God has given us his law, but what place does it have in our lives? That's the topic for this month's newsletter.
Articles include: the law and evangelism (with special guest, Kirk Cameron!), God and Government: the role of God's law in relation to the state, and the limits of God's law.
You can also test your law knowledge with our law quiz.
The aim of this mailing is to stimulate more thought regarding this oft neglected area. Today's tendency is to emphasize the gospel and the realm of salvation and overlook what God says regarding ethics and life. For most, the ten commandments have not been the focus of much meditation.
I remember listening to a minister complain about how some civil officials were taking down the commandments from a public place (a courtroom or school, I can't remember which exactly). He was aghast that such a profane thing would be done. I thought to myself, "Well, I've never once heard the commandments read here in this church! Why such a fuss about the neglect of them out among the unbelieving if the church does not express much interest in it either?"
As you read and consider what is said in this issue, I encourage you to take a new interest in the law of God. Memorize it, study it, and pray over it regularly.
I just got off the phone with a chaplain from MedCentral in Mansfield. I thought I would ask if I could assist with patient care by offering pastoral services. I conduct a Bible study there each week. So, I thought, since I'm right here, why not make the best use of a trip over there and offer some of the patients the comforts of the gospel.
She responded by basically saying, "We don't do that."
I've often talked about the necessity of church membership in the past. It maybe considered something of a soap box for me. However, I am now changing the way I address the issue.
Don't get me wrong, I'm still all about membership in a local church. This is an absolute must. The Scripture requires men and women to submit to a body of elders and pursue loving support of its members.
I'm only changing the way I address the issue. I wish to speak more of covenanting with a church. I want people to see something of the solemn nature of joining a church and that church membership is more than just plopping oneself down in a pew each week.
To covenant with someone means that you are binding yourself to them. You are pledging your service and vowing to fulfill your obligations to them. It has the idea of seeking the other's prosperity.
For instance, in a wedding ceremony you covenant with you spouse. The man pledges to love, honor and esteem his wife. The woman pledges to faithfully submit to and support her husband. It is a life long relationship that is established whereby the two now become one and seek each other's good.
I want people to speak this way of the local assembly of believers. I want them to see themselves as wedded to the body of Christ and obligated to seek its welfare.
What's more, I want them to be reminded of their fidelity to that fellowship. When one covenants, he says that he is forsaking all others and give himself wholly to that one. To covenant with a church means, "I'm not going to hop around. I am not going to skip church because for any willy nilly reason. I'm going to do my best to schedule all my activities around Sunday worship so that I may worship my God and be in the midst of my beloved brethren."
Some see the Declaration of Independence merely as a neat little document where a bunch of our founders made a firm little statement to the king of England. However, it was anything but that. It was a covenant. At the end, the men resolved, "with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor."
This last declaration clearly shows that these men were not making a statement of belief. They were covenanting before God and with each other to pursue the establishment of a new nation.
This is how we ought to understand the church and membership in it. We must pledge our lives, fortunes, and sacred honor.
I recently heard that a church had a small sample of its membership take a poll on the amount of debt they held. The numbers were staggering.
Out of 60 people, 16 were debt free. The rest of them had over $2,500,000 in debt. $500,000 of that was credit card debt. The remaining was chalked up to mortgages and car loans.
Keep in mind that those numbers only represent a third of the total congregation's membership. I believe it is safe to say that the church's budget is being strangled because of the amount of debt held in the pews.
Statistics say that the average American has around $15,000 in credit card debt. Add to this hefty student loans, car loans, and housing loans and you have an incredible materialistic hole to dig out of.
That hole is one of the main reasons why the church fails to be a leader in charitable works today. With its people in mass debt and enslaved to materialistic gain there is no possibility of supporting missions and ministering to the poor. As Jesus said, "You cannot serve both God and Mammon."
I'm happy that the sobering realization caused the leadership of the above mentioned church to begin implementing Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace program. I want to encourage others to become serious about their stewardship too.
If we are going to gain the world for Christ, then we must first be rid of our love of it.
“Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.” Eph. 4:28
For my next class, which will be on "Ministering to the Poor," we will be looking at the above verse. I am going to make the point that, on the basis of this verse, churches ought to not let its members take public assistance of any kind. To do so would be permitting theft (let alone countenancing the other vices, such as sloth, that accompany such acts).
Instead, churches ought to be the agents of charity to its members. The corporate body ought to be the ones who "bear one another's burdens" and "encourage one another to good works."
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Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.