Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Sum Total of a Christian

Does anybody need a:

  • definition
  • description
  • digest
  • distinction
  • designation
  • depiction
  • design
  • diagram

of what a true or biblical Christian is?

Among many places you will find one of the best definitions, descriptions, distinctions, and digest of what a real biblical Christian in Romans 6:18.

"And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness." (Romans 6:18, NKJV)

This verse is a fundamental conclusion about what a Christian person is. 

A Christian has been - past tense - freed [by his/her death in Christ] once and for all, and has been made a slave of righteousness.

A true biblical Christian was once a slave to sin but is now been made to be a slave to righteousness.

A transfer of ownership has taken place. A transfer of dominance has taken place. A Christian is no longer under the master and dominance of sin, but is now under the master and dominance of righteousness.

Anything less or anything different, is not a Christian. That is right, you cannot claim to be a disciple of Christ and live under the mastery and dominance of sin.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

How to Kill Pride

To Help Cultivate Humility & Weaken Pride
Practices of Special Focus and Concentration

1.      Study the Attributes of God the incommunicable attributes.

          Study attributes that have no human reflection or illustration

·        Study Wayne Gruden’s Systematic Theology
·        Study A. W. Pink’s Attributes of God
·        Study A. W. Tozer’s The Knowledge of God
·        Study Stephen Charnock’s Attributes of God

2.      Study the Doctrines of Gracesalvation from first to last is of God

·        Study the doctrine of election
·        Study the doctrine of calling
·        Study the doctrine of justification
·        Study the doctrine of perseverance

3.      Study the Doctrine of Sinsin is our mean, abject condition

·        Study the delicacy of sin
·        Study the destructiveness of sin
·        Study the deceitfulness of sin
·        Study the desire of sin

4.      Study the Evidences of Grace -  in the lives of others

·       Actively look for ways that God is @ work in others
·       Accurately examine the Apostle Paul as an example
·       Attentively familiarize oneself with fruit of the Spirit

·       Affectionately look to God to lead you to the evidence

Monday, July 29, 2013

What is Fellowship? Part VII

When the Pastor Excuses Sin...
...Everybody Looses!

I have alluded to a extremely troubling statement that was made during a recent discussion about the topic of fellowship. First, this statement was made by a pastor (yes, I know they are all human).

Second, it was I believe an overall statement but it really was a tale-telling paragraph. Third, when I processed it and really thought on it, it blew me away.

Let me say I am going to paraphrase because I can not remember the exact words that were said. However, what I am about to share with you is as close as it really was.

In the early stages of the discussion, someone said,

"One trouble with fostering fellowship is when there are cliques within a church. It is hard for a new person to be accepted or hang out with some people." He went on to say, "We really don't have cliques. We just have some people who like to hang out together. They like each other and have things in common. They just like hanging together."

On the surface that sounds all good and well, right? After all I like to hang out with people that I like and that I have some things in common with. You would never find me hanging out with a bunch of metalheads. Now, find me a group who love (d) the Possum and I'll hang with them all day.

Think carefully on that statement. It is an unfortunate truth that most congregations have cliques. Sometimes we call them "The Powers that Be." Sometimes we call them "The Old Guard." Many times we don't call them anything but we see them. More tragically, we often see the effects these cliques have on the body and on new people.

I have lived in a town  where you could be established for twenty years and still be considered both new and as an outsider. I have seen churches where people have given up trying to penetrate a clique after being a member for several years.

Cliques are very dangerous. They focus on themselves and refuse to let new people "in." It is not just being refused "membership" or participation in the clique that is the major problem. It is the fact that the cliques are unaccepting and non-Christlike. 

New people are not welcome. They are not treated as brothers and sisters who share the same father. They are often treated like the "red-headed step-child." They are not nourished, edified, encouraged, instructed, matured, or discipled.

So, for a pastor to recognize that his church has cliques only to excuse it furthers sinful behavior. It is one thing to see a problem but it is another to fail to correct it. What is worse is to allow the problem to continue by excusing the behavior by giving it a different name. To say that we don't have cliques, we just have people who love to hang together who won't let new people hang with them seems incongruent to me with Christianity.

Now in all fairness, no one picked up on that statement and the discussion went off into another direction. No further explanation and/or information was given by the pastor who made that comment. I don't want to put words in is mouth nor do I want to make a blanket indictment without all the additional facts. After all I don't know what his full thought process on cliques may be. Not to mention the fact that I really like this guy.

But -we can not excuse sinful behavior. I guess the first question we must ask, "Are cliques sinful?" Notice I didn't ask if cliques are natural. I didn't ask if cliques were inevitable. I didn't ask if cliques existed in all congregations. I am asking if they are sinful.

If they are we as shepherds must take steps to prevent them and to break the up if they are discovered. We must teach every member to accept, welcome, and nurture every member of the body.

Give me a break! I realize that first of all, this is extremely difficult. It just needs to worked at! Prayer is a difficult discipline. For it to become natural or second nature we must work at it. 

Second, we do have to protect our congregation, our family, and ourselves. We must make every effort to determine if a new person is in fact a believer and not a tare. I realize we would deal with or handle tares a bit different from the real McCoy.

