Saturday, November 26, 2016

If Only He Could Write It Now

Luke 16:23 KJV
And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments ....

I recently read a man's last post to his blog chronicling his fight with cancer and the face of death. He had written the blog with instructions to his family to post it as his last, after he had died. And my heart broke for his wife and children who followed his wishes even after he was gone. I can only imagine the pain they must experience with this loss. Having tried to help many many families through their suffering in this time of loss, I know that each family, and most members of the family, must grieve and process their loss in their own way. I long for this family to find peace and hope in the face of loss.

The blogger wrote positively about his death. But he did not write biblically. In fact, that was the point of the blog. It was his final statement of rejection of Bible truth. He said he had simply ceased, like a frog or some other lower life form, when his last breath was taken, he was not merely gone from his body, he was gone completely. He assured his readers that he felt neither joy or pain, eternal bliss or judgment. Speaking, as he imagined he was, from the grave, he asserted that he had no thought, no consciousness, no afterlife.

Here is the trouble; he had no experienced death when he wrote with such assurance about what happens after death. He did not know what was beyond the grave, if anything was beyond the grave.

Only one man has ever gone to the grave and returned to tell us certainly what lies beyond the grave. Jesus Christ did die, was buried and three days and night later, rose again. And Jesus Christ affirms that there is life after death for both those who believe and those who do not.

Oh, how my heart is burdened for those who have lost loved ones to the grave. But there is no assurance in wishful thinking. Only established fact can comfort us at the graveside. And the established fact is that Jesus died, was buried and rose again, and those who place saving faith in Him are promised eternal heaven. Those who do not, are condemned already.

Friday, November 25, 2016

What About Separation of Church and State?

In a recent dialogue I had with a person about whether President Trump’s election signals a reprieve from God,[1] the question was asked “What about church and state?” The comment goes on to claim, “1 should not anything to do with the other.”

This sentiment reflects the common thought of secular people concerning the relationship of religion with government. But it is based upon several misconceptions.
First, it views church as everything Christian. In other words, it embraces the Catholic concept of one universal church. More accurately it embraces the Protestant’s slightly modified version of the same.

Secondly, it suggests that the doctrine is secular, meant to protect the government of religious control. This idea was certainly the farthest thing from the minds of the founders of the United States.

The doctrine of separation of church and state is one practiced by the Anabaptists, the forerunners of Baptists today. It traces as far back as the fourth century when Constantine declared himself a Christian and the head of the one, catholic (universal) church in his realm. Many professing Christians welcomed the relief from persecution and happily joined up. Many others refused choosing rather to continue suffering persecution than to subject their church to the state. The original objection between the Catholics and Anabaptists was, in effect, separation of church and state.

In the early days of the developing United States it was the Baptists who presented the doctrine to the founders. It was the urging of the Baptists, whose cause was heralded by James Madison, that the United States recognized no state church but gave every church denomination liberty to either succeed or crumble by freely preaching their ideas and winning converts to their own system. It was to a group of Baptists in Danbury, Connecticut that Jefferson wrote the words “separation of church and state.”

Baptists have always held to separation of church and state and Baptists have never accepted the doctrine of any form of universal or catholic church. Separation of church and state to the Baptists[2] means first, that no church denomination has ability to use governmental power for coercive purposes. Baptists had, for too long, experienced the weight of governments forcing their tithes to go to the state church rather than the church that preached the doctrines they believed to be biblical and requiring them to attend services in those state established churches.

Separation of church and state, to those Baptists also meant that government has no right of influence over the local church. Each church must be free to preach the Word of God, as they believe the Spirit of God led them to and practice their faith in a manner consistent with that faith.

Separation of church and state did not mean to either those Baptists that championed it or to the founders of our nation who included it in the Bill of Rights (not in the letter of the phrase but in the spirit of the amendment). The Baptists petitioned, lobbied and sought to influence those leading in our nation and the leaders were, almost to a man, practicing Christians of one denomination or another.

One can never understand the true intent of separation of church and state without going back to the ones who introduced it. They meant that no one church denomination should have exclusive influence over the government and that the government should allow churches liberty to practice their faith as they saw fit; not that Christianity should have nothing to do with government.

[1] THE IMAGINATIVE CONSERVATIVE, DidGod Just Grant America a Great Reprieve?, John Horvat/Nov 25, 2016
[2] The people who introduced the doctrine to our country.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

What if I Want to Make Something Old Something New?

