Why Not a Hospital?

January 29, 2020 at 11:08 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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Question: If you say church is not supposed to be like a hospital, what about all the people who are hurting and come there to find acceptance and love, but instead only find judgment and hypocrisy? And keep it simple. Don’t write some long essay full of fancy words.

Answer: Okay, I’ll try. People who are really suffering SHOULD find kindness and love at their local Christian church. When people are mean to them, or treat them in ways that the Bible says is wrong, they shouldn’t do that. However, when that happens, the solution is not to stop going to church. The solution is to go to church with an attitude of honoring and obeying Christ, not depending on other people. You will always find people who don’t live up to your expectations, but you have never found anything in God Himself to cause you to go far from Him, or to walk away from Him. And, ultimately, anything that you are walking after in this life that is apart from God is vanity (emptiness, unfulfilling selfishness). See Jeremiah 2:5.

God is perfect. None of His people are. Even the best of people are only people at best. And even the worst of people cannot separate you from the love of God in Christ. When we stand before God one day, none of us will be able to blame someone else’s hypocrisy or bad behavior if we have disobeyed His direct commands to faithfully attend, and to serve in, a local assembly of Christians.

A Hospital for Sinners?

January 15, 2020 at 12:50 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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Question: What do you think about the expression, “Church is supposed to be a hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints?”

Answer: Is that the expression? I’ve always heard that, “Church is a hospital for sinners, not a SHOWPLACE for saints.” Either way, though, I’m not that crazy about it, for a number of reasons. I’ll list some of these reasons.

First, it doesn’t do a good job of defining “church.” I’m as guilty as the next person of referring to “church” as the physical locale where we meet for scheduled worship services and activities, but when we’re talking about people who need a “hospital,” there is nothing inherently therapeutic about a building or a geographical address. The local “church” is really a called-out assembly of true Christians (the body of Christ), and it is made up of “members” that are analagous to your physical body parts and organs: some people are the arms, some the legs, some the eyes, ears, larynx, lower intestines, and pineal glands, just to name a few. Some are visibly serving and up front like foreheads, knee caps, and bulging biceps, and some are buried deep in the guts, doing really, really important jobs that nobody ever sees. Hospitals are sitting around waiting for sick people to show up, and then they treat them (and charge them an obscene fortune), and then hopefully send them on their way. Human bodies go forth and interact with their environment. They know their own weaknesses, but they also see the needs of others, and go to where they are. Bodies are guided by the “head,” and they go and do what the “head” tells them to do. Christ is the “Head” of His spiritual body. You really need to get that straight before you can try to evaluate the rest of the statement about hospitals vs. museums.

Second, the expression doesn’t do a good job of defining “sinners.” In a sense, we are all “sinners,” in that we sin against God often and egregiously. However, those of us who are truly born-again have had our status changed from “sinner” to “son” or “daughter” of God by the washing away of sinful guilt in Christ’s blood, and by His imputed righteousness having been credited to us by His grace. This is even more important to understand before moving on.

Third, the expression begs us to assume that “sinners” need a “hospital” without telling us the nature of their illness. Are we talking about people who are literally injured or sick, or are we taking about people who have given in to temptation, now reaping the spiritual consequences of what they have sown, OR are we talking about people who are in wanton rebellion against God, sinning intentionally with the full force of their energy (perhaps even calling calling it a “lifestyle choice” or their “identity”)? We need to know that before we can determine if “hospital” is a good description.

Fourth, the expression presents a logical fallacy known as a “false dichotomy.” By this I mean that it presents an “either-or” proposition as if there were only two possibilities. Who would reasonably admit that they think of church as a “museum” – just a place to stand around and be seen – or a “showplace” – an opportunity to come show off their clothes, wealth, good looks, or perceived self-righteousness? Oh, I’m sure there are people who THINK that way, but nobody is going to really argue that the showplace/museum option has some actual merit. In reality, though, if we agree it’s not a museum, then “hospital” is only one of many alternatives (and not even the best one). I can show from the Bible that the purpose of meeting together with God’s people in what we call a “church” service is for:
a. corporate worship
b. prayer
c. instruction in the Word of God
d. training for spiritual battle
e. fellowship
f. accountability
g. discipleship
h. exhortation to grow up from immature to mature believers
h. and more, including, I guess, some of the “healing” benefits you would expect to receive at a literal hospital (as long as it doesn’t turn into an extended convalescence that provokes apathy and a “woe-is-me” attitude)

So, to sum up, the expression probably has a good intention at its heart, but, if it is only a platitude meant to replace real hands-on ministry done in love, and done in different ways for different types of hurting and/or sinning people, then we are better off ditching it and replacing it with actual Bible verses that tell us the real purpose of the local “church,” like Ephesians 4.

