Friday, November 28, 2014

The Purpose of the Church Service

1Co 14:23  If, therefore, the whole church comes together and all speak in tongues, and outsiders or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are out of your minds? 1Co 14:24  But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, 1Co 14:25  the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you.

If there is anything crystal clear in chapter 14 of 1 Corinthians, it is that unless you understand the speech of whoever is preaching or speaking in tongues and are being edified there is nothing profitable going on.  To use this chapter to justify tongues without an interpreter or “private prayer language” in which you don’t understand what you are saying is to completely miss Paul’s point it seems to me.  In vss. 14-15 Paul says plainly that if he doesn’t understand with his mind what he is saying in tongues, it is unfruitful; he doesn’t make any exceptions; 1Co 14:14  For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind is unfruitful. 1Co 14:15  What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also.

Vss. 23-25 go on to show that if someone comes into the service and all he sees is confusion, which in this context is people speaking in languages he doesn’t understand, he won’t know what is going on and won’t be able to be edified and glorify God.  Instead he will think everyone has gone insane.  It seems to me that we are justified assuming the same thing in many of the services of Charismatics in which the very same thing is going on.  If they aren’t insane we can at least assume it isn’t a work of the Holy Spirit but another spirit.  I mean, Paul says it himself, how else can you take these verses?

But it is vss. 24-25 that are even more important.  Paul goes on to show why prophecy or the plain proclamation of the Word of God is much more profitable for everyone including a lost person who comes into the service.  What these two verses do is remind us what the services are for and it isn’t emotional hoopla for its own sake.  The clear proclamation of the gospel brings serious reflection of the state of one’s soul, conviction, repentance and proper worship and service of God.  This is to be the goal of what we do in the services.  Anything that doesn’t produce that is unfruitful.

And I would add that it isn’t just those that practice tongues that fail here.  Many use music and entertainment and even preaching in the very same way.  I have seen services where no one was speaking in tongues but the music had them dancing in the aisle and in an emotional state that had nothing to do with the truth of the Word of God.  Unfortunately I have seen preaching that accomplished a similar state.  I remember a preacher who had a big name in Fundamentalism preaching for us at a chapel service in college.  He began by quoting Ecc. 12:13, closed his Bible and never referred to it again and proceeded to tell us story after story, joke after joke along with other antics that brought no conviction of sin or any exposition of any text at all.  It did have everyone laughing and was a nice break from our classes, but preaching it was not.  I remember a seminary student I knew telling me afterward that he literally had tears of sadness rolling down his face as he witnessed the spectacle.  My point is that there are many ways to fail to edify God’s people and honor the Lord in our services and the one thing they have in common is to make light of or ignore biblical exposition.

The last part of vs. 25 seems to be important in this discussion, 1Co 14:25  the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you.  Again, the implication would be that if there is confusion and no edification, there is no proof that God is among us.  The Holy Spirit works through the preaching of the Word of God in the language of those who are present.  Proof of his presence is the understanding and application of the Truth.  

Should not our goal in our services be to see the manifestation of the Holy Spirit?  Where ever we read of the fruit of the Spirit it is always understanding and holiness, not emotional hoopla. 1Co 14:26  What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up. 1Co 14:33  For God is not a God of confusion but of peace.  1Co 14:40  But all things should be done decently and in order.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

When is Self Love Not Bad?

1Co 13:7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Mat 22:39  And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

The word “bears” has the idea of covering to protect.  Those that we love we want to protect from ridicule and harm.  We don’t want their weaknesses exposed but instead we want to build them up and see them prosper.  Another passage that carries this idea is 1Pe 4:8 Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.

Unfortunately it is very easy for us to say we love someone but do very little to prove it.  Often I think we assume we are loving someone if we don’t do them harm but we too many times put little emphasis on actually doing something good and useful for someone.

There is a good way to test how well we love.  Jesus, who knows us better than we know ourselves pointed it out to us when he said that the second great commandment is to love our neighbor as ourselves.  I think what he was getting at is to treat each other as we would like to be treated which is well termed: “The Golden Rule”. 

One of the easiest ways for me to know if I am loving someone well is to put myself in their place.  Would I appreciate it if someone said to me what I just said to them?  Would I want that little tidbit that I just told someone said of me?  Would I appreciate that look, that attitude, that tone if directed towards me?  If I will spend the same effort in hiding other people’s faults and the same effort in improving other people’s situation in life as I do my own, I think I would be well on my way to true Christian love.

I have always wondered about the second Great Commandment in the sense that it assumes self-love and so I wonder if we are to look at it as okay or sinful.  I think on one hand Jesus knows that we have a certain self-love instilled in us that is not sinful and part of the human experience; it is something God has put there.  God certainly uses the subject of rewards often enough in the Bible that we have to assume it is okay, in part, to obey him for the promised reward.  Certainly those motivations have to be very carefully controlled but equally clear is that they must be okay if God uses them as part of our motivation to serve him.

