Posts Tagged ‘church’

Question and Answer (in a page or less)

Where and When did the Church Begin?

The Church began in the eternal counsel of the triune God as the Father determined to give His beloved Son a bride who would be regenerated by the Holy Spirit.

In redemptive history, Adam was given the ordinance to beget a holy seed that would inhabit the earth. Adam failed in this charge. He failed as prophet, priest, and king. Everything that follows in the way of covenants is part of God’s reclamation project of Adam’s failures. The promises of God find their culminating “amen” in Christ, who was born in the fullness of time.

Jesus founded disciples who were given the mandate to preach the gospel to all the nations. This task took place during Jesus’ ministry, but really finds its origin on Pentecost in Jerusalem as the ascended Christ poured out the Holy Spirit upon the “called out” assembly who were then charged with bringing the Gospel to Jerusalem, Judea, and the ends of the earth:

Acts 1:8 (ESV) — 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Acts shows us how the apostles completed this task through missionary efforts, church planting, and training a future generation of leaders. The Pastoral Epistles (1 & 2 Timothy and Titus), and selected material from other epistles give us a clearer picture of the Apostolic Church as a lasting institution. God ordains that the Church be supplied with particular servants/leaders and also supplies the description and requisites for such positions.

A properly constituted Church will function within the defined ecclesiology of the Scriptures. There are many disagreements about what constitutes a valid sanctioned Church.  These matters must be resolved from further study.

Suffice it to say that God purposed an elect body of people who would belong to Him for all eternity. This is according to the mysterious eternal counsel of God from which He set His love upon a community who would be set apart by way of covenant. The Father chose a people > Jesus consented to win the bride by redeeming them at the cost of His own sacrificial love (read Hosea) > The Holy Spirit is the “matchmaker” who wins over our hearts for Christ through the work of “new birth” and therefore makes us a “bride of Christ”. This is all revealed throughout redemptive history and culminates in the fullness of time with Christ. The NT defines the Church in the current era of redemptive history, which shall continue until the second coming of Christ.

Kevin DeYoung has noted before that people talk a lot about the Kingdom of God, but don’t always have a fully biblical view of this issue.  Last week, he posted some thoughts on this issue, cautioning people who want to bring the kingdom to earth.  DeYoung argues instead that the kingdom is closely identified with the Church:

If the kingdom of God is heaven breaking into earth, Eden being replanted, the New Jerusalem nailing in stakes, then we should expect to see the kingdom almost exclusively in the church. Of course, the church, living in the world, ought to embody the principles of the kingdom. Likewise, we will be pleased when the world around us reflects many of the values of the kingdom–forgiveness, compassion, mercy, and justice. But we will not expect the world, in this life, to become the kingdom.

Here’s the problem: when people talk broadly about bringing heaven down to earth on the culture writ large, they can’t help but be selective about the nature of the kingdom. So some Christians will argue for dismantling of nuclear weapons because in the kingdom swords are beaten into plowshares. True, but in the kingdom everyone also sits under their own vine and fig tree. The vision of the kingdom/garden/city is one of extravagant opulence and prosperity. So should we try to be as rich as possible as a sign of the kingdom’s in-breaking? Well, no because the kingdom is not the full reality yet. As a result we must temper the notion of kingdom-living prosperity with the reality that some people don’t have enough to live. In the same way, we must temper the notion of kingdom-living pacifism with the reality that there are lots of bad guys in the world who don’t want us to live.

In other words, when we think of the kingdom as what we are trying to build in this world we will be severely disappointed, potentially dangerous. But when we see the church as the presence of the kingdom in this world then the theological pieces start falling into place. The oversight in some recent conceptions of building the kingdom is that the kingdom is only thought of in terms of social services. But where Christ reigns, wickedness is expelled too. If you want to build the kingdom in your town, if you want heaven to come down to earth in your city, then you must not allow unrepentant sinners to live there. For Scripture is clear that they share no part in the kingdom. (more…)

A local church plant sent out fliers to each home advertising a free Starbucks gift card to all who would show up. They are also running ads on Facebook with the title “Free Starbucks Gift Card”. If people choose a church because they can receive a free Starbucks gift card, then I would seriously question whether such folks really want to meet with God. I would also question whether the church is seeking to be a purveyor of goods to meet superficial cravings and needs, or if they are preaching Christ as a matter of life or death.

