truth is always profitable.

Tapestries of Teaching

July 27, 2017

The Bible is not all about Jesus. The Bible is not all about salvation. Viewing the Bible as all about one thing is too simplistic. The Bible does not present itself as a monolithic work that develops one single theme from beginning to end. While I would personally like to say the Bible is all about the glory of God, even that answer is not sufficient. A better, but still deficient, description of the Bible is that it is the story of God’s work in His creation to redeem a people unto His eternal praise through the suffering, death and exaltation of God the Son.

The great overarching storyline of the Bible includes many themes. The promise of the coming of a deliverer is a major theme of the Bible. God’s eternal plan to redeem a people to Himself is a major theme of the Bible. The glory of God as seen in His rule, wisdom, grace, salvation, judgment and holiness is a major theme of the Bible. Another significant theme of the Bible is the nature and perfection of the Bible. Another major theme is the wickedness of man. Still another significant theme in Scripture is the character and perfection of God. Yet another important theme is the obligation of God’s people to live according to His rule. Many threads are woven into the tapestry of the Bible. These many threads are all connected to form one grand display. To pull out one thread and treat it as the whole ruins the fabric of it all.

Some Old Testament passages were written to teach of the first coming of the Messiah. Some were written to teach of the second coming of Christ. Some were written to teach the right way to live as the people of God. Some were written to show the continued unfaithfulness of God’s people. Some were written to show of God’s final conquest over all rebellious peoples. Some were written to show the character of God, others to teach His nature and others to reveal the character of men. To bypass those purposes to focus on redemption, the cross or the person of Jesus is to miss out on the many profitable teachings of God’s Word. The Christological method reduces God’s Word to one theme. Though it may be the greatest theme, the message of Jesus is not the only chord played in the Bible.

Reducing the Bible to a single subject abbreviates the theology of the Bible. If every passage is about Jesus, where does the Bible teach of God the Father or God the Spirit? The doctrine of the Trinity matters. The Father and the Spirit are not learned only by looking at Jesus. Jesus told Thomas, “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father” but He did not say that learning about Him was the only way to learn about the Father. In His earthly ministry Jesus took care to teach about the Father. For example, in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus taught about the Father’s perfection, omniscience, justice, forgiveness, compassion and sovereignty.

Jesus used the Old Testament to instruct about the Father. Are we to read the Old Testament passages about God the Father as actually about God the Son? Does the Old Testament teaching of the work of Holy Spirit actually describe the work of Jesus? While the Triune God is One, yet each person in the Godhead exercises distinctive functions. To reduce everything in the Old Testament to be about Jesus risks overlooking the Father and the Spirit. Jesus Himself taught Old Testament passages as if they had a meaning that was not Him. A failure to recognize the various themes in the Old Testament strips it of the detail and contrast that makes it truly beautiful.