Category: church life

Is Matt Chandler A Believer?

[1]

One of the dynamics that seemingly operates among those in the New Calvinist (and many Calvinists) ideological camp is a questioning of one’s salvation experience —  Are you actually a Christian, a believer in the person and work of Jesus for your forgiveness of sin, if you are not living that out consistently in your life?

Much more could be said about that dynamic.  Nevertheless, it is interesting that this dynamic is not in play when it comes to the pastors and teachers of the Scripture who experience significant moral failures in the ministry! I only need to cite one of the most immediate examples, Matt Chandler. [2] There are others who illustrate this dynamic and about whom could be asked the same question. 

Why is no one asking (and no one is!), including Chandler himself, whether he was a Christian, a genuine believer, all the years of his pulpit ministry?  Shouldn’t that question be asked?  Should he publicly confess his new faith in Christ through the waters of baptism now that he has “repented” from such sinful practices — a sinful pattern that lasted for an extended period of time? 

While preaching to others the truths found in the Scriptures, he himself was sinfully hypocritical and found to be so by those closest to the situation within his local church. That ought to be sufficient reason alone for those who hold to this theological-ideology to call on Chandler to declare that he was not a believer and has since come to Christ as Saviour!

Yes, it is an interesting dynamic within the New Calvinists camp! Calling into question one’s salvation and/or shaking one’s faith in Christ doesn’t seem to operate when it comes to some of the most primary fallen preachers within the movement!  They themselves neither claim lostness, nor do other leaders within the ideological movement call out those who, like Chandler, occupy the pulpits while living a duplicitous sinful life

In contrast, there seems to be little hesitation when it comes to those sitting in the pew, struggling with real-life issues of Christlikeness as they navigate their lives outside of the local church employment.

Is Matt Chandler A Believer In The Person & Work Of Christ? 

I have no doubt that he is, but not based on what some pastors are teaching from the pulpits of their local churches! [1]

^


  1. “Humble Calvinism” — A Good Read!

    “We Calvinist leave behind a trail of destruction in our churches and families and friendships . . . .
    . . . We Calvinist might be the ones who don’t ‘get it’ yet.”

     

  2. https://julieroys.com/matt-chandler-steps-down-after-admitting-inappropriate-online-relationship/
  3. The same question could be asked of Robert Louis Dabney, an undeniably ardent racist yet a theological luminary.*  His writings may be some of the most cited works by men like John Piper, John Mac Arthur, et al.  Should we be citing the works of “lost men” like Dabney? 

*
Visionary???
Really!! 
He never repented in the slightest of his ardent racism!

Are Angels Friends With Other Angels?

God gave us things to use and people to love, and we use people and love things! 

I am not sure where I first heard that or perhaps something like that.  Nevertheless, I was reminded of it when I was reading C. S. Lewis’ book — “The Four Loves.” 

Lewis was speaking about “Friendship.”

Friendship . . . . love, free from instinct, free from all duties but those which love has freely assumed, almost wholly free from jealousy, and free without qualification from the need to be needed, is eminently spiritual. It is the sort of love one can imagine between angels.

A friendship between angels is a unique thought that I have never considered.  If they bear the image of their maker, do they have personal, relational, and/or social interactions like mankind?  And as Lewis states, free from all the sinful aspects that may mark our friendships.

If the truth were known, earthly friendships are, more often than not, as Lewis suggests, un-spiritual.  They are marked by instinct, duty, jealousy, and subject to qualification.  When Lewis uses the word “instinct,” he is making a comparison with the animal world, where it is just part of natural-born impulse.  It is not willful, but natural human instinct. 

Why does the friendship between Jonathan and David stand out in such spiritually BOLD TYPE?  The friendship was not instinctive, not born of jealousy, and subject to no qualifications.

May I suggest that one of the reasons that the local church has fallen on hard days was initially due to Covid.  It was a REAGENT!  

A reagent is a substance that is added to another substance that is being tested.  The reagent is looking to trigger a reaction.  That reaction reveals something about the substance being tested.  A reagent is aimed at producing a reaction, usually visualized by a change in color on a test strip.  Reagents are used to determine blood glucose, ketones, pregnancy, chlorine, and now the well-known COVID-19.

COVID-19 was a crisis that produced a reaction
suddenly visible by a wide swath of God’s people 
in the local church setting.

Most other times, the lack of sincere concern for God’s people happens periodically and intermittently.  It is seen and realized by a family here and an individual there —  a teenager today and a young adult tomorrow — a new member now and a longtime servant years later. 

It is typically seen in dribbles and drabs over time.

It is seen when . . . . 

