Posts Tagged 'committment'

You Should Be Committed! Part 1

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How many of you (of a certain age) remember these lyrics:

Gloom, despair, and agony on me,
Deep down depression, excessive misery,
If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all,
Gloom, despair and agony on me.

Yes, the four losers from Hee Haw would sing that song then complain about all the things wrong in their lives. It was a funny skit that went on for years. People enjoyed laughing at other people’s problems; it makes us feel good to think that other people have the same problems we have. Or even better, that they have it worse than we do.

That’s one way to deal with the stresses of life – to laugh at others, or to laugh at yourself. But what about those things that happen to you that you can’t laugh at. How do you cope with things that cause you genuine, unrelenting “gloom, despair, and agony?” A lot of us pull into ourselves, we fret and worry. We get nervous and fearful.

The Bible gives us some sound advice on how to cope with “gloom, despair, agony, and excessive misery” of life.

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs, and don’t forget to thank him for his answers. (Philippians 4:6 | TLB)

That’s a verse that either makes you very happy or very angry, depending on your situation. Paul admonished: Don’t worry about anything. Yes, that’s a paraphrase, The Living Bible to be precise, so you may wonder if the word “anything” is accurate or not. Surely Ken Taylor, the man who is responsible for The Living Bible, was exaggerating when he wrote “everything.”

So let’s check this verse out in some other translations:

Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. (Philippians 4:6 | KJV)

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. (Philippians 4:6 | TNIV)

Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. (Philippians 4:6 | RSV)

In nothing be anxious; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. (Philippians 4:6 | ASV)

It’s a safe bet “anything” wasn’t Ken Taylor’s idea, but rather the apostle Paul’s. Christians aren’t supposed to worry or be anxious about “anything.” And “anything” means anything! That may seem hard for you to believe, especially in a culture that seems to encourage parents to worry about every aspect of their children’s life; about their own health; about their job security; about their pensions; about the president’s sanity. It’s crazy, but here in the greatest country in the world, the norm is to worry. Yet, if you want to live a life of faith that is pleasing to the Lord, you can’t worry about “anything.”

Yet we do. Even those of us who pride ourselves on being emotionally secure and completely objective, sometimes find ourselves overtaken by worry and anxiety. What do we do about that? Over the next few weeks, I’ll lay out what the Bible teaches about this issue. If we can grasp its teaching, we’ll find ourselves living better and enjoying life more.

Commit Yourself Unto Him, 2 Timothy 1:12

Paul was a preacher writing to a younger preacher. But that doesn’t mean what Paul wrote to Timothy isn’t important for you. You probably aren’t a preacher. But you are Christian. By default, you are an evangelist whether you realize it or not. Elton Trueblood’s marvelous book, “Your Other Vocation,” is a real eye-opener, and I urge everybody reading this to read that. The thrust of his book is that all believers are called to be ministers, and that our other vocation is how we earn a living. That’s an interesting thought, and it’s thoroughly Biblical. The idea that only pastors or evangelists should be the ones preaching and evangelizing goes completely against what the Bible teaches. So, with that in mind, let’s look at what Paul wrote to Timothy.

In verses 11 and 12, Paul writes of his ministry:

For this I am appointed a preacher and an apostle and a teacher of the Gentiles, for which cause I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed. For I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that Day. (2 Timothy 1:11, 12 | KJ21)

The apostle covers four things.

“I suffer these things.” Paul was called by the Lord to be His preacher, and ever since Paul answered that called, he suffered. He suffers “these things.” How did Paul suffer? He gave a partial list to the church at Corinth:

I’ve worked much harder, been jailed more often, beaten up more times than I can count, and at death’s door time after time. I’ve been flogged five times with the Jews’ thirty-nine lashes, beaten by Roman rods three times, pummeled with rocks once. I’ve been shipwrecked three times, and immersed in the open sea for a night and a day. In hard traveling year in and year out, I’ve had to ford rivers, fend off robbers, struggle with friends, struggle with foes. I’ve been at risk in the city, at risk in the country, endangered by desert sun and sea storm, and betrayed by those I thought were my brothers. I’ve known drudgery and hard labor, many a long and lonely night without sleep, many a missed meal, blasted by the cold, naked to the weather. And that’s not the half of it, when you throw in the daily pressures and anxieties of all the churches. When someone gets to the end of his rope, I feel the desperation in my bones. When someone is duped into sin, an angry fire burns in my gut. (2 Corinthians 11:23 – 29 | MSG)

