To Act or Not: Part 2

Actsgathering3Is it appropriate to attempt to be an “Acts Church” today by using the book of Acts as a guide?
Yes and No… let me explain. Certainly the ten points I outlined in the last post will be a great resource to follow and I support the use of them. In fact our churches won’t be too successful without doing those 10 things. So yes, I say we should follow the guide and do our best to carry it out. We need to keep in mind however the differences in culture and their community compared to ours. Without intense study of the culture in Jerusalem at that time in history it would be impossible to understand the vast differences. The response to leadership was different and some things done today were completely forbidden. There was also specific revelation occurring from God and the anointing of the Holy Spirit. The early converts were praying like we can’t even imagine and God was responding. I believe this issue of prayer is one of our problems but that is another subject. ActsChurchThe early church was almost completely a made up of Jewish people before it spread to the Gentiles. (Officially in Acts 15) Our community is much more diverse. Things were done much different back then compared to now and the world mindset was different. I remember a guy saying to me, “Ok, that was the church for then but I want to experience our church for now.” We can be an Acts church but must modify for our contemporary times. It would be impossible to do everything exactly as the Apostles did in the early church.
Secondly I think there is more that God wants us to follow and the Bible provides it. I think if we add Ephesians to the Acts Church we have a winner of a blueprint to work from. We must not exclude the teachings of Timothy, Titus and others.
We know that the primary job of the Church is the ‘Great Commission’ of Matthew 28:16-20) which theoretically is a three part process. One is to make disciples, second is to baptize them, and third we must, “teach them to observe all things that I have commanded you.” The Church leaders must see to it that disciples are being made. It is their our principle responsibility.
How are disciples made? They are created through the gospel of Jesus Christ. Everyone does not do the same job in the process. Some disciple, some evangelize, some teach, etc… No need to feel guilt if you can’t do everything well. “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:11-12)
A major part of the blueprint for Church today is Ephesians 4:10-16. The main function of the church leaders is to equip the saints for the work of service. And every Christian is a saint, just call me Saint Frank. Church leaders are to be intimately involved in equipping each and every saint. The body of Christ is built up through the process of equipping. So the purpose of leaders is to equip Christians for ministry and not to replace them. The purpose of equipping members for service is so the body can be built up and the ‘Unity of the Body’ can only be achieved through every Christian ministering and supplying the body. When each individual is functioning properly the body builds itself up in love and unity. It will be self-perpetuating because God guaranteed it. The bottom line is that Churches will grow when we as Christians use our Spiritual Gifts in service to the body of Christ.
We need to be careful because looking at other churches through the ages and how other people are doing things has led to decline in Christianity. Churches that are dying are usually mired in tradition or off the path and unwilling to change. We need to be looking at scripture and reading scripture. We need to also be on our knees in prayer. God’s word has all the answers and it is not only in the book of Acts. Albeit Acts is a great place to be and I don’t want to diminish its importance.
The basic point we must remember is that with a guide or not, the church is built up on disciples that are willing to take up their cross and die for the Lord if need be. (Matthew 16:24)
I think I will close with a thought on this church leadership issue: We will all stand before God some day and answer to Him. Many Church Leaders will stand before God and be asked what they were told to do and if they completed it. Many won’t know what He is talking about and won’t be able to say they obeyed. He will ask if they warned the disciples about their accountability for their instructions in the Word. Not many leaders are reading the Word of God any more. The wrath of God will be visited upon disobedient disciples, and will be visited upon negligent church leaders because it is their responsibility to, “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.” (Acts 20:28-30) Church leadership comes with an awesome responsibility. Woe to those who scatter my sheep.
Blessings for your day through Christ,

The Tubthumper

  1 Stephen Parker, Church Growth Crisis: The Decline of Christianity in America (Oklahoma City, OK: Forever Family Publications, 2011).

 

Hell Yes It’s Real, part 4

New Testament Doctrine of Hellcanstockphoto5818885

Three words are translated to “Hell” from the New Testament. Hades, Tartarus and Gehenna. Hades and Tartarus are Greek and the word Gehenna is the Greek form of the Hebrew words Gee and Hinnom which mean “the valley of Hinnom.”

