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"God's Church" vs. "My Church"

Sunday, October 14, 2018

The phrase “There’s an app for that” has become the ubiquitous expression of my generation. It’s the punch line for every lazy joke. “You want what? Oh, there’s an app for that!” Awkward laughter follows.

 

The phrase was born out of our highly individualized, instant-gratification culture that continues to grow both increasingly digital and decreasingly personal. You can find apps to order your groceries online, to count your calories, to manage your money and every other conceivable and inconceivable practice. In the name of convenience, innovative software engineers have created an app for every occasion.

 

In much the same way, innovative people of faith have created a church for every conceivable (and inconceivable) demographic. Are you looking for fellowship, friendship and a sense of belonging? There’s a church for that! Are you looking for worship that is emotionally stirring and modern? There’s a church for that. Perhaps you’re more ‘old-school’ and want something more traditional. There’s a church for that. You want a relaxed, donuts-and-coffee, come-as-you-are atmosphere? Our culture’s got you covered because there’s a church for that too.

You can church-shop to your heart’s content until you find that perfect blend of all your favorite things. In fact, the church you join says a lot about who you are and what you find important. “My church” to most people is the church that best fits “my needs.” For this reason, churches have made it their business to cater to the desires of their community. Their style of worship, structure of service and focus of ministry is all reflective of what their membership wants.

 

But is this how we ought to think about local congregations? The apostle Paul once said, “Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.” (Gal. 1:10) His greatest concern was not to please his neighbor but rather to please God.

 

This attitude of seeking God’s pleasure should inform every decision a person who wears the name of Christ makes (Phil. 2:13; Col. 1:10; 1 Thess. 4:1ff; Heb. 13:16) including his search for a congregation. One who loves God will search for “God’s Church” not “my church.”

 

Do you want to please God above all else? Do you want to worship God in the way He desires to be worshiped? Do you want to follow His will in everything you do? Well, there’s a church for that. It is the church that Jesus built (Mt. 16:18) and it still exists today. There are little pockets of His church scattered all around the world.

 

They might not meet in an impressive building or have a polished speaker or the most entertaining worship production. They may not have the largest budget or the biggest membership. They may not be the church you were raised in. They may not be the church all your friends are a part of. But they are the only church that belongs to God (Acts 20:28).

 

At Danville, we are striving to be the church you can read about in the Bible. We are far from perfect but believe God is perfecting us as we follow King Jesus and His perfect word as our only authority (Phil. 1:6).

 

(adapted from Grady Huggins’ “God’s Church vs. My Church”)

The Problem of Death

Sunday, October 07, 2018

“I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

(John 11:25)

 

There is a story about the Buddha encountering a woman whose infant son had died. She continued to carry her baby’s lifeless body around with her because she could not bear to let him go. She went to the Buddha seeking consolation concerning the problem of her grief. The Buddha said, “Go to every household in the village & ask each family whether or not they have lost someone to death. When you have done this, return to me.” The woman did this & returned to the Buddha. The Buddha asked, “Did you encounter anyone who has not suffered the pain of death?” The woman answered, “No” and finally gave her baby’s corpse up for burial.

Compare that to the story of Jesus encountering the death of Lazarus in John chapter 11. In John 11, Jesus hears of his friend’s sickness in Bethany but deliberately waits two days to travel there saying “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” (v.4) Jesus knew his friend had died but described his death only as “sleep” from which He could awaken him (v.11). His purpose in resurrecting Lazarus was to cause faith in His disciples (v.15).

Jesus arrived at Bethany to find a common funeral scene, grieving family members and a sealed tomb. Death, the enemy of God’s creation, had claimed yet another victim. Jesus had had enough. He commanded the stone be taken away and commanded Lazarus to “come out” of the tomb and the prison of death (v.43) and he did!

 

Compare the story of the Buddha with Jesus in John 11. The difference is titanic. One says to accept suffering and death as facts of life and to make our peace with them. Jesus, disgusted with death, says that He is the resurrection and the life and that we can overcome death through Him.

 

Death is an unnatural, evil thing. God created us in His image to live, not to die. Death was the result of the twisting of God’s good creation caused by sin (Gen. 3-5). Death is not a release, it is a prison, an enemy. Though the Preacher says that death is the great equalizer in this world broken by sin (Ecc. 9:1ff) the psalmist remarks, “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints” because in death, God can begin to gather His redeemed creation back to Himself (Psa. 116:15; 2 Tim. 4:6-8).

