Saturday, June 17, 2006

God's Building Plan (Pt.2)

Yesterday, I talked about the first non-negotiable truth that the church must be committed to–a high view of God. I shared with you that it is essential that the church perceive itself as an institution for the glory of God. Today I want to give you the remaining four that proceeds from a high view of God.

The Absolute Authority of Scripture

It is clear that God’s Word is undermined. We see that by hearing the things that are taught today in the church. The church is being told by prominent evangelical leaders that the word day in Genesis chapter one really refers to millions of years instead of a literal 24 hour day. So Christians are buying into evolution. The church is also being taught that the doctrine of election means that God looks down through the corridors of time and sees whose going to choose Him and on that basis He chooses them. Even Now we’re hearing things in the church like the openness of God, the new perspective on Paul, and the emerging church. Paul told Titus that the men he was to “appoint” as elders were to be those who hold “fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict” (Tit.1:9). The church is not only undermined by these things but also by those who come along with their visions, revelations, and people saying “God said to me.”

God’s Word must be upheld. It must be your highest priority (Mat.4:4) as well as seen as the only means for growth in your life (2 Tim.3:16-17; 1 Pet.2:2). The puritan Joseph Alleine said, “O ye saints, how you should love the Word, for by this you have been converted...Tie it about your neck, write it upon your hand, lay it in your bosom. When you go let it lead you, when you sleep let it keep you, when you wake let it talk with you. You that are unconverted, read the Word with diligence; flock to where it is powerfully preached. Pray for the coming of the Spirit in the Word. Come from your knees to the sermon, and come from the sermon to your knees. (The Golden Treasury of Puritan Quotations).

A high view of God, the absolute authority of Scripture. Notice a third nonnegotiable:

Sound Doctrine

“If you have a high view of God and are committed to Him, then you must go along with what His Word teaches. The teachings of God’s Word make up sound doctrine” (MacArthur, 13).

The word “sound” (hugiaino) means, “healthy” (Strong). “Paul uses this word 9 times in the pastoral epistles (5 times in Titus), always in the sense that the truth produces spiritual well-being” (MacArthur Study Bible). The word “doctrine” (didaskalia) means, “teaching” (Strong).

We must teach truths that people can hold on to. “Very few explain the truths about God, life, death, heaven, hell, man, sin, Christ, angels, the Holy Spirit, the position of the believer, the flesh, or the world” (MacArthur, 13). But we must teach these truths or what we’re teaching is not sound or healthy. People think that the teaching of hell does not promote spiritual well-being. If that is true then why did Paul call for a spiritual examination in 2 Cor.13:5? “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?--unless indeed you are disqualified.” The doctrine of hell causes you to examine yourself so that you’re not self-deceived! Paul told Timothy to “speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine” in Titus 2:1. Then in verses 2-10 he talks about 5 groups in the church and what they are to commit themselves to.

You must commit yourself to go beyond the superficial in your study of God’s Word. You must be diligent to accurately interpret it (2 Tim.2:15). The church today does not study or accurately handle the Word. They listen to whatever is blowing in the wind and adopt that as their interpretation of God’s Word. Paul told Timothy to devote himself to three things in 1 Timothy 4:13: He said, “Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.” The phrase “give attention” (prosecho) means to “pay attention. As a nautical term, it means to hold a ship in a direction, to sail towards. It means to hold one’s course toward a place” (Zodhiates). In other words, it is to “pay attention to, give heed to, follow” (BAGD). What is he to “pay attention to” or “give heed to?” “Reading” (anagnosis) refers to “the act of reading” (Strong), i.e., “the public reading of the Scriptures (Zodhiates). “Exhortation” (paraklesis), refers “to the act of exhortation, encouragement for the purpose of strengthening and establishing the believer in faith” (Zodhiates) and “doctrine” (didaskalia), refers to “teaching” (Strong).If we commit ourselves to these three things then we will have gone beyond the superficial.

The fourth nonnegotiable is:

Personal Holiness

There is a goal in mind here. It is that you be holy. You are called to live a pure life. Peter reminds us of this in 1 Peter 1:14-16 when he says, “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, "YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY” (NASB). The word “holy” Gr.hagios, means “morally blameless” (Strong). In this context—free from sin, referring to moral behavior. Paul speaks of this in 1 Thess.4:1-7 in showing us how we are to handle our bodies. You need to be careful what you expose yourself to. “It’s impossible to watch some of the films in the theaters and to read trash without paying a price” (MacArthur, 13). Paul says in 2 Corinthians 7:1 to “cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, prefecting holiness in the fear of God.” The phrase “let us cleanse ourselves” in that verse indicates by “the form of the verb...that this is something each Christian must do in his own life” (MacArthur Study Bible). The apostle John says it this way in 1 John 3:3, “And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.”

A high view of God, the absolute authority of Scripture, sound doctrine, personal holiness, and finally:

Spiritual Authority

A church must understand that Christ is the head of the church and that He mediates His rule through godly men called elders. Colossians 1:18 says, that Jesus is “the head of the body, the church.” In 1 Timothy 5:17, Paul says that the “elders rule” in the church. He told the elders at Ephesus in Acts 20:28, “Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.” Elders are pastors who rule and oversee all the affairs of the church. 1 Thess.5:12 says that they “labor among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you.” Heb.13:7 says they “rule over you, who have spoken the word of God to you.” Heb.13:17 says, they “rule over you” and “watch out for your souls, as those who must give account.” 1 Peter 5:1-4 gives us the attitude by which they are to govern the church: They are to “Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; 3 nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; 4 and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.”

The church must understand that this is God’s design for the church to function properly. Christ is the head of the church. He mediates His rule through godly men called elders. Deacons come alongside and implement what the elders teach and the congregation submits.

If the church is going to be the Body of Christ, it has to have the right framework. It has to have a high view of God—the pursuit of the church should be to know God. In seeking to know God, the authority of Scripture must be recognized, for it is through the Bible that we can know God. A church should have a high view of Scripture and a commitment to teaching sound doctrine. The people of a church should also seek personal holiness and submit their souls to the care of those the Lord has placed over them as spiritual authorities.

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