Monday, June 23, 2008

Fw: France Update #2

Here is an update from my friend Hayley who is on a missions trip in France.
 
Chris
www.Reform-Shire.blogspot.com
Coram Deo!!!



It's hard to believe that my stay here in France is already more than half over. Since the last time I wrote to you, the main event that has happened is the Paris Prayer Conference. Eighteen people from the U.S. came and one very incredible 75 year old woman came from Australia by herself. While France may be made up of less than 1% Protestants, don't think for a second that God isn't making his presence known here. We heard from a couple ministering to Muslim women, as well as from several French Christians who have incredible stories. We even had the opportunity to go on some prayer walks where World Team would like to see a church planted in the next couple of years.  In my group, I had a couple from Alabama, who was here with their daughter who was an intern two years ago. I also had the father of the other intern from two years ago, who was from Detroit. And finally I had a couple from St. Louis. I think a couple of them had a hard time being led around by someone much younger than them, but I didn't get disheartened by it. I learned a lot about marriage from the Alabama couple, as well as parenthood, as they have five children from 7 to 24. It seems like everyone that I come in contact with inspires me in some way. One day I thought for sure I wanted to become a midwife after to talking to one of the missionary's daughters, who is finishing up midwifery school. I am also being mentored by one of the missionary women who has two sons who are 10 and 12. We meet together once a week to talk about any struggles I'm having, whether spiritually or with my team. She and her husband live just south of Paris, and their church plant meets in their basement. I have already learned so much from her and her family relationships. Yesterday I helped her bake her son's birthday cake and I got to share in that celebration.  Next week we will be having an English club at their house for some of the children who go to her youngest son's school. It isn't a ministry opportunity, but rather just a time for their family to make contacts with their neighbors. The next week, we will be heading to Milan to meet the Italy team and reunite with the Spain interns. I'm very excited to hear what they have experienced and for us to share with them. We will also be having a day or two of debriefing, and then heading back to Philadelphia for more debriefing.  I will be returning home to Wichita on the July 11th.

I will probably not be sending another update until I'm home, but I just want to thank you for your prayers and support. I feel like I've been taking in a lot more than I've been doing, but I'm starting to think that's what God had planned all along. God has definitely been changing me, and at times it has been painful. He is calling me to bring every area of my life to him and letting go, which I'm sure you would agree is much easier said than done. There's absolutely nothing I can do to earn His love, and there's absolutely nothing I can do to make Him love me less. He looks past my imperfections and sees me for what He originally created me to be: a being made in His image, designed to love Him. And this is all made possible through His son, whom with I now share in his inheritance. I can't even comprehend that. But I am now trying to pursue God with my heart, soul, and mind. I don't know if God is calling me to be a missionary, but I do know that he is calling me fall more deeply in love with Him everyday.

Sorry for the rambling; I guess this actually turned out to be more like a journal entry. Thanks again for the prayers and words of encouragement. You have no idea how much I appreciate you as my church family, and I can't wait to worship with you again, where I can understand everything that is being said : ). I hope your families are doing well. I will be keeping you in my prayers!

Hayley

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Thinking Biblically

This is enormously important for the Pastor and leadership of any Congregation.  When something foreign to the Word of God creeps in, their discernment alarms should be triggered and spot it immediately.  We need to be ready to guard the sheep from the wolves in sheep's clothing.  As Hank Hanegraaff says, "Be so familiar with the truth, that when a counterfeit looms on the horizon, you will spot it instantaneously".  Another indicator, but not always an indicator, is if something becomes extremely popular across the country, watch out!  Examine everything in light of scripture to see if it is true.

Grace and Peace,
 
Chris
www.Reform-Shire.blogspot.com
Coram Deo!!!


Pulpit Magazine

New Article from Pulpit Magazine


Thinking Biblically

Posted: 18 Jun 2008 02:25 AM CDT

(By John MacArthur)

Biblical DiscernmentIn its simplest definition, discernment is nothing more than the ability to decide between truth and error, right and wrong. Discernment is the process of making careful distinctions in our thinking about truth. In other words, the ability to think with discernment is synonymous with an ability to think biblically.