How to Deal with Flaky Church Attenders?

May 22, 2019 at 1:41 pm | Posted in Q&A | 3 Comments
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Question: Okay, so… there’s this couple that used to come to church faithfully for a long time, but then they stopped coming. Their church friends tried to encourage them, but nobody could really get a straight answer about why they stopped coming to church. They would just sort of mumble about not feeling connected, or going to a different church, or feeling let down by such and such church leaders, and things like that, but they wouldn’t be specific. People kept trying to follow up and encourage them for a long time, but finally just accepted that they weren’t coming back. Now, once in while, maybe a couple of times a year, out of the blue, they show up on a Sunday morning, and all their old church friends just go nuts. They fawn all over them, and tell them how glad they are to see them, and make a really big deal out of the fact that they’re back, but the next Sunday they’re not there again, and it may be five or six months before they’re seen again. My question is this: Is it right to make such a big deal over them when they show up, or should people just be polite, but have more of a wait-and-see attitude, unless they come for at least two or three weeks in a row?

Answer: That’s a tough question. I know it is disappointing when people leave the church for superficial reasons – especially young married couples who really need the blessing of fellowship and service in the Body of Christ. And, yes, it can be frustrating when (from a personal standpoint) it looks like people that we care about are being flaky about church attendance. However, it probably wouldn’t be wise to try to put a damper on anyone’s enthusiasm over their friends showing up at church – even if it can be kind of a set-up for disappointment. There may be a temptation to judge the motives of the couple you are describing as being attention-seeking, and to try the tactic of ignoring them when they come to church to see if they will come for several straight weeks until they satisfy their desire to be noticed, but I can’t find any Biblical support for that sort of judgmental speculation or pragmatism, and it’s usually not wise to judge someone’s inner motives. Probably the best thing to do is be happy when they do come to church, keep praying for them, and try to be happy for the people who are absurdly overjoyed to see them. Romans 12:15 says that we need to rejoice with those who are rejoicing (unless they are rejoicing in something evil – I Corinthians 13:6), so that seems to be the best attitude to have in this situation.

[One caveat is that there are people who wish they could come to church WITHOUT being noticed or fawned over, so when a big deal is made about the fact that they finally showed up, it has the opposite effect of making them not want to come back, but I honestly do not know how to combat that attitude. We can’t reasonably ask friendly church members to ignore guests or former members, and when friendliness is seen as a detriment instead of a benefit, there’s not much we can do about that.]

Why Get More Involved?

October 30, 2017 at 1:21 pm | Posted in Q&A | 5 Comments
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Question: I’m not sure if I want to get more involved with Sunday School and church because I’m not totally comfortable with it. Before I moved here, I had a church I really liked. For my sake and my wife’s and kids’ sakes, I’m not going to commit myself until I find a place that makes me feel the way church should make me feel.

Answer: That’s a tough one. The important thing is, if you are a Christian, you need to be serving somewhere. That’s not really an optional thing in the Christian life. See I Peter 4:8-10. Ideally, you would be able to serve at a place exactly like the place where you were the happiest, but finding two identical churches is probably not a real possibility.

Maybe you can try to think of it like this: Some days you come home from work and the house is spotless. The kids are delighted to see you. They run up laughing, and hug and kiss you. Your wife is cooking your favorite meal. Her hair is perfect and she’s wearing your favorite outfit. You are ushered to your easy chair, and handed the TV clicker and a cold drink, and told to relax. But other days, you come home and the place is a wreck. Kids are crying and fighting. Your wife has a headache and she’s surly. There’s no food in sight. And somebody forgot to buy the poster board for a big school project that’s due TOMORROW. Guess who they’re expecting to do that?

In the first example, it’s a no-brainer, right? You’re glad to be home, and all is well with the world. But the second scenario is tougher. You feel like turning around and going back to the car and leaving, right? Wrong! They’re both no-brainers. Why? Because you are a dad and a husband and you are there to love and serve your family, not to be served! That’s the Bible’s opinion, not mine (Ephesians 5:25; 6:4).

