The Constitution is On Our Side, but Most Importantly the Lord is On Our Side • Pastor Gabe

When the Apostle Paul was about to be beaten by the Roman authorities, presumably for disrupting the public peace, Paul spoke up and said, “Is it lawful for you to flog a man who is a Roman citizen and uncondemned?” Paul used his rights as a Roman citizen to defend himself, and he used …
— Read on themajestysmen.com/pastorgabe/the-constitution-is-on-our-side-but-most-importantly-the-lord-is-on-our-side/

George Whitefield : God’s Anointed Servant in the Great Revival of the Eighteenth Century

by Arnold A. Dallimore, Crossway Books

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I have just finished this most excellent biography! Being a G.W. fan, I have read several other works concerning his life and his work. This stands head and shoulders above all of the others. We are of course given a chronicle of his life and preaching, but we are also provided insight into his connection to the Church of England, the Methodist church, as well as a glimpse into his personal relationships, particularly  John and Charles Wesley.  The book also recounts instances of tremendous opposition, to his ministry, both private and public,  Lest I play the spoiler, I’ll just give you a small portion of a tribute to Mr. Whitefield, penned by John Greenleaf Whittier.

 

THE PREACHER

Under the church of Federal Street,
Under the tread of its Sabbath feet,
Walled about by its basement stones,
Lie the marvelous preacher’s bones.
No saintly honors to them are shown,
No sign nor miracle have they known;
But he who passes the ancient church
Stops in the shade of its belfry-porch,
And ponders the wonderful life of him
Who lies at rest in that charnel dim.
Long shall the traveller strain his eye
From the railroad car, as it plunges by,
And the vanishing town behind him search
For the slender spire of the Whitefield Church;
And feel for one moment the ghosts of trade,
And fashion, and folly, and pleasure laid,
By the thought of that life of pure intent,
That voice of warning yet eloquent,
Of one on the errands of angels sent.
And if where he labored the flood of sin
Like a tide from the harbor-bar sets in,
And over a life of time and sense
The church-spires lift their vain defence,
As if to scatter the bolts of God
With the points of Calvin’s thunder-rod,–
Still, as the gem of its civic crown,
Precious beyond the world’s renown,
His memory hallows the ancient town!

 

 

Burial, COVID, and the limits of submission to government

by Jesse Johnson, The Cripplegate

A few years ago, Clint Archer and I were able to minister in a closed country. It was a nation that claims to have religious freedom—you can be any religion you want! All of them are totally legal!—but with one big exception: you can’t be part of a religion that buries the dead.

The result is that Christians there are severely persecuted. It is almost a rite of passage there to be beaten for your faith, and a basic component of pastoral ministry is visiting believers in the hospital. Churches are forced underground. They meet in buildings with covered windows. Believers arrive in staggered time slots so as to avoid government detection, and they leave in shifts, taking different roads to disguise what was going on inside. Evangelism is difficult, because if a believer gets identified, he would face retribution from the government.

When Clint and I first arrived there, we had the same basic response: “Why not simply do cremation, and be done with all this hiding and sneaking around stuff?” After all, beatings seemed a severe price to pay for something that many Western believers would consider an ethical gray area anyway.

But by the end of our time there, we learned to appreciate their conviction. They understood that burial of the dead was only the presenting issue. The real issue was that the government rejected Christ, rejected his gospel, and was determined to reject believers. Plus, as many of them reminded us, isn’t being persecuted a blessing anyway? (Matthew 5:11-12).

For believers there, burial was a matter of conviction, and it was not right for the government to tell them otherwise. It speaks of the hope of the resurrection—which of course their nation’s religion denies—and so burying the dead is one of the loudest declarations that Christians are different because Jesus was resurrected.

The government backs their ban on burials with appeals to the public good. They claim bodies in the ground would pollute the water and contaminate the earth. They claim their land is sacred in their own Buddhist religion, and so to allow burials would defile it. Christians have responded by doing burials in secret, and in return their churches likewise have to be secret.

That experience has shaped my own view of submission to government. Of course I agree with Paul when he commands believers to “be in subjection” to government authorities (Romans 13:3-7).  I agree with Peter when he tells us we must “be subject to every human institution whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors” (1 Peter 2:13-14). Our goal is to lead a quiet life (1 Thessalonians 4:11) and we pray for our government leaders to allow us to do just that (1 Timothy 2:2).

Yet like many of the principles taught in the Bible, they are not absolute. There is a balancing principle at play as well, namely that while the government is owed submission out of love (Romans 13:8), God is the only one owed ultimate submission. When the government says “don’t jaywalk,” we honor that. We pay our taxes. We serve in the military when called upon. We do those things.

