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Books I Read in 2017 (And My Ratings)

This post serves more to my ability to go back and find it than anything, so bare with me. I’m going to list all of the books I read in 2017 and my star rating (out of 5) beside them. Maybe this will be helpful for you to find some new books or be reminded…

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A Balanced View of Christmas

Before we start, let me say that I am going to try my best to approach this subject in a way as balanced as possible and in a way that attempts to not give indication of how I feel about Christmas. That being said, I think it is important for Christians to know some reasons…

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How to Trick People into Rejecting Biblical Authority (Hint: Many of Our Churches are Doing a Pretty Good Job)

The road to hell isn’t obscure or hard to find. It is a super-highway, lined with familiar faces and paved with sincerity and good intentions.

Many of its travelers are self-proclaimed followers of Jesus who are oblivious to their final destination (Matt. 7:21-23). They were simply pointed that way by other well-meaning ‘Christians.’

How did they wind up on this super-highway? For many, it wasn’t a quick, conscious decision. Yet slowly, over time, they learned to reject the authority of the Bible.

And they learned to do this by sitting in the pew next to you.

We set them up for failure. We domesticated the authority of Scripture. By “we” I’m referring to many of our churches and fellow believers – not the least of which are many preachers, teachers, and parents today. We have sanitized Scripture, so much so that it no longer tugs on the heart or troubles the sinner.

Note some of the subtle ways we practically beg churchgoers to reject Biblical authority:

1. Avoid Talking About Important Topics

There are some preachers who rarely, if ever, talk about certain Biblical subjects. This is due to any number of reasons. Perhaps they haven’t studied a particular subject enough to address it with confidence (the end-times, transgenderism). Perhaps they have doubts about a particular subject themselves (unauthorized worship practices, eternal punishment). Perhaps they know the congregation is divided about the issue (alcohol, divorce). Maybe they generally just don’t like talking about the subject, regardless of how clearly it is taught in the Bible (church discipline, holiness).

As a result, the people of the pew are left with a vacuum in their understanding of the Bible. The funny thing about vacuums, however, is that they always get filled with something, eventually. Sin begins to fester. Truth, if not consistently taught on even the most difficult of issues, will be replaced with misconceptions and lies. And if some brave soul eventually does comes along and teach the truth, he/she will be challenged.

2. Act Embarrassed by the Bible

Building on #1, some churches prefer to just sweep the touchy subjects under the rug. Or, even worse, they hire preachers who say stuff like this: “Today’s sermon is from Matthew 19:9. Like other passages about this subject, the Bible has some pretty harsh things to say about divorce. I don’t like talking about this, but then again the Bible says some things I’m not 100% proud of.”

Even though this preacher has theoretically submitted to the authority of the Bible, he [perhaps unwittingly] deceived people into thinking that he is more gracious and lenient on people than even Jesus Himself.

However, like Paul, we cannot be ashamed of any part of the gospel of Christ (Rom. 1:16). All (parents, teachers, preachers, elders) must communicate the entirety of God’s truth – plainly and unapologetically.

We have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. (2 Cor. 4:2)

3. Give an Ounce of Legitimacy to Things God has Condemned

The Bible is remarkably straightforward about many things: the existence of heaven and hell, the reality of sin, mankind’s impending eternal judgment, the singularity of the church, the existence of false teachers, the essentiality of baptism, the exclusive nature of salvation through Jesus Christ, the demand for Christians to live holy lives, etc.

However, by listening to many of our pulpits today, you wouldn’t know the Bible is clear about much of anything. In an effort not to “come on too strong,” many have all too eagerly embraced postmodernismparticularly the idea that virtually every religious view has at least some merit to it.

We’ve gotten soggy with deconstructionism. That is, the attitude that any kind of conviction about anything should be held with contempt and therefore pulled apart and displayed alongside an opposing view.

It is no secret that there are opposing views about virtually every issue. Yet, just because an intelligent person happens to believe, for example, that homosexuality is okay doesn’t mean that the Bible falls short of emphatically declaring it a sin.

We can get as “academic” as we want. But when people grow up hearing remarks about “different views” about sexuality, the inerrancy of the Bible, salvation, grace, sin, the church, etc., – with the preacher being so timid he can’t bring himself to say, “This is what the Bible says” – no wonder they learn to reject Biblical authority about these subjects.