First Thessalonians 5:21-22 teaches that it is the responsibility of every Christian to be discerning: "But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil." The apostle John issues a similar warning when he says, "Do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world" (1 John 4:1).

According to the New Testament, discernment is not optional for the believer — it is required. The key to living an uncompromising life lies in one's ability to exercise discernment in every area of his or her life. For example, failure to distinguish between truth and error leaves the Christian subject to all manner of false teaching. False teaching then leads to an unbiblical mindset, which results in unfruitful and disobedient living — a certain recipe for compromise.

Unfortunately, discernment is an area where most Christians stumble. They exhibit little ability to measure the things they are taught against the infallible standard of God's Word, and they unwittingly engage in all kinds of unbiblical decision-making and behavior. In short, they are not armed to take a decidedly biblical stand against the onslaught of unbiblical thinking and attitudes that face them throughout their day.

Discernment intersects the Christian life at every point. And God's Word provides us with the needed discernment about every issue of life. According to Peter, God "has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence" (2 Peter 1:3). You see, it is through the "true knowledge of Him," that we have been given everything we need to live a Christian life in this fallen world. And how else do we have true knowledge of God but through the pages of His Word, the Bible? In fact, Peter goes on to say that such knowledge comes through God's granting "to us His precious and magnificent promises" (2 Peter 1:4).

Discernment — the ability to think biblically about all areas of life — is indispensable to an uncompromising life. It is incumbent upon the Christian to seize upon the discernment that God has provided for in His precious truth! Without it, Christians are at risk of being "tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine" (Ephesians 4:14).

Friday, June 13, 2008

The Gospel and Politics (Part 3)

I've been thinking about the political process lately and I guess we all have been forced to think about it to some degree since that has been a daily news topic for sometime now. But, as Christians, as John stated in these articles, we ought to express our political voice in the voting booth.
I kind of like to think of my vote as a prayer that I am offering to God. When I vote, I am basically saying to God.
"God, this is the person I would like to see as President of our Country, but I know that whoever becomes President, it is part of your sovereign will. I will trust that your plan from an eternal perspective is the way it needs to be."

Grace and Peace,

Chris
http://www.reform-shire.blogspot.com/
Coram Deo!!!


New Article from Pulpit Magazine


The Gospel and Politics (Part 3)

Posted: 12 Jun 2008 02:01 AM CDT

Christians and Politics(By John MacArthur)

This article is a continuation from yesterday.

LESSONS FROM SCRIPTURE

My point is not that Christians should remain totally uninvolved in politics or civic activities and causes. They ought to express their political beliefs in the voting booth, and it is appropriate to support legitimate measures designed to correct a glaring social or political wrong. Complete noninvolvement would be contrary to what God's Word says about doing good in society: "Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith" (Gal. 6:10; cf. Titus 3:1-2). It would also display a lack of gratitude for whatever amount of religious freedom the government allows us to enjoy. Furthermore, such pious apathy toward government and politics would reveal a lack of appreciation for the many appropriate legal remedies believers in democracies have for maintaining or improving the civil order. A certain amount of healthy and balanced concern with current trends in government and the community is acceptable, as long as we realize that that interest is not vital to our spiritual growth, our righteous testimony, or the advancement of the kingdom of Christ. Above all, the believer's political involvement should never displace the priority of preaching and teaching the gospel.

There is certainly no prohibition on believers being directly involved in government as civil servants, as some notable examples in the Old and New Testaments illustrate. Joseph in Egypt and Daniel in Babylon are two excellent models of servants God used in top governmental positions to further His kingdom. The centurion's servant (Matt. 8:5-13), Zaccheus the tax collector (Luke 19:1-10), and Cornelius the centurion (Acts 10) all continued in public service even after they experienced the healing or saving power of Christ. (As far as we know, the Roman proconsul Sergius Paulus also remained in office after he was converted [Acts 13:4-12].)