Remember you don't get to choose who will be your fellow siblings in your family. You learn to accept, love, and care for the brothers and sisters that come along. The body of Christ is no different. You don't get to pick and choose your brothers and sisters whom Christ has elected to salvation and placed in your local congregation.

You have to learn to accept, love, and nurture them like you would your fleshly brothers and sisters. My one brother and three sisters are as different from me as night and day. But I love them, I need them, and when I can in a Christ-like manner I try to nurture them.

My post today is not designed to deal with cliques. Nor is intended to encourage congregational members to nurture every believer with the congregation sans cliques.

My point is this - "Houston, we have a problem!" When a pastor or pastors excuse sinful behavior very rarely will congregational members eradicate sinful behavior. In other words,  if we permit cliques to exist because we think they are just a group of people who like to hang together, new people will never have a chance. 

They will be the ones who come to you one day and say "Pastor, we are leaving because we can't find fellowship." By the way, rarely will they say, "Pastor we are leaving because we can't penetrate the cliques that you have excused."

Well, I think I have said all that I can say for now about fellowship. We have spent several days at this and I hope I have shared something that might be useful.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Book Review: The Works of John Owen Volume 6 Temptation and Sin

Title:  Temptation and Sin
Author:  John Owen
Publisher:  The Banner of Truth Trust
Published:  1967
Edition:  8th Printing
Pages:  648
Genre:  Non-Fiction - Theology
Binding:  Hardback
Price:  $28.00

Be killing sin or it will be killing you! Owen must have gotten this idea from the Apostle Paul, "For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live." (Romans 8:13, NKJV)

Owen's volume Temptation and Sin is probably one of the best, if not the best book, apart from the Bible on putting to death the deeds of the body. Of course the deeds of the body refer to sin. I make this statement because of the depth and clarity Owen gives to the doctrine of Sanctification. His use of Scripture, exhortation, edification, and encouragement is a major benefit to the believer who struggles with sin.

The purpose of the author if found in his opening sentence in the Preface. Owen writes, "I shall in a few words acquaint thee with the reasons that obtained my consent to the publishing of the ensuing discourse. The consideration of the present state and condition of the generality of professors, the visible evidences of the frame of their hearts and spirits, manifesting a great disability of dealing with the temptations among themselves, they are encompassed, holds the chief place amongst them."

Owen reinforces this opening statement with these words, "That what I have of direction to contribute to the carrying on of the work of mortification in believers may receive order and perspicuity...and reduce the whole to an improvement of the great evangelical truth and mystery contained in them."

Owen's theme is taken, as previous suggested, from Romans 8:13 - the putting to death of sin. His thesis is also found in the succinct sentence of, "Be killing sin or it will be killing you."

Owen used both exposition and argumentation to develop his theme and thesis. Owen skilfully employed both explanation and analysis to present his argument. Owen expertly presented the facts concerning temptation, sin, and the believer's responsibility to put to death sin.

Owen also employed the technique of argumentation to instruct and persuade his readers concerning the truth of his thesis. Owen is clear in the fact that he wants his readers to be both informed and proactive in the putting to death of sinful deeds for their spiritual welfare.

As usual with Owen, I found this book to be both interesting yet difficult to comprehend. Owen is a very able expositor of the Scriptures and handles them carefully and accurately. Owen is extremely objective and uses ample Scripture to make his point (s). However, it goes without saying that one must take their time and make an effort to truly understand what Owen has said. At times I found myself reading and re-reading the same paragraph a number of times until I "got it." Though this can be somewhat tedious and taxing it is more than worth it.

The reader must take note that there are at least three (3) books or essays contained in this volume. They are On The Mortification of Sin, Temptation, and Indwelling Sin. 

There is also a massive exposition of Psalms 130. They all relate to Owen's theme and thesis. Owen uses each one to build his case. Each of his arguments (contained in this main points and in the body) are scriptural and therefore true.

The scriptures make it plain that God did not save us to leave us in our sin. Sin is an ugly, evil, and destructive force that desires to destroy everything in its path. Owen fights for the reader to recognize sin, it's deceitful tactics and design in order to victoriously put it to death. Owen is clear and concise giving the reader all the necessary information and tools in order to combat sin. 

John Owen was a noted pastor, lectured before English Parliament on a number of occasions, and Chaplain to Ireland and Scotland. He was an adviser to Oliver Cromwell (Lord Protector of England)

Temptation and Sin format is an 8 3/4 x 5 1/2 x 1 1/4 hardback. The binding is library binding. The typography is small and single-spaced. There are no maps, no illustrations, or photographs. 

This book has very few footnotes. There are no end notes, indexes, or bibliographies. The reader should be aware that Owen makes much use of the scriptures.

My general conclusions are that this book if well worth the reading. It is a book that should be next to every believer's bible. If one were to purchase a single volume of Owen I would recommend that purchase to be this Volume.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

How Do You Explain Sin?

"Original sin is the only rational solution of the undeniable fact of the deep, universal and early manifested sinfulness of men in all ages, of every class, and in every part of the world."

--Charles Hodge

Friday, July 26, 2013

What is Fellowship? Part VI

Now, I know that having said yesterday that I have only seen fellowship twice since my conversion and today, a lot of pastors, individual members, and congregations of going to get their socks in a bunch. I know it is usually a different article of clothing that gets in a bunch but I don't think I can say that in a G-rated blog.

