Monday, July 31, 2006

Biblical Theology Sermons

For those of you interested in Biblical Theology, as I am, you can hear Michael Lawrence(Associate Pastor) at Capital Hill preach on the subject. The topics have been: Creation, Fall, Love and the most recent Sacrifice. Here is the link to them: Capital Hill Sermons.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

The Church Pt 2 - Ekklesia

Here goes and I pray this makes sense:

Ekklesia is the Greek word translated church in scripture with, I think, one exception. However the word church is probably not the best translation today based on how the word church is seen and used. In general the word church, today, speaks to an organization but in scripture it refers to a people, which may make up an organization. While the word can denote an assembly its the people that make up that assembly that are the focus not the assembly itself. Thus when we speak of the Baptist Church or the Church of England or the church building we tend to miss the point of the Greek word that is behind the English word.

This is where it is dangerous to do word studies using an English dictionary. Good hermeneutics is not to look for the English meaning but to look for the Greek authorial meaning. While they may be the same they also may not and then lead us astray. For example the word ekklesia is literally “called out ones” so again it speaks to the assembly as people and not as an organization. In common Greek usage the word did not necessarily have a spiritual usage but could simply refer to a group of people called out for a purpose so for example the city council meeting together or even the Kiwanis could be called an ekklesia. It is the context of scripture that shows what this group of people is and that it is a group of people called to a holy calling (1Tim 1:9). So we can say that when we see the word ekklesia in scripture it refers to the nature of the people and who the people are that are assembled. For purposes of this section on the church I am merely going to say that the word in and of itself does not appear to denote whether it refers to the universal/invisible or local/visible church. We will look at this later as I think the text of scripture is clear that there exists, and we are called to, local assemblies and in the big picture all those called out by God to varying local assemblies belong to the Universal church in a spiritual manner.

What is interesting about the word is that in a biblical sense any group gathered as called out saints (1 Cor 1:2) makes up the church or ekklesia. Here I am not dealing with the structure that needs to be there or not be there but instead want to focus on the “who” of the church. This would say that a church should not include unbelievers/unregenerate people. This is not to say that we can be certain of everyone’s position with God but it does appear to say much about infant baptism and church membership being offered to those that are certainly not believers. I would say that this also extends out to how we do church in that we should not be looking to the world, the unregenerate, for guidance in what church should be like. We are thus not called to tailor worship to please the lost but the saved. This does not give license to be unintelligible to people but it says that surveys of ones neighborhood or the nation to see what the church needs to be is denying who the church is.

All too often people jump into seeing what the church is to be without starting at the beginning with who the church is made up of. It is not defined by its walls or its architecture but by its people and those people are the called of God, those that are in Christ. As I try and work through what the church is to be over the next weeks and months I want to always keep in focus what the church is to start with, believers. The church is not an “it” but a “who” as it is made up of individuals called by God to worship Him. Just as in Exodus the people were called out of Egypt to worship God so too we are called to worship God which is the goal and focus of the ekklesia or biblical church.

There is probably much more to say and as I work through this I may even refine and modify things but I do think that it is imperative to see who the church is made up of so that we start on the correct footing. We are to see ourselves as the Ekklesia of God, those Called out by God and that should be the basis for how we view church and how we do church.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

The Local Church Pt1

Over the next few weeks I want to look at the local church. What is it, what does it look like, where do we get our guidance from in forming it and so on. All too often we look to what the world and unbelievers desire in church rather than God’s word. It is all too easy for many to simply say that scripture is not clear on what church is supposed to look like so we are left to figure it out ourselves. I personally find it hard to believe that if one truly believes in the God’s word as being the source of His guidance for us that God would leave out how the local church should look and function.

Now here, I am not talking about kinds of buildings and other particulars but instead what are the basics that a local church needs to have to be a church. When I read Barna’s Revolution his diagnosis was that if the church does not change to meet the desires of the so called revolutionaries it would die. Well for one the church, both universal and local will not die because we do not do as the world desires. Matt 16:18 speaks of this and while one may surmise that this verse is speaking of the universal church it is speaking of a gathering of people with a common goal, or purpose, as the word ekklesia means. So while it may speak of the universal church it can be applied to the local body of believers that make up the universal church.

All too often the local church is designed around a consumer mentality rather than a communer mentality. When we focus our ministries on needs rather than God we get ourselves in trouble. This is not to say that ministries are not important but what I am saying is that often we do not ask ourselves if what we are doing is first going to glorify God or satiate human desires. Is what we are going to do leading to more communing or more consuming? Is what we do for ministry dividing the family that God put together or as is all too often the case separating it up. I realize that often what we do is done with good intentions but good intentions are not enough if the end result is not pleasing to God.

