A Sidekick's Blog

Robin’s Ramblings

June 25, 2017
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Just some random ramblings today. On church, on work, on social media, on

I was always taught that on Sunday when you go to church, you leave all the stuff that’s bothering you or weighing on you at the door, and enter just to worship God and at least for awhile, forget about everything else. Oh, and for goodnessakes, wear a tie! This is, after all, God’s house.

Well, I have changed my mind about that. If I can’t bring all that stuff with me into God’s house and lay it at His feet – just as I am, suit and tie or shorts and flip-flops – then church is missing the point, not me.

My worship to God is seven days a week, not one. My worship occupies me all day long, even at work, at school, doing laundry, mowing the lawn. The “worldly” stuff that weighs on me during the week belongs to God anyway, and my so-called “secular life” is not a separate thing, apart from my “church life.” I’m not at God’s house to put my best foot forward and protect the other churchgoers by hiding all the stuff in my life that isn’t “spiritual.”

It is God who qualifies us to stand in His presence and make our offerings of worship in singing, in giving, in communing with His other children, and in listening to His word. Wearing a suit sort of suggests the other thing, the old way. The popular song that goes, “So forget about yourself, concentrate on Him and worrrrrship Himmmmm…” is just bogus. Sorry. Church is not an escape from worldly concerns, but a way of equipping ourselves and each other to deal with all that “secular” stuff that occupies most of our time the other 6 days of the week! So leave the suit and tie at home and bring the whole messy ball of stuff to God’s house. TV sermons are no substitute for meeting with real people, forming real relationships, and discipling one another to Christ.

We want to transform the people and culture of our city through the power of the gospel. The culture has been racing in the opposite direction, far from God’s design and far from His purpose. In just the last few years, right before our eyes, stuff is just being turned upside down, opposite, inside-out, and backwards. The media push these changes as though doing so is a matter of great urgency, as though traditional are brutal and responsible for all the hatred and violence in the world. The “new normal” should be anti-male, anti-God, and politically correct.

I suspect most people don’t agree, but don’t wish to risk being labelled “hater,” “bigot,” “homophobe,” “holier-than-thou,” etc. So they don’t speak up for sanity, but just either go with the flow or isolate themselves from all the turmoil – or worse, use our churches as “safe spaces” where they can retreat and sing hymns and use church busy work the same way that snowflakes use crayons and Play Dough in their “safe spaces.”

This is closest I have seen to any kind of backlash against the Left-driven cultural madness. Except of course, among little sheltered communities of fundamentalists, evangelicals, and “church people” who want to turn their churches into safe spaces for Christians instead of lighthouses for those facing shipwreck.

Pft. I wore shorts to church today. For the first time ever. It won’t be the last time.

On to completely different stuff now:

While this isn’t my “tech blog” (that’s here if you’re interested), my philosophy about technology has also been changing quite a bit. I dumped Facebook and Google because of privacy issues and the simple fact that I’m not a commodity to be mined and processed, and all my likes, photos, comments, and opinions sold to advertisers. And don’t gimme that “If you have nothing to hide you shouldn’t be concerned about privacy” crap. It has nothing to do with having anything to hide! Lemme ask you this: Why do they have doors on bathroom stalls? It’s not as if everyone doesn’t know what you’re doing in there, so why hide it behind a door? Because DIGNITY, dude. Simple human dignity. That’s what I mean by privacy on line. Hopefully that is sufficient explanation.

Anyway, even the most popular Linux distros are becoming less and less respectful of their users’ privacy. A many-tentacled monster called “systemd” has been adapted by all the most popular Linux distros, and one very popular desktop environment (called Gnome) has become dependent upon it. It “supervises” and keeps a record of every process on the computer! Convenience is supposed to be the reason, but I don’t see any improvement in convenience for the Linux desktop user. But again, in the interest of privacy, I ran like a scalded dog from systemd to a new Linux distro that has been around for years and remains unencumbered by the many-tentacled monster.

More on the tech blog of course. But I guess I’m just not one to easily surrender my rights, my privacy, or my dignity. And not one to retreat to a “safe space,” whether in college or at church, or online.

