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There is a price to pay to follow the Bible as the authority
We all pay a price for the things we value the most.
SURFING–you get up early, drive, it’s cold, put on a wet suit, wax your board then carry it—there’s traffic, a wait, all to get smashed and hit–but if you value surfing, you do it. Some commit to surfing as a God-given joy, others obsess over it and give their lives to it. But either way, you pay a price and that price is often misunderstood by others–it can even cause others to not spend time with you.
HOMESCHOOLING–buy curriculum, carve out focused time, figure out how each kid best learns, grading, staying at it day in and day out, disciplining your students–it is a costly effort that some are able to do and passionately pursue. Some commit to it as a way in which to effectively instruct their children, others obsess and give their lives to it as the way to save their kids–but either way, you pay a price. And there will be some who don’t understand and don’t like it.
EXERCISE—you have to work at it, or obsess over it.
MINISTRY—there is labor and work to be faithful, or it becomes your identity.
MARRIAGE—you labor, work, struggle or it is your only goal.
FAMILY—you work or give everything to it and it becomes your idol and you worship it.
In other words, even good things can be distorted–right? The same goes for the Church of Jesus Christ. His bride has been distorted–so much so that many do not know what she is actually supposed to look like.
The Church today is working really hard to make sure that everyone likes it–everyone would want to come to our church. In order to do that, slowly over time, the Church has moved away from the costly commitments of Christianity. They have compromised the need for genuine believers to actually manifest commitment altogether. Most churches today require nothing of their people so that they can get as many people as possible to come. Their goal is not coming to Christ, or becoming like Christ, nor is it the painful work of the Spirit through the knife of repentance. The contemporary Church’s goal is success, not the Savior. Their goal is growth, not God’s glory. It is cultivating a crowd, not commitment. The Church is to feel good, not fear God.
As new people come check FBC out, there are times we appear attractive, until they realize we are not consumer friendly. Oh, we love people, and we reach out to people aggressively, but we want the Church to actually be run the way Christ expects and not the way our culture demands. We actually want Christ to be the head of our church, which means His Word must be obeyed–no compromise, no easy-believism and no casual commitments.
This morning, as we begin fall, RMG, evening service, and so much more, I want to remind you of some of the things you are signing up for to be a part of this church. And as a result, this may be your last Sunday. We are willing to pay a price, because we want to be committed to what Christ commands His church to be, no matter what the cost. We will pay the price for costly commitments to have this church function the way God wants, not the way men desire. And if that means you don’t want to attend here, though it makes us sad at times, we would rather please God than people.
I will try to share some of these commitments today. I will try to be gracious. But you have to understand, the modern Church has moved so far away from Scripture, and the gap between what Christ designed and what men do is so great, it’ll sound like I am being harsh in my assessment of churches you know. That is not my goal, but I want to try to help you understand what we are seeking with all our heart to follow from the Word of God. I won’t be covering them all, but enough to give you a taste of the price we as a church are willing to pay in order to please the Lord of the Church.
#1 A commitment to authorial intent exposition
This means we do not give ourselves to the practice of practical principle preaching, cool hip six- to eight-week series with flashy titles like Desperate Housewives, The Biggest Loser, and America’s Got Talent. I have had people say to me, “I’ve been to twenty churches in our area, and they all teach the Word. Do they really? Do you understand that speaking from the Bible does not mean you are teaching people God’s Word?
I have heard things like, “Oh, you guys are teachers, not a preacher like our pastor is,” meaning a preacher motivates you, pumps you up, inspires you–but a teacher instructs you from the Word. We have moved so far from the Bible people have redefined preaching as motivational speaking instead of exposing what God has to say in context.
Turn with me to 2 Timothy 4:1ff, as Paul gives his final instructions to Timothy, encouraging Him to remain faithful in the spiritual combat he faces as a leader in Christ’s Church. He says, “I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, 4 and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.”
Notice what He says–preach the Word, which involves some painful measures . . . reproving, rebuking, exhorting, involving instruction. In fact, the instruction is about sound doctrine, and not that which makes you feel good, or what you want. But it involves the truth of God’s Word.
People ask us all the time, “What is your view on this issue? Do you guys teach this position? What do you think it means?” We respond by saying, “It doesn’t matter what we think, or what my view is, or whether we teach a position on an issue–all that matters is what does God say in the Word in context?”
