Monday, September 19, 2016

Does It Really Matter?

     At our office the other day, an acquaintance came by and as we were chatting, he made some astounding statements.  He said that he does not understand why we have all these different churches around town.  After all, he continued, we all believe in Jesus and are saved so why do we have to have to be concerned about doctrines?  They don't matter in the scheme of things.  I was somewhat taken aback by his comments.  Didn't he know that the Bible is the foundation for our belief in Jesus Christ?  Didn't he realize that to believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that salvation in Him alone is doctrine?
     Vocabulary.com defines doctrine in this manner:  "Doctrine means a belief or set of beliefs. The idea that a man named Jesus was the son of God is part of the Christian doctrine."  Doctrine, then, is a critical component of our faith.  It is a set of beliefs and establishes for us our worldview.
     In his sermon series on the book of Ephesians, Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones spoke about how the new testament letters were written to correct errors and false teaching even at the beginning days of the church.  He quotes from I Corinthians 15:33 and goes on to elaborate.  "'Evil communications corrupt good manners,' by which he means that if we go astray in our doctrine, eventually our life will go astray as well.  You cannot separate what a man believes from what he is.  For this reason doctrine is vitally important....We are to guard ourselves against being 'tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine', for if doctrine goes astray your life will soon suffer as well" ("God's Ultimate Purpose, Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, pg 118).  He goes on to encourage us to be students of doctrine so we can keep ourselves free from erroneous teachings.  So how do we go about learning correct doctrine?
     For believers, the answer to that question is the Holy Bible.  It is the foundation of our faith and the only true and infallible rule of faith.  Reading, studying and making God's Word a part of each day strengthens us to do combat with worldly ideas and temptations.  Leaning on our own opinions proves nothing.  The Holy Spirit inspired writer of Hebrews had this to say about it: " For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart" (Heb. 4:12).  If we really want to have a powerful weapon that can get to the heart of truth, then, we must embrace God's Word.  This book reveals who God is and who we are and how we are to live.
     In another passage, the Apostle Paul penned these words:  "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness"  (2 Timothy 3:16).  The Bible gives us the words of life, and yes, it is filled with doctrine.
     Likewise, the Westminster Shorter Catechism offers us a summation of the teachings of the Christian faith.  Question 2 says:  "What rule hath God given us to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy Him?"  Answer:  "The Word of God, which is contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New
Testaments, is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy Him."  The Scripture proof for this question is 2 Timothy 3:16 among others.  Then, if we move on the question 3, we read:  "What do the Scriptures principally teach?"  Answer:  "The Scriptures principally teach what man is to believe concerning God, and what duty God requires of man."  The proof verse for this is found in 2 Timothy 1:13:  "Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus."
     By reading, first, the Bible and studying The Westminster Shorter Catechism, we can learn the important teachings of our faith (also known as doctrine).  We cannot say that doctrine is unimportant.  As Dr. Lloyd-Jones clearly states, we open ourselves to erroneous teaching if we do not know what we believe and why we believe it.  This is how a cult is started when men lose sight of God's Word.  We are not to add nor subtract from it.
     Unfortunately, there are many today just as there were in the early church who will not abide sound doctrine.  They are biblically illiterate and prefer the soft, feel good messages that are abundant in many places today.  These feel good messages, however, will not guide you into truth or keep you from stumbling when life becomes difficult.  We cannot build on any other foundation other than that laid by our Lord, and this is found in the finished book called the Bible.  Let us be good students of our faith so we are not tripped up by all the false ideas in our world today.  This is how we grow and how we can glorify God and enjoy Him forever.  Selah!
   

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Teach Them Diligently

     Children catch many things as they are growing up:  the flu, a cold, butterflies, balls and yes, even a worldview.  What little ones see in their home forms the basis for many of their perceptions as they are growing up.  This is why it is so important for parents to teach their children the truths of the Bible at an early age.  Praying together at meals and studying God's Word  as a family is just as important for children as doing homework.
     One of the reasons my husband and I felt called to homeschool our four children for 21 years was our desire to instill in them not only a love for learning but also how God is an integral part of every subject.  It took time and sacrifice to stay at home and devote ourselves to this endeavor but we knew it was our parental responsibility to train up our children to be well educated members of society and more importantly, believers in the Lord Jesus Christ.  Thankfully, all of our children committed themselves to Christ and have gone on to serve the Lord in various vocations.
     Not everyone is called to home educate their children as far as academic pursuits are concerned.  For those who have their children in private, charter or public schools, the influence and participation as a parent is key to their success.  In addition, instruction at home concerning the Christian faith is crucial because our children and grandchildren are facing an increasingly antagonistic society who have lost their moral foundation.  Going to church once or twice a week is not enough to provide them with all they need.  Certainly it reinforces their faith, but nothing replaces the instruction of parents.

