Monday, December 31, 2012

The Cost of Discipleship

The Cost of Discipleship  

Luke 14:25-33,  "And there went great multitudes with him: and he turned, and said unto them, If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple. 28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish. Or what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage, and desireth conditions of peace. So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple."

The above passage teaches us three things about serving the Lord. First, we notice that  true discipleship is a costly thing. As Americans we have been blessed to enjoy great prosperity and live out our lives relatively sheltered from the harsh realities that many of God’s people are faced with on a daily basis. But this blessing does not negate our responsibility to daily sacrifice our time, energy and resources to His service. In other words, we need to be prepared to ‘get our hands dirty’ if called upon in the Kingdom of God. 

Next, Jesus teaches us that discipleship is a planned commitment to do what is right. Most areas of discipleship require conscious effort on our part to make it happen. Take church attendance for example. I generally enjoy meeting with the saints on Sunday morning. But, there are times when I don’t feel like putting forth the effort to go (don’t be shocked, even preachers have bad days). Maybe I am physically ill, or did not sleep well the night before. Irregardless, barring any major roadblocks, God’s word instructs us to assemble as the church. I understand this because I have committed it to memory from previous Bible reading or preaching. I have also asked the Lord to give me strength to endure the inevitable difficulties that occur in life and to enable me to go forward when I do not feel like it. We will never experience sustained service to God and effective ministry towards one another without planned commitment. 

Thirdly, we can safely say that discipleship, whatever the cost, is worth the price. It is amazing to consider the great lengths that one will take to gain the things of the world. We work long hours to buy things that will soon decay due to time and use. We pursue pleasures that provide diminishing joy and distraction at best. My friends, there is nothing inherently wrong with enjoying the material things in life. But let us keep them in proper perspective. Bearing the cross of discipleship is far more enduring than these things. 

Can you recall the joy experienced at sharing the wonderful truth of the finished work of Christ with a friend or relative? Perhaps you were able to give a comforting word to another during a time of distress. Or maybe you were blessed to share of your material blessings with another in their hour of need. These pursuits bring far more joy than any worldly pursuit. I pray that the Lord will bless us to count the cost of discipleship and realize its benefit. 

Elder Michael Green
Ft. Wayne PBC, Indiana

Saturday, December 15, 2012

A Few Thoughts About the Connecticut Tragedy

     In light of the recent mass killings in our nation, the most recent of which occurred this morning, it is appropriate to think about some of the reasons why such events are occurring. Some will attempt to politicize these situations by blaming guns--or not enough of them. Others will mistakenly point to the race of the individuals, their parents, parenting or lack thereof. The reality is that none of these issues matter at this time. Some may factor into the equation, but they are merely the symptom of a larger problem. Also, this is not an effort to blame any individual or group. It is simply some food for thought and self-reflection.

     Biblically speaking, the root cause is sin. Scripture teaches that our world is cursed because of sin. Wicked men do unimaginable things as a result of sin. Death (both spiritual and physical) are a result of sin. All have have been affected by its curse. Praise be to God that Christ redeemed his people from spiritual death. Yet, until the Lord returns, sin will be present.

    Sin should grieve our hearts. I cannot imagine what sorrow the parents who have lost their young children are experiencing tonight. I have worked with young children throughout much of my educational career. Elementary-aged children are exuberant, full of life and joy and love. To see those with a lifetime ahead of them tragically murdered is one of the most horrible circumstances imaginable. Sin is ugly. Sin is painful. This should serve as a reminder that we cannot afford to wink at depravity or take sin lightly. Sin is an affront to our holy God and we should hate it also.

     As I have been processing the tragedy in Connecticut, a few constructive thoughts come to mind.  As mentioned above, we must maintain an awareness of the reality of sin.  Second, we must purpose to reclaim the sanctity of all human life. This should not be a political football to be bandied about every few years, but upheld as a major pillar of a civilized society.  From the tiny young life of the unborn in his mother's womb, to the  mentally and physically impaired, to the most elderly amongst us--all of human life should be recognized as a blessing from above. All should be regarded as precious.

