Church Worship (and other livelihoods): The Duty to use our Citizenship….

Church Worship (and other livelihoods): The Duty to use our Citizenship….

or….Paul did not intend in Romans 13 to promote absolute submission to human authorities,

 

Citizen:The native of a city, or an inhabitant who enjoys the freedom and privileges of the city in which he resides; the freeman of a city, as distinguished from a foreigner, or one not entitled to its franchises.
- Webster’s 1828

A couple of pre-emptive statements:

  1. I am not arguing against the reality of COVID-19 virus nor the degree of prevalence of the spread COVID-19, whether in Crosby, Colorado, or in California, etc, etc.

  2. I am not arguing that our church, in retrospect, should not have suspended regular worship. As my friend Joe Reed says, “If someone knocks on your door and says your roof is smoking, only a fool would not go outside and check to see if the thing is burning down.” God is sovereign, we are not; yet we are called to make decisions based upon commandments, convictions and calculated risk every single day. We are guided by obedience to God and love of others, and we act by faith because we do not have foresight. We are, after all, flesh and blood. That’s why, at various times in the winter, we have canceled our church programs for snow (or even on the basis of a forecast) based upon the limited knowledge we have while calculating risk/reward. I do not regret, for our church in our area, the decision to suspend worship for a time, the same decisions that almost all were making, upon the forecasts of COVID–19.

That said…

I am deeply concerned about this now popular notion among-st Christians that Romans 13 argues for absolute submission to the human Governing authorities for seemingly whatever length they suspend the assembling of the church.

Truth: Our attitude should always be one of humble submissiveness, and our actions should be in submission to proper authorities, unless the government goes against the clear directives of Christians as laid down in God’s Holy Word.

What are those clear directives?

Gathering together personally and publicly as a local church for worship (Colossians 3, Hebrews 10:25). The Holy Spirit brings isolated sinners from death to life, through the preaching of the Gospel, and into a local family, the church, as we run together towards heaven (Hebrews 12:1-2) The church is certainly more than Sunday worship, but it is also certainly nothing less than Sunday Worship – together, in person. Virtual meetings are a mirror of gathering, but there are many “one-anothers” which cannot occur through a video screen, and much participation by the whole is lost while watching the performance of one. Virtual worship is something, but it is certainly not “the church.”

Let me give an example from Scripture which I think is quite applicable today, showing us how and when to properly interpret scenarios where submission to Government applies.

In Acts 16 as Paul and Silas are preaching the Gospel, the rightful governing magistrates of Philippi, being influenced by some upset and angry citizens, arrested and beat the evangelists, throwing them in jail. They were then released by a divinely sent earthquake. Their jailer and his family, in fear and awe of God’s power and the kindness of his disciples, hear and are converted by the Gospel to Christianity. Here is the relevant text for us today, in our current situation: Christians who are also American Citizens:

But when it was day, the magistrates sent the police, saying, “Let those men go.” (36) And the jailer reported these words to Paul, saying, “The magistrates have sent to let you go. Therefore come out now and go in peace.” (37) But Paul said to them, “They have beaten us publicly, uncondemned, men who are Roman citizens, and have thrown us into prison; and do they now throw us out secretly? No! Let them come themselves and take us out.” (38) The police reported these words to the magistrates, and they were afraid when they heard that they were Roman citizens. (39) So they came and apologized to them. And they took them out and asked them to leave the city. (40) So they went out of the prison and visited Lydia. And when they had seen the brothers, they encouraged them and departed.
Act 16:35-40

Do you see it in v. 37? Paul uses the rights of his Citizenship, as (evidently) understood by All Romans, to challenge the authorities, that they, not he had violated the law and needed to repent, to change their course. Paul was actually demonstrating proper and legal submission to the government by reminding them of the rights of Roman citizens that Roman magistrates were expected to honor. The Magistrates had violated the law, not Paul.

Paul disobeyed the magistrates by not leaving town, but his dis-obedience was not moral, it was not a sin against God. The magistrates were out of line, according to their own oath of office. But confronting them, he was both helping himself and doing them a favor.

Each nation, of course, is different, so let me appeal to Americans.

In the USA the rights of citizens are recognized in the Constitution. It is the right of citizens to free, peaceful assembly: “Congress shall make no law respecting and establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

 

We obey God and God commands us to gather together bodily for worship (Colossians 3, Hebrews 10:25). It is what the pastor/elders/leaders of your church will be held accountable to God for. Did they obey God, even in the face of opposition? We can suspend worship, related to common sense reasoning (weather, pandemic, etc), but it is the church’s government, not civil government’s responsibility and sphere of authority. If, we as church leaders, make a wise or foolish decision, that is on us, not our civil government. Our American Constitution itself recognizes the very fact. Thank the Lord for this reality. The Governor can make recommendations and pleas to the church, but the church leadership are delegated to make decisions on Worship.

