Just as the Bible foretold in such prophetic passages as 1Timothy 4: 1, 3, time has come that some WITHIN Christian Community are drifting away from the faith (accurate doctrine/practices) and are seeking pulpits that will “tickle their ears” (tell them what they want to hear), and that will tolerate what the Bible clearly labels as SIN.
Therefore, it is once again, ".... time for judgment to begin with the household of God…( 1Pet. 4: 17 NASB).”
Defenders of these types of apostate local assemblies will quote, but misapply such passages as (John 3: 17, 18/John 12: 47, 48/ Matt. 7: 1-3) that when taken out of context, appear to speak against “judging” others, in the supposed interest of promoting unconditional love. But when one goes on to read the verses that follow these verses in the same passages, one can see that the Lord Jesus Christ did not say that Man is not judged. Furthermore, as we will see later on in this presentation, it IS the responsibility of those who are in positions of authority to address sin that those under their authority choose to engage.
“For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but (so) that the world might be saved through (faith in) Him John 3: 17 NASB italics mine .”
He who believes in Him is not judged (as an unbeliever); he who does not believe has been judged already (John 3: 18) NASB italics mine.
“If anyone hears My sayings and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world (John 12: 47 NASB).”
“He who rejects Me and not receive My sayings, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day (John 12: 48)."
“Do not judge (other people who are not under your authority) so that you will not be judged (by people who are not in authority over you). For in the way that you judge (other people), you will be judged ( in the same way by such people you judge); and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck (one area of sin) in your brother’s (one whom you have no authority over) eye (life),
but do not notice the log (multitude of sins-James 2: 10) in your own eye (life)?- Matt. 7: 1-3 NASB italics mine.”
In Matt. 7: 1-3, it is not speaking of divine judgment. Divine judgment comes directly by God, or indirectly through the ones He has placed in positions of authority (pastors, husbands, parents, etc.). The type of “judging” spoken against in Matt. 7: 1-3 is making reference to people judging other people that are NOT under ones authority. When executing divine judgment in the capacity of one is a position of delegated authority, one is judging the sin, not the sinner.
In such scenarios, one is NOT judging to condemn, but to edify and encourage reconciliation through word and example.
“Let no unwholesome (rotten) word (conversation) proceed from your mouth (when speaking about others), but only (if and when) such a word (conversation) is good (is in the best interest of and) for (the) edification (of the one being spoken about)… (Eph. 4: 29 NASB italics mine).”
Ripping someone up behind their back is NOT speaking for edification! Speaking ill of someone to a third party behind their back is NOT speaking for edification.
Unless it is for the edification of the one’s involved, discussing the alleged or actual sins of others with a third party that doesn’t need to know of it, is what the sin of maligning (Titus 3: 2) others is all about. The private sins of others would not usually become a source of negative influence over the congregation as fast as it does if it were not made the subject matter of the latest gossip.
Conversations that tear down the reputation of others who are not present to defend themselves, or are offered seeking one’s own justification and support for what one did or didn’t do in response to the actions of others, is NOT speaking for the edification of the one involved.
Just because something is factually true, does not void the prohibitive command of Eph. 4: 29.
That being said, keep in mind that God has chosen to delegate the divine role of judging to persons in positions of authority that He has established. The same God that delegated this authority, also put boundaries as to how far that authority is to be exercised. Among such positions of delegated authority are pastors, husbands, parents, and those in positions of secular government.
When such persons are acting under and the authority of the positions (pastors/husbands/parents/government) they hold, they are not violating, but are in fact, fulfilling their responsibilities that these positions require of them. Those in positions of authority are accountable for what they do and don’t do with the authority that God has given them.
Unconditional love is not a defense or an excuse for negligence of duty on the part of a person who is a position of delegated, divine authority.
Advancing disciples do NOT promote, by action or inaction, anything that is of a lethal nature (Romans 6: 23) in the spiritual lives of those they really “love.” Every sin produces one form of death or another. .
“For the wages of sin is (physical/ spiritual/ or temporal) death… (Romans 6: 23 NASB).”
Depending on the type of sin involved, it will result in one or more of these types of death. For the sin of disbelief, it results in one remaining in the spiritual death mode with which he/she came into this world, and will remain in for all of eternity. Those who depart this world spiritually dead will immediately find themselves in the Torments of Hades and eventually find themselves in what the Bible calls the lake of fire for all of eternity (Rev. 20: 13, 15).
Those who commit post (after) salvation sin (other than the unpardonable sin of disbelief) will receive divine discipline (Heb. 12: 6) here on Earth. Divine discipline can range in anything from having to live with a guilty conscience until the sin is addressed (1John 1: 9/John 8: 11), up to and including physical illness and physical death (Acts 5/1Cor. 11: 30). As long as one lives with a sin that has not been addressed, he/she is out of fellowship (2Cor. 13: 14). While out of fellowship he/she will be "dead" as far as producing any divine good. This form of death is what temporal death is all about. Periods of temporal death can be as brief as the time it takes to address it (1John 1: 9/John 8: 11), or for as long as one's post salvation spiritual life here on Earth if the sin(s) remains unaddressed.
The test of true love is the willingness on the part of the one expressing love to be rejected and suffer loss and isolation if that what it takes to serve the best interests of the ones we claim to love. The greatest example of this was the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross. Telling people what they need to hear will not always make you popular. From divine viewpoint, it is better to have people hate you here on Earth for telling them what they needed to hear than to have it said of you that you had the truth, but did not share it with the one’s you claimed to have loved.
There is a difference between “judging” other people in a spirit of asserting moral condemnation, and “examining (2Cor. 13: 5) the actions of oneself, and those under one’s delegated divine authority with the motive of edification (Eph. 4: 29), correction (2Tim. 3: 16), and reconciliation (James 5: 20).
Unless one finds him/herself in a (Acts 5: 29) scenario, disobedience or disrespect for one in a position of delegated-divine authority is disobedience and disrespect for God (Romans 13: 1-3).
“But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than man (Acts. 5: 29 NASB).”
“Every person is to be in subjection to the governing (pastoral/marital/parental/labor/governmental) authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves (Romans 13: 1-3 NASB italics mine).”
Church Age believers are under the teaching and administrative authority of the pastor teacher of the local assembly (Heb. 13: 17). It is not the job of the pastor to go around policing the personal lives of the members of the congregation, but it is his function to address sin that has become a negative influence on other members of the congregation.
Wives are under the marital authority of their husbands (Gen. 3: 16/Eph. 5: 22, 24 NASB) in "everything (vs. 24). "Everything" includes the things the wife is in agreement with, and the things that she is not. Only when obedience to the her husband would mean disobedience to God, does a Christian wife have the right and the responsibility to say "No!" to her husband's authority. In balance, the husband is to demonstrate his love to his wife, taking into consideration all that is in her best interests when exercising his authority ( vs. 25).
Children (while living under the parent’s roof) are under the parent’s authority (Eph. 6: 1). Citizens are under governmental authority (Romans 13). Laborers are under managerial authority (Col. 3: 22, 23). Again, the only legitimate exceptions is when such obedience would result in disobedience to God.
Failing to establish respect for authority in the lives of one’s children sets the stage for a life time of hurt. The one in the position of authority is NOT always right, but he/she IS the one in authority. People in positions of authority are, “ministers of God (Romans 13: 4 NASB),” and they do not carry the proverbial sword of disciplne Romans 13: 4 for decoration.
Those who are in positions of authority have the God-given function, responsibility, and accountability for what they do and do not do in that capacity.
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Q. But aren't Christians and local assemblies to be peacemakers?
A. Yes, and No!
First the yes part...
The type of peace announced at the First Advent (Luke 2: 14) and later reiterated in Matt. 5: 9 as part of the Sermon of the Mount is NOT inter-p-e-r-s-o-a-n-a-l harmony between people with people). The Luke 2: 14 type of peace is between God and the souls that are born again. It is they that are the ones with whom God is pleased (Luke 2: 14), having individually resolved the inherent hostility (Romans 8: 7) that exists between God and fallen man.
God is NOT pleased with them on the basis of any good deeds or religious ritual they went (or were put) through, but because they choose to place their trust and confidence in what HE has done, is doing, and will do for the people of faith.
The "blessed peacemakers" of Matt. 5 are the born again believers who promote the Gospel Message, bringing about the Luke 2: 14 type of peace between God and the one's choose to respond (believe) in the Gospel Message that the peacemaker presents to them.
Now, for the No part...
"Do not think that I came to bring (interpersonal) peace to the Earth (at this time, or during the Church Age). I did not come to bring (interpersonal) peace, but a sword (conflict) (Matt. 10: 34 NASB italics mine.)"