     There is also a mistaken notion that mankind exists by chance or accident. This flawed worldview has devalued the sanctity of life. When our children are taught that man is but another animal, then we should not be surprised when they behave that way. My friends, if our society is going to lessen the frequency of the heinous crimes that we have experienced of late, then we must boldly proclaim that God is the creator of mankind (Genesis 1:1) and we are accountable to Him. Morally and civilly speaking, our only hope as a society is to seek his face (2 Chronicles 7:14).

     We must also recommit ourselves to being an active, edifying part of humanity. Our youth spends an inordinate amount of time in virtual worlds engaged in impersonal--and often violent--interactions. Countless hours are wasted being amused with the fantasy world of violence and sexual immorality via television, computer, and video games. Many adults have abandoned meaningful relationships and friendships for pornography and social networks. This should not be so. We must repent and seek those things that are honorable and tangible. In Philippians 4:8-9, the Apostle Paul writes,
"Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you." These things are not found in fantasy or in the vast multimedia options available to us today. That which is lovely and of a good report is found in personal, meaningful interactions with God's children. I am not saying that all social networks, media, etc. are inherently evil, but we must guard our hearts against allowing such to alienate us from personal contact with our fellow men. When we do so, we unwittingly contribute to the problem that fosters the tragedies that we have witnessed of late. God save us from such!


Monday, July 02, 2012


Some Reflections From Fifteen Years Amongst the Primitive Baptists
Part 1

Although hectic, this summer as afforded me some much needed time for introspection. I have entered the stage of life where as an adult I can now look back on decisions that I and others have made and observe the long-term consequences of such. Some are reflected upon with great fondness and others are remembered with sadness and disappointment. This fall will mark fifteen years ago that I attempted to preach the gospel in earnest. It seems like it was only yesterday that I endeavored to stand before the saints at Macclenny Primitive Baptist Church and proclaim the riches of God’s grace. They were encouraging, patient and very charitable during those early, feeble attempts. 

What follows are some reflections that are derived from going in and out amongst the Old Baptists for fifteen years. Be warned, what follows is a ‘from the heart’ assessment of what I see as successes, and possibly more important, the failures that have been encountered in this time. Author George Santayana wrote that, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Fit words indeed as we labor in God’s kingdom and strive to walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye (we) are called (Ephesians 4:1). 

1. Primitive Baptists are some of the greatest people to walk in shoe leather. I am thankful to be counted in their number and hope to be one until I depart this life! One will find no more loving and hospitable people than those who make up the Primitive Baptist Church. My non-church friends are often astonished at the idea that one can leave their home and travel hundreds (sometimes thousands) of miles to another church and enjoy an instant connection with complete strangers.  I believe this to be a phenomena only found amongst the Lord’s people striving to walk in His way. This ‘tie that binds’ is a love that only comes from a steadfast continuance in the apostle’s doctrine, fellowship, breaking of bread and prayers (Acts 2:42). The love of Christ constrains those who walk in His way (2 Corinthians 5:13) and produces a fellowship that this world cannot offer. The Bible teaches that such love is foreign to the everyday world around us (Ephesians 3:19). I have observed such love in spades amongst the Lord’s people contained on the PB church and can say without hesitation that this has been a heaven on earth for me and my family throughout the years. 

2. Some Primitive Baptists are not so kind. Before you tune out, I will add that such people exist in all groups. However, I am most concerned with those of which I am associated. It grieves me to think of the many that I know who are no longer affiliated with the PB church because of the cruel and/or inconsiderate actions of others who profess to love the Lord. There are those who have adopted the spirit of Diotrephes that desire center stage (3 John 1:9). Their idea of how the church should be run trumps the word of God itself! Unfortunately, these folks have done much harm in their respective spheres of influence. Left unchecked, such folk have (and will) lead to the ruination of the local church body. No matter how respected or well-known such an individual might be, this attitude nothing more than evil and should not be encouraged of followed (3 John 1:11). 