See, you go to a restaurant, you get lousy service, the food stinks, it’s too expensive, you don’t feel valued as a customer, whatever, fine, you leave and don’t go back. But your home is not a restaurant. It’s where your family is. So you sacrifice and you serve and you commit yourself to be faithful, no matter what. Same with church. That’s where your spiritual family is – the family of God in Christ. Now, if you’re not saved, then you can’t be expected to serve. But if you’re saved, you’re in the family of God, and you need to be serving, not demanding (or even expecting) to BE served.

I know that there are certain perceived “perks” (if you can call them that) to hovering around the edge of a local church family – showing up just often enough not be forgotten – but not often enough or on time enough to really be depended upon to do anything difficult or sacrificial. But those perks aren’t really benefits. They are really missed opportunities to glorify and thank the Savior who poured out His blood for your soul while they cursed and mocked Him. I would encourage you to jump in with both feet when it comes to Sunday School and church involvement. Nobody will go see Jesus at the end of this life and say, “Man, I can’t believe I spent that time serving Him!” I promise, you will want to go see the King saying, “I’m glad I did” a lot more than “I wish I had.”

Knowers, Growers, and Showers

November 14, 2016 at 2:04 pm | Posted in Biblical farming, I Corinthians | 16 Comments
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The Knows sometimes behave like Know-Nots. This was another one of the chief problems in the church of Corinth. In I Corinthians Chapter 2 Paul had defended his method of preaching and the message he preached. In Chapter 3 he once again takes up the problem of factions and fighting among the church members. He ties the ideas together by addressing the accusation that his message (the Gospel) and his method (simple preaching) were too simple.

And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, [even] as unto babes in Christ.

I Corinthians 3:1

Paul said that he had spoken to them very simply with a very elementary version of the message because they were obviously babies. You may have heard the term “carnal Christians” or maybe not. It was very much in vogue for a while, but in more recent times it has come under attack. On one side are those who say every professing Christian who lives carnally must still be considered a true Christian because of his profession. On the other side are those who say that the profession of those who live carnally must be false. I Corinthians Chapter 3 has nothing kind to say about carnal Christians, but it certainly proves that there is such a thing (“brethren” who are “carnal”).

I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able [to bear it], neither yet now are ye able.

I Corinthians 3:2

Milk is good for babies, but, whether good or not, it is necessary because it is all babies can handle. Basic Christian doctrine can be both milk (for baby Christians) and meat (for mature Christians), but there is also a sense in which it can be seen as needing to be controlled by the givers of the milk rather than offered freely and received according to maturity level by the receivers of milk. The Roman Catholic church grew apostate partly over this doctrine, known as the Disciplina Arcani, the doctrine of the “hidden essence.” Lay people shouldn’t be trusted, they say, with the unadulterated Word of God. God says otherwise.

For ye are yet carnal: for whereas [there is] among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?

I Corinthians 3:3

Verse 3 sounds as if was written as a scolding – albeit a scolding-in-love. “Divisions” especially speaks of a spirit of “side-choosing” – factions or “parties.” Such divisions are not only troublesome among the church, and not only irritating and time-consuming for the leadership and those caught in the middle, but they ruin the testimony of the Church of Christ. Why would an outsider seeking an earthly representation of the Kingdom of Christ want to join your local church assembly if the members “walked like men,” meaning they lived just like every other worldly, non-Christian person? The distinction here is not a literal distinction between immature children and mature adults, but between regenerated spiritual believers who should be united around sound doctrine, and ungodly pagans who squabble childishly over personal recognition and preferences.

For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I [am] of Apollos; are ye not carnal?

I Corinthians 3:4

Can you hear the sing-song connotation of childishness in Verse 4 as each petty party-member calls out his or her favorite church leader by name? Paul tries to put a stop to it in Verse 5.

Who then is Paul, and who [is] Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man?

I Corinthians 3:5

Paul, who, among all his virtues, really stands out for his humility, is not being falsely modest when he denigrates his own personality as being completely unworthy of any party allegiance, and he illustrates this with a familiar Bible example: a vineyard or a farmer’s field.

I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.