Q. Aren't Christians called to live in peace with others?
A. Yes, when possible.
"If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men (Romans 12: 18 NASB)."
Q. Under what circumstances are to Christians to draw the line in their effort to live in peace?
A. When maintaining harmony would favor pleasing people over obedience to God (Acts. 5:29/Luke 14: 26/Gal. 1: 10).
The Gospel Message and post salvation Bible Doctrine that the local assemblies were commissioned (Matt. 28: 19, 20) to preach and to teach will be the source of conflict and division both inside the local assemblies and outside in the devil's (Luke 4: 6) world. The local assemblies that are of the type that God designed will be at odds with apostate local assemblies and with the world at large in both viewpoint and activity. Not everyone with whom we share the pews with in any given local assembly has been born again. And not every born again believer is at the same level of spiritual maturity, measured by his/her knowledge (1Pet. 3: 18) and application (James 1: 22) of the Word of God. These differences will cause division and conflict within the local assembly.
The true Gospel Message and accurate Bible Doctrine is what unites the body of Christ, whereas the false, counterfeit, and alternative gospel messages and doctrines are what divide. 1Cor.11: 19 teach that such divisions are necessary in order for any local assembly to receive the approval of God by maintaining the true Gospel Message, accurate doctrine, and accompanying practices.
"For there must also be factions (diverse groups) among you, so that those who are approved (correct in doctrine and practice) may become evident (to those who hold to false doctrine and practices) among you (1Cor. 11: 19 NASB italics mine)."
When two or more individuals hold to opposing means of either obtaining and/or retaining salvation, they both can not be correct. When born again believers hold to opposing doctrinal viewpoints on post (after) salvation issues, they both can not be correct. There comes a time when these opposing views must be addressed if there is to be the type of unity of faith that God desires. "Faith"is not only the action of believing, but what it is that one believes. The "Let's all get along!" crowd wants their cake (the blessings of God) and eat it (enjoy peace with the world), as well. James 4: 4 doesn't allow for such liberality.
"You (spiritual) adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God (James 4: 4 NASB italics mine)?"
The failure to resolve these differences within a local assembly, through the accurate teaching and application of the Word of God, is what creates the necessary factions among you (1Cor. 11: 19 NABS), motivating those with strong convictions to work towards purging the existing local assembly of the false teachings and practices, or will depart and seek or form another that is more in line with what they believe God requires/desires.
There is what some refer to as "Church hopping."
Church hopping is in view when one goes from Church to Church in search of the one that the seeker finds to be in line with what they perceive a local assembly to be. When such a move is being considered, the believer must make certain that the move is coming from God, and not just to find one that is going to tell them what they want to hear or one that allows them to do what they want to do.
The decision to make a change in one's local assembly must be primarily based on its position on the true Gospel Message, the accuracy of the doctrine it teaches, and the accompanying practices/rituals that take there. All to often, one's choice to go or to stay with any given local assembly is based family and cultural traditions, the personality of the the pastor, socialization, and convenience.
If one had a heart attack or some other serious medical event that threatened one's physical well-being, or the physical well being of the one's we have a personal relationship with, would we not want the best medical advice and the best doctor available to do address the case. Should not one's eternal destiny and post salvation spiritual life be given the same consideration? Or would "good enough" be good enough for us?
One can be saved at any time and in any place that God chooses to present him/her with the Gospel Message, but if one desires to identify and to pursue the post salvation spiritual life of discipleship, he/she must assemble together with a local assembly (or ministry) that will provide him/her with the guidance and the means to do so. One can assemble together in the traditional manner with face to face teaching, or via the many modern means of communication.
God can work through (John 15: 5) an advancing disciple to save a soul with a one time encounter that can take less than a couple of minutes, but making a disciple (a student and applier of the Word of God) is a life-long process. In God's plan, the making of disciples is the work of a type of local assembly that He designed. If one wants God's best, he/she must learn to do it God's way.
I am not saying that one is not going to have some disagreement with some of things that are taught or practiced that come and go in every local assembly from time to time. But when such things distort or add to the Gospel Message, or become a distraction or obstacle in the pursuit of advancing in the true post salvation spiritual life, there is cause for changes to be made.
The type of local assemblies that God designed will support each other logistically, financially, and acknowledge each other as being a part of the intangible and universal Church, but are to function independently. The unity between the local assemblies is to be based on accuracy in interpreting and handling the Word of God. It is much easier to address false doctrines and practices taking place in individual local assemblies (Rev. 2, 3) than in a world-wide organization. The strength in a world wide scenario is that in areas where it is correct, it is correct everywhere. The weakness of a world wide scenario, it that in any area whee it is wrong, it is wrong everywhere. The longer anything is in place, the harder it is to change.
Furthermore, once the world-wide organization run by men makes its errors (as it inevitably will), there is the fear of correcting same as this would disprove its claim to have the ability to always make the right decisions. If it could be wrong about this, then who is to say that it could not be wrong about that? The truth is that if all of the products and practices of Man made religion were to be removed from within the Christian Community, then what would remain would be barely recognizable to many who "go to Church" on a regular basis.
This is what made the initial attempts of the Protestant Reformers to bring much of the Roman Church back to its Biblical roots, a quest destined for failure. When it became clear that bringing the Roman Church back to its Biblical roots was not going to take place, the reformers had to either "let it go" or break away and start over again. As edified believers can see, the problem of keeping the government, false teachings and Man-made religious practices out of the local assemblies that God designed did not go away in either "side of aisle."
Adding to, taking from, and distorting the Word of God,. in doctrine and practice, has been the downfall of God's people, and can be traced throughout all of human history (Gen 3/Matt. 15: 9/1Tim.4: 1/Rev. 2, 3.. As 1Tim. 4: 1 clearly reveals, apostasy (false teachings/practices) within the Christian Community at large will only continue to escalate and intensify as the Church Age comes to its end. The type of local assembly that God designed will become the exception and not the rule. This should not come to us as a surprise, as a according to Matthew 7: 13, 14, when it comes to spiritual issues, the majority is usually wrong!
The final tangible source for "...teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; (2Tim. 3: 16)" in the the type of local assemblies that God designed is the Word of God. The responsibility of functioning accordingly is on the head of the pastor teacher. This is why it is no important to ordain men who meet and function under the pastoral requirements of Scripture, as opposed to clergy that are trained and ordained to promote the (Man -made) precepts of Man made religion.
Edified believers who support or promote a local assembly or ministry that does NOT function as God intended are partnering with evil (2John 1: 11). Accordingly, In the plan of God, local assemblies that do not function as the Bible requires, will not receive the logistical support of edified local believers, and eventually close down. The promise that the church that God designed will endure to the end of the age (Matthew 16: 18) was not made to any one local assembly, denomination,, or ministry. Local assemblies are established and closed every day. In times of spiritual revival, they tend to increase, whereas when a society is in moral decline, they tend to suffer or close. This promise of endurance was made in regards to the universal Church that God designed, consisting of independently functioning local assemblies. all over the world. On a global scale, there will always be enough local assemblies and ministries of the type that God designed for the universal church to continue on and maintain its presence in order to accomplish its mission (Matt. 28: 19, 20). Scripture is clear that when the missions of the Church that He designed is accomplished, the end will come (Matt. 24: 14).
In the meantime, God will provide enough of the type of local assemblies that He designed with the logistical support they need through edified believers .
An ignorant and an arrogant soul, or a congregation of ignorant and arrogant souls, is a "sitting duck" for the devil and the forces of evil. An ignorant congregation is one that has not been properly instructed. An arrogant congregation is one that cannot be taught. Such arrogance comes from developing an attitude that they already know all there is to know, and/or are just fine with the ways things are.
Failure on the part of a local assembly to operate independently plays right into the hand of devil. It is much easier to direct one's resources and focus of attack on a single target than it is to accomplish the same objective involving then of thousands of independently working units that share a common goal. Chop off (or deceive) the head and the body will die/follow.
Some religious organizations offer little, if any, choice over who it is that is going to be standing behind the pulpit during any given period of time at any one local assembly under their authority.
These same religious organizations do not allow their assigned clergy to deviate from the "company line" concerning the subject matter of their sermons or homilies. Often times, this results in reducing what comes from the pulpit to no more than passive commentary that does little, if anything, to edify the congregation. This takes the wind out of the sails of the pulpit whose given mission (Matt. 28: 19) it is to make disciples (students and appliers of the Word of God) out of born again believers who gather together for that very purpose.