Keep that computer
running perfectly with
PCLinuxOS!

Confessions of a
Technophobe


Finally

June 5, 2017
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Last night my lovely bride and I finally joined a church we can both agree on, and the adventure begins anew towards mutual growth on common ground.


Presbyterian Again

May 24, 2017
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I guess it was about 2 years ago that I left a Presbyterian Church in America – henceforth PCA church for a Reformed Baptist church that was truly Reformed, not a mixture of Eastern Orthodox liturgy with popular evangelicalism and secret flirtations among the staff with the writings of N.T. Wright. I explained in a blog post why I became a Baptist. Now, I find myself back in a PCA church – and with the blessing of the Elders at my former Baptist church! Not due to doctrinal differences (which do still matter), but because my bride and I need to be of the same mind and under the same spiritual headship. We had been getting some marriage counseling. Everyone should! It’s very helpful to avoid self-deception and making me aware of way I was hurting my family without even knowing it. At a certain point, because church is central and vital to making the best of a Christian marriage, and because my wife wouldn’t join my church (why is not relevant to this post), I asked the Elders about looking elsewhere, even though I had a vital role in worship there. It is with their blessing that my wife and I – together – are joining with a PCA church here in town. None of the fancy Orthodox-inspired liturgy, no flirtations with damnable heresies, and the Lord’s Supper every week (I have always wished for that)! A chance at real friendships is part of the reason God is moving us there too, I think. It just wasn’t possible without both of us being committed to the same church.

In the post linked above, I cited three differences between Reformed Baptists and their Presbyterian brethren. In my situation now I’m having to give them a second look, especially since we’re joining this new church and expect to be more than just “regular attenders.”

Hermeneutics:

“Baptists don’t deuce,” my former pastor told me in explaining the difference. But to reach some of the conclusions they have reached, they had to have deduced them “by necessary consequence” even though not contained, per se, in the Scriptures. Baptism, for example, which they define as immersion only, forbidding any other mode. In Scripture there are multiple baptisms, and not all of them by immersion. “The Greek word baptizo means ‘to immerse,'” they say, yet I can’t find independent proof of that claim from anyone but Baptist scholars who simply assert it as fact. Applying the sacrament only to believers is also deduced, since creating a type-and-shadow relationship between physical birth and spiritual birth (regeneration) also requires deduction beyond what is strictly contained in the Scriptures. The Scriptures themselves draw a parallel between Old Testament circumcision and New Testament covenant baptism. One of my favorite little Baptist deductions is drawn from 1 Peter 3:18-21, in which Baptists must deduce that “baptism now saves you” means “only believers should be baptized.” Two Old Testament events are compared to baptism (besides covenant baptism): Noah’s flood (in the 1 Peter 3 passage), and the flight from Egypt (1st Corinthians 10:1-4). In both of those events, I say with a wry but sincerely friendly smile, the people of God were sprinkled, and it was the enemies of God who were immersed! Oops…

Covenant:

The covenants of God with Adam, with Moses, with David – are eternal, even though ancient Israel as it was in Moses’ time and David’s time is long gone. Baptists separate them, reasonably so, into Old (type and shadow) and New (reality prefigured by type and shadow). But Christ fulfilled the Covenants rather than doing away with them. There remains one everlasting Covenant of Grace, which existed even before Creation itself, as the Three Persons of the Godhead covenanted together to redeem a people for God from the fallen race of Adam. Type and shadow are certainly demonstrable from the Scriptures, but they do not represent separate covenants, nor separate people.

The Regulative Principle of Worship

Since the baptism of the children of believers is not expressly and explicitly commanded in the New Testament, Baptists are wise to refer to the Regulative Principle as their main argument for not practicing covenant (“infant”) baptism. We are, however, expressly and explicitly commanded not to neglect the traditions of the Apostles (2 Thes 3:6, 25). The validity of custom is asserted “for those who wish to be contentious,” in 1st Cor. 11:16. So I’m not sure the RP truly applies when it comes to baptism.

A lot of Baptist ways of thinking and applying the Word will remain with me as long as I live, and I’m grateful for it!

But – omygosh, my friends – I’m a Presbyterian. Again.