My question: In our Governor’s executive order to not allow churches to “meet for public worship”, is he, within the rights of his office and the laws of the land, according to the Constitution, or are we?

When we gather peaceably, we are exercising our rights as citizens and indirectly reminding others that this right is protected.If we do not remind the government of our place and their place, according to our own laws, who will? My primary goal in re-staring public worship is not to remind the government of anything. I am obeying God’s command. But, as an American Citizen, it is within my rights to do so. Period.

All things considered, such as the issues of risk, health, and love, it is crazy for the church right now to not at least read the constitution and wrestle with our American rights, our duties as the citizenry, as Paul did in Acts 16 when his rights were violated.

 

End Notes:

*We must differentiate the authority of civil magistrates and the authority (oft too much) of public opinion. Fear is a powerful weapon to wield, and it can enslave those who succumb to its influence. How often do we surrender our call and obedience to God because of the fear of who will shame us or hurt us?

*Similar principles and rights apply to businesses and other livlihoods in our nation. Where in the constitution is my right to make honest and peaceable commerce not protected right now….by what standard?

*A helpful video on the purpose of Church worship (Governmental Authority and the church) is found at https://www.facebook.com/aomin.org/videos/247003543025946/

Easter Worship in the park

This coming Sunday (April 12), we are able to gather together in our Vehicles for Sunday Worship!
This will take place at our regular time (9:30), at Miners Mountain Center Trail-head, just out of Ironton in the Mountain bike Rec area. You will be able to participate in your vehicles. This will also be broadcast over the radio on Skeeter 101.5 fm. Directions: turn North on County RD 30 in Ironton for 1/4 mile. As you leave town, take the first left into the rec area. The road winds for approx 1/2 mile until it takes a right turn. We will be in the farthest parking lot, at the base of Miners Mountain/scenic overlook. https://naturalatlas.com/trailheads/miners-mountain-rally-center-2296562

Ten Ways CORONA-19 Can work for our Good

Brian Najapfour (Reformation 21 Blog)

 

March 21, 2020

As a Christian, I want to view the coronavirus pandemic through the lens of the Bible, especially Romans 8:28–29:

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”  

This text teaches that for believers in Christ, all things—without exception—work together for good. In times of great trial, we can often feel as Jacob felt: “All these things are against me” (Gen. 42:36). And yet later, once we look back, we can say with Joseph, “God meant it for good” (Gen. 50:20).

So how can this coronavirus be for our good? Let me suggest ten ways.

 

  1. It can unite us globally in prayer. And as we pray, let us not underestimate what our prayers can do. Revival begins with prayer.

 

  1. It can open a door for us to share the gospel with the unbelievers. With this pandemic, Christians have a wonderful opportunity to show Christ’s love to others. As Jesus says, “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16).

 

  1. It can wean us from some of our idols in this world, such as sports, since this virus has caused cancellations and postponements of sporting events. Sadly, some Christians would rather watch or attend a sporting event on Sunday than worship God.

 

  1. It can compel us to put our confidence in God for healing, since there is no known vaccine yet for this virus. Medicines are gifts from God, but sometimes we depend on and appreciate these gifts rather than the Giver.

 

  1. It can give parents special time to be with their children, since this virus has also caused schools to shut down. Let’s ask help from God that our time with our children will become a blessing rather than a burden. Let’s remember, too, that our children are watching us. Thus, by what we say and do, let’s teach them how to react to a crisis like this in a God-honoring way.

 

  1. It can serve as an occasion for us to obey our Lord’s command: “Be still, and know that I am God” (Ps. 46:10). The pace of modern life is so fast that we hardly find time to pause and meditate on God’s Word. Since this virus has brought normal life to a halt, for most of us we have extra time to commune with God and ponder upon heavenly and eternal things.

 

  1. It can bring us face to face with the reality of death, as this virus continues to claim lives around the globe. “And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment” (Heb. 9:27). Are you ready to die?

 

  1. It can be a wakeup call to us from God to repent of our sin. In the Bible, pestilence is often a sign of God’s judgment. For instance, in 2 Samuel 24 God punished His covenant people because of David’s sin and God’s punishment came to them in a form of pestilence that claimed 70,000 lives.