Christians cannot afford to be anything less than emphatically clear when it comes to what Scripture teaches – directly or indirectly.

4. Adopt all the Latest Churchy Fads

It is to our shame that many followers of Christ read more contemporary religious books than they do the Bible (if they are reading books at all). This has caused several problems, not the least of which is a stunted ability to identify wrong beliefs.

Self-help sermons and how-to lessons reverberate in our auditoriums today. It is not uncommon to hear preachers talk about the importance of environmentally-friendly lifestyles, smart money management, coping with divorce, diversity appreciation, dealing with grief, appreciating grandma/grandad, becoming more tolerant, developing self-worth, etc. Self-help sermons in moderation are appropriate at times. Yet, while the Bible does speak to these subjects, it is not primarily about these subjects.

Unless we want to diminish the authority of God’s Word, we cannot neglect teaching the core themes of the Bible: what it means to have faith, the horror of sin, living holy lives before God, the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the importance of the church, and learning how to suffer as a Christian. When we preach today’s fads at the neglect of the rich theology of Scripture, we minimize the extent to which the Bible is authoritative in our lives.

5. Compartmentalize the Bible to Accommodate Busy Lifestyles

But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at My word. […] Hear the word of the Lord, you who tremble at His word (Isa. 66:2, 5)

We’ve forgotten how to tremble.

An inflated view of our self-sufficiency blinds us to our need to read and re-read God’s Word. Constant gigabytes of data from the world consume our minds and hearts and desires. It is a stretch to believe someone who is swimming in pornography, pursuing an illicit sexual relationship, or consumed with envy is also investing much time with God’s Word. Our churches have enabled this behavior by making sure the Sunday sermon is “under 30 minutes,” and all the other church services are considered “optional.” People are busy, after all.

Here’s What We’ve Asked For

Do these five things, and the people sitting in the pew next to you will begin to reject Biblical authority over time. It will manifest itself in one of two extremes:

  1. Churchgoers will emphasize Biblical authority in theory yet reject it in practice. If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a thousand times: “We want the Bible, and the Bible alone, preached here.” Yet show them how to better distinguish truth from tradition, pursue holiness, and correct their misconceptions, and they will often turn their backs on you.
  2. Churchgoers will claim Biblical authority in practice yet de-emphasize it in theory. On the other extreme, churchgoers often refuse to talk about Biblical authority or inerrancy, and instead want to “get past the specific words of Scripture” and “find the message God is trying to communicate through Scripture.” History testifies to the fact that these groups tend to drift quickly away from the Bible. These type of churchgoers have zeal, but not based on knowledge (Rom. 10:2).

An Appeal to Correct Our Wrongs

A negative list like this should invite us to positively pursue the opposite. Let’s talk about the important topics (even if they are uncomfortable). Let’s embrace the entirety of God’s Word. Let’s not be afraid to paint the Bible as “black and white” on most issues. Let’s not get swept up by the latest self-help book on the New York Times bestseller list. And let’s learn to live by every word that comes from the mouth of God, instead of bread alone (Matt. 4:4).

Your comments are welcome and encouraged, even if they are in disagreement. However, please keep your comments relevant to the article. For my full comment policy, click here.

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Going to Church as an Act of High Treason

Getting my family to church on Sunday morning sometimes feels like we are recreating the first 10 minutes of “Home Alone.”

There is nothing glamorous about it, even for a preacher’s family. After a sleepless night of babies crying, half-consciously fumbling for the coffee maker, showering, waking the kids up (who are finally deep asleep, conveniently), bathing the kids, getting dressed, getting the kids dressed, settling property disputes between the children, scouring the kitchen for something edible, reviewing Bible class and sermon notes, we’re just lucky to be alive at the end of the day. (My wife is an incredible woman for doing most of this so I can focus on the preacher stuff.)

I know it sounds crazy, but we do this every week. Willingly.

And, while it’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of going to church, we need not forget the gravity of our mission. Going to church is a bold act of defiance toward the prince of the power of the air (Eph. 2:2).

You see, each time your tired legs stand for another stanza of praise toward the King of kings and Lord of lords, you are declaring that the ruler of this world is not the prince he claims to be (John 12:31). You are part of a new Kingdom, have a new King, and are anxiously awaiting His imminent return.

At the risk of sounding overdramatic, going to church is nothing short of treason against the state of this world (John 15:18-20).