A True Church is More

January 30, 2017
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According to Ligonier, the marks of the true church are:

Pure preaching of the gospel,
Pure administration of the sacraments (baptism and the Lord’s Supper), and
Church discipline.

But of course, a true church ought to be more than just these. It is a place where disciples are made. It is a place where the people become a family and friendships are forged that make discipleship – and pure gospel preaching, pure sacraments, and church discipline possible.

Friendship is absolutely vital. One can belong to any church with these three marks and still never become a disciple if he or she is not open to the risk and joy of forging real friendships. We can call each other “brothers and sisters in Christ” without ever learning the real meaning of the common bond we share under our Father God and Elder Brother Jesus Christ.

That’s the hard part. In every church I have ever been a part of, with the exception of two in my childhood, I have forged no friendships at all. Lots of acquaintances, lots of people that I shared a lot in common with (music ministry, youth trips, mission trips, etc), but no friendships that fostered real discipleship to Christ. I’m lonely as can be, surrounded by people who call me “brother” but with whom I share nothing but handshakes and casual conversation once or twice a week.

I can’t say I ever really learned how to make friends, or even to be a friend.

At my age I wonder if it’s too late now.


Discernment

September 17, 2016
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Every Christian has “discernment.”  Jesus Himself said so:

“When he puts forth his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice.  A stranger they simply will not follow, but will flee from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers.”

To a Charismatic, it’s a special gift that only a select few have!  But the gift of discerning spirits listed among the charismata in 1st Corinthians 12-14 was different from the natural discernment of the Lord’s sheep.  It was the ability to see and distinguish angels and demons. Examples include the army of angel warriors that Elisha saw when Elijah asked God to open his eyes, and the Apostles’ recognition of demons in Acts, where even a truth-saying spirit was recognized and expelled (Acts 16:16ff).

Please enjoy this excellent article from Pulpit & Pen:

Within the Charismatic Movement, discernment is often viewed as this supernatural ability to see if the spirit which influenced something is a good spirit or a demon. That is not what true discernment is in the modern context. Others within the same movement say that discernment is a supernatural feeling you get that tells you…

via What Discernment Is and Isn’t — Pulpit & Pen


It’s Not Just Academic

February 14, 2016
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Omygoodness,

Suzie had to jostle me to wakefulness today during a sermon that should have been impossible to sleep through. I might have really embarrassed myself today if not for Suzie! So thank you, Valentine, for poking me in church today!

We talked about it after church. Most of my readers know that Suzie and I come from a Charismatic and Pentecostal background. Those churches are known for shouting, dancing, and jumping over the pews over any little utterance, however meaningless. Now we’re in a Reformed church, where the Regulative Principle of Worship is taken very seriously (God is the One who gets to decide how He is worshiped, and we don’t get to make up our own ways of worshiping Him that make us feel good). It’s a good, sound, biblical principle. But there has to be some kinda middle ground between Charismatic emotionalism and Reformed fight-sleep-through-an-awesome-sermonism.

It’s easy for me to imagine, sitting through a service like today’s at my church, that the people don’t actually believe a single word of what they’re hearing. Because if even a fraction of it were true, they should be – well, shouting and dancing and jumping over the pews, frankly. That is especially true of any church that teaches the doctrines of grace rather than that semi-Pelagian “maybe-so, if…” doctrine.

I understand we don’t go to church to be entertained, for goodnessakes. That’s a given for a Reformed Christian. But does it have to be so devoid of emotion that it becomes mere academia? I should not be able to sleep or even get sleepy during the worship of Almighty God who has done and is doing so many awesomely wonderful things for His people! Especially during the highlight of the service when His word is opened and the truth is expounded.

I’m grateful to report that the elders of my church are doing some deep study and prayer about “waking up” the sleepy church services without violating the uncompromising Regulative Principle. But it’s easier for me to appreciate churches that have struggled with this before and come down on the side of at least partially rejecting that principle, if only to prevent accidents like the one described in Acts 20:8-12. Don’t feel too bad, pastor, the Apostle Paul had people fall asleep during his sermons too! But we shouldn’t need to go and raise some kid from the dead every Sunday because church puts people to sleep.