I would like to think that our worship service brings people to God…that is our intent at least. Guests to our Church should be warned that they might encounter the living God who speaks to us through Word and Sacrament, revealing the secrets of their hearts and bringing them to their knees in confession of our desperate need for Him.

There was once a poor man who thought he most needed silver and gold. Peter said that he had nothing of what the man was seeking, but instead offered him Christ and the lame man was healed. The poor man got better than he initially sought.

Well…..there was once a church, desperate for a big crowd, offered willing attenders a free Starbucks card if they would dare visit their new church. Some flocked there, awkwardly inquiring about the card, glad to finally receive it. They sat through the blaring loud music, thinking that the “band” was trying too hard to sound like U2 (but really sucked).

The pastor got up and “shared” with the group, giving 5 “relevant and practical” points on how to be a more gracious person. The attender thought to himself, “I guess I can implement the ‘life points’ this ‘pastor’ just gave me. Seem simple enough”. Deep down, curiosity struck, “Why do I feel empty? Is this the really good news…that I get a Starbucks card and a message on how to be a happier person? Is that what Jesus died for?”.

On the way out the door, a happy smiley person walks up and quips, “Hope you enjoyed your visit and enjoy your Starbucks coffee. While we don’t hand out gift cards to repeat guests, I hope you found the worship to be cool and relevant, the message to be practical and relevant, and the people to be ‘real’ and relevant, and hope to see you next week at our cool, rocking, practical, real, and relevant church”.

The guest gave an awkward smile in return and  endured a patting on the back as if he was now this guy’s best friend.

On the way home, the man felt somewhat guilty for even having come to church for a Starbucks card, “How shallow can I get?”

He realized his need for God and wanted desperately to seek Him out. As he thought for a moment about returning to the church he had just visited, his guilt over receiving a Starbucks card dawned on him, “How shallow can they be?”. He concluded that this wasn’t the type of church that would most satisfy his deepest questions and longings in his life.

Deep down he needed God, but went to church for a Starbucks card. After being told by a church-member how cool, relevant, real, and practical their church was, he concluded that they were anything but.

Starbucks, rocking music, and friendly people they did have, but not the Jesus he so desperately needs.

The logic of the Roman Catholic Church is that you are better off not ever hearing the gospel or knowing about the Church than you are in knowingly refusing to enter her. In other words, pagans who have not heard are better off than those who hear and do not join the Church. Current Catholic theology bumps up against universalism while at the same time magnifying the necessity of Rome for salvation, [as an aside, this is also the position of the Latter Day Saints, something I hope to write about soon].

The Catechism of the Catholic Church makes this astounding statement:
“The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind’s judge on the last day.” (§841)
Also, if someone ‘through no fault of their own’ does not know of Christ and the Church, he is good to go. “Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience–those too may achieve eternal salvation.” (§847)
But if you have the misfortune of having heard about Christ and the Church and you stay outside, you’re in trouble:
“Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it.” (§846)
Writing in the February, 2008 edition of First Things, the late Avery Cardinal Dulles confirms this line of thought:
“Piux IX and the Second Vatican Council taught that all who followed their conscience, with the help of the grace given to them, would be led to that faith that was necessary for them to be saved. During and after the council, Karl Rahner maintained that saving faith could be had without any definite belief in Christ or even in God…[but] In Christ’s Church, therefore, we have many aids to salvation and sanctification that are not available elsewhere.”
I take this view to be a dangerous delusion that provides false comfort to people in contradiction to what God has told us in the Scriptures. The Bible tells us, “For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” We are told by Jesus that, “No one comes to the Father except through me.” Saint Peter says that “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” Hopefully, the living Word of God will work its way in the Catholic Church and in time she will revert to her more ancient views on this subject.

