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Does doctrine still matter today?

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In today’s post I’d like to address the issue of doctrine. Specifically, whether or not it really matters to the church today.

Doctrine is one of those words that many of us in the church don’t like because the very word brings to mind rules, regulations, and irrefutable, unarguable dogma. To some, doctrine takes all the ‘fun’ out of church.

What is “Doctrine”?

Doctrine is the belief or set of beliefs and principals that make up the essence of the Christian faith. These include (but are not limited to) the Virgin birth, the Incarnation, The Crucifixion and Resurrection, and the necessity of Salvation, among many others.

From these essential truths come the various creeds and theological positions that have evolved into the essentials of our faith. From as far back as the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy to the New Testament book of Revelation, doctrine has always been a critical component of our walk with the Lord. [1]  [2]

What “Doctrine” is NOT

Doctrine is not a list of rules and regulations that a particular church or denomination has put together in order to regulate your behavior. Some examples of this include forbidding the wearing of jewelry and makeup, forbidding members to attend movies, even requiring a specific dress code that includes the length of your hair.

None of this falls under the heading of essential church doctrine necessary for salvation, but rather this is Legalism. What Legalism does is attempt to exert control over people, rather than permit them to enjoy the freedom they have in Christ. [3]

Now, you may be asking why any of this is important. It is important because proper doctrine in essential in the defense of the faith. This means that what you and I believe matters. It matters because it matters to the Lord.

For example, in speaking to the church at Pergamos in the 2nd chapter of the book of Revelation, Jesus is speaking to them about the issue of doctrine. Specifically, he told them that because they tolerated the doctrine of Balaam, a false teaching that led Israel into idolatry and fornication, it would be held against them.

They also had among themselves those that held to the doctrine of the Nicolaitans. This false belief was one of compromise, rejecting the idea that complete separation between Christianity and the practice of occult paganism was necessary.

I find it incredibly interesting that doctrine was so important to the Lord Jesus that he actually called out those that were permitting false doctrine in their midst. This mindset is completely opposite of many in the Church today where doctrine has taken a back seat to belief systems developed to appease the mind of guilt and raise one’s esteem.

It has become a common thought today that while core doctrines were necessary for the development of the infant church, 2000 years later we have moved beyond the need for such rigidity.

For proof of this consider the church you attend today. Does it hold to the Biblical standards in it core doctrines? For that matter, does it still hold to its original doctrinal statements? Going a step further, does your church still officially hold to these truths yet never speak on them?

I believe we do the Lord a huge disservice by not proclaiming the essential, core doctrines of the Christian church today. I am firmly convinced that this lack of solid Biblical instruction is a large part of why the church isn’t the powerful voice it once was in society. Specifically, many of us have no idea why we believe what we believe. How then can we tell others, especially those outside the household of faith?

The answer to the question “Does doctrine still matter today” is a resounding YES!

Be blessed today,

Ron

 

[1] Deuteronomy 32:2

[2]. Revelation 2:14-15, 2:24

[3] “Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed”.  John 8:36.  NKJV

What is your church known for?

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I read an interesting article from Thom Rainer about Three Ways Churches Think They Are Known in Their Communities.

The gist of it centered around the question of “What is your church known for in its community?” Thom collected the responses to the question and found three patterns emerged. Below are the results, and I urge you to read the entire article along with the readers comments at the end.

  1. “About one-half of the churches are known for ministries that require the community to come to the church itself. Great preaching. Incredible worship services. A friendly church. Great events at the church. How our members care for one another. You get the picture.
  2. About one-fourth of the churches cited great ministries in and to the community. Partnering with schools in the community. Serving the community with food and clothes. Medical and dental ministries. Ministries to families, parents, and children in the community. The list goes on and on.
  3. About one-fourth of the churches said they were known for negative reasons. Preacher-eater churches. Congregational fights and splits. Legalism. Unfriendliness.”

All of this got me to thinking about my own church, so much so that I’m going to take my own unscientific poll to find out what my fellow congregants think our church is known for in our community.

What would you learn about your church should you ask the question “What is your church known for in its community?”

Do you think you already know their answers, or do you think you might be surprised at what you would learn?

Be blessed!