The Tyranny of the Experts: A Call for a Second Reformation

February 19, 2014
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I have lamented in this blog about the new “tolerance” in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) for errors which defy the Westminster Standards. I have re-posted other such laments from otherbloggers in multiple “conservative” Presbyterian / Reformed denominations. In this blog I want to reach “behind” this creeping tolerance for sin and error and point to one of the easily preventable causes of this supposedly inevitable decline of Presbyterian / Reformed churches and denominations. The writer of some of the best commentary on the Westminster Confession, G.I. Williamson, describes it in this post as “the tyranny of the experts.” It is a culture of elitism that demands that the ordinary churchgoer and “lay leader” should simply defer to the Esteemed Clergy in matters of theology and church practice, owing to their greater education and expertise in these things. After all, they’re the professionals, the experts in such things, and we ordinary church folk need not concern ourselves with things that are “way beyond us.”

I suppose it’s natural in our society at this stage of its moral decay to just “defer to the experts.” Home schooling, for example, is looked upon as arrogant and dangerous because we’re “just parents.” We don’t know anything about educating children. My wife and I were told that we should “leave it to the experts” and “stop being so arrogant.” But look at where these “experts” have taken our public schools! Not only do they completely fail to equip their students with the skills to learn and reason and function, but they mock our values, rewrite history, and try to erase all differences of gender and religion. They seem to be aiming towards creating a generation of easily controllable, unthinking, obedient drones to serve the ruling class. High school graduates can’t even fill out a job application or balance a checkbook. No thanks, I don’t think the “experts” are doing a very good job. Scientific “experts” argue for more government power to manage the “climate crisis” caused by mankind’s activities even as their dire predictions of melting ice caps and rising oceans prove patently false decade after decade. Recently it was described as “global warming.” But when I was a kid in school, the “experts” were sounding the alarm of global cooling! No thanks, “experts,” I’ll take my chances with common sense and err on the side of liberty. Yet this culture of deference to highly educated fools has become tyrannical as their “expert opinions” are used to justify more and more intrusions upon the rights and liberties of citizens. And it seems that in the churches, the same culture of deference threatens similar tyranny, and even damnable heresy.

In order to be taken seriously in the Reformed / Presbyterian community one must have credentials that demonstrate “expertise.” This culture of expertise has become so valuable that some even highly “respectable” seekers of credibility have resorted to outright dishonesty and fraud in their quest for ever greater credibility. Witness the “credentials” of one “Dr.” Kenneth Gary Talbot, founder and Protestant Pope of the Reformed Presbyterian Church General Assembly (RPCGA), who claims multiple doctorate degrees that would take a lifetime to earn, from schools that either don’t exist, or that don’t offer the degrees he claims to have earned there, or that never had him as a student. Founder and president of a seminary “accredited” by an agency of it’s own making, yet with a list of “notable alumni” that includes some really good and well-respected theologians. It’s all about credibility, all about status, all about being an expert. It’s about making a name and reputation for oneself, writing books and teaching others and gathering a following. Expertise = power, even in the “ultra conservative” RPCGA.

TheImpressiveClergyman

In the PCA, the heretical Federal Vision teaching and other dangerous doctrines have gained increasingly wider acceptance solely because “ruling elders” in that denomination, despite their supposed equality with “teaching elders” (pastors, clergy), have deferred to the “learned and esteemed clergy,” who historically are the ones who package and promulgate heretical doctrines. As G. I. Williamson illustrates in his article, Martin Luther was up against the very same “tyranny of the experts.” How dare this mere monk from an obscure province challenge the Esteemed Experts of his day? Bishops and Cardinals and Professors and even the Pope himself! Luther was nothing but a common little monk without the education and credentials to challenge the Highly Educated and Exalted Experts of his time. Yet the people rallied around him. Why? Not because he had Impressive Credentials, but because

the sheep know their shepherd and follow the voice of their shepherd. They will not follow a stranger because they don’t recognize the voice of a stranger (John 10:4-5).

