Friday, December 26, 2003
I have been seriously disappointed with the number of church members who have compromised their faith this past week and run serious risk of losing God’s favor in their lives. What has brought me to such a state of horrified alarm? Our Wednesday night Bible Study service attendance was extremely low. I attribute this to a serious lack of faithfulness on the part of Christians who were caught up in the holiday season. Some people fail to take the Christmas season seriously (Holy Observer) and as a result, their standing with God is seriously jeopardized. My main concern, however, is not with the wider false denominations out there but with solid, Bible-believing Pharisees who ought to know better and failed to attend church the way they ought.
This year was particularly indicative of the lukewarm nature of Pharisee faith in the lives of many of our church members and in your church’s too, I don’t doubt. Christmas Eve fell this year on a Wednesday night, the night when most of us hold our mid-week Bible study. I would have expected that church attendance would be unaffected because True Pharisees are in church every time the doors are open. But our attendance was seriously lacking this year. I attribute this to the secularization of the holidays, the decline of spiritual commitment in the Christian population at large and the evil influences of so-called "family friendly" ministries and radio preachers. All of these have conspired to reduce or minimize Christian commitment to church attendance.
The biggest excuse I heard this week for why folks were skipping church was that they wanted to "spend more time with family." This is absolute hogwash. They could have spent time with the family in the place wwhere it would do them the most good – in church. Some were saying that they had family traditions of spending Christmas Eve with Grandparents or other members of their extended family. Since many of these family members don’t attend a True Spirit-Led Bible-Believing Pharisee Church, they are as much as confessing to me that they would rather spend time with their heathen, hell-bound relatives than with the True Family of God in church where we are continuing our chapter-by-chapter study of the book of Obadiah. The church is the Family of God, to which they claim to belong I might add, and we are just as (if not MORE) important than any earthly family. Jesus admonishes us that if we don’t love him more than our families on this earth, if we are unwilling to hate our mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters and children for the cause of Christ, then we are not worthy of Him. It looks to me like there are a lot of Christians who are not worthy to go by the name because of their lack of love for Christ and His family over earthly family as evidenced by their church attendance.
It is the duty of every True Born-Again Believing Pharisee to be in church every time the doors are open. There is no excuse that is sufficient to explain away unfaithfulness to God other than providential hindrance. Would an employer permit the kind of lackluster dedication to service that pastors are forced to put up with from faithless church members? I think not. Employers and business expect their people to be their every time they are open for business. We only require the same. All we expect is that people come for the following:
*Sunday Morning Worship
*Specialty Ministries as appropriate (Choir practice, committee meetings, Youth Group, MOPS, Jr. Church worker’s meetings, Youth Workers meetings, Young Life, Word of Life, College Campus Ministry, Evangelism Outreach Team, Men’s prayer breakfast, Women’s Christian League, Fellowship of Christian Athletes award banquets and special services, etc.)
*Wednesday evening Bible Study
*Special holiday services
*Conferences and seminars hosted at our church
*Special Mission emphasis nights
This is hardly a burdensome requirement. Whiny Christians complain that they "need a break" from church every once in a while. I suppose they "need a break" from prayer and Bible reading as well. What they don’t realize is that they are going to spend eternity worshiping and serving God. If they need a break in this life, then how are they going to handle it in the next life when there is no break from church? Their willingness to attend church on the earth is a sign of their willingness to attend worship in God’s Kingdom. Those who want to skip services here may likely find themselves skipping services for all eternity since it is clearly evident that their hearts are not in the right place.
It is the solemn duty of every Christian to attend church every time the doors are open. Excuses are legion but the Bible uses church attendance as a means of separating the sheep from the goats, the wheat from the tares, the faithful from the unfaithful. Its continued emphasis on the need to be in church every time services are in session is clearly seen in passages such as Hebrews 10:25 and others, although their exact references escape me at the moment. The Bible is very clear that Christ can only get glory in our church service as Paul says in Ephesians, "unto him be glory in the church." People who think they can please God without being in church are sadly mistaken and will suffer a loss of rewards in heaven, if they arrive in heaven at all.