Certainly, those that exhibit an attitude of persistent rebellion against the teachings of Christ should be withdrawn from (1 Corinthians 5:5) in an effort to save them from error. But it has been my observation that a number of people have been driven away from the church for reasons that extend beyond the biblical scope of church discipline. Sin does not exclude an individual from church fellowship; the failure to repent and turn from unbiblical actions does. If transgression in and of itself warranted withdrawal of fellowship, we would all be excluded from church membership! I can think of many who have been driven away from the church because of others who deem their sin ‘unpardonable’ or their life decisions to not suit the standards of those who have exalted themselves to the position of the keeper of the church. My friends, the church is to be a refuge for those who are hurting. The fact is that we all sin and miss God’s mark (Romans 3:23). We are also allowed a degree of diversity in our lives within the realm of scripture (Romans 14:17-19) and great charity should be exercised with such. 

Lord help us to be discerning in determining what constitutes rebellion in the church versus a hurting brother or sister that succumbs to the weakness of the flesh (Galatians 6:1-3). May we also carefully examine that which is essential as far as  church fellowship and exercise charity in the nonessentials. Much more could be written about this, but I leave the reader to consider such cases in which they are acquainted. 

3. We also assume too little or too much when it comes to young people in our churches. I am thankful to see the addition of quite a few young people to the Primitive Baptist Church over my fifteen years of ministry. This growth has occurred from within as families grow and also from without as people are converted to the truth. I offer a couple of thoughts about our younger generation. First, they generally are not a reflection of much of our culture portrays them to be. Overall, the younger generation that is committed to our churches are not the apathetic, sex crazed, drug addled, self-centered lot that our culture/media would like us to believe. For that I am thankful! There appears to be a bright future for many PB churches because of this blessing. In light of this we need to be diligent to recognize that these young people are a valued part of what we do as a church (1 Timothy 4:12). They are not merely the future of the church, but are valued participants in the here and now.

On the other hand, we must also not assume that they automatically ‘get’ everything that we believe both doctrinally and practically. As ministers we must take extra care and time with the little lambs of the flock to make sure that they have a handle on the precious truth of the Bible (John 21:15). The current generation is being constantly bombarded by humanism (truth is up to the individual), relativism (there is no absolute truth), and Post Modernism (we have moved beyond the archaic idea of truth) in all avenues of life. Sadly, such can be seen in many religious religious institutions such as the seeker-friendly and charismatic movements that are so popular amongst many today. We must diligently counter such false teaching at every opportunity! Jesus said, “I am THE way, THE truth, and THE life: (John 14:6). The doctrine of grace and biblical discipleship is not merely one option amongst many, it is our only hope and only true source of joy in this world!

One of my greatest regrets as a minister is not being more diligent to remind our young people of these truths. It is disappointing to observe young adults abandon the principles that they once professed to believe for the idea that truth doesn’t matter as long as we have good intentions. Sadly, this leads individuals down a path that eventually has them looking like the rest of the world and far away from the standard of scripture. As Christians we are commanded to be different. This includes the clothes that we wear (1 Timothy 2:9), our personal conduct (Philippians 1:27; 1 Timothy 4:12; Hebrews 13:5), the places we go (1 Thessalonians 5:22), and how we treat others (Matthew 7:12). The Bible is clear about such! WE must clearly, regularly  and repeatedly convey the message of truth to our young people. This should definitely be occurring from the pulpits across America. It must also be articulated during personal conversations, in counseling sessions and through our personal conduct. In today’s ungodly, truth-hating culture it is a mistake to assume that are young people are scripturally on course. Titus 2 and other similar passages should be applied like never before! Lord strengthen our ministers (AND PARENTS) not to neglect this important area of ministry!

More to come....