Nine Part Series on the Fundamentals

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The Triune Nature of the Godhead – The Trinity 

January 2006

    This year we will begin a new twelve part series on the basics of the Christian Faith. I have chosen to begin with a brief look at the doctrine of the Trinity.

    Over the centuries religious leaders and scholars have debated and analyzed what Christians call the doctrine of the Trinity. The teaching asserts that there is only one God and that He has revealed Himself as the personal, transcendent, eternal, sovereign Creator of all things. He is the first and last, the only Savior and Lord; there is no other. He is eternally self-existent and has revealed Himself as a Tri-unity of three persons; Father, Son and Holy Spirit, three persons, yet one God.

    Among the many aberrant (erroneous) teachings about the Trinity are the following: 1) God is a Tri-unity of three personalities - not persons. 2) Jesus is not God or is a lesser god - a created being. 3) There are other Gods. 4) The Holy Spirit is not a distinct member of the Godhead but a force or energy. 5) That Jesus is the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

    Space limits a continuing list. However, our aim is to document what the Bible does teach about the triune nature of God not that which is in error. Let’s look a three basic points.

1) The Scriptures Teach that there is only one God and He is the Father.

    In the Scriptures God asks the following question, "To whom will you liken me, and make me equal, and compare me, that we may be like?” Then He answers, …I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me." (Isaiah 46:5 and 9) God said, "Before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me." (Isaiah 43:10) He said, "I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God." (Isaiah 44:6) Jesus taught His disciples to pray using these words, “Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name…” (Matthew 6:9) Paul when writing to the Ephesians declares there is “One God and Father of all, who is above all…” (Ephesians 4:6) It is clear from these verses there is only one God, the Father.

2) The Bible Teaches that Jesus is God, the Son of the Father.

    Jesus Christ is the only begotten Son of God. He Himself is God incarnate (in flesh) and in Him the fullness of the Godhead dwells and is revealed to man. John when writing his gospel reminds the reader, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him; and without Him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men… the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:1-5 and 14)

    Isaiah recorded God saying, "I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God." (Isaiah 44:6) Jesus speaking to John in the book of Revelation say’s He is the first and last, “…Fear not; I am the first and the last: I am He that lives and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen…” (Revelation 1:17-18)

    If we carefully compare these verses we are forced to conclude that Jesus is either a liar, God was a liar or Jesus is God: “the first and the last.”    

    Secondly, God tells us in the Old Testament, He is the only Savior. “You are my witnesses, say’s the LORD, and my servant whom I have chosen: that you may know and believe me, and understand that I am He: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me. I, even I, am the LORD; and beside me there is no Savior.” (Isaiah 43:10-11) In the New Testament letter to Titus, Paul called Jesus our Savior. “…looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us…” (Titus 2:13-14) Peter called Jesus the Savior. “…our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 1:11) He also said we are to “…grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.”  (2 Peter 3:18) John called Jesus the Savior. “And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Savior of the world.” (1 John 4:14)

    Just as earlier identified, if we carefully compare these verses we are forced to conclude that either God was lying, Paul, Peter, and John were lying or Jesus is the one and only living God and Savior of the world.

3) The Bible Teaches that the Holy Spirit is God.

    When Jesus was publicly baptized an interesting series of events occurred. Matthew records, “When He (Jesus) had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." (Matthew 4:16-17) Please note here the presence of the Son (Jesus), the Father and Holy Spirit. Here present are all three members of the Godhead.

    Secondly, we see the Holy Spirit referred to as God when Peter was questioning Ananias and Sapphira, following a carefully planned act of deception. He said, "Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit…” He continued, “…Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God." (Acts 5:1-4) Clearly Peter refers to the Holy Spirit as God.

Three in One. One God – Three Persons.

    “For there are three that bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one.” (1 John 5:7)

    “You are my witnesses, say’s the LORD, and my servant whom I have chosen: that you may know and believe me, and understand that I am He: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me.  I, even I, am the LORD; and beside me there is no Savior.” (Isaiah 43:10-11)

May the Lord Jesus Christ lead us into all truth!

Blessings to you all.

Pastor Paul

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The Bible 

February 2006

    The Bible; (both Old and New Testaments) are the inspired, inerrant, authoritative, Word of God. The Bible is sufficient to provide us with all that pertains to truth, life and Godliness. There are no other sacred writings or revelations inspired by God. Many claim to have inspired texts other than the Bible (additions, parallels, companions, interpretations, included) but there is yet to be one proven true. Furthermore, every one tested has miserably failed.

    The word "Bible" simple means "books." Our Bible is a collection of 66 books penned by 40 writers as they were inspired by the Holy Spirit. "For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Ghost." (2 Peter 1:21) and "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 complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work." (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

    The Bible was written over a period of approximately 1600 years. Each book has been proven to be, by extensive and exhaustive criticism, the inspired Word of God.