I Corinthians 3:6-7

Planting and watering are menial tasks compared with the power of God, Who actually gives the increase. Charles Hodge, in his commentary on I Corinthians, wrote that the Holy Spirit’s point here is, “Ministers are nothing.”

Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour.

I Corinthians 3:8

Not only is the work of Christian ministers remedial and replaceable from God’s perspective, but their personalities are in a sense consumed corporately into the same goal: the fulfillment of the Owner’s plans and desires.

For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, [ye are] God’s building.

I Corinthians 3:9

We are both the tools and the building. We are what God uses, and we are supposed to be the habitation in which He is pleased to dwell and show His glory. Remember, the Knows have only received their “know-how” purely as a gift.

Growth requires different types of workers (diversity), but diversity requires unity (working toward the same goal). Unity requires humility.

According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon.

I Corinthians 3:10

We can be “wise masterbuilders,” but we must build on the foundation already laid, and we have to “take heed” to be careful how we build. We can put our “wisdom” to use in building relationships or even just gaining an audience, but we can’t deviate from the foundation of Christ or the foundation of His Person and work in the Gospel any more than a door framer can frame the door 30 feet from the slab, or than the cabinetry workers can build cabinets in mid-air above the slab.

For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

I Corinthians 3:11

The foundations of the Know-Nots are false foundations, and they will be tested.

The beauty of God’s building is a byproduct of its strength. Its foundation is Christ and the Truth about Himself. This is the “rock” upon which He builds His church.

When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

Matthew 6:13-17

The building must have the right foundation, and only the right doctrine (precious jewels and materials) must be used to build it.

Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble;

I Corinthians 3:12

Gold, silver, and precious stones like granite and marble were used in temples, but wood for the doors and posts, hay for the walls, and stubble or straw for the roof were used in common houses.

Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.

I Corinthians 3:13

The day of the Lord will be revealed by Jesus appearing in fire. It will be a time of harsh testing, and then the wood, hay, and stubble will burn, and the gold and silver and precious stones will be purified. False teaching will be revealed. False doctrine will be exposed. There will be no disputing or confusion in that day of fiery judgment.

 

REVIEW

I. Knowers (I Corinthians 3:1-4)

A. New believers feed on Bible facts.

B. Mature believers feed on Bible doctrine.

II. Growers (I Corinthians 3:5-9)

A. Growth requires diversity.

B. Diversity requires unity.

C. Unity requires humility.

III. Showers (I Corinthians 3:10-13)

A. The beauty of God’s building is a by-product of its strength.

B. It must have the right foundation, and it must be built with the right materials.

C. False teaching will be revealed and false doctrine will be exposed in a future judgment.

Revealed Truth

December 30, 2015 at 1:53 pm | Posted in Matthew | 3 Comments
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And he sent away the multitude, and took ship, and came into the coasts of Magdala.

Matthew 15:39

In the Book of Matthew, it may seem at times like the King is in retreat, but He is really just engaged in spiritual battle, staying in sync with His Father’s timeline. While He is battling, He is also doing two other things – things that we need to be doing while we are battling: (1) helping the hurting, healing and feeding the sick and the hungry; (2) teaching others. All Christians should be continually learning and teaching (Titus 2).

By the beginning of Matthew Chapter 16 the King had revealed secrets about His Kingdom, and now He was ready to reveal secrets about His plan.

And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.

Matthew 16:16

Here, Peter had spoken the plain truth.

And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

Matthew 16:18

Jesus was the Christ, and that fact was not not just a pronouncement. It is a foundation. He would build on this foundation. He would build a church. When He conquers the kingdom of hell, His Church will be victorious with Him.

This is the first mention of the Church – the ekklesia – the called-out assembly. It is also the first open discussion about His death.

From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.

Matthew 16:21

Lord, I pray that the light of Your truth would help us to grow, and that the heat of persecution would not cause us to wither and shrivel, but to grow, also. Help us to be the kind of Christians You want us to be. Help us to be the kind of friends, neighbors, spouses, church members, workers you want us to be. In the name of Jesus I pray. Amen.

Honesty in Church

June 17, 2013 at 10:35 am | Posted in C.H.U.R.C.H. | 5 Comments
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C.hrist
H.oliness
U.nction
R.esponsibility
C.ommunion
H.

The second “H” in C.H.U.R.C.H. is for “Honesty.”

