The Majestic, Exalted Rule of God

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.

Closer than Blood: the Local Church

“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.”

–Jamie Dunlop

From The Compelling Community by Jamie Dunlop and Mark Dever

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Are Multi-Site Churches from the Devil?

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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):

  1. Idolatry: “video multi-site tends to idolatry, pride, and self-promotion–even where the ambition of spreading the gospel is genuine”.
  2. 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”.
  3. Removes “Local” from “Local Churches”: Multi-site “reduce[s] the family, body, and flock to an anonymous assembly.”
  4. 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.”
  5. Pragmatism: “Too many other things we’re called to be faithful in doing are simply left undone in this approach.”
  6. 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.

A Three-Hundred Year Old Response to Pastors who Neglect Church Discipline

Take note that this key has been entrusted to you by the Lord Jesus. You are, as it were, the porters of a city. Such porters are most unfaithful who permit the entrance of an approaching enemy coming to destroy the city. You would likewise be unfaithful porters if you permit those enemies to enter and to remain within, and thus destroy the congregation which puts her trust in your faithfulness.

You are the cause that the church is becoming degenerate to the core. You are responsible for all the consequences of this. As a result, God’s Name is dishonored, many people are kept from joining the church who otherwise would do so, souls are destroyed who by the use of the keys of God’s kingdom would repent, and the flouring of godliness is obstructed. You will be the cause that one member imitates the other in the commission of evil, and that the godly are oppressed and secretly must sigh over the wretched condition of the church.

Know that the Lord will bring you into judgment for all these things, and that there you will have to give an account of the manner in which you have ruled the church entrusted to you and concerning the souls over whom the Lord appointed you as an overseer. The Lord will demand blood of all those souls who will perish due to the neglect of the use of this key. Oh, what a weighty responsibility this is, and how dreadful will God’s judgment be upon all unfaithful elders! Oh, that many would never have been elders!

–Wilhelmus à Brakel, The Christian’s Reasonable Service, vol. 2, (p. 185).

From The Church and the Surprising Offense of God’s Love (pp. 322-323).

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Why Submit to a Local Church?

Submitting to a local church:

  1. Identifies us with Christ.
  2. Distinguishes us from the world.
  3. Guides us into the righteousness of Christ by presenting a standard of personal and corporate righteousness.
  4. Acts as a witness to non-Christians.
  5. Glorifies God and enables us to enjoy his glory.
  6. Identifies us with Christ’s people.
  7. Assists us in living the Christian life through the accountability of brothers and sisters in the faith.
  8. Makes us responsible for specific believers.
  9. Protects us from the world, the flesh, and the Devil.

–Jonathan Leeman, The Church and the Surprising Offense of God’s Love (p. 267).

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Faith Without Works is Hot Air

A man who claims to be righteous in Christ yet makes no effort to pursue a life of righteousness is, at best, self-deceived. Likewise, a woman who claims to love all Christians everywhere but does not love her Christian sister is likewise self-deceived. Both are hypocrites. They are nominal Christians––Christians in name only––because their profession does not translate into action or reality. They claim a positional status before the throne of God, but nothing in their lives commends the reality of that status, as if God were a fool who could be mocked (Gal. 6:7). Their faith is without works, which, James tells us, is a dead faith. It’s meaningless. It’s hot air, even if they think that they really, really mean it. The kingdom of Christ is about reality––a new reality, not the illusory old one.

So too with one who claims to belong to the church without belonging to a church. I fear that he looks very much like a nominal Christian and a hypocrite.

–Jonathan Leeman, The Church and the Surprising Offense of God’s Love (p. 214).

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Book Review: What is a Healthy Church Member?

 

What is a Healthy Church Member?

by Thabiti Anyabwile

There are many books out there talking about the importance of Christians living “in community,” but what does that actually look like? Thabiti Anyabwile unpacks the vital office of church member with biblical insight and practical advice.

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In the introduction, Thabiti starts with the question he is trying to answer; “What exactly am I supposed to be doing as a member of this local church?” Thabiti’s goal in writing the book is, “that you might discover or rediscover what it means to be a healthy member of a local church, and what it means to contribute to the overall health of the church.” This goal may sound foreign to Christians that are focused on what the church can do for them. Instead, Thabiti exhorts the church member to consider what the Bible commands them to do for one another. Thabiti divides the book into ten marks of a healthy church member. I’ve listed them below with helpful advice from each chapter.

1. A healthy church member is an expositional listener

  • Meditate on the sermon passage during your quiet time
  • Talk and pray with friends about the sermon after church

2. A healthy church member is a biblical theologian

  • Know and agree to support your church’s statement of faith
  • Seek doctrinal unity and avoid needless disputes

3. A healthy church member is gospel saturated

  • Know the gospel (Sadly this is often overlooked)
  • Share the gospel
  • Guard the gospel (The responsibility to guard the gospel does not ultimately fall on pastors alone, but on the congregation)

4. A healthy church member is genuinely converted

  • Some helpful questions to ask:
    • Do we walk in the light or the darkness?
    • Do we love God the Father?
    • Do we love other Christians?
    • Do we have the testimony of the Spirit that we are children of God?
    • Are we persevering in the Faith?

5. A healthy church member is a biblical evangelist (Much of this chapter is taken from Mark Dever and Michael P. Andrus)

  • Tell people with honesty that if they repent and believe they will be saved–but it will be costly
  • Remember to pray
  • Realize that the local church as a whole is a central part of evangelism… it should give credibility to the gospel we proclaim

6. A healthy church member is a committed member

  • Regularly attend gatherings
  • Seek peace
  • Edify others
  • Pursue reconciliation
  • Bear with others

7. A healthy church member seeks discipline

  • Humbly accept correction from others
  • Take seriously your responsibility to discipline others in love

8. A healthy church member is a growing disciple

9. A healthy church member is a humble follower

  • Obey and submit to leaders
  • Follow the leaders’ example
  • Pray for leaders

10. A healthy church member is a prayer warrior

  • Pray for laborers and shepherds
  • Pray for all the saints (Pray through your membership directory!)
  • Pray for those in authority

What is a Healthy Church Member? does not offer anything new or profound. What you will find are basic responsibilities for those who are members of local churches. It seems Thabiti is responding to years of books on an individualistic approach to the Christian life. So many Christians are concerned with their own growth, their own holiness, their own evangelismThabiti book offers a helpful turn from individual to family.

By God’s grace, I have seen a lot of what Thabiti talked about in my own church. I commend this short book to you for the benefit of your Christian life and the life of your church. Maybe even consider getting two copies to read one with a fellow church member.