Yes, Paul paid a high price to be a faithful servant of Jesus Christ. Most of us will never suffer like Paul did, but serving the Lord faithfully isn’t easy. A serious Christian will suffer, to some degree, in his vocation. If you want to follow Jesus faithfully, many times your attitudes toward things in our culture will be completely opposite to the mainstream. At this moment, our culture is swirling down the toilet, and the things it values and promotes are almost always anti Christian. Taking a stand for Biblical morality and ethics can take its toll on your reputation at work or even out in the community.

To be a modern-day disciple of Christ is a radical way to live life, and while those of us who are striving to be that committed to our Lord may not suffer as Paul did, what we do put up with is suffering for the Gospel, nonetheless.

“I am not ashamed.” That’s what Paul wrote, but of what was he not ashamed? He wrote a similar thing to the Romans:

For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one who believeth, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. (Romans 1:16 | KJ21)

So Paul wasn’t ashamed of the Gospel, nor was he ashamed of how he was suffering for the sake of that same Gospel. And here he was, cooling his heels in prison because he was a faithful servant of Jesus Christ, and he still wasn’t ashamed. He wasn’t in prison because of some crime he committed, he was in prison because he chose to obey God, not man. In Paul’s mind, he had nothing to be ashamed of. Now, there were people who were running around talking trash about Paul because he was in prison, but his conscience was absolutely clear.

“I know whom I have believed.” The secret of Paul’s positive attitude was not that he had read Napoleon Hill’s books. His secret was a Person: Jesus Christ. It wasn’t Paul’s temperament or his personality. It wasn’t his education. It wasn’t his close circle of friends. Paul was positive and he was certain because he knew Jesus Christ personally.

This is an important concept for you, the modern Christian to grasp hold of and not let go of. The world may regard your faith in a crucified Messiah as a joke; a thing of folly and a just cause for mockery and shame, but if your relationship with Jesus Christ is strong and genuine, then whatever the world may think of you and your faith will not impact you one wit. The world may make fun of you, but Jesus Christ never will. Like Paul, you must permanently put your trust and confidence in Him.

“I am persuaded.” This is an essential characteristic of the Christian faith. To be a faithful follower of Jesus Christ is much more than merely believing the right stuff concerning Christ, however important that may be. True Christianity must involve a love fellowship with a Person—namely Jesus Christ—if our faith is to be truly Christian. We must be persuaded of the reality of Jesus Christ and the reality of relationship we have with Him.

Paul wrote that he was convinced that God could “keep” that which he had committed to His care. Literally, the Greek looks like this: “that he is able to guard my deposit.” He has unshaken confidence in God’s ability to do what he trusts Him to do. He is able effectively “to guard my deposit.”

Paul was absolutely, 100 percent convinced of God’s ability to “keep” or guard the trust or deposit. In the Greek, this whole statement indicates there is no doubt that God, in whom he has placed his faith, is able to guard what the apostle has entrusted. The tense of the verb “to guard” means to continue watching over and protecting, as a guard watches over a prisoner. Of course, the question you should be asking is, What is being guarded by God?  The Greek term is parathēkē, and was used for the deposit of money or property entrusted to another. As Paul used it here, there are two possible meanings: First, the gospel that God entrusted to Paul is now entrusted to Timothy’s guardianship. That’s possible but unlikely.

Secondly, Paul could be referring to the commitment that he has entrusted to God, and this probably what the great apostle is getting at. Salvation is a work of God from beginning to end, and just as God can be trusted to save your soul, so He can be trusted to “keep” or guard your life until the very end. In short, Paul was not ashamed in the midst of suffering because he was fully convinced that God would keep safe his deposit of faith – to vindicate his deposit of faith – until the very end.