QuoteThe issue again is one of priority. The greatest temporal good we can accomplish through political involvement cannot compare to what the Lord can accomplish through us in the eternal work of His kingdom. Just as God called ancient Israel (Ex. 19:6), He has called the church to be a kingdom of priests, not a kingdom of political activists. The apostle Peter instructs us, "But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light" (1 Pet. 2:9).

Jesus, as we would expect, perfectly maintained His Father's perspective on these matters even though He lived in a society that was every bit as pagan and corrupt as today's culture. In many ways it was much worse than any of us in Western nations has ever faced. Cruel tyrants and dictators ruled throughout the region, the institution of slavery was firmly entrenched—everything was the antithesis of democracy. King Herod, the Idumean vassal of Rome who ruled Samaria and Judea, epitomized the godless kind of autocratic rule: "Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived by the wise men [concerning the whereabouts of the baby Jesus], was exceedingly angry; and he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under" (Matt. 2:16).

Few of us have experienced the sort of economic and legal oppression that the Romans applied to the Jews of Jesus' day. Tax rates were exorbitant and additional government-sanctioned abuses by the tax collectors exacerbated the financial burden on the people. The Jews in Palestine were afforded almost no civil rights and were treated as an underprivileged minority that could not make an appeal against legal injustices. As a result, some Jews were in constant outward rebellion against Rome.

Fanatical nationalists, known as Zealots, ignored their tax obligations and violently opposed the government. They believed that even recognizing a Gentile ruler was wrong (see Deuteronomy 17:15, "You may not set a foreigner over you, who is not your brother"). Many Zealots became assassins, performing acts of terrorism and violence against both the Romans and other Jews whom they viewed as traitors.

It is also true that the Roman social system was built on slavery. The reality of serious abuses of slaves is part of the historical record. Yet neither Jesus nor any of the apostles attempted to abolish slavery. Instead, they commanded slaves to be obedient and used slavery as a metaphor for believers who were to submit to their Lord and Master.

QuoteJesus' earthly ministry took place right in the midst of that difficult social and political atmosphere. Many of His followers, including the Twelve, to varying degrees expected Him to free them from Rome's oppressive rule. But our Lord did not come as a political deliverer or social reformer. He never issued a call for such changes, even by peaceful means. Unlike many late twentieth-century evangelicals, Jesus did not rally supporters to some grandiose attempt to "capture the culture" for biblical morality or greater political and religious freedoms.

Christ, however, was not devoid of care and concern for the daily pain and hardships people endured in their personal lives. The Gospels record His great empathy and compassion for sinners. He applied those attitudes in a tangible, practical way by healing thousands of people of every kind of disease and affliction, often at great personal sacrifice to Himself.

Still, as beneficial and appreciated as His ministry to others' physical needs was, it was not Jesus' first priority. His divine calling was to speak to the hearts and souls of individual men and women. He proclaimed the good news of redemption that could reconcile them to the Father and grant them eternal life. That message far surpasses any agenda for political, social, or economic reform that can preoccupy us. Christ did not come to promote some new social agenda or establish a new moral order. He did come to establish a new spiritual order, the body of believers from throughout the ages that constitutes His church. He did not come to earth to make the old creation moral through social and governmental reform, but to make new creatures holy through the saving power of the gospel and the transforming work of the Holy Spirit. And our Lord and Savior has commanded us to continue His ministry, with His supreme priorities in view, with the goal that we might advance His kingdom: "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:18-20).

In the truest sense, the moral, social, and political state of a people is irrelevant to the advance of the gospel. Jesus said that His kingdom was not of this world (John 18:36).

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Gospel and Politics (Part 2)

More by John MacArthur on the Gospel and Politics.
 
Chris
www.Reform-Shire.blogspot.com
Coram Deo!!!


New Article from Pulpit Magazine

The Gospel and Politics (Part 2)

Posted: 11 Jun 2008 02:01 AM CDT

(By John MacArthur)

In yesterday's post, John MacArthur asked whether or not politics and legislation can provide the answer to America's moral decline. His conclusion was that "America's moral decline is a spiritual problem, not a political one, and its solution is the gospel, not partisan politics." Today's article expands on that thought, looking through history to see if political involvement has ever produced lasting transformation.