Churches sponsor Bible studies where everyone goes around a circle and guesses as to what they think a passage means, instead of studying the language, the context of the book as it is written, the history, the grammar, to determine the author’s one intended meaning of that text–authorial intent, and only then applying it to today. There is only one meaning to any text, and if the writer is Paul, then what did Paul mean by what he said, to that audience he wrote to when he wrote them, in the Greek language, honoring the original setting of every verse 2,000 years ago.
That means you can’t have a steady diet of practical principles on what God thinks of sex or money or family, where you bounce around from passage to passage without a careful look at the context. Because verses can be taken out of context, you have to be careful about spending all your time studying theology, all the while ignoring what the Bible says about truth in context.
Turn in your Bibles to Matthew 18:19 for an example–I am certain you have heard this verse or read this verse. “’Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. 20 For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.’” This is a great promise, but God is not talking about prayer. God is not talking about two or three agreeing on what they want, so now God has to give you what you have agreed upon. God is not even making a direct promise of His presence in your midst when you have a need.
This verse is wildly abused in churches. Look at the context. Look at verses 15 and following, and you will find that Jesus is actually talking about Church discipline–confronting a brother or sister who remains in defiant, confirmed sin. Go to them privately, then with two or three who will witness the confrontation, then tell it to the church, and if he rejects the church, finally put him out of the church—this is a painful process. So the Lord encourages His disciples with the fact that He will be with them through this painful process of confronting sin. That is what this passage means–the only meaning, the author’s intended meaning.
A pastor I know taught on the city of Jericho, and explained how a Christian can find a potential mate from this true event. Just march around a gal seven times, and if the walls of her heart fall down, then she is the one. His congregation got fired up, they were motivated, there was lots of marching going on for months. This really happened, and our church spent the next five years counseling the wrecked marriages as a result of that error being taught as truth.
There are people who say they have been to hell and traveled to heaven, and see visions and make proclamations. One doctor said he’d been to heaven, saw Jesus, whose brain had twelve major nerves which represented the twelve tribes of Israel. The host he is sharing this with kept saying, “Oh, this is meaty.” And whenever the good doctor wanted to remind himself of his trip, he would go smell his tie which still had the smell of heaven on it. I don’t know about my ties, but I have some socks that remind me of hell. So how do you know when the Bible is being interpreted correctly? Here are some things to look for.
First Only listen to a hard-working teacher
Second Timothy 2:15 tells teachers to, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the Word of truth.” Watch out for the preacher who prays his sermons down from heaven on Saturday night. What happens if he eats a bad pizza?
Accurate teaching requires exhausting work, digging treasure out of the text. It takes diligent work to handle the Word accurately—literally, cut it straight. You know what it means to cut it straight from experience, when you’ve made an article of clothing from a pattern. You had to cut it with precision in order for the pieces to fit together to make a shirt. That’s what word Paul the tentmaker uses to describe the need for accurate interpretation. But what is an accurate interpretation?
Second Only listen to expositional teaching that uses biblical rules of interpretation—hermeneutics
In order to teach the Word accurately, there are principles that must be used in diligent study. What are they? The Bible is literal–it means what it says (normal).
Contextual–each portion of the Bible is connected to other thoughts, the verses around it, chapters on each side and the entire purpose of the book in which it’s found.
Historical–the Bible meant one thing to one people in another culture with a different geography in a point of history.
Grammatical–the Bible was written basically in Greek and Hebrew, and can best be interpreted by understanding those languages.
Synthetic–the Bible was written by one author, therefore all the parts of the Bible will agree with all the other books/verses, and never contradict each other.
Third Only listen to teaching that seeks to explain the whole counsel of God
Paul reminded us in Acts 20:27, “For I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God.” Accurate teaching seeks to find the author’s intention, and also seeks to explain what the rest of the Scripture says about the subject as well. Churches and Christians who make a true commitment to the Word of God are those who focus on teaching, learning and applying the Bible, and all of the Bible.
All churches are to be committed to the author’s intended meaning, the Bible in context (what did God mean?)–not just some. Elders, pastors, church leaders are commanded to get it right. What did Paul say in Titus 1:9, “Holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict.” “Holding fast” means you are unwilling to compromise the Word of God, even when under great pressure. “The faithful word” means you trust the Bible completely for everything you need spiritually, and “which is in accordance with the teaching”, means you seek to determine only the authorial will of Scripture. “Exhort in sound doctrine”–you give healthy Christ-like instruction. “Refute those who contradict”–you expose error. You are not always positive, sometimes you are very lovingly negative.