So, again, over the next few weeks I will try and see what the local church is too look like. We do need to raise questions, look at history but in the end it is God’s word that needs to define our worship and the local church is the place believers gather to worship as a corporate group.

Friday, July 21, 2006

The Reading of Owen Begins

Check out over at For His Glory-Books as we start to go through Of the Mortification of Sin by Owen. After reading this book I definitely think this one that needs to be read by everyone today. Not only to do too many people ignore sin even those that know it exists fail to deal with it properly. Once you get by the way Owen, and for that matter other Puritans, write this book is very practical. While you can get the original online the abridged version by Banner of Truth is easier to read.

Join us and see what mortification really involves.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

The Cross of Christ

I was reading Steve Camps blog. Camp on This, and he had a great article that was written by J.C. Ryle. Ryle (1816 – 1900) is one of the authors that is much easier to read than my favorite Puritans but speaks plainly and clearly on important subjects relating to the Christian life. You can read other writings of Ryle here.

In this paper, The Cross of Christ, Ryle speaks to what for many appears to be given mainly lip service. That is, what is important about the cross of Christ. There is a quote from Charnock that says much about the importance of the cross, especially in a day that seeks to see being a Christian revolving solely around attempting to live as Jesus did:

"If our faith stops in Christ's life, and does not fasten upon His blood, it will not be justifying faith. His miracles, which prepared the world for His doctrines; His holiness, which fitted Himself for His sufferings, had been insufficient for us without the addition of the cross." Charnock. 1684

It is not enough to simply say that all that matters is that I need to study more of Christ’s life and live as such. We need to base all of what we do around an understanding of the cross which allows us to even come before God. By ignoring the true meaning of the cross we ignore that the cross was not simply a second thought or plan of God but was planned and determined from all eternity (Acts 2:23) by God.

As I, and others over at my other blog, For His Glory-Books, read through Owen’s Of the Mortification of Sin in Believers Ryle helps us to realize that to see our sin as we should we must start at the cross.

I would encourage you to read this paper by Ryle and it will help you to see why if topics such as substitutionary atonement and the cross are denied, ignored or minimized then one minimizes God since it was His plan to make the cross central. The cross, as Ryle says, is not the cause of God’s love but the effect of it. All too often I think people see it the other way round.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Book Store Fluff

Having been in the process of reading Owen’s Of the Mortification of Sin in Believers I am struck by how deep, and practicle, Owen goes in dealing with the issue of sin. Then this weekend I was at a shopping center and was walking through a Christina Book Store, or should I say Book & Trinket Market, and was amazed at how shallow a vast majority of the selection was. I am not just speaking of the size of words or the number of pages but in the content presented.

So much of what is offered and what is read is on the shelf to please men, and women, make people feel better about themselves or simply to better themselves. This then leaves little room for dealing with real issues such as how does sin affect our glorifying God. Now this is not to say there are no books out there but what I am saying is that the vast majority of books being sold, and sales is probably the driving force, are fluff.

Just as Paul on writing to the Corinthians in 1 Cor 3:2 speaks of the Corintheans still being on milk, all too many book stores are nothing but milk and most of it gone sour at that. I am not trying to be a book snob but we only have so much time given us by God and it needs to be spent in a much better way than reading how to feel better about ones self and never dealing with issues that deny God His rightful glory such as the pervasiveness of sin in our lives.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Valley of Vision Music CD free song

Here is a free download of one of the songs from the Sovereign Grace Ministries new Valley of vision CD due out in August. For more info about the CD you can go here (the lyrics are also available for download on this page) and here is a link to the devotional – Valley of Vision.

Recommended reading: Richard Sibbes

I just finished reading Mark Dever’s book on Richard Sibbes. I highly recommend this book for a number of reasons. First, it gives an insight into the issues of the Puritan era and that all it entailed including the issues on non-conformity and conformity. A second issue is that the book revealed how we have to be careful how we read history, especially from this era as it can often leave one with the wrong impression. This is especially true of Sibbes as there was not much left to reveal who he was and that many that have written since have used others findings, at times in error.