In the midst of all of his sufferings; through all the ups and downs of his life, Paul was trusting God with his very life – his life now, and his life in the future. God gave Paul salvation and a job to do. And Paul, in return, gave God his life, his ambition, his talents, and trusted God with all those things.

Paul had completely committed himself in every sense of the word to God and His care. Have you? Too many Christians name Christ as their Savior but hold back part of themselves. God doesn’t have 100% of their lives. But the thing is, God wants all of you. He wants all of your time. All of your ambition. All of your talents. He wants all of your heart.

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Missing Christians are NO Christians

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Here is an article written by Jim Elliff, which I acquired from Steve Camp’s blog, Camp on This.  Although written about Southern Baptists, it could easily have been written about any denomination.   After decrying the disparity between the number of people on a church’s membership roll and the number of members who actually attend that church’s Sunday service, Elliff makes the following excellent observations:

What do these facts and figures, as general as they are, suggest?

First, they reveal that most of the people on our rolls give little evidence that they love the brethren—a clear sign of being unregenerate (1 Jn. 3:14). It is impossible to believe that anything like real familial affection exists in the hearts of people who do not come at all, or who only nominally check in on Sunday morning as a cultural exercise. Love is the greatest mark of a genuine believer (1 Jn.3:14-19). Attendance alone does not guarantee that anyone is an authentic believer, but “forsaking the assembling,” is a serious sign of the unregenerate heart. The phrase: “They went out from us, because they were never of us” (1 Jn. 2:19) may have doctrinal overtones, but it nonetheless represents many on our membership rolls.

Second, these numbers suggest that most of those who do not attend (or who only come when it is convenient), are more interested in themselves than God. To put it in Paul’s words, they are “fleshly-minded” and not “spiritually-minded” (Rom. 8: 5-9). The atmosphere that most pleases them is that of the world and not God. They can stand as much of God as makes them feel better about themselves, and they find a certain carnal security in “belonging” to a local church. But beyond that, they will politely resist getting involved. They use the church, but are not really a part of it. For some, the extent of what they can take is an Easter service now and then; for others it is an occasional sterile (and somewhat Pharisaical) trip to church on appropriate Sunday mornings as fits into their schedule. But their apathy towards regular and faithful church attendance betrays their true affections. The fact is, you do what you love to do.

Third, the numbers indicate that some people have joined other denominations and our churches have not kept up with their movements—a sign of inadequate pastoral oversight and the built-in deficiencies of the “inactive membership” concept. I’m quite certain Paul never dreamed of “inactive membership.” Embarrassingly, some left on the rolls are dead—physically! It goes without saying that a dead person is about as inactive as one could be! But others, though presumably alive physically, have disappeared without a trace. I believe it was our beloved Dr. Roy Fish of SWBTS who said, “Even the FBI could not find some of them.” Yet, if we want to claim them as members, we are responsible to keep up with them.

All of these people have “prayed the prayer” and “walked the aisle.” All have been told that they are Christians. But for most, old things have not really passed away, and new things have not come. Most are not new creatures in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17). In too many cases, obvious signs of an unregenerate heart can be found, such as bitterness, long-term adultery, fornication, greed, divisiveness, covetousness, etc. These are “professing believers” that the Bible says are deceived. “Do not be deceived” the Bible warns us concerning such people (see 1 Cor.6:9-11; Gal. 5:19-21; 6: 7-8; Eph. 5:5-6; Titus 1:16; 1 Jn. 3:4-10; etc.).

Jesus indicated that there is a good soil that is receptive to the gospel seed so as to produce a fruit-bearing plant, but that the “rocky ground” believer only appears to be saved. The latter shows immediate joy, but soon withers away (Mt. 13:6, 21). This temporary kind of faith (which is not saving faith, see 1 Cor.15:1-2) is rampant among Southern Baptists. In The Baptist Faith and Message we say we believe that saving faith is persistent to the end. We say we believe in the preservation and perseverance of the saints (once saved, always persevering). In other words, if a person’s faith does not persevere, then what he possessed was something other than saving faith.