It’s time we sheep stop paying attention to pretenders, and follow the familiar, comforting, trustworthy voice of the Shepherd who laid His life down for the sheep. Do not quickly defer to “experts,” the wolves clothed in woolen Doctorate Degrees, but whose demonic doctrines and seductive speech lead to exploitation, exposure to the enemy of our souls, and ultimately to destruction.


Changing Churches

November 10, 2013
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Leaving one gospel-preaching church for another is not a thing I have ever done lightly, hastily, whimsically, in a huff, or to avoid discipline, or because I didn’t like the music or the liturgy or the color of the carpet. There are those who shop around and change churches for stupid or even harmful reasons like those I just listed. They know who they are and they know they’re being immature at best and schismatic at worst. Not me. C’mon now, I’m the guy who wrote this big ol’ article promoting a very lofty view of the Church, defending the idea of church membership, and encouraging my readers to stay put, to participate, and to pray for their church – especially for the leaders! Read that article first, to assure yourself that I’m not a “church hopper” nor writing here to justify any supposed change in my position on the subject. The same article is published here on my blog as well.

But there can be sound, biblical reasons for making a change, even from one perfectly sound bible-believing, gospel-preaching church to another. The bible doesn’t really address the issue directly, since when it was being written there wasn’t but one church in any given city. But Scripture does offer some principles that should govern a believer’s choice in today’s circumstances.

Heresy, of course, not only justifies but demands the departure of believers. And by heresy, I mean doctrine which, if believed, threatens the very salvation of its followers. I certainly do not mean immersion-vs-sprinkling, premillennial-vs-amillennial, the precise meaning of “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs,” or King James only vs any other reliable translation. A lot of churches major on minors, and even in churches where differences are officially accepted, there are some folks who just can’t stand to have anybody differ with them. I remember an occasion in which a new believer expressed her desire to be immersed rather than sprinkled (both are permissible in the PCA). Unable to persuade her to change her mind, the pastor immersed this new believer, but used the occasion to preach a little sermonette on why sprinkling is biblical. I was thinking (but not saying out loud), “Really, pastor? You would use the occasion of a new believer’s baptism to plug your preferred mode of water baptism rather than celebrate the Lord’s work in bringing another lost sheep to Christ?!” Yeah, he would. Would that be a good basis for leaving that church? Probably not. Unless all of the sermons and lessons were like that – legalistically imposing one person’s ecclesiastical opinions on the whole flock as though they were the commandments of God (Acts 15:10-11, Matt 15:9, Rom 4:14).

Church membership is voluntary. Every orthodox church and denomination agrees with this. While I might rightly find fault with the “church hoppers” I mentioned earlier, the very membership covenant that established the relationship in the first place, recognizes a person’s right to leave for any reason that seems good to them. The founding fathers of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), based on their own experience with the liberal PCUSA, wrote into the denomination’s constitution that both individuals and churches had the right to depart any time they so chose. So those of us who hail from any Reformed (or Presbyterian) churches have no reason to insist that the only legitimate reason for leaving a church is “heresy” or “apostasy.” The covenant between the church and it’s members, in the PCA at least, specifically forbids such an interpretation. While church membership is a covenant, it is not binding like a marriage even though I have always tended to think of it that way. I am not breaking a sacred oath if I choose to depart for another church!

It’s not all about ME. I may feel justified in leaving a sound, biblical church because “my needs aren’t being met,” but it just may be that God put me there to meet their need rather than the other way around. God is sovereign in all times and circumstances, and places His people where He wishes and moves them as He pleases. If I’m going to a church, then it only makes sense to join that church and participate in the life and ministry of that church instead of just sitting there “to get my needs met.” Go on, get in there and get dirty like the rest of us. The pastor isn’t the one doing all the work, his job is to equip us for the work that God has called us all to do. “Not getting my needs met” is no biblical reason to leave. If that’s what you’re feeling, ask God to show you why you’re really uncomfortable there. Most of the time when I’m feeling “uncomfortable” in church, it has more to do with the Holy Spirit convicting me of sin than it does with anything the church is doing wrong!