    The Bible speaks to its own defense and makes claims no other book could offer. The credibility of Scripture is seen in: history, geography, archeology, astronomy, pattern, (numbers, colors, materials) prophecy, and countless changed lives. The Bible claims itself to be "the Word of God… quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." (Hebrews 4:12) The Word of God "is a lamp unto (our) feet and a light unto (our) path." (Psalm 119:105)

    Although many of the 40 writers lived centuries apart, never knowing one another, nor conspiring together, the harmony and singularity of their message is amazing. Liberal critics have declared the Bible to be filled with inconsistencies and contradictions. However, with careful examination of the text, the student of Scripture will find that the Bible is reliable and accurate; it contains no contradictions. 

    Prophecy: the declaration of events yet future, written at times hundreds of years before fulfillment, ranks the Bible above all other books, both sacred and secular. No other written record has predicted with even moderate accuracy the specific details concerning persons, places and events, which the Scriptures declare with perfect accuracy. For example, there are over 300 specific and detailed prophesies in the Old Testament concerning Jesus Christ first coming to the earth. Each of these declared His coming with graphic detail, ranging from the place of His birth to the process of His death and resurrection. Clearly this allows the Bible to carry authority unlike any other book in the world.

    The Bible speaks to the present hour and to our individual lives with the same accuracy and detail as it did to all others in history. Therefore, we believe that every prophecy recorded in the Bible, yet to be fulfilled, will be fulfilled with the same detail and accuracy.

    The Scriptures address the creation of life on earth as well as that of the heavens. It declares to us the facts of eternity, and the specific needs of the human race. The Bible claims itself to be sufficient in its proclamation, definition and instruction of man and defines man as a tri-part being fashioned with body, soul and spirit. The Scriptures address every facet of mankind and provides instruction benefiting the whole person: physical, psychological and spiritual. The Scriptures record, "Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue." (2 Peter 1:2-3) We are instructed to "Study to show (ourselves) approved unto God, … workman that need not…be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." (2 Timothy 2:15) David, the great king of Israel, wrote: "Your Word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against You. Blessed are You, O LORD: teach me Your statutes… I will meditate in Your precepts, and have respect unto Your ways. I will delight myself in Your statutes: I will not forget Your Word." (Psalm 119:11-16)

    It is my desire "that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him: the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of His calling, and what the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power to (we) 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 the heavenly places, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: and hath put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be the head over all things to the Church, which is His body, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all." (Ephesians 1:17-23) "For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope." (Romans 15:4)

    Daily study the Scriptures. Believe them, know them, understand them, defend them, teach them, and "continue in them: for in doing this you shall both save thyself, and those who hear you." (1 Tim. 4:16)

May the Lord richly bless you and pour out His Spirit upon you as you study His Word.

Blessings to you all, Pastor Paul 

Candlelight Christian Fellowship

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The Nature of Man 

March 2006

    We are now in the third month of study on the basic teachings of the Christian faith. In January we examined the doctrine of the Trinity, last month the authority of the Bible and this month we will examine the nature of man. Please keep in mind - these examinations are brief, and cursory. Whole libraries have been written on this subject. The intention here is to set a foundation for further study.

    The Bible teaches that all people are by nature sinful, separated from God and responsible for their own sin. Man, in and of himself, has nothing to offer God in exchange for his soul. He will spend eternity in hell; separated from God, should he reject the provisions provided for him in Jesus Christ our Savior. Salvation: redemption, forgiveness of sin, justification, sanctification and glorification are freely offered to all through the grace of God, by faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.

    In the beginning, man was created by God, in His own image and likeness. On the sixth day of the creation week, God looked at “everything” He had made and said it was “very good.” Shortly after the sixth day, (possibly on the very next day - the seventh day of the creation week) Adam and his wife disobeyed the Lord, being tempted by Lucifer, ate from the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil,” thus committing sin, became self-conscious (they realized that they were naked and were ashamed) and caused the loss of holiness and unity between the Lord and themselves. This ultimately caused a separation from God and death. God had spoken to Adam and said, "Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die." (Genesis 3:16-17) The consequences of their disobedience, would from that time forward affect every man woman and child, result in universal sin and inspire the curse.

    The book of Romans clearly states, “…through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men.” (Romans 5:12) God say’s of man, “There is none righteous, no, not one…” (Romans 3:10) Paul the apostle believed this to be true of himself as with all other men. He wrote, Romans 3:23 "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God." The Greek word translated "come short" is “hustereo,” it means to be inferior; to fall short, to be deficient, to come behind, to be destitute, fall, lack, to suffer need, to be in want, to be the worse, and is in the present indicative tense. The present indicative indicates something presently occurring. He is teaching that all men are not only sinners but are in fact constantly falling (present tense) short of the glory of God.