The Church as if was Meant to be

Posted: December 13, 2008 by Matthew Hussey in Uncategorized
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It’s been a long time since I’ve written anything on this blog. I’ve been trying to keep more regular updates of my adventures in South Africa on my own blog page: matthewhusse.myadventures.org
But this article here is one of my favorites and I think I would like to share it with you all!
Recently, as part of the discipleship process we’ve been going through, we are learning how to live interdependently and live as God’s church. More than just “going” to church, but actively deciding to “be” the church. About two weeks ago we had a session specifically looking at the church and what God commands his church to do. We started out by looking at what the church today does. For example the people usually gather in a building (large or small), sing worship songs (maybe dance a little, raise their hands), hear a sermon, give a testimony, tithe; we sometimes greet each other, make announcements, do special programs: prayer meetings, youth groups, small groups, Sunday School, Baptisms, dedications, weddings, potluck meals, and all that stuff. Then we looked at what the church building has: sounds system, instruments (anywhere from a piano, to guitar, to organ, to a praise band, to an African drum), pews, Bibles, hymnals, bulletins, decorations (crucifixes, candles, flowers, lighting). Then of course there are the people: sometimes well dressed, or just casual, sometimes all white or all black or mixed. Often times there are multiple services, maybe for different languages or different venues (contemporary or traditional, or for different speakers). Some people have an important role to play: pastors, worship leaders, announcement makers, office and administration, sound people, ushers, greeters. Others just come and participate, but don’t play as active a role. Some will only come once a year, others come three or more times a week for various things. All in all there is a lot of variety, even in the specifically “Christian” churches I’ve seen. And I’ve never even been to a Catholic or Eastern Orthodox Christian church.
Anyways the real challenge came when we took our rather large list of stuff that the modern church is or does and compared it with what is “Biblical,” or what God specifically commanded us to do. And honestly there wasn’t all that much stuff left after we got down to it. I think we can all agree that the term “church” has been a little confused. Church is not in a building, nor is it a formal establishment. It is merely a group of believers who follow Christ gathering together to fulfill God’s commands. What did Jesus command us to do? First, “Repent and be baptized…and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Second, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.” Thirdly (I would say this part expounds on what Jesus already commanded: and that is to love):”Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven” and “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness” and “if anyone would come after me he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” And that is everything that Jesus commanded his church to do. And if you look at the church, as it was first developing that was exactly what they did: “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer…Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need…they broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts.” It’s interesting to note that this church had just grown to several thousand people large in only a few days. Yet in Acts 4:32-35 it says “All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had…There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales, and put it at the apostles’ feet.”

What an amazing testimony! Of all the thousands of people that just became Christians there was not a single needy person among them! Even Jesus said there will always be poor people, and yet for a time there were none among this church! What I really love about the early church is how simply things really were. I mean they didn’t need some formal building with decorations and hymnals. Of course they met as a large group to worship and to hand out the money so everyone would be provided for. But I also love how they ate together and met together “with glad and sincere hearts.” How far we have gone from that today! Most churches you would be lucky to know the names of everyone, much less have a deep relationship with them.

So how exactly do we get back to that original church? Well I don’t exactly have a three step process that’s been tested and approved by the latest and greatest pastors and evangelists of the century. Basically I just say do what they did, and apply what the Bible actually says, not what tradition dictates. Devote yourselves to the “apostles’ teachings:” which are really the teachings of Christ. Let them lead you and guide you. I’m not trying to say that people should leave their current churches and do something new. Really it doesn’t matter where you are in life, you can apply what the Bible teaches and become the church that Jesus intended for us to be.
This topic is one that has been near and dear to my heart recently, so there will hopefully be more to come soon! Thanks for listening!

havelock6.jpg 

HAVELOCK WILL BE PLAYING AT THE REFUGE YOUTH GATHERING AT MARION SECOND REFORMED CHURCH ON APRIL 6TH!!!
Havelock (http://profile.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=user.viewprofile&friendID=9103303) has shared the stage with the likes of Skillet, John Reuben, and Kutless. They rock!!! 
The band “FLR” will be opening at 5pm
Free Pizza and Soda will be served from 5:30-6pm
Havelock will rock the house from 6-7pm
Admission is FREE*
*Bring a canned food item to donate to the Marion Food Pantry if possible.
Marion Second Reformed Church is located at 3757 Mill St. in Marion, NY 14505
The Refuge Youth Building is in the back of the parking lot.
Church phone is 315-926-4235 if you have any questions, ask for Pastor Rick Hogaboam.