But sometimes they’re the ones breaking the membership covenant. In my own denomination I’m seeing this, even while it is being hidden (out of sight, out of mind) or ignored by the local church. In a dictatorship, the courts aren’t there to serve justice, but to serve the will of the regime. Church courts, however, exist to serve justice. When they are used to protect members of the good ol’ boy club or punish those who decline to join it, they have broken their covenant of membership with the churches and people they represent. A damnable heresy has quickly gained a foothold in my denomination and the courts have failed to deal appropriately with it. It remains a threat, and those who teach this error remain “in good standing” with the denomination as surely as Jacob Arminius did in his Reformed denomination while all the while teaching the Pelagian error. The membership covenant is broken when church courts fail in their duty.

Sometimes there’s just no one to blame. Paul and Barnabus had a bit of a falling out over John Mark (Acts 15). Paul didn’t want to bring John Mark along for their next missions trip because John Mark had “jumped ship,” so to speak, on their last one, and Paul needed to be able to rely on all the members of the team. Barnabus stood up for John Mark. The two disagreed to the point that they actually split up, with Paul taking Silas along and Barnabus (whose name means “Son of Encouragement”) took John Mark separately. Which one of them was wrong? Answer: Neither one. In fact it was God’s plan all along. John Mark must have done alright for himself though, because Paul later on sent for him, describing him as “profitable for service (2 Timothy 4:11).” And Silas was certainly no slouch. Neither Paul nor Barnabus erred nor sinned. They simply had different callings. That’s allowed, y’know. God gives different gifts to different people and places them, or moves them, to wherever their gifts are needed for a particular season of time.

It’s never easy or simple to say goodbye when one’s gifts or callings have grown different from when and where one has enjoyed a place of covenant ministry for any length of time. I’ve ignored it for too long, trying to explain away the ever-growing sense that I “just don’t fit” anymore with the church I’m at right now. I did have a vital role to play there for a time, and I relished in sharing in covenant with that church. Now I simply have come to believe that I have a different calling, and in fact there’s really no place in that church right now for my particular gifts and calling anymore.

As if to help me see that it’s really time to move on, our sovereign Father just put some people on my heart, and others not. After a few months’ absence from my church, no one greeted me when I returned. No one seemed to even notice I had been away for three months. Were they “wrong?” Nah, not really. The phone works both ways, and I hadn’t bothered to pick it up on my end either. My heart was just “somewhere else,” and the vital role I once played there is being filled by other faithful, gifted people. Now there is also the matter of settling some minor doctrinal concerns. Minor concerns. Nothing like the elephant in the PCA’s living room that they are pretending isn’t there. But this other church is a different denomination.  Would our differences cause trouble in the future there if I were to find myself serving in a leadership role as I have in other churches (as both a deacon and an elder, and as a teacher)? I decided to put all these questions to paper and meet with the pastor in order to be crystal clear on these things.

 


The Government of God

October 6, 2013
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Originally written 11 years ago (wow) for the ExCharisma ministry and to refute the notion that “belonging to a church” is completely optional for believers, The following article follows up my previous blog post about the proliferation of these so-called “Alternate Churches” that aim at “reaching” those who “can’t relate to traditional churches.” What has struck me about every one of these “alternates” I have visited is how they are very similar to the evangelical churches they aim to attract people from. Except in three respects: The sacraments (ordinances) are either absent or not administered according to Scripture; too many are autocratic, governed by a pastor or a small group hand-picked by the pastor (especially churches that have husband and wife “co-pastors”), and proper church discipline is absent or arbitrary. Published online and in print internationally, I’m proud (in a good way, I hope) to make it available to readers of this blog.

The Government of God

©2001 by Robin Arnaud

“I love the Lord just fine, it’s just that I can’t stand His people! Besides, I can worship God anytime and anywhere. I don’t have to be in church to worship Him, I can worship Him on my own. I truly do love the Lord, but I don’t want to go to church.”

A very common sentiment is expressed in that paragraph, one that I hear often and from many people, some of whom haven’t been to church in many years but still say they love the Lord and worship Him “in their own way.” But is this legitimate? Can we truly love the Lord as we ought while rejecting church? Is participation in church really “mandatory” for those who love the Lord in their hearts?