But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.

I Timothy 3:15 (emphasis added)

Church should be the one place where we can be honest about who we are and what we’ve done. Everyone there should be a forgiven sinner.

Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.

James 5:16 (emphasis added)

For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called:

I Corinthians 1:26

One of the prerequisites for being a Christian is being a sinner. Our sins are forgiven in Jesus and He is our One Mediator, but we still need to bear one another’s burdens.

Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself.

Galatians 6:1-3 (emphasis added)

We need to bear one another’s burdens honestly – not thinking that we’re better than the person who is struggling. We all struggle, and Christ has given us each other – and “church” itself – to help us.

The Man Who Fell out of Church (Application)

January 28, 2013 at 12:58 pm | Posted in Outcasts of Ministry | 7 Comments
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Eutychus was the young man in Acts Chapter 20 who literally fell out of church. This is not a lesson about staying away from window ledges at the local church where you attend, but there are some practical applications to be learned about the dangers that await us if we ever fall into the trap of becoming unfaithful in our church attendance.

1. If you fall out of church, you will fall into ignorance.

Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.

Acts 2:41-42 (emphasis added)

“Stedfastly” means doing something regularly. If possible, Christians should attend church every week – hopefully three times per week if that is how often the church you belong to has services. “Doctrine” means a systematic study of God’s Word: “Bible study.” You can study the Bible on your own – and you should – but God’s plan is for believers to meet together for the reading and teaching of his Word. People are destroyed because of a lack of knowledge. When the flow of water was cut off from a city in Bible times, the inhabitants would get thirsty, dirty, and sick. Eventually they would die. The Bible talks about the washing of water by the Word.

2. If you fall out of church, you will fall into isolation.

And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.

Acts 2:42 (emphasis added)

Another main function of the local church in edifying believers is fellowship. In the Book of Acts the early Christian church “broke bread” – they ate together. They also observed the Lord’s Supper, and prayed together. You can certainly eat alone, and you can pray alone, but God designed the local church so that believers could meet together. One of the reasons that God designed it this way is so that we can comfort one another in trials, temptations, and troubles. The local church is also designed for accountability.

Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.

Proverbs 27:17

People in general might ask you, “How was the game?” or “How’s your job?” but in church hopefully someone is asking you, “How’s your walk with the Lord?” God created a desire in us to want to be together with others. It is not good that man should be alone (Genesis 2:18).

Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up. Again, if two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone? And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

More than just being together, things really get accomplished when people come together in “one accord.” Christians should be unified – of one mind in Christ. The Apostle Paul was on a journey – a missionary journey – and the church at Troas didn’t hinder him. They could have said, “You need to stay here, you’re focusing too much energy on missions. We’ve got disputes that need to be settled.” Instead, they supported him, fed him, gave him a place to sleep, and helped him on his way.

3. If you fall out of church, you will fall into impotence.

[Disclaimer: Despite the vulgar connotation brought to mind by the ubiquitous pharmaceutical commercials on television these days, “impotence” is not a dirty word. “Impotent” is the opposite of “potent.” When something is powerful, we say, “Whew, that is some potent stuff!”]

And there sat in a window a certain young man named Eutychus, being fallen into a deep sleep: and as Paul was long preaching, he sunk down with sleep, and fell down from the third loft, and was taken up dead. And Paul went down, and fell on him, and embracing him said, Trouble not yourselves; for his life is in him. When he therefore was come up again, and had broken bread, and eaten, and talked a long while, even till break of day, so he departed. And they brought the young man alive, and were not a little comforted.

Acts 20:9-12

The Holy Spirit used Luke to write this portion of Scripture, and Luke was a medical doctor, so when Luke writes that “Eutychus was taken up dead” we may safely assume that he was actually dead, and that the Holy Ghost used the Apostle Paul to bring him back to life. Then they went back upstairs to continue having church. These were some powerful – some empowered – believers. There are some charismatic churches today which would say it’s okay if you fall asleep in church, fall down, and get hurt. They have modern-day apostles on standby, just waiting for the opportunity to heal you, but my advice is to stay awake in church. (As much coffee as folks drink at church these days, I don’t see how anyone could fall asleep anyway.)