    As long as you and I are breathing in and out the temporal air of this life, we are falling short of God’s glory, as sinners, and in need of the righteousness only God can provide. As fallen man, we are incapable of doing good apart from the work of God within. He said, “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find.” (Romans 7:18) We are not sinners because we sin but on the contrary, we sin because we are sinners. All human effort - designed to please God - apart from the work of Christ is sin in and of itself. Isaiah records, “But we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags.” (Isaiah 64:6)

    The good news of the Scriptures is that sinful man, apart from any good he can provide, may be made clean and presented holy in the presence of the Lord. Fellowship can be restored and the curse ultimately removed. Jesus Christ provides, by grace through faith alone, all man lost in the garden. We are blessed to receive eternal life in exchange for the death we suffer and deserve.

    Next month we will look at the salvation God provides in Jesus Christ. Stay tuned for “The Gospel!”

Blessings to you all, 

Pastor Paul

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The Gospel  

April 2006

    Last month we looked at the Nature of Man. We considered the Biblical explanation of man’s sinful nature, his separation from God and his responsibility for sin. We discovered that man, in and of himself has nothing to offer God in exchange for his soul, and that we will spend eternity in hell; separated from God, unless we embrace the provisions provided us in Jesus Christ - our Savior. (Salvation is freely offered to all through the grace of God, by faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.)

    The Bible calls the offer of salvation “the Gospel.” It is the “good news” about all God has provided for us in Jesus Christ. Sinful man, apart from any good he can provide, may be made clean and presented complete and holy in the presence of the Lord. Fellowship with God may be restored and the curse of sin and death totally removed. Jesus Christ provides, by grace through faith alone, all man lost. We are blessed to receive eternal life in exchange for the death we deserve.

    The Bible explains that God’s nature is holy and that He must judge sin. We understand that God is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. He has therefore provided a way for sinful man to be forgiven and the penalty he deserves removed. To forgive sin without consequences would be an injustice, so He has provided Himself an offering for sin. The just for the unjust! He Himself took the penalty we deserve upon Himself and died in our place for our sin. Jesus Christ is God. He came to earth as man and suffered the penalty for sin, thus making it possible for you and I to escape the wrath to come and receive life and forgiveness of sin. (For a discussion on sin and the nature of man please see last month’s article: The Nature of Man.)

    Being a “Christian” is being “born again.” Our dead and sin-laden lives are exchanged for the life of Christ by the indwelling of the Spirit of God. God transforms our very nature and changes us from within. This is the miracle of the new birth. We are, as the Bible puts it, “born from above.”

    Some have taught that responding to the Gospel involves “asking Jesus into their lives” and then making every effort to live a life pleasing to the Lord. They expel great energy “working” and “trying” to please God, make good choices, and refuse the impulses of the flesh. They focus their energy warring with the devil/demons, fleshly habits and the lure of the world - always with little to no success, and always with great discouragement. However, they believe that this effort is pleasing to the Lord and He therefore “makes up the difference” for their weakness by an act of His grace. They call this “salvation,” but it is far from freedom and certainly not the truth of the Gospel.

    Nowhere in Scripture are we told to “ask Jesus into our lives.” However, we are instructed to surrender ourselves to Him. As Christians (born again by the Spirit of God) we are made the righteousness of God in Christ. We don’t spend our lives “working” and “trying” to please the Lord. We surrender ourselves to His leadership and rest in His holiness. Our human effort to “please the Lord” by “trying harder” is an affront to His grace and power working in us. The Christian enters into the “Sabbath Rest” of a relationship with Jesus and ceases striving to please the Lord; thus enjoying a continual maturing by God’s Spirit within. “For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His.” (Hebrews 4:10)

    God will deliver us, direct us, change us, and mature us. Let Him do the clean up. Trust Him, surrender to His leadership and give Him all the glory.)

Blessings to you all, 

Pastor Paul

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May 2006

The Church 

The Church (Part 1)

    Last week we examined the message of the gospel.  If you read it and have made the decision to make Jesus your Lord and Savior, the result of your decision is the gift of eternal life: life forever in the presence of the Lord. The Gospel of Luke says, "there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repents." (Luke 15:10) Simply stated, that means there is a celebration in heaven over you because you have chosen to serve the Lord.

A New Beginning

    When we choose to trust in Christ for eternal life, we are born again by the Spirit of God and given a new beginning. The Bible says, "… if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." (2 Corinthians 5:17) All your sins have been washed away. As you surrender your life to the Lord you will enjoy freedom from the condemnation of sin and relief from shame in the presence of the Lord. God removes our sin "as far as the east is from the west." (Psalm 103:12) Peace and rest are now yours in Jesus Christ. Praise the Lord.

Getting Started Right

    Here are a few basic points that will assist you in your walk with Jesus.

