What is the danger of the “Church System?”

The “church” creates the idea that if you don’t attend their services, you’re outside of the fellowship. That’s what they did to the Anabaptists. They accused them of forsaking the assembly. They accused them of heresy and blasphemy. All the while, they murdered them and exchanged actual criminals for a chance to catch and kill an Anabaptist.

These are the words of Christ in Matthew 23:1-15:

Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice. 

They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. 

They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others.

But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ. The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. 

“But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.

This is the word of our Lord. To those who see, this is what happens in churches. Maybe not everywhere. There are home churches and other congregations that heed the word of the Lord. But it’s the exception.

God wants His people to be separate from the world. That’s you. That’s me. If we have ears to hear.

Is “Home Church” A Real Alternative?

“I go to Bedside Baptist,” or “Church of the Holy Comforter,” if you’re of the Reformed or Catholic bent. Those jokes get some chuckles, especially if you add in that you enjoyed Pastor Pillow and Deacon Sheets. But, I think that’s what people think is really going on when someone says they “do church” at home. When you say it’s actually a real thing, then come the Homeschooling-type questions from concerned family and friends.

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Watch “There are Many Deceived Church Goers – Paul Washer” on YouTube

I’d note that all “church goers” are deceived. The true church, the ekklesia of Christ, is not deceived. They hear His voice and follow. 

I’d like to point out, too that any so-called pastor who doesn’t obey the Lord in declaring the gospel is to be accursed (Paul’s words in Galatians, not mine). In other words, they are wolves, not undershepherds. 

What is the Unpardonable Sin?

There’s a debate among evangelicals known as the Armenian vs. Calvinist debate. For those who don’t know Christianese, it relates to Free Will vs. Election. If I’m still getting the head-tilts of confusion I’ll explain this way: Free Will holds that Christ died for everyone’s sin, paid the debt for each person. It is each person’s responsibility to accept that gift of their own Free Will to be saved. Election refers to the divine plan for the elect, those who were chosen by God’s sovereign Will before Creation itself.

Both sides point to many of the same passages. They just interpret them differently.

Rather than parse out the two sides, I’m going to keep this short and address something that is at the center, the real question, IMO: Did Christ die for someone’s sin of not believing in Him as Lord?

I’ve heard John MacArthur, among others, claim that if Jesus bore the wrath of God for the sin of every human on earth and across time, but every human didn’t receive Him through faith, then those people would have to pay the penalty of God’s wrath for their sin. This would be, according to MacArthur, double-jeopardy. Two punishments for the same sin.

I’ll note that MacArthur is attempting to apply our understanding of legal justice to a God who is outside of our Created realm, time, and concepts of justice. I suspect our ideas of justice–when compared to God’s understanding–are about as accurate as a young child’s understanding of what his or her parent does for a living.

When I was studying the book of John, however, I came across this passage:

Joh 16:8  And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment:

Joh 16:9  concerning sin, because they do not believe in me;

Now, some will say that their sin remains because they didn’t pick up the free gift of Jesus’ sacrifice on their behalf (the Free Will argument). Or, that Jesus didn’t pay for their sin because they were not of the elect (the Election argument).

Before I move on, I’ll quote another passage:

Mar 3:28  “Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter,

Mar 3:29  but whoever blasphemies against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”

This is the famous “unpardonable sin” passage. Jesus clearly states that “all sins will be forgiven the children of man…”

I’m sure there are various interpretations of this, but for the sake of brevity, I won’t delve into them. The plain meaning, to me, is that Jesus’ sacrifice will provide the basis for forgiveness of all sin, all blasphemy, except blaspheming against the Holy Spirit.

What does that mean? That’s the clincher, really. What does it mean to blaspheme the Holy Spirit? Remember, God is One, so we shouldn’t fall into modalism, or defining each member of the Trinity like a separate God.

The Holy Spirit is the work of God in the world. The Pharisees were trying to say that Jesus miracles–specifically casting out a demon–was the work of Satan. They denied the nature of Christ as the Son of God, and His work as the work of the Holy Spirit.

My reading of this is that the unpardonable sin is unbelief. They rejected Christ and all His work as the work of the devil and for such a sin, there is no sacrifice.

Here’s another applicable passage:

Heb 6:4  For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit,

Heb 6:5  and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come,

Heb 6:6  and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.