A lot of pastors and congregations are going to make the case that they have a good and have good fellowship. After all they smile each time they see you, they shake your hand, they even ask you how you are doing - lingering long enough to get the perfunctory "fine" response. They will point out their regularly scheduled pot-lucks, bible studies, quilting and crafts, VBS, neighborhood outreach, and or any other number of programs. They call all these things fellowship. They will think I should have seen these things and thereby should have seen "fellowship."

However, as I pointed out, these things are not in and of themselves fellowship. They can and should lead to and facilitate real, true, Biblical fellowship. Sadly, most of the time they do not. Sadly, you could not tell the difference between some of these activities and a secular activity if it weren't for the "name" attached to them and a few bibles that may be present. I have been at a few pot-lucks that would have made Peyton Place look tame. 

What is fellowship? Well, since we have discussed it previously, suffice it to say, that fellowship is the intimate edification of a fellow believer. Remember J. I. Packer's definition?

"[Fellowship is] a sharing with our fellow-believers the things that God has made known to us about himself, in hope that we may thus help them to know him better and so enrich their fellowship with him. "Sharing": Fellowship is, secondly, a seeking to share what God has made known of himself to others, as a means to finding strength, refreshment, and instruction for one's own soul."

First of all, true and biblical fellowship begins with God. God has made fellowship with him and with each other possible through His Son, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Second, God intends and works to fulfill His intention of making us one in absolute unity, conformity, and likeness to His dear Son through fellowship with Him and with the saints. Spiritually intimate participation and sharing with our Sovereign and the Saints is the means and manner of finding strength, refreshment and instruction for the soul of each all members of the body of Christ.

What did I see at the Bremerton Bible Church (BBC) and Living Water Community Church (LWCC)  that I had never seen before? What instruction did I hear that I had never heard before? What was the difference?

The congregants - the members were taught a number of biblical truths. They were expected and held accountable to live out those biblical truths. They were shown by the Elders what was expected of them. They were assisted, empowered, and monitored by the Elders. They were given an opportunity to "practice" what they were taught. They lived out on a daily basis and in public/private places what they had been taught.

How did this come about? First, let me say that I was not aware of BBC or LWCC when the Elders first began to teach and practice biblical fellowship. So, I am not sure what precipitated this emphasis nor do I know what it "took" to accomplish it. I do know what "toll" it took on the congregation.

Second, I am not pretending to relate everything that was either said or done to facilitate the level of fellowship experienced and was practiced at BBC and LWCC.

The elders dispensed [this occurred at BBC - LWCC met in a school and did not have Sunday evening services] with the "preaching" on Sunday nights. This was no problem because the preaching Sunday morning was more than adequate. Sunday evenings the body would gather for a pot-luck meal. It is hard to beat the "breaking of bread" together to foster an intimate setting. After all, look at the experience of the early congregation in Acts:

"And they continued steadfastly in the apostles doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers." (Acts 2:42, NKJV)

"So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart." (Acts 2:46, NKJV)

"Now when they had come up, had broken bread and eaten, and talked a long while, even till daybreak, he departed." (Acts 20:11, NKJV)

Who isn't aware of the pot-lucks that the Corinthian Community Church used to throw? Some members got stuffed and drunk at those gatherings. Unfortunately it was at the expense of poorer believes who were left to remain hungry. 

Christ loved to eat and drink by the way. He ate and drank so much with common people the religious crowd accused him of being a glutton and a drunkard. (Matthew 11:19)

The difference in BBC's pot-lucks was seen in the conversation. The Elders encouraged the conversations to focus on God, Christ, biblical things, the morning sermon, the Sunday School lesson, the Small Group topics - in other words spiritual things. Yes, at times conversation included the kids, grandkids, illnesses, and such. We were taught to talk about the Lord, our faith, and our Christian walk.

 We were taught and encouraged to talk about our struggles, difficulties, failures, falls, and even sin. Yes we also talked about blessings, victories, answers to prayer, and ministry opportunities.

We also were taught how to praise God and share blessings. The congregants were trained to take the focus off of themselves and what they did and place the focus on God and what He did. That is an education in itself! 

We were taught to be open, honest, and transparent. We shared our needs - spiritual, physical, financial, and/or material. We were taught to meet those need at that time. If a dentist bill needed paid someone volunteered to pay it. If a lawn needed mowed someone said that they would do it. If groceries were needed we gave and they were purchased. If someone needed a car and someone had two they loaned and even on occasion gave someone a car.

We were also taught when and how to confess sin to one another. First, we were cautioned as to what sins should actually be confessed in a mixed gender public setting. Second, we were taught what words to use. We were taught not to use words like mistake, problem, or similar. We were taught to use words like, sin, transgression, wickedness. We were taught to say, "I sinned" not "I made a mistake." We were taught to take responsibility and to become accountable.

We confessed to one another or the group. We wept with many, laughed with many.

We then participated in the Lord's table together. It wasn't with tiny stale cracker-ettes and thimble sized cups of grape juice. We had loaves of bread and glasses of wine and juice. We were given a real appreciation for the Lord's Table. We participated in it together. We shared together. 

Of course we sang songs of praise and worship. We were taught biblical fellowship. When we left the time of gathering we lived what we learned and had just practiced. 