 

Jesus is the great conqueror of death. He experienced it with us and for us, was in fact killed by us (our sins) on the cross, but overcame death by the power of the resurrection. Jesus lifted the curse from Gen. 3 by taking it upon Himself so we could live (2 Cor. 5:21; Gal. 3:13; 1 Pet. 3:18). Even His mock crown represented the curse of sin (Jn. 19:2). But now, being raised from the dead, Jesus says to suffering Christians, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.” (Rev. 1:17-18)

 

The Bible teaches that suffering has meaning and eventually God will make all things right in the last act of the play. God created a good world that was corrupted by sin and death but God, through Jesus, is undoing the curse and redeeming this lost and broken world back to Himself. And Jesus is the answer to our suffering and our death.

My Friend

Sunday, September 30, 2018

“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.”

(John 15:13-15)

 

According to divine Wisdom, a “friend” is someone who loves you at all times (Prov. 17:17), gives good advice (27:9-10), sticks close by you (18:24), helps you when you are down (Ecc. 4:9-10), provides for you physically and emotionally (Ecc. 4:11), fights to protect you (Ecc. 4:12), even lays down his life for you (Jn. 15:13-15).

 

Sometimes a friend has to be tough and tell you what you need to hear and not what you want to hear (Prov. 27:5-6; cf. 2 Sam. 12) but he is always kind (Job 6:14). A friend is someone who earns your trust by his loyalty (1 Sam. 20; cf. Acts 9:26-27) and helps you become the best person you can be (Prov. 27:17).

 

Do you have anyone like this in your life? Of course, if you are a child of God you already have THE best friend. Jesus showed Himself to be a friend to sinners (Lk. 7:34) by loving us enough to help us come back to God. But perhaps the more important question is, are you a friend to those around you? In fact, we prove our friendship with Jesus when we do what He commands us (Jn. 13:14) which is to love our neighbor as ourselves. We prove our friendship with others by loving them enough to share the gospel with them.

 

Consider the following poem and ask if you have been a true friend.

 

I stand in judgment now,

  And feel that you’re to blame somehow.

On earth I walked with you day by day,

  And never did you point the way.

You knew the Lord in truth and glory,

  But never did you tell the story.

My knowledge then was very dim,

  You could have led me to Him.

Though we lived together on the earth,

  You never told me of the second birth.

And now I stand this day condemned,

  Because you failed to mention Him.

 

You taught me many things, that’s true,

  I called you “friend” and trusted you.

But now I learn, when it’s too late,

  You could have kept me from this fate.

We walked by day and talked by night,

  And yet you showed me not the Light.

You let me live and love and die,

  You knew I’d never live on high.

Yes, I called you “friend” in life,

  And trusted you through joy and strife.

And yet on coming to this end,

  I cannot now call you “friend.”

 

  (signed) Your Friend

A Matter Of Life & Death

Sunday, September 23, 2018

“Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.”

(1 Timothy 4:16)

 

A man was once traveling by himself on an important errand. His journey took him high up into the mountains where it began to snow. The snowfall turned into a blizzard impeding the man’s progress. Still, he faithfully trudged on through the ever-deepening blanket of snow to reach his goal.

 

He grew colder and weaker as the sun set and when evening finally came he started to lose his balance. He first lost feeling in his feet and hands, then his legs and arms. “This is the end,” the man said to himself. “I’m going to die here on the side of this mountain all alone.” He stubbornly refused to give into the cold but his body just could not go on. He fell head first into the snow.

 

But in falling, his hand struck something – someone! Before him lay the prostrate form of a dying man, a traveler like himself lost in the blizzard. Suddenly, the first man revived and got to his knees and began to rub the dying man’s hands and face. Eventually, the unconscious man came to.

 

In seeing another’s need the first man regained his strength. The interest in another’s wellbeing helped the first man regain his focus. In saving another’s life the first man had saved his own. The exercise of salvation kept his own body from dying and both men survived the night.

 

Are you a Christian who is freezing to death spiritually? In the act of saving another you could be saving yourself. The seed of the gospel within our hearts is meant to produce fruit. “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and whoever captures souls is wise.” (Prov. 11:30) If we are not producing any fruit what are we good for? (cf. Mt. 5:13) Jesus says we will be “thrown away like a branch” to wither and burn. (Jn. 15:6)

 

Individual Christians and whole congregations are freezing to death when they fail in their primary mission to seek and save the lost. Their faith withers and the gospel proves unfruitful in them resulting in the loss of their own soul’s salvation. Evangelism is not optional. It is a matter of spiritual life and death.