Since reading the book about a man I had truthfully never heard of until I heard Mark Dever speak I have now seen that there are other Puritans to read, that in the end give a fuller understanding of the Puritan movement. So I have lined up two of Sibbes books: The Bruised Reed and Glorious Freedom (originally entitled The Excellency of the Gospel above the Law). Of The Bruised Reed Dr. D. Martin Lloyd-Jones said –

‘I shall never cease to be grateful to … Richard Sibbes who was balm to my soul at a period in my life when I was overworked and badly over tired, and therefore subject in an unusual manner to the onslaught of the devil… I found at that time that Richard Sibbes who was known in London in the early seventeenth century as “the Heavenly Doctor Sibbes” was an unfailing remedy… The bruised Reed… quietened, soothed, comforted, encouraged and healed me’ (From the back of the The Bruised Reed – Published by The banner of Truth Trust).

It may be good to read Dever’s book first as it does set the tone for the time and issues surrounding Sibbes when he wrote these books.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Vibrant Worship

We are on vacation in the Carson Valley and went to Grace Community Church to worship this last Lord’s Day and the worship in both praise and word was great. One of the things it reminded me of was that all too often we put so much effort into the production of the music side of worship that it misses the mark. The worship this Sunday was almost all from the Trinity Hymnal and was accompanied by a piano and one singer. But the church attendees were enthusiastic and sang such that God was definitely praised.

I say this not to say that other music and songs cannot be used but instead it is the cooperation of the community of saints in worship that is what glorifies God. I truly like the Indelible Grace and Sovereign Grace songs and the words they use are Christ centered so their music could be used just as well. What is important is that the words glorify God and edify the congregation while the praise sung by the people reflects a heart that is truly seeking to worship and not be served.

It does seem that the area of worship music has become so consumer oriented that when songs are chosen they are chosen by what would most affect the congregation, which is often driven by the music rather than the words, and all too often how God sees them is ignored or put farther down the list. One can sing from a hymnal or a PowerPoint but in the end it is the heart and affections of the congregation towards God that matter most.

We need to approach all that we do in worship to God as being directed towards Him and not catering to us. Those of us in the congregation need to seek after Him and realize we were called to Him to worship so we need to offer up acceptable worship. The mentality that God called us due to something in us is all too often revealed in action if not in words and leads to worship that is more man centered than God centered. This is not necessarily a call to some form of worship from the past but is a call to avoid the present focus on self gratifying worship.

This does tie into the last post I made in that those referred to as revolutionaries are seeking worship that satisfies them but the goal should be worship that is acceptable to God. In the end if we are truly children of God we will encounter joy when we worship as God desires. It is not the accoutrements of the revolutionaries worship that are inherently the issue but the reason for them, satisfaction of spiritual narcissism.

Let us worship God as He and only He desires and deserves.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Spiritual Narcissism

I read Barna’s latest book Revolution and put off writing anything because I could not think of anything good to write. But I think the best way to explain what I read in Revolution is that Barna correctly interprets how people see spirituality today but his mistake is in his prognosis (death of the local church) and remedy (do what the revolutionaries want done).

Throughout the book my general feeling was that these supposed revolutionaries have moved from what may be labeled humanistic narcissism to spiritual narcissism. The idea that the church needs to offer a smorgasbord of spiritual endeavors so that these revolutionaries can meet their own perceived spiritual need misses the point of the local church.

I will have to think through this more but the disturbing part is the level that so many people look to Barna for guidance for the church. One of the major mistakes Barna and many on the church growth movement is to look to the world for guidance as to what the local church is look like. How can one driven by the world know what God’s church is to look like.

This all said I do think that some of Barna’s observations are valid and the church has dropped the ball. However it is not a matter of changing the church based on the worlds opinions but instead go to scripture to seek out what the local church is to look like. Barna may take ones outside spiritual veneer and proclamation too much at face value. Simply because one says they want to be like Jesus does not mean that are a believer.

As a last note I think even his opening picture of one of these revolutionaries depicts the spiritual narcissism I see so prevalent today. This person who is proclaimed to be spiritual would rather play golf than go worship with other believers. The whole idea that each person needs to seek out his or her desired manner of seeking spirituality is of utmost importance to these revolutionaries. I have seen this even from those that do not claim to be revolutionaries. I have heard people say that they do not go to bible studies as they just slow them down but is this not just another way of saying that the individual is more important than the community.

I may write more on this later as I think more on it. The whole issue with the Emergent Church is disturbing because so many people seem to be jumping on the bandwagon just as they did with the seeker sensitive movement. In reality this movement is little different. The outside may be clothed differently but inside it is the same, the self is of utmost importance. So in the end spiritual narcissism reigns and the effect is not deadly to the church but can effect it if we are not wary of it.