The nice thing about being around those believers was the fact that when you met them on the job, in their home, in your home, at the park, at the ball-game, at Freddie's, at Wal-Mart, or at Taco-Bell they were the same as they were when they gathered at the meeting place. The conversations centered on God, His glory, His goodness, His blessing, and His grace. We prayed for one another in the aisles of Wal-Mart as easily as in the meeting house basement.

What I am saying is that the congregants truly participated and shared the things of God that He had made known to us about Himself in the hope that they would help us to know God better and to enrich our lives as brothers and sisters in Christ.  Even on a Monday night while watching Monday night,oops I just dated myself, I guess I should say on Sunday night watching "Are you ready for some foot-ball?" Sunday night football they were the same.

How is this different than many places I have visited or been a member of? Well, first, in some cases the conversation was never about God, His glory, His grace or His blessings. It was also about self, secular things, and material things. In many places no one shares their intimate needs, struggles, or fears nor do they inquire about anyone else's needs, struggles, or fears. Exhortation, encouragement, instruction, reproof, correction, or assistance is left up to the pastor. Burden bearing is rarely seen. 

There is no doubt we can have fun and good food at a pot-luck. There is no doubt some good things can be taught and shared at a bible study. But it doesn't end there. Fellowship isn't something that can be scheduled or programmed. It can't be "expected" to happen because Christian people are meeting in a "Christianized" building or setting. There is not doubt that most congregations like and even love one another. 

However, as we try and conclude this post, we can experience biblical teaching, eat good food with friends at a pot-luck, and experience zero fellowship. This is why on occasions a faithful member of a good bible-teaching evangelical church can say to their pastor, "Pastor, we just can't find fellowship at our church." 

They can find friends. They can find good food. They can find a lot of activity and programs to either be involved in or sit in. They can find people that truly like them and love them and call them brother of sister. But many times they can't find people who intimately share the things that God has made known about Himself with the design to help them know God better and to enrich their relationship with God. Many times they can't find someone who with share what God has made known of Himself with them as a means of strengthening, refreshing, or instructing their souls.

Well, I have rambled on for too long. Please forgive me. 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

What is Fellowship? Part V

During the recent discussion about the subject or topic of fellowship, a very interesting - and revealing - statement was a made. During the same discussion a very interesting question was asked. If I have "room" in today's post for both I would like to offer my thoughts. If answering the question takes to many words then we will talk about the statement tomorrow, Lord willing.

Some asked how much time elapsed between our conversion and the first true or biblical teaching on fellowship? I really think this is a great question. Let me try to answer this question and explain it under the following three (3) heads:

The Expectation

Moments prior to his ascension Jesus reiterated the marching orders of the congregation he was forming in Matthew 28:19-20:

"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." (Matthew 28:19-20, NKJV) (Emphasis in bold is mine)

Each epistle was written to counter various doctrinal or practical errors which arose in the various communities and congregations. Many times the epistles would contain explanation, exhortation, and education on "what to teach" and "how to teach" the things Christ had "commanded." In other words each epistle gives insight, instructions, and information on how to edify, exhort, and encourage one another in the faith.

The expectation is a given isn't it? Christ expects his disciples to teach all that He taught and commanded to the new disciples that each and every one of us are commanded to "make." It isn't rocket science. It is a matter of being obedient. 

What are we do do? We are expected to make disciples, we are to baptize them, and we are to teach them. Do you see the order? I don't get it when we either fail to do any and all of what we are commanded. I surely don't get it when we circumvent parts of our instruction and allow the so called disciples we have supposedly made to circumvent parts also.

We are to make disciples. We do this by being effective witnesses to the resurrection of Jesus Christ and by the proclamation of the gospel. How does by faith "come?" It comes by hearing the Word of God.

"But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; ad you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." (Acts 1:8, NKJV)

"So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." (Romans 10:17, NKJV)

We are to baptize them immediately. It doesn't say give them a choice, give them a class, delay the baptism or down play it. There was no such thing as an unbaptized believer in the early New Testament assembly. Why is there today? Christ's instructions are not ambiguous or confusing - make disciples and baptize them. How much more simpler did Christ have to make it?

We are to teach them. Teach who, disciples who have been baptized. Today we want to either, teach before we baptize or teach unbaptized "converts." I don't get it. You wouldn't fry the egg before you cracked it would you?

The expectation includes teaching disciples what biblical fellowship is, how to facilitate it (trusting in the power of God), and how to participate in said biblical fellowship. Having said this you would have thought that I would have been taught all about fellowship at my conversion, right?

The Experience

First, let me say I grew up in a very unusual organization. I am very surprised I was saved at all in this organization. My conversion goes to show you that God saves His elect in-spite of how badly a pastor, a congregation, or a "fellowship" can mess up His Word by humanistic methodology. 

Second, my experience will not be a blue print for your experience or the experience of other members of the body of Christ. It merely goes to illustrate my answer to the original question, how much time elapsed between conversion and the first instruction about biblical fellowship.

My home congregation and Baptist fellowship (association and/convention) was heavy on the first and second portions of what we call the great commission. At least numerically. I now look back through the lense of Scripture and gag at how many of the so called conversions were more than likely spiritual abortions. My original organization was good at decisional regeneration. They could get people to make decisions and they could get them in the water. Teachers they were not. Good, solid, Bible teaching was very few and very, very, very far between.