Jesus declared, "Believe me…a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem…a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks."
John 4:21-23 (NIV)
Friday, December 19, 2003
I occasionally listen to preachers from non-Pharisee churches. While I would never recommend this practice for most church members, I have found it helpful for two reasons. The first is because even a blind pig can find an acorn once in a while and sometimes even the rankest heretic might mistakenly utter a Truth. In other words, there is the tiniest remote possibility that I might learn something from someone who is not a Pharisee. The other reason I listen to the occasional non-Pharisee preacher is actually my main reason. It is by hearing what false prophets are saying that I find out what the latest fashion in doctrinal error is and formulate a way to combat it. If unsuspecting Pharisees listen to these heretics and accidentally adopt a false doctrine, their very destiny may be compromised. If it were not for my vigilance, their relationship with God could be severely compromised.
Let me provide an example of why I must remain ever vigilant against the vagaries of vagabond vipers variously dividing the verities of God. I recently heard a sermon titled Getting the Most out of Your Faith by a non-Pharisee pastor. The premise of his sermon was to combat the "error" that the reason their prayers are not answered is because they don't have enough faith. He maintained that the Bible makes no such claim. He asserted that the Bible's message was not about how much faith one has but how one needs to use the tiny amount of faith they already possess. He seemed to think that a small amount of faith was sufficient to "move mountains." What patent rubbish.
Everyone knows that the amount of faith one possesses is the key to success in the Christian life. If one doesn't have enough faith we can expect to see a number of tragic effects in their lives:
Children who go astray
Lack of financial blessings and resources
Lack of healing from sickness
Susceptibility to demonic forces
All of these are appropriately attributed to a lack of sufficient faith. The Bible is very clear that as Christians it is our responsibility to work up the amount of faith that we have. Faith is like a muscle that we have to exercise and keep in shape every day. If we let down on practicing our faith for even one day we can expect to see a corresponding loss of spiritual power. Faith is not like some gift that God gives us* but instead is something we have to develop on our own. Only Christians who are superbly fit spiritual specimens are capable of exercising sufficient faith to achieve practical results in their lives. Otherwise, spiritually fat and flabby Christians miss out on God’s provision, for he only rewards those who possess sufficient faith.
Some would ask if I could come up with an "exercise" program to help them develop their faith. I am afraid that such people are really beyond help. Anyone who must ask, "How can I increase my faith?" is in terrible spiritual shape and needs more help than I can provide. To be honest, they may not be true Christians in the first place. A real Christian does not have to be taught how to increase their faith but instead, knows instinctively the exact course of training on which to embark to become a spiritually strong specimen.
What I can do is identify individuals who have a faith deficiency. Just like a doctor detects vitamin deficiencies in the lives of his patients, I can detect spiritual sickness in the lives of others. This is one of my chief skills and I exercise this ability constantly. If I see a brother or sister experiencing financial problems in their life, I remind them that they need more faith. If I run across a parent who has lost a loved one or child to the seduction of sin, I recommend that they practice more faith. As much as I would like to provide comfort and solace to those who are suffering from illness, it is more important that I identify the source of their trouble as a lack of faith and admonish them to fix their faith problem before they can ever hope to fix their physical problems. My goal as a Pharisee pastor is to give them hope that someday they may be able to achieve my own personal level of spiritual maturity and faultless exercise of abundant faith.
* See Ephesians 8:28-29
He replied, "If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and planted in the sea,' and it will obey you."
Luke 17:6 (NIV)
He replied, "Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from her to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you."
