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No Creed but the Bible

May 10, 2017

Some churches claim they have no creed but the Bible. This creed is always untrue. Every church has a body of doctrine which acts as the standard for ministry, membership and teaching. Professing no creed by the Bible is a confusing creed that ultimately does disservice to the pastor and church members. With no creed but the Bible the church is left without a clear guide for growth.

Having no creed does not mean the church has no body of beliefs. The church has not written down its faith. The absence of a predetermined set of commonly held beliefs leaves significant opportunity for leadership to misuse its responsibility as doctrinal gatekeepers. The lack of a statement of faith makes it much more difficult to hold pastors and other leaders accountable for their beliefs. Often the pastor becomes a standard to himself unaccountable to anything but his own determination of what is true and what is important. The admittance of members becomes dependent on undisclosed and possibly uncertain standards of faith. Visitors and prospective members are unclear about what the church believes. The absence of a statement of faith leaves teachers with no clear doctrinal guideline for their teaching. The absence of a clearly defined creed hinders the church’s ability to teach truth and hold others accountable to the truth.

The motivation for a clear doctrinal statement is not pugnaciousness or exclusivism. The goal is charitable clarity about the things the church holds dear. A clear statement of faith communicates to a culture of obfuscation and self-determination of meaning the most important beliefs of a church. These clear statements define the parameters of faith within which a person must fall in order to belong to the local body.

Because the goal of a doctrinal statement is the faithful communication of truth it should be historic and up to date, theologically precise and easily read, thorough and concise. The church’s doctrinal statement should be no more technical than absolutely necessary. The truths conveyed by the doctrinal statement should be communicated in terms understandable to the reader.

Statements of faith that are outdated, too brief or confusing are of little use to the church. Church history is replete with excellent statements of faith. Theological institutions and certain churches have the theological and intellectual resources to craft well-written statements that cover the important matters of faith. These doctrinal statements can provide a useful tool to guide a church in developing its own statement of faith. Basing a doctrinal statement on an existing statement of faith can be helpful, but a church should be careful to avoid just copying and pasting from other documents. Besides potential copyright infringement and plagiarism careless cutting and pasting can unwittingly propagate errors, include details unnecessary for a particular church’s doctrinal statement, create a disjointed statement and overlook unique areas that should be addressed in the particular church’s doctrinal statement.

A good doctrinal statement covers the fundamental doctrines essential to salvation: the doctrines of God, the Bible, sin and salvation. A good doctrinal statement addresses significant doctrinal matters that require agreement for the church body to function together harmoniously. A good doctrinal statement provides clear statements regarding issues which may become centers of controversy. In America the church constitution also provides legal protection by clearly laying out the church’s position on certain contentious cultural issues. A good doctrinal statement helps to ensure clarity about the core beliefs of the church to aid the understanding and growth of its members, attenders and visitors.

Gracious Living

May 8, 2017

America is divided by the clash between competing cultural and ethical ideals. The nation’s moral foundation has long been eroding. The last decade has shocked many with the suddenness of the moral collapse. Some feel a bit of relief that the events of the last six months have (maybe) slowed the descent of the plummeting morality. Christians are right to hold a deep concern for the moral direction of nation. Christians should do everything possible to see America turn to God and walk in righteousness.

The situation facing American Christianity s is not at all new. The challenges confronting believers are not even the worst ever faced by Christians. When the church began the sexual ethic accepted in the Roman Empire would embarrass or offend most Americans today. The religious ethic of the Roman Empire prized the acceptance of many different religions. Monotheism and religious exclusivism were viewed as anti-Roman bordering on seditious. Despite these obstacles God chose to send His Son into the Roman Empire. Jesus sent His disciples out into Roman Empire to preach the gospel. The results speak for themselves. Christianity infiltrated and reshaped the Roman Empire. Christianity still stands long after the Roman Empire crumbled. The New Testament reveals God’s strategy for confronting and changing corrupt cultures.

The letter to Titus was written to guide in the establishment of healthy churches in the middle of a diseased culture. The principles in Titus are those which will further the work of the gospel. Titus answer the question, How do Christians live in this world in a way that upholds and supports the gospel?

