Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Scandal of Division



There is a joke which says: "Where you have one member of the Church of Christ - you have a church; where you have two members - you have a church-split; with each accusing the other of not teaching the Bible." Another: "Old uncle John is the most spiritual man I know. He is against everything."

Perhaps you know of the preacher/elder/deacon who left to form a new church just down the street. "But I wanted to do God's will. I was in the right. That church wasn't obeying God. This city needs a church that does it right!"

Paul warned against "choosing up sides" and commanded all stand together. A new birth makes us brothers and sisters in the Lord's Family. Note Colossians 3:10-11; 1 Corinthians 12:13.

Some years ago a Church had a successful ministry. The job market was very good and people moved into the small city from all over the USA. They brought along a variety of viewpoints and traditions. They accepted each other. Jesus was their Lord; and the preacher had a peacemaking spirit. Membership grew from 50 to around 150 on Sunday mornings. They had a radio program, a good VBS, held a Campaign, got "Amazing Grace" put on the TV, and were generally very active in promoting the Lord's Cause. Elders and deacons were appointed for the very first time.

But some felt it was time for the preacher to move on, and that someone more "evangelistically oriented" be called to fill the pulpit. The new man didn't make any waves in the community, and his spirit was not as peacemaking or cooperative.

"We've got to be more conservative," some said. "If we do like they did back home, why, the building will be running over!"

Not everyone felt that way. Those who did feel that way "split off" to form a new Church. They hired a preacher and began to build a new building. This effectively tied up their finances. They had obligated themselves for serious monthly payments. Rather than "evangelizing," they concentrated on paying for the new building.

"You're still not conservative enough," others said. "You believe in doing this and that to try to evangelize people, and you support that TV program, all of which we know is wrong!" So these "split off" to form a third Church in this small city.

A preacher two generations ago said in frustration: "If Jesus had told His people to split up into as many small groups as possible, we could hardly have done a worse job." He meant, of course, can't we agree on anything!? He had raised the alarm on some issues which he believed were crucial. But he drove wedges in the Body, which fragmented into more and more "issues." Rather than "standing together," as he had hoped, even more began standing in smaller groups and drawing circles around themselves.

Some today have raised the alarm and intend to oppose what they see as a "New Movement." Old issues are being resurrected and held up as models of behavior. One wrote in "The Current Digression" [1986]. "This editor feels there is something new and fresh afoot in this brotherhood.. New Journals are cropping up with the sole purpose being to combat liberalism... Some of the old preachers see the certain unraveling of all they have labored for, and they are beginning to speak out as only they can... Our children and grandchildren will look back on us as heroes of the faith, and in some secret recess of their souls wish they had been here to help us." [This sounds like what was being said in the 50's when the "Non-institutional Movement" was organizing.]

The "brotherhood" is becoming more and more fragmented as people choose up sides in an attempt to be "pure." But going back to the 50's is not the same as returning to the church of the New Testament. And it seems unwise to "burn the house down to get rid of the mice."

Dr. Mac Lynn’s new directory: "Churches of Christ in the United States" makes interesting reading. A number of "parties" are identified. But more ominous is the observation that the average age in the "Churches of Christ" may be over 40. This is slightly older than the US population. Because of the age factor it becomes more difficult to speak to young people; to speak to the surge of immigrants; or to be "all things to all men" as was the apostle Paul [This is not to say that "old people" must lack vision or fail to give glory to Christ. This writer is 85.]  It certainly must be our intention to faithfully follow the Gospel of Christ's Doing and Dying and Rising Again. (Gal. 1:8; 3:1-7; 1 Cor. 15:1-4; Romans 10:3-13.) The Bible reveals Jesus to us. We believe in Him and love Him. "He is our everything..."

There is, however, a context. "There is no such thing as a religious occurrence that is not also a historical, social, economic, political, and cultural occurrence. Every religious movement, then, is produced and shaped by a convergence of all these and other forces." [Robt. M. Anderson] The Gospel is UNCHANGING. Note, however, that Paul adjusted the "context" to Jewish, Gentile, weak, etc. [1 Cor. 9:19-23).

There is a real danger that the "brotherhood" will "Amish-ize" in the attempt to preserve The Past As We Remember It. The Depressions years were years of amazing growth. But much of the spontaneous element has become ritualized and what had been a flowing spiritual movement has crystallized into a number of splinter groups. There are remnants of an older, rural-agrarian culture whose dominance began to wane more than a century ago. Stereotyped preaching, praying, a simple often folksy manner, are characteristic. So too, sometimes mournful hymns. It is in the realm of "music" that the crosscurrents within the "folk culture" and its interaction with the larger culture are most clearly discerned. We sing the "old hymns" [and I love them]. This new song from Malaysia, however, better reflects the Book of Acts and the living faith of the First Century.