  • a pastor never even calls to check on how one is doing after a serious situation
  • no deacon, or only one or two, call to say that they are concerned and praying
  • a text replaces a call or visit
  • a pastor talks about the importance of prayer but never even calls to personally pray with someone in need
  • a pastor or staff member evades the trip to the hospital that is rather far away
  • a family member dies, and no-one-to-few from the church even makes a personal call or visit
  • past years of service mean little to nothing to those who once claimed that they cared and appreciated all that you do
  • “our prayers and thoughts are with you” fails to translate into some personal concern and care
  • those who called us brothers and sisters in Christ, or “friends,” now no longer care because we no longer have anything to bring to the table.
  • a senior pastor time and time again passes off the responsibility of personally visiting a member or friend of the church to other members of the staff [1]
  • few-to-none make it to the funeral home and/or stay for the memorial service

While selfishness is seen in small dribs and drabs — over time — unlike Covid — that self-serving spirit pervades the atmosphere, and the smell is recognized. 

The church is in for some hard days ahead, as well as some hard-to-face realities because there is a new and stark sensitivity to how un-spiritual friendships can become within the body of Christ. 

Lewis goes on to say . . . .

And it is no doubt easy enough to love the fellow-creature less and to imagine that this is happening because we are learning to love God more, when the real reason may be quite different. . . . Those like myself whose imagination far exceeds their obedience are subject to a just penalty; we easily imagine conditions far higher than any we have really reached. If we describe what we have imagined we may make others, and make ourselves, believe that we have really been there.

One Reason You May Be Speaking Past Your Audience — Maybe It’s Near The Top?

Taking into account to whom you are speaking is basic to all communication. You do not speak or preach to children, teens, young people, adults, women, men, and/or seasoned saints the same way. In several ways, they are different audiences — intellectually, emotionally, in life experiences, and in their spiritual growth.

There is a brand of preaching that disregards that broad span of Christian spiritual growth. Most every speaker-preacher-teacher would quickly acknowledge that his audience includes those who may not even profess Christ, or who are new believers in Christ, or who have walked with Christ for a number of years, as well as those who are mature believers.

However, their preaching falls far short of that reality, not in content but in prospects or expectations. It is not that what is being said cannot be understood by most all the listeners. Rather, it is that their spiritual maturity — or lack of it as new believers — gives them different ears. Being told that they need to be where others are, or where the preacher believes mature believers ought to be, (or where the preacher “humbly states or implies” that he is), can easily lead to great discouragement!

One could preach about the faith of Abraham in the offering of Issac, Daniel in the lion’s den, Shadrack, Meshach, & Abednego in the fiery furnace, Samson in the final day of his life, Peter’s boldness to speak the Gospel in the book of Acts, Joseph’s response to his brother’s presence, et al. However, all of them had many chapters of life that preceded any one of those great events.

They give the impression that “this” is where one who names the name of Christ needs to be NOW. The implication is that there is no real-life progression. In fact, even more extreme tendencies imply that one may not even be truly saved if they are not there in their Christian walk.

There is little difficulty in calling up a response of struggle, difficulty, and/or failure. Any preacher knows that he can preach a message on prayer and easily challenge everyone in attendance (and if honest, it includes himself).

  • There are areas of Christian life and living that all believers generally struggle with. 
  • There are areas of Christian life and living that some do, and some do not struggle with — some find sharing the Gospel with others easy, and others fail and fail at it!
  • There are areas of the Christian life that some struggle with early in their Christian lives, and others later in their lives.
  • There are areas that come with age, circumstances, finances, marriage, child-rearing, old age, etc. . . . . .

Often, I would say this . . . . 

“The question is not — “Are we where we should be?” or “Are we where this passage presents?” Rather, can we be “more” or “better” in this? It is not “we are” or “we are not,” but can we be more than we are?

Do we fail, over and over, when it comes to temptation? The truth is that most of us cannot even resist that brownie; how will we ever claim consistent victory on this side of glory? But we can continually confess and repent and go at it again — and again — and again!

You preach differently when you genuinely take into account the spiritual span of those listening, the wide variety of people who are seeking to live for Christ in real life and living. God’s people are encouraged to continue the battle. There is hope (and there is – ask Peter) for those who stay in that battle. 

When God’s people are told (over and over and over) that they are not where they should be, they are dispirited! The preacher-teacher confuses and stifles them because he fails to take into account that they are babes, or still children in Christ, or young men — but are not old men in the faith (I John 2).

Let me also say that there are some preachers-teachers, not all, but far more than we would like to admit, who need to get out of their ivory tower and/or lay aside their own disingenuous self-confidence. Such ministries are marked by dispirited and disheartened people who may have concluded that they never will reach this-or-that measure! They are not done a disservice at best, and great damage at worse. When God’s people could be striving and pursuing, they have lost all heart. They are not even sure they are saved.

Some will find a different ministry that again speaks to their heart’s desires. They may not be able to pinpoint the difference, but they know their hope of living for Christ in this world has been renewed.  They will re-enlist and get back on the road with newfound excitement.