Read The Bible

    Paul the apostle told his young student Timothy, "Study to show yourself approved unto God, a workman who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." (2 Timothy 2:15) It is important to know what God has said in His Word. He gives us the Bible, inspired by the Holy Spirit, to make His will know to us and allow us to discern between the truth and a lie. The Word of God provides us with "… all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him that has called us to glory and virtue." (2 Peter 1:3) You should make time each day to read and study the Bible. If you don’t have a Bible one can be purchased at the local Christian bookstore. If you cannot afford a Bible one may be provided you at your church or at Candlelight Christian Fellowship free of charge.

Talk To God

    Jesus said: "…men ought always to pray…" (Luke 18:1) Prayer is talking to God. You don’t need to be formal. Simply begin to share your thoughts and desires with the Lord. God loves to have us come to Him, talk with Him and seek His help and counsel. He desires to have us share with Him all that is in our hearts. In prayer we recognize our inability to rely upon self and put all our trust in Him. By prayer God will provide all our daily needs. Prayer helps keep us close to the Lord and keeps us open to His will for our lives. Jesus said His house is to be a house of prayer. The Bible say’s “…your body is the temple (the house) of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's.” (1 Cor. 6:19-20) Therefore, as a Christian you are called to be a person of prayer. Pray every day…all the time. If your church has a prayer meeting go to it and get involved.

Fellowship With Other Believers

    The Bible teaches the importance of spending time with other Christians. We are blessed to worship together, study the Scriptures, pray together and encourage one another as we grow. Paul told the Hebrew Christians not to forsake "…the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhort one another: and so much the more, as you see the day (of the Lord) approaching." (Hebrews 10:25) Most good churches have developed regular gatherings designed for worship, prayer, Bible study and fellowship. Throughout the week there are a number of activities designed to assist believers. As we gather together with other believers we enjoy what the Bible calls the assembly. As Christians we are corporately and individually the Church. When we gather together we are corporately united for worship, instruction, fellowship and encouragement. This is called the assembly. I want to encourage you to make Christian fellowship (assembling together) a regular part of your weekly schedule. It is God’s will for you! Those who refuse to gather with other believers are resisting the leadership of the Bible and work of the Holy Spirit in their lives.

You Are The Church.

    As stated above, Christians are the Church. Believers are spiritually joined together with others who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ. Believers who have lived from the time of the resurrection of Jesus and up until the Rapture are one Church: the “Body of Christ,” uniquely called and sanctified. It is a privilege to be numbered with all those who have responded to the call of God and surrendered their lives to Jesus.

    Celebrate the faith. Gather with others who do the same. Love God. Love the Church.

    Next month we will look more deeply at the “outgrowth” of your faith as it relates to involvement with other believers.

Blessings to you all, 

Pastor Paul

 

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June 2006

The Church (Part 2) 

    Last month we examined the message of the Gospel and discovered that those who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ are born again.  We are “called out” of darkness, sin, and death; and “called into” fellowship with the Lord. As born again believers, we join others and form a spiritual family. This Family of believers is called the Church. The church is not an organization developed and led by men but is a living organism lead by and built by the Lord Himself. Jesus said, “I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18)

    This month we will examine more about the Church and how God uses us in the world. The Bible tells us, it is God’s will that every believer join with other members of the spiritual family for united worship, instruction, fellowship and encouragement. Those who refuse to gather, are resisting the leadership of the Bible and work of the Holy Spirit in their lives.

    Many people think of the Church as a building. It’s common to hear people ask, “Where do you go to church?” In this context they are asking where they attend a gathering, or what denomination they affiliate with. The Church is not an organization or building made of sticks and stones. The Church is not a denominational segment of the body. (Some erroneously believe their denomination or group is the only true Church.) The Church is the organism God is building, made up of the people He has called to Himself - from every tribe and nation.

What “In the World” is God Doing with the Church?

    God desires that we all come to maturity in Christ. Therefore, He has placed us in the “body.” He has given us gifted leaders to assist us in our growth. The purpose is to bring us to a place of fruitfulness in ministry. (Every believer is called and gifted for some specific responsibility and usefulness in the world today.) We are witnesses unto the Lord; God uses us to give glory to His name, reach those around the world with the gospel and benefit others believers as they grow. We are uniquely called and set apart for this blessing.

    Paul the apostle said, “Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually.” (1 Corinthians 12:27) “And He (God) Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:11-13)

You Are the Ministry Team

    We are living in a period of history called the Church Age. In this dispensation, God has chosen to use the Church as His ambassador/s to represent Him and serve on His behalf. As Believers, we are called as one body, working together, for the glory of God.