"There is a sound coming out of Zion

That's stirring up the church for war,

And in her midst there's celebration,

Such singing we've never heard before."

"The JOY of the Lord is your STRENGTH!" [Nehemiah 8:10]. We must restore the SPIRIT of the Book of Acts as we see this being expressed in Acts 4:23-31. The devil wishes to steal away our JOY and BOLDNESS and LOVE FOR CHRIST. We must do, as Ephesus was told to do: " You must love Me as much as you used to! If you don't, I will come and take away your candlestick." [note Rev. 2:4-5].

Monday, December 22, 2014

Back To Basics

                                                             BACK TO BASICS!

                                                               Rhoderick D. Ice

        We do not expect God to speak to us directly.  But if He did, He might say something like this.  "Listen to MY voice.  Allow ME to direct your course in every area.  I will protect you from falling.  There are racial problems among MY people that are hindering My work to bring healing to your land.  MY love goes beyond cultural barriers.  MY love goes beyond the fear of meeting people of different races.  Go to the sick, the needy, the friendless.  And do so in the power of The Holy Spirit.  I am with you always!"  [Hebrews 13:5-6; Jude 24-25; Acts 11:17-18]

            The Church's foundation is unshakable and firm against the assaults of the raging sea. Waves lash at the Church but do not shatter it. Although the elements of this world constantly batter and crash against her, she offers the safest harbor of salvation for all in distress. —Ambrose (339–397)

            Heretics often provided a great service to the church. For example, Marcion rejected the Old Testament and the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and John, thus forcing the church to define the New Testament canon. Arius, in denying the deity of Christ, made the church articulate the doctrine that became most crucial to Christianity.   Contributed by Tony Lane
        It is impossible for the devil to destroy Christ's One Body [Matt. 16:18].  But we, like the Israelites of old, need to be called back to Him from time to time.  Look to Him and go straight to the goal!  We have spent our time trying to build "The Church."  We should be lifting up Christ Jesus so that everyone will see Him, and proclaiming the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth. [compare Phil. 1:15-20]  HE will build the church!

        Let us get back to the basics of faith.  If we are to be the People God intended us to be, we must build our understanding of Jesus on the Eternal Verities of basic truth.  We see the experience of God's People in the New Testament portion of the Bible - triumphs and defeats, rights & wrongs, corrections, the good and the bad - as they struggled to give form to their faith. God has spoken through His Son [Hebrews 1:1-2].  JESUS is the final revelation of God to us!  We believe in God as we see Him in Jesus The Christ!


        1. FALL IN LOVE WITH JESUS AGAIN.  Paul said faith, hope, and love are the three most important virtues; but love has the highest priority of all.  If we are not in love with Jesus, we have no hope at all.  The Church at Ephesus had white-hot zeal, but had somehow misplaced the love they once had for Jesus [Rev. 2:4-5].  They were in danger of losing their "candlestick."


        2. A SOVEREIGN GOD.  God's power is awesome and His word is true!  The devil wants us to picture God as "a helpless old man, hopelessly confused by a world out of control."  Certainly God is in control.  God does know what is going on in this world.  God loves His creation.  God wants to save everyone who will claim His salvation [Isaiah 66:1-2; Acts 17:24-28; Rev. 22:17].


        3. AN UNLIMITED CHRIST.  HE has all authority and power.  By His life, death, burial, and resurrection He has been given the Name that is above all Names.  Note His description in Rev. 1:17-18; 5:5; Col. 1:15-23.  The universal declaration of the First Century Church was: JESUS IS LORD!


        4. THE INDWELLING HOLY SPIRIT.  HE - The Spirit - is Seal & Guarantee & Partner-in- Prayer - and Fountain of Living Water [John 7:37-39].  The Door of Pentecost could not open, nor the evangelization of the world take place - until HE came with power, as Jesus promised in Acts 1:3-8.  Jesus said: "And I will pray the Father and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever" [John 14:16].  The glory of the Church is that The Holy Spirit is continually present, molding and forming Christians into the Image of Christ [2 Cor. 3:17-18; 4:13-15; Eph. 3:16-21].


        5. SALVATION BY FAITH.  Paul said the righteousness which is through faith in Christ is the righteousness which is from God by faith [Phil. 3:9-11].  Christ has already won the victory and overcome the world!  Note Romans 8:1-4.  Our righteousness is based upon the finished work of Christ Jesus.  Certainly our obedience is necessary, but it cannot add anything to the perfect work of Jesus.  We tell potential converts just what Peter and the others told people in the Book of Acts.


        6. AN INDESTRUCTIBLE CHURCH/KINGDOM.  Not even the "powers of hell" nor the "powers of death and Hades" have any ability to destroy the church.  There never will be a time when the church winks out of existence [the One Body].  The living Church will be caught up to meet Him in the air at the end of time [1 Thess. 4:17-18].  The cycle of the church will repeat again and again until Jesus Comes [Rev. 11:11-13].