MATTHEW 17:20 (NIV)
Friday, December 12, 2003
I was referred to a site by a malicious antagonist who in intent on what he calls Reformation of the church. This "brother" agreed with the creator of the web site that the office of pastor as we currently know it is unbiblical and should be abolished. He claims that most pastors have set themselves up as miniature popes and are ruling over the church in an ungodly fashion. He says they are taking advantage of their position to live lazy, godless lives at the expense of God's people. While this might be true in non-Pharisee churches, it is hardly appropriate to accuse those of us who are good pastors for the failings of the bad. This week's column is dedicated to the proper role of the pastor and the due respect that is due him by godly Pharisees everywhere. As in David's day, we should live by the maxim, "I will not lift my hand against God's anointed."
The main role of the pastor is to be a ruler or overseer (the Bible sometimes uses the term "lord") over God's flock. These men have authority over the sheep of God and are charged with the "rule of the church." The Bible teaches that pastors have the authority to rule over the church. It also teaches that it is the duty of every God-loving Pharisee church member to place themselves under subjection to their pastors.
Some people would argue that there are bad pastors out there to whom submission would be wrong. What these misguided folks need to understand is that we are not in subjection to the particular man in the pulpit but we are to be subject to the office of pastor, regardless of how qualified or abusive such a pastor may be. God ordained the office and we show due reverence and respect to God by being subject to the man he has placed in that office. Remember, even if he seems unfit for the job, "there are no powers that be but those that are ordained of God." If God doesn't want him in the pulpit, God will take him out. Our duty is to submit to his rule, no matter what, in order to demonstrate our obedience to God. If we don't then we will find that in resisting the power of the pastor, we will be resisting God, for the pastor is his appointed authority in the pulpit.
"But what is the extent of a pastor's authority?" some may ask. This is a valid question and one that is well worth addressing. Please note the following:
A Pastor is responsible to teach the church. This is largely due to the fact that in most churches the pastor is the only one who has enough Bible knowledge to be qualified to be a teacher. Most church members never read their Bible or study it and they certainly don't spend as much time as I do discussing it on discussion groups online. As a dedicated scholar, I spend a significant chunk of my day online in deep discussions about serious Bible topics.
A Pastor is responsible to protect the church from error. Church members are like sheep and are easily led astray. It is the pastor's job to teach them and make sure they stay on the straight and narrow. Most church members would fall into the traps of Postmodernity, New Evangelicalism, contemporary Christian music and other grave dangers posed by the spirit of compromise. It is my main task as a pastor to prevent people from being exposed to these teachings. Sometimes they run into these teachings anyway and then it is my job to combat their pernicious influence from the pulpit to prevent harm to God's tender flock.
A Pastor has God's anointing. Only special people who have felt God's call and received his anointing are capable of pastoring. It is only the Spirit-filled, godly, righteous, holy and sanctified person who is qualified to lead God's flock. There are many out there who aspire to pastor but are disqualified because they have compromised the truth and lack God's anointing in their lives. Most church members have not felt God's special call and lack this anointing. If it weren't for this anointing, anyone could be a pastor, but as it is, God has only chosen the few to lead the many. This anointing is what confers on us the awesome responsibility of directing God's people and without it, we could not demand the subjection of church members.
A Pastor is responsible to oversee the church. Anything that happens in the church should be under the umbrella of the pastor's authority. He alone is responsible and accountable to God for what goes on in the church and so he bears the primary authority for approving or rejecting any action taken by the body. He is the one who runs every aspect of the church and his direction and guidance should be sought in every decision from creating the budget to choosing the brand of toilet paper to put in the bathrooms. And all of his decisions should be final. Failure to submit to his rule in these matters is rebellion against God.
This message isn't very popular in most churches but people need to be aware that we are motivated by love. Some would call us power-hungry megalomaniacs. This would be true if we were interested in building a large church with a huge following and a great deal of influence in the community. Now, don't get me wrong. If I had all of those things I would be grateful but that is not the reason I am in the ministry. No, I am motivated solely by compassion for those poor misguided souls out there who are hungering for the truth. These are sheep looking for a leader and they will follow nearly anyone. At least when they follow me, they will be following someone who cares for them more than my own personal aggrandizement.
Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care, serving as overseers - not because you must, but because you are willing as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.
I PETER 5:2-3 (NIV)