Sadly, some will just drop out of church, never to return. Not only because of them but also because of a pastor who made it hard to live for Christ! They put burdens on mens’ spiritual shoulders. They could never reach the standard held out as a here-and-now absolute rather than our aspiration. Like some fathers who have provoked their children and discouraged them! They do it with God’s children, over who they claim to be shepherds.

No, like in families, there is a shared responsibility between both children and fathers, between pastors and people, when we dishearten! 

 

Alistair Begg Probably Has It Right . . . . But

With my love in the Lord Jesus,
Alistair Begg

^

A great short read by Alistair Begg, and he probably has it right.  Notwithstanding, his sermons on the Sabbath and this post probably aren’t changing the practices of most believers, pastors, or churches.

Why?

Perhaps because we are not as spiritually malleable as we think and say we are!

As a matter of fact, many churches have canceled the evening service,  with the “shepherd’s approval,”  if not instigation!   The Lord’s Day now becomes “Our Day” around noon!   And then some pastors decry what is happening in our culture and society — shamelessly!

 
 

1. From Begg’s Sermon . . . 

Now, we can highlight this in a number of ways. Let me do so by quoting from the Civil War. I think it’s the Civil War, isn’t it? Stonewall Jackson? General Jackson is a legend in American history. Any of you who have read of Jackson will know that he was a man of extreme principle and character. At the very heart of this was his conviction of faith in Jesus Christ. And his extreme rigorous character attached itself also to the observance of the Sabbath. And writing in his biography, his widow says,

And writing in his  biography, his widow says,

Certainly he was not less scrupulous in obeying the divine command to “remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy” than he was in any other rule of his life. Since the Creator had set apart this day for his own, and commanded it to be kept holy, he believed that it was … wrong for him to desecrate it by worldly pleasure, idleness, or secular employment, as to break any other commandment of the decalogue. Sunday was his busiest day of the week, as he always attended church twice a day and taught in two Sabbath schools! He refrained as much as possible from all worldly conversation, and in his family, if secular topics were introduced, he would say, with a kindly smile, “We will talk about that to-morrow.”

He never travelled on Sunday, never took his mail from the post-office, nor permitted a letter of his own to travel on that day, always before posting it calculating the time it required to reach its destination ….

One so strict in his own Sabbath observance naturally believed that it was wrong for the government to carry the [mail] on Sunday. Any organization which exacted secular labor of its employees on the Lord’s day was, in his opinion, a violator of God’s law.[2]

And so his life was marked by a rigorous obedience to the law of God.

Now, loved ones, here’s the question: Is this quote from Jackson an anachronism? In other words, if Jackson was right, where does that leave us? ’Cause if we’re right, most of us, he was wrong. But one thing is for sure: we’re not both right. So we need to go to our Bibles, then, and determine who approximates to the instruction of God’s Word closely. Is it us, in our libertine rejection of the Lord’s Day, or is it Jackson, in his rigorous obedience of it?

“Desiring God” — It Is Getting Bizarre!

Here is the link to the article, put out by “Desiring God,”  one of the ministries of John Piper. Read it yourself if you have doubts about how bizarre this is becoming!

LINK: O Beard, Where Art Thou — August 22, 2022

 #1 – Saying it, but not saying it: That is the way these kinds of articles protect themselves from legitimate criticism.  They are really saying it, but they make sure they include caveats that they can then point to in order to argue that they are not saying it — “Look, I said in the article that . . . . ”

Make no mistake; the article is making a point and saying it while denying that they are saying it.  No, growing a beard is not God’s will for all men, but it is the way God created men, in contrast to being a child, or a woman . . . .

“Why did God make men with the capacity to grow beards? Why grow beards at all, or why not give them to children and women. . . .”

I’m not saying that beards are God’s plan for all men, some men have difficulty growing a beard, but God did put it into your created DNA . . . .

“He shaded the man’s face with his pencil from the very beginning.”

“What ecstasy of Adam observing the beautiful and smooth face of Eve.”

I’m not saying you have to don a beard — but look at all these Bible verses (for whatever reason?) I have cited! [1]

^

#2 – Lost Credibility: Regardless of the fact that the Scriptures nowhere (nada — zippo — zilch — zero)  makes any argument for or against facial hair, such “theological scholars” will find verses in the Bible that address that issue for an application today.

There is no doubt that there were ways to shame men by shaving their beards, stripping them naked, mocking them publicly, or pointing out one’s inconsistencies. [1].

Nevertheless, to call up various biblical references about facial hair and then seek to apply it to God’s people today is ludicrous — at best!  At worse, it reveals one’s ability to make the Bible stay whatever you want it to say.  Such articles only bear witness to how easily they can contort the Scriptures!

^

#3 – Shameless Motivation:  The motivation of such an article is clearly stated by the author . . . . .

