Archive for August, 2011

A Learning Church

August 23, 2011

Acts 2:42 says, “They devoted themselves to the apostle’s teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”

The grammar in the Greek sentence suggests the Early Christians gave themselves primarily to two things: teaching and fellowship. The two must happen simultaneously in the church. Think about it this way: teaching without fellowship is a dry, academic exercise; but fellowship without teaching is merely a social club.

The Early Church was first a learning church. It was certainly more than that but not less than that. What they believed and taught about Jesus defined the rich sense of community they enjoyed. And yes, doctrine and theology mattered to them. In fact, the apostle Paul often warned about false teachers creeping into the church and leading people astray. For example, as Timothy was getting ready to assume the role of senior pastor in Ephesus, Paul writes these words to him,

As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrine any longer nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. These promote controversies rather than God’s work―which is by faith. The goal of our instruction is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. 1 Timothy 1:3-6

Paul also told Timothy to “preach the Word” (2 Tim. 4:2). A church that drifts away from the centrality of Scripture is destined for shipwreck. I’ve seen too many of my colleagues abandon the teaching of Scripture for the sake of relevance, replacing the meaty exposition of God’s Word for milky substitutes that barely nourish the soul.

I’ve also seen churches walk away from a view of Scripture that affirms its Divine authorship.

For the record, I believe in the infallibility of Holy Scripture, that it is totally inspired by the Holy Spirit from Genesis to Revelation. And because “all Scripture is God-breathed” (2 Tim. 3:16), it is also authoritative. It tells us who we are as a church, why we exist, where we are going, and yes, how we are to live. The origin of Scripture is not in man, but “men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pet. 1:21).

The church I’ve always wanted is at least devoted to the teaching of God’s Word. What about you?

When God is Silent

August 16, 2011

How long, O Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not save? Habakkuk 1:2

For years, Verizon has sold their cell phone service with an advertising campaign that asks, “Can you hear me now?” There’s nothing more frustrating than a dropped call in the middle of conversation. Imagine that happening when you’re talking to the Lord. Can you hear me now, Lord? Habakkuk cries out, “O Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen?”

Has God ever trusted you with his silence? Yes, sometimes God actually uses divine silence to draw us into a deeper intimacy with him.

I know, I know. That sounds a little strange and contrary to how we experience most relationships. For example, if I choose to give my wife the silent treatment, or vice versa, we will grow apart. Communication is essential in marriage. Silence actually drives a deep wedge between a husband and wife. But God’s ways are not ours. Sometimes he uses silence as a way of saying, “Trust me! I have everything under control.”

At other times, God’s silence is an indication that something is awry in our relationship with him. Indeed, he cannot hear us when sin has caused a breach in our fellowship with him. Psalm 66:18 says, “If I regard iniquity in my heart the Lord will not hear me.” That’s a scary verse of Scripture. God remains deaf to our prayers when sin reigns in our life.

The words “how long” in verse 2 suggest that Habakkuk had been struggling with God’s silence for some time. C.S. Lewis once remarked that when he prayed there were times as though heaven “bolted and double-bolted its doors.”

Habakkuk is not the only person in Scripture that had to endure seasons of divine silence. The psalmist David cried out “how long” four times in Psalm 13. “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?”

Think about it. King David, the man after God’s own heart, struggled with the Almighty’s silence. Both he and the prophet Habakkuk wondered, “God, are you there? Can you hear me now?”

It shouldn’t surprise us that when God is silent doubts begin to flood our soul. But that’s the time to move closer to him, resisting the urge to drift away.

Ron Jones is a pastor whose greatest passion is to introduce people to Jesus Christ through anointed biblical preaching that transforms lives.

 

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