    As a unique and specifically called people, we are designed and created by the Lord with an intended purpose. A person who goes to a church building and assumes this is part and parcel of the Christian experience has missed the beauty of being the Church. We are called out from sin and death, to serve the Lord, to minister to one another, and reach out to the rest of world in Jesus name. By the work of the Holy Spirit, the teaching of Scripture, and the leadership of the Church, we are equipped and developed into mature saints, prepared for ministry.

    In part, you have come to know Jesus and are a member of the Church because someone took the time to share God’s love and plan of salvation with you. By God’s grace, you have been given the greatest gift available to man. It is important that you share what you have come to enjoy with others so they to may know Jesus and enjoy eternal life. Jesus told His disciples to "Go… and teach all nations…" (Matthew 28:19) You will be encouraged as you see your friends and family come to know the Lord. Share your faith and watch the Lord work in your life. Daily, as you surrender to the Lord, He will use you and develop your function in ministry. You are an Ambassador for Christ!

    Next month we will look at the local church (noun) and we will discover more about churching (verb) with those in the family.

Blessings to you all

Pastor Paul

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July 2006

The Church Part 3 “The Local Church” 

    Last month we examined the fact that those who are born again are made into a body of believers called the Church. The Church (noun) is the Lord’s work and we, as His workmanship, are called to be vital and active in the world today. We are one body, designed to serve one another and cooperate for the overall health of the same. When we are healthy, we are equipped to serve others in the community and around the world. As we serve, we provide the hope of the Gospel and ministry benefiting all. As a body of believers we have form and function. This form and function is both local and global. Each local church is a part of the global church and is therefore called to work with other churches in the community and around the world. Ministry and service are what I refer to as churching (verb).  

The Local Church

    A recent philosophy of ministry and sociological fashion pattern has developed an environment where attending a local church is like going to a restaurant or club. It seems the consumer driven mentality has taken hold in the “church.” Many church members have directly or inadvertently been taught to “come in” for the “show” and “receive” the “meal.” This tragic mindset seems to focus on entertainment and personality - music, drama, events and a sermon. There is little interaction between members, lack of commitment to the church and it’s ministries, and sadly, a come and go attitude that leaves the leadership team - and other members  - wondering who really belongs and who is just visiting. Some come and go as if trying out a new diet. When something new comes along they feel the need to go check out the menu. Flavors, fragrances, sound, lights, aesthetics, location and comfort seem to be the ticket of the day. This is not the New Testament model.

    As a church, we are called together (to gather) by the Lord. We are instructed to pray together, share with one another, work together, and serve for the benefit of the body and community. As Christians we believe in the message of the Gospel and are therefore committed to serving, sharing, and financing the ministry. We believe the Gospel provides hope to a dying world and are therefore committed to teach, preach, and share the good news. We are called to go, send, and support ministry with an allegiance saints in the past were willing to die for. We are called to be a missionary force. However, today’s “church” seems more like a mission field.

    The average churchgoer shows up on Sunday morning just before the “service” like going to a movie. They sing a song or two, (if they sing at all) sit down, are spoon fed a predigested sermonette, and afterward leave promptly. (Barring any inconvenience in the parking lot.) Only 20% percent of today’s “church members” financially support the church and only a few more serve in some light capacity. This is not the Biblical model.

    As best I can develop, church in the Biblical sense has four basic elements: 1) Worship, 2) Instruction, 3) Fellowship, and 4) Evangelism. When a person comes to know the Lord the first response is worship: the surrender of our lives to the Lord. Then, those “in the Church” are given instruction by the Word of God. (In the early Church this was done in the form of letters - circulated among the assemblies and read aloud to the members.) Thirdly, fellowship with the Lord and those of like mind and faith. Fellowship follows naturally for those in Christ and serves as a form of communication, encouragement and development. (Fellowship also involved breaking bread together. This fellowship occurred in the form of a meal celebrated as a “love feast” or as “communion,” remembering the Lord’s death until he returns.) Finally, evangelism. Outflow is the naturally resulting lifestyle providing hope to a world in desperate need of the Truth. (Note the natural order 1,2,3,4)

    As one matures and is poured out; trials, persecution and rejection demand a return to the gathering for fellowship and instruction - resulting in continued worship. (Note the reverse of order from the above list. 4,3,2,1) The believer then leaves the gathering feeling supported by the Lord, by other believers who are enduring the same trials, and having received encouragement from the teaching of Scripture. The natural outflow is expressed in worship and joy - often expressed in the form of thanksgiving, prayers, music and singing. Teaching was not the primary focus and end in itself. The gathering together with others for encouragement was! Somewhere we have fallen off the pattern and need to make a return. Academics have overtaken the Biblical order. (1,2,3,4,3,2,1)