Those who attend a local assembly that functions under the mandates and direction of a central religious authority, have no choice but to "toe the line" or leave, under threats from the organization of "going to Hell" for doing so. Such a hard line approach wouldn't be so bad IF what was taught and enforced were in line with the Word of God. But when it is merely the teachings and practices of Man made religion, there is a great evil taking place. Christianity comes from God and can be substantiated by Scripture, whereas so-called Christian religion largely consists of what Man has added to the Word of God, or a distorted interpretation and application of it. The first is the type of local assembly that God designed, the latter is one of the man alternative local assemblies that Man, in the name of religion, have established and maintains.
Some are more culpable than others, but he truth is that if many of the local assemblies of our day were to remove all the false teachings, accompanying practices, and products of religion found there, what would remain would be barely recognizable to those who gather together there to worship God,
Such changes often result in the rejection from family, "friends," and community, putting the Luke 14: 26 challenge of discipleship to the test.
It would make little spiritual difference to go to another local assembly if the next one is still under the thumb of the same authority. It may be a different server, but the menu has not changed. In the natural realm, what we are is greatly impacted by what we feed our bodies. In the spiritual realm, we are greatly impacted by what we feed our souls.
When choice of obtaining/retaining a pastor is within the power of the congregation, those who serve on search committees play a critical role in who the pastor will be and what impact he is going to have in the foreseeable future. Congregations that have the power to call for a vote of confidence have an equally important function to participate. Again, this is where ignorance of what Scripture has to say can be used to deceive a search committee in the obtaining of a pastor, and to deceive a congregation into dismissing or retaining a pastor for all the WRONG reasons.
In order to establish and/or maintain the type of local assembly that God designed, its the pastor that has been authorized and required (John 21: 16, 27 to take corrective measures when those within the local assembly are promoting a negative influence over other members of the congregation.
“But immorality or any impurity or greed must not be named among you, as is proper among saints (Church Age believers); and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. For this you know with certainty, the no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance (reward-1Cor. 3: 12-15) in the kingdom of Christ and God (Eph. 5: 3-5 NASB italics mine).”
Immorality includes, but it’s NOT limited to sexually-related (fornication/ adultery/homosexuality/lesbianism/ sexual assault/pornography/bestiality/ etc.) sin. Any (James 2: 10) type of sin that has gained entry and has become a source of negative influence in any local assembly must be addressed.
"A little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough (Gal. 5: 9 NASB)."
One is “living in sin” whenever he/she is involved with ongoing sin of any (James 2: 10) sin that has not been confessed (1John 1:9) and forsaken (John 8: 11).
The immorality being spoken if in Eph. 5: 1 includes ANY thoughts or behaviors of that run contrary to the Word of God. There are more than 300 commandments found in the New Testament alone that apply to Church Age believers. A violation of any one of them is an act of immorality. James 2: 10 takes it a step further, teaching that if one is guilty of engaging in any one sin, he/she stands as guilty in the eyes of God as the one who has broken them all!
When any area of over sin become a growing source of negative influence within the local assembly, the pastor teacher, as a good shepherd (John 21: 15) and watchman (Ezekiel 33) of the flock has the responsibility to address it.
Note that I am NOT speaking of ANY past sins that a member(s) of the congregation or that the pastor may have been involved. A past sin is one that has been confessed (1 John 1: 9) to God and/or forsaken (John 8: 11). The sins that a pastor must address are sins that are present, are ongoing, and are presently having a negative influence on other members of the congregation.
Sin is confessed to God. Forsaking a sin requires that the sin no longer be a part of ones present and ongoing lifestyle of the one involved.
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Publicly confessing the details of one’s past sins are NOT required to receive forgiveness from God, but those with the guts to do so, publicly acknowledging past sin can be a powerful testimony and source of positive influence over others who are presently dealing with the same type of sin.
It IS true that we all come into this world with a sin nature that is bent towards sin. It is also true that this sin nature with its potential of negative influence stays with us after we are saved (Romans 7: 21) In his letter to the Romans, Paul was speaking of his on-going battle with the sin nature within him nearly thirty years after he was born again, and towards the end of his post salvation spiritual life.
This sin nature does not attract us all to commit the same type of sin, but as James 2:10 clearly points out, that doesn’t make any difference. Romans 3: 23 teach that we all have sinned, and John 3: 5, 7 teach that we all need the same type of salvation. After being saved, we all have the same ongoing need to confess our on-going sin in order to be in fellowship (2Cor. 13: 14) with God and to execute the post salvation spiritual life.
It is NOT true that because we were born with the fallen nature, that we have no other alternative but to accept our inherent evil impulses and engage in the sin that such impulses promote. This is where a testimony of over-coming past sins can provide living proof that there IS deliverance from sin. Precisely what the the type of sin is not the issue. Other than the sin of disbelief (John 3: 18), ever sin can be forgiven (1John 1: 9), and every sin can be forsaken (John 8: 11) and overcome (1Cor. 6: 11). The power to overcome is NOT from our human resources, but is from the enabling power that God supplies (John 15: 5) to those who are in fellowship with Him.
In light of the more than 300 ways one can sin by thought, word, and/or deed, it is safe to say that we all sin every day (1John 1: 8). It is when one's ongoing sin begins to be a negative source of influence, by word or example, on other members of the congregation that the pastor is called upon to address it.
Acknowledging/receiving the forgiveness (1John 1: 9) that God offers, and then moving forward are choices that we make, and are accomplished with he enabling power (John 15: 5) that God supplies.
Sin that we do not acknowledge, confess and forsake will be used by the devil to invite, encourage, and justify the same sin in the lives over the ones we associate with and have influence. In doing so, one becomes the type of stumbling block to others spoken of in (Matt. 18: 6, 7) that a carries with it severe consequences. This stumbling block scenario can involve individuals and/or local assemblies, as well.
"But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world because of its stumbling blocks! For it is inevitable that stumbling blocks come; but woe to the man through whom the stumbling block comes (Matt. 18: 6, 7).
Some would ask , "Is it not better that people go "somewhere" (to worship) than not at all? The Biblical answer is that yes, one should "gather together - Heb. 10: 25 NASB) to worship God, but that one should go to the type of local assembly where he/she can worship God as He desires to be worshiped.
When negative influence is taking place within the local assembly, it calls for corrective action to be taken by the pastor teacher. Corrective actions include general announcements from the pulpit that identify the problem without naming names, private conferences (Matt. 18: 15), conferences with the Church in which witnesses can confirm the problem at the Church level (Matt. 18: 15), public rebuke (1Tim. 5: 20) in front of the congregation if the sin continues, disassociation (1Cor. 5: 11, 13), and in extreme cases, excommunication (1Cor. 5: 2).
Note in all cases and in all these actions, the purpose is to encourage confessing the sin to God, forsaking the sin so as not to negatively impact fellow believers,, and reconciliation of the back-sliding believer(s) with the local assembly (Gal. 6: 1).
When it is the pastor teacher or officer within the local assembly that is involved, and there are at least two eye-witnesses to the alleged activity (1Tim 5: 19), he must be asked to step down or be removed for the good of the local assembly, until such times the sin is confessed and forsaken. This 1Tim 5: 19 two or more witnesses requirement does NOT stop God from sending discipline on any one at any time. Pastors would be well advised to see to it that there are witnesses present to confirm that nothing of an inappropriate nature takes place when interacting with members of the congregation while still affording people the level of privacy that they need to discuss a problem.
Fear of how people are going to react can be a tremendous inhibitor to making a public confession of past and/or ongoing sin. False pride can keep one from ministering to fellow believers who are presently struggling with the same issue(s). There is something about hearing from someone who was where you/they are now that can open doors that would otherwise remain closed.
With people, no can be sure exactly what their reaction to one’s confession of one’s past or present sins is going to be. In the devil’s world, there are people who will NOT forgive, and will NOT let the offender move forward without being reminded of their past sin when the opportunity presents it. Such persons are themselves living in the sin of refusing to forgive others. Woe to one who brings up past sins that God has already forgiven, and that the one involved has already forsaken.
Thank God that such things are NOT the case with Him.
Unlike with people, our confession would not be a shock to God. There is not one sin that we can confess that God wasn't already aware. Furthermore,His response has already been made perfectly clear (1John 1: 9).
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful (we can count on Him) and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1John 1: 9 NASB italics mine.).”
In His omniscience, He knew of every single sin that had been, was being, and would be committed throughout the entire course of human history. God had this knowledge when He placed the sin debt of the entire human race (1John 2: 2) on the atoning humanity of the Lord Jesus Christ while nailed to the cross.
With people, such a confession may jeopardize our fellowship with them. Some people will disown us, but not God. When a born again believer confesses his sin to God, not only is his/her fellowship with Him restored, but if we become spiritually mature enough, we can then minister to others who are dealing with the same sins.