Godly character is essential to gospel expansion. Godly character is becoming to Scriptural truth. The life which confronts corrupt culture is one which is lived in a manner fitting to the profession of salvation. If the culture is going to be changed Christians must live lives full of grace and godliness.

Decorum is the carrying of oneself in a way that is appropriate to the setting or the person’s station in life. A man in tuxedo on his way to a black-tie dinner should not stop in the driveway to change the oil in his car. To do so would be unbecoming behavior. Entering the dinner with grace and thoughtfulness is appropriate for the man in that setting. Likewise some behavior is unbecoming to the gospel and some behavior is fitting to the gospel. The believer’s new life in Christ places demands and expectations on his daily life. The Christian is dressed in the righteousness of Christ. He must act in a way fitting to the glorious raiment that is given him. Titus 2:2-10 spells out the behavior proper to the high position of the child of God.

The Christian who lives according to gospel decorum will show the true greatness of the doctrines of the Bible. Sobriety and godliness will present the church of God as something different, something worthwhile, something with a powerful answer to the problems of this age. America and the church need Christians whose lives are becoming to the gospel.

What Church Would Jesus Attend?

May 4, 2017

If Jesus were to conduct a personal evaluation of churches in America what qualities would He praise? What things would He value as most important for the continued progress of the church? What does Jesus look for in a church? The Christian need not wonder what Jesus values in a loca hurch. The New Testament contains His evaluation of seven churches in western Turkey.

Late in the first century, decades after the majority of the apostles had been martyred, the churches of Asia Minor received a progress report. At the beginning of the book of Revelation Jesus included a personal letter to seven churches. In those letters He warms them of sin, praises them for obedience and exhorts them to faithfulness.

Jesus praises the church in Ephesus for its good works, its intense labor in the ministry, its perseverance despite difficulty and its rejection of false apostles. The Ephesian church received commendation from her Lord because it was doctrinally sound and steady in the work.

The church in Smyrna suffered through persecution and physical poverty. Despite intense spiritual conflict it remained faithful to Christ. Though some in the church were killed for Jesus’ sake, the church did not waiver. The Smyrnan church was approved by Jesus because of its faithfulness.

The church in Pergamos endured despite intense opposition from powerful religious forces. Though they suffered persecution and martyrdom they continued to uphold Jesus and were recognized by Him for their allegiance.

The church in Thyatira was noted for its love, service, faith, patience and good works. They increased in these graces and receive the commendation of Jesus. Though some in the church had turned to false doctrine, those who had not received encouragement from Jesus to continue holding on to truth.

The church in Philadelphia was weak. Despite it’s lack of power it remained steadfast to Jesus in the face of persecution from the Jews. They kept their commitment to Jesus and were assured that He would keep them.

Jesus values doctrinal integrity and faithfulness. He desires His church to retain a firm hold on Biblical doctrine, especially to the truth of who Jesus is. Jesus values a church that declares Him to be God the Son the promised Savior of men. Jesus values steadfastness in the face of opposition and persecution. Those who preach Jesus will be hated by Satan and the world he controls. Opposition, slander and persecution will come at those who uphold Christ. Jesus values a church that continues to elevate Him despite the disapproval of the world.

Jesus values growth in Christian grace, virtue and service. The church Jesus values is not just doctrinally faithful. The church in Ephesus was rebuked by Jesus. Despite her commitment to truth her love had waned. The church Jesus values applies Biblical doctrine to its service, its gathering and to the life of its members. It is active in good works. It is loving. It serves. The church Jesus values takes its Christianity out of the church building and lives it out in the streets.

What do you value in a church?

Wonderful Words of Life

May 1, 2017

The Bible is the perfect Word of God and is profitable for you to teach you doctrine, to rebuke your sin, to correct your way of life and to teach your righteous living.

The Bible is all you need to be completely equipped for every good work.

The Bible is God’s perfect Word. It is more pure than 24 karat gold.

The Bible gives wisdom, it makes the heart rejoice, it gives light to the understanding, it is eternal, entirely true and entirely righteous. It is more desirable than gold and sweeter than honey.

The Word of God sustains the believer in trouble, it guides the Christian through life, it gives understanding, it blesses those who obey it, it cleanses the life, it guides the path, it gives hope and it comforts the troubled.

