After this, the psalm again calls us to worship: “Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker!” (v. 6). Again the Psalm gives us reasons to worship: “For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand” (v. 7a). God is our God. He has bound himself to us, to do good to us (Jer. 32:40). And he has made us his own. We are his people, and he is our Shepherd (Pss. 23:1-6; 100:3). He cares for us personally; he feeds us from his own hand. Those same omnipotent hands that hold granite peaks in their grip care for us, provide for us, and gently lead us in the way we should go. The majestic, exalted rule of all has stooped low and come down to us.
–Bobby Jamieson, Sound Doctrine, p. 87.
“Our world’s history is a long story of tribal conflict where no one is closer than those who are family. That is, with one critical exception of course: the local church. When two people share Christ—even if everything else is different—they are closer than even blood ties could ever bring them. They are the family of God.”
From The Compelling Community by Jamie Dunlop and Mark Dever
Can you see that the fear of the Lord is a blessing? Just imagine what it would be like to truly hate sin, first our own, then the sins of others (Matt. 7:3–5). What would happen to marital fights? They would be almost impossible. Spouses would be too busy listening and asking forgiveness for their own selfishness. What about the little cliques in the school yard? They would be telling good stories about somebody else. What about when someone sins against us? We would not longer have to murder the person in our own heart. Instead, we could cover the sin in humility and love, or we could confront the other person in the same spirit.
–Edward T. Welch, When People Are Big and God Is Small (p. 114).
“Either sin must drown or the soul burn.”
–Thomas Goodwin, 1668
From The Doctrine of Repentance
Your enemy is restless. He never sleeps. He is always going about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour (1 Pet. 5:8). He is ever going to and fro in the earth, and walking up and down in it (Job 1:7). You may be careless about your souls: he is not. He wants them to make them miserable, like himself, and will have them if he can. Surely his enmity is not to be despised?
–Bishop J.C. Ryle, Thoughts for Young Men (p. 13).
Of Excommunication and Other Censures
The censures of the church, are appointed by Christ, for the preventing and removing, and healing of offences in the church:
for the reclaiming and gaining of offending brethren; for the deterring others from the like offenses; for purging out the leaven which may infect the whole lump; for vindicating the honour of Christ, and of his Church, and the holy profession of the gospel; and for preventing the wrath of God, that may justly fall upon the church, if they should suffer his covenant, and the seals thereof, to be profaned by notorious and obstinate offenders.
–The Cambridge Platform, 1648
From The Reformation of the Church by Iain H. Murray
Not only do the Scriptures shape the Christian’s mind into a worldview profoundly alien to the secularist and the endlessly selfish person, and not only do the Scriptures make us “wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus”, but precisely because they are “Godbreathed,” the Scriptures are “useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness”. The danger in contemporary evangelicalism is not formal rejection of Scripture, but an unrealistic assumption that we know the Bible while in fact we press “on” (in reality, slouch backwards) toward endless conferences on leadership, techniques, tools, gimmicks, agendas. Some of these might even be useful if the Bible itself were not so commonly sidelined.
–D.A. Carson, For the Love of God, (Vol. 1) (p. 304).
Over three years ago I stumbled upon a blogpost on The Gospel Coalition by Thabiti Anyabwile titled, “Multi-Site Churches Are from the Devil”. I’ll be honest, I was offended at the title alone, but I was also curious enough to read it. While sitting on a panel at a 9Marks conference, a moderator asked Thabiti what he thought about multi-site churches. The moderator’s question was something like, “Thabiti, what arguments for multi-site have you found persuasive?” Thabiti’s response: “Uh, none.”
Now at this point I was intrigued. From my perspective, multi-site was an incredible way to reach more people. If your preaching was compelling enough to be live-streamed to another campus, even more people would hear the gospel. If you want to be about winning souls, you would do multi-site.
Then I read Thabiti’s six reasons against multi-site churches (read the full post here):
- Idolatry: “video multi-site tends to idolatry, pride, and self-promotion–even where the ambition of spreading the gospel is genuine”.
- Competition and Pride: “the main argument for multi-site [is often] our best preacher should do all the preaching because the other guys are gifted differently or aren’t as good”.
- Removes “Local” from “Local Churches”: Multi-site “reduce[s] the family, body, and flock to an anonymous assembly.”
- Idolatry… Again: “Our hearts easily gravitate toward entertainment and celebrity when the preaching event gets broadcast on screen rather than shared in flesh and blood.”
- Pragmatism: “Too many other things we’re called to be faithful in doing are simply left undone in this approach.”
- Cultural Captivity: “It promotes image and fantasy and make-believe over the glories of reality with all its warts and beauties.”
Now all six arguments are compelling (you really should read the full post here), but one stood out above them all. After reading the argument above how multi-site removes “local” from “local churches,” for the first time I asked myself the question, “what is a church?” What makes a church a church? Is it the band + preacher + offering? Is it the building we gather in? Is it my friends and I + studying the Bible together? Is my small group a church? When I watch the sermon online, is that me joining with the church?
I was in my last year of seminary, I was working at a church, I had been a Christian for years, but I had never even thought to ask that one simple question. Three years later, I’m grateful to the Lord for that blogpost. And while I’ve never met Thabiti Anyabwile, I owe him many thanks also. He took a few moments out of his day at the Miami airport to write quick blog post, and that one post forced me to slow down and think. Thabiti’s post generated one simple question for me, “what is a church?” It’s one of the most important questions a Christian can ask today.
Where money is the great want, numbers must be sought; and where an ambition for numbers prevails, doctrinal purity must be sacrificed. The root of evil is the secular spirit of all our ecclesiastical institutions. What we want is a spiritual body; a Church whose power lies in the truth, and the presence of the Holy Ghost.
–James Henley Thornwell, 1846
From Evangelicalism Divided by Iain Murray
A God without wrath brought men without sin into a Kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a Cross.
–H. Richard Niebuhr, The Kingdom of God in America (p. 193).