That makes literal beards, in my opinion, worth having. Beards protest against a world gone mad. In other words, beards beard. They testify, in their own bristly way, that sex distinctions matter, that manhood will not be so easily shaven, shorn, or chopped by the Hanuns of this world. Its itchy and cheeky voice bears witness, “Male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27). [3]

This is an attempt to use the Bible . . . .

  • to provide a “biblical” and useful line of argument [4]
  • to encourage the use of facial hair as a means of protest in our world [5]
  • to be scripturally, AND politically and culturally relevant [6]
  • to counter the political and cultural trends of today [7]

^



^

1. Per the citing of the movie “Braveheart,” he had no beard, but he did have very long hair!  Even though the author states that “Rome’s men were clean-shaven in biblical times,” in the movie “Gladiator,” as cited, he has a very short and sleek, styled shadow beard.

Also, I have never seen a picture of a bearded John Piper.

Also, in the ’60s, a beard was considered “nada” for God’s people.

Yes, this is how twisted it gets in reformed circles!

2. Paul even publicly shamed some of God’s people for their biblical ignorance, hypocrisy, or inconsistency — I Corinthians 6:5; 15:34; II Thessalonians 3:14-15

3. Again, I’m not saying you should don a beard, but hey, if you want to stand and protest in support of God’s design, you should think about this, but don’t misunderstand me since I did say that you don’t have to be bearded to be biblical.

4. This “biblical” reasoning will be repeated and repeated “to say, but not say.”  Whatever the issue, this handling of the Scriptures, and this duplicitious approach is being taught by example to ministry leaders and pastors across the reformed spectrum!

5. Rather sad, isn’t it?  That is how we counter our culture — “by this shall all men now that you are my disciples?”

6. It is all part of the distorted view about the “sufficiency of Scripture.”  You see, the Bible even addresses facial hair and cultural protest.

7.  As stated, these kinds of articles are part of today’s evangelical church life, which desires to weigh in on just about any and all political, cultural, economic (i.e. student debt forgiveness), or sociological issues on the front pages.

^

P.S.   This “I’m not saying, while saying it”  is how the argument is made on other issues that are just as questionable, such as eternal security.  Caveats are included to protect, not to clarify.  In fact, they fog the issues by saying what they really believe and then adding that they are not saying what they just said.

3 Indicators Of “Church Stall”

In the field of aerodynamics, an airplane “stalls” when it can no longer produce lift. It has nothing to do with the engines but with the wings. The engine or jets can exert full power, but the wings are no longer properly cutting the air and producing lift. In fact, in commercial airlines, an alarm goes off when a stall takes place or is about to take place. [1]

You see a stall take place at an air show when a small aircraft begins to pull up in a sharp climb, and at a point, it begins wobbling in that upright position. The air is no longer breaking across the wings properly. It begins to fall out of the sky like a rock. No aerodynamic lift is exerted on its wings. Now, the pilot’s job is to regain lift by navigating the airplane into a position, so the wings cut through the air at a forward “angle of attack” and again produce lift on the wings.

When I took flight lessons, one of the most important parts of the training was understanding “lift.” Flight instructors would purposefully put the plane into a stall, and your job was to regain lift. Actually, most all flight instructors put the airplane into a moderate stall because of the dangers that a serious stall poses, especially when you lack the altitude needed to recover from a serious stall. Instructors have died at the hands of student pilots who made the test stall worse because the flight instructor lacked the time and altitude needed to recover.

Churches stall as well. They lose lift and begin wobbling. The leader’s job is to regain lift by navigating the ministry in such a way that it doesn’t crash. 

Many do crash and have crashed in the last two years. The crashes do look very different at times. Sometimes the “passengers” survive the crash and seek a new pastor. Other times, the church closes or merges under another “pilot.” Sometimes the pastor learns quickly and is able to do an emergency landing, all to fly another “day.” Far too often, the “pilot ” walks away from a crash unharmed and begins piloting yet another aircraft. It wasn’t his fault. It was the “craft,” the “crew,” or the “passengers.”

Many churches experience an “aerodynamic stall” over time! It is part of learning and the immense time “in the air.” It is just part of reality, and pastors ought to be taught what to look for when it is about to happen or happens.

^

 There are “alarms” that will go off.^

#1 – Interest Wains: There are ways, legitimate and creative ways, to build and grow a church ministry ( no less a school in today’s culture, but that’s another issue). The proof is found in the local churches around an area that are doing it. 

The handful of mega-churches across America is not the issue or concern. But the many area churches that are experiencing growth are! When interest in visiting, attending, faithfully attending or joining a local church ministry wains, an alarm ought to go off. 

Sporadic attendance is also part of the lack of interest. If members and friends of the church are not consistent, why? Why have those who are “connected” lost interest, commitment, or appreciation?

Attendance and giving are legitimate independent indicators of where a church is in flight. Both are legitimate indicators of care and concern of a ministry! Pointing to one over the other is a way to ignore the alarm that is sounding.  