Our philosophy was win em', wet em' and work em'! Do it quick because many burned out in the first few months and most were gone within three (3) to five (5) years. Lasting fruit was not an expectation but a surprising rarity. 

Biblical counseling and Biblical discipleship were frowned upon and considered the enemies of "soul-winning." Soul-wining was the name and numbers was the game. One noted preacher spoke for most of the pastors when he said, "Counseling! Discipleship! You want counseling? You want discipleship? Show up at 11:00 am on Sunday mornings! That's when I counsel or disciple!

Of course what he meant by that was the morning sermon that consisted of either "agin' preaching" or soul-winning exploits. What's that? What is "agin' preaching?" Oh, sorry. It is preaching that is "against" something. You know like against sin, drinking, dancing, smoking, or chew and going with girls who do. You know preaching against TV, mixed-bathing (you might call it swimming), jeans, long-hair, an anyone not a baptist. Sunday after Sunday it was a steady diet of "agin" preaching. Preacher was sure nuff agin's sin!

My point is we were not taught to confess our sins to one another, bear one another's burdens, strengthen one another through accountability, instruction, or biblical fellowship. I attended a well known church in San Jose, CA. I then moved to Pomona to go "bible college" and joined a more well known church in Pomona. I then joined a well known church planter to help him plant a church in Upton, CA. I joined a church in Torrance, CA when I was hired as an assistant pastor. I eventually moved to northern California to assume my first church. Those of you who know my story, know I assumed that church twice. 

All this time I did not receive any teaching or instruction on biblical fellowship. Nor did I see biblical fellowship in practice in any of these congregations. 

I eventually left that church as you know because it became obvious that we were never going to get on the same page. It still exists by the way with its original philosophy and behavior.

I found a new fellowship or organization after that experience. I attended a church in Reno, NV. I moved eventually to Redding, CA where I finished Bible College. I graduated and moved to Washington to attend seminary but ended up as pastor a small failing church for six years. During all this time from my conversion on April 12th, 1972 until I became acquainted with the Bremerton Bible Church of Bremerton, WA in the fall of 1995 I never received biblical teaching about fellowship.

The Examination

Twenty-three years as a believer and no instruction about this topic. Now, I know what you are thinking and what you are going to say. And you are right! I have no excuse. I offer no excuse. I make no excuse. I should have learned it myself. I should have taught myself. After all, I studied the Bible for spiritual health, for enjoyment and even for a living. How could I miss it? I don't know.

Let me say this please:

  • it took me 13 years to realize my original fellowship or organization was biblically incorrect
  • it took 30 years to learn what real and true biblical spirituality was all about
  • it has taken 12 years to develop my biblical thinking, training, discernment, and understanding to overcome the first 29 years of faulty teaching and training
  • I have matured and grown spiritually more so in the last 12 years than I did in my first 30 as a believer
  • it has just become the past 3 months that I have come to fully understand Romans chapter 6
I have seen real, true, Biblical fellowship twice in my Christian life. Only twice. In one congregation in Bremerton and in one congregation in Vancouver. 

So, when I answered the question, how much time elapsed between my conversion and when I was first taught biblical fellowship, I answered, twenty- three years. Needless to say the group was shocked and thought I was off my rocker.

Lord willing, tomorrow I will share what I was taught and what I saw. Looks like we will have to wait until at least Monday to discuss the revealing statement that was made during this discussion. 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

What is Fellowship Part IV

Permit me to share with you at least six reasons why true biblical-spiritual fellowship does not take place in many evangelical churches regardless of their size and programs. These reasons are not rocket-science. As a matter of fact they are very simple. 

For the record I didn't look up these or any other reasons why fellowship fails nor did I rip these from the pages of some blog, article, sermon, or research paper. I simply reflected on this subject and jotted down thinks that came to me based on personal experience. Maybe you can add some very valid reasons to this list that will be of a great benefit to someone, some church, or some leadership team that is struggling with this very issue.