At FBC we are committed to authorial intent exposition, the Bible being taught in context. That doesn’t mean you can’t teach a topical message, or a sermon on an issue, or a theological series like we did this summer. But you must honor the original meaning of every text, and most of the teaching of a church needs to be the detailed exposition of Scripture–God’s Word, as He meant it. You may not like it because of that, but with humility, we are not going to move away from it.
#2 A commitment to the authority of the Word
Churches today have taken the lowest common denominator. Doctrinal statements are usually six general points, they say, “Let’s agree to disagree.” They say, let’s not argue over the non-essentials. They say, “Let’s not divide over anything but Christ.” This is the Rodney King method of church leadership. “Why can’t we all get along? Let’s do anything to get along.”
So the vast majority of churches today are silent on the issue of homosexuality. Do not talk about the practice of spiritual gifts. Do not teach or practice the instruction on church discipline. Do not teach the roles of men and women, or the expectation of men to lead their wives, lead their family and lead in their church. They never instruct on the issues of divorce, psychology, spanking, demons, tongues, healings, pornography or money, even though the Bible speaks to all those issues and more.
And they make it all sound so good, but it is actually not what Jesus expects of His Church–in fact, it is the opposite. Christ expects us to teach the entire Word of God. Christ expects us not to skip over issues. Christ expects us to study the Word. Christ expects us to love each other while we disagree.
Even the Old Testament prophets understood the importance of studying the Word, living the Word and teaching the Word to God’s people. Ezra 7:10, “For Ezra had set his heart to study the law of the Lord and to practice it, and to teach His statutes and ordinances in Israel.” Nehemiah tells us they read from the Word of God, explained what it meant, so that those listening could understand it. Nehemiah 8:8, “They read from the book, from the law of God, translating to give the sense so that they understood the reading.”
And the New Testament makes it clear, it is God’s actual, living and active Word–it is God speaking to us, commanding us, describing what He has done for us, giving us wisdom, helping us know Him, and to live pleasing to Him in this Bible. Second Timothy 3:16, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness.” These words are God-breathed—each and every one. We hold the Bible as the authority, even over our own doctrine.
Now at FBC, we accept people who believe different than our doctrinal statement, but we also expect over time for them to study those issues deeply, and finally agree with our convictions. All the while, loving and respecting each other, as those who are all under the authority of the Word of God.
But, we pay the price not to avoid controversy. We pay a price to never burp over a tough issue found in the Word of God. We teach every verse, every word, because they are all inspired by God, His living and active Words–not just the feel good, easy stuff, but the tough stuff. We exhort in sound doctrine and refute those who contradict–and today people don’t like that. “Chris, are you saying those other churches that skip those issues, or don’t teach the Word on roles in marriage and homosexuality are in sin?”
#3 A commitment to Christ as first in all things
We have churches now that are more known for their position on end times, their programs, or their commitment to drinking beer, or making people feel good than for seeking to honor Christ. We have definitely not arrived, but it is a passion of FBC to have Christ be honored as first, and for everything else as worst–Christ to be exalted, and everything else in comparison should almost seem like excrement. Philippians 3:8, “More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ.” We have labored to not be known for anything but Christ Jesus and Him crucified. As a church, we are trying to focus on the things Christ focused on, and to give ourselves to those things Christ gave Himself to.
Therefore we are not a homeschool church–we are a disciplemaking-church, making disciples of Christ. We don’t tell our parents to educate their children, but to train their children, model for their children, demonstrate Christ as attractive to their children. We are not family first, we are Christ first. We are not training our children to get a scholarship or play sports, but training them to pursue Christ above all. We are not given to a tradition, but truth. What is a priority in Scripture, we want as a priority in our church.
We are not telling our young people to get married, but to enjoy the privileged position of the single–do you know what God’s Word says to singles, and how privileged they are as singles? In 1 Corinthians 7:35 Paul speaks of the responsibility of marriage, and talks about the advantage of being single. He says, “This I say for your own benefit; not to put a restraint upon you, but to promote what is appropriate and to secure undistracted devotion to the Lord.” Marrieds have to take care of each other, but singles can enjoy undistracted devotion to Christ–then when God brings the right mate along, they can also glorify God through marriage.
We are not the feel good church, but the fear God church. We tell people we don’t take ourselves seriously, but we do take Christ very seriously. Christ is Lord in salvation and in sanctification. If you don’t desire to follow Him, you are not His child. If you are unwilling to do what He calls you to, you are not His child. If you are not worshiping Him as a living sacrifice, where you regularly say, “Not my will, but yours be done,” you are not His child, His slave, His possession.
