You Need To Go To Church

You need to go to church. Sometimes people say ridiculous things about Jesus and Christianity. And here is something crazy: Christians can be the worst of all at this.

Here is one of the most ridiculous things I have heard believers say, “You don’t need to be a part of a church to be a Christian.” Some nuance is needed to pick this statement apart because there are some christians that are separated from the body of Christ. But when I have heard this statement the overall meaning is that we can do this on our own… that we don’t need to give or receive fellowship.  That we can live as amputated limbs without the rest of the body.  Well, below is one of my attempts to Biblically deconstruct this idea. Here are some notes and a link to a sermon I recently preached on this.  At the core of this message is the truth is that Christian community is tied to the work of Jesus on the cross and in our lives.  The need for fellowship and worship is much bigger than “being a good Christian.”

Hebrews 10:19-39 “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

Community starts with understanding what Christ has done for us. This is true because sin has separated us from God and one another. And the most important work, the first work is to repair the breach that our sin has caused between us and our God.

Sin separates us from God, and God from us. And sin also separates us from one another. God’s righteousness has barred us from his presence. And because our consciences are defiled, being in the presence of God is no longer pleasurable. We now run from him rather than to him. The OT temple worship was a depiction of this situation. We are separated from God’s presence, but he has made a way for us to return and be cleansed.

The work of Jesus (especially v. 19-21), as described in this passage, shows us 4 things that are the foundation of Christian community.  We cannot separate the way we relate to God from the way we relate to other people.

1.     We are welcomed. We have bold access to God’s presence because of the sacrifice of Christ. His blood has cleansed us. We are no longer banished. This is not because we have become good enough or worked hard enough. This is purely because of his work on our behalf.

2.     We are clean. Our hearts have been sprinkled by his blood. We are washed and forgiven and our consciences can be at peace. What the Old Testament animal sacrifices could only depict, Jesus has accomplished. We no longer need to be controlled by guilt and shame.

3.     We are secure. A promise is only as good as the one who makes it, and we are safe and secure because he who promised is faithful.

4.     We are in process. Though we are forgiven and accepted completely, there is much work to be done in us, on us, and through us.  And this work is explained (in part) in this passage.  God is at work in us through other believers. We desperately need them to help and encourage us.

Continue reading You Need To Go To Church

Argumentative People are Dangerous People


There is a difference between having an argument and being an argumentative person.

There are times when we need to “argue” and even “fight” for the truth or an important idea.  But there is a difference between having an argument and being an argumentative person.  In Jude 3 we read, Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.”  Jude’s readers were under attack by people that were distorting the gospel of Jesus.  There was a need to fight for the truth, and that is what motivated him to write. Unfortunately, some folks take passages like this as  permission, or even a mandate to fight.  About anything and everything. And this has never been more apparent than during the age of social media.

There will always be enemies to battle.  But the argumentative person has a polarizing effect. They can turn every conversation into a debate and every person into a potential enemy.   In the margin of my Bible at the end of  the book of Titus, I have a list of these passages that all have to do with the problem of being an quarrelsome person.  They are listed below (ESV) with some observations.

I Tim 1:4, 6-7  “…nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith… Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion, desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions.”

This passage strikes me because it points to the danger of speculations. There are some things in scripture that are really clear and really important.  But other things are less clear.  Many Christian movements and denominations are based on speculation.  People fight about the implications of Bible texts, and about the implications of implications.  And strangely the people that know the least about a subject are the quickest to voice their opinion. It has been said, “more heresy is preached in application than exegesis.”  How true. Controversy is more common and more damaging when we wander away from things that are clearest.

I Tim 2:8 “I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling.

We cannot come to God rightly if we have ongoing problems with our brothers and sisters. Unfortunately, frequent arguments and debates lead to anger and fractured fellowship. It prevents us from entering into prayer the way He intends.

The argumentative person can turn every conversation into a debate and every person into a potential enemy.

I Tim 6:3-5 “If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain.”

Some people crave controversy. This is NOT a virtue.  And these kinds of people love to argue about words. Of course words are important. But these kind of people see words as opportunities to act like lawyers looking for loopholes.  What is startling about this passage is how it describes the fruit of quarreling, “envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction.”  All of the works of the flesh thrive in the atmosphere of controversy.

2 Tim 2:14-16 “Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers. 15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. 16 But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness.”

Here we are actually commanded not to argue. And the reason is all the nasty fruit: The “ruin of the hearers,” and “more and more ungodliness.”  An approach to Christianity that is constantly fighting destroys people, and leads to nothing good.  Passages like this should make us pause before entering the fray and ask if it is really worth it.  Being a brawler is not an innocent pastime.

2 Tim 2:24-25 “And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, 25 correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth.”

Here Paul is clear that those in ministry shouldn’t be quarrelsome.  And when they do need to step into an argument they need to do with patience and gentleness.  The intent should always be constructive, one of love and hope for the other person. The desire to destroy others is in conflict is desperately evil.

Titus 3:2, 9-10 “speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people…But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. 10 As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him.”

Sadly arguments often lead to insults and rudeness.  We move from arguing for the truth, to verbally attacking people.  In the process we lose track of courtesy.  We are to avoid these kinds of controversies. Some things are not worth arguing over because there is little to be gained. They are “unprofitable and worthless.” This is one of the few times in the Bible we are told to avoid people.   “I’m sorry I can’t be around you, you are a trouble maker.”

Tim Keller wrote a helpful series on this called, “Gospel Polemics.”  You can find it here.

Photo courtesy of the Museum of Hartlepool

Jonathan Edwards on the Poor

Of the obligation of Christians to perform the duty of charity to the poor.