But when government tells believers that they may not worship Jesus in light of the resurrection, then “we must obey God rather than man” (Acts 5:29).

Acts 5:29 is where the call to submit to government is balanced by the higher call to submit to God. Basically every commentary on Acts 5:29 all say the same thing: if the government commands you to sin, then they have gone too far, and must be disregarded.

But how do you know if an issue is an Acts 5:29 situation or a 1 Peter 2:13-14 situation? We would all agree that if the government banned evangelism, it is right to obey God and not man. Likewise, if the government bans wearing plaid (or something silly like the spelling of Catsup), it is good to obey government, even if their reasoning doesn’t make sense to us.

Where many Christians are weak is in the middle of those two. Honestly, we don’t really do a good job of understanding Acts 5:29 if the situation is anywhere other than an extreme. This wouldn’t be a problem, except that most of life is lived not in the black/white moral dynamics, but in gray areas. A decision is hard precisely because it is not obvious which category of ethics it belongs to.

So for our first example: consider a government that bans burial. Christians might say, “well, the Bible doesn’t command burial, and the government says it is for public health reasons, so let’s resort to cremation like the rest of the nation.” But they could also say, “God made the body to glorify Himself, and it is designed to do so in both life and death. Jesus took on a real body, which was then physically buried before his resurrection. The New Testament refers to burying the body as the ‘seed of the resurrection,’ so we honor the Lord most when we too bury the dead in hope of the physical resurrection.”

How do you know which answer is best? Well, you look to the elders in the country—those who are familiar with the culture, those who are mature in the Lord, and you follow their lead. If you are one of those elders, how do you know if burial is an issue of obeying God vs. submitting to man? Well, you can look at the how the issue affects worship, and you can look at the government’s reasons for prohibiting it.  

Certainly most reasonable people would agree that the government’s stated objections to burial don’t pass the smell test. There are ways to bury the dead that do not contaminate the drinking water, and moreover Christians categorically reject the notion that their land is sacred and that burial of the dead would defile it. So in addition to the biblical arguments in favor of burial, there is also the simple fact that the arguments against it just don’t hold up. Moreover, this is not just some random nonsensical law, but it touches on the very nature of Christian identity in how it intersects with the resurrection.

Now a second example: consider the recent lockdowns of churches. When COVID first started to spread, governors and leaders didn’t really know what they were dealing with. Models predicted mass casualties, and children were thought to be super-spreaders. This was a going to be like the Spanish Flu of 1918, and so the government shut everything down.

That initial shutdown made sense, given what was known about the disease. It was fitting for government leaders to exercise their authority for the common good, and limiting gatherings was presumably an effective way to do that. This kind of use of government authority has been generally attested to (and submitted to) throughout church history. It was inconvenient, but not as inconvenient as 700,000 people dying.  

So when the government ordered churches closed, they nearly all submitted. Christian leaders, elders, and influential pastors universally suspended mass gatherings. Mark Dever cited his own church’s submission to government in 1918 as backing for his decision to cancel church, and most Baptist churches followed suit. John MacArthur encouraged churches to honor the government’s request as long as it was in the interest of public health and was short-term.

But things have changed since then. As time has gone by, the justification for closing churches has started to erode. As more has been learned about COVID, it obviously is not like the Spanish Flu (praise God). The severity of COVID hits the elderly, the immunocompromised, and those with other health issues. It devastated nursing homes, not colleges.

Meanwhile many of the same government leaders who initially closed churches endorsed massive public protests. Then the medical community, and in many cases the same groups who advocated for shutting down churches in the first place, said that mass gatherings were ok, provided they were about something important to society.

It was at this point that I argue that the government reached its limit in barring churches from meeting. Most government leaders realized this and quickly allowed churches to reopen.

But some areas of the US doubled down on church closures. After the initial wave of protests, in California the government added singing to their list of activities prohibited at church.

So how do Christians navigate this? I agree that generally speaking, we are to be submissive to the government. We honor our leaders, and in particular our governors.

At the same time, the Bible commands us to sing (Ephesians 5:19). The Bible commands us to meet together (1 Corinthians 14:26; 1 Corinthians 16:2; Hebrews 10:24-25). Scripture does not tell us what songs to sing, or what instruments to use, but it does tell us to sing. Likewise, it does not tell us how many people can gather at once, or if that a gathering should be inside or outside, in a central location or in houses. But it does tell us to gather.

Those commands are not inflexible. If there were a public health emergency that justified the suspensions of gatherings, then churches would honor that—as was plainly demonstrated in April, May, and June. But we have reached the point now where it should be up to the elders in churches how to best keep their congregation safe while continuing to worship.