Many find this to support the Free Will position, which holds that people can lose their salvation. Instead, I feel this supports the basic premise that our judgment will be based on the sin of unbelief, not the underlying sinfulness of our race.

To understand how this works with the other two passages, I look at a few key phrases: heavenly gift, shared in the Holy Spirit, tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come.

The heavenly gift is Christ, the bread of heaven that is true food to us. Those who have “tasted” of Christ would be like those who hear the gospel and respond (like in the parable of the sower).

The Holy Spirit would refer to the work of God among His people, not the indwelling of the Spirit in the life of these people. This would refer to those who say “Lord, Lord, we did all these things in your name!” and yet be told to depart from Him as workers of lawlessness. They share in the work of the Holy Spirit without being truly sealed by His indwelling.

The goodness of the word of God refers to understanding the scriptures. Many false Christians affirm that the Bible is good, but ultimately will not sacrifice their own comfort or advancement in its defense.

Similarly, the powers of the age to come means they understand God’s promise of the resurrection and the new heaven and new earth.

These are those who ultimately “fall away” as the seeds that start to sprout, but are choked out, burned and do not prove to be true converts. They fail because they do not believe God.

Our salvation ultimately depends on one thing: Believing God. This was the basis for Abraham’s righteousness, and it is the basis of ours, as well. We, of course, have far more information about God than our spiritual ancestor.

When someone holds to earthly applause instead of becoming an outcast for the testimony of Christ, it says what they believe about God. If someone is loath to surrender a popular ritual or even some religious ordinance because there is too much sentimentality or tradition attached to it, it says something about their belief in God.

Essentially, when we become the judge of what is right and wrong, rather than humbly submitting to the words of Christ, we join Satan in saying, “Did God really say?” We refuse to enter the Promised Land because we reject the idea that God will deliver the giants and warriors into our hands and allow us to occupy the land. We leave Ur, but settle in Haran.

We need to ensure we listen to the voice of the Lord when He calls us out of Haran to the wilderness. We need to travel forth into a land of godless warriors, pitching our tent and laying claim to a promise that is entirely absurd by earthly standards.

If we fail to do so, if we defame God’s character by rejecting His promise and His way, we reveal that we don’t believe Jesus is Lord. We reveal we don’t believe God’s power.

Can someone who has passed through the Red Sea, eaten of the heavenly bread, drank of the water from the rock, followed the pillar of cloud by day and fire by night, then reject God’s nature of goodness, holiness, faithfulness, mercy and grace?

If they do, they have likely committed the unpardonable sin and there is no additional sacrifice to cover that.

Daily Devotional: Warrior Babies!

Out of the mouth of babies and infants, you have established strength because of your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger. Psalm 8:2

We often think God should act immediately. We have visions of how He should put people to shame when they commit evil, or do wrong.

Who hasn’t been treated unfairly, or been wrongfully accused? Which of us has not had our pride stepped on or our feelings dragged through the mud?

In those instances, we might cry out and expect God to reveal Himself in a show of force.

But our understanding is like a small child’s compared to a wise parent. Our sense of justice amounts to a sneering face with a protruding tongue directed at the offending party.

God, on the other hand, works in ways that seem slow to us. They seem long in arriving, as if God uses ancient sea vessels to deliver His goods when there are jet planes available!

Often, we fail to see our own guilt and should pray, along with the Psalmist for God to point out our faults and judge us.

Ultimately, we rest on God’s given righteousness, not our own. We don’t have any righteousness to claim.

Our trust is in God, but also in His timing. Our faith rests in His strength, which is established from the mouth of infants. God defeats His foes with babies, not grizzled warriors.

Specifically, God defeated the great foe, Sin, through one baby, Jesus. Our savior was born to a poor couple–outcasts on a weary road, holed up in a stable. No guards to protect this tender life. No supernatural show of force. Just a warning from an angel and a long, arduous journey to Egypt, away from home and family. Just a looming threat of a mad king who murdered hundreds of babies in Israel to wipe out the Messiah.

God is not mocked. And He doesn’t act according to the wisdom of His creatures. We need to trust His strength … which is established in what we’d consider foolishness.

Is Negativity Actually Good?

Don’t judge! Don’t be so negative! If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all!

We’ve all heard those statements. I’ve cautioned myself and my kids with those words. There’s truth in them.