We don’t get off on programs, but the priorities of the person. We are only interested in accomplishing the great commandment, the great commission, honoring the Gospel, and doing all we do for God’s glory–and we don’t get all worked up about other lesser things. In fact, we stay away from taking positions on things the Bible does not address. We don’t focus on appearance, unless it’s immodest. We don’t take a position on drinking, except that drunkenness is sin. We don’t tell you what foods to eat, except that you should not be gluttonous. We don’t tell people not to have Christmas trees, hunt Easter eggs, carve pumpkins–just do all you do for the glory of God.
We believe God is honored when we love each other and get along, even though we are all really different. We believe God is pleased with our joyful laughter and our tears of repentance, when they honor His Word. We think He rejoices with us in sweet fellowship and meals together, as well as the aggressive, sometimes painful pursuit of becoming more like Christ in discipleship and accountability.
In all we do as a church, all we do, we ask ourselves, “Will this be an aid in helping people come to Christ, or for Christians to become more like Christ–to live is Christ?” In all we do, we want Christ exalted. How can we not, after what God the Son did for us? In fact, because of all that Christ has done for us . . .
#4 A commitment to dependently obey New Testament teaching
Since Christ is King, we are His servants. Since Christ is Lord, we are His obedient slaves. Since Christ bought us with His blood, we are His possession to do with as He pleases. All believers faithfully attend worship–not the patio, not an equipping class, not a leadership group, but attend worship, give sacrificially to the church, serve their giftedness in ministry within the church, are relationally interconnected to others through 66 New Testament “one anothers” as a family, intertwined as one body. All individual Christians are to care for the widow and orphan, to love the unlovely, to meet needs, to display compassion. All Christians function their giftedness in the church body. All Christians share the Gospel to the lost in the world.
We expect our church family to be obedient to the commands of the New Testament, because if you are genuinely born again, God says He has given you a heart that wants to obey. Romans 6:17, “But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed.” Are you obedient from the heart? Do you actually want to obey the Scripture? Are you willing to do anything Christ wants? Have you exchanged all that you are for all that He is? If not, it doesn’t mean you are carnal, backslidden, struggling–it means you are not a Christian. If you don’t have the new “want to willingly worship” heart, then you don’t have Christ.
This is lost today. So-called believers behave more like consumers than commited–they are more like spectators than participants. That is not New Testament teaching, not biblical truth, it is error. If you remain on the fringe, if you don’t serve or really give–if that is you, you are a practical heretic to remain on the fringe. It is not God’s Will–you are not obeying the Bible, which raises the question of whether you truly know Christ or not, if you continue to live as a spectator and do not get involved.
The only exception is the wounded–those who come to us beat-up, battered, and bruised by so-called Christians or church leaders. We want you to be refreshed, sit under God’s Word and get spiritually healthy for a season. But like every good hospital, we don’t want you to stay in bed. After six months, it’s time for you to get up, get going–part of your rehab, is to begin to serve. Whatever is keeping you from involvement is not of God. You need to repent and follow Christ.
#5 A commitment to discipleship and training
At FBC we do not pursue that which draws a crowd. We are committed to pursuing that which results in salvation or sanctification, regardless of whether a crowd comes or not. Our church is not about growth in numbers, but about growth in grace. The Church is not about pleasing people, but about pleasing God. And what pleases God is for all of us to be committed to making disciples of Christ, to encourage learning, following, and becoming like Christ in one another. The great commission–pass it on, Matthew 28:19 to 20, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
A friend of mine used to say this all the time–he’d say, “We are going to pass the keys of church leadership to the next generation. We are either going to hand them the keys, or they are going to pry them out of our cold dead hands, but they are going to get the keys. So we might as well learn how to pass them on.
We are very committed as a church to training up the next generation through the Word of God. We train parents how to train their children–we don’t tell them how to educate their children, but we do call parents to train their children from the heart, with the Word of God. As a church, we will always invest the highest amount of our program budget into children and students. As a church, we think you need the other people of this church to impact your lives for Christ and to impact your children. We don’t believe parents have all the spiritual gifts–that they as parents and their children need the relationships and ministry involvement of the entire church for their children to grow up to be like Christ. We do not agree with those parents who isolate their children or students from the church.
But the church has hurt my kid, some students said mean things to my child, my student was not a part of the in crowd, my teen was gossiped about. And I say good–praise God. Now they can learn how to forgive, how to reconcile, how to do all they can to make things right, how to function when you have done everything you can “as far as it depends on you” and it never gets made right. What better place to learn that than in the church, where we want to function biblically.