 

God invests in us with the gospel. He grants us eternal life and expects a spiritual return on His investment. Jesus illustrates this in the parable of the talents (Mt. 25:14-30). God does not expect us to do anything more than what He has given us the ability to do. But we will be held responsible for doing everything we can. Keep these truths in mind:

  • You are responsible for living & sharing the gospel – (1 Cor. 3:4-5)
  • You already know enough to share the gospel – (1 Pet. 3:15)
  • You are not overburdened by this responsibility – (Mt. 25)
  • You are not responsible for how the gospel is received – (Ezek. 3:17-21)
  • You have no reason to be afraid of men – (Rom. 8:31-39; Mt. 10:26ff)
  • You have everything to lose by refusing to share the gospel – (Mt. 25)
  • You (& others) have everything to gain by sharing the gospel – (Mt. 25)

God saves lost souls when Christians share the gospel; both those who are sharing it and those with whom it is being shared!

A Letter To The Brethren

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Dear brethren,

 

Over the past several weeks we have been challenged by the teachings of the gospel to work hard for our Lord. Our King commissioned us, His royal priesthood (1 Pet. 2:9) and kingdom citizens (Phil. 3:20), to carry out the greatest work we will ever be engaged in – the salvation of lost souls (Mt. 28:18-20). When He returns He desires to find His people awake, engaged and laboring faithfully in His name (Mt. 25). We are saved to save, served to serve, won to win and taught to teach. Please consider these thoughts over the coming weeks:

 

SOME WILL REFUSE TO WORK

We all understand the tremendous need for our neighbors to hear the good news of the kingdom. Sadly, there are only a few who will actually carry the gospel to their neighbors. Jesus said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” (Lk. 10:2) Most people will seek to justify their complacent attitude and choose not to engage in this work. They will convince themselves that this work is for someone else, anyone else, other than themselves. They will suffer the consequences for their error if they do not repent (Mt. 25:29-30). But please, brethren, do not allow the faithlessness of others to discourage you from following the Lord into the fields of service. Choose to be an example of faith.

THE VALUE OF ONE SOUL

 

The global population is almost up to 7.5 billion. The US population alone was over 325 million last year. A very small fraction have put their faith in the Lord. That is 325,000,000 souls that need to hear the gospel! Over 151,000 people die each day. Over 6,000 people die each hour. Over 100 people die each minute. More than 1 person dies every second. Tragically,  most people are not prepared to meet their God in death. Brethren, we cannot afford to sit idly by and call ourselves Christians while not sharing the gospel with our neighbors and friends.

 

We must have compassion on these precious souls. Consider the value of just one soul to the Lord: “Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” (Lk. 15:7) In some places, there is more joy over one new church building than ninety souls that repent. This is because the faith of some does not extend beyond the walls of their church building. Christianity, to some, consists of a few hours per week. Brethren, let us not forget the value of the human soul to God, “… the precious blood of Christ...” (1 Pet. 1:18-19)

 

JESUS SAID “GO”

 

Jesus commanded His disciples to “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation,” (Mk. 16:15) but most have not even gone next door. Some Christians go their entire life never bringing another soul to Christ. This is inexcusable. Look around you! Surely, there is one person, a neighbor, a friend, a coworker, a loved one whom you can share the gift of eternal life with. Inviting your neighbors to the public worship assembly is good but we cannot substitute “Come” for “Go”. Jesus commanded us to intentionally “go” and follow His example to “seek and save the lost.” (Lk. 19:10)

 

CHRIST IS WITH YOU

 

Jesus commissioned His disciples to go and make disciples, “baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Mt. 28:19-20) Sometimes we forget that last bit. Jesus promised that if we are busy carrying our His work, He will be with us “always, to the end of the age.”

 

God says you and I are the right people for the job of saving souls (Mt. 28:19-20; Acts 2:41-42; 8:1, 4). God has thoroughly equipped us and made us adequate for this task (2 Tim. 3:16-17; Eph. 2:10; 2 Cor. 3:4-6). God knows our limitations but can still work mightily within us (Eph. 3:20; Col. 1:29). God’s word will accomplish its purpose (Lk. 8:11-15; Isa. 55:10-11), we just have to share it.

 

STAY FOCUSED

 

I don’t know about you but the news that the Brongers, the Smiths and the Currys will be moving shook me pretty hard. Their contribution to the spiritual health and growth of this congregation cannot be overstated. But when we stop and think about the reasons for their moving we should rejoice. They will be encouraging and helping other Christians grow and making new disciples where they are headed. When God’s blessing spreads to others we should be joyful. (Phil. 4:4-9)

 

More than that, their absence will provide new opportunities for other members to step up and serve in their place. This is already happening! We should rejoice in Julian Skinner taking hold of eternal salvation in Christ. We should praise God for the appointment of Nick Petre as a deacon to serve this church. We should be encouraged by Todd Hall’s willingness to serve as an elder. Space and time does not permit the many others at Danville who are growing and maturing in so many different and wonderful ways. God has the power to take any situation and cause it to work out for His glory and our ultimate good if we have faith in Him. (Rom. 8:28) Let us stay focused on our mission to seek and save the lost!

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