Christians and PoliticsLESSONS FROM HISTORY

This is a lesson evangelicals ought to know from church history. Whenever the church has focused on evangelism and preaching the gospel, her influence has increased. When she has sought power by political, cultural, or military activism, she has damaged or spoiled her testimony.

The Crusades during the Middle Ages were waged for the purpose of regaining Christian control of the Holy Lands. Few believers today would argue that those efforts were fruitful. Even when the crusaders enjoyed military success, the church grew spiritually weaker and more worldly. Other religious wars and campaigns tinged with political motivation (such as the Thirty Years' War in Europe, Cromwell's revolution in England, and other skirmishes during the Reformation era) are all viewed with disapproval, or at best curiosity, by Christians today. And rightly so. The military and political ambitions of some of the Reformers turned out to be a weakness, and ultimately an impediment to the Reformation. On the other hand, the strength of the Reformation, and its enduring legacy, was derived from the fact that Reformation theology shone a bright spotlight on the way of salvation and brought clarity to the gospel.

Throughout Protestant history, those segments of the visible church that have turned their attention to social and political issues have also compromised sound doctrine and quickly declined in influence. Early modernists, for example, explicitly argued that social work and moral reform were more important than doctrinal precision, and their movement soon abandoned any semblance of Christianity whatsoever.

QuoteToday's evangelical political activists seem to be unaware of how much their methodology parallels that of liberal Christians at the start of the twentieth century. Like those misguided idealists, contemporary evangelicals have become enamored with temporal issues at the expense of eternal values. Evangelical activists in essence are simply preaching a politically conservative version of the old social gospel, emphasizing social and cultural concerns above spiritual ones.

That kind of thinking fosters the view that government is either our ally (if it supports our special agenda) or our enemy (if it remains opposed or unresponsive to our voice). The political strategy becomes the focus of everything, as if the spiritual fortunes of God's people rise or fall depending on who is in office. But the truth is that no human government can ultimately do anything either to advance or to thwart God's kingdom. And the worst, most despotic worldly government in the end cannot halt the power of the Holy Spirit or the spread of God's Word.

To gain a thoroughly biblical and Christian perspective on political involvement, we should take to heart the words of the British theologian Robert L. Ottley, delivered at Oxford University more than one hundred years ago:

The Old Testament may be studied. . .as an instructor in social righteousness. It exhibits the moral government of God as attested in his dealings with nations rather than with individuals; and it was their consciousness of the action and presence of God in history that made the prophets preachers, not merely to their countrymen, but to the world at large. . . .There is indeed significance in the fact that in spite of their ardent zeal for social reform they did not as a rule take part in political life or demand political reforms. They desired. . .not better institutions but better men. (Aspects of the Old Testament. The Bampton Lectures, 1897 [London: Longmans, 1898], 430-31)

(Continued tomorrow with "Lessons from Scripture")

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Gospel and Politics (Part 1)


 
Chris
www.Reform-Shire.blogspot.com
Coram Deo!!!




Pulpit Magazine

New Article from Pulpit Magazine


The Gospel and Politics (Part 1)

Posted: 09 Jun 2008 06:09 PM CDT

(By John MacArthur)

Christians and PoliticsFor us, as Christians in the United States, it's easy to get caught up in all the political fervor. It can even be tempting to think that legislation is the key to solving the moral problems that plague American society. But is that a right perspective? John MacArthur addresses this important issue and underscores a biblical response.

There was a time (in the days of our Puritan forefathers), when almost every soul in America acknowledged the Ten Commandments as the cornerstone of ethics and morality. Today most Americans can't even name three of the Ten.

There was also a time (not so long ago) when Americans universally disapproved of homosexuality, adultery, and divorce; they believed sexual promiscuity is absolutely wrong; they regarded obscene language as inappropriate; they saw abortion as unthinkable; and they held public officials to high moral and ethical standards. Nowadays, most of the behavior society once deemed immoral is defended as an inalienable civil right.