That, I think is the challenge of strait up Bible believing Christian faith. The world has reached the other side of the bell curve. They have seen it all and heard it all. The most un-evangelized cultures in the world almost all have some opinion of Christianity. Even so called Bible believing Christians no longer believe Christianity is worth standing for, let alone dying for. The challenge is not to remake Christianity to be popular in this generation but to find ways to make this generation take a new look at the old faith.

How do we do that? Here are some of ideas:
Get real
The point of the faith is not to blend in our beat around some spiritual bush so that we do not offend the lost around us. I believe they see this as hypocritical and disingenuous. Sure, they may loudly protest about certain aspects of our faith. They may hate those doctrines and vent that hatred toward us. But avoiding these doctrines in order to be friendly with them only looks like fakery to them.

Be fervent
Fervency does not have to be militancy. Fervency is the same thing as sincerity. Fervency is passion.
The modern generation views itself as passionate. We may argue that view and we probably disagree with what they are passionate about and how they express their passion, but the way to engage passion is with passion.

Be faithful
In almost every endeavor of life consistency is the key to successfulness. I heard a man say the other day, “Do the right thing until the right thing becomes the normal thing.” To bend that slightly we might say, “Say the true thing until the true thing becomes the accepted thing.”

Be different, not judgmental
I recognize that the mere fact that Christians behave differently is often considered to be behaving judgmentally. I get that. I can’t change that. But we should not be truly judgmental.
Christians ought to be different. I do not believe we have been different enough for a very long time. But we have been, I think, judgmental. Here is the difference; judgmentalism expects, maybe even requires others conform to our standards. A genuine Christian perspective (at least a Baptist perspective) believes that all persons have a responsibility to act according to the dictates of their own conscience. We have no right to force our conscience on another. Sure, we ought to engage others with our ideas but if they choose to disagree that is their right.

Christianity remade is not Christianity at all. To conform Christianity to the modern culture serves no good purpose. We want to engage the modern culture in such a way that they take a fresh look at the solid truths of the age old message of Christ.

Help me come up with ideas...

Can the American Democratic System Be Improved?

I recently listened to a journalist interview another journalist on the presidency of Barak Obama. Both journalists had a liberal perspective and were obviously supportive of Mr. Obama's administration. But they did recognize that there have been shortcomings. During the interview one of them made the statement that our democracy is not perfect.

I agree.

It seems to me that the difference between the liberal and the conservative is fundamentally a difference of opinion concerning what we do with this imperfect government.
  •       The liberal views its imperfections as permission to change it. The conservative sees that it is flawed but doesn't trust sinful men to fix it.
  •       The liberal views the government of the United States as a machine to be tinkered with, advanced and improved upon at the whim and will of its owners. The conservative sees it as a gift, given by God and delivered through the founders, to be protected and preserved.
  •       The liberal tends to see things through rose-colored glasses and hopes all things will evolve for the better. The conservative looks at the world more realistically and knows things devolve and never evolve.
  •       The liberal embraces change, believing it to be the path to better days. The conservative holds what he has, trusting God to bring about good in His time.

Our government is not perfect but it is a far cry above any other this world has known. We don't need to change it. We need to praise God for it and work to preserve it.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

The Preservation of the Sanctuary

Matthew 16:13-19 (KJV)
When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? 
And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.
He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? 
And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.
And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. 
And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 
And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 

I said last Sunday morning that I had a two week “break” in my preaching schedule that I decided to use up with a couple of messages having to do with church history and heritage.

I began last week by giving you – really – four doctrines that are essential to what are historically true churches.

It doesn’t take much study to see that there are two very distinct kinds of churches in history:
·   Those that are related somehow to Catholicism/Protestantism and
·   Those that are not

When the Catholic Church came into existence in the very early fourth century, there were a substantial number of Christian churches already scattered around the world that refused to join it. They were called by the Catholics Anabaptists.

Those churches were very different.

Frankly, most of us would not have been very comfortable in a lot of them.

They did loosely hold to the basic doctrinal principles of churches like ours:
·   Bible as the rule of faith
·   Autonomy of the local church
·   Priesthood of the believers
·   Two offices: Pastor and deacons
·   Individual soul liberty
·   Saved baptized church membership
·   Two ordinances: baptism and the Lord’s Supper
·   Separation of Church and State

But they were a diverse bunch and that diversity can take a person back a bit when you first become aware of it.

Over the course of thirty years of study and reflection on the heritage of Baptists, I have come to believe that the four doctrines I presented last week are the key ones for true churches:
·   The preservation of the soul – saved by grace through faith alone
·   The preservation of the Scriptures – we have a Bible that is perfect, infallible, and profitable and
·   The preservation of the Sanctuary – the church that Christ built hasn’t been prevailed upon by the gates of hell

Represented those three doctrines as the legs of a three legged stool and the fourth as its seat, the doctrine they hold up – that being, individual soul liberty, the responsibility of every man to worship God according to the dictates of their own conscience.