At the same time our biggest problem is self-love; not the desire for good things to happen to us as just stated but the desire to love ourselves more than God and everything else.  I don’t believe it is sinful to want to be happy, pain-free, fulfilled, etc.  But it is sinful to see yourself as the center of your universe.  If we pursue our desire to be happy in knowing and serving the Lord, our self-love will be the means to glorify the Lord.  Now that is a strange statement but I think biblical when properly understood. 
If we love each other, we will want others to be as happy as we are by knowing the Lord.  What we must guard against is using others for our own interests but not their good or the Lord’s honor.  Having said all that I find it ironic that I can use self-love to gauge how well I love others, but that is what Jesus told me to do.  But, of course, it means I must love the Lord supremely, otherwise I can’t love myself or others as I am supposed to.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

True Righteousness

Isa 53:7  He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.
Heb 12:2  looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

In several places the Bible points out that Jesus went to the cross voluntarily.  I have been thinking about that lately as to why this point is revealed to us; what is the significance?  On the one hand we know that the second Person of the Godhead had to be in perfect agreement with the will of the Father because that is the nature of the Trinity.  There are not three Gods, independent of each other but three persons that make up the being of God who are in perfect harmony and love.  But I think there is more to all this than just the fact that the Son agreed in eternity to be the Lamb of God. 

In fact, Jesus didn’t just have to agree to do the will of the Father but had to delight in obeying the Father in order for him to be a suitable sacrifice and to produce a righteousness that could be imputed to us. 

Consider for a moment Heb. 12:2 above.  What was the joy set before Jesus that enabled him to endure the cross which wasn’t so much his physical pain but knowing that he would have to endure the wrath of God against sin and separation from the Father?  Some tend to think it was the salvation of sinners and no doubt that element was there.  But the joy points to the delight he had in doing the Father’s will and the glory that would come in his redemptive plan being carried out.  Redemption and everything else that exists is about God glorifying himself firstly; it is about saving sinners to the extent it glorifies God. 

We see this also in Joh 4:34 Jesus said to them, "My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.  What we are seeing is a remarkable look at the heart of Jesus and what true righteousness and true law keeping is all about.  The only thing that motivated him in everything he does, both eternally and while on earth is to please and glorify the Father.  There was nothing more important than that to Jesus.

There is another passage that is helpful here.  Joh 8:28  So Jesus said to them, "When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me. Joh 8:29  And he who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him." 

Jesus taught that keeping the Law means to love God with all of your person.  If anything is clear in the OT it is that lip service and outward conformity means nothing if the heart isn’t in it.  So my point in all of this is that in order for Jesus to be perfectly righteous in the true sense of the word, the absolute love for the Father had to be the driving motivation behind everything he did.  Anything short of that would have been sin.  In this we see that submitting to the cross was much more than just doing it because he had to or because there just wasn’t any other way to save sinners, etc.  For there to be one instance in all of his 33 years in which his motivation wasn’t perfect, sin would have been found in him.  The righteousness we need on our account in order to be accepted by God is the kind that loves God supremely and lives accordingly. 

Not only does this give us a glimpse at just who Jesus Christ was as the God/Man but it should make it crystal clear how far from righteous we are.  I am not sure that I have ever done anything purely out of love for the Lord without self getting involved somewhere.  And I am sure that my motivations for what I do are often more about me than the Lord.  The last thing I want is to stand before the Lord in my own righteousness. 

Praise God for a wonderful Savior in Jesus Christ who always did things that pleased the Father!  Because Jesus is always righteous he will never be forsaken by the Father (And he who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him) then those in Christ can know that we will never be forsaken.

Friday, November 7, 2014

How Are Sinners "Convinced" To Turn To Christ?

Luk 16:27  And he said, 'Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father's house--
Luk 16:28  for I have five brothers--so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.' Luk 16:29  But Abraham said, 'They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.' Luk 16:30  And he said, 'No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.' Luk 16:31  He said to him, 'If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.'"

As I was thinking about this passage about Lazarus and the rich man I thought there was a point to be made.  There is something in these verses that completely destroys the idea that everyone has the ability to accept or reject the gospel; Arminianism to be precise.  Dives makes the mistake that so many do, even many Christians, which is that it is possible through convincing evidences, miraculous displays or some kind of human reasoning to convince the natural man that he should repent of his sins and trust in Jesus as his Lord and Savior.

The problem is that the Bible is quite clear that until one is regenerated, is enlightened by the Holy Spirit, he cannot exercise faith.  Simply put one cannot demonstrate signs of spiritual life until one is given spiritual life and we are all born spiritually dead, 1Co 2:14  The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.

Notice that Dives says that if Lazarus rises from the dead or appears in some way to his brothers they will take his warning more seriously than the Scriptures that they already have.  The presupposition is that they can be convinced; they just need strong enough evidence.  He assumes that the written Word is not enough but to see someone raised from the grave is a sure fire way to prove that there is a God and his Word is true. 

But Jesus’s rebuttal is crystal clear and if one is honest with the Bible he must deal with this doctrine.  The Word of God, the good news recorded in it, is sufficient to convert sinners and the most spectacular miracle will not convince sinners when the gospel cannot. 

The reason is expanded on later in John 3 when Jesus explains to Nicodemus that one cannot see the Kingdom of God until he is born again.  There must be an inward work because a work from without falls on deaf ears and blind eyes. 

Christians often are tempted to think that simply preaching Christ isn’t enough but we have to convince sinners through “proving” the existence of God or entertainment or by performing miracles or something that will catch their attention.  But the text above is unmistakable that all they need is the gospel for it alone is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.  The reason God saves only through the gospel is so that when a sinner is converted God alone gets the glory for it was his power not our mental abilities.  If Lazarus came back from the grave and convinced the brothers to repent it wouldn’t have been Christ who would have been the focus but Lazarus.  

In fact someone did rise from the dead and the issue for sinners isn’t really proving whether he did or didn’t rise, it is that the natural man doesn’t want to submit to his God.  It takes a new heart to repudiate who we are and turn to Christ and until that happens, miracles and proof aren’t the issues, repentance of our sinfulness is.