    According to a recent Barna study, “only 33% of evangelical church ‘members’ in the U.S. believe the church plays an important role in their spiritual development.” Interestingly this statistic is among church “members.” What do we say of the other 67% who just attend church? Barna continues, “It is obvious when reading through the New Testament that God supports and works through the local church.” We are living in the Church Age. It is in, and through, the Church, by the agency of the Holy Spirit, God is working in the world today. Yet, as Barna adds “…only 18% of U.S. Christians embrace the centrality of a local church in a person’s spiritual growth and believe spiritual maturity requires involvement in a church.” “When it comes time (for Christians) to establish their priorities and make a tangible commitment to knowing and loving God, and to allowing Him to change their character and lifestyle, most people stop short.” “It is obvious that most Christians in the U.S. do not see much value in a communal faith experience. Even though the Bible is unambiguous about the importance of experiencing God through a shared faith journey, and Jesus’ example leaves no room for doubt about the significance of involvement in a faith community. Americans remain unconvinced of the necessity of the collective faith experience. This is partially because the typical church model esteems attendance rather than interaction and immersion.”  

What you should do about it.

Here are a few random/practical things you should know about going to church (verb).

    Get invested. Commit to a local church and build relationships with those with whom you worship. Be accountable. If you attend a large church (The average church in America is 90 people.) get into a small group, home Bible study, prayer meeting, Sunday School class, etc. It is in these small group settings you will build relationships and find accountability. (Remember, you are not there for your needs alone…but for others; they need accountability and friendships too!)

    Be involved in some form of ministry. There are ministry opportunities abounding. They range from simple tasks to awesome responsibilities. There is something for everyone. Go on a mission trip or sponsor a child, family, or missionary in some part of the world. Learn how to comfortably and naturally share your faith; then share - naturally. (One plants, another waters…God gives the increase.)

    Financially support the work of the ministry. A good church does it’s best to provide a safe and comfortable place to meet, items needed for the domestic care of the body, teaching materials, financial assistance to the needy, local and global missions work, local outreach, and church staff (pastoral and supportive.) God supernaturally supports the church through you. Every Christian should be financially supportive to the ministry. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

    Pray for your pastor, church staff, leaders and other church members. Every Christian is called to be a man or woman of prayer. This is non-optional.

    All we are and all we do is the business of the Holy Spirit - working in us. Surrender to Him completely and allow Him to accomplish all He desires.

    The Church is the Bride of Christ. We are called together as one body to a marriage with Christ. The Church is the Family of God. We are called together to build up and benefit His family. Go to church (verb) and be the healthy member of the Church (noun) God is building, in Jesus Christ our Lord.

  Blessings to you all, 

Pastor Paul

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August 2006

The Distinction between Israel and the Church

    Over the past three months we have been studying the Church. We have discovered how one becomes a part of it, its function in the world - globally and locally, and our responsibility to follow the Biblical pattern of involvement in and commitment to a local church fellowship. This month I want to examine the distinction between the Church and Israel .

Israel , Gentile Nations and the Church

    In the big picture of the Bible, we discover there are three groups repeatedly referred to. They are, Israel , the Gentile nations, and the Church. Israel is a national people, referred to as the Jews. They are the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Those called Gentiles are all non-Israeli people. The Church (as discussed in the past three lessons), is made up of believers in Christ, both Jew and Gentile. A failure to make the distinction between these three groups has resulted in error and the inability to correctly understand the Bible.

    For example, if a passage of Scripture is speaking to a group of gentiles about a specific time, place, or event, its application may not focus on or apply to either the nation of Israel or the Church. If Jesus is speaking to a group of Jews, the application of event, time, or place may not apply to either the Church or other gentile peoples.

    When reading any piece of literature, it is understood by the average reader that context and audience is critical to the interpretation and understanding of a story line. Innumerable errors in Biblical interpretation have been made by simply failing to see this one distinction.

The Church is made up of both Jew and Gentile.

    The Bible tells us that both Jew and Gentile are invited into a relationship with Jesus Christ. Paul said, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek (Gentile).” (Romans 1:16)  Those who respond to the Gospel and believe are made a unique entity in the world: the Church. Paul put it this way when speaking to a group of Gentiles. “Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh; who are called Uncircumcision (Gentile) by what is called the Circumcision (Jew) made in the flesh by hands; that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.  Now, therefore, you (Gentiles) are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints (Jews) and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone, in whom the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple (the Church) in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:11-22) In Christ we are told, “There is neither Jew nor Greek… for you are all one (Church) in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)

    When a Christian fails to make the distinction things get confusing.

The Law Given to the Jews

    There are no verses in the Bible that indicate the Law of Moses was ever given to the gentile nations. It was given to the Jews, by God, from Mount Sinai after the Children of Israel were delivered from Egypt . The Law became the standard and “schoolmaster” to the Jewish Nation and was administered first by Moses, then Priests, Judges, Prophets, and Kings, et al. Gentiles who desired (by choice) to enter a relationship with God through the law and Nation of Israel were called “proselytes,” and were made subject to the law of Moses. Particular procedures were written in the Mosaic code to make provisions for these people. However, they were not given total equality with, or direct promises relating to, all God intended for the Nation of Israel.