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The devil, as he does with most of what God has established, puts a different spin on the subject of making a public confession of one’s past sin. While encouraging the acknowledgement of the activity, he would have us deny the fact that the activity involved sin.
As bait, he will use the relief and freedom that comes from making a public announcement of one’s involvement. Only those who have lived in fear of such disclosure or exposure can relate to the liberating freedom that comes when even their darkest secret gets out of the bag. The pressure that comes from fear of disclosure or exposure can be intense. It has driven many to alcohol and drug abuse. It has driven some to suicide when they can not face the exposure and possible consequences, and others to homicide to keep it a secret.
Once the news is made known, the one involved is relieved of the fear that has driven others to such destructive behaviors, as alcohol/drug abuse, suicide, and homicide. As for those who choose not to forgive, one will simply avoid any further contact. While basking in this new found freedom from fear that making a public announcement can generate, the soul is then wide open to being deceived. They took the devil's bait in by hook, line, and sinker. It appears that the devil made good on his promised liberation, as the fear of exposure is, in fact, gone. If there IS a problem, the deceived sinner rationalizes that the problem is with those who refuse to accept than just as they are.
But making a public acknowledgment of one's involvement with an activity to people is not the same as making a confession of sin to God. A public announcement of one's participation is an activity does not necessarily mean that one intends to leave it behind. In fact, if the devil has his way, the public acknowledgement might include one's intention to continue the activity, denying its sinful nature.
Making a confession to God not only involves admitting to having participated in the activity, but acknowledging that the activity was indeed sin. Confessing (1John 1: 9) the sin is Part "A," with forsaking (John 8: 11) the sin being Part B in the process of finding, returning to, and/or returning to the narrow way that leads to life (Matt. 7: 13). This is a far cry from the, "Come one, come all, (just as you are), and let's worship the Lord together!" that the apostate local assemblies promote.
Once deceived, what the Bible calls sin is no longer viewed as such, it easily becomes no more than an alternative life style. With the full support of like-minded people, political correctness, social acceptance by a society in moral decline, legal protection (civil rights), and evil organizations that now support and promote what was once seen as sin, the wandering soul can experience the seasonal pleasure of sin (Heb. 11: 24-26), as he/she treads along the road that leads to destruction (Matt. 7: 13). He/she may no longer feel isolated (another popular bait from the devil), but finds comfort, acceptance, and security that such associations and organizations foster and promote that he/she did not find with those who take a Biblical stand on such issues.
When a local assembly becomes one of these aforementioned organizations, it has a serious situation on its hands.
"Woe to those (local assemblies) who call evil (what the Bible calls sin) good, and good (the application of accurate doctrine) evil; Who substitute darkness (human viewpoint) for light (divine viewpoint) and light for darkness... (Isa. 5: 20 NASB italics mine)."
This is precisely the "stumbling block" scenario spoken of in Matt. 18: 6, 7 NASB."
Rather we want to admit it or not, unless one is mentally and legally insane (and as a result, are incapable of discerning right from wrong), we do know when we are engaging in what the Bible calls sin. To our own hurt, we can choose to reject, disregard, distort, or redefine, or rationalize what the Bible calls sin, but one cannot deny the fact that the Bible makes it clear when we are participating in what God has declared to be sin.
When self-deceived or when one has been deceived by others, the soul is then in a frame of mind to excuse or dismiss the significance of what the Word of God has to say concerning any given subject. The devil is the master deceiver, and will use a distorted or perverted application of the Word of God in an attempt to secure his objectives (Luke 4: 10, 11). The advancing disciple will use the same Word of God, as did the Lord Jesus Christ, to make an appropriate response (Luke 4: 12).
In these (1Tim. 4: 1) days of apostasy, there are many local assemblies opening its arms wide, offering acceptance and refuge to those who seek a relationship (or a return to fellowship) with God, but on their own terms. This type of acceptance fits like a glove, fulfilling the desire(s) of the fallen nature to live like the devil, but still believing he/she qualifies for the earthly and eternal benefits of God.
Throughout human history one characteristic that dominates a society in moral decline is wide spread sexual immorality.
During such times, the type of local assemblies that God designed will protect its congregation and serve as a witness to the declining society by what it teaches and puts into practice.
Sins of sexual immorality such as heterosexual fornication (sex outside of marriage), adultery, homosexuality, bisexuality, lesbianism, sexual assault, bring onto the humanities of the one's involved a revolting consequence not found in most other forms of sin. When a born again believer uses his/her physical body to engage in which the Bible calls the sins of sexual immorality, he/she is desecrating the Church Age temple (1Cor. 3: 16) of God. If one thinks he/she can desecrate God's temple without there being any consequences, he/she has been greatly deceived (1Cor. 3: 17).
"Do you (born again believers) not know that you are a temple of God and that the spirit of God dwells in you? If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy (set aside for the purposes of God), and that is what you (your bodies) are (1Cor. 3: 16, 17 NASB italics mine)."
Contrary to the devil's lie, the body of a born again believer is NOT his/hers to do with as he/she pleases, if what pleases him/her violates the laws of God. One's body became the temple of God the moment one was born again. It should be no surprise to learn that prostitution was directly related to many forms of worship in the Pagan world.
The ONLY person who is to have heterosexual sexual relations involving the body of a born again believer is his/her married spouse (Heb. 13: 4). The concepts of abstaining from sexual intercourse before marriage, and only having sexual intercourse with one's heterosexual spouse during marriage is clearly taught in such passages as Heb. 13: 4/Romans 1: 27.
Any other form of sex at any other time or circumstance amounts to the sin(s) of sexual immorality of one type or another. According to James 2: 10, the type of sexual immorality that one engages in is no better or no worse than any other. God sees heterosexual fornication and adultery in the same boat as homosexuality and lesbianism. One is no better, or no worse, than the other.
The COEXIST messages, often times being displayed along with the "rainbow" colored background (symbolic of the Gay movement) may serve as a unifying concept out in the devil’s (Luke 4: 6) political, secular world, but the unifying bond within and between local assemblies of the type that God designed is accurate doctrine, in both teaching and practice. What would be more appropriate on the grounds of a local assembly would be a marquee or lighted sign that read, “ALL sinners are welcome here, but SIN is not!”
God hates all sin because He is aware of the lethal destruction (Romans 6: 23 ) hat sin brings to world at large, and especially to His children. While hating the sin, God loves the sinners (John 3: 16/Romans 5: 8). The local assembly that is of the type that God designed will project this same thinking and actions.
Q. Are there Biblical guidelines addressing how the members of a local assembly that is of the type that God designed are to interact with unbelievers and non-members (visiting or outside of a local assembly), and how they are interact with fellows members who talk the talk, but do not “walk the walk?”
“I wrote you (Church Age members) in my letter you not to associate with immoral people; I did not mean with the immoral people of this world , or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world (and outsiders could not be invited in). But actually, I wrote to you (Church Age believers, teaching you) not to associate with any so-called brother (fellow believer) if he (or she) is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or reviler-not even to eat with such a one. For what do I have to do with judging outsiders? Do (should) you not judge those who are within the church (local assembly)? But those who are outside (membership), God judges. (But as for fellow members who will not confess and forsake what the Bible calls sin, you are to) Remove the wicked man from among yourselves. (1Cor.5: 11, 12 NASB italics mine).”
This is not a "Sin, and you're out!" policy. As we have noted earlier in this presentation, there is a process and procedure established in Scripture (Matt. 18: 15/1Tim. 5: 20/1Cor. 5: 11, 13/1Cor. 5: 2/Gal. 6: 1) to deal with sin in a local assembly when it reaches the point that it is having a negative influence on the congregation. Discipline is NOT a hateful action, as it is in the best interests of the one's disciplined.
I recently went to a gospel music concert that was sponsored by a local assembly. While seated in the pews, waiting for the concert to begin, I took note of a flyer in the pews that made it clear that no matter what one’s position was regarding religion, faith, marriage, or lifestyle, everyone was welcomed there to come and to worship God.
This strategy might attract, retain the attendance, and garner some financial support from those that are involved in evil lifestyles that are not tolerated in other local assemblies. But is that the type of worshiper and worshiping that God desires (John 4: 23) ?
The flaw in this concept is that in order for one to be the type of worshiper (John 4: 23) that God desires him/her to be, he/she must be in fellowship (2Cor. 13: 14) with God, filled by the Spirit (), and empowered by John 15: 5 NASB to accomplish a-n-y-t-h-i-n-g of significance in the spiritual realm, let alone something as sacred as the worship of God. All born again believers are indwelt by God the Holy Spirit (1Cor. 3: 16) as of the moment of salvation, but one is not "filled" (submitted to His control of God the Holy Spirit), and is not in fellowship with God as long as he/she has what the Bible calls sin in his/her life that has not been addressed (1John 1:9/John 8: 11).