  • Improper and/or faulty definition - this of course needs no real explanation. I have talked about it in the last three posts. It is valid however. If a leadership team or congregation has no biblical definition then fellowship certainly will not take place.
  • Improper and/or faulty teaching - we have somewhat covered this also. Most things need to be taught. Many spiritual things to not just come to most believers. That is why God gave pastors and teachers (see Ephesians 4). People have to be taught what biblical fellowship really consists of. People have to given an opportunity or avenue to express and/or practice fellowship. I don't mean a single 4 or 6 week class and then as Tony Soprano would say, "forget about it!" People have to be constantly reminded, prodded, stretched, and taught again.
  • Improper and/or faulty committment - most people are really and very simply committed to themselves. People are consumers. Many believers attend a particular church for the sole purpose of "what can I get out of it" or "what's in it for me." I am not trying to be cynical - I have learned somethings about human nature, the sinful and depraved human nature. Believers have to be taught, it must be expected of them, and it must be "enforced" (what is a better word?) to be as committed to the congregation as a whole than they are to their own family or themselves individually. Believers must look on the congregation as their family. God has uniquely placed each person in the right congregation. God places us together in a position of pressure where we are "knitted" together like bones that knit together for the well being of the individual and the whole. If believers are not taught that the body is the second most important thing in this world, second only to their own family, then they will not benefit the church family with biblical fellowship. People have to be almost "drug" out of their protective shell and led by caring, nurturing, gentle but firm shepherds into being committed to fellow brothers and sisters in Christ whom we are absolutely mutually dependent upon.
  • Improper and/or faulty body dynamics - basically, if people are not expected to use their spiritual gifts, or in many cases not permitted to use them, then very few if any in the congregation are being ministered to. This usually means that the strong are not minstering to the weak. What a shame the "church" of today has degenerated into a "one-man circus, oops I meant show." On most Sunday mornings one, maybe two men use their gift while a whole crowd sits as mere on-lookers. We have exchanged the dialogue of the early church for a monologue ripped off from the Greeks. 
  • Improper and/or faulty expectations - as stated earlier most people who attend corporate worship services are consumers. Many, unfortunately are looking for the social-club like demeanor that most congregations offer. Many believers don't want shepherds who desire to "roll up their sleeves" and get "dirty and sweaty" as they work amongst the sheep. They don't want to get to "know" Harry and/ or Mary intimately. They certainly don't want to be exposed and known intimately by anybody else.
  • Improper and/or faulty level of satisfaction - the last thing most pastors want to do is "rock the boat." But you have no doubt heard, "No pain, no gain." Teaching and experiencing true biblical fellowship is painful, stressful, and fearful. It takes a lot of "blood, sweat, and tears" to see it truly happen. So few are willing to go the extra mile, make the necessary sacrifices, and endure the "pain for gain" that is needed. So, many leadership teams and many congregations become satisfied with the current programs and level of expectation.
Well here are just a few reasons why fellowship is so rare even in evangelical/fundamental circles. This list is by no means exhaustive. This list is not intended to indict every congregation equally. If none of these things apply to you or your congregation, then praise be to the living God!

The question was asked recently, "How long was it between your conversion (actual salvation) and when you were first taught biblical fellowship?"

That is a great question. It was and is well worthy of an answer. I gave my answer. If you join me in tomorrow's post I shall share with you answer that I gave.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

How To Know God

Over the last forty (40) years I have written a number of quotes, comments, pithy sayings, and poems in the fly-leafs of my bibles. Each Tuesday I am going to share those various entries from my bibles with you. I hope they will be as much of blessing to you as they have been to me. Sometimes I will be able to give credit where credit is due and sometimes I won’t be able to credit the source. I apologize for this to each one who contributed these gems over the last forty (40) years.


The Bible is the fullest revelation and representation that God could give of His own being so that we might know and love Him.

Monday, July 22, 2013

What is Fellowship? Part III

"Pastor, I think my family and myself are going to leave "Fill-in-the-blank Community Church" because we just can't find any fellowship here."

What pastor (s) have not heard that statement before. It comes right after, "Pastor, we need to talk." We all know what that statement means don't we? No matter how many times it is heard, it is still as heart-breaking as the first time.

Most pastors get upset and defensive when they hear this from a family that is either a member or who have been attending for some time. Unfortunately excuses begin to be thrown about and blame is usually fixed on the "family" that is leaving. 

Pastors begin to point out all the wonderful fellowship that is available at ABC Bible Church. They point out the corporate worship service, the summer VBS, the men and/or women's bible studies, the BYKOTAs', the Quilting group, the ladies fellowship, the men's fellowship, and the every other Thursday evening on a full moon except for holidays sock darning society. 

The offender is usually accused of not taking advantage of all these wonderful activities of fellowship. They may be encouraged to try another group or "fellowship" opportunity.

I will admit and give you the fact that some if not many "believers" do not make genuine attempts at developing biblical fellowship. There are those times where the blame is squarely on the "offended" family.

However, in many cases, sadly, it is the pastor who is to be blamed. First, for not recognizing that real or true fellowship may in fact not be taking place at his church. Second, for not taking the leadership initiative through teaching in order to foster a practicing spiritual dynamic of Christian fellowship. 

Remember fellowship is not simply or merely activity with a "Christian" moniker attached to it. Attending monthly or quarterly pot-lucks do not always foster fellowship. No doubt they can produce great meals and some fun times. But while the middle is getting "fed and fat" the soul can be withering away. Many souls are starving and thin because fellowship does not happen.

I know. I have been in "churches" where the preaching was good, the people were friendly and even sincere, but I was starving for fellowship. 

David, while on the run from King Saul took refuge in a cave. While sitting in this cave on the run, in fear for his life, and alone made this pointed statement:

"Look on my right hand and see, for there is no one who acknowledges me; refuge has failed me, no one cares for my soul." (Psalms 142:4, NKJV)

Isn't that a pitiful commentary on both David's situation and his feelings? My friend I have felt like that one more than one occasion. I have cried that very statement in prayers to God. 

I did not have this distressful and emotional out-break while in some cave in the desert. I have had it while "worshipping" along side of a church-full of believers. I felt it while teaching an Adult Sunday School class. I felt it at pot-lucks. I have experienced it in the privacy of my own home.

Regardless of what I was doing or not doing there have been times when I believed no one (God excluded) cared for my soul. Why would I say this?