The Word of God is the source of spiritual life. It is wonderful.

To Be?

April 27, 2017

“Be the church.”

Christian’s must do more than attend church they must be the church. Christian’s must be the church in the community. The Christian must be the church to the poor, the hurting and the unlovely. The admonition is a compelling call for Christian’s to be salt and light in the world. Except for one little difficulty. The individual Christian cannot be the church. The Christian is a part of the church but he is not the church.

By living a Godly Christian life the believer reflects the glory of God and the fullness of salvation to the eyes of a world blinded by Satan. The Christian should show the world the grace of God. He should live in a way that is fitting to the glorious doctrines of God’s Word. (Titus 2:1-10) By living an honorable life the unsaved will see the Christian’s good works and glorify God (Matthew 5:16; 1 Peter 2:12) Yet doing these things is not being the church to the world.

The world needs to see the individual Christian being Christlike and the world needs to see the church being Christlike. The lost need to see that believers are part of a body that loves its members. “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” (John 13:25) The world does not see Christian love for other believers unless those believers are together through good times and bad. The world does not see the body of Christ when it only sees individual members. “For the body is not one member but many.” (1 Corinthians 12:14)

In the New Testament the church is always the assembly. From the very first time Jesus mentioned the church the New Testament exclusively describes the church as a gathered community. The church is not a collection of believing people spread throughout the city. The church is an assembled body of believers. The church is never an individual member. Your finger is part of your body, but your finger apart from your body is not you. It is just a finger. The Christian apart from the body is not a church. He is a Christian. The church is a gathering of believing people into one place.

Be the church. Be the church by covenanting yourself to a local assembly of believers. Be the church by assembling every week with the body you have joined. The gathering together is a wonderful privilege for all Christians. Why try to go it alone when God has graciously designed a body for you to be a part of? The gathering together is a wonderful privilege for every Christian. Why neglect your gifts and miss out on service when God has created a place for you to show your love to other Christians. Gather with the church to be encouraged, trained and prepared to serve Christ in the world.

Leave the church gathering to go into the community serving others, glorifying God and preaching the gospel. The child of God must be a Christian wherever he goes, but he can only be the church when he is gathered with the church.

Feasting on the Lamb

April 24, 2017

“But when the Christian gets the blood sprinkled, that is not all he wants. He wants something to feed upon. And, O sweet thought! Jesus Christ is not only a Saviour for sinners, but he is food for them after they are saved. The Paschal Lamb by faith we eat. We live on it. Is not Jesus Christ thy daily food? And even with the bitter herbs, is he not sweet food? Some of you, my friends, who are true Christians, live too much on your changing frames and feelings, on your experiences and evidences. Now, that is all wrong. That is just as if a worshipper had gone to the tabernacle and began eating one of the coats that were worn by the priest. When a man lives on Christ’s righteousness, it is the same as eating Christ’s dress. When a man lives on his frames and feelings, that is as much as if the child of God should live on some tokens that he received in the sanctuary that never were meant for food, but only to comfort him a little. What the Christian lives on is not Christ’s righteousness, but Christ; he does not live on Christ’s pardon, but on Christ; and on Christ he lives daily, on nearness to Christ. Oh! I do love Christ- preaching. It is not the doctrine of justification that does my heart good, it is Christ, the justifier; it is not pardon that so much makes the Christian’s heart rejoice, it is Christ the pardoner; it is not election that I love half so much as my being chosen in Christ ere worlds began; ay! it is not final perseverance that I love so much as the thought that in Christ my life is hid, and that since he gives unto his sheep eternal life, they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of his hand. Take care, Christian, to eat the Paschal Lamb and nothing else. I tell thee man, if thou eatest that alone, it will be like bread to thee—thy soul’s best food. If thou livest on aught else but the Saviour, thou art like one who seeks to live on some weed that grows in the desert, instead of eating the manna that comes down from heaven. Jesus is the manna. In Jesus as well as by Jesus we live. Now, dear friends, in coming to this table, we will keep the Paschal Supper. Once more, by faith, we will eat the Lamb, by holy trust we will come to a crucified Saviour, and feed on his blood, and righteousness, and atonement.”
– Charles Spurgeon

Are You Expecting?