Scripture (John 15: 5) reminds us that, "...apart from Me you can do n-o-t-h-i-n-g ." When out of fellowship with God, the born again believer retains his/her salvation, but he/she is "apart" from Him in the post salvation spiritual life . A significant part of the post salvation spiritual life involves the worship of God in the way that He desires to be worshiped (John 4: 23).
Loss of fellowship between God and a back-sliding believer can be best understood by taking a look at the environment of Christian marriage when the husband and wife are having a conflict in the natural realm.
The relationship (marriage) is just as secure as it ever was, but there is no meaningful communication, intimacy, or productive interaction between them until whatever caused the breach in harmony is resolved.
In the spiritual realm, the believer’s salvation is just as secure as it ever was, but until the sin that caused the loss of fellowship is addressed (1John 1: 9), the born again believer is out of fellowship (2Cor. 13: 14) with God. Periods out of fellowship with God can be a brief as the few seconds it takes to confess the sin, or as long as the rest of one's post salvation spiritual life here on Earth. This makes clear the damage that can result if one does not forsake (John 8: 11) as well as confess (1John 1: 9) the sin, especially if the sin has become habitual (a life style), or involves a mental attitude sin.
God cannot even look upon evil in an approving way (Habakkuk 1: 13), let alone be in fellowship (1Cor. 13: 14) with those who are willfully engaged in sin that has not been confessed and forsaken. During any given gathering of a local assembly, there will be those present who will go through the same motions, but who are not in fellowship with God. This is even more of an issue, when the Lord's Supper is celebrated (1Cor. 11: 27, 28 ). Accordingly, as is the practice of some local assemblies, it would be wise for the worship service to begin with a moment of silent prayer, affording all present the opportunity to confess (to God) any sin that has not been confessed.
The salvation of a born again believer is never in jeopardy (Romans 8: 1), but fellowship with God is lost as a result of committing any (James 2: 10) post (after) salvation sin. Fellowship with God is restored when the sin that took the believer out of fellowship is confessed. In light of the more than 300 ways that a Church Age believer can sin by way of his/her thoughts, words, or deeds, it is safe to say that we all sin in one way or another each and every day as the hours pass. Accordingly, the alternative confessionals that have been established by religious organizations are not only contrary to Scripture (1Tim. 2: 5/Mark 2: 7), they are inadequate for one to remain in ongoing fellowship with God. Ongoing fellowship is necessary (John 15: 5) to execute the 7/24 life of discipleship. Only God can forgive sin, and He has not passed this function on to anyone.
One is saved by making a one time confession of faith in the Person and the Work of the Lord Jesus Christ that He accomplished on the cross. The confession of post salvation sin is not for the purpose of retaining or regaining salvation. Salvation is an"irrevocable (Romans 11: 29)," undeserved, unmerited, gift (Romans 11: 29) from God that He freely gives to all who make a one-time confession of faith. The confession of post (after) salvation sin is for the purpose of regaining the type of fellowship necessary to execute the post salvation spiritual life to the glory of God. The basis of for forgiveness of all past, present, and future sin is one's faith in the atoning Work of the Lord Jesus Christ while on the cross.
Q.: How was post salvation sin addressed before the confessionals of religion were established more than 400 years into "Church" history?
A.: The same way that it is now (1John 1: 9). Confession and reconciliation didn't involve religious priests then, and it doesn't involve one now.
The binding/loosening spoken of (Math. 18: 18) is the result of one's response to the Gospel Message that the Church that God established has been commissioned to preach. It is the preaching of the Gospel Message by the type of local assemblies that God designed, coupled with the individual soul's response to it that binds what takes place on Earth with what will take place in eternity.
If one sinned within a few minutes after leaving the confessional, perhaps in the parking lot or in traffic on the way home, and did not have the opportunity to confess it until the next time that confessions were heard by a priest, he/she would be spending much of his/her post salvation spiritual life out of fellowship with God. This is clearly not what God had in mind when he established the 1John 1:9 intangible confessional that is open 7/24.
Confessing, but not forsaking any given sin (James 2: 10) is what causes a born again believer to go around and around in a rotating door, going in and out of fellowship with God, and never moving forward in the plan of God. Instead of addressing sin, such a scenario invites more frequent and more intense levels of divine discipline (Heb. 12: 6) until the sin is addressed (1 John 1:9/John 8: 11).
One of the ways that humans will try to get around addressing an area of sin is to increase an area of activity or service that he/she is involved in at the local assembly. But until one addresses the area of sin that God the Holy Spirit has brought to one’s individual attention, he/she can advance no further in the post salvation spiritual life. Having been deceived, they can't figure it out why it is that they are not moving forward in the plan of God and experiencing the same type of fellowship that they can see in lives of other believers.
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One of the ways in which God is to be worshiped on a regular and on-gong basis is through the celebration of the Lord’s Supper (Communion).
Taking part in Communion (celebrating the Lord’s Supper) while having a sin that has not be confessed (1John 1: 9) and without at least the intentions of forsaking the same sin (John 8: 11), invites the most severe (1Cor. 11: 30) form of (physical illness/physical death) divine discipline (Heb. 12: 6) that a born again believer can receive here on Earth.
Many local assemblies have beautiful stained glass windows and plaques on which various passages of Scripture are posted. Could you just imagine the look on the faces of many in the congregation if a plaque were placed in the local assembly bearing a warning that eating the bread or drinking the wine during Communion services in a unworthy manner could result in serious illness and/or physical death?
Well, my friends, that is exactly what 1Cor. 11: 27-30 has to say! This should raise serious consternation in the local assemblies that open their doors (as they should) for anyone to enter, but do not address ongoing activity that our society has come to approve/accept, but that Bible labels as sin.
Not taking part in Communion is a willful act of disobedience to the “do this” commands (not suggestions) of 1 Cor.11: 24, 25 NASB). Any (James 2: 10) wilful act of disobedience opens the door for divine discipline (Hebrews 12: 6).
At the same time, participating in Communion with a sin(s) that has not been addressed (1John 1:9/John 8: 11) is what (1Cor. 11: 27) means when it speaks of eating the bread and drinking the cup in an unworthy manner. This sin can result in physical illness and natural death (1Cor. 11: 30).”
Until any ongoing sin is addressed, the born again believer is subject to divine discipline if he/she chooses not to comply with the "do this" commands of 1Cor. 11: 24, 25 NASB, and he/she is subject to the highest form of divine discipline is he/she does so in an "unworthy manner (1Cor. 11: 27 NASB)" by having sin that has not been cofessed an/or forsaken. How then, can a local assembly claim to be one that is of the type that God designed, and not address the issue of what the Bible calls ongoing sin in the lives of its member? Or worse, how can it make such a claim of if goes as far as endorsing and promoting such things? The, "It can't!". answer these questions is obvious to anyone with an ounce of spiritual discernment.
The longer one remains out of fellowship with God, the less and the less of a desire he/she will have for God and/or the things of God. Such a believer is then treading along the WRONG road (Matt. 7: 13), no matter how well he/she thinks of him/herself, or how well others thinks of him/her. Such believers are like the motorist who sees the flashing yellow lights and “highway ends” signs, but does not make preparations for the inevitable end of the road (life) up ahead.
The type of local assembly that God designed will be a source of comfort with open doors for all to enter, but it will also be one that will warn of the consequences of ongoing sin!
The shepherd (pastor) of the flock will not stand idly by when a wolf in sheep's clothing tries to enter and steal the flock.
Appetite for food in the natural realm is an indicator of good or bad health. Lack of a desire to take celebrate the Lord's Supper on a regular basis and/or to take in the spiritual nutrition of the Word of God is an indication that something has gone amiss in a born again believer's post salvation spiritual life.
Q: What is it that creates a scenario is which sin is not only practiced, but encouraged and promoted in the lives of others?
A: According to Romans 1: 22-32 it begins with ignorance, denial, rationalizing, or re-defining what the Word of God identifies as sin.
One would expect such things coming from the devil's world (Luke 4: 6), but it is a sorry state of affairs when it involves a local assembly of believers who claim to be followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. In the times in which we are living, some religious organizations have gone as far as ordaining and retaining, as clergy (leaders), those who openly declare their present and ongoing involvement with what the Bible labels as sin, with no desire or plans to repent. Such a scenario is only one step away from endorsing the sin from the pulpit (Romans 1: 32) if the congregation permits it. Perhaps, this is precisely the reason that such apostate leadership was retained in the first place.
"...and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also gice hearty approval to those who practice them (Romans 1: 32 NASB).'