When I get together with God's people I find it difficult to get a "spiritual" conversation started. If I can get one started I find it impossible to keep it going beyond a one sentence acknowledgment.

I am not asked how I am doing spiritually. I am rarely built up in my faith or feel that my inner man has been strengthened. I am rarely encouraged or exhorted. You see true, biblical, Christian, spiritual fellowship has not taken place.

Oh, we have talked and visited. I have learned who is taking a trip, who is sick, who has scheduled surgery, how hot the weather has been, how rude drivers are, and on and on and on. You know what I mean.

Lest you set out to rebuke me (and periodically I need that) I make every attempt for quite some time before I recognize that I am feeling as David did. I take the initiative. I don't wait on someone else to do so in every case. Of course I do feed myself with personal fellowship with my heavenly Father almost every morning.

But I would love to know that some cares for my soul, that someone acknowledges me. And so does that family who just told you, "Pastor, I don't get any fellowship here at our church." 

You can say to me or our "fictional family" all day long, that "we" have a whole church that loves us and cares for us. There is more than being friendly, liked, even loved, and/or tolerated superficially in an auditorium or bible study setting. It is entirely something different to have someone whom I have a common denominator with participating in my spiritual development through fellowship which enriches my soul.

Pastor, don't be dismissive. Don't be defensive. Most importantly don't be dumb. Ask them what they mean. Ask them what they are missing or what it is that they think they are not getting. Evaluate your church body - is real biblical and spiritual fellowship even taking place. Or is it truly missing.

Shaking hands as you walk in the door or down an aisle on the way to a chair or pew, a smile from across the room, singing together the same hymn, and listening to a sermon together does not mean that fellowship has taken place. More often than not it has not taken place.

Maybe this family is in need of mentoring or discipling. Maybe this family is need of exhortation and edification. Maybe this family needs to be taught biblically an accurately. Maybe this family is right.

Don't tell them to attend the pot-lucks or ask them why they don't attend the men's or women's bible studies. Have you spent the time and made the necessary herculean effort to teach and develop real fellowship in your church?

Let's talk some more about this subject. Will you join me on Wednesday? 

Please enjoy Tuesday's Treasure Tuesday.

If you are able, stop by on Wednesday. I hope to share with you at least seven reasons why fellowship does not take place at the average evangelical church.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Thank You!

This post marks 1500 posts since I began this blog in February 2009. I have received over 6500 comments and over 417,000 visitors.

I have tried to give you a quality product each time I posted. My goals have never changed. I have tried to live up to them in these past 1500 entries.

Thank you for taking the time to visit the Gospel-driven Disciples. Thank you for reading! Thank you for commenting! 

Most of all thank you for your friendship. I love and appreciate each and every one of you. 

Blogs come and go - some are good and some are bad. Interest peaks and then wanes. I know my readership has declined but I thank you for the past four years and 1500 posts. 

May God bless each and every one of you for being such a blessing to me on this journey.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

William Hendriksen on preaching comfort...

To be sure, sin must be exposed in all its horror. Without the knowledge of sin there is no salvation. The preacher who fails to describe sin as it truly is -defiance of God's holy will -, and who neglects to point out again and again, what terrible consequences, is not a true interpreter of the word of God. On the other hand, the pulpiteer who neglects to address words of comfort to penitents, and to encourage them with messages of cheer taken from or based on Scripture, is not true to the maxim, engraved on many a pulpit, "Sir, we would see Jesus." (John 12:21)

Hendricksen's N. T. Commentary, p497

Friday, July 19, 2013

What Is Fellowship? Part II

In our last post I took some time to share with you what fellowship was not. I listed six things that do not constitute Christian fellowship. Today I will include a seventh.

  • Fellowship is not two men in a ship
  • Fellowship is not simply an event
  • Fellowship is not merely having conversation
  • Fellowship is not sharing a common activity
  • Fellowship is not secular
  • Fellowship is not accomplished with unbelievers
  • Fellowship is not sharing a common interest
There is no doubt that fellowship can include at least six of these seven things. The key is to realize that simply utilizing or participating in these things does not necessarily constitute biblical or Christian fellowship.

My main premise or thesis yesterday was to suggest that the first major part in understanding fellowship was to define it. In other words we need to be on the same page. This term or this concept means meaning different things to different people. 

For example, attending a Seahawks game doesn't qualify for fellowship. No doubt fellowship could take place there, however, the mere attendance at the game with one or more people doesn't constitute fellowship. Why? 

You may attend the game and you might even wear the number 12, 12th man jersey, but guess what? You are just a fan. You can shout, cheer, stomp, and do the wave but you are just a sideline fan. You are not a part of the Seahawks football organization.

Fellowship takes more that attendance or having a common interest in something. Same goes for church attendance or even a men's prayer/bible study fellowship. One can attend and even have a common interest but be on the sidelines just the same. 

Having dinner, going to a ball game, attending church or even helping out a VBS can be done by anyone. The difference between events and activities and Christian fellowship is that it is spiritual in nature and participatory. Remember, the term used in the New Testament refers to a common participation in spiritual activities: a sharing, a participation, intercourse, intimacy, and or a joint contribution.