That’s the doctrine that makes me comfortable with the Anabaptists.

They all believed that every man, woman and child had both the right and the responsibility to search out the truth of God and worship Him as they understood pleased Him.

I want to go back this morning to the third of those three legs – The Preservation of the Sanctuary – and preach a bit more on the doctrine of the church.

I have four questions I want to ask and try to answer today concerning the doctrine of the church.

Baptists like myself have very strong convictions about the church and especially about a particular kind of church.

·   It is always local and
·   It is very Baptist

Modern Christendom sees church life as a sort of buffet – there are all these different sorts of churches and they are there for you to freely choose the one that most suits you.

I did not grow up going to church so I didn’t have any family connection to a particular denomination.

I got saved watching a TV program so I wasn’t hooked to any particular church.

What I did know about church was from an outside observer.

Before I ever attended a church as an adult, I already was certain that not everything that claimed to be a church could possibly have been started by God.

Two months after I got baptized I began trying to figure out which one of all of these churches was the one God started.

At that moment I was pretty much a blank slate.
I would have become: 
·   a Jehovah’s Witness 
·   a Mormon, a Presbyterian, 
·   a Nazarene 
·   a Southern Baptist 
or any other denomination if I could have proven that God started it.

It was three years later (and three different churches later) when I first began to put the pieces together that led me to the convictions I have today concerning the Baptist church.

During those years I visited:
·   A Nazarene Church
·   A Presbyterian Church
·   Several different Independent Baptist churches

·   I had Bible studies in my home with Jehovah’s Witnesses
·   I did some personal study of Native American Animism
·   I had met several Southern Baptists and observed their faith
·   I had met a Mormon who had given me a book of Mormon

I had met some Pentecostals and
Anita and I lived on the campus of a Christian group called “The Pillar of Fire.”

I came to the convictions I now hold after many years of 
·   study, 
·   prayer 
·   reflection and 
·   conversations with people of a broad range of other convictions.

It isn’t just a little important to me.

I frankly would never consider going to a different kind of church than a Baptist church – and then I am very selective about them.

It is important to me.

But is it important to God?
Ephesians 5:25 (KJV)
Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;

Can you agree with me that the thing for which you would die is important to you?

Christ gave Himself for His church.

Question two,
I take the position that God isn’t the author of all the confusion that is caused by dozens and dozens of church denominations that exist today.

I take the position that God has protected and preserved His work so that:
·   What Jesus taught His apostles
·   What the early Christians believed 
·   What God wanted churches to be
Still exists today.

I believe it exists only in the Baptist churches.[2]

Is the concept of the preservation of the sanctuary – the church - supported in the Bible?
Matthew 16:13-19 (KJV)
When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? 
And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.
He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? 
And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.
And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. 
And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 
And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 

Let me begin by answering the question about the keys in verse 19.

It’s not critical to the message I am preaching but I am afraid someone might get stuck there and not hear me out if I don’t address it.

The keys of the kingdom that Christ gave to Peter is the Gospel.

It’s the plan of salvation.

We have in the plan of salvation the means to unlock heaven for anyone who will hear us.
·   If they accept the Gospel and trust Christ as Saviour, their home in heaven is assured.
·   If they reject that Gospel, and refuse Jesus Christ, the door to heaven is locked shut for them.
1 John 5:12 (KJV)
He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.

Jesus said He would build His church and the gates of hell would not prevail against it.

His church would not be built upon Peter but upon a doctrinal truth that Peter had just proclaimed, that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God.

The promise of Jesus Christ is that the gates of hell would not prevail against His church.

Did He keep the promise or not?
I submit to you: 
·   That the first great challenge to that promise was when Constantine forced everyone within his realm to profess themselves to be Christians.
·   That the resultant catholic church over which he was head was the first time the gates of hell had prevailed against a church and
·   That the churches that refused to unite with his catholic church was the first proof that there was such a thing as a church the gates of hell had not prevailed against.

Question three, 
Here is the academic question. 

A bright person will stop me here and challenge that there is no way to prove that all of those churches that existed through the centuries outside of Catholicism and later Protestantism, were solid, doctrinally sound churches.

My answer is that I do not have to prove that every one of those churches were sound churches.

All I have to do is demonstrate that there have always been churches that have existed outside of Catholicism and outside of Protestantism and that there are churches still today that have existed outside of the same.