Unfortunately, most also realize that a meaningful drop in “giving” will be the loudest alarm alert given due attention. 

^

#2 – Reality Is Ignored Or ^Denied: “How did they not see what was happening?” Probably, you have heard that said or said it yourself. It was obvious what was happening, and no steps were taken to address it. 

  • Attendance dropping, or 
  • Finances getting tighter, or
  • People leaving, or
  • Weak Gospel outreach, or
  • Few visitors, or
  • Fewer new members, or
  • Long-time supporters left, or
  • More difficult to find lay help, or
  • Sporadic attendance, or
  • Lost “excitement” about our church, or
  • Any number of the above . . . . 

I understand the language that accompanies the disregard of the alarm — “We are growing deeper, not greater.” One might argue that deeper and greater work hand in hand. Depth should also result in breadth.

The language of failure is invoked and used to explain or divert what is actually taking place. This may be the first alarm that goes off when what is happening is avoided or denied. “We are not interested in numbers but faithful followers!” “We want to see disciples made, not just people who attend church on Sunday” — as if it is “either-or.”

The wording changes to divert attention away from what is actually happening.

^

#3 – The Cost Of Staffing Overrides The Budget: You may have heard it said this way . . . . “We are too heavy on administrative costs.” The organization is top-heavy. A high percentage of the income covers salary, benefits, and supporting staff. What is a “high percentage” or “top-heavy?” 

You may find out the answer to that question when the “overhead” costs begin to weaken ministry, when money gets tight, and the ministry struggles to do what it was called to do. 

An alarm ought to go off when you total the cost of salaries, support staff, and various elements of compensation far exceed the total of all other monies used to minister to and through God’s people and the programs in which they serve. 

^

Churches do stall, and some crash because they lack the altitude needed to recover.

There is a reason that long-term Sr. Pastors are able to avoid a fatal crash. It is not that they don’t find themselves in any “stalls.” Rather, they don’t ignore the alarms.  They adjust and are able to navigate back into forward flight. 

Those who have been in the position of Lead Pastor for only several years, and ignore the alarms that accompany a “stall,” are likely to walk away from a crash, leaving the passengers to deal with the wreckage — an unfinished building program, financial troubles, hurt and damaged believers, a failing school, a bloated staff, struggling ministry programs, fewer members, low morale, poorly supported missionaries, dwindling bank accounts, etc. 

Yet others will continue to stay seated in the cockpit while the alarms sound, offering a very bumpy ride and maneuvering to stay aloft.

There is a “reality stall wall” that a church will hit when the alarms are ignored. When the alarm can’t be ignored or denied any longer, then, suddenly, everyone sees what has been happening and may even profess having had prophetic ability — “I saw what was happening and I should have said something.”

C.S. Lewis

^



1. https://simpleflying.com/aircraft-stalls/

Perseverance of the Saints

There is a broad spectrum of beliefs and positions when we talk about “Calvinism.”

While few, if any, would ever accept the label of being a “hyper-Calvinist,” such a category exists!  There are those who are theological-ideologues and are on the EXTREME edges of Calvinism.

Typically the “extremes” revolve around the “L” and the “P” of “T-U-L-I-P” — “Limited Atonement” and (more damagingly) “The Perseverance of the Saints.”

The damage is caused by a fogging of the biblical truth that one is secure in Jesus.  That fog is the result of stating that one cannot lose their salvation, that they are secure, and then implying that one can lose their salvation.

The damage is that God’s people are continually shaken in their confidence that the Lord saves and keeps them!

Here is an example of just that, from one of the most prolific writers of our day, and an extreme Calvinist.

“It follows from what was just said that the people of God WILL persevere to the end and not be lost. The foreknown are predestined, the predestined are called, the called are justified, and the justified are glorified. No one is lost from this group. To belong to this people is to be eternally secure.”

That statement is followed by this . . . .

“Our faith must endure to the end if we are to be saved. . . . Nevertheless, we must also own up to the fact that our final salvation is made contingent upon the subsequent obedience which comes from faith.”

(If you want to read these statements in their full context,
here is the link to the total statement of faith.)

How does put together “eternally secure” and the words “if” and “contingent?

(If you read the whole statement of faith,
you will see that fog & tension throughout!)

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones does a masterful job of revealing the extreme nature of this Calvinistic position and, as he states, the ridiculous nature of such a position!

Here is an audio clip taken from Lloyd-Jones’ message on eternal security.

AUDIO CLIP

As Lloyd-Jones indicates . . . .

“The main purpose of salvation is the glory of God, the vindication of His glory, and the sovereignty of the character of God. This ultimate purpose, says Dr. Lloyd-Jones, changes everything, namely the assurance of the outcome of God’s glory. Moreover, there are opportunities for pride as those who deny the final perseverance of the saints are forced to deny that it is ultimately God who causes endurance until the end, and instead must affirm that there is some quality inside those who are received into glory that is different from those who fall away.”