In Virginia, churches are allowed to open, and we are allowed to sing, so this is easy for me to write. Our government restrictions are straightforward, and most churches are following them. Moreover, elders world-wide would be wise if they continued to encourage those particularly susceptible to COVID to stay home, and worship on-line.

But in a place like California, where gathering is effectively prohibited, singing is banned, and the justification for doing so is muddled, churches are very much in a position for their elders to decide “we must obey God rather than man.”

10 Toxic Traditions That Are Killing the Church | Josh Daffern

Although I am not a great fan of Patheos.com, I receive article alerts in my email. This was an interesting article, and with far too many “Read More” click bait style buttons.

Source: 10 Toxic Traditions That Are Killing the Church | Josh Daffern

I’m interested in what other folks think. There are a few comments reflecting various levels of theological prowess, and I did leave a comment.

“I guess it depends on what you mean by ‘tradition’. I would term some on the list as ‘error’ but not necessarily ‘tradition’. Some in the list have merit, come not so much. If you want to know what I think is a ‘tradition’ killing the evangelical church it’s the disappearance of the truly Biblical gospel! I don’t think that was even mentioned. These days people come to Christ for just about anything except for repentance and belief that Christ died for the SINS of his people, NOT poor self-esteem or their best lives now! The death of Christ sits on the back burner as something that was necessary so that sinners can ‘save themselves’ with their free will decisions as the deciding factor.”

Thoughts, anyone?

HOW to Share Christ with Someone

NOTE: What follows has been adapted from several lessons contained in Alistair Begg’s “Crossing the Barriers” series of lessons in personal evangelism.

“Christ is going after His lost sheep, and He wants to use our lips that they may hear His voice today, and our hands that they may feel His touch. He is the soul-winner. People are not won by us for Him. They are won through us by Him. He can win them without us, just as He can speak to them through the Bible quite apart from anything we might say. But He has chosen to work through us and with us.” – –Leith Samuel

In previous CMF Newsletters we ran a 4-part series about “Sharing Christ in a Hostile Culture”

In Part 1, Be Available, we shared real examples of how doors seem to just ‘open up’ for sharing the message of the gospel, and what can happen when there’s a willing and available gospel messenger ‘on location’. In Part 2, Situational Awareness, we compared our ‘Situation’ as believers in Christ – our status, and true citizenship, with our condition (situation) before repenting of sin and believing Christ. In Part 3, Our Duty, Our Great Privilege, Our Highest Calling, the focus was on understanding the nature of the believer’s role in sharing Christ with the world around us. In Part 4, How’s Your Weep? We talked about maintaining a heartfelt burden for the lost souls all around us.

Now that we talked ABOUT sharing Christ, it’s time to tackle HOW. Hopefully this article will be of help to you.

Concerning his followers, Jesus said, “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.” Jesus (John 17:15 NIV)

If we to draw a picture of that, it would look like this:

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Following Jesus’ model of Christians ‘In Contact’ with the world, think of your gospel audience in terms of long-term and short-term contacts. Long-term contacts could be family, friends, co-workers, or neighbors. Short-term contacts could be those we meet standing in lines, shopping, travelling, bus stops, waiting rooms – people we might not ever see again.

Before you just jump in the deep end of the pool, remember this:

“We should remind ourselves frequently that effective witnessing begins when we are on our knees, not when we are on our feet.” – Alistair Begg

EXPLODING SOME MYTHS

1. IT TAKES A CERTAIN KIND OF PERSON. You don’t have to be a gifted evangelist or a natural extrovert. Think of Jesus’ first disciples. He chose all sorts of men to train and send to the mission field!

2. YOU NEED TO BE A WALKING BIBLE DICTIONARY. Anyone can share how his/her life has been changed by Christ, but it doesn’t stop with a changed life. The changed life testimony leads naturally to the message that discusses our sinful helpless condition before God and the answer found in repentance and believing in the one God sent.

3. I AM PERSONALLY RESPONSIBLE TO SPEAK TO EVERYONE. That myth leads to guilt and depression. You will feel compelled to speak to everyone you meet/see! We are to be fishermen, not salesmen.

IMPORTANT GUIDELINES

1. BE NATURAL. Don’t change speech patterns, how you talk, tone of voice or terminology. Use ordinary conversation to move to spiritual matters. Jesus merely showed up at the well to ask for a drink of water. NO evangelical jargon. Using Bible words is not synonymous with sharing Bible truths.

2. BE LISTENING. We learn much about the other person just by listening. Their likes, dislikes, interests, etc. Heartfelt listening shows that you care.

