Friday, July 29, 2011

Church Builders #4


Philippians 4:5 Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.

What is the intended meaning of the biblical term moderation? This is a clear example of how the meanings of words can drastically change over the years. Therefore, we must carefully seek out the intended meaning and context of words used in scripture. Today's definition and the original meaning are drastically different.

The modern use of the word is generally defined as the process of eliminating or lessening extremes. In recent times the term 'moderate' has become a buzzword in political circles. It is used to describe an individual who holds an intermediate position between extreme political parties. In religious circles it can describe one who stands on middle ground between two perceived extremes in a particular religious order. But what does the above verse teach us about this term?

The Apostle Paul begins Philippians chapter 4 by encouraging the church to stand fast in the Lord. This exhortation in and of itself disqualifies the modern connotation of eliminating extremes. A public stand in the doctrines of the Lord automatically puts all believers in an extreme position against many institutions of the world. Christianity was not merely a compromise in behavior or affiliations, it was complete lifestyle change from being a servant to the world to a soldier in the Lord's army. He later encourages them to center their joy in the Lord. Not unlike today, the ancient Roman citizen was encouraged by the powers-that-be to seek pleasure in worldly entertainment. Bread and circuses were used to placate the people. But Paul encouraged the disciples of Christ to be glad and well-off in the Lord.

So, what is biblical moderation then? It conveys an attitude of patience or gentleness. It is not a call to compromise the radical teachings of scripture. However, it does instruct one to carry out God's commands with meekness and gentleness. When listing the qualifications of a minister, Paul emphasizes this behavior. Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; (1 Timothy 3:3). He later expands this trait to all believers in Titus 3. Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work, To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men (v. 1-2). James later describes a peaceable attitude and gentleness as wisdom given from above (James 3:17). All of these passages are synonymous with Paul's use of the term moderation.

How are we to apply this to our present situation? First, we realize that scriptural moderation is not compromise. As disciples of Christ, we are commanded to stand fast in his truth. Paul emphatically encourages the Corinthian believers to be steadfast, unmovable and always abounding in the work of the Lord (1 Corinthians 15:58). In other words, we are to settle for nothing less than the truth. This should be our goal, both doctrinally and practically.

However, we are to exercise godly patience and gentleness in every activity of life. An adherence to biblical truth will inevitably cause friction. Perhaps it may come in the form of government persecution, ostracism from so-called friends and family, or even attacks from within your own church body. When these difficulties arise we are to moderate our behavior with gentleness, meekness, and patience. Our natural tendency is to 'lash out' at others due to frustration or mistreatment. The proper God-honoring response it to be that of biblical moderation. Notice what Paul writes to the people of Thessalonian church:

Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men. See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men (1 Thessalonians 5:14-15).

Later, he exhorts Timothy in a similar manner:

Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ (2 Timothy 2:3).

These verses contain no compromise when it comes to the truth, but all confrontations were to be tempered with patience and goodness. Moderation was to prevail in all situations. Is this the case in your life? Our tendency is to be hotheads when we our our loved ones are mistreated. We can get in the flesh over the most insignificant slights that occur in everyday life. The Lord is neither pleased or glorified in such! There are times that we are called to graciously suffer in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. I pray that we would examine every avenue of life and apply true, biblical moderation. What a great blessing it would be to us and a powerful testimony of the Lord who saved us if we heeded this biblical principle!

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Church Builders #3

Walking in the Spirit

Living a Spirit-filled life might be the most often overlooked aspect of discipleship. We readily acknowledge that God is the creator and sustainer of our universe. We understand that salvation is by His grace and that Jesus died for the sins of His people! To become a Primitive Baptist you have you have to be able to quote Romans 8:29-33 and Ephesians 1:4. That might be a slight exaggeration, but not so much :-)

But how much attention do we give to the Holy Spirit? This third aspect of the Trinity is oftentimes ignored in our everyday lives, is it not? I have recently become convicted of this reality in my own personal walk. I will soon be secularly unemployed and have been seeking a new job. Needless to say, it is a tough climate to be doing such! Unfortunately, I have allowed this setback to be too much of a distraction. There have been nights that I have stayed awake worrying about things that have not yet happened. It has been a distraction in my studies and at times downright overwhelming. In other words, I have not been walking in the Spirit. If I were, this (and other) difficulties would not be so paralyzing.