We believe older women train younger women. Titus 2:3 to 5, “Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, . . . 4 so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, 5 to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.” We believe older men are to invest in young men. First Peter 5:5, “You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders.”
At FBC we believe shepherds should train future shepherds, 2 Timothy 2:2, “The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” And most of this training is not high profile, it goes on every week, most days of the week and no one sees it. And that is because we are committed to trying to do what God commands, even if no one knows about it, for His glory.
It is a lot of work, it takes a lot of time, it is a priority and we are going to fight for it. But it also means we will not be doing a lot of other good programs, pursue everyone’s idea, involve ourselves in every church community event–because it is not as important as discipling and training the next generation. And you may not like it here because of that.
We give ourselves to the Training Center, Men of Passion, women’s Bible study with a strong discipleship edge, and RMG’s that are given to discipleship, as well as discipleship in every ministry. We are not committed to short-term appearance of success, but long term maturity of fruitfulness. And in our microwave culture, a lot of people are not willing to wait, to work or struggle, but we as a church are, because this is what Christ has called us to–to die to self, run to win, and to see Christ formed in us.
The issue is not what we are doing, but what God says. And in our pursuit of what God says, we find that we are not like other churches–not because we are trying to be better. We are just trying to be biblical. We want to follow Christ, and not the latest trend. And to be honest, the passion to follow God’s Word was modeled for me in my early days of ministry, but how it is working out here is a total elder run, trust the Lord to guide us endeavor. We are not following a model, we are following God’s Word.
You may not like it here because of that, and our answer to your opinion is “thanks, we love you, and see you later, we hope.” We are not changing just so you will start to like us–we are seeking to change to be like Christ so He is pleased with us.
Discipleship and training are part of the great commission. That is one of our 4 G’s–glory, gospel, great commandment and great commission. We are committed to those things that Christ told us were His priorities. We are passionately committed to His glory, showing Him off. The Gospel message, sharing it and living it. We desperately want to be used of God to make as many people like Jesus Christ in the shortest time possible–that means we are constantly thinking about the salvation of the lost, and the sanctification of the saints.
We are imperfect, sinful, weak, faulty, rough, fragile, dumb–but we want what Christ wants. And we know that not only can we not save ourselves–we can’t grow ourselves. We must be dependent upon the Spirit of God, following only the Word of God, not our feelings, not our thoughts, not our ideas, not the latest trend, but God’s Word in order to please Christ.
We live in a day where increasingly, churches are leading by experience, visions they see, ideas they have, direct words from God, impressions rule, feelings dominate, experience is elevated to almost revelatory status. At FBC, you may feel we are dull, boring, routine, traditional, old school, and stifling the Spirit—but we are going to do things according to the Word of God alone. We will depend on His Spirit, we know He can do the miraculous, we expect Him to work–but like Peter said of His own true experience on the Mount of Transfiguration in 2 Peter 1, “We have a more sure Word”–God’s Word will lead this church.
There is so much more to say. That’s what the pastor says when he runs out of material—“I could go on and on, but . . .”
Like Christ who was full of grace and truth, I have desired to be gracious but truthful, and I probably failed in some of your minds. But please know, I want to speak the truth in love. If you thought I was too harsh, part of the reason is this–the Church of Jesus Christ has moved so far from the truth, the Church has drifted so much from biblical norms, the Church has compromised God’s Word in so many areas and for so long, that I sound like some form of crazy radical.
And to be honest I am–radical actually means to return to the original, and that is what we are trying to do. Imperfect as we are, we want to just be what Christ wants us to be–His original plan. And we as a church have a long way to go, we have not arrived. But we have also experienced small tastes of what God wants. We have all sensed His pleasure here in worship services, and fellowship events, in relationship with each other and in growth, and all that does is make us want a full meal–to strive to be that church where Christ is fully present through His people in a big way.
What will it take? Come to Christ, become more like Christ, dependently obey His Word in every area, stop being a spectator and get tied in. Stop making choices that keep you or your children from faithful, regular involvement. Get tied into a ministry or an RMG. Pray for your leaders. And be afraid–our elders regularly pray to not get in the way and mess it up.
If after today you leave us, thanks for coming, and as a fellow sinner saved by grace we pray that wherever you tie in, you will come to Christ or grow to be more like Him. If you stay, then take to heart what the Bible has to say about your involvement in this church family–be an organ, a muscle or a bone in the body of Christ, not a mole, wart or blemish.