In John 2:23-25 Jesus was the center-piece for what turned out to be a mass evangelism experience in which a large number of people “believed” in Him. Yet He did not entrust Himself to even one of them because “he knew their hearts.” Is it possible that we have taken in millions of such “unrepenting believers” whose hearts have not been changed? I say that we have. Our denomination, as much as we may love it, is on the main, unregenerate. Even if you double, triple, or quadruple my assessment of how many are true believers, we still have a gigantic problem. It is naive to believe otherwise.

There are those who would say that such people are “carnal Christians” and don’t deserve to be thought of as unregenerate. It is true that the Corinthian believers (about whom this phrase was used; see 1 Cor. 3:1-3) acted “like mere men” in their party spirit. Christians can commit any sin short of that which is unpardonable.

Undoubtedly, however, Paul did suspect that some of the Corinthians were unbelievers, for he later warns them about such a possibility in 2 Cor.12:20-13:5. A long-term and unrepentant state of carnality, is, after all, the very description of the unregenerate (Rom. 8:5-14, 1 Jn. 3:4-10, etc.). In calling some people “carnal” Paul did not mean to imply that he was accepting as Christian a lifestyle that he clearly describes elsewhere as unbelieving. He wrote, in the same letter: “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God. Do not be deceived” (1 Cor. 6:9-11, etc.). Apparently there were some, even then, who were deceived into thinking that an unrighteous man or woman who professes faith in Christ could really be a Christian!

What must be done? I suggest five responses:

1. We must preach and teach on the subject of the unregenerate church member. Every author in the New Testament writes of the nature of deception. Some books give major consideration to the subject. Jesus Himself spoke profusely about true and false conversion, giving significant attention to the fruit found in true believers (Jn. 10:26-27; Mt. 7:21-23; Mt. 25:1-13, etc.). If this sort of teaching creates doubt in people, you should not be alarmed, nor should you back away from it. Given the unregenerate state of so many professing Christians, their doubts may be fully warranted. In any case, as one friend told me, “Doubts never sent anyone to hell, but deception always does.” Most will work through their doubts, if they are regenerate and if we continue to preach the whole truth. Contrary to popular opinion, all doubts are not of the devil. Speak truthfully the whole counsel of God. You cannot “unsave” true believers.

It is true that there may be some who are overly scrupulous and overwhelmed by such examination. But most who will be affected are those who are too self-confident, having based their assurance on such shaky platforms as their response to an invitation, praying a perfectly worded “sinner’s prayer,” or getting baptized. If they are unregenerate, they may take offense and leave. But if they are truly regenerate, patient teaching and care will help them to overcome their doubts and gain biblical assurance. Such preaching may even result in true conversion for some who are deceived. And don’t forget that the overconfident ones are not the only ones at risk. Quiet, sensitive, insecure people can be deceived also.

2. We must address the issue of persistent sin among our members, including their sinful failure to attend the stated meetings of the church. This must be done by reestablishing the forgotten practice of church discipline. Each church should adopt guidelines that state just what will happen when a member falls into sin, including the sin of non-attendance or very nominal attendance. Such discipline for non-attendance is clearly found in the history of Baptists—but more importantly, in the Bible.

Everyone in the church, including new members, should be made familiar with the biblical steps of church discipline. Jesus said that a person who was lovingly, but firmly, disciplined by the church, and yet failed to repent, should be thought of as “a heathen and a tax collector” (see Mt. 18:15-17). Though David committed atrocious sins, he was a repenter at heart (see 2 Sam.12:13; Psalm 51). Every Christian is a life-long repenter and church discipline brings this out. (See “Restoring Those Who Fall,” in Our Church on Solid Ground: Documents That Preserve the Integrity and Unity of the Church, http://www.CCWonline.org)

Leaders must get into the homes of all our erring church members, seeking either to bring them to Christ, or to reluctantly release them to the world which they love more than Christ. Nowhere in the Bible are we taught to keep non-believers on the rolls. As a side benefit from church discipline for the SBC, remember that when we reduce our membership to what it actually is, we will be amazed at the statistical improvements in the ratio of members per baptism and members to attenders. Of course, statistics are not worth dying for, but obedience to God’s Word is.