Glenn and I with some of our grandchildren 
     In the Old Testament, God spoke clearly to His people in Deuteronomy 6:4-9 concerning the duty of all men and the responsibility given to parents:  "Hear, O Israel:  the Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.  And these words I command you today shall be on your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.  You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and  they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.  You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates."  Is there any doubt about the importance of passing on our faith to our children as well as demonstrating it to them in our own lives?    We are not talking about something casual here or every once in a while.  This is an immersion style of teaching which brings our faith into every aspect of life, and it is meant to be daily.
     R.C. Sproul in Tabletalk Magazine for September writes:  "I don't think there's a mandate to be found in sacred Scripture that is more solemn than this one.  That we are to teach our children the truth of God's Word is a sacred, holy responsibility that God gives to his people" (Pg. 5).  One tool which we can use with our children at an early age is the Westminster Shorter Catechism which is a simple question and answer format.  While some may say that this leans on boring tradition, we need to point out that according to Dr. Sproul Scripture teaches that the word "tradition" refers to the passing on of a gift.  We have a gift to share with our children and grandchildren.  We have the gift of salvation and the Good News of Jesus Christ.  How could we not want to pass this along to those we love?
     Indeed, whether we choose to home educate or send our children to public school, the need to teach them the truth of God's Word is imperative to their well-being and eternal destination.  Let us not miss any opportunity to pass along the faith that has been delivered to us .  This is a call incumbent on all parents.  May we be found faithful!  Selah!

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The Rumor of the Church's Demise is Premature

     Mark Twain, storyteller and author, was reportedly thought to be in poor health.  A newspaper reporter inquired about him and a rumor began to spread that he had died.  Nothing was ever published about this but when Mark Twain heard the rumor, he quipped, "The report of my death was an exaggeration."  In fact, it was his cousin who was very ill.  This happened one other time after this to Mark Twain who must have wondered if people really wanted him dead and buried.  However, he was able to make light of this mistaken information.
     In a similar fashion, I read an article in the Tampa Bay Times (Sunday, August 28, 2016) concerning the dying of white Christian America.  A book written by Robert P. Jones entitled, "The End of White Christian America" was the subject of this article which was an interview with this author.  With numbers declining in many mainline protestant churches (Episcopal, Methodist and Presbyterian USA), the author points to the dwindling number of white Christians in churches.  Part of this is due to the demographic changes in our country and the increasing number of immigrants who now make up our population.  Other influences include liberalism which has taken these denominations far from their conservative roots.  Likewise, there are many young millennials who do not identify with any faith today and frequently drift in and out of church.
     Culture is another factor according to the author.  The rise of militant LBGT influence on marriage as well as other issues have also served to create division within church bodies.  The author concludes his interview by saying this of his book:  "I begin the book with an obituary for White Christian America and I conclude the book with a eulogy."  Now, if everything ended here, we might want to join in the mourning along with this author.  However, we have a much different picture painted for us in Scripture.
     According to Matthew, the Lord was questioning his disciples and asking them what people were saying about Him.  They answered Him, and then, Peter spoke up clearly declaring that Jesus was the Christ...the Son of the Living God.  Our Lord answered and said:  "And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." (Matthew 16:18). Jesus made it clear that upon this truthful confession He would build His church.  He went even further when He said that the gates of Hell would not prevail against the church.  Despite the view of this author or even society at large, the rumors of the church's demise are premature.
     Yes, I understand that the author was pointing to statistics as well as the aging "Boomer" population that has attended church with regularity.  However, Jesus said that heaven and earth may pass away but His Words will never pass away (Matthew 24:35).  When He says that the gates of Hell will not prevail against the church, we can rest assured of its permanence.  We also have to keep in mind that church may take
different forms from what we have known in the past.  For example, in China and other nations where the Christian faith is not acceptable, many house churches have sprung up.  Reports say that the church is growing more rapidly under persecution in these countries than in nations that have "freedom of religion."
     What we must remember in these days where it seems that culture is moving farther away from the values of the Christian faith is that God is still at work to do His good will and pleasure.  He will accomplish all that His Word has said He will do.  He has sent a Savior to redeem those whom He has called to be His own, and He is MORE than able to keep all who are committed to Him.  Therefore, let Satan shake his fist while authors write of the church's demise.  But remember, the Enemy never expected Jesus to rise from the dead breaking the curse of sin and death.  When we read the end of the Bible, we know who wins...even our Lord and His bride the church.  Soli Deo Gloria!