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All past sin(s) can be forgiven by God (1John 1: 9) and forsaken (John 8: 11) by men, but there is no place for present/ongoing sin in the lives of those who hold positions of leadership (1Tim. 3: 7), or in the lives of the members of a congregation (1Cor. 6: 11) of a local assembly that God designed for His glory.
"Professing to be wise (politically correct), they became fools, and exchanging the glory of the incorruptible God for an image (idolatry) in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. Therefore (as a result of the evil choices they made), God gave them over in the lusts (strong desires) of their (darkened) hearts to *impurity, so that (what they would do with their bodies) would be dishonored among them. For they exchanged the truth (accurate doctrine) for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature (idols and what Man created), rather than God the Creator, who is blessed forever, Amen.
For this reason (in response to their desire to engage in sin) God gave them over to degrading passions (lesbianism/homosexuality) the natural function (heterosexuality) function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty for their error (Romans 1: 22-27 NASB italics mine).
This resulting *impurity certainly spoke of but was/is NOT limited to sins associated with sexual (lesbianism, homosexuality, bisexuality, fornication, adultery, etc.) immorality (Romans 1: 28- 32). Any violation of God's laws (James 2: 10) amounts to the same level of guilt in the eyes of God.
"For whoever keeps (obeys) the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all (James 2: 10 NASB italics mine)."
Continuing on with the Romans 1 passage, we can see examples of the many forms of impurity that is the result of ignoring, denying, rationalizing, or re-defining what the Bible identifies as sin.
"And they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a deprived mind, to do the things that are not proper, being filled with all (forms of) unrighteousness (sin), wickedness, greed, evil: full of envy strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; and although they know the ordinance (laws) of God, (and) that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them (Romans 1: 28- 32 NASB italics mine)."
Local assemblies that do not take corrective action (Ezekiel 33: 6) against backsliding leadership and believers are engaging in great evil. In this, the devil is well pleased. Nothing gives Satan greater pleasure that to see those who claim to be followers of the Lord Jesus Christ promoting the devil's agenda.
Such leadership, being first deceived themselves, become blind guides leading the blind (Luke 6: 39), with they and the one's who listen to them heading for the pit.
Perhaps even more culpable, are the members of the congregation who do know better, but through silent tolerance, they stand by and watch back-sliding believers within their reach continue down the wrong road that leads to death (Romans 6: 23) and destruction (Matt. 7: 13).
Christians are not to judge those are not under their delegated authority, but they are called to warn such wandering souls of the One who does judge (Rev. 20: 15/1Cor. 3: 12-15), and to whom they will stand before and give an account of themselves (Romans 14: 12).
The type of local assembly that God designed does invite ALL unbelievers to come in, just as they are, to hear the Gospel Message. The local assembly that God designed does invite ALL born again believers, regardless of what stage of spiritual maturity that are presently in, to come in to listen to edifying passage of Bible Doctrine. At the same time, in neither case does the type of local assembly that God desires promote the idea that “all is well” between them and God, when it is obvious this is not the case!
Through warning, disassociation, and in rare cases excommunication, the local assembly that God designed DOES hold its members to a standard of living that is consistent with the life of one who claims to be a f-o-l-l-o-w-e-r of Christ. When it fails to do so, it holds the local assembly up to ridicule by outsiders, and those within the local assembly who are aware of the sins that back-sliders within are involved.
When under the influence of human viewpoint, it is easy to put an evil spin on the concept of so-called unconditional love, using it as an excuse not to confront SIN when they are given the opportunity and the responsibility to do so. Advancing disciples are commanded (not an option) to be prepared, and to give an answer when the opportunity presents itself (1Peter 3: 15/James 1: 22).
Don’t tell me you love someone, or that a local assembly is one that promotes “love,” and then do nothing as you or it stands by in silence while watching the one’s “loved” heading towards death (Romans 6: 23) and destruction (Matt. 7: 17).
On the individual level, it is often the fear of jeopardizing the interpersonal relationship that one has (or desires to have) with other people that restrains them from telling others what they need to hear. Such restraint is what results in a born again believer becoming unworthy of being called a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ (Luke 14: 26)
On the pastoral level, it is often ignorance/or negligence of doing of what his job is, or “job security” that restrains him from fulfilling his responsibilities. Finding oneself in the penthouse one week and the doghouse the next goes with the job. Sometimes what has to said will inspire and encourage the members of the congregation, and sometimes it will challenge the congregation and rock the boat.
The decline of financial support that local assemblies receive is an issue that many denominations and local assemblies are facing in the morally-declining and apostate times in which we are presently living. This has caused many to adopt evil (contrary to the Word of God) policies and practices in a last ditch effort to obtain and/or retain attendance and/or the financial support that usually accompanies such attendance. The devil himself would gladly toss a few coins into the basket if that would promote the alternative agendas that he has in mind for the local assembles that were created to glorify and serve God.
The decline of attendance, as we noted previously, demonstrates a lack of an appetite for God and/or the things of God. In times of apostasy, it is also can be due to the fact that the hunger for the Word of God in the souls of advancing disciples is NOT being satisfied.
When there is an appetite AND the soul is being fed, the soul will be looking forward to the next time the local assembly gathers together to receive the Word of God, much like a healthy infant will cry for its next supply of milk.
When such a desire for God and things of God is in view, one gladly and willingly (1Cor. 9: 7) does his/her part in providing for the logistical needs to the local assembly that feeds his/her soul on a regular basis. His/her part can be manifested by contributing financially to the local assemblies needs, and/or by providing some form of practical service the local assembly would have to otherwise spends its financial resources. Every member can give of his time, talent, and/or treasure. If more members gave of their time and talents, the amount of financial resources it needs to function could be greatly reduced.
God does not want what we do not have to give (Mark 7: 11), but when one spends more of his weekly resources on self indulgence than what he/she desires to give to God and the things of God, it is time for a 1Cor. 13: 5 self-examination of one's priorities.
It is the heart (Matt. 6: 21) and not the amount one gives that is primary issue with God (Luke 21: 1-4). The same God that fed thousands with a few fish and few loafs of bread can and will (Phil. 4: 19) supply all the logistical needs of to local assembly that is of the type that He desires.
Even when many were selling their earthly possessions and contributing the proceeds to the support of the early Church (Acts 2: 45), the amount of offerings were still up to the one’s making the donations (Acts 5: 4). Ananias and Sapphira were not disciplined for the amount they gave, but for the deceitful lies they told as then went about it.
Tithing (giving 10%) of one's income) was (past tense) an Old Testament precept for the support of the Temple and the associated activities for that dispensation any longer. During the Old Testament dispensation, tithing was not an option.
At the present time, we are in the dispensation of the Church Age. There is no longer the type of temple as there once was in the Old Testament dispensation. There is no longer the type of an officiating priesthood, or tangible altars of sacrifice, as there once was during the Old Testament dispensation. Such things are the products of Man-made religious concepts that were put into place during the Church Age in order to facilitate the religious practices of Man. There is no longer a place for the type of temple worship that took place during the Old Testament, and there is no longer a spiritual need to provide for it. Tithing is no more to a part of the Church Age than making animal sacrifices. Financial support for the local assemblies of the Church Age is to be the result of free will offerings, given cheerfully, and NOT under compulsion (2 Cor. 9: 7).
There is something gone wrong when there is no desire on the part of the congregation to gather together to receive the teaching of the Word of God. There is something wrong when there is such a desire, but it is not being satisfied. If there aren’t enough people in the pews or money in the baskets, perhaps it’s time for a 2Cor. 13: 5 examination on the part of its members and/or examination of the spiritual edification (if any) that any given pulpit has to offer on an ongoing and regular basis.
Putting a token amount in the plate in order to sustain the eligibility for one to receive the services (marriage/funerals/ etc.) is NOT making the type of free-will offering to God that God wants to receive. Such "offerings" amount to no more than purchasing services in advance like when one contract with a repairman or a landscaper.
Marriage IS a divine institution, but when religious authority chose to make marriage a "sacrament," it then required the participation of an "officiating" priest in order for the members of the Roman Church to receive it. There is controversy as to when this took place, but it is clear that marriage was NOT a sacrament for the first several centuries of Church History. Such things are among the many products and practices of religion.
Scripture as a lot to say about what is and what is not to take place before and during marriage. Scripture places limitations concerning re-marriage. Interestingly enough, Scripture does NOT layout any specific procedure or location for the Christian marriage ritual/ceremony to take place.
Believers did NOT go into the Temple to get married during the Old Testament dispensation, and there is no Biblical requirement to do so during the dispensation of the Church Age. Over the course of the Church Age, the practical necessity to determine when a marriage would be valid in the eyes of the state (government) and the eyes of the various religious organizations, both the governments and the religious organizations established their own guidelines. Some of these cultural, governmental, and religious guidelines have the backing of Scripture, and some do not. Some contradict it.