April 20, 2017

In the middle of the first century the apostle Peter wrote a letter to Jewish Christians to encourage them to persevere through intense persecution. Persecution drove the believers out of their homes and across Asia Minor. These Jewish beleivers endured some of the worst persecution in the earliest decades of Christianity. The book of 1 Peter offers comfort and strength for their time of trouble.

In the course of his letter Peter instructs believers how to live in this world, how to interact with fellow believers and how to guard their testimony for Christ. Peter tells them to live this way because “the end of all things is at hand.” His words were not the warning of a sidewalk prophet nor the woes of a despairing apostle. The words of 1 Peter are not words of doom and gloom. The message that the end of all things is for the Christian a wonderful promise of victory and hope.

“The end of all things is at hand” is very similar to the encouragement “there is a light at the end of the tunnel” . The time of darkness and difficulty is limited. There is an end to sorrow.  The trial will come to an close. A conclusion to suffering is coming and, for the child of God, that conclusion will be wonderful. This is not the empty hope of escapism. This is the expectation of a promise to be fulfilled. The words of 1 Peter do not encourage troubled Christians to run away from their troubles. 1 Peter is an exhortation to endure because the time of their trouble is brief and alomst at an end.

The impending demise of all things should continue to fill the Christian with great expectation. This age is coming to an end. The certain end of this world should change the way the Christian lives in this world. Following the promise, “the end of all things is at heand” 1 Peter gives a list of four things that the waiting Christian should be doing.

The expectant Christian should live a self-controlled life regulated by the power of the Holy Spirit. The expectant Christian should live a life guarded by prayer. Above all else, the expectant Christian should love others with fervency. The loving, expectant Christian will be generous towards other believers and diligent in the use of the spiritual gifts within the church. The believer who knows the brevity of this earthly existence will respond to the troubles of this life with a renewed commitment to live for the life to come.

The promse that the end is near is not intended to promote monasticism, hermitism or communalism. Hiding away from the world does not produce genuine godliness. The expectation of the return of Jesus teaches us to live in this world for the One to come. The Christians is called to be a pilgrim in this world traveling through from the promses of God to the promises of God, from glory to glory, by the power of the Holy Spirit.

The Power of the Resurrection

April 17, 2017

Jesus is God, the second Person of the Godhead. Jesus became fully human without losing one bit of His Deity. Jesus is the Savior God promised to the world. Jesus purchased salvation for men through His death on the cross. He was buried and three days later was restored to life again by the power of God. These basic truths are the foundation of the Christian life.

The resurrection is the Divine testimony that Jesus is exactly who He claimed to be. The resurrection proves Jesus was God the Son and the Savior of men. (Romans 1:4) The resurrection is the Divine certification that Jesus’ sacrifice was acceptable to the Father. Those who believe are made righteous because Jesus rose from the dead. (Romans 4:25) The resurrection declares that Jesus has defeated death, conquered Satan and vanquished sin.

The resurrection of Jesus is the single most important event in the history of the world. The creation of everything is the supreme display of God’s Divine power. The Exodus from Egypt was the greatest Old Testament display of God’s power on behalf of His people. The resurrection of Jesus is the greatest display of God’s power on behalf of His people. The world has changed because Jesus rose from the dead. Civilizations, science, philosophy, great leaders and brilliant thinkers have been profoundly shaped by the resurrection. Even those who deny the resurrection or who claim to be atheists have been impacted by the resurrection. Our calendars have been changed because of the resurrection. Years are measured from the birth of Christ. If He had not risen from the grave would we measure the time since his birth? Or would He be just another obscure name in the history of Israel?

The resurrection of Jesus has a specific and powerful impact on the believer. Because of the resurrection the gospel is true and salvation is certain. Without the resurrection there is no Jesus, no gospel, no salvation and the God of the Bible is a fraud. Christianity crumbles without the resurrection. Yet the effects of Jesus’ resurrection extend beyond the doctrines of the gospel. The resurrection of Jesus transforms and empowers the Christian life.