We know there are consequences to this. The commands of God now take precedence over the will of man (Acts 5:29). While we know the governing authorities of this world still have some limited power (Rom. 13:1-7), we are now citizens of a new Kingdom (Phil. 3:20; 1 Pet. 2:9). And it isn’t always easy being an expatriate (Matt. 10:34-39).

Thus, when you bow your head in congregational prayer – when you underline a passage in your Bible during the lesson – when you drink the juice of the Lord’s Supper – when you drop your well-earned money in the collection plate – you are wholeheartedly declaring your allegiance to the Almighty God and your noncompliance to the god of this world (2 Cor. 4:4).

I know there are other reasons we assemble with the saints throughout the week:

  • We go to encourage and be encouraged (1 Thess. 4:18; 5:11; Heb. 3:13; Jas. 5:16).
  • We go because that’s what the early church did (Acts 2:42; 20:7).
  • We go for accountability (1 Pet. 5:1-4; Heb. 13:17).
  • We go to learn (Rom. 15:14).
  • We go to proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes (1 Cor. 11:26).
  • We go to contribute money to the Kingdom (1 Cor. 16:2).
  • We go because the local assembly of Christians is representative of the “living stones” of God’s temple, with God dwelling among Christians in a different way when they are assembled than when they are isolated (Matt. 18:20; Eph. 2:19-22; 1 Pet. 2:5a).
  • And we go to every regular assembly because that’s what we are commanded to do (Heb. 10:24-25).

But also go to church so you can tell the world – by your utter exhaustion (I’m talking to parents) – by your not being anywhere else (I’m talking to athletes) – by your dedication (I’m talking to those who must commute long distances) – by your courage (I’m talking to those who are mocked by their own family members) – that there is another King. And you love worshipping Him alongside the other citizens of His kingdom.

Your comments are welcome and encouraged, even if they are in disagreement. However, please keep your comments relevant to the article. For my full comment policy, click here.

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Why I’m Not Ashamed of Different Gender Roles in the Church

God doesn’t make mistakes.

When He said, “It is not good that the man should be alone” (Gen. 2:18), He was not saying “Whoopsie daisy!” Instead, He was teaching that a genderless world is not good. To highlight this, God commanded Adam to name every creature in an effort to teach Adam that no animal had the capacity to worship God with him, serve God with him, or bring him the companionship that only an equal could.

Then God gave Adam a helper perfectly suited for Him. The King James Version calls her a “help meet.” She was equal to Adam, but different in role and function. She perfectly complemented him in a way that mirrored both the equality and functional diversity of the three-in-oneness of God.

They were given a mission bigger than themselves: to be fruitful and fill the earth (Gen. 1:28). Adam named his wife “Eve,” which means giver of life (Gen. 4:20). The act of naming someone is a demonstration of headship. Even after they both believed Satan’s lies and sinned, thus losing rights to the Garden of Eden, Adam’s headship over her remained (Gen. 3:16). Together they continued to model the equality and submission of the members of the Trinity.

Just as aloneness wasn’t good in the garden, it isn’t good in the church. A church without gender is just as incomplete as the Garden of Eden without gender. The church today is part of something bigger than itself; it is commanded to multiply and fill the earth with disciples (Matt. 28:19-20). The fact that women, in particular, are commanded to teach the younger women how to be givers of life in both the home and the church (Titus 2:4-5) makes this, in a way, woman-specific. Women can do things that no man can.

Jesus Gave Legitimacy to Women During His Ministry

Jesus teaches us something in how He recognized the inherent equality of women and men, in how He ministered to women, and in the dignity with which He treated them in His ministry. He impartially addressed women directly when in public (John 4:7-26; Luke 7:12-13; 8:48; 11:27-28; 13:12; 23:27-31), which was culturally unusual for a man to do (John 4:27).

As Jesus went through cities and villages proclaiming the good news about the Kingdom, the disciples were with Him, “and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities […] who provided for them out of their means” (Luke 8:2-3). Women served alongside Jesus, even at the cross, for “there were also many women there, looking on from a distance, who had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to Him” (Matt. 27:55).