We are never to aggressively pluck the supposed tares from the wheat as if we had absolute knowledge (Mt. 13:24-30; 36-43). We might be mistaken. However, loving church discipline is a careful process by which the obvious sinner in essence removes himself by his resistance to correction. The church is made up of repenting saints, not rebelling sinners (see 1 Cor. 5). The slight improvement in the disparity between membership and attendance in the last couple of years is likely due, in major part, to some churches beginning to practice church discipline—a matter of obedience that thankfully is regaining credence among us. Some have removed hundreds from their rolls in this process, and regained some also.

3. We should be more careful on the front end of church membership. In my estimation, the public altar call (a modern invention) often reaps people prematurely. Others will disagree or can perhaps make significant improvements on the traditional “invitation system.” We have used this method in our evangelism because of our genuine zeal to see the lost converted. But in our zeal, we have often overlooked the fact that many who do what our method calls for (i.e. respond to our invitation) may not be converted.

Though sacrosanct to Baptists, careful study should be done related to the historical use of the invitation system evangelistically. For eighteen hundred years the church did not use such a method. It was not until its principle originator, Charles Finney, a true pelagian in his theology, promoted his “new measures.” Earlier preachers were content to let true conviction play a greater part in conversion. They needed no props for the gospel—no persuasive techniques to prompt people to make a “decision.” Instead of relying on a method, their confidence was in the preached Word and the Holy Spirit. Baptist giant, C. H. Spurgeon, for instance, saw thousands converted without the use of an “altar call.” His message was his invitation. We should always offer a verbal invitation in our gospel preaching, meaning we must invite people to repent and believe. But there is no real benefit, while there is much potential harm, in our inviting them to the front of the church and then assuring them that their short walk or tearful response proves their conversion.

We don’t need better methods to get people down to the front. What we need is more biblical content and more unction in our preaching. You cannot beat sinners away from Christ when God is bringing them in (see Jn. 6:37, 44-45). When as many as 70-90% of “converts” are giving little, if any, evidence of being saved after their first weeks or months of emotional excitement, questions should be asked, both about our understanding of the gospel and about our methods. Forget the fact, if you must, that there is no clear biblical precedent for the altar call. Even considering the matter pragmatically ought to make us quit. Though prevalent in our churches for decades, it has not helped us. (See “Closing with Christ,” http://www.CCWonline.org/closing.html)

The dangerous practice of receiving new members immediately after they walk the aisle must finally be abandoned. Also, more careful counsel should be taken with those entering in as members from other churches. And add to this a need for much deeper thinking concerning childhood conversion. An alarming percentage of childhood professions wash out later in the teen and college years. For unconverted yet baptized church kids, the more independence they are granted, the more they live out their true nature. (See “Childhood Conversion,” http://www.CCWonline.org/cconv.html)

4. We must stop giving immediate verbal assurance to people who make professions of faith or who respond to our invitations. It is the Holy Spirit’s job to give assurance. We are to give thebasis upon which assurance can be had, not the assurance itself. Study 1 John in this respect. What things were written so that they might know they have eternal life? (1 Jn. 5:13). Answer: The tests given in the book. The Bible says that the Holy Spirit testifies to our spirit that we are children of God (Rom. 8:16).

5. We must restore sound doctrine. Revival, I am finding as I study its history, is largely about the recovery of the true gospel. The three great doctrines which have so often shown up in true revival are: 1) God’s sovereignty in salvation, 2) justification by grace through faith alone, and 3) regeneration with discernible fruit. Revival is God showing up, but the blessing of the presence of God is directly affected by our beliefs. God most often comes in the context of these and other great doctrines, preached penetratingly and faithfully, and with the unction of the Holy Spirit.

As an illustration of our doctrinal reductionism, repentance is often forgotten completely in gospel presentations, or else it is minimized to mean nothing more than “admitting that you are a sinner.” Also, “Inviting Christ into your heart,” a phrase never found in the Bible (study the context of Jn.1:12 and Rev. 3:20, the verses used for this), has taken the place of the biblical doctrine of justification by faith alone. The doctrine of God’s judgment is rarely preached with any carefulness. And comprehensive studies of the meaning of the cross are seldom heard. Merely looking over the titles of the sermons which awakening preachers preached in the past would surprise most modern pastors.


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