Hades occurs eleven times and has a meaning of “grave” one time and “Hell” ten times. 2 Cor. 15: 55, ” O death, where is thy sting. O grave (hades) where is thy victory?” An example of a use where it takes the meaning of “Hell” is Rev. 6: 8, “And I looked, and behold a pale horse; and his name that sat on him was death, and Hell followed him.”

The parable of the rich man and Lazarus provides a good example of hades being used in the figurative sense of depravity, suffering and degradation. The word Tartarus was used only one time and was within the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. Tartarus was the place of torment within Hades. It is the place where the rich man was located and was used figuratively. The word Gehanna shows up 12 times always being associated with “Hell”. It is found in the following scriptures: Matt. 5:22, 29, 30, 10:28, 18:9, 13:15, 33; Mark 9:43, 45, 47; Luke 12:5 and James 3:6. It is clear to see the word Gehanna, or Hell, within the New Testament represents anything repulsive, foul and evil with judgment of destruction.[1]

The majority of people today cannot quite grasp the Biblical teaching on the destiny of the lost. Someone you love could possibly end up in eternal punishment because of wickedness.  Now that is a thought and a place where even Christians with generally high views of Biblical inspiration cannot go.[2]

The bible teaches the existence of Heaven where we can end up in a state of joyous eternity and residing in the fellowship of God. It also teaches the presence of Hell which is presented as a state of anguished separation from God. Those decisions are made while you are in this life and once this life ends they become permanently fixed states.[3]

The very first description of Hell in revelation comes in Chapter 14 when John wrote about the final judgment. “And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name” (Rev. 14:9-11).  This is another very terrifying section of God’s word as it is referring to “God’s wrath” and “God’s anger” all mentioned within the context of “tormented with fire and brimstone” forever and ever.  It does not get any more frightful than this. John sends all a very forceful warning of “Do not oppose God!” He goes on in revelation describing the torment and the lake of fire.[4]

In Revelation 20 and 21 the “Lake of fire” is described as the place where all who choose to turn from Jesus will go as a final destiny.  In Rev. 20: 11-15 the words are clear that the lake of fire is for punishment.  John tells us there will be two different places for believers and unbelievers.  “Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city. For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie” (Rev. 22:14-15).   If these subjects have not dealt with their sins through the blood of Jesus in this life, “washed their robes”; their destiny will be chosen.  There will be no way to wash your robes when you are in the lake of fire.[5]

The doctrine of Hell is fully supported by the Bible and has been an accepted doctrine of the Christian church from the beginning. Many Scholars such as C.S. Lewis have come to the conclusion that scriptures also are supported by reason.

In the last part of Matthew 25 it says, “Then they also will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ Then He will answer them, saying, “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (Matt. 25:44-46).  Think about what the Bible is always talking about.  Believe on Christ and be saved.  Believe and have everlasting life.  Be saved from what? It is important to connect with this fundamental issue.  If you believe and have a saving faith in Christ you are then saved from that awful and terrible place in outer darkness.  You will be saved from the wrath of God.  No one wants to experience the wrath of a just God visited upon who ever has been hostile toward Him. You should be seeing the reality of Hell in all this. The most frightful thing anyone could ever experience is the judgment of a holy God.[6]

Tony Evans wrote, “The Bible is clear that at the moment of death, our souls pass immediately into conscious existence in eternity, either in heaven or in hell.  A lot of people think there’s some kind of second chance after death.  God’s Word says nothing about an intermediate state of purgatory after death in which we have a second chance to get our act together, have our sins dealt with and then make it to heaven.”[7]

As mentioned before, this life is no trial run.  It is the only shot we have.  So let us all get our act together so as not to end up in that horrible place called Hell.  Yes, it is for real.

Come back for the next post as we look at what Jesus said about Hell.

  Click here to jump to the next post. Jump to part 1, part 2, part 3, Conclusion.

