Tuesday, June 28, 2011

RIck's Daily Devotional: Hating Sin

My friend Rick sends me daily devotionals each day by email. He likes to pick up on themes, words and doctrine of the Christian faith. I find that the studies are a great means of moving forward, growing, maturing and reinforcing our Faith. I look forward to them. I am very thankful for his friendship, wisdom and willingness to share his faith. From time to time I will try to share some of them on the blog.

Regeneration is defined as a New birth, being born again the spiritual change wrought in man the Holy Spirit.

One of the changes that takes place in a person who has been born again of God is a hatred of Sin.

1Jn 3:9
(9) No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God's seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God.

1Jn 5:18
(18) We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him.

Do we exhibit a hatred of sin that is in line with a child of God?

Heavenly Father, I thank you for your Holy Spirit and the New Birth. Your Word promises that we are protected by your Son and that the devil can not touch us. Christ not only purchased forgiveness on the Cross but has given to us His Righteousness. Enable us to honor your Son and to please you by living Holy and pure lives. When we fail you are there to lift us up and carry us on as a father helps their child up after he has fallen. Thank you for your Love and Mercy and the forgiveness of the Cross. May our hearts be saddened and sensitive to recognize our own sin and to be washed in the Blood of Calvery. Let us be forgiving of others when they sin and to help one another fight the good fight always pointing to your Word for guidance and your Cross for deliverance. AMEN

Monday, June 27, 2011

Father, Son and Holy Spirit

We begin with the first of our posts on the Attributes of God that is part of our series on the Corner Stones of the Christian faith.

The Nicene Creed states the core Christian belief about the Trinity.

I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ,
The only-begotten Son of God,
Begotten of Him before all ages,
God of God, Light of Light,
Very God of Very God,
Begotten, not made,
Being of one substance with the Father,
By whom all things were made.

I believe in the Holy Spirit
The Lord and giver of life,
Which proceedeth from the Father and the Son,
Who with the Father and Son together
Is worshipped and glorified.


I found a fairly concise summary of the Christian belief of the Trinity:

• The whole Bible teaches and assumes that there is one Creator God ,
whose majesty and glory necessarily exceed our greatest human capacities
to understand. The knowledge of God revealed in the Bible is true, but
all of those truths lead us to an awe-filled mystery before the uncreated
greatness of the Most High.
• In the Bible, especially in the New Testament, we encounter three distinct,
fully divine persons, all of whom are worthy of our praise and worship.
• These three persons in the one God relate to one another in the fullness of
eternal love.
• The three persons have differing and distinctive roles and works in achieving
the salvation of sinners.
• Despite these differing functions, to encounter one person in relationship
is to encounter each of the other two divine persons (usually referred to as
divine perichoresis).
[Excerpt from FAITH, VISION, Edited by Thomas L. Trevethan
April 15, 2008 Seven Discussion Guides for Bible Study; page 9
]

Scriptural Proofs:

There is one Creator God
Deut. 6:4-5; Isa. 44:6– 45:25
Mark 12:29-30; 1 Cor. 8:4; Eph. 4:6; 1 Tim. 2:5

The three persons of the Trinity in the NT
Rom. 8; Eph. 1:3-14; 2 Thess. 2:13-14; 1 Pet. 1:2

The Son
John 20:28-31; cf. 1:18; Acts 7:59; Rom. 9:5; 10:9-13; 2 Cor. 12:7-9; Phil. 2:5-6; Col. 1:15-17; 2:9; Heb. 1:1-12; 1 Pet. 3:15

The Holy Spirit
John 14:16-17, 26; 15:26-27; 16:7-15; Acts 5:3-4

The Trinity
Matt. 28:19; Mark 1:9-11; 2 Corinthians 13:14; Revelation 1:4-5

Distinct roles in God’s plan of grace
John 3:1-15; note especially vv. 3, 5-8, 13-15

Each one of these books will further your understanding of the foundational principals that we are studying in this series. Suggestions For Further Reading:
Excerpt from Concise Theology by J. I. Packer
Knowledge of the Holy by A.W. Tozer
Knowing God by J. I. Packer
Know The Truth by Bruce Milne
The Holy Spirit, Contours of Christian Theology by Sinclair Ferguson for an easy to understand treatment of the Holy Spirit.

Sanctification

Sanctification is a state of separation unto God; all believers enter into this state when they are born of God.

Sanctification is the same Greek word as holiness, “hagios,” meaning a separation. First, a once-for-all positional separation unto Christ at our salvation. Second, a practical progressive holiness in a believer’s life while awaiting the return of Christ. Third, we will be changed into His perfect likeness—holy, sanctified, and completely separated from the presence of evil.

Saints are 'Sanctified ones'.

Psalm 4:3 But know that the LORD has set apart the godly for himself; the LORD hears when I call to him.

2Co 6:17-18
(17) Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you,
(18) and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty."

God sets us apart with a promise that He will be our father and we shall be His sons and daughters. We should live in obedience as those set apart for service unto Him.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Essential Core Christian Beliefs

Ask yourself if you affirm the following core Christian beliefs? Hopefully this list should not be too controversial to you.