God chose to give women crucial roles in the resurrection accounts, despite the fact that in Christ’s day, women were not considered reliable witnesses. Josephus warned, for example, “But let not the testimony of women be admitted, on account of the levity and boldness of their sex.”[1] Yet, it was the women who loved Jesus who came to the tomb to anoint and pay respects to His body, only to discover He was missing. They were the first to hear the good news, “He is risen!” (Matt. 28:5-8; Mark 16:5-8; Luke 24:2-12; John 20:1-2). Jesus then appeared to these women before anyone else, saying “Greetings!” and “Go and tell” (Matt. 28:9-10). They faithfully reported what they saw to the disciples, and no doubt continued to tell others for years to follow.

Jesus Recognized Gender Role Distinctions

We should point out that Jesus was not afraid of breaking social customs when He felt it necessary. Against custom (to put it mildly), He publicly condemned many of the Jewish leaders (Matt. 23:13-36), healed on the Sabbath (Mark 1:21-27; Luke 13:14; John 5:8-10), and cleansed the temple (Matt. 21:12-13; John 2:14-17). Against custom, He spoke with women (John 4:7-9), ate with dishonorable people (Matt. 9:11), and even ate with unwashed hands (Mark 7:1-23). Notice when moral issues were at stake, Jesus did not bend to societal pressure.

But Jesus did not appoint any women to be apostles, nor did He choose any women to pen the New Testament Scriptures. Many of the apostles had wives (1 Cor. 9:5) – could not Jesus just have easily appointed them to the position alongside their husbands? It wouldn’t have necessarily been culturally taboo to do so, as both Jewish and Gentile societies occasionally allowed for women leadership (Judges 4-5; 2 Kings 11:3; Acts 17:4, 12). Yet Jesus still had role distinctions in mind when selecting His apostles, and the same is true today when selecting elders in His church.

Not long after His church was established, a problem arose regarding the neglect of a select group of women (Acts 6:1). Plenty of women were numbered among the Christians in that day (Acts 1:14; 5:1, 14). Yet the church was told to select seven qualified men (andras, Acts 6:3), which meant this choice of men to serve in this capacity (presumably deacons) was deliberate.

Regardless of gender, Jesus recognized the intrinsic equality of men and women. He valued their fellowship, prayers, worship, testimony, and financial support. There are no gender barriers between a believer and Jesus Christ. Yet we can also see in Christ’s choice of apostles, writers of the New Testament, and other leadership roles a pattern of male leadership.

The Church Needs Men & Women Who Treasure Their God-Given Gender Roles

Women play such an important function within the body of Christ. There are hundreds and thousands of ways the strength of the church depends on the work and devotion of women. But the devil’s strategy remains the same: “Did God really say you cannot hold a leadership office in the church?” The enemy always downplays the bountiful forest of trees in the Garden to focus on just one. Eating what God has forbidden will never make us like God; it can only separate us from Him.

The leadership of the church is to reflect the created order. “For Adam was formed first, then Eve” (1 Tim. 2:13). Walking with God by faith means submitting to the fact that the Bible only allows for men to hold authoritative leadership offices – preachers, elders, deacons – in the church (1 Tim. 2:8-15; 1 Cor. 14:34-36; 11:2-16). In our day, this is culturally preposterous. But by the grace of God, we will trust God’s commands and celebrate the God-given treasure of complementary gender roles.

It is tempting to give in to the world’s pressure and wave a rebellious, “women can do anything men can do” fist at God. This attitude can only lead to spiritual death. However, the attitude of humble submission to God’s plan of gender roles will lead to salvation (1 Tim. 2:15).

Your comments are welcome and encouraged, even if they are in disagreement. However, please keep your comments relevant to the article. For my full comment policy, click here.

Sources
[1] Josephus, Antiquities iv. 8. 15.

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Protecting the Lord’s Supper: Why I Like that Little Cup & Wafer

If a Christian from the 1st century could travel forward in time to the 21st century and visit a typical worship service among churches of Christ, I doubt he would find any radical departures from the simple 1st century Christian worship to which he is accustomed.

Of course, he would quickly notice we typically meet in a church-owned building instead of a member’s house, he would hear new melodies and lyrics during our songs, and he would notice a different language, obviously. Perhaps the biggest difference would be the absence of spiritual gifts – such as the gifts of prophecy or tongues or the utterances of knowledge and wisdom – which were so necessary in the 1st century before Christians had the completed revelation of Christ’s New Testament.

But I do not think he would see anything wrong with how we worship, including how we do the Lord’s Supper.

