Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Member of the Club Or Member of the Body?

Ultimately the growth of the kingdom is God's task. But he accomplishes that task by giving each of his children talents which they are to use to his glory (Mt 25:15-30; Rom 12:3-8; 1 Cor 12:12-20). Contrary to what most believe, the work of ministry is the responsibility of the whole church. The task of the evangelists, teachers, shepherds is not to do the work but to train the members to do the work of ministry (Eph 4:11-12). This process is to go on until we all attain to spiritual maturity.

One can maintain membership in a club simply by paying dues. But one cannot maintain membership in a body on that basis. Our fingers, toes, ears, eyes all of our members must stay connected with our body, or they will soon die. In scripture, the church is never compared to a club. It is compared to a body. To maintain membership in the church, we must be involved. A disconnected church member is no more a real member of the church than an amputated limb is still part of a human body.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

A Cross or a Couch

"If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me" (Luke 9:23, ESV).

Hopefully you recognize that the statement quoted above is from Jesus. There is a rumor going around that what he meant to say was, "If anyone would come after me, let him affirm himself, sit down on his couch, and I will always meet his felt needs". That rumor is false.

In those days, a cross was not a pretty little piece of jewelry. It was a symbol of disgrace, suffering, and death. Jesus is making it as clear as possible that following him will demand commitment. It will be well worth the effort, but it will not always be easy.

Many today seem to have lost sight of this prominent aspect of Jesus' teaching. Many seem to think that the Christian life should demand nothing and grant everything. People want to be considered church members without becoming committed followers of Jesus. They want a couch, not a cross.

Sorry, but I do not have the authority to rewrite what Jesus has declared. In life we recognize the truth of the saying, "no pain, no gain." In eternity we will learn the truth of the saying, "no cross, no crown." We can restate what Jesus stated, but we dare not explain it away.

Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. ..... So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14:25-27, 33, ESV).

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

"Present Yourselves To God"

Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness (Romans 6:13, ESV).

We cannot save ourselves. We cannot justify ourselves. We cannot sanctify ourselves. But what we are called upon to do is to "present ourselves", or "yield ourselves" as the KJV says, to God. He can, and will save us. He will justify, he will sanctify. He does so by various means, some of which we can see and identify, some of which are unknown to us. It is his work, not ours. But we must present ourselves to him, we must yield ourselves to his will.

If we were ill with a deadly disease, and we were informed by a reliable source that a given doctor was willing and able to cure us, we would present ourselves to him without delay. Or would we? In the gospel, just such an offer is made, but many hold back. We delay, resist, and even outright refuse God's gracious offer. We try to cure ourselves. We distrust the doctor of our souls, and let the spiritual disease run its course.

He has borne our sins on the cross. We have strayed long enough. Let us return to him, present ourselves to him, yield to him.

"He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls (1 Peter 2:24-25, ESV).

Friday, October 10, 2014

The Number One Cause of GBV (and a lot of other stuff)

I do not understand, and I never will. According to a news item released October 8 in Tanzania, "A new survey has established that consumption of alcohol is the cause of most acts of Gender Based Violence (GBV)." What are the odds of that study being reported in our newspapers? Will it ever be mentioned in congress?

There is an incredible and willful blindness in our country about the connection between alcohol and violence. "Guns kill", we are told. The fact that knives and even automobiles also kill when people have been drinking, is largely ignored.

Prohibiting the sale of alcohol, as was done in this country from 1920 to 1933 (and in several other countries at various times), may be mistake; but banning its promotion would not be. It would have the same effect that banning the advertising of tobacco has had. People would still drink, just as many still smoke, but we as a society would no longer be promoting the loss of self-control, and the subsequent violence, that alcohol so often brings.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Heavens Declare, But Only To Those Listening

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. (Psalm 19:1, ESV)

Indeed, the heavens declare his glory, but we are just too busy to notice. How long has it been since you enjoyed looking at the stars, or examined a flower carefully, or even took the time to savor some simple, natural food?

We are too busy to notice what God has done. We spend our time with worldly, human-centered entertainment. We focus our attention on what man has made rather than on what God has created. We train our appetite to crave unnatural, overly sweet, man-made foods, instead of the fruits of the trees God has given us.

God is banished from our lives not only by overt sins, but also by our tendency to be busy with our own affairs, to live in an artificial world created by man, instead of enjoying the world as God created it. We spend too much time contemplating the wrong done in this world and not nearly enough time thinking on what is "true, honorable, just, pure, lovely ..." (Phil 4:8).

It is not a sin to be busy, but slow down enough to hear the declaration of God's glory.