About God:
• God is Triune (Father, Son and Holy Spirit)
• God is eternal
• God is Holy
• God is Unchanging
• God is Impassable
• God is Infinite
• God is All-Powerful
• God is Everywhere –present
• God is All-wise
• God is All-Knowing
• God is Self-Existent
• God is Spirit
• God is Just
• God is Merciful
• God is Jealous
• God is Sovereign

About Jesus Christ:
• Christ is fully man and fully God
• The virgin birth of Jesus Christ
• Christ died on the cross and rose bodily from the grave for our sins (1 Cor 15:3-4
• Faith in Christ is necessary (John 3:16). Justification is through faith alone on the basis of Christ alone
• The future second coming of Christ
Regarding Scripture (The Bible):
• Inspiration and authority of Scripture
• Scripture alone has ultimate and final authority on all matters of faith and practice
• The canon of Scripture made up of 66 books (excluding the Deuterocanonical books)

Regarding salvation
• Eternal punishment of the unredeemed
• Christ is the only way to a right relationship with God.
• Belief that you are a sinner in need of God’s mercy (1 John 1:10)

In later postings we will begin to take a look at these key beliefs of the Christian Faith.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The road to an ineffective ministry

While faced with ever decreasing attendance and a serious need to regain vitality the Church of Sweden seems to have forgotten the purpose of the church of Christ. A recent news post in The Local (Sweden's News in English) states that 'only 15 percent of members of the Church of Sweden say they believe in Jesus and an equal number claim to be atheists.' Another 25% of those church members surveyed claim to be agnostic.

"It's not very high," Jonas Bromander, an analyst with the Church of Sweden who was responsible for the study, told The Local in reference to the figure.
"It's not really a problem; rather, it’s a byproduct of the secularisation in Swedish society which has taken place over many years."

The article continues to describe the dismal state of this European church where only a little over 6% of the roughly 6.6 million members attend a service at least once a month.

According to the survey, 90 percent of church members have a weak relationship with the Swedish Church, forcing the church to ponder whether or not it remains a relevant institution in Swedish society.

Those who performed the study have concluded that the means for this church to regain its relevancy is in more success in addressing social causes.

The purpose of the study was to learn more about what sort of expectations people have for the church and to see how the church "can be relevant to people's lives in contemporary society".

According to the study, if the church succeeds in providing assistance to the poor, elderly, and other marginalised groups, it can expect its members to view belonging to the church as more valuable.

"For many the church is a religious organisation and they want it to be one, even if they don't believe in Jesus themselves," said Bromander, adding that members see their membership as a way to support what the church does.

When does a church cease to be relevant? Is it time for our churches to become more hip? More in touch with today's youth? Should they seek to accommodate a broader demographic and appeal to larger audiences with diverse beliefs? Do they need to refrain from doctrinal issues and concentrate on the issues that relate to a more modern, secularized, diverse society? How should churches deal with decreasing attendance and membership? Perhaps the answer is becoming a more effective agent in tackling social issues such as poverty and homelessness and assisting the marginalized of society? Will efforts to aid the poor and other marginalized groups be hindered unless they tone down their religious message? Should the gospel message be compromised in order to cooperate with other groups in the noble endeavor of aiding the poor and the elderly and other social causes?

Don’t get me wrong, the church should and must be actively involved in helping its communities, especially the poor, elderly and underprivileged. But there is a lesson here in this survey from the Church of Sweden that all churches and denominations should pay heed to. A church is no longer relevant to society when the God that it has a mission to serve, honor and obey is no longer relevant to it.

By definition it is no longer a Christian church and no longer does it have a relevant purpose when Jesus Christ is no longer exalted, praised and worshipped. It may be a pseudo religious organization but it is not a Christian church.

Irrelevance begins as a subtle inroad of secularism. Little by little the gospel message is watered down. Doctrine is then considered controversial in lieu of accommodating a minority. Soon the majority begins to dwindle and the minority having been accommodated loses interest as well. All that is left is a dying church that compromised its core rots from the inside out. When the mission to go and make disciples of Jesus Christ in all the world is no longer number one for a church, there is nothing that remains that is relevant no matter how noble the efforts to be an agent for social change.

Don’t be na├»ve, many American churches have started down the road to secularism and emphasizing social service over Gospel message or preaching a gospel lite that has been toned down to be less offensive to the masses that they want to come through their doors. A church could have high numbers in attendance but if the members don’t know Jesus Christ as Savior they will still be destined to hell. God did not establish the church as a social club or primarily as a charitable organization. We must go forth to serve our communities but we must make sure that we serve them first with the message of the Gospel. No other service that we do for them is relevant without that. If you find yourself serving community but have compromised the gospel in order to do so then you need to step back and ask if the focus of your efforts is off track.

The answer is to the Church of Sweden’s problem is the opposite of the direction that they have taken. They need more of the Gospel, not less. They need more preaching and more teaching and a heart for Biblical truths. Not compromise and lack of foundational values, but a return to the supremacy of Jesus Christ as one worthy of praise and honor and all authority. What do you think? Should the Church of Sweden focus on social issues to make itself relevant in Swedish society? Should they return to the Gospel of Christ?

Glorify Jesus as God, Evangelize, preach, make disciples, teach, reach, Love, serve and care.