    Having this understanding let me provide an illustration.

When a placard or monument inscribed with the 10 Commandments is removed from a classroom, public property, meeting place or courthouse, many Christians cry, “foul,” “persecution,” or “discrimination.” Their reasoning is based on a misconception and a failure to see the distinction between the Church and Israel . They are viewing the removal of the 10 Commandments as “Christian” censorship. However, the persecution in its fullest and truest form is anti-God and anti-Semitic (anti-Jew), not anti-Christian. Christians who miss this do so because they have failed to see the distinction, and have developed their conclusion as a result of error.

When a Christian fails to see the distinction between Israel and the Church, it shows up in their understanding of the true Gospel, their eschatology (study of the end times), and in their Israelology (a subject often overlooked in most systematic theology texts).

In The Gospel (an Illustration)

A fundamental tell all in “Replacement Theology” is found in the doctrines of salvation. Those groups who teach a gospel of works or integrate the principles and/or practices of the mosaic code have failed to make the distinction and have in fact polluted the truth of the Gospel. For example, if a church or group is required to keep a “Sabbath Day,” to maintain dietary rules, or observe certain feasts et al. to attain righteousness or to remain righteous, the “Gospel” they embrace is polluted by error. (See Colossians 2:14-17) 

In Eschatology – Study of the End Times (an Illustration)

Misunderstandings about the timing of the Rapture, (or failure to recognize it at all), the Tribulation Period, and the Millennial Reign of Christ, prevail among those who miss the distinction as well. As an example, there is no Rapture for the Jew. They are looking for the coming of Messiah at the end of the Tribulation when He makes Himself known to them. The Church knows the Lord today and is prepared to be “caught up to meet the Lord in the air” prior. (1 Thes. 4:17-18) 

In Israelology (an Illustration)

Dave Hunt explains,

    “Israel is the major topic of the Bible, occupying most of its pages. The many prophecies concerning its past, present, and future are vital in understanding God’s Word. Sadly, they are ignored, explained away, or simply rejected by the vast majority of professing Christians, a growing number of whom insist that Israel has been replaced by the Church.” This doctrine is labeled “Replacement Theology.”

The Church has in no way replaced Israel . The many promises God has made to Israel will yet be fulfilled. Were it any other way, God would have broken His promises, violated His word, and failed at righteousness. He himself said, “Thus says the LORD, Who gives the sun for a light by day, the ordinances of the moon and the stars for a light by night, Who disturbs the sea, and its waves roar (The LORD of hosts is His name): If those ordinances depart from before Me, says the LORD, then the seed of Israel shall also cease from being a nation before Me forever." (Jeremiah 31:35-36) In other words, Israel shall not cease being a nation before the Lord as long as the sun, moon, and stars are in the heavens.

There are Similarities between Israel and the Church.  

Space limits a thorough examination; however here is a short list.

Both are chosen people.

Both have been made exceeding great and precious promises.

Both are called God’s “elect.”

Both are called saints.

Both are called to be a “peculiar people.” 

Both are hated and persecuted – some to the point of death.

Both are called to holiness - separated from the world.


However, there are a few distinctions we can name as well.

Israel is promised a country and a city on the earth.

The Church is promised a home in heaven.

Israel will be ruled by Christ upon the earth.

The church will rule Israel and the world as we reign with Him.

Two-thirds of all Jews on earth will be killed under Antichrist.

The church will not be on earth when the Antichrist is in power.

Israel will recognize Christ for the first time at His Second Coming.

The church will arrive with Him from heaven in triumph at His Second Coming.

Final Thoughts

How we view Israel in world affairs affects our understanding of the times. How we see land for peace “deals,” wars and skirmishes, and other prophetic signs, filters our understanding of Israel and the Church today. The developing scenario described in the Bible about the rise of the Antichrist, his kingdom, the final days leading up to Jesus’ return, and ultimately His reign upon the earth are all affected by our understanding of Scriptural distinctions between the Church and Israel .

God has invited all, Jew and Gentile alike, into the Church - through the provisions He made by the shed blood of Christ Jesus the Lord.

May the Lord richly bless you as you continue to study His Word.

Paul D. Van Noy, 

Pastor

Additional reading on replacement theology can be found here!

 

September 2006

Muddy Water

"Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.” (Matthew 7:21)

"And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day." (John 6:40)

Those of you who have followed this series know that I have been writing on the fundamentals of the faith. In the process, we spent several months on the Gospel and on the definitions and involvement of the Church. Still, I feel the need to write a bit more about the Gospel.