Truth, however, is only true when applied correctly. So, if someone is only looking on possible problems that don’t exist and are not very likely, they might be responding negatively, or judging for no good reason.

Other times, people will turn up their nose because of pride, thinking they are better than someone else.

Sometimes, negativity is good. In fact, in certain cases, it’s desperately needed.

I heard about a woman that was extracted from her home by a team of rescue workers after a friend called to inform them that she was no longer able to get out of her chair.

Oh, and that had been the case for months!

This woman put the morbid in morbidly obese. It was incredibly sad. She sat in the same place, relieving her bodily functions where she sat, relying on her friend to bring her food. I’m guessing the food probably didn’t include fresh vegetables, either.

At this point, I think we’d all agree that some intervention was long overdue. I mean, how many visits to a friend who is urinating and defecating in her chair would it take to say, “Suzie, I’m going to get you some help!”?

This friend had to make a judgment, for sure. He was judging the fact that ‘Suzie’ was incapable of taking care of herself on a basic, human level. In fact, they found her bones had suffered from lack of calcium and the overbearing weight of her flesh to the point that, even if she wanted to, she could not get up or walk.

Someone needed to tell her that she was in a very dire condition. She needed to be confronted with the reality that she was trapped by her gluttony and sloth, literally sitting in a cesspool of filth.

Her friend needed to judge the situation rightly and bring the negative news of truth.

The same is true if we go to the doctor. How would we react if we found that our doctor didn’t want to be negative, so he/she didn’t tell us that we had cancer? What if, instead, the doctor just encouraged us to try to eat a few pieces of broccoli or add a healthy smoothy to our diet?

Then, a few months later we end up in the hospital with untreatable cancer. It’s too late. there’s nothing medicine can do.

I think that doctor would have a law suit on his/her hands!

People might think true Christians are negative because we proclaim that no one is good. No one can stand before the measure of God’s Righteousness and not be found wanting. We all deserve eternal punishment for our rebellion and spite against our loving Creator God.

That negativity, that judgment, comes with a treatment. Jesus died to pay the debt we could not pay. He bore the wrath that we deserved. He was buried. Then, after completing that work, He picked up His life and was resurrected, giving us hope of eternal life through the same power of resurrection.

Why does this work? Well, death couldn’t keep Jesus because He died without sin. The “wages” of sin is death. Remember from Genesis where God told Adam that in the day that he ate of the fruit of the forbidden tree, he would die. Sure enough, Adam died. As did all of his descendants (except, perhaps Enoch, but that’s another blog to discuss that).

When Jesus died, He had remained spotless. He didn’t owe those wages, so death couldn’t hold Him. He resurrected.

He is referred to as the “first-born of the dead.” Meaning He is the first of a “new race,” just like Adam was the first of the human race.

Because Jesus defeated death, all who call on His name, or nature, who call out to Him as Lord and Savior, will be given righteousness.

Abraham believed God, believed His nature, and righteousness was credited to him.

This is how it works. We don’t have the righteousness. We can’t work up to enough righteousness. We can’t get out of our chair because we’re stuck with decaying bones and sitting in our own filth! Or, to use the Biblical example, we’re dead! Dead men and women don’t get up.

But, by faith, calling out to Jesus after recognizing the horrible truth of our condition, God clothes us with something we could never earn or deserve: His Righteousness.

Because we’re then clothed with His Righteousness, death will not be able to hold us any more than it held Jesus. We will be resurrected to eternal life.

That is the hope. But true hope doesn’t come from warm fuzzies that ignore the truth, or mask it with silly fantasies about dancing in the sky as a spirit or experiencing some ecstatic revelation.

I’ll leave off with this. Daniel in the lion’s den. Did he see the angel standing guard next to him? Was it bright, like in the pictures we’ve all seen? Or was it dark? Was he alone in a smelly cave, no light to see, and growling beasts all around?

I think it was the latter. Daniel states that the Lord sent an angel to shut the lions’ mouths. But he never said he saw the angel. It’s possible he did see the angel. But the Bible doesn’t say that.

Similarly, his three friends never said they saw the fourth person walking in the flames. It was the king who saw the fourth person.

We are never promised to see signs and wonders. We are called to walk by faith, obeying when it seems that to do so would be the worst possible thing for our future. That’s real faith. And it will make us seem negative, or judgmental. It won’t win popularity contests in the world. But we’re not here to please the world.

We’re called to glorify the Lord.