 

  1. It can point us to Christ’s Second Coming. In a sense, we should not be surprised to see more events like this pandemic, as Jesus Himself says regarding the last days, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences” (Luke 21:10–11). Unfortunately, people prepare for the coming of the coronavirus, but give little thought to Christ’s Second Coming.

 

  1. It is certain that God will use this pandemic as an instrument in His hand to conform us more to the image of His Son Jesus Christ. The coronavirus is not designed to drive us away from God, but to draw us closer to Him. It is in this sense that this virus is ultimately for our spiritual good and for God’s own glory.

 

Therefore, fellow Christians, “Let not your hearts be troubled” (John 14:1). 


Brian G. Najapfour has been a minister of the gospel since 2001 and has served both in the Philippines and in the U.S. He is the author of several books, including A Hearer of God’s Word: Ten Ways to Listen to Sermons Better. He blogs at biblicalspiritualitypress.org.


Peace…for the Troubled Heart

 

Peace…for the Troubled heart

 

The 2003 movie, the Last Samauri, a story of turmoil and conflict, nationally, inter-personally and within the protagoint’s own heart, ends with this final naration, And so the days of the Samurai had ended. Nations, like men, it is sometimes said, have their own destiny. As for the American Captain, no one knows what became of him. Some say that he died of his wounds. Others, that he returned to his own country. But I like to think he may have at last found some small measure of peace, that we all seek, and few of us ever find.

 

Jesus spoke in John 14:6, I am the Way, the Truth and the Life, No One Comes to the Father, except through me.

 

This verse in the 14th Chapter of John’s Gospel, is the basis for the Exclusive claims of True Christianity; but more importantly, as a balm to the troubled souls of Christians. In a world of conflict, Jesus has open his exortation in v. 1 with this…Let not your hearts be troubled. Peace is delivered.

 

To set the context: One of Jesus own disciples, Judas has departed—he, who treasured this world more than Jesus, has finally been exposed, realizing that He has no use for Jesus, he thows off all vener of loyalty to gain his thirty pieces of silver from the religious establishment to hand them Jesus—He loves money and is richer for it.

 

And Jesus has announced his own departure—He, would go to the Cross of Christ, as Just Sacrifice to Holy God to atone for the sins of His people. He would rise again and return to heaven. He would not longer be bodily present in the same way for his disciples.

 

All False Religions are a twist of the truth. They address the human quesitons of pain, conflict and suffering and purpose and comfort by delivering false peace thorugh material things, which provide instant gratification.

 

Christianity is Gradificaiton delayed. We never seen Jesus, in physically, bodily form. Yet He promises to draw near and even has the audactiousness to tell us to not let our hearts be troubled? How?

 

First, He is the way—Where His Word is held up and obeyed, He is present. Where Christians gather together to Worship him in churhes, He is present.

 

Second, He is the truth—not a truth..but The Truth…He is the Creator. He is the origin and source of all that is true. All false religions offer solutions based upon redefinition of the Human problem: That Humanity is basically good, and the peace is found in right living and right feeling: Medicines, healthy diets, hand sanitizers, finding your true personality.

 

The Bible tells us the Truth, Original Sin—we as humans are sinners and condemned from the first sin of our first parents. We are blind, deaf and rebels against God. All Problems arise from conflict within each human being. Our hearts are desperately wicked. There is not peace with God apart from God’s grace. The Bible informs us of this. It also declared the solution: The Gospel: Jesus Christ alone has made Peace with God for us.

 

Third, He is the life—This addresses all the quesitons of purpose and contentment. The peace with God delivered through the Sacrifice and resurection of Jesus is a permanent Peace. God’s wrath is satisfied. Justice is fulfilled. Jesus offers New Life to any who would belive in Him alone. Life forevermore. The quality of eternal life, which will carry us through death and into heaven, is given through Jesus Christ. The Peace, which all of us strive for, has been found. It is revealed clearly in the Good News. It is a gift of grace today. It is for all who would Repent and believe and worship. It is Jesus Christ. The barrier is taken away. He is peace with God. He draws near to his people.

 

Finally. It is both exlusive and secure—if you believe this—you are secure forever, In Him. No other path will be invented. Nothing in 2020 will add to this. Believe Him. Believe in Him…and Be at Peace, today, and forevermore.

What Is the Gospel?

FROM W. Robert Godfrey Apr 12, 2019 Category: Articles

Many Christians, churches, and organizations regularly use the word gospel to describe their convictions. Theological controversies have occurred and do occur over the meaning of the gospel and who preaches it faithfully. What does that familiar word gospel mean? The best way to answer that question is to turn to the Bible.