Babies are not very powerful when they’re first born. They need help just to eat and wash. Someone has to take care of them. They have to be taught how to walk and talk and read and write, but eventually they learn how to feed themselves and and take care of themselves. You can be a Christian and not be faithful to church, but why would you not want to be involved in helping new believers survive and grow in the Lord? Where do you give your tithe? How do you know those who labor among you in the Lord, and obey those who have the rule over you? Some people “attend” church by watching church services on television or listening on the radio or internet, but a TV doesn’t pray with you when you have a death in the family. A radio doesn’t come visit you when you’re sick in the hospital.

A common objection to faithful church participation is the hypocrisy of current church members, but, if you feel like your local church if full of hypocrites, don’t let that stop you from coming – they always have room for one more! Besides, there are hypocrites present when you go to work, school, and the grocery store, and I doubt that stops you from going to those places.

Eutychus made a mistake when he fell out of church literally, but he didn’t make the mistake of falling out of church figuratively. He was injured when he fell, but, because he was living in the center of God’s will, his mistake wasn’t ultimately fatal. The local church is there to strengthen, build up, edify the believers, and to get unified so that evangelists and missionaries can be sent forth.

Don’t fall into ignorance, isolation, or impotence by falling out of church. You might be considered an outcast by some if you become actively involved in the local church to the point where you have less time to participate in all the vain and frivolous amusements of this world, but God will in no wise cast out His children.

The Man Who Fell out of Church (Narrative)

January 11, 2013 at 11:50 am | Posted in Outcasts of Ministry | 10 Comments
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This is a continuation of a series of lessons entitled Outcasts of Ministry: The Addict, the Slave, and the Man Who Fell Out of Church.

The Man Who Fell Out of Church

God’s people were being called outcasts.

For I will restore health unto thee, and I will heal thee of thy wounds, saith the LORD; because they called thee an Outcast, saying, This is Zion, whom no man seeketh after.

Jeremiah 30:17

One of the promises God made to the people of Israel was that one day their “congregation” would be established: their organized meetings for worship, and the business of church government.

Their children also shall be as aforetime, and their congregation shall be established before me, and I will punish all that oppress them.

Jeremiah 30:20

They were a people who had been punished, persecuted, and enslaved. They had become addicted to sin, and they had fallen out of the habit of going to church – of meeting together in a congregation. You may know someone right now who has gotten out of the habit of going to church, or you may be tottering on the edge of faithful church attendance yourself, about to fall out of church. You may have gone through a period in your life when you did in fact “fall out of church.”

In Acts Chapter 20 we find the true historical account of a meeting of the early church.

And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight.

Acts 20:7

These events occurred a place called Troas. The Apostle Paul was on his way to Jerusalem. He was trying to make it there for the celebration of Pentecost, and it was a very important missionary journey. He was planning to depart on the “morrow” – the next day – and this was the last time he was going to see these friends – these fellow-servants of Jesus. There were things he had to tell them.

They met together on the first day of the week – “the Lord’s Day” – which was their custom, although certainly Sundays were not the only days they met, worshiped, or ministered.

Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days:

Colossians 2:16

Acts 20:7 says they broke bread – which probably means they observed the Lord’s Supper – and had fellowship. Then the Apostle Paul preached until midnight. I have been in some long church services, but preaching until midnight..?! Paul knew he was going to be leaving, and he had a lot to say.

And there were many lights in the upper chamber, where they were gathered together. And there sat in a window a certain young man named Eutychus, being fallen into a deep sleep: and as Paul was long preaching, he sunk down with sleep, and fell down from the third loft, and was taken up dead.

Acts 20:8-9

https://swimthedeepend.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/firespeakseutychus.jpg?w=291

A young man named Eutychus came to church to hear the Apostle Paul preach. They were meeting up on the third floor of a building, and he sat in the window, fell asleep, fell out of the window, and died! Have you ever wondered if the Holy Spirit put some stories in the Bible for a a little comic relief? Like Balaam’s talking donkey or Samson tying together the tails of 300 foxes, we can’t help but laugh even though something serious is happening. Even funnier is the meaning of Eutychus’s name: “Eutychus” meant “fortunate” or lucky.”