What We Know

Just as was true in the 1st century, Christians today are not free to take the Lord’s Supper willy nilly. Scripture regulates how we take communion:

1. We are to partake of the Lord’s Supper on the first day of the week. The frequency and day we are to observe the Lord’s Supper are not directly stated in preserved Scripture in the form of a command. However, it is clear from the practice of the apostle Paul that God approves of eating the Lord’s Supper on Sunday. Acts 20:7 speaks of Christians in Troas assembling on Sunday for the purpose of breaking bread, and 1 Corinthians 11:20 shows that the Lord’s Supper is one of the primary reasons for assembling on Sunday. 1 Corinthians 16:1-2 shows us they assembled every Sunday.

2. Unleavened bread and the fruit of the vine are to be eaten during the Lord’s Supper. We partake of the same elements that the Lord instituted: “bread” and “fruit of the vine.” We know this from the accounts of Matthew 26:26-29, Mark 14:22-25, Luke 22:17-20, and 1 Corinthians 11:23-29. All other additions, substitutions, or innovations are corruptions of his memorial supper.

3. Only citizens of the kingdom (Luke 22:30) can legitimately take the Lord’s Supper. While it is virtually unheard of for churches of Christ to practice “closed communion” (no one is going to walk up and slap the grape juice out of the hand of an unwitting visitor), we recognize that the Lord’s Supper is intended only for those who have come into communion with His body and blood by being baptized into Christ’s death (Rom. 6:3-7; 1 Cor. 10:16). Thus, children are ineligible to share in the memorial.

4. The purpose of the Lord’s Supper is to memorialize Christ. We should remember the suffering and anguish that our Lord went through in dying on the cross (1 Cor. 11:24-25). If we engage in the Lord’s Supper in an irreverent manner, or if we do not separate in our minds the significance of this memorial, it will be damnation to us (1 Cor. 11:27, 29).

Critical of the Way We do it?

I occasionally hear Christians (who should know better) criticizing the way churches of Christ (and, incidentally, much of evangelical Christendom) take the Lord’s Supper. “It should be a robust family-type supper. Everyone – including children – should take part.” “It should be an actual meal, with whole loafs of bread and other food.” “Tiny cups and wafers are recent inventions and are unlike what Christians used in the 1st century.”

This kind of reasoning demonstrates a dangerous misunderstanding of the Lord’s Supper. No human alive today knows the exact quantity of bread or juice that was typical in the 1st century observance of this memorial. Additionally, no human today has the authority to regulate the portions of the food for the universal church. To teach we must “super-size” the portions on the Lord’s Table is divisiveness.

The timing during worship and the portion of food during the Lord’s Supper is a matter of judgment and it seems to me that churches that rush through it are making a mistake. But I argue that it there is a benefit to keeping the portions relatively small in light of the fact that the purpose of the Lord’s Supper is not to satisfy hunger, but to memorialize the Lord.

The Lord’s Supper is not Intended to Satisfy Hunger

The Lord’s Supper was never a common meal. Both Luke and Paul confirm this by recording the Lord’s Supper “after they had eaten” (Luke 22:20) and “after supper” (1 Cor. 11:25).

The only time the Bible talks about a meal in conjunction with the Lord’s Supper, it gives the command to separate the two (1 Cor. 11:21). The fact that some early Christians in Corinth had profaned the Lord’s Supper with a meal doesn’t authorize us to do so. Only bread and fruit of the vine are used to describe the memorial; where does God authorize us to incorporate other elements from a common meal?

I like the fact that it is our tradition to use a small cup and tiny wafer during the Lord’s Supper because it helps clear any confusion that this might be a literal “meal” in the common sense of the word.

The Lord’s Supper did not Provide Much Food for the Disciples

Furthermore, a large serving of bread and drink is not necessary in order to remember the Lord. Bear in mind that Jesus, on the night He was betrayed, broke twelve pieces from the small Jewish loaf, today called matzo, and gave them to the apostles, after which He told them to divide the cup among themselves (Matt. 26:26-27). The same word for “bread” is used to describe the young boy’s lunch consisting of five loaves (John 6:9). Each of the twelve apostles would not have had very much to eat and drink.

The spiritual blessings from the Lord’s Supper are derived from the focus of the Christian who is spiritually sharing the body and blood of Jesus, not on the physical quantity or quality of the elements. If it was about quantity, then fill my plate up! But the remembrance of Jesus is more important than the amount of the substance.

