Saturday, March 4, 2017

God Has Given Us All We Need

God has given us all we need to be the church He wants us to be. Period.

God has done everything in the work of salvation. We only know Him by His grace.

God has also done everything that we, His people, need in order to live in the manner He desires and expects. Far too often Christians act as if God has left some things out when it comes to the life of the church. This is when the trouble begins. They decide to invent new things that they think will benefit the body. Simply put, they are wrong. God neither needs nor asks for our creativity. It's fine to be creative in other aspects of life, but as it relates to the church it is unnecessary. By giving us the Holy Spirit and the Bible, God has done all that needs to be done. The Holy Spirit empowers and convicts us. The Bible instructs us. This is all we need.

I tire of hearing well-intentioned Christians speak about all the new things their churches are doing. Instead, what they ought to be doing is looking in scripture to see where they are and are not following the model God has given to us. If you look at almost any institutional church you will find a long laundry list of things that have absolutely no Biblical basis. These churches routinely spend large portions of their budgets on all sorts of stuff that, quite frankly, God doesn't care about.

If you read this blog, then you are likely convinced that what we see of the church in scripture is far more than descriptive. Rather, it is prescriptive. The institution fails to see this, much to its detriment. Since we recognize the authoritative nature of the Bible in church life, it's our responsibility to look at self. Are we obeying that model? Are we following it? Or, are we sort of playing around with it, picking and choosing what we like and don't like? It's simple and quite easy to point the finger at all the ways institutional churches are failing. More difficult is looking in the mirror to see where we are being disobedient.

God has given us all we need. I challenge you to take a hard look to see where you may be falling short. It can be a painful process, but it is utterly worthwhile.

7 comments:

Aussie John said...

Eric,

Amen!!

Gunnar said...

I agree that the traditional church --- its structure, methods and practice can scarcely be justified by Scripture. But I tend toward disagreeing that the Bible is very prescriptive at all about church and how it is done. The Bible clearly calls us to a life of relationship (with God and with each other) and discipleship and evangelism. I would say that we are pretty free on how we are to obtain those goals --- guided by the Spirit and in line with the Scriptures. I tend toward believing that everything is allowable as long as it is clearly not forbidden by Scripture. I think most of what is done in traditional churches is demonstrably wrong not because it violates clear Biblical teaching on how to do church, but because it really frustrates our primary calling to loving each other in real ways, to discipleship and to effective evangelism.

T Aagard said...

Gunnar -
1. When a church gathers believers to a meeting dominated by strict one way communication by one man and we know the Bible says specifically the "habit of meeting" believers are not to "forsake" is dominated by "stirring up one another on to love and good works and encouraging one another", do you consider that permissible since the Bible does not say "thou shalt not lecture the Bible" or do you consider it not permissible since it "frustrates our primary calling to loving each other in real ways..."? I say it's evil because it outright rejects specific instructions for the gathering of believers (prescription).
2. When a church takes the offering and devotes 84% to buy things to primarily bless those who give the money and sends only 16% beyond the givers, do you consider this permissible since the Bible never says "make sure all your giving goes beyond the givers" or do you consider it not permissible because it "frustrates our primary calling to loving each other in real ways..."? I say it's evil because it reverses the very notion of "giving" and rejects every example in the NT of where giving is designed to go and marginalizes specific instructions to serve the poor and reach all nations.

When you say you "tend toward disagreeing that the Bible is very prescriptive at all about church and how it is done", would you come up with less than 10 prescriptions? If there are few prescriptions, what would you say are the one's you see?

Eric said...

Gunnar,

Thanks for commenting. You wrote, "I tend toward believing that everything is allowable as long as it is clearly not forbidden by Scripture." On what basis did you come to this conclusion?

Gunnar said...