“THIS duty is absolutely commanded, and much insisted on, in the Word of God. Where have we any command in the Bible laid down in stronger terms, and in a more peremptory urgent manner, than the command of giving to the poor? We have the same law in a positive manner laid down in Lev. 25:35, etc. “And if thy brother be waxen poor, and fallen in decay with thee, then thou shalt relieve him; yea, though he be a stranger or a sojourner, that he may live with thee.” And at the conclusion of verse 38, God enforces it with saying, I am the Lord thy God.

“It is mentioned in Scripture, not only as a duty, but a great duty. Indeed it is generally acknowledged to be a duty, to be kind to the needy. But by many it seems not to be looked upon as a duty of great importance. However, it is mentioned in Scripture as one of the greater and more essential duties of religion. Mic. 6:8, “He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” Here to love mercy is mentioned as one of the three great things that are the sum of all religion. So it is mentioned by the apostle James, as one of the two things wherein pure and undefiled religion consists. Jam. 1:27, “Pure religion, and undefiled, before God and the Father, is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.”

“So Christ tells us, it is one of the weightier matters of the law. Mat. 23:23, “Ye have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith.” The Scriptures again and again teach us that it is a more weighty and essential thing than the attendance on the outward ordinances of worship. Hos. 6:6, “I desired mercy, and not sacrifice;” Mat. 9:13 and 12:7. I know of scarce any duty which is so much insisted on, so pressed and urged upon us, both in the Old Testament and New, as this duty of charity to the poor.”

Jonathan Edwards From The Duty of Charity to the Poor, Explained and Enforced

What is the Bible All About?

I just came across this great book, which was previously a series of lectures by DA Carson called “The God Who is There.” I am not sure if this is a title connection between Francis Schaeffer’s famous book. Anyway, the idea is to take a jet tour of the big story of the Bible in 14 lectures. Carson is a very learned, clear, and informed communicator and these talks are good! I have been challenged and refreshed. Best of all the talks are intended to be accessible to people who do not have a lot of previous bible knowledge.

Here is the first talk:

The God Who Is There – Part 1. The God Who Made Everything from The Gospel Coalition on Vimeo.

4 Lessons for Teachers from Ezra 7:10

Ezra 7:10
“For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the Law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach statutes and ordinances in Israel.”

Ezra had just completed a 4 month journey from Babylon to Jerusalem. Verse 9 says that his journey was successful because God’s hand was upon him. Verse 10 gives an explanation of one of the reasons why God’s hand was on Ezra, his heart was right in God’s sight. “Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, But the LORD weighs the hearts (proverbs 21:2).” In this case, the Lord had searched Ezra’s heart and found it pure and sincere. What was pleasing to the Lord about Ezra as a teacher?

1. Ezra had made the study of God’s word a matter of the heart. When we grow in learning we may become proud. We may begin to think that our knowledge gives us privilege or some special standing. Knowledge is nothing if it doesn’t change our heart. The heart is our innermost being where motives, intentions, and goals arise. Jesus, quoting Isaiah, had condemned the Pharisees for their great learning and meticulous detail because their hearts were blackened, “these people draw near with their mouths And honor Me with their lips, But have removed their hearts far from Me (Isa. 29:13).” There is a word for people who study and teach the Bible without the involvement of their hearts: Hypocrit. This indictment was not true of Ezra. He drew near with his mind and his heart. Those who do not know the truth with their hearts do not really know it. And no one should teach the truth that doesn’t really know it.

2. Ezra’s approach was intentional. To put it another way, this focus on his heart was an active duty. He had prepared his heart. Focusing on our hearts in the study of the truth is the hardest thing of all. Our flesh resists. It is so much easier to learn the truth in order to win an argument or teach a lesson. But to preach the truth to your own heart is difficult. Why is it difficult? It involves seeing unpleasant things about ourselves. It also requires the humbling work of repentance when we see our sins. It requires that we see God’s word as a way to draw close to God Himself. We cannot do this in our own strength; we need God’s help. But this will never happen on accident, it must be the resolve of the heart. Lastly, the hard work of applying the truth to the heart is difficult because it is unseen. There are no bulging biceps, no certificates on the wall, no initials or letters to leave after your name, no pay raise. No one compliments you for it, because no one else sees it. It is one of the truest signs of real religion because it is done for God.

3. The study of the word, applied to the heart brought about certain results. The effect was obedience. Ezra was a doer of the word. What this means is that you would not need to say about Ezra, “do what he says but do not follow his example.” A careless life will sweep away the best teaching. Those who obey the truth through the many seasons of their lives have the best insight into what the word really means. Furthermore, teachers who are “doers” appeal to more than just the mind of their hearers. They are able to petition the heart. A life committed to God calls out to something inside the hearer, to something that looks at an orderly life and finds it attractive. A teacher who is a doer is a man who dresses up the gospel. The example of an obedient, happy life says that the obedience is not only right, it is beautiful; by grace it is possible by real people, and it is satisfying to the heart.

4. The last step in this description of Ezra is last for a reason. It comes after all these other things. It is unfortunate that so many want to put it sooner. They want to teach before the truth has affected their hearts, and their lives. They want to study and then teach. This can be done with many subjects…but not with the Law of God. Note as well that teaching God’s people was Ezra’s resolve and final goal. To be a faithful teacher to God’s people takes resolve and commitment, and should be done willingly.

Seminary Lectures and Training for Free

I love to find free stuff, if it is good quality. is doing a great job. They offer a bunch of seminary classes from good evangelical teachers for free. I am currently listening to the one on Philosophy and it is good. There is a series of 3 lectures on the history of the English Bible by Daniel Wallace. It is wonderful. He is a true scholar and presents compelling reasons to thank God for our Bible translations. (and also to see that the King-James-only position has some serious historical hurdles). Anyway I hope you enjoy. There is no excuse in America to be ignorant!