“The glory would have to go to you for holding on!”

It is to our glory if holding onto our salvation is up to us!



Link To Lloyd-Jones’ Full Message

External Link To Lloyd-Jones Full Message

https://jameslau88.com/2020/05/10/the-doctrine-of-being-saved-eternally-by-martyn-lloyd-jones/

♦♦♦♦♦

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones on Eternal Security . . . .

“If this doctrine (Eternal Security) isn’t true, well then if you ever find yourself in glory, the glory will have to go to you for holding on.

The position would be this — that you like a number of other people, have been given the same gift of salvation and eternal life — They foolish didn’t hold on it, but that you did.  And therefore the glory goes to you for holding on.

But that’s a blank contradiction of the teaching of the Scriptures everywhere. . . . Man has nothing to boast of at all.  And when you and I arrive in heaven — my dear friends — we realize that we are there not because we held on while others gave up — but because He held on to us. . . . and we’ll give Him all the praise, the honor, and the glory.”     

How Do You Know If It Is The Pharisees Running The Institution?

#1 – More Focused On Their Preservation Than The Needs Of People — Luke 16:1-13, 14-31

When money is easily spent for the pastor(s) or leadership’s preferred programs or projects rather than on needed raises for staff members who are knowingly underpaid, or on God’s people or others who would be personally or spiritually benefited, you are dealing with the spirit that worked in the hearts of the religious Pharisees — self-serving, selfish religious leaders.

“For me, but not for thee.”
“For ours, but not for them.” 

I often said . . . . “Let’s just close the doors if we can’t help . . . .

  • teens or children go to snow/summer camp
  • buy a handbook or vest for a kid in AWANA
  • cover the cost of ladies who want to attend a retreat
  • give away free “cassettes” / CDs of the message
  • pay for 300-400+ kids at VBS,
  • pay for an over-the-road bus for the 60-120 teens who want to go to snow camp
  • cover the cost for all visitors at the golf outing
  • faculty and staff earn a decent and honest living with some sense of equity etc.

^

#2 – Think They Are Above Others – Luke 18:11

When there is a spirit of superiority, speaking and acting as if one is above others, you are dealing with a pharisaical heart. The attitude of superiority can often be subtle because it can be a covert sermonic message being sent and received as one exhorts others about Christlikeness. A lack of authenticity that fails to acknowledge a shared striving for greater Christlikeness, and/or worse yet, a belief that he has attained, conveys the message that he himself has achieved. The sermon is for those listening, spoken by one who knows spiritual accomplishment — It is pharisaical pietism!

^

#3 – Don’t Do What They Ask Others To Do — Matthew 23:3

Serving, going, helping, being present, calling, visiting, working, forgoing this-or-that, giving, taking the time to talk/know, et al. are all part of the pastoral exhortations of church life.

When these responsibilities are left undone, or passed off to others on the staff or among the lay-leaders, you are dealing with a Pharisee who tells others, but does not do!

Pharisees do what they enjoy doing and what brings them praise and attention.

Refuse and reject all the excuses of why someone else should be or is doing what a pastor has been called to do — which is to shepherd the flock of God!

Pharisees don’t personally visit, call, send a card, show up at the wedding, funeral, shower, all church events, graduation party, special services, school events, etc. — but some do “text” in order to be able to say that they have been “talking” with so-in-so, when questioned.  Because appearances are what matter!

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#4 – Burden The Souls Of Others — Matthew 23:4

Instead of lifting the load, they create and/or add to the weight.  Rather than. . .

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
 
Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
 
For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

. . . . they burden down the souls of men with questions as to their salvation, God’s love of them, His great mercy and kindness, His everlasting love and commitment to His people.

While nothing can separate us from that love, the Pharisees make some feel like the prodigal’s brother — deserving because of his faithful service, not because of the Father’s grace.

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#7 – Expect and Accept Privileges Others Don’t Get — Matthew 23:6

Going into the ministry does not entitle you to a lifestyle that God’s people don’t have. A Lifestyle that God’s people don’t have. Those in ministry are not the privileged class but are called to forgo those “seats” for others.

“Powering under” is a popular and hackneyed phrase of our day. While it is preached from the pulpit, it is often not reflected towards those in the pew or the local community.

Looking for favors from businesses in the community, accepting money and honorariums for doing what you are paid to do as a pastor, and pressing the envelope regarding the many freedoms accompanying ministry are all too prevalent.

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#8 – Lack Compassion — John 8:3

The woman taken in adultery is a sufficient example of that lack of compassion for those suffering and even those sinfully suffering.

Let it be them or one of their loved ones, and you will hear about it over and over from the pulpit. Some will use the pulpit to elicit pastoral sympathy during difficult days of health, ministry, family rearing, and finances.