In the Greek New Testament, the noun euangelion (“gospel”) appears just over seventy times. Since, in one sense, the whole New Testament is about the gospel, we might have expected the word to have been used more frequently. Even more surprisingly, its use varies greatly among the authors of the New Testament books. Paul uses the word more than three times as often as all the other authors combined. Most of the other uses are found in Matthew and Mark, with very few, if any, in Luke, John, Peter, and James.

The word gospel most simply means “good news.” The word is not unique to the Christian message, but it was also used in the pagan world to refer to a good announcement. In the New Testament, it refers to the good news of Jesus the Savior. Often, it is used with the assumption that the reader knows what the word means.

As we look more closely at the ways in which gospel is used in the New Testament, several points come through strongly. First, we often find the phrase “the gospel of God.” This phrase stresses the source of the gospel as a gift from God. The gospel is of divine, not human, origin. Second, the character of the gospel is specified in several ways: the gospel is true (Gal. 2:514Col. 1:5), gracious (Acts 20:24), and glorious (2 Cor. 4:41 Tim. 1:11). Third, we see two responses to the gospel. The primary response is faith (Acts 15:7Eph. 1:13). But obedience is also a response (1 Peter 4:7Rom. 1:510:1616:262 Thess. 1:8).

(Paul’s use of the idea of the obedience of faith in Romans has an element of irony as he responds to those who have accused him of antinomianism, being against the law.) Fourth, we see several results of the gospel. The gospel, of course, brings salvation (Rom. 1:16Eph. 1:13). It also brings the kingdom (Matt. 4:239:3524:14). It evokes hope in the people of God (Col. 1:23). The gospel is also a motivation to sanctification (Mark 8:3510:292 Cor. 9:13Eph. 6:15Phil. 1:27).

All of these ways in which the word gospel is used point to its content, but there are also passages in the New Testament that are explicit as to its content. In examining these texts, we discover that sometimes the word gospel refers broadly to all aspects of the salvation and new life that Jesus gives His people, and sometimes it is used narrowly to refer to what Jesus does for us outside of us. In other words, sometimes the term gospel refers broadly to Jesus’ work of justification and sanctification for and in His people, and sometimes it refers narrowly to Jesus’ work of justification. Another way of putting this distinction is that sometimes the word gospel refers broadly to all the New Testament fulfillment of what was promised in the Old Testament, and sometimes the term gospel is used narrowly of Jesus’ doing in contrast to our doing of the Law.

An example of the broader sense of the word gospel can be seen in Mark 1:1, “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” This use of the word gospel seems to refer to everything that Mark tells us about the teaching and work of Jesus. We see another broad use in Revelation 14:6–7:

Then I saw another angel flying directly overhead, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people. And he said with a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come, and worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water.”

Here the gospel is the call to repent and worship God.

More often, the term gospel is used narrowly and its content is specified. We see this in 1 Corinthians 15:1–4:

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you — unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.

Here, the gospel is the message of the saving death and resurrection of Jesus.

In another place, Paul writes of “the glorious gospel of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted,” and he specifies what that gospel is:

The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. (1 Tim. 1:1115–16)

Here, the gospel is the saving work of Christ for sinners.

Paul writes similarly in 2 Timothy:

Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel… . Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel. (2 Tim. 1:8–102:8)

This narrow use of the word gospel was very common in the writings of the sixteenth-century Reformers. We can see this in the thought of John Calvin:

The word of faith is put by metonymy [using the name of one concept for another concept to which it is related] for the word of promise, i.e. for the Gospel itself, since it is related to faith. The contrast between law and Gospel is to be understood, and from this distinction we deduce that, just as the law demands work, the Gospel requires only that men should bring faith in order to receive the grace of God.

It is also clear in Zacharias Ursinus. Near the beginning of his commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism, Ursinus divides all of doctrine into law and gospel:

The doctrine of the church consists of two parts: the Law, and the Gospel; in which we have comprehended the sum and substance of the sacred Scriptures. The law is called the Decalogue, and the gospel is the doctrine concerning Christ the mediator, and the free remission of sins, through faith.