That’s not difficult to do.

Nobody denies it.

Most Christians ignore the significance of them, but those who have studied history know they have always existed.

·   They have existed in every century
·   They have existed all over the known world of the time

Mostly we know about them because of the records the Catholics kept of trying to exterminate them, but we know they existed.

At one time in history, during the days of the Reformation, the King of the Holland underwent some of the same questions I did.

The Catholic Church was no longer going to be their official state church but he didn’t want just any new church to be his country’s official church. 

He wanted to approve the church that Jesus started as his country’s official church.

So he hired the greatest historians of his day to search out the matter.

They determined that the Baptists had the best claim to trace themselves back to Jesus Christ.[3]

He tried to make the Baptist church the state sponsored church of the Netherlands but he ran into a conflict with one of the Baptist distinctives – separation of church and state.

We stand opposed to any government controlled church or church controlled government.[4]

Yes, it is very possible to demonstrate that the doctrinal treasures of the Baptists have existed outside of Catholicism all the way back to Jesus Christ.

I anticipate a final question might be,
I can see someone asking the question, “What difference does it make whether a person goes to a Baptist church or any one of the whole host of other churches that are all around us, so long as they get saved and get their lives turned around?”

Does it matter whether these churches really traces themselves outside of Protestantism and Catholicism all the way back to Christ?

Matthew 28:18-20 (KJV)
And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. 
Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 
Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

Jesus gave the church He said He would build a three-fold job:
·   They were to evangelize
·   They were to baptize
·   They were to teach

A. They were to evangelize – win people to Jesus
This question assumes that only this part of the three-fold commission matters.

As long as a person gets saved, the other two parts are just technicalities, right?

The argument of the bulk of Christianity today is that the only thing that matter is that people get saved.

As long as they go the heaven, Jesus can straighten out all or doctrinal differences there.

But what about the other two?
B. They were to baptize those they won
There is an interesting passage in, 
Luke 7:29-30 (KJV)
And all the people that heard him, and the publicans, justified God, being baptized with the baptism of John.
But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized of him.

The Bible says, 
·   They glorified God when they were baptized with the baptism of John and 
·   They rejected the counsel of God when they refused His baptism

Do you know that nobody except Baptists – and only some of them - believe that Christian baptism is the “baptism of John” today?

Is all of this stuff about the church Jesus built relevant to modern Christians?

Only if you want to glorify God.

If you are fine rejecting the counsel of God, go ahead and ignore the messages this week and last.

C. They were to teach all things whatsoever Jesus Commanded
Notice the words, “all things whatsoever.

The church is supposed to teach and therefore Christians are supposed to learn to observe “all things whatsoever” Jesus commanded.

That means I had better find a church teaching all those things Jesus commanded.

Does it matter?

Yes – the doctrine of the preservation of the sanctuary matters because:
·   It preserves the purity of the Gospel
·   It is the only means to fulfilling the Great Commission
·   It is the best hope of passing your faith to your children's children
·   It is the only way you will hear from Jesus, "Well done thou good and faithful servant."

[2] And not all of them.
[3] “a committee appointed by the King of Holland to write a history of the Dutch Reformed Church.  In this history there is a chapter devoted to the Baptists.  This history was published at Breda, 1819, by Dr. Ypeig Professor of Theeology at Gronigen, and Rev. I. J. Dermout, Chaplain to the King, learned Pedobaptists.  These men had access to all of the libraries and archives of Germany and Holland.  After a careful study of the Baptists they made this statement: "We have now seen that the Baptists who were formerly called Anabaptist, and, in latter times, Mennonites, were the original Waldenses; and have long, in the history of the church receive the honor of that origin.  On this account Baptists may be considered the only Christian community which has stood since the days of the Apostles, and as a Christian society, which has preserved the pure doctrines of the gospel through all ages."
They further state that the Reformation was unnecessary, because the Baptists, then known as Anabaptists, Waldenses and other names, were preaching the Gospel in its simplicity, long before Luther; yea, even from the days of the Apostles.”
[4] This is another area where misunderstanding of the doctrine of the local church leads to misunderstanding of other doctrines. Baptists do not oppose Christian involvement and influence in government. Baptists oppose church involvement in government. The Catholic church view, whether Roman Visible Catholic or Protestant Invisible Universal church, equates Christianity with church. Baptists see Christians and individual thinkers and churches as local independent organizations. Christians, as individuals, should be involved and influential in their governments. However governments should stay out of the business of the churches and churches should remain un-entangled with governments.