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#9 – Love The Praises Of Men — John 12:43:

To see this one in operation, just offer some constructive, legitimate, or illegitimate criticism. The response reveals how much the praise of men is loved. Accusations of sowing discord, gossiping, being unloving, and causing disunity will be quickly launched — DARVO!!

Apparently, “dying to self” doesn’t apply in these situations. Instead of understanding how others think and/or why they disagree, some are more likely to be labeled the troubler of Israel — as Elijah.

No, this really is about loving “the praise of men.”
To be in the ingroup,
praise is the only coin of the realm.

The results of all this are being seen in church attendance and giving.

People were never attracted by or to the Pharisees — then or now.

As C.S. Lewis Stated . . . .

 



A Worthwhile Listen 

“Those who love us the most have the potential to undermine our integrity!”

July 2022: Integrity in the Life of a Leader

The Bottom Line When It Comes To Church!

The bottom line when it comes to church is — the sermon!

Church attendance reflects the pulpit!  We see that reality when a congregation knows that so-in-so is speaking tonight or next week.  You will see attendance go up or down based on the sermonic expectations. [1]

As I listen to Alistair Begg, I am reminded again how crucial effective preaching is in ministry.

There is a reason those like Pastor Begg are so oft listened to by so many, and it is because not all preachers/teachers are effective.

I use the word “effectiveness” and not “successful” for a reason.  We are called to be effective communicators because there are situations where one is effective but not successful.  The field of endeavor is a challenging and complicated place to be successful–  if “successful” means having a meaningful impact.  There were situations where Paul was not very successful, but he was effective.

Some like to say that they are preaching to an audience of one — and that is accurate regarding the content of what is being said.   We are called to preach what the Scriptures teach, not what God’s people would like to hear said.

Nevertheless, the truth is that none of us are preaching to only that audience.  Rather, we work hard at message preparation because we know that there is an audience beyond that One.

Some preachers, like Alistair Begg, are consistently excellent — highly effective!  They are clear, thought-provoking, insightful, easy to listen to, and concise.

AND . . . . there are preachers-teacher who are far from effective!

There is a continuum ranging from . . . .

“consistently great – repeatedly great – really good – good – adequate – mediocre – poor – bad -terrible.”

. . . and there is a test by which to evaluate where one is on that continuum!

— “Retellability” —

Are there those who “retell” what was said?

Are there those who remember, repeat, or “retell” what was said?

That is why Alistair Begg’s sermonic clip has gone viral!

What was so effective said by Alistair Begg challenged, moved, explained, clarified, and/or captured a truth worth retelling one’s self . . . .

. . . . and “retelling” others — “You have to listen to this!”

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1. Church attendance may also reflect what is happening in church life.  When serious issues are front and center, as is the case with many SBC churches, attendance is also affected. Dissatisfaction with decisions and leadership also impacts attendance.

Add to that, the presence of a good youth program, the variety of opportunities to serve, other spiritually beneficial programs (such as AWANA / Senior Saints / VBS), personal relationships, and pastoral care and concern.  These, and others, all impact attendance to varying degrees and age groups.

Response:

“I kinda understood churches were for mutual encouragement and exhortation, not simply recieving from a single teacher, professional as they may be. I suppose I am in need of finding the purpose of the church as I read the New Testament”

My Response:

I understand your viewpoint and appreciate it — I totally agree — and should have said what I have often said — there are two wings on the church airplane, preaching and fellowship.

No preaching/teaching, it is not a church, it is merely a social gathering.

No fellowship, it is not a church merely equal to streaming.

Both are as basic as you can get to be called a NT church.

Let me go on to say that no matter how great the fellowship is in any restaurant, if the meal is lousy I’m not going back and investing my time or money in a meal I find continually bland to terrible.

“The bottom line” — not the only line —  has to be the preaching and teaching of God’s Word which also preaches and teaches fellowship and improves the fellowship.

But great fellowship will not improve the preaching/teaching!

I can be part of making fellowship, fellowship — but I can’t do much about bad preaching.

Nevertheless, your point is well taken and I will add this to the bottom of my post!  It is a point worth making!

Twisted – Pt.2

This is but one example of where we are today when it comes to the preaching and teaching of God’s Word in the local church. [1]

No shepherd would ever think that way about his flock during Bible days, just the modern shepherds of our day. Paul’s vision was that he was willing to do all he could — to just win some! Paul worked and labored hard (I Corinthians 15:10; Philippians 4:3) because he understood that his work was more than preaching; but was to spread and grow the church across the then-known world.

To dismiss or marginalize “means” is another one of the twisted positions that characterize today’s preaching.  It is said different ways . . . .

  • We are just trusting God alone to provide.
  • Nothing can give you joy, peace, or satisfaction outside of Jesus.
  • There is no joy or happiness in our circumstances.
  • You need to lean on God, not people, to get you through the rough times of life.
  • You don’t need medication; you need Jesus!
  • Rely totally on the Lord!  You need nothing else!
  • Husbands and wives, you trust God to meet your needs.