How times and the culture have changed! The strong Christian influence and scriptural standards that shaped Western culture and American society through the end of the nineteenth century have given way to practical atheism and moral relativism. The few vestiges of Christianity in our culture are at best weak and compromising, and to an increasingly pagan society they are cultic and bizarre.

In less than fifty years' time, our nation's political leaders, legislative bodies, and courts have adopted a distinctly anti-Christian attitude and agenda. The country has swept away the Christian worldview and its principles in the name of equal rights, political correctness, tolerance, and strict separation of church and state. Gross immorality—including homosexuality, abortion, pornography, and other evils—has been sanctioned not only by society in general but in effect by the government as well. A portion of our tax dollars are now used to fund programs and government agencies that actively engage in blatant advocacy of various immoral practices.

What are Christians to do about it?

Many think this is a political problem that will not be solved without a political strategy. During the past twenty-five years, well-meaning Christians have founded a number of evangelical activist organizations and sunk millions of dollars into them in an effort to use the apparatus of politics—lobbying, legislation, demonstration, and boycott—to counteract the moral decline of American culture. They pour their energy and other resources into efforts to drum up a "Christian" political movement that will fight back against the prevailing anti-Christian culture.

But is that a proper perspective? I believe not. America's moral decline is a spiritual problem, not a political one, and its solution is the gospel, not partisan politics.

(To be continued tomorrow)

Friday, June 06, 2008

Soverign Regeneration

Here is a note from a friend who sent an email about a recent Table Talk Magazine article.

I sometimes wonder if Paul was picturing himself as he wrote Romans.  Especially the first part like Romans 3.  Maybe he sees himself as he was prior to being confronted by Jesus, he wanted nothing to do with Him but to persecute those who followed and claimed Jesus as God and resurrected savior.  The ultimate repentance was seen in Paul.  Because, when he repented he turned around and was the biggest proponent of the very things he was against prior to being awaken or "resurrected" by Jesus Christ.
The Reformer's slogan is:  Regeneration Precedes Faith

Grace and Peace,
 
Chris
www.Reform-Shire.blogspot.com
Coram Deo!!!
____________________________________

Subject: Soverign Regeneration.

Concise and compelling devotion from today's Tabletalk.


Acts  9:1-19  "Falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, 'Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?'  And he said 'Who are you, Lord?"


    We made the point a few days ago the every Christian tradition has formulated some doctrine of regeneration.  Despite the differing formulations of the doctrine, however, there are ultimately only two different views of the role of man and the role of God in regeneration: monergism or synergism.
    A synergistic view of regeneration says man and God cooperate in bringing new life to a person.  The Lord acts upon the heart of the unbeliever, imploring him to change.  However, though God calls to the heart, regeneration cannot occur unless the unbeliever, who has the ability to say, "yes" or "no", embraces the divine call.  There are several problems with this view.  First, synergism sees the human will working with the divine will to achieve salvation.  Yet we all come into the world spiritually dead and, being dead, cannot take hold of God's grace unless first moved by His grace (Ps.  51:5; Eph. 2:4-5).  Synergism also reverses the order of regeneration and faith.  Synergists argue that we first come to faith, and then we are born again.  But if being born again is necessary to see the kingdom (John 3:3), regeneration must precede faith.  After all, you cannot trust the Lord if you cannot see the truth of His kingdom.
    Mongergism, on the other hand, says the God's Spirit is the sole agent in regeneration.  God moves sovereignty upon the souls of those He has chosen, enabling then to have faith.  He takes the spiritually dead and makes them alive.  We are actually born again- regenerated_before the faith.  We are not born again because we trust Jesus; we trust Jesus because we are born again.
    God's sovereignty in regeneration is seen clearly in the account of Paul's conversion found in today's passage.  Saul of Tarsus was completely unwilling to follow Jesus the Messiah before God took the initiative.  He was so heard-hearted, in fact, that he did all he could to destroy the church of Jesus Christ.  But when Jesus appeared to Him, Saul could not resist. Christ, by His Spirit, gave Paul the eyes to see the kingdom and to become one of it's greatest ambassadors (Acts 9:1-19).  Had Jesus not overpowered Saul's natural inclination against Him, there never would have been an apostle Paul. 