We know from the scriptures that Jesus Christ is our King, and because we love Him we gladly submit to His rulership over our souls. We recognize the bible as His word and His will, and we read our favorite passages once in awhile when we need comfort or reassurance, or when we wish to point out someone else’s faults. But many don’t want to learn about the church. They love the King, but reject the church as something completely separate and apart from the King’s rule over them.

The King

Way back in Deuteronomy, the Lord promised Israel a king of His own choosing. This king would be one of their own, not a foreigner, and would rule righteously and without using his office to multiply his wealth and power.

When you enter the land which the Lord your God gives you, and you possess it and live in it, and you say, `I will set a king over me like all the nations who are around me,’ you shall surely set a king over you whom the Lord your God chooses, one from among your countrymen you shall set as king over yourselves; you may not put a foreigner over yourselves who is not your countryman. Moreover, he shall not multiply horses for himself, nor shall he cause the people to return to Egypt to multiply horses, since the Lord has said to you, `You shall never again return that way.’ He shall not multiply wives for himself, or else his heart will turn away; nor shall he greatly increase silver and gold for himself. Now it shall come about when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself a copy of this law on a scroll in the presence of the Levitical priests. It shall be with him and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God, by carefully observing all the words of this law and these statutes, that his heart may not be lifted up above his countrymen and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, to the right or to the left, so that he and his sons may continue long in his kingdom in the midst of Israel (Deut. 17:14-20, NASB).

Looking at the history of Israel we can see that they had several kings, some good and some bad. But even the great king David couldn’t have been the king promised in the Deuteronomy passage, since he multiplied wives through deception and murder and did not keep the law carefully. Even the great Solomon, wisest among men, multiplied horses, and wives (over 700 concubines!), as well as gold and silver. And by marrying Pharaoh’s daughter to form an alliance between Israel and Egypt, he broke the command of God “never again to return that way (Deut. 17:16).” Only one king completely and fully fulfills this prophecy of Deuteronomy 17, who abandoned wealth and power and privilege, kept the whole law and rules righteously. His kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36), but of His countrymen (his brethren, the elect – Colossians 1). Yes, Christ is this king.

The King’s Rule

As King, Jesus Christ must surely have a government:

“For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us, and the GOVERNMENT will rest on His shoulders … There will be no end to the increase of His GOVERNMENT or of peace, on the throne of His father David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this (Isa. 9:6-7).”

“Let THE ELDERS THAT RULE well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and in doctrine (1 Tim 5:17).”

“We beseech you, brethren, to know those who labor among you and ARE OVER YOU IN THE LORD, and admonish you (1 Thess. 5:12).”

“Remember those who have AUTHORITY OVER YOU, who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith you follow… Obey those that have AUTHORITY OVER YOU, and SUBMIT YOURSELVES; for they watch OVER YOUR SOULS as they who must give an account… (Heb 13:7, 17)”

“And GOD HAS SET some IN THE CHURCH, first apostles, then prophets, then teachers, after that miracles, healers, helps, GOVERNMENTS, diversities of tongues (1 Cor 12:28).”

According to these scriptures, our King governs through human agents who are held accountable for their rule over us. If we reject His government, have we not rejected the King’s rule? Look again at the Deuteronomy passage and compare it with the King’s ministers in the New Covenant, described in 1 Timothy 3:1-13.

“Not a foreigner (Deut 17:15)” becomes “not a new convert (1 Tim 3:6),” in other words, a brother.

“He shall not multiply horses for himself (Deut 17:16)” becomes “not fond of sordid gain (1 Tim 3:8).”

“He shall not multiply wives (Deut 17:17)” becomes “the husband of one wife (1 Tim 3:2).”

“He shall read it all the days of his life (Deut 17:19)” becomes “able to teach (1 Tim 3:2)” and “those who labor in the word and in doctrine (1 Tim 5:17).”

The King’s government IS the church.

He has empowered His ministers with awesome responsibility for the flock of God, and authority to carry out that responsibility: To “retain and remit sins*” (Matt 16:19, 18:17-18, John 20:21-23), to “shut the kingdom against unrepentant rebels”* (1 Cor 5:1-5, 1 Tim 1:20) and “open it to penitent sinners”* (2 Cor 2:6-8), in the discipline of errant believers (1 Tim 5:20, 2 Thess 3:6, 14-15, Titus 3:10). If we reject church, we reject the government of God.