Additional Emphasis

Those who recognize their sinful condition and need for a Savior are given the opportunity to receive forgiveness of sins. John wrote, “If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9) The word “confess” here is “Homologeo” and means “to acknowledge” and is in the “present subjunctive active tense.” This references a continuous present action, and speaks as a condition. “Forgive” and “cleanse” are both in the “aorist subjunctive active tense.” This references a simple undefined action as opposed to continuous or repeated action. Thus, those who acknowledge their sinful condition are promised two distinct results: forgiveness of sins and cleansing from all unrighteousness. As we live acknowledging our sinful and needy condition we live forgiven. Jesus illustrated this in the story on the Pharisee and the Publican. He said, “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men; extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector.’ ‘I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:10-14)

John wrote, “My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation (one who makes repairs) for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.” (1 John 2:1-2)

The Righteousness of God – in Him

“For He (God) made Him (Jesus) who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Corinthians 6:21)

The Bible calls the offer of salvation “the Gospel.” It is the “good news” about all God has provided us - in Christ Jesus. Our sinfulness is replaced by His righteousness: our lives in exchange for His. Paul said, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20) “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9) By faith - in Christ, alone!

We are completely forgiven of all sins and made the righteousness of God – in Christ. How righteous? The righteousness of God, by faith alone, in Christ alone!

Complete in Him

“And you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.” (Colossians 2:10)

When Jesus suffered in our place for our sin He forever remedied the problem of sin for those who put their faith in Him. “For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified (set apart unto Him).” (Hebrews 10:14) “…then He adds, "Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more." (Hebrews 10:17)

Our dead and sin-laden lives are exchanged for the life of Christ by the indwelling of the Spirit of God. God transforms our very nature and changes us from within. This is the miracle of the new birth. We are, as the Bible puts it, “born again:” “born from above.”

Some teach that responding to this “good news” involves making every effort to live a life pleasing to the Lord; “working” and “trying” to please God, making good choices, and refusing the impulses of the flesh. Their focus is in human energy. Their fleshly resources are used warring with the devil, battling fleshly habits and resisting the lure of the world - always with little to no success. This path always leads to discouragement. Those who engage in this fleshly effort believe their battle is pleasing to the Lord and He therefore “makes up the difference” for their weakness by an act of His grace. They call this “salvation:” “peace with God.” However, it is far from freedom, provides no peace and is certainly not the true Gospel. I call it muddy water.

As born again Christians we are instructed to surrender our lives to God. As those born again by the Spirit of God, we are made the righteousness of God in Christ. We don’t spend our lives “working” and “trying” to please the Lord. We surrender ourselves to His leadership and rest in His holiness.

As stated earlier, our human effort to “please the Lord” by “trying harder” is opposed to His grace and power working in us. The Christian is called to enter into the “Sabbath Rest” of a relationship with Jesus. We are called to cease all striving to please the Lord and rest in His great love. We are complete in Him. He will shape us, he will lead us. Our only response is surrender.

“For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His.” (Hebrews 4:10)

As we mature in Christ we will be changed. We will grow in His likeness and are promised to arrive in His presence - complete in Him. “Being confident of this very thing, that He which has begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6)

In Christ, we are pleasing to God. We are called to a life of freedom and rest. You are the righteousness of God - in Christ. You are complete - in Him. Therefore, rest in Him, relax in His grace, and let Him change your life.

Shall We Continue in Sin?

“What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?” (Romans 6:1-2)

The intentional practice of sin is the continuation of an un-surrendered life, i.e. rebellion. Surrender implies giving up our resistance to the will of the Lord.

Surrender to God! Salvation is freely offered to all through the grace of God, by faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Surrender to God! Sinful man may be made clean and presented complete and holy in the presence of the Lord. “For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thessalonians 5:9)

Surrender to God! Fellowship with God may be restored and the curse of sin and death totally removed.

Surrender to God! He has provided, by grace through faith - alone, all that man lost. We are blessed to receive eternal life in exchange for the death we deserve.

Jesus has provided Himself an offering for sin.

Surrender to God! Jesus Christ is God. He came to earth as man and suffered the penalty for sin, making it possible for you and I to escape the wrath to come and receive life and forgiveness of sin.

It’s really all about Jesus and His work. It’s not about us, and our human effort to “do good.” As we surrender to God, He lives His life in us and we are transformed from within. It is not about our zeal, not about our willpower, not about our determination. It’s all about surrender.

Our Human Effort Will Only Leave Us Frustrated 

Live a life surrendered to Jesus. Live a life free from the muddy water of human effort and religious traditions. His Grace is perfect and complete. He will do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us. He doesn’t need our help. He asks only for our surrender. Don’t muddy the water with rebellion and resistance. Don’t muddy the water with ritual and fleshly effort. Allow the pure water of the Holy Spirit to work in you!

Blessings to you all,

Pastor Paul

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