    This answers my earlier question.  "Did Saul have a choice in his conversion experience?"

Just a note to make us think,

Robert

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Fw: France Update

Here is a note from Hayley who is on a missionary trip in Paris.
I just thought I would share it with you.
 
Chris
www.Reform-Shire.blogspot.com
Coram Deo!!!


Sent: Tuesday, June 3, 2008 3:28:03 PM
Subject: France Update

      I have been gone from Wichita two weeks today, and SOO much has happened since then. For the first two days, I had orientation in Warrington, P.A. My flights were delayed so I got in like four hours later than I was supposed to. By the time I got to the house I was staying at, all of the girls who are on the France team were already asleep. I had breakfast with them the next day and realized that we would probably have no problem getting along. There were two other teams that were at orientation with us: one who is now in Cameroon, and the other in Australia. All of us (all girls) really bonded over those two days. The cool thing is that we will all be going through debriefing together at the end of our trip.
      At 9pm on the last day of our orientation, we left for Paris, with a short layover in London. We were met by two of the missionaries at the bus station right outside of Paris. For the first week, we stayed in a gite (a French holiday home) in the French countryside. It was so beautiful. The team from Spain also was there, going through training with us. Throughout the week, several of the missionaries came and spoke to us about teams, and more importantly sonship. We talked about how we are no longer orphans because of our reconciliation with God through Christ. We also talked about repentance, forgiveness, and the importance of communicating with our Father.
      As of Sunday, we are moved into our Paris apartment. We are going to language school this week, which is right in the middle of Paris. So far, it's been kind of stressful, because they only speak in French, but I feel like I'm learning a lot. Next week is the Paris Prayer Conference. Nineteen people from other countries are coming to participate. Please pray for me as I will be in charge of five of them: picking them up from the airport, taking them to their hotel as well as several other places, all by metro and bus.
     Finally, I just wanted to tell you a little about what I've learned about World Team. They have ten church plants, all right outside of Paris, kind of forming a circle around it. I think there are about thrity missionaries here associated with World Team, and so far I have met about fifteen. They are incredible people with incredible stories. Several have been here in Paris for just over twenty years. Many have even opened up their homes to us and we've had dinner with them. I even get the wonderful opportunity to be mentored by one of the missionaries who has been here for eleven years. All of the missionaries and interns that I have met have been from the East Coast. I love meeting new people, but I kind of felt a little left out because they all kind of come from the same area. One missionary couple that I met, however, actually grew up in Kansas, and they both went to Kansas State! Even more amazing is that they are moving back to Kansas this summer to work with a church plant in Gardner, which is only like an hour and a half away from Manhattan.
     I'm sorry if this turned out to be kind of long. I really appreciate your prayers! Hopefully I'll be able to send you another update in a few weeks.

Hayley

Monday, June 02, 2008

What Does It Mean “to Me”?

I don't know how many times I hear the leader of a Bible Study or Sunday School class ask the question.  "How do we apply this passage to our lives"?  But did not teach or even talk about what the passage means by what it says.  Below is an article from "Pulpit Magazine" written by John MacArthur.

What Does It Mean "to Me"?

Posted: 02 Jun 2008 02:01 AM CDT

Bible(By John MacArthur)

That's a fashionable concern, judging from the trends in devotional booklets, home Bible study discussions, Sunday-school literature, and most popular preaching.

The question of what Scripture means has taken a back seat to the issue of what it means "to me."

The difference may seem insignificant at first. Nevertheless, our obsession with the Scripture's applicability reflects a fundamental weakness. We have adopted practicality as the ultimate judge of the worth of God's Word. We bury ourselves in passages that overtly relate to daily living, and ignore those that don't.