Let’s Make the Lord’s Supper Better

It is misdirected zeal to suggest we need to bring the entire church around a literal table and incorporate the Lord’s memorial meal into a common meal. If your elders have elected to use a small cup and wafer, they are justified in doing so.

I would argue, however, there is room for many churches to improve how they do the Lord’s Supper. May I suggest:

  • Don’t rush through it. I can’t help but feel a “let’s get this over with” attitude among some when visiting different congregation. Give people time to read one of the crucifixion accounts. Give people time to pray another private prayer. Give people time to meditate on the meaning of the bread and the fruit of the vine.
  • Separate it from the offering. As a matter of expediency, since the men leading the Lord’s Supper are already in front of the audience, it is typical for churches to move on to passing the collection plate immediately after the Lord’s Supper. I feel this is in poor judgment. Sing a song in between. Give people time to transition from memorializing the Lord to preparing their offering to Him.
  • Find a dedicated speaker for the table. Don’t just grab the first unsuspecting guy in the lobby 5 minutes before worship and ask him to direct the Lord’s Supper. Ask a Christian several weeks in advance to prepare a 5-10 minute talk. That is what he focuses on. Don’t ask him to pass the plates; let the other men do that.

Your comments are welcome and encouraged, even if they are in disagreement. However, please keep your comments relevant to the article. For my full comment policy, click here.

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The Real Meaning of Matthew 18:20

When two or three are gathered in My name, there I am in their midst.

To be sure, these are words of reassurance. But don’t misapply Matthew 18:20. It isn’t a therapeutic passage for Christians who are depressed over a shrinking membership roster. Jesus isn’t talking about low attendance numbers or being forced to worship in a hotel room with your family when there isn’t a local church with which to worship.

In fact, these two or three were not gathered to worship. They were gathered to verify the repentance or impenitence of a Christian guilty of sin.

The context of Matthew 18:15-20 is church discipline. Jesus says, “If you choose to preserve the holiness of My church, I will be with you the whole time – no matter the pushback you receive.”

The real meaning is this: During the incredibly difficult time when Christians must deliver an impenitent member of the church to Satan, the church needs to find great comfort knowing that Jesus is there with them.

Look at what is going on in Matthew 18. A sin has been committed in the church (verse 15). The Christian who is guilty of that sin refuses to repent (verse 16). The whole church knows about this sin (verse 17). When the church agrees to sever its social relationship with the erring Christian, it does so with the authority of heaven (verse 18).

Then Jesus puts His own authority behind this decision in two (2) ways:

  1. Jesus invokes a Jewish courtroom principle from Deuteronomy 19:15-19 that says “two or three witnesses” must agree in order to bring a legally binding charge against someone. Jesus is putting this part of the Old Law back to work under the New Law. These “two or three” (probably the leaders – usually the elders – who actually make the decision for the whole church to remove someone from their fellowship) are now legally bound – or covenanted – to one another in the law of the Kingdom. Jesus is binding His church together with glue.
  2. Jesus guarantees that agreement with His own presence. “When you do this for My church, I’m there. You have My seal of approval. You represent Me, just as the temple once represented God’s authority and blessing.”

Make no mistake; it’s nice to know that when even just a handful of two or three Christians gather together to worship, Jesus is with them. Yet bear in mind, however, that Jesus is with two or three Christians in that sense just as much as He is with one Christian who may be forced to worship alone.

In Matthew 18:20, Jesus is giving courage to Christians who are terrified about formally recognizing the lost condition of a Christian who has chosen sin over Jesus. He is with you when you choose to protect the purity of the church. He is validating the leaders of the church as they protect the flock in much the same way that Paul said he would be with the Corinthians “in spirit” as they disciplined the man who was sleeping with his stepmother (1 Cor. 5:3-5).

By implication, when we refuse to protect the purity of the Lord’s bride, we are refusing the very presence of Jesus in our midst.

Your comments are welcome and encouraged, even if they are in disagreement. However, please keep your comments relevant to the article. For my full comment policy, click here.

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Three Reasons I Love the Church

Three Reasons I Love the Church

The fastest growing religious group in America today is the “nones;” those that don’t identify with a religion at all. Maybe you fall into that category. There are a variety of reasons why people choose not to seek out a group of Christians on Sunday, and many of them represent valid concerns and problems that shouldn’t exist. But have you considered what you might be missing out on?