There is even a Scripturally established government BETWEEN churches, according to the examples given to us in scripture:

Questions which arise among churches and between churches are biblically settled by councils of their rulers (Acts 15:2,4,6) and that such councils have some authority over the churches they oversee (Acts 15:22-25, 16:4). But because these councils may err, they are never to be made the final rule of faith or practice, but only to be a help in those things, the scriptures being the supreme arbiter in questions of doctrine and practice (Eph 2:20, Acts 17:11, 1 Cor 2:5, 2 Cor 1:24). Under no circumstances are church councils to decide CIVIL or DOMESTIC affairs except by way of petition, advice, or conscience (Luke 12:13-14 and John 18:36). The authority of a church council is ecclesiastical, not civil, and is limited by the reign of scripture.

Clearly, a government over God’s people, separate from the civil government, IS scriptural! When we stop going to church, we lose all the benefits of that government: Its protection from error, from predators, from pretenders, abusers, and even from ourselves. God’s government, biblically, provides material and spiritual benefits that we really can’t do without.

We need one another. And without participation in God’s government, we are in great danger from within and from without.

 


Alternate Churches?

November 4, 2012
2 Comments

So today I visited a local “Cowboy Church.” I would never have bothered ordinarily, but my extremely talented but chronically unemployed and more often than not homeless brother mentioned that he’s playing guitar in their worship services. Always looking out for him (and because no one else in our family cares), I went to the “Cowboy Church” to see him. I also wanted to make sure he wasn’t just being exploited by some sophisticated manipulator who will discard him after he has no more use for my brother’s talents, as has happened a few times in the past.

My brother did an awesome job on the guitar as always, but this time there less of my brother in the music and more genuine focus on the Lord and on worship. It was good to see that. That’s what I went there for. I took part in the singing whole-heartedly as always, but couldn’t agree so whole-heartedly with the presumptive content of the public prayers, nor with the all-over-the-place sermon content. If there was a sermon outline or notes hidden on the pulpit somewhere to guide the preaching, I’d bet the pastor didn’t follow them. There was no exegesis of the Scripture, only the typical “proof texting” so typical of evangelical preaching and teaching. But it was a courageous sermon (well, perhaps not so much given it was delivered in that company of conservative Republican churchgoers) about the believer’s duties of citizenship in both the kingdom of God and the United States of America.

So we’ve got gay churches, hiphop churches, rock’n’roll churches, surfer churches, and now cowboy churches. All aimed at a particular subculture and catering to their cultural idiosyncrasies. Maybe I’ll start one just for scuba divers, and hold services underwater. Or maybe a whole conglomerate of dance churches. One for ballet, one for Tap, one for Ballroom, the whole gambit. All it takes is a mail-order ordination from any of several ordination mills and/or a membership fee to whoever dreamed up the association of fill-in-the-blank “churches” to affiliate with and lend legitimacy to one’s ministry. Today’s cowboy pastor was not seminary trained, though he did take a 60-hour course from some bible school and his ordination from one of those “associations” that purports to be “just like a denomination,” except that no one knows what they believe about anything or who is accountable to whom and for what – other than annual membership dues.

“We provide an alternative to traditional churches for people who can’t relate to church as we have known it. We can reach those people for Christ in a way that traditional churches can’t,” they claim. Yet today’s visit was to any typical evangelistic / baptistic church, except for the cowboy trappings. The pastor wore jeans and a vest and a big black Stetson, which he removed only to pray. Lassos and saddles and other tack hung on the walls and from the rafters. A cowbell hung from a rustic lectern and rung softly every time the pastor leaned against the podium as he preached, pacing the floor and rambling without any apparent sermon outline. And of course, a cowboy-modified altar call.

Look for my next post, entitled The Government of God, for a look at what makes a real church and why “alternatives” are unbiblical and dangerous. Originally written as a rebuttal to those who argue that they can worship without church and don’t need church and that church is optional anyway, this article shows us from the Scriptures why church membership is not optional, and what a true church looks like. Accept no substitutes!