Have a Godly day,

“The Tubthumper”

 



[1] Velarde, Is Hell Real?

[2] David Horton and Ryan Horton, eds., The Portable Seminary (Bloomington, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2006), 166.

[3] Ibid., 194.

[4] Evans, Tony Evans Speaks Out on Heaven and Hell, 15.

[5] Chan and Sprinkle, Erasing Hell, 33.

[6] Sproul, Unseen Realities, 65.

[7] Evans, Tony Evans Speaks Out on Heaven and Hell, 8.

Are we a Bunch of Losers? Part 6

Christ Church StellartonPart 6

I mentioned earlier that you should evaluate the church, your church and your life.  Let me draw your attention to the first six books of Revelation.

The first church Jesus addressed is the Church as Ephesus.  He started with giving them a commendation, “I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false.  You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.”  Oh, but all is not good because He then rebukes them, “Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first.  Consider how far you have fallen!”  If you have studied the Bible much at all you should know that love is one of the top three topics if not the one greatest of all.  They had forsaken the LOVE!  And then comes the warning, “Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.”(In other words He would leave them in darkness!)    And then He gives them a promise, “Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.” Now there is some fine motivation. Have you forsaken the Love?

The second church in the evaluation is the church at Smyrna.  He starts again with an accolade.  I think this may be where the “sandwich” style of delivering some criticism in the business world might have come from. It is usually the way we get something positive as the first slice of bread and then the filling is the rough stuff before the last slice added is a word of hope and praise.  Jesus tells them, “I know about the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.” Ouch!  Next comes the warning, “Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Lastly he gives the hope, “Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the Churches. The one who is victorious will not be hurt at all by the second death.”  Notice the hint to listen to what the Holy Spirit says for the things churches are to do. Be sure you are not a synagogue of Satan.

Church number three is the church of Pergamum.  Right away we see the praise coming, “I know where you live—where Satan has his throne. Yet you remain true to my name. You did not renounce your faith in me, not even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was put to death in your city—where Satan lives.”  Not long after, however, comes the complaint, “Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: There are some among you who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin so that they ate food sacrificed to idols and committed sexual immorality. Likewise, you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans.”  He is warning them against false teachers and sexual immorality which we have plenty of in these days.  The warning is sharp, “Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.”  And He finishes with the hope, “Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it.”  Once again He says to listen to the Holy Spirit! Do not worship idols or be committing sexual immorality.

The fourth Church Jesus addresses is the church of Thyatira and He starts by acknowledging they have grown from where they started, “I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first.” But then comes the reprimand, “Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols. I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling. So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways. I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds.”  It sounds to me like He is not happy with them, to say the least… So now comes a further warning, Now I say to the rest of you in Thyatira, to you who do not hold to her teaching and have not learned Satan’s so-called deep secrets, ‘I will not impose any other burden on you, except to hold on to what you have until I come.” So to those of you that are somehow righteous you better stick with the program until I come get you.  Jesus then tells of the reward for doing as He commands, “To the one who is victorious and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations— that one ‘will rule them with an iron scepter and will dash them to pieces like pottery’ ¬- just as I have received authority from my Father. I will also give that one the morning star. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”  Hear it?  Listen to the Holy Spirit? Do not follow false teachers.

Please join me in the next post (JUST CLICK HERE) for the conclusion as we review the last three churches and bring this series to a close.

God bless your day,

‘The Tubthumper’

Are we a bunch of losers?

church29Are we just a bunch of Losers?

As the “Church” are we failing?  Are we just a bunch of losers?  This will be a series of several posts on the state of the church and what is happening.  As I began writing the content led me to first “What is the Church?”  After that I wanted to look at what the Bible teaches “the church” should look like, what happens to us by relating two parables and then it led to an evaluation based on the way Jesus evaluated the church in Revelation chapter 2.

Please strap your seat-belts on and ride with me as we begin with Part 1:

Are we Americans first and Christians second or are we Christians first and Americans second? What do you think of when someone mentions the ‘the Church’.  If you think it is some organization in the next county or some building up the street, then think again.  The church, my friend, is you and it is Me. The church is a group of people.  It is the believing souls that follow Christ.