3. BE VULNERABLE. We need to get out of our Christian bubbles. Vulnerability creates opportunity with unexpected parties. Jesus was vulnerable. It wasn’t ‘kosher’ to speak with Samaritan women. As Alistair Begg might ask, “When does the salt help the mashed potatoes?”

4. BE BRAVE. “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. “ (2 Tim 1:7)

The toughest of our non-Christian friends are more scared of us than we are of them, thus their ‘toughness’. Don’t worry about where the conversation might go. You can always stop/pause and continue later. It wasn’t ‘kosher’ to speak with Samaritan women.

5. BE IMAGINATIVE. Seize opportunities to share your faith. What’s the common topic of the day? War, sports, stress, etc. Don’t use the same lead-in every time. Walk on common ground.

6. BE DIRECT. As the Spirit leads, get to the gospel, but you don’t need to use a specific ‘method’. Let the conversation tell you the best method.

FUNDAMENTAL TRUTHS

No matter what method you use for sharing the message of the gospel, address these three truths, in the order given here.

1. THE HUMAN CONDITION

Things are messed up. Why? Ask questions. What’s in the newspaper? Magazines? Look at the music, dysfunctional families. Why do you think that is? Talk about it.

2. THE BIBLE’S DIAGNOSIS

Suggest that the Bible has a diagnosis. The heart of the problem is the human heart, which needs to change. Have a Bible and open it. Share favorite passages of scripture that speak of the condition of the fallen hearts of all men. You might use Romans 1:18 about God’s wrath, or Romans 3:23 and the fact that ALL have sinned and fallen short pf God’s standard of perfection. And sin brings consequences (Rom 6:23) – ‘The wages of sin is death. You might need to go back to Genesis and the sin of Adam. Just talk about it from the Bible and let God convict.

3. GOD’S REMEDY

Share that Christ died for OUR sins. It was prophesied in the OT and fulfilled in the NT (Isaiah 53:6, Matthew 1:21, John 3:16). Just keep sharing what the Bible simply says.

4. PERSONAL RESPONSE

The truths of the gospel message having already been discussed, it’s time to talk about the need for a personal response. Introduce, without directly asking for a response, the necessary steps.

1) Admit you are a helpless sinner. There are differences in degree of sin, but not the fact of sin. ALL have sinned enough to be condemned and lost.

2) Believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross to be the savior we have admitted we need. 1 Pet 3:18 – Christ died once for all.

3) Receive, by faith, (full confidence) the forgiveness of sin and cleansing from sin.

At this point 3 further questions may prove very beneficial in bringing clarity.

1. HAVE YOU PERSONALLY TRUSTED JESUS CHRIST OR ARE YOU STILL ON THE WAY?

Defines Christian as one who has personally received Jesus Christ and provides opportunity for Yes/No/Still on the way

2. HOW FAR ALONG THE WAY ARE YOU?

Critical point. Satan gets busy. This is where very personal/conditional topics might come into play. If the answer is ‘I want to home and think about it’, remember this might be the only time, hand them something like a tract, possibly. Be sensitive to ‘indicators’.

3. WOULD YOU LIKE TO BECOME A REAL CHRISTIAN AND BE SURE OF IT?

If the answer is yes, go back to the need for personal response.

ADD counting the cost of becoming a Christian. This is where the rubber meets the road. If they are not ready for a ‘revolution’, they are not ready to respond genuinely to the offer of salvation.

If they are ready, lead them to the Cross.

“Dear Lord Jesus, I admit I am a helpless sinner before you, I’ve tried many times and failed. I believe the bible is true in saying Jesus is the savior, I accept the cost, please forgive ME.”

Persecution and the Believer Part 2

The Domain for Truth

Quick update to yesterday’s Pray for a Persecuted Church Right now: This is now day 5 of the pastors being detained.  Please pray for other Christians too since their phones have been taken by authorities which the authorities can reconstruct other Christian leaders and churches.  These are perilous times for Christians in that country in East Asia.

Establish the need: Have you thought about Christian persecution?

Purpose: Today we shall see four more of eight truths the Bible teaches about Christians and persecutions so that you be strong in Christ when the time comes.

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Persecution and the Believer Part 1

The Domain for Truth

Quick update to yesterday’s Pray for a Persecuted Church Right now: The authorities have let go of others but the four elders/pastors detained from this persecuted church have been punished and sent to jail for two weeks.  Updates will probably be delayed because of security concern.  This post is timely and relevant, as it is about what the Bible teaches about persecution and believers.

Establish the need: Have you thought about Christian persecution?

Purpose: Today we shall see four of eight truths the Bible teaches about Christians and persecutions so that you be strong in Christ when the time comes.

View original post 359 more words