I find the same to be true in our church bodies. We allow the inevitable challenges of life to elicit worldly responses instead of spiritual. We let worry and uncertainty to prevent us from doing what the body of Christ is called to do; act as the salt of the earth and shine light in this world of darkness (Matthew 6).

  • We fear the consequences of sharing the doctrines of God’s sovereign grace because it is diametrically opposed to what much of the rest of our society believes.
  • We despair because of our small numbers and think no one would want to be a part of our community of believers.
  • We allow anger and bitterness to take over when inevitable conflict occurs amongst those who make up our church body.
  • We constantly worry about when ‘the other shoe is going to drop’ when things are progressing well.
These attitudes all result from the church neglecting to walk by the Spirit. It is vital to understand what the Holy Spirit does for us. Notice what Jesus says to His disciples about the Holy Spirit:

John 14:16-18 - And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.

First, we notice that the Holy Spirit is a comfort to the church. He is literally there for our aide. Strong’s defines the Comforter as the one who gives divine strength needed to enable us to undergo trials and persecutions on behalf of the divine kingdom. Do you see that we have divine empowerment as God’s people? The Spirit miraculously gives us (the church) strength that the world knows nothing about.

Second, the Holy Spirit testifies of the truth. As mentioned earlier, many have an intellectual knowledge of the truths contained in scripture. Hopefully, our churches testify of divine truth and experience the blessings of truth to some degree. But it is easy to forget them in the midst of trials. Thanks be to God that our Comforter can encourage us with the timeless truths of the Bible. In our verse above, Jesus would soon be crucified and ascend to Heaven. He would no longer walk in the midst of the disciples. But they would not be left to figure things out on their own. He would dwell in their hearts and encourage them in truth and righteousness through the Spirit.

Finally, we notice the permanence of the Holy Spirit. Jesus promised to not leave us comfortless. You may ask why then do we worry, doubt, act in the flesh, etc? It is not that the Spirit has left us. The Bible teaches that He will never leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). God is unchangeable. The difficulties arise when we forsake Him. The Apostle Paul warns us not to quench the Spirit in 1 Thessalonians 5:19. How does this happen? Based on the surrounding verses of this warning, it occurs when we are in the flesh. Forgetting to pray, being unthankful, ingratitude, flirting with evil, rendering evil for evil, and many more worldly attitudes cause us to extinguish the Spirit of God in our lives and in the life of our churches.

The good news is that the Spirit of God has not moved one inch. He is where he has always been. He dwells in the heart of every born-again elect child of God. Our responsibility is to continually recalibrate our lives to the standard of scripture. It is there that we find the divine comfort and encouragement of the Spirit of God. This is where we need to be as a church body. The alternative is unpleasant darkness. I encourage you to read about the Church of Ephesus in Revelation 2. The Spirit can remove itself from a body of believers if they insist on repeatedly quenching the Spirit and leave their first love.

On a positive note, our churches will grow both in grace and knowledge of the truth when we walk in the Spirit. I have been studying the Book of Acts over the past several days. If correct, I have noted sixty mentions of the Spirit in this book. That is significant! We oftentimes refer to Acts as the place to go to discern the correct practical/doctrinal pattern of our churches. Lord help us to also remember that everything that we do as a church should revolve around the Holy Spirit as well.

We please God and are personally comforted when we are filled with the Spirit. Lord help us to apply this truth!

Ephesians 5:14 - Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light. See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is. And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.