Oh yes, every one of those statements could be and should be clarified to make them biblically accurate.  But this kind of bumper-sticker theology posted, taught, and preached latently brushes aside “means.”

Trusting God alone to provide does not mean we don’t work, and work hard to provide for our family, to establish an effective ministry, to raise our children, to develop an effective local church ministry, et al.

I know, those who make such statements don’t mean to deny that!  Really!  These kinds of statements are typically followed by a hardly AMEN from fellow pastors and congregations — with little serious thinking as to what is being repeatedly propagated as Bible truth.

The Lord has not only ordained the ends, but he has ordained means.  The created world and the laws that operate demonstrate that reality.  Oh yes, it is all held together by His power — but that does not mean that the laws which operate are being supernaturally commanded to operational status every millisecond.  Can the Lord controvert those laws?  Absolutely!  That is called a miracle.  Pregnancy and childbirth are not miracles. It can be and was with the birth of Jesus.

Wealth is not a miracle.  It can be, as Jacob finally admitted (Genesis 31).  But there are means to wealth (Proverbs 24:3ff). We are never to trust in the power of wealth, but it does have power, as many wicked men have come to know.  Yet the Lord can remove that power in a moment (Psalm 73:18)

Poverty is not the curse of God.  It can be, but there are means that accompany poverty (Proverbs 24:30).

Medication is not evil or sinful.  It can be.  But it is a means the Lord uses to stabilize us physically, mentally, and emotionally.  Our whole being was affected by the Fall.  We are lost spiritually, but the Fall has also impacted us physically, mentally, and emotionally.

Does it make a difference to experience a beautiful day, soft breezes, mild temperatures, and an awesome location?  To say that circumstances are not part of our joy or happiness [2] is to deny what we, as real people experience.  Are there hot-hot, rainy, miserable, or cold to the bone days that are unpleasant?  I do not enjoy those days!  I can still say . . . “This is the day that the Lord has made, and I will rejoice in it.” [3]  Let me assure you — the new heavens and earth will be a beautiful place and absent these miserable and terrible physical circumstances of earth — for a good reason!

Husbands and wives, you are the means God has ordained to meet your wife’s or husband’s needs. That does not mean that you are the only avenue, but you are a significant and meaningful part of His means! As children and parents, we are the means the Lord has provided for our parents and children. That does not mean that God does not provide directly and indirectly as well. But the clear and repeated pattern is the Lord, “along with you” — is the means.

Sanctification is not only progressive, but it is part of our personal responsibility.  Does the Lord work in our hearts?  Absolutely!  But we also work on our hearts.  God chose David out of the flocks for a reason (Psalm 78:72).  He rejected Saul for a reason.  Sanctification is not parallel to justification — all by God’s grace!  We work out our salvation (Philippians 2:12), never our justification.  Sanctification is not passive; it is active!  Go “passive” and see where that leads!

Can the Lord fight for us?  He has, and He does.  But men and women died fighting in real battles!  He can slay an army overnight, and has!  But He has also roused and raised up men and women to fight with sword and shield. In those fights, wives were widowed, and children lost their parents!

David hid from Saul for a reason!  The reason was not that God could not protect David had he shown up at the palace dinner table.  Upon Saul’s death, David called upon his men to learn the bow, not because only such a proficiency could or would save the lives of men.

Men come to know the Lord because of His established means — our prayers, our lives, our testimony, and the words of Scripture.  Yet, the Spirit blows where He will!

This tendency to play down “means” is part of the theological-ideology of the present-day Calvinistic and New Calvinist movement.  It runs parallel with the warping of God’s sovereignty!  

The false implication is that God works via some supernatural aura that descends from above to meet the needs of people — and His special people.  He can, and He does do that — and more so — and less so — throughout the Bible (Judges 6:13). Nevertheless, there is no mystical cloud that naturally descends from heaven that replaces God’s ordained means when we have been given the means and ought to have the will!

Work, and work hard to establish and strengthen the local church and its people!  There is a reason that some churches, ministries, youth groups, and/or activities do not show real growth!  Don’t put the aggregate responsibility on the Lord, as if that is His will.  Not to point out that our ministries are in America, not in an occultism-laden land.  God created a world where growth is a natural principle of life and of all things that are living.

Laziness comes at a price; the price is a lost world, the ministry, meaningful growth, and the needs of God’s people.

Unless the Lord makes it clear otherwise, we are called on to do all we can and should as a spouse, parents, workers, witnesses, pastors, members, citizens — and as lights in an unjust and twisted world.

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1. Put that together with this, if you can . . . .

It sounds like “leading” and “preparation” matter.

Why not let God alone make SB proud? Just preach the Word, feed the flock, and proclaim the Gospel!