Friday, May 25, 2007

But Jesus, I Didn't Know I was a Liberal

" Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”    Matthew 7:22-23

In today’s mailing I would like to consider the impact of this prophecy straight from the mouth of Jesus.  I like to call this section of scripture “a sneak peek at the final judgment!”  Four things come out rather clearly about said judgment:
  1. You are not going to just stand there like a bump on a log before the throne of God.  You will speak, present your case, and be judged largely on what you have done with the words of Jesus. (Vs 24)
  2. What is today often described as “liberalism” would seem to be the direct cause of the condemnation of a vast majority of Christians in the day of judgment. I.E. A good conscience was not a substitute for a scriptural foundation for their faith.
  3. A religion based on hype rather than substance is an utter failure. I. E. Spirited, emotional worship is just not enough. (see also John 4:24)
  4. These folks absolutely did not consider themselves “liberal.”  They would likely have called themselves “conservative”… but their works are of their own contrivance, i.e. they were not the works of Jesus.  

Friday, May 11, 2007

Jesus Teaches Us How To Judge a Church (Part 2)

*If you missed Part 1 of this post, click HERE!*
Today's post is lesson 15 from my Learn Your Bible series...

Now it’s time to get out of the car, and go inside. . .   
Jesus teaches us how to judge a church from the inside. . .
(Yes, Jesus has even more to say about that.)

Can you image assembling at church one Lord’s Day and. . . Receiving a letter from Jesus himself? Can you imagine it being addressed to your church? Well, it happened to seven churches!

The book that today we call the Revelation is actually a letter or series of letters written to the seven churches of Asia.  The main body of the book of Revelation (AKA the Apocalypse) is for all, but chapters 2 and 3 are seven “cover letters” to those seven churches. 

These letters arrived in about 96 AD.  The church had gone from it’s infancy to maturity.  The Christians of these churches were much like us.  They had not seen the events of the Bible.  They were “told” of the resurrection. The Apostles, (with the exception of John) were long dead. 

In a practical way, we could describe these letters as Jesus’ evaluation of these churches. We hear a lot today about “this” or “that” making no difference (all churches being acceptable). 

Since Jesus dictated these letters, Himself!  Let’s put the modern attitudes to the test.

Does it matter to Jesus whether your church follows the Word of God?

  1. Read Revelation 1:9-18  Where was John? ______________   Who appeared?  ______________  What was John’s reaction? _____________________ What would your reaction be? _____________________________
  2. Read Revelation 2:1-7  Which church received this letter? ________________ Vs 2-3  Was this a working church? _____  Did they put teachers/teachings/practices to the test? _________   Did Jesus rebuke or compliment this? __________  Vs 4  What is Jesus’ complaint? ______________ _______________  Vs 5  What is the “threat?” ________________________________________  Application:  Will Jesus just ignore a problem in a church? ______  What do you suppose it meant to the people there if Jesus withdrew his acceptance of them? ______________________  Vs 6  Today we run from the term hate.  Can  it be appropriate to hate? ________  Is it appropriate to name names? _______  Does Jesus speak in such abstract terms they would have considered Him “politically correct?” ________________
  3. Read Revelation 2:8-11  Which church received this letter? _____________  Is it possible on earth to operate in such a way that Jesus has no complaints? __________  What lay in store for them? ____________________  Did Jesus encourage them? _________  When Jesus “evaluated” them, did they pass? ____________
  4. Read Revelation 2:12-17   Vs 12-13 Which church received this  letter?  __________ What happened there?  __________________   Vs 14  Does Jesus get upset over allowing false teaching in a church? _________  When he describes said teaching,  what name does he use to characterize it?  _________ What are the two key elements of this teaching given? _______ _________________________  Turn to I Corinthians 10:20-22  Does this scripture deal with Jesus’ complaint?  _______  Did this church “knowingly” ignore scripture? ___________  Turn to I Corinthians 11:18-22  Do churches today ignore this scripture in the next chapter? ________   Read Revelation 2:15  closely.  Are we supposed to note principles from scripture? _________  How large would the Bible be if it were simply lists of every detail of what to do or not to do? _____________  If our actions are “in the same way.”  Should we be concerned? ________  This church is obviously ignoring I Corinthians 10:20-22… Would your church be wise to ignore I Corinthians 11:18-22? _________Revelation 2:16 Would you like to be in that congregation?  _________ 
  5. Read Revelation 2:18-29  Which church received this letter? _______________  Vs 18-19  Was this church “more” or “less” than when it began?  _____________  Vs 20  Should the church be “tolerant” of teaching such of this?  ____________  What two fields of toleration are listed? ___________________ Which passage in I Corinthians deals with the eating sin described here? ___________  Vs 22 if you support this church, how does it affect you? ___________________   Vs 23  What does this mean for the children of this church? _________________________________________________
  6. Read Revelation 3:1-6  Which church received this letter? ____________    Vs 1 despite the name and the appearance is it possible for a church to be dead inside? _________ Vs 2  How is deadness to be determined? _______________________    Vs 3 What are they to do? ____________ ________________  Vs 4-6  Look closely at Vs 5  What is the implied threat?  _________________________________  Can the church’s actions affect your eternity? ___________  
  7. Read Revelation 3:7-13  Vs 7-8  Who opens and closes doors for churches? _______________   Vs 9  are there those who claim to follow God that in fact do not? ______   Vs 10 are they commended for their new and different ways to serve God? ___________  What are they commended for?  ________________________________   Vs 11 What is possible for someone else to do? _____________  Can they do it against your will? __________________  What are you to do to resist? ________________   Vs 12  What should you strive to be? _____________________
  8. Read Revelation 3:14-22  What church received this letter?  __________  Vs 14-16 What is the worst sin? ______________ __________  Is it fair to say this makes the Lord sick to his stomach? __________ Vs 17  Can a church become so wrapped up in wealth they miss the point? __________  Does this sound like a lot of churches today? _______  Would it be fair to say they put their trust in wealth? __________  Is Jesus a jealous God? ___________________ Vs 18-22 What does Jesus council them to do? __________________ John 7:24. "Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment." Application:
  9.  Does Jesus evaluate churches?  _________
  10. Should you use the same standards Jesus uses to evaluate churches? ______________
  11. Does it appear that one church is as good as another in the eyes of Jesus?  ___________
  12. Read II Thessalonians 2:1-13  Does it appear that God expected there to be a departure from the truth?  ________________  Sometimes the Bible is addressed to churches, sometimes individuals.  What makes up a church? _________________  Vs 3 What must happen before the end?  _______________________  People have constantly tried to figure out what specific point in history this is referring to.  Let’s ignore that for this study and look at the principles that emerge.   Is it important for you to identify and avoid apostasy? ______________   Vs 5 Did Paul warn of such things to his generation? ___________  Shouldn’t we do the same? ________  Vs 9  Is the grandiose display to be a part of the presentation of erroneous teaching? ____________________  (Compare Vs 9 to the teaching of Jesus in Matt 7:13-14   What is one of the earmarks of most false teaching? ______________ II Thessalonians 2:10 what is the fatal flaw of those who loose out? __________ _______________________ Vs 11  is there a sense in which God can be said to be behind this? ________  Vs 12 Why would God allow such a thing? ________________________ 
"We are not again commending ourselves to you but {are} giving you an occasion to be proud of us, so that you will have {an answer} for those who take pride in appearance and not in heart." II Corinthians 5:12.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Jesus Teaches Us How To Judge a Church (Part 1)