“‘Church’ might be a denomination, a building, or an organized group of believers, but THE Church consists of followers of Jesus Christ who have been saved by grace through faith in him—the ‘body of Christ’. Instead of pointing fingers and saying the ‘church’ has failed at this or that, we might want to pause and take a hard look at ourselves first. Is the church failing us or are we failing the church?” – G.S. West.

The church is failing because we want to be like the world.  To completely believe in the Gospel will destroy our lives as Americans.  We have all compromised what we have been taught.  We have all forsaken the word of God.  We are a bunch of two faced hypocrites!  I use that strong language because it is true.  We are supposed to be different.  The Bible says, “They will know we are Christians by our love”.   It also says that we would easily be recognized by our fruit.

What has happened is that we have been watered down so far that we cannot be picked out of the crowd any longer.  If we all were in God’s word and in prayer each day as we are commanded something amazing would happen.  We would be so profoundly different from everyone else that the world would have to sit up and take notice.  What if preachers today expounded God’s word from what was written instead of making up their own?  A few still hold to Gospel but most do not.  What I see are preachers that only talk about the pleasantries involved and somehow skip the issue of sin and the wrath of God. There are so many false teachers out there now it is frightening.  We have all bought into the health and wealth philosophy in some extent if not wholly and it cannot be denied.  We have done it without even being completely aware it happened.  It has been like the story of how you can boil a frog.  If you try to put a frog in hot water to kill him he will just jump out quickly to safety.  If you want it done you must put the frog in a pot of cold water and let him swim around and get comfortable.  Then turn up the heat slowly and bring the water to a boil while the frog is sleeping.  And that’s it, he’s cooked!  And yes, we are cooked!  We have all been slowly boiled into the world.

Do you know the parable of the “Rich Fool” or the parable of the “Rich Young Ruler”?  Both of them serve as good examples of where we have come.  And the fix we are in.  The parables are great so read them all.  The Rich Fool parable can be found in Luke chapter 12 starting at verse 13.  Just prior to the parable on the Rich Fool Jesus was cautioning against covetousness. The text shows Jesus teaching about being ready for the redeemer.  This parable is the very first of five parables about the second coming of Jesus the Christ. He was preaching to the multitude, probably in Jerusalem because it was in the last month of His ministry.  Jesus was addressing the crowd and He was teaching.  The crowd heard about the hypocrisy of the Pharisee’s. They also heard about the Fear of God and the need to confess Him before men. They heard of the urgency of the time and that possessions are not as important as Godliness. Jesus was warning against greed and materialism.  The Rich Fool was trying to store up his mast harvest to be able to eat, drink and be merry.  What Jesus knew that the fool didn’t is that it was the last day of the fool’s life.  He would die that night. He drew a parallel between the rich fool that met an untimely death and those that store up things for themselves but are not rich toward God.  The point being: Spiritual wealth far exceeds material wealth in value. In verse 20 he was called a fool. This is the only place in the Bible where Jesus directly called anyone a fool. The rich fool was called that because he was totally self-centered.  The personal pronouns of “me, mine, and I” are used 12 times in this short parable by the fool.  It is a very telling point of reference.

Then we have the “Rich Young Ruler” found in Luke 18:18-30.  Let us look in  verse 22, “Now when Jesus heard these things, he said unto him, Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me.”  This guy wanted to be in the Kingdom.  He wanted to be saved.  But he couldn’t unless he sold all the riches he had.  When he heard those things he became very sad for he was very rich.

With us it is not that we are all rich even though we are better off than the rest of the world.  What our problem is absolutely is the way we have come to live.  In order to completely follow Jesus we would need to surrender how we live, how we work, how we love, how we communicate and I could go on and on.  Every ounce of our lives would need to be surrendered or “sold” to completely follow Jesus.

We are all unwilling to take that step. Aren’t we?

Click here to jump to Part 2 as we reflect on the hearts of the two rich guys…