Early in my ministry, I made a conscious commitment to biblical preaching. My first priority has always been to answer the question, "What does this passage mean?" After I've explained as clearly and accurately as possible the meaning of God's Word, then I exhort people to obey and apply it to their own lives.

The Bible speaks for itself to the human heart; it is not my role as a preacher to try to tailor the message. That's why I preach my way through entire books of the Bible, dealing carefully with each verse and phrase–even though that occasionally means spending time in passages that don't readily lend themselves to anecdotal or motivational messages.

I am grateful to the Lord for the way He has used this expository approach in our church and in the lives of our radio listeners.

BibleBut now and then someone tells me frankly that my preaching needs to be less doctrinal and more practical.

Practical application is vital. I don't want to minimize its importance. But the distinction between doctrinal and practical truth is artificial; doctrine is practical! In fact, nothing is more practical than sound doctrine.

Too many Christians view doctrine as heady and theoretical. They have dismissed doctrinal passages as unimportant, divisive, threatening, or simply impractical. A best-selling Christian book I just read warns readers to be on guard against preachers whose emphasis is on interpreting Scripture rather than applying it.

Wait a minute. Is that wise counsel? No it is not.

There is no danger of irrelevant doctrine; the real threat is an undoctrinal attempt at relevance. Application not based on solid interpretation has led Christians into all kinds of confusion.

No discipline is more sorely needed in the contemporary church than expositional biblical teaching. Too many have bought the lie that doctrine is something abstract and threatening, unrelated to daily life.

It is in vogue to substitute psychology and spoon-fed application for doctrinal substance, while demeaning theological and expositional ministry.

But the pastor who turns away from preaching sound doctrine abdicates the primary responsibility of an elder: "holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, that he may be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict" (Titus 1:9).

Practical insights, gimmicks, and illustrations mean little if they're not attached to divine principles. There's no basis for godly behavior apart from the truth of God's Word.

There are only three options: We teach truth, error, or nothing at all.

Before the preacher asks anyone to perform a certain duty, he must first deal with doctrine. He must develop his message around theological themes and draw out the principles of the texts. Then the truth can be applied.

Romans provides the clearest biblical example. Paul didn't give any exhortation until he had given eleven chapters of theology.

He scaled incredible heights of truth, culminating in 11:33-36: "Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor? Or who has first given Him that it might be paid back to Him again? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen."

biblequote.jpgThen in chapter 12, he turned immediately to the practical consequences of the doctrine of the first 11 chapters. No passage in Scripture captures the Christian's responsibility to the truth more clearly than Romans 12:1-2. There, building on eleven chapters of profound doctrine, Paul calls each believer to a supreme act of spiritual worship–giving oneself as a living sacrifice. Doctrine gives rise to dedication to Christ, the greatest practical act. And the remainder of the book of Romans goes on to explain the many practical outworkings of one's dedication to Christ.

Paul followed the same pattern in Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and 1 Thessalonians. The doctrinal message came first. Upon that foundation he built the practical application, making the logical connection with the word therefore (Rom. 12:1; Gal. 5:1; Eph. 4:1; Phil. 2:1) or then (Col. 3:1; 1 Thess. 4:1).

True doctrine transforms behavior as it is woven into the fabric of everyday life. But it must be understood if it is to have its impact. The real challenge of the ministry is to dispense the truth clearly and accurately. Practical application comes easily by comparison.

No believer can apply truth he doesn't know. Those who don't understand what the Bible really says about marriage, divorce, family, child-rearing, discipline, money, debt, work, service to Christ, eternal rewards, helping the poor, caring for widows, respecting government, and other teachings won't be able to apply it.

Those who don't know what the Bible teaches about salvation cannot be saved. Those who don't know what the Bible teaches about holiness are incapable of dealing with sin. Thus they are unable to live fully to their own blessedness and God's glory.

The nucleus of all that is truly practical is sown up in the teaching of Scripture. We don't make the Bible relevant; it is inherently so, simply because it is God's Word. And after all, how can anything God says be irrelevant?

 
Chris
www.Reform-Shire.blogspot.com
Coram Deo!!!