13.  "Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. 
For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it." Matthew 7:13-14
 Most people today have misunderstood Jesus’ warning about making judgments (Matthew 7:1ff) to the point they are quite surprised to find out that Bible has a lot to say about us making sound judgments.  They are even more surprised to find that the Bible actually spends a lot of time teaching us how to judge appropriately…

Then, Jesus (and the rest of the Bible) aggressively admonishes us to judge!

Today’s email will consist of two articles sent together.  You might wish to separate your consideration of them into two parts.   The first, as the title indicates, is some teaching on the manner in which to guide our snap judgments.  The second (part 2) is a study sheet on the 7 letters dictated by Jesus Christ describing how to judge churches from the inside!

We all make judgments based on names.  We all realize that the Baptist, Methodist, or even the Lutheran churches are not the same church.  Folks spend a lot of time wringing their hands and hiding from the obvious.  Many will drive right past one church to attend the church of “their choice,” yet swear one church is as good as another.   

Let’s consider the very famous passage reproduced above.  (Matthew 7:13-14). Have you ever considered the fact that, directly from the mouth of Jesus Christ,  you have your first clue on how to judge a church and you don’t’ even need to leave the car?

The sizes of the churches do in fact vary by the overall attitudes of a local community.  Suppose you have two churches, in the same community…. Right down the road from each other, with the same name.  Which would be your first choice?  Let’s say one is a large church, and one is small.   If this situation exists (as it does in our community) one would almost certainly be much larger than the other.

Which would you choose to look at first and why?  Aren’t we all prone to go with the larger, nicer one church?  Wouldn’t we all assume that they had more going on? i.e. That they have it “together?”  In fairness, I think that is the natural inclination of all of us.  Now consider the words of Jesus.  “"Enter through the narrow gate.” 

As the leader of my family, should I direct them towards the very multitudes that Jesus warned us to avoid?  Didn’t the Lord Jesus in fact leave us with a principle that (all other things being equal)…. We are to go the opposite direction of  the crowds?

As a rule, size is an inverse indication of faithfulness. (According to Jesus)

The Apostle John echoed the teaching of the Master.    I John 4:5-6
“They are from the world; therefore they speak {as} from the world, and the world listens to them.  We are from God; he who knows God listens to us; he who is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.”

What did Jesus say? “The way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.”  So, can you now judge  from the car, which church is the most likely to be teaching the truth?  By way of contrast, which is the most likely to have things going on inside that shouldn’t be there? 

Which church is more likely to honor man, then override the teaching of God  . . . The big church or the little church?

Have you ever noticed that Jesus went out of His way to “reduce” and scatter the church in Jerusalem?  In Acts 2, when the church started 3000 souls were added to it Acts 2:41.  In a very short time, it was up to 5000 Acts 4:4.  But!  In Acts 8, through persecution, the church was scattered.

If we trust in Jesus, we are left with a brutal reality. In effect, when you see the multitudes… Run!

"Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?' "And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.'" Matthew 7:22-23