I have heard this passage of Scripture preached on before in church, and the theme was the folly of falling asleep in church, but I don’t think we should be too hard on Eutychus. First of all it was late. There is a good chance that Eutychus was a slave or a servant, and he would have been tired from working all day. That may even be the reason why this meeting took place at night – the first Christians were not able to skip work on Sundays like many of us can. Eutychus did make it to church. Additionally, if the weather was warm, it would have been very stuffy up there in the third loft. It’s not like they could turn on the A.C. Furthermore, verse 8 says there were many lights burning in the upper chamber, which would have produced fumes, and would have burned up much of the oxygen. Have you ever tried to stay awake and alert in an extremely stuffy room? This may be why Eutychus was sitting by the window, but, if so, it certainly backfired on him! So, for whatever reason, Eutychus ended up being “the man who fell out of church” – literally.

It is very important for Christians to attend church faithfully, and to be involved in church ministry activities. God doesn’t “need” me at church – but He knows I need to be there. The Church is the body of Christ. As Christians, we are the body and He is the head. It is incongruous for someone to love the Head, but hate the body. The Church is also the bride of Christ, and, likewise, it makes little sense to love a person, but hate that person’s spouse. When you become a Christian you become part of the capital “C” Church – the universal Church consisting of all born-again believers everywhere – but it is crucial for you to be a part of a local body of believers, too.

The main purpose of the local church is the edification of the saints.

And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.

Ephesians 4:11-16

The Lord uses the local church to help believers to grow and to get stronger. If you are trying to decide on a local church to join right now, pray about it. Search the Scriptures. Listen to the Holy Spirit. God wants you to be attending and serving somewhere.

Next time, we will look at some of the dangers and consequences of falling out of church.

The Importance of Going to Church

September 28, 2012 at 11:57 am | Posted in Selected Psalms | 12 Comments
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In Psalm 73 Asaph was dissatisfied because it looked to him like the wicked were prospering and the righteous were being treated unfairly by God. We know that this line of thinking is wrong for a number of reasons. First, everyone is wicked by God’s standard of holiness, so, in a sense, any time someone prospers, it is a case of the wicked prospering. Second, there are none righteous apart from God. Third, it is impossible for God to be unfair. He is perfectly just in all His ways and in Who He is. These types of remedial truths are more evidently revealed in the New Testament than in the Old Testament (although they are clearly there in both), so, when Asaph began to correct his thinking, it is actually kind of surprising to us New Testament Christians to see what got him back on the right track.

If I say, I will speak thus; behold, I should offend against the generation of thy children. When I thought to know this, it was too painful for me;

Psalm 73:15-16

Remember, Asaph was a worship leader in the sanctuary. When he caught himself questioning God’s goodness, he got worried about how quitting his ministry position would affect other worshipers! That’s probably not the best reason to resolve to continue serving the Lord, but it’s certainly not a bad reason. And I really like what Asaph did next: he went to church.

Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end. Surely thou didst set them in slippery places: thou castedst them down into destruction.

Psalm 73:17-18

Church is essential for Christians.

Thus my heart was grieved, and I was pricked in my reins. So foolish was I, and ignorant: I was as a beast before thee.

Psalm 73:21-22

What happens at church to remove our doubt and re-establish our faith in God?

1. We get into fellowship with other Christians.
2. We hear the Word of God.
3. We sing songs of praise.
4. We remember we are part of a worshiping body.

Theodicy can be wrestled with and more easily defeated when we work as a team.

As a dream when one awaketh; so, O Lord, when thou awakest, thou shalt despise their image.

Psalm 73:20

Sometimes we reverently wrestle with God and the more-difficult doctrines of the Bible. But ultimately God is not a problem to be solved. He is a Person to be loved.

Nevertheless I am continually with thee: thou hast holden me by my right hand. Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee.

Psalm 73:23-25

I said earlier that it is essential for Christians to go to church. But is it possible to be a Christian and not go to church? Of course, it’s possible. It’s also possible to be married and to go home each day to see your spouse, or to never go home to see your spouse. But which makes for a better relationship?

When I get back to loving God with the reinforcement of my brothers and sisters in Christ, then the “prosperity” of the wicked gets revealed for what it really is: a fantasy. It becomes revealed and reviled.

For, lo, they that are far from thee shall perish: thou hast destroyed all them that go a whoring from thee.

Psalm 73:27

Asaph went to church without even being sure why he was going. But he left telling everybody that they need to go too.

But it is good for me to draw near to God: I have put my trust in the Lord GOD, that I may declare all thy works.

Psalm 73:28

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