  • Because Jesus is risen your eternal life is certain (1 Corinthians 15:19-23; 1 Peter 1:3-5)
  • Because Jesus is risen a life of sacrificial service to God is worth it (1 Corinthians 15:30-33)
  • Because Jesus is risen your service of others is never in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58; Luke 14:12-14)
  • Because Jesus is risen you should be striving to put away the sins of the flesh (1 Corinthians 15:53; Romans 8:10-15)
  • Because Jesus has risen you death has been turned into victory (1 Corinthians 15:55-57)

Your Lord Who Was Dead Is Alive

April 13, 2017

“But the proof of the resurrection of Christ, does not depend upon arguments and historical evidence, with which multitudes of true Christians are unacquainted; but is, in its own nature, equally convincing in all ages and equally level to all capacities. They who have found the Gospel to be the power of God to the salvation of their souls, have the witness in themselves. And are very sure that the doctrine which enlightened their understandings, awakened their consciences, delivered them from the guilt and dominion of sin, brought them into a state of peace and communion with God, and inspired them with a bright and glorious hope of eternal life, must be true.

“They know that the Lord is risen indeed, because they are made partakers of the power of His resurrection, and have experienced a change in themselves, which could only be wrought by the influence of that Holy Spirit which Jesus is exalted to bestow. And many believers, though not qualified to dispute with philosophers and sceptics, upon their own learned ground, can put them to shame and to silence, by the integrity and purity of their conduct, by their patience and cheerfulness under afflictions; and would especially silence them, if they were eye-witnesses of the composure and elevation of spirit, with which true believers in a risen Saviour welcome the approach of death.

“But let those who love His name be joyful in Him. Your Lord who was dead, is alive, and because He lives, you shall live also. If you be risen with Him, seek the things which are above, where He is seated at the right hand of God. And, when He, who is our life, shall appear, then shall you also appear with Him in glory.”
– John Newton

The Resurrection

April 10, 2017

If doctrine of the resurrection is lost the gospel is lost. In 1 Corinthians 15 Paul defines the gospel for the church. That gospel contains four major parts: Christ died. Christ died for our sins. Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures. Jesus rose again according to the Scriptures.

The resurrection is integral to the gospel. The resurrection of Jesus was a key component in the preaching of every apostle. In Acts 1 when the disciples sought for one to replace Judas they looked for one who could be a witness to Jesus’ resurrection. In Acts 2 when Peter preached on the day of Pentecost a key theme of his message was that Jesus had been raised again to life. The truth of the resurrection is found in Peter’s messages in Acts 3 and Acts 4. The vision of the resurrected Jesus in heaven is the climax to Stephen’s powerful message in Acts 7. Paul was saved in Acts 9 after running headlong into the resurrected Jesus. When Peter preached to Cornelius in Acts 10 he preached the resurrection of Jesus. When Paul preached the gospel in Antioch in Acts 13 he preached the resurrection of Jesus. In Thessalonica Paul preached the resurrection of Jesus. In Athens Paul preached the resurrection to the Greek philosophers though it earned him scorn and rejection. The gospel message always included the truth of the resurrection of Jesus.

The resurrection must be believed to be saved. In Romans 10 Paul teaches two things necessary for salvation. Confession of Jesus and belief that God raised Him from the dead. Romans 10:9 is a wonderful promise, but it is also a prescription. Confession of Jesus and belief in the resurrection are necessary to be saved.

If the doctrine of the resurrection is lost the beleiver’s power is lost. In 2 Timothy 3 false teachers are described as “having a form of godliness but denying the power thereof.” The power of Godliness is God’s power that was displayed in the resurrection. In Ephesians 1:19 Paul prays the believers will know “what is the exceeding greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power, which He wrought in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, and set Him at His own right hand.” In Hebrews 13:20-21 the letter to the Jews concludes with a marvelous benediction, “Now the God of peace that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, make you perfect in every good work to do His will, working in you that which is wellpleasing in His sight, through Christ Jesus, to whom be glory for ever and ever.” The power of God to resurrect is connected to the power at work to transform believers. The power of God that brought Jesus alive from the grave is the power of God that is actively at work in the Christian transforming and enabbling him to do that which is pleasing to God. The Christian can serve God because Jesus lives.

Jesus is risen. The Christian must never lose sight of this precious, powerful truth.