Galatians 5:1 says, “It was for freedom that Christ set us free.” I think Paul has a strong emphasis on freedom. I feel that a lot of people look for rules in the Bible – and are quick to take what are not rules and say that they are rules. (And, in my opinion, usually, they take the position that “my” interpretation is clear, and you can always find someone on the other side who is just as convinced that “his” binding interpretation is clear.) An example is that in Corinthians Paul talks about setting money aside on the first day of the week, and Revelation talks about “The Lord’s Day”. Both of those are ambiguous passages that can be read to indicate that Sunday is the day that we are to have “church”. I think that they can be read that way, but I don’t think that it is correct to say that that is a clear “prescriptive” rule. Another example is the passage where Jesus says the laborer is worthy of hiw wages. I have seen people say that that clearly teaches that pastors should be paid, and others say that clearly teaches that pastors should not be paid. And I think that there are a lot of verses like that which can be read to imply that such and such is always done, or should always be done, but most of those can be read in less “prescriptive” ways. Believing that we are called to freedom, I will generally choose the less prescriptive interpretation. On the other hand, public speaking of tongues requires interpretation. Elders must be the husband of one wife and have children who believe. Those are clearly prescriptive and not at all ambiguous. But many other things are, in my opinion, left open to interpretation.

Gunnar said...

T. Aagard:
Thanks for your questions. I will try to give a good, but not too extensive, answer. I love talking about this stuff, but I guess I do have to be careful on how much time I put into it. I would say that your questions sort of illustrate my disagreement with the “prescriptive” approach. Yes, there are pastors who are power and control hungry and do seek to draw attention to themselves rather than God. And there are people who want to spend everything on themselves rather than on the poor. But those are issues of the heart, not of how the church is run or how money is spent. On the other hand, I know pastors who love God and who are seeking him with all their hearts who, under the influence of poor teaching and doctrine think that the traditional church structure satisfies the guidelines laid out in I Corinthians regarding participation by all in the church meeting. And most churches who have too high a level of spending on themselves will tell you, completely honestly, that they are spending it on furthering God’s purposes. And, to be honest, I think that they can make a reasonable argument for their positions. I don’t think it is a good argument, and I think it misses God’s heart, but I can see how they honestly think that what they are doing is Scriptural. I think the answer is not to say that these practices are “evil”, but rather to educate them about God’s heart as to how the church is to work.
Gunnar

T Aagard said...

Gunnar - You are correct in bringing Paul's call to freedom. He includes a warning to not use it to gratify the flesh which reverses "walking in the Spirit". There are guard rails for what we call freedom. "Walking in the Spirit" is always in sync with the instructions, even "obeying the truth" (verse 7). We have a task to sort out the clear instructions, identity practices, and examples that need to be followed, from both Jesus and the apostles. This is made difficult by many long standing traditions in the household of faith.

As I interact with believers and show them very clear scripture instructions that flow the work of Christ, their response indicates they are in a deep fog of understanding. Their response is a vacuum of what the text says in plain English. I marvel at this. It's not that there is just one text on this, but many. It's not just a behavioral instruction to practice, it flows from our identity that God has given to us to display and reproduce to others. It's very much like Roman Catholics in a deep spiritual stupor as they chant their rosary prayers to Mary and dutifully agree with everything the Pope says. Protestants are in slavery to bogus traditions of men.

One of the bondages I have observed is when hired leaders will only recognize scripture that reinforces their justification for their salary. There are so many that directly contradict their never ending full pay check, or contradict the maintained perpetual dependency of God's people on the "services" they render. I marvel at the horrible exegesis used with God's word on these texts.
1. That text is merely descriptive.
2. I have the freedom to do as I feel "called".
3. God is blessing what I am doing so it must be right.
4. Godly men have done what I am doing for centuries and God has used it.
5. I don't want to argue about anything. (As if any discussion where disagreement exists is an argument.)
6. You may have some to add that you have heard.

One of the worst expressions of their bondage is the unwillingness to open their Bibles in simple two way, heart to heart connection to interact. Their concept of "brotherliness" is gone.

This does not stop me. I will persevere to find believers who are willing to be "doers of the word, not hearers only", and join Paul in "follow my example" and "imitate me."