Monday, September 26, 2011

"They're 'Church of Christ.'"

(The following article is one I wrote a few years ago - but I like to repost it now and then because it is important).

Misconceptions arise from various sources and are often difficult to eliminate. One such example is that of the common phrase used by so many when describing those who abide by the doctrine of Christ and are a part of His church.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people say, “Well I was raised (fill in denomination hear), but my spouse was raised ‘Church of Christ.” Or perhaps it goes something like, “She’s (fill in denomination here), but her husband is ‘Church of Christ.’”

Though many don’t know it, and perhaps they’re just not thinking about it, they are trivializing God’s divine institution when they use such conversation. It plants the church of our Lord into a denominational genre, and therefore applies to the church a social bond with other bodies of belief that are not of God.

Jesus came to build His church, and did so according to the eternal plan of God (Matt. 16:18; Eph. 1:22, 23). When we speak of the church of which we are a part, we recognize it as the one body Jesus bought with blood, established at Pentecost, still in existence today (Eph. 4:4-6; Acts 20:28). There is no universal title for the church outside of the Biblical titles to which we see it ascribed. God inspired men to call it by its proper name, as the church of Christ (Rom. 16:16), the church of the Firstborn (Heb. 12:23), the church of God (1 Cor. 1:2), or even just “the church” (Eph. 5:23).

But followers of Jesus are not “Church of Christ” or “Church of Christers.” When we say someone is “Church of Christ”, we go beyond the description allowed in the Bible for those who are in the church. We are to be called simply “Christians” (Acts 11:26; 1 Pet. 4:16), or “saints” (Rom. 1:7). A true Christian is one who is in the church and belongs to Christ, the One who is Head of the body (Col. 1:18).

It will prove difficult for us to spread the true message about the church if we do not choose to be careful to honor its Biblical representation. The church of Christ does not have a doctrine, the Bible is doctrine. The church of Christ does not have a position, the Bible is the position. The church of Christ does not believe…, the Bible teaches... When we come into a proper appreciation for these simple ideas, we will help ourselves and others become obedient to Christ in a unified fashion and exalt the name of God and His church.

There is no greater institution on the earth than the church of Christ. It is the kingdom of God (Acts 1:3). It is the body of the saved (1 Cor. 1:18). It is the family of God (Eph. 3:15). May we always strive to love our God and the church He sent the Son to establish! May we always properly represent this sacred body of sanctified people!

– “Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly that all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generation, forever and ever. Amen” – (Eph. 3:20, 21).

Monday, September 19, 2011

"It Was God's Will"

For some time I have struggled with a comment that is often used but ill-advised. I know that it is said with a strong desire to comfort people when they are grieving, but I am confident that it is not the correct thing to say. In fact, it may simply be incorrect. I am talking about when, after someone dies, a griever is told, "It was God's will."

Years ago, in an article written to "Dear Abbey", a woman whose 14-year-old son had recently been killed in a tragic accident, lamented over several of the things people attempted to say in order to console her. One of the things she heard over and over was, "It was God's will." Consider her response, "I am no more (or less) religious than the average person. But if it was "God's will" to take may son at 14 and end his young life, then I want no part of a God who could be so cruel."

I've had this article in my possession for years. I have thought about it many times when trying to help others who were grieving. I used to be bothered by the part of her statement that said, "I want no part of a God who could be so cruel." But over the years I have learned that what she meant (whether she knew it or not) was - "I want no part of your misrepresentation of God."

I figured something out last week that to me is a real breakthrough. I know it has been in my mind a long time, but this is the first time I have been able to express it in the right way. This one fact alone, I believe, is the reason why you should never say to anyone who has just lost a loved one, "It was God's will.":

DEATH IS NOT GOD'S WILL! Death is Satan's will! It is God's will that you live forever. It was that way in the Garden of Eden. It was that way as the scheme of redemption unfolded. It was that way when Jesus died, was buried, and rose again. It has been that way ever since.

Death is a part of life. This is not God's fault, it is our fault (Ez. 18:20; Rom. 6:23). If you are lost and dead spiritually, this is not what God wants. It is God's will that you be saved and live.

I can only think of one person ever, who could have been told that the death of her child was God's will. But that was nearly 2000 years ago. I believe her name was Mary...

"Who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father" ~ Gal. 1:4

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Some Things are Just Worth Keeping

"Then the Lord said to Cain, 'Where is Abel your brother?' He said, 'I do not know. Am I my brother's keeper?'" ~ Genesis 4:9

Everyone who is familiar with the historical account of the first murder in human history is also familiar with this verse. It was a tragic end to Abel's faithful life. It happened because Cain's attitude was wrong and it multiplied into something hard to imagine. Take a moment and really think about it. A man killed his own brother, violently, because of jealousy and hatred. How many other friends did Cain have? How many other brothers?

Before we point fingers at Cain, please search your heart and consider how we kill our own brothers from week to week:

1. We kill our brothers by not knowing where they are. Like Cain, we say as to their whereabouts, "I do not know?" Many people are leaving the church. Many who used to sit in our section or on our pew are waiting for us to call them, encourage them, and care about them. It makes me sick to think about how many of us, who are members of God's family, simply won't take enough time at services to notice who is missing and do something about it.

2. We kill our brothers by not caring where they are. Like Cain, who knew where his brother was, we say, "Am I my brother's keeper?" Apathy is worse than ignorance! Whether we are in large or small congregations we have no excuse when it comes to members slipping away. More brethren means more caretakers of the church. Everybody needs to care.

3. We kill our brothers by being happy to see them leave. If you are happy when someone leaves the congregation where you attend, you'd better pray to God for forgiveness. Being a part of a family means dealing with each other's weaknesses and personality issues. How would we feel if Jesus decided not to die for some of us because we got on his nerves?

4. We kill our brothers by allowing our own weaknesses to get the best of us. Cain did what he felt like doing. He felt like doing it because he allowed Satan to take camp in his mind and change his heart. It is hard for me to understand how people can hold hatred in their heart for others and still call themselves Christians. You can be sure that any hatred you store up will at some point find a landing place.

We owe God's highest creation love, respect, forgiveness, and commitment. We need to keep our brethren. Some things are just worth keeping!

"If someone says, 'I love God,' and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?" ~ 1 John 4:20