Christian Marriage is a three-way partnership, with God being the primary Partner. It would follow that wherever the marriage ceremony takes place, that His presence be acknowledged and that vows are not only exchanged with between the man and wife, but with God.
* * *
Christian Marriage, as outlined in Scripture, is an essential part of the environment that is to be a part of the local assembly that is of the type that God designed (Heb. 13: 4).
For a follower of Christ, the Word of God has the final say in all matters. Accordingly for the advancing disciple, sexual intercourse is not to take place BEFORE marriage (Heb. 13: 4), and only DURING marriage with one's heterosexual (Romans 1: 26-32) spouse. This is also the position and the policy of a local assembly that is of the type that God desires.
When it comes to funerals, there is NOTHING that can take place HERE ON EARTH, inside or outside of any local assembly, that can or will alter either the location or the environment that the (a-l-r-e-a-d-y) departed soul is now experiencing. Contrary to Scripture, many local assemblies and religious organizations make a considerable financial gain providing what they promote as activities that can benefit the dead. These same local assemblies and religious organizations will base their availability to perform such "services" on the financial input that came (or will come) the families of the departed soul. The Lord Jesus Christ did not have a funeral, and His memorial service takes place every time Communion is celebrated.
His eternal destiny was already determined by the plan of God, and so is the eternal destiny of every born again believer.
If my time comes before the Rapture takes place, I do not want to be looked upon or thought as the guy in the casket, hearse, urn, or cemetery. I want to be thought of as a sinner who was saved by the grace of God, walked with God here on Earth, and is now with God. Granted, there is the practical need for the disposal of the bodily remains, but no after death activity has anything to do with where the departed soul has already gone.
Scripture (John 3: 18) teach that location and environment that the departed soul is already experiencing was self-determined by each soul by the choices he/she made during his/her time here on Earth!
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Note that born again believers do NOT “go to Church," but are the Church (1Cor. 3: 16) that “gathers together (Heb. 10: 25 NASB” to engage in such things as the type of worship (John 4: 24) that God ordained for the Church Age.
Unlike the Tabernacle and the Temples that were in place during the dispensation of the Old Testament, the location and type of structure (if any) is of no significance or consequence (Matt. 18: 20), here in the Church Age.
"For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I and there in their midst (Matt. 18: 20 NASB italics mine)."
The qualifying phrase in Matthew 18: 20 is "in My name." To be In My name means to place oneself under His authority. In this case, it means to gather together as a local assembly that functions under the guidelines that He has established for Church Age, worshiping Him as He desires to be worshiped.
Some of the most elegant and eye-appealing cathedrals of the ancient world, and many of the modern, state of the art, gathering places here in the Church Age were/are no more than monuments to the religious organizations hat built them, and the false religious doctrines/practices that they were built to facilitate.
For much of the first century of the Church Age, many of the gathering places of the local assemblies consisted of private homes, public market places, open spaces, and in times of persecution, secret hiding places.
Paul did much of his initial evangelistic work in the Jewish synagogues in the cities, towns, and villages where he brought the Gospel Message (Acts 9: 20. Acts 17: 2, 17) first to the Jews, and then to the Gentiles.
Steven was arrested (and later stoned) for taking a stand for Jesus on the steps of the Temple.
Peter and company received much resistance when trying to preach the Gospel Message in the vicinity of the Temple in Jerusalem. This Temple, as prophesied by the Lord Jesus Christ (Luke 23: 27-30), was eventually destroyed by the Roman Empire.
Tangible altars for sacrifice with officiating priests had no place or purpose in the gathering places of the early Church. Such things did NOT exist for the first few hundred years of the Church Age. Such things were legitimate during the dispensation of the Old Testament, but were erroneously re-introduced back into worship practices services in order to facilitate the religious practices that Roman Church established for the Church Age.
As children (1Cor. 13: 11), many are taught that the tangible "Church building" is "God's house", and that one must go there to worship or to be close to God. But edified believers (2Pet. 3: 18) know that in the Church Age, the temple of God is their own bodies (1Cor. 3: 16). A born again believer can not get any closer to God than that. Rather or not the born again believer is in fellowship with God is another matter.
For the purpose of worship, God is anywhere and anyhow that born again believers gather together worship Him (Matt. 18: 20). The issues that the advancing disciple must address is rather or not the local assembly that he/she gathers together with is of the type that God designed, as this is where God can be worshiped as He desires.
The last tangible altar that God acknowledged was the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ, upon which the last sacrifice was offered (Hebrews 10).
The stated purpose of celebrating the Lord’s Supper (Communion) was to “bring into remembrance (1Cor. 11: 24, 25)“ the Person and Work of the Lord Jesus Christ , and (NOT to REPRODUCE) His body or His blood via religious ritual.
Many functions that religious authority of the Roman Church would later come to delegate to the priesthood that it established, lack Scriptural support, and in some cases actually contradict what the Bible has to say. We should not expect or anticipate God’s blessings and logistical support for anything that He did not establish, and certainly NOT for anything that we, in ignorance or arrogance, have added to His Word (Prov. 30: 6).
God provided the means and the instructions for the universal, intangible, Church that He established to follow in order to accomplish its assigned work (Matt. 28: 19, 20), and to sustain itself (Matt. 16: 18) throughout the course of the Church Age.
God did NOT make any such commitments to any local assembly that entertains alternative agendas, but the devil certainly will.
As for the stability of any given local assembly, denomination, or ministry, it is God who chooses when it will be established. God chooses when it will flourish. God chooses when it will diminish. God chooses when it will be persecuted. God chooses if and when it will come to an end. God shuts down (or allows to be shut down) local assemblies for many different social, political, economic, and s-p-i-r-i-t-u-a-l (Rev. 2: 5 ) reasons.
If and when God closes one set of doors, He opens another under the umbrella of the universal Church that He designed and will endure (Matt. 16: 18). Historically, the universal Church that God designed has "prospered" most in times of persecution and adversity! There may come a time(s) when the plan of God calls for the end of one local assembly, or for you as an advancing disciple to leave one local assembly in order to participate in another. One should be devoted and committed to the local assembly that he/she presently participates in, but getting too emotionally attached to any one local assembly can make such adjustments difficult.
What we now refer to as The New Testament Book of Romans was a letter written from Paul to the Church Age believers residing in Rome at the time. The original transcripts that became what we now know as The Bible, did not have verse and chapter breaks in the text. In what we now refer to as the New Testament, 14th and 15th Chapters of the Book of Romans, we are instructed to accept fellow Church Age believers who hold different viewpoints concerning the interpretation and application of doctrinal issues, providing that they are NOT of a divisive nature. A divisive issue is one that can not be tolerated, as it promotes concepts that deny, dispute, or distort the true Gospel Message.
As an example, of a non-divisive issue, the passage cites the practice of some who set aside or designate "a" day of the week, or "a" day within the calendar year as "the" day on which one is to worship and/or engage is some ritual, as they "gather together (Heb. 10: 25 ) as a local assembly for that purpose.
The political and religious history behind when and what made Sunday (the day on which the Romans worshiped the Pagan gods) the primary day of rest and worship within much of the Christian Community is an edifying study in itself.
As of 300 AD and beyond, many things (holy structures/officiating priests/tangible altars) that had been a part of the Old Testament practices were reintroduced back into the Roman Church. Also, at the time and beyond, there were Pagan practices that, after having put a "Christian spin" on them, were also incorporated into the doctrines and the practices of the Roman Church. Some of these issues were addressed via the Protestant Reformation, others remained. Anything and everything that God desires to b e a part of the Church Age local assemblies that He designed can be substantiated in Scripture. Anything and everything that Man has brought into or back into the Christian Community of the Church Age can only be traced back to a time when Man did so under the flag of religious authority and without having the backing of correctly interpreted and/or applied Scripture.
In our present time, modern technology affords Church Age believers with the means and opportunity to gather together (Heb. 10: 25) via remote means of communication (radio/television/Internet. DVD, CD, etc.) to worship God as He desires to be worshiped.
Critics. who would argue for the need for such things as a "holy building" with its "tangible altar" and "officiating priests", need to be reminded that for the first few hundred years of the Church Age, before religion got its hands on things, the Church that God designed worshiped God as He desired without ANY of these products or practices of religion. When Man thinks he is improving things by what he does, it is often the first step towards disaster (Gen. 3: 6). The woman, later named Eve, was deceived into thinking that eating of the forbidden fruit was going to improve the environment that she shared with Adam.