J. I. Packer has a fantastic definition of Christian fellowship:

"[Fellowship is] a sharing with our fellow-believers the things that God made known to us about himself, in hope that we may thus help them to know Him better and so enrich their fellowship with Him. Fellowship is, secondly, a seeking to share what God has made known of himself to others, as a means to finding strength, refreshment, and instruction for one's own soul."

For example:

"And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship in the breaking of bread and in prayers. (Acts 2:42, NKJV)

Take your concordance or your bible software program (I recommend three that are excellent and free - ONLINE Bible; eSword, and/or The Word) and follow the words participation, "sharing", "fellowship", and/or "taking part." You can of course use your Thompson Chain Reference bible also - thanks Jim Hodges for your wonderful gift to me!

"I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now. (Philippians 1:3-5, NKJV)

"Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia; How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality. For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power they were willing of themselves; Praying us with much intreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. (II Corinthians 8:1-4, KJV)

So, what is fellowship? Let's get on the same page shall we? Fellowship is sharing the things that God has revealed about Himself in order to benefit one another for the express purpose of edifying or the building up of one another by instructing, reproving, correcting, refreshing so that one is made more into the image of Christ for His glory.

This can take place anywhere. It can take place in your living room, your car, a Seahawks game, a pot-luck, a men's prayer/bible study, corporate worship, The Electric Bean (our local "Christian" coffee shop) or at the Keg Steak and Ale House.

Fellowship is spiritual. It centers on the inner man. Fellowship includes blending together in the bonds of Christ resulting in spiritual benefits for one another. Fellowship always benefits the beleiver.

Fellowship is not calling for a pot-luck on the 5th Sunday of the month where everyone "chows-down" on Fried Chicken and beans while talking about the weather, the grandchildren, or will Russell Wilson will take it to the next level. 

By the way, I also do not mean to imply that fellowship is "stained glass windows and high cathedral ceiling" super-sainthood either. I hope that goes without saying. One may rave on the Southern Fried Chicken or the cutest thing the grand-kids said yesterday as means to leading into spiritual fellowship.

Let's talk a little more about fellowship again, what do you say? Join me on Monday, Lord willing.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

What is Fellowship? Part I

"And they continued steadfastly  in the apostle's doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers." (Acts 2:42, NKJV) (emphasis mine)

First of all, let's define the "they." Who are the "they?" It seems they "they" are those who are mentioned in verse 40 and verse 41. Peter is preaching to a group of people and he exhorts them to be saved from the perverted Jewish nation.

Those whom he is preaching to respond by "receiving" Peter's words and they were baptized to show that they had received Peter's words.

So, that is who the "they" are. 

Secondly, what did the "they" do? Verse 42 says that the "they" continued. This is a bad or poor translation of προσκαρτερουντες. Our word is a present active participle. This means that the "they" were continuing at that moment and they continued to continue. A better translation might read that "they were adhering closely" to the apostle's doctrine, fellowship, breaking of bread, and prayer.

These people who had been saved by the gospel are now consistently adhering to the teachings of the apostles.

Let's look at this word fellowship. 

There is an old joke that goes somewhat like this-

If you have 3 baptists in a room you have 4 opinions. Basically it means that baptists like to "fight" and have a hard time getting along. This is borne out in the fact that there are over [at last count] 46 different types of baptists. 

I tell this joke often although I am a baptist. First, I am a baptist with a little "b" and second, I understand it and have seen it so I am really not offended. If you are, then lighten up.

The reason I tell it is we find the same problem when we talk about fellowship. If you ask 10 people what fellowship means or to define it you will get 11 definitions.

When we talk about fellowship I think the first thing we have to do is define it. We must be on the same page as to what it means and what we are talking about or what we say about it will have either no meaning or it will foster confusion.

The Greek word is κοινωνια. It can be translated as fellowship, association, community, communion, joint participation, or intercourse. From these ideas we get the following notions:
  • the share which one has in anything
  • intercourse, fellowship, or intamacy
  • a benefaction, a collection, or joint contribution
We are most familiar with the notion or concept that is used of the intimate bond of fellowship which unites Christians and of the fellowship of Christians with God and Christ.

For this post let me share with you 6 things that fellowship is not.
  1. Fellowship is not two or more people in a ship
  2. Fellowship is not an event - it is not a worship service, pot-luck, VBS, Bible study, small group, men's prayer breakfast or etc.
  3. Fellowship is not merely having conversation either with or without food or drink
  4. Fellowship is not merely sharing a common activity
  5. Fellowship is not secular although it may take place in a secular environment
  6. Fellowship does not take place with non-believers even if they are present
When you hear the word "pot-luck" you might automatically think "fellowship." Or you might think that getting together for food or drink constitutes fellowship - it doesn't! These things do not resemble the fellowship that we see in the Bible.

Tomorrow we will define fellowship. Stay tune!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Gospel-driven Disciples

What is a Gospel-driven Disciple?

A Disciple who makes 
disciples who makes disciples!

A disciple is a believer who patterns their lifestyle after the lifestyle of a more mature believer.

A "discipler" is a believer who is obedient to the Great Commission and actively pours their live and the teachings of Christ into a disciple. (See above definition)

Jesus commanded [not requested or suggested] that we do exactly as He did for three years for His 12 disciples (See above definition)

"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of he 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. Amen. (Matthew 28:19-20, NKJV)