        7. HEARTFELT RELIGION.  Living Faith inspires commitment, dedication and involvement.  The Church at Laodicea was in trouble because they were lukewarm.  We are to give our lives and our love to HIM [Romans 12:1-2].


        8. WATER-AND-SPIRIT BAPTISM.  As Jesus was Himself baptized, water & Spirit were joined together.  Note the questions Paul asked the converts at Ephesus [Acts 19:2-3].  What we term "Christian baptism" involves both water and The Holy Spirit [John 3:5; Titus 3:5; 1 Cor. 12:13].


        9. RECOVERY OF THE MIND OF CHRIST.  There is a pattern of life and action idealized in the New Testament Scriptures, especially in the Four Gospels.  Jesus did the Will of the Father as He was "tempted in every way we are."  We want to "do it like He did" and reproduce in our lives what we see in His life!


        10. UNITY RATHER THAN CONFORMITY.  Note that our Unity helps promote the Cause of Christ [John 17:21[.  Conversely, our disunity impacts the Cause of Christ in an unfavorable way.  We are brothers and sisters in the same Family.  We want to preserve the unity which The Spirit gives by means of the peace that binds us together [note Eph. 4:3].  We do not produce unity but we recognize the fact that we are ONE in Christ.


        11. THE RESURRECTION GOSPEL.  Listen to those first Christians!  Jesus is alive forevermore!!!  Paul said the Gospel stands or falls on the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead [1 Cor. 15:3,4,12-14,17-20].  Those first Christians filled the world with the POWER of His Resurrection [Acts 4:2,9-12].


        12. IT IS THE "LAST HOUR."  Not the "End Time," of course, since no one can know when Jesus is coming again.  But John is teaching us to live each hour as though it were the last hour.  Many anti-Christs had appeared already in John's time [1 John 2:18].  We find in this Last Hour Situation a sense of urgency - and also calmness and security, WE ARE GOING HOME!!!  "And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.  And great grace was upon them all" [Acts 4:33].

The Fullness of the Time


    God’s Great Plan – JESUS!  Good and evil are in our world.  Jesus entered the world to save it.  Jesus brings God’s unfailing love and faithfulness (grace and truth).

    “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” John 3:17 (NKJV)

    Christ is coming!  The prophets witnessed to this hope.”

    The fact of the expectation of Our Lord among the Jews at the time of His coming is accepted by all students of their history.  It is the fact that, at His Coming, Something had filled the Jewish people with the conviction that the Redeemer, the Messiah, was to come, that He would come about this time, that such and such would be His circumstances, His characteristics, the marks by which He might be known.  This expectation was not merely of an event, or of a person in general, but was detailed in its knowledge of what was to be.  This expectation, and the figure of Him that was to be, was marked clearly. He was to be born of a Virgin. He was to be born at Bethlehem; and yet by an apparent contradiction He was both to come out of Egypt, and was to be called a Nazarene. He was to be of the line of David.

    God’s Right Time!

    “But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.”  Gal 4:4-5 (NKJV)

    “By observing, that God sent forth his Son born of a woman, the apostle insinuates, that Christ is the seed of the woman, promised at the fall to come and bruise the serpent's head.” McKnight

    “And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins." 22 So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: 2 "Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel," which is translated, "God with us." 24 Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, 25 and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name Jesus.” Matt 1:21-25 (NKJV)

    “Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God 2 which He promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures, 3 concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, 4 and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.”  Romans 1:1-4 (NKJV)

    The Apostle John wrote that God Himself became flesh in Christ (John 1:1). Jesus' humanity and divinity were complete, not partial. The two ideas—Jesus as 100-percent divine and 100-percent human—form the bedrock of a Christian understanding of Christ.  The idea that the Word became human (literally became flesh) stunned both Greeks and Jews.  The Lord's glory in the Tabernacle (Exod 40:34-38) was now present in Jesus Christ

    I believe in the God I see revealed in Jesus of Nazareth.”  Wright 

    “For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” 2 Cor 4:6 (NKJV)

    “The image of the true and living God, once revealed in all its glory, is to be reflected into all the world, as was always God’s intention. The mission of the Church can be summed up in the phrase “reflected glory.” When we see, as Paul says, the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, we see this not for our own benefit, but so that the glory may shine in us and through us to bring light to the world that still waits in darkness and the shadow of death.”  Wright

        “The nativity is about Almighty God sending His one and only (begotten) Son down to this earth. This is His gift to us, not for Christmas, but for eternity. He doesn’t want us to admire it, anymore than we would merely admire a gift given from a loved one. He doesn’t want us to merely acknowledge His gift. He wants everyone; He wants you, to receive His gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ, by inviting Him into your life.”  DJ

    For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”  John 3:16 (NKJV)