While there is certainly nothing wrong with physically gathering together in the traditional manner, those who do so should not thinks of themselves as better (Romans 12: 3) that those who are mature enough not put God in the limited box of their own creation. Its not the building (if any) or the means of gathering together that counts, but rather or not God is being worshiped as He desires, while souls are being saved, and believers are being made disciples is that determines if any given local assembly or ministry is of the type that He designed.
See the Why The Internet presentation as one example of how God is making positive use of modern day technology to move the universal Church that He
Sin always needs to be opposed and addressed. But there are times when weaker believers are to be accepted as they are (Romans 15: 7). A weaker believer is a born again believer who due to ignorance (never having been properly edified) does what he does (or who refrains from doing something) because he believes that he is doing what God requires of him. This is not the same thing as one who sins, knowing that his act of commission or omission violates Scripture. It is the job of the pastor teacher to properly divide the Word of God (2Tim. 2: 15)" for the edification of the congregation. When God presents the same opportunity for an advancing disciple, he, too, should (1Pet. 3: 15) present the truth to a weaker believer.
The pastor/advancing disciple informs, but it is God who convicts (John 16: 8) and conforms (Romans 8: 29) a willing recipient via the information he/she receives.
Don't make the mistake of thinking weaker believers are meek or gentle, as it is they who will often respond to edifying information with hostility and even violence (Matt. 7: 6).
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When the light (enlightenment) of God's Word shines into the darkness (false gospels/false doctrines/false practices), those who love the darkness (John 3: 19-21) will leave (John 6: 66) and take their support with them. This darkness vs. light principle can refer to the true vs. false Gospels, and true vs. false doctrines and practices concerning post (after) salvation discipleship. Tell people what they want to hear, allow them to do what they want to do, and the pews and the offering baskets will fill. Tell the same group what they need to hear, and need to do (or no longer do), the pews and the baskets will be less filled.
"This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, an does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed (requiring change) (John 3: 19, 20 italics mine)."
As long as there were miracles and popular messages being offered, the crowds following the Lord Jesus Christ were with Him. But when the messages began to challenge them, "...many of His disciples withdrew an were not walking with Him anymore (John 6: 66 NASB)."
Some will ask, "But what about the loss of financial support that "thinning out the crowd" will cause?" The willingness to make compromises with Man and to make deals with the devil can be very powerful when the lack of finances and logistical support are threatening to shut down a local assembly. The devil knows just what buttons to press and when to press them for maximum effect. The devil himself would gladly toss a few coins into the offering basket if that would "tone down" the messages that come from any given pulpit that's doing its job.
As for the financial and logistical support for the intangible Church, and the local assemblies that make it up, the applicable Biblical principles are clear enough.
“But seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and (then) all these things (logistical needs) will be added to you (Matt. 6: 33 NASB italics mine).”
Although in Matt. 6: 33, He was speaking of individual logistical needs, the principle can surely be applied to the financial and logistical needs of the local assemblies, as well.
The "Kingdom of God" in this instance refers to the entire domain and plan of God. The seeking first of the Kingdom calls for the Great Commission being the top priority when establishing the agenda of the local assemblies. The Great Commission calls for preserving and proclaiming of the true Gospel Message to unbelievers, and making disciples (students and appliers of the Word of God) out of those who are born again. This is the type of born again believer and the type of local assembly who can anticipate having its logistical and financial needs met. Note that this principle is speaking of needs, and not wants.
Born again believers that choose to pursue the post (after) salvation spiritual life of discipleship look forward to the next time that they can gather together. Their attendance and the support they bring are NOT burdens. Such believers are cheerful givers (2Cor. 9: 7).
Advancing disciples will desire to contribute to the financial needs of the local assembly where they receive their spiritual feeding of the Word of God on a regular basis. The lack of such desires on the part of a member(s) of the congregation in any given local assembly is a clear indicator that something has gone wrong. It could be something gone wrong in the spiritual lives of those present, or with the spiritual nutrition should be, but is not, coming from the pulpit on a regular basis.
On the local assembly level, seeking the Kingdom primarily involves its prioritizing, focus, and participation in the marching orders that it was issued and recorded in the Great Commission (Matt. 28: 19, 20).
These marching orders (not suggestions) clearly identify what the external (outside) and the internal (internal) activity of the Church that God designed is to be.
The external function was/is to go out into the devil’s (Luke 4: 6) world and proclaim the Gospel Message to spiritually dead unbelievers. The internal function was/is to make *disciples out of those who were already born again (John 3: 5, 7) and now gather together (Heb. 10: 25) for corporate worship.
The word *disciple is an English translation of the Greek Word m-a-t-h-e-t-e-s from the original transcripts that become what we now refer to as the Bible.
A m-a-t-h-e-t-e-s is a technical student in a teacher-pupil relationship and environment. This is the inside type of environment that will be found a local assembly that God designed.
Part of the function of a pastor teacher is to prepare, train, and equip the m-a-t-h-e-t-e-s to take individual and corporate part in the Great Commission. The training consists of the teaching and the application of the Word of God. The equipment to be used in the realm of spiritual combat is listed in Eph. 6. Going out into the devil's world and engaging in spiritual combat with the forces of evil (Eph. 6: 12) without being prepared, trained, and equipped will prove to be a fruitless endeavor.
If you, as an individual believer, or if the local assembly that you attend is not prioritizing the participation in the Great Commission, then you are not seeking first the Kingdom of God and therefore have no legitimate claim to the receiving of the logistical needs being spoken of in Matt. 6: 33 NASB.
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Most people are greatly insulted and offended when their spiritual or religious beliefs or practices are challenged. The last thing that a local assembly would want to be called is “den of robbers,” yet these were the words spoken of by the Old Testament Prophet Jeremiah, and by the Lord Jesus Christ when they spoke of the goings on around inside the Temple.
“Behold (take note), you are trusting in deceptive words to no avail, Will you steal, murder, and commit (spiritual) adultery, and swear falsely, and offer sacrifices to Baal (or other personalities) and walk after other gods that you have not known, (and) then come and stand before Me in this house, which is called by My name, an say, “We are delivered!”- that you may do all these a-b-o-m-i-n-a-t-i-o-n-s (Jer. 7: 8-10 NASB italics mine).”
In the language of our day and age, this is to say that we live like the devil all week, and then by "going to Church" on Sunday, and/or participating in a few religious rituals, we think all is well between us and God.
“Has this house, which is called by My name, become a den of robbers (involved in the above mentioned activities) in your sight? Behold, I, even I, have seen it,” declares the Lord (Jer. 7: 11 NASB italics mine).”
A “den” in this sense of the word refers to a place of refuge, support, and mutual comfort where like-minded people with a common bond can interact.
“Robbers” include, but in no way, is limited to those who commit the crime of robbery. Its meaning is much more broad as indicated in its usage in Jeremiah (7: 11) where the prophet was referring to the many different (Jer. 7: 8, 9) forms of evil activity cited in the passage that were taking place at that time in the Temple of the Old Testament.
Under the first usage principle, when a specific phrase (e.g. den of robbers) is later repeated in other places in Scripture, it generally carries with it the way in which it first appeared.
In the John 2 account of cleansing of the Temple courts, the focus of attention seems to be the practice of marketing in the Temple Courts in order to provide those who were attending the feast the logistical means to make Temple sacrifices. Some interpret the Lord's actions to suggest that there was some form of dishonestly taking place, or that such marketing should not even have been taking place there in the first place. The phrase robbers den is not found in the John 2 account.
However, in the Matt. 21 account, Scripture goes on to include the phrase “robber's den.” It is the “robbers' den” principle that is relevant to this presentation.
“And He (the Lord Jesus Christ speaking), “It is written (in the Book of Jeremiah/Isaiah), “My house shall be called a house of prayer,” but you are making it robbers den (Matthew NASB italics mine).” The same phrase den of robbers or robbers' den is found in Mark 11: 17 and Luke 19:46, and is speaking of all the evil activity taking place.
When a local assembly reaches out and/or opens its doors for all sinners to enter (as it should), it is (or should be) for the purpose of doing the external job (proclaiming the Gospel Message) that it was commissioned to do. But when it makes those who enter to feel comfortable with ANY form of known sin that that has not been addressed (1John 1: 9/John 8: 11), it becomes a den (place of comfort, refuge, and socialization) of robbers!
God is NOT pleased with a job that is half done. The devil is. The devil can do nothing to reverse the divine activity (Titus 3: 5/ Eph. 4: 30/1Cor. 3: 16, etc.) that takes place at the moment of salvation, but can use the type of local assembly where "everything goes".
A local assembly can become the type where "everything goes," or of the type that God designed.
The type of local assembly that it chooses to be will become a useful tool in either the hands of God or the hands of the devil.