1. It Gives Me A Chance to Reflect

Our lives are increasingly busy these days. The average American works forty-seven hours a week. When we’re not at work, we spend our time rushing from one after-school activity to another. On top of that, social media provides a constant pressure to live up to the “perfect lives” that our friends portray in their posts and pictures. All this is exhausting!

The church is a way to stop for a couple of hours and regain my focus. It helps me to remember what is truly important in life, and what will truly matter after I die. It gives me an opportunity to remember that God is in control, and that thing I’m worried about really isn’t such a big deal. “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalms 46:10).

2. The People That Truly Care

I know that the people in the church aren’t perfect. Sometimes they do things that are unkind. Sometimes they say one thing. But do another. That’s part of the reason I love the church. It’s not a collection of perfect people. It’s a group of broken people who struggle with sin and realize that they NEED a Savior. They understand my struggles, because they struggle, too. At the end of the day, they love me and want to help me grow as a person. They want to see me win, and ultimately, help me get to Heaven. And they crave that same love and help for themselves, too.

Jesus didn’t say that the true disciples would always have their act together. He said they would always care. “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). That is something that makes the church truly special.

3. Jesus Loves the Church

I saved the best for last. The Bible is clear that Jesus loves the church. “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her” (Ephesians 5:25). He loves the church so much, He died for it. He shed His own blood for the church (Acts 20:28). If Jesus loves the church that much, then it is clearly something special. It is something that I should love, too because I love Him.

I don’t know all the reasons why you may be staying away from the church, but I do know that the church is a special place because it was designed by God, and built by Jesus. Don’t miss out on one of the greatest things on earth. We may not have all the answers, but we know the One who does.

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The 5 Enemies of Unity

  Dave Ramsey, entrepreneur and financial coach, runs a company that is comprised of over 300 team members, does millions of dollars of revenue per year, travels the country teaching people about leadership and has the biggest talk radio program in the country. His company is unified, which is why they have been so successful.…

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The Real Meaning of Matthew 18:20

When two or three are gathered in My name, there I am in their midst.

To be sure, these are words of reassurance. But don’t misapply Matthew 18:20. It isn’t a therapeutic passage for Christians who are depressed over a shrinking membership roster. Jesus isn’t talking about low attendance numbers or being forced to worship in a hotel room with your family when there isn’t a local church with which to worship.

In fact, these two or three were not gathered to worship. They were gathered to verify the repentance or impenitence of a Christian guilty of sin.

The context of Matthew 18:15-20 is church discipline. Jesus says, “If you choose to preserve the holiness of My church, I will be with you the whole time – no matter the pushback you receive.”

The real meaning is this: During the incredibly difficult time when Christians must deliver an impenitent member of the church to Satan, the church needs to find great comfort knowing that Jesus is there with them.

Look at what is going on in Matthew 18. A sin has been committed in the church (verse 15). The Christian who is guilty of that sin refuses to repent (verse 16). The whole church knows about this sin (verse 17). When the church agrees to sever its social relationship with the erring Christian, it does so with the authority of heaven (verse 18).

Then Jesus puts His own authority behind this decision in two (2) ways:

  1. Jesus invokes a Jewish courtroom principle from Deuteronomy 19:15-19 that says “two or three witnesses” must agree in order to bring a legally binding charge against someone. Jesus is putting this part of the Old Law back to work under the New Law. These “two or three” (probably the leaders – usually the elders – who actually make the decision for the whole church to remove someone from their fellowship) are now legally bound – or covenanted – to one another in the law of the Kingdom. Jesus is binding His church together with glue.
  2. Jesus guarantees that agreement with His own presence. “When you do this for My church, I’m there. You have My seal of approval. You represent Me, just as the temple once represented God’s authority and blessing.”

Make no mistake; it’s nice to know that when even just a handful of two or three Christians gather together to worship, Jesus is with them. Yet bear in mind, however, that Jesus is with two or three Christians in that sense just as much as He is with one Christian who may be forced to worship alone.

In Matthew 18:20, Jesus is giving courage to Christians who are terrified about formally recognizing the lost condition of a Christian who has chosen sin over Jesus. He is with you when you choose to protect the purity of the church. He is validating the leaders of the church as they protect the flock in much the same way that Paul said he would be with the Corinthians “in spirit” as they disciplined the man who was sleeping with his stepmother (1 Cor. 5:3-5).

By implication, when we refuse to protect the purity of the Lord’s bride, we are refusing the very presence of Jesus in our midst.

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