Such reflections on the gospel have remained common in Reformed theology, as we see from this long, fascinating quotation from the great Dutch theologian Herman Bavinck:

But the word of God, both as law and gospel, is the revelation of the will of God, the promulgation of the covenant of works and the covenant of grace… . Although in a broad sense the terms “law” and “gospel” can indeed be used to denote the old and the new dispensation of the covenant of grace, in their actual significance they definitely describe two essentially different revelations of divine will [Bavinck here cites many New Testament proof texts]… . In these texts law and gospel are contrasted as demand and gift, as command and promise, as sin and grace, as sickness and healing, as death and life … . The law proceeds from God’s holiness, the gospel from God’s grace; the law is known from nature, the gospel only from special revelation; the law demands perfect righteousness, but the gospel grants it; the law leads people to eternal life by works, and the gospel produces good works from the riches of the eternal life granted in faith; the law presently condemns people, and the gospel acquits them; the law addresses itself to all people, and the gospel only to those who live within its hearing.

How clear, distinct, biblical, and precious is this presentation of the gospel.

The church needs to preach the gospel in both its broad and narrow senses. The Greek word for gospel has given the English-speaking world the word evangelism. True evangelism, according to the Great Commission given by Jesus in Matthew 28:18–20, is a matter of making disciples: first, in the narrow sense of calling men and women to believe in Jesus and, second, in the broad sense of teaching them to observe all things that Jesus has taught His people. For the sake of the gospel, let’s all promote true evangelism.

 

Worship and What’s Wrong with the World

Worship and What’s Wrong with the World

by Pastor Eric 

 

Who is God? He is Creator. Before Creation was, there was a Creator. This means that God is Set-apart from Creation. He is distinct in all He is. In His essence He is perfect and all loving, all powerful and all just all the time. Above which there is none greater, before which, there was no source.  

 

Why is this important?  Christianity, the Worship of One True God, is What Dr. Peter Jones calls Two-ist. Meaning that There is a distinction between Creator, who is set-apart and independent, and Creation(us,) who are created, limited and totally dependent upon God.

 

What is wrong with world? We are. Human beings, God’s very good creation, rebelled. Refusing to Humbly acknowledge Holy God and His Holy Created order, we deceive ourselves into thinking that nothing is Transcendent, that All truth is in what we prefer or feel.

 

Romans 1:25 declares that, being and Spirital people by nature, our problem is not that we worship , but that we choose to worship created things which should not be worshipped.

 

The Delusion that we are the Creator and that God is not, this is called One-ism..that we can become God. That we can find solution from creation. This is self-worship, that me and God are the same.

 

How has this Worked? Not well, to vastly understate the reality. Dennis Prager says that Secularism (or Paganism) begins with the breaking down of every Holy distinction which is given by God in Creation (Genesis 1-2) The distinctions are between God/Man, Man/Amimal, Male/Femal, Good/Evil,and in trying to finding meaning, worship and healing in ourselves, we violate these holy distinctions.   

 

Abortion: the offering up of Babies at the alter of personal convenience, Feminism and Efffimate/emmasculated men: the offering up of our roles pf male and female for the perceived religion of Freedom and autonomy. Think of the controversies raging around ideas such as transgenderism, sodomy, adultery and lesbianism—beliving that we can create our own meaning and rebel against God’s created order in the bodies which we possess.

 

This is all One-ist–thinking: that we are creators and can make our own meaning. That there is nothing transcendently Holy. If it feels or or makes me feel authentic, then it must be good, so goes our rationalization.

 

 Is God angry? Oh yes he is! God reigns and He is unchanging, and Death proves we cannot excape our Creator; and will face final judgment for our deeds.  The consequences of His Eternal judment are displayed in preview in the conflict, depair, suicide, lonliness present and increasing in our current culture. Even the breakdown of family is judgment which comes from rebelliing against any standards set by God.      

 

Enter Christianity. Christianity is Two-ist. It is not about feelign better, or having your best Life now. It is a Holy worship of New Birth, true life. It is Returning to Holy Creator God by Faith and Repentance.

 

Why? God did not fail. Our sin has not incapacitated him. the Creator was not affected nor suprised by our rebellion. He has made a solution. John 3:16 says that for God so loved the world that He gave his only son, that whosoever believs in HIm shlal not perish but have Eternal Life.  

 

How? Holy God has made a Way. In Him is Hope. For He came into the world as a Perfect Son, the 2nd Member of the Trinity–He lived a perfect life, died a designed Atoning death, satisfying the wrath and just punishment we have earned. He chose to love his creation, even rebellious self-worshippers. He was buried for our sins and rise again.

 

This is the Good News. Believe in HIm. Repent of your wicked one-ist worship, of destroying His world by acting like you were Him. Read His Word and let it re-order your whole of Worship. Join a faithful church which preaches and proclaims the Good News of His Son from the Bible. He is alive today–He is willing to forgiven and receive repentant sinners. Worship Him.