Ron

When “works” replace Jesus…

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Recently I came across an article that talked about pastors filling in their church calendars for the new year. The gist of this article dealt with whether or not the items that made their calendars was real ministry or simply “busy work”.

It made for interesting reading, especially when one of the pastors posted a link to his calendar for everyone to see. Imagine my surprise when lo and behold nearly every day of the week was filled from early morning till late in the evening.

Everything from early morning Bible studies and Zumba classes, afternoon staff and business meetings, to evening choir practice and healthy cooking classes filled this church’s calendar.

Frankly, it was the busiest church calendar I have ever seen, and I’ve seen a lot of them. At first glance one would be inclined to say that this church was very busy, and they certainly were. I couldn’t imagine them squeezing anything else into an already stuffed daily agenda.

There was something odd however about this church calendar. I couldn’t figure it out at first, but I couldn’t shake the notion that in spite of so many agenda items something was missing.

Then it hit me. There was something missing! In fact, I noticed two missing items. The first was that there was no time built into the calendar for corporate prayer. The second thing that I noticed missing was there was not one single event or activity geared toward anyone outside the four walls of the church!

As I studied this I was reminded of something that Jesus said to the church at Ephesus, one of the seven churches mentioned in the book of Revelation.

2 “I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; 3 “and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary. 4 “Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.    Revelation 2:2-4(NKJV).    Emphasis mine

Lets look at these verses in detail because I think we might see ourselves in them.

Jesus recognized the works that the church had been doing. He called attention to their labor and patience, and how many of us can relate when it comes to having patience when doing the Lords work?

Jesus also mentioned the church’s disdain for those who practiced evil. All of us understand this don’t we? We are trying to live a Godly life in the midst of a perverse and increasingly evil society, and it’s only going to become more challenging.

He goes on to list several more very positive attributes of the church at Ephesus, leaving no doubt that He knew this church intimately. Hmmm…do you suppose Jesus knows the church you attend in such intimate detail?

At first glance this church could be the model for all other churches in the area. Things were going good, and I imagine there was quite a buzz about all the wonderful things the church at Ephesus was doing.

But, and there’s always a but, right? There was a problem in the church, a problem so important that Jesus couldn’t let it slide without calling their attention to it.

It all began with the word “nevertheless”. Just hearing the word sends thoughts of “uh oh, here it comes” to our minds. Even after all of the praise Jesus gave the church, there was a “nevertheless” that cast a dark shadow on what was an otherwise glowing report.

Nevertheless, he said, this church had lost their first love.

Ouch!

What does this mean, to have lost your first love? It means that the church at Ephesus no longer loved the Lord with the same level of intensity they once had. Their passionate love for Jesus had been replaced by something else.

They had lost their zeal for Christ. Typically when this happens, we just go through the motions of serving God. Our heart is no longer motivated by the love of Jesus, we become content to do as many good works as we can, placing our trust in the deeds themselves rather than Jesus.

Ask me how I know this!

Do you know what this is called? It’s called RELIGION, and it ceases to be about a relationship with Christ. The church at Ephesus abandoned their first love in exchange for cold, formal, impersonal RELIGION.

This is the same poison that has infected the Church today. The poison of RELIGION has suffocated the once fervent relationship she had with Christ. This is why there is such apathy in the pew today. We have supplanted relationship with form, with rules, with do’s and dont’s.

But it doesn’t have to be like this! There’s more to the story! In the next verse, Jesus gave the church at Ephesus an “out”. He told them to REPENT. That’s right, simply REPENT.

Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.”   Rev. 2:5   KJV

I believe that this is the message for the Church today. Remember where we came from, acknowledge we have strayed, repent and get going again.

Return to the love of Jesus, then watch how much impact our works will have on the world around us!

Maybe we should put THAT in our church calendars!

Be blessed,

Ron

 

 

If Jesus Built This Church on Love…….

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I’ve been thinking about a gospel song from many years ago entitled “Jesus built this church on love”. In case you’ve never heard the song here is a sample of the lyrics:

“Do you ever just get to wonderin’/ ‘bout the way things are today?/ So many on board this gospel ship/ Trying to row in a different way/ If we’d all pull together/ Like a family me and you/ We’d come a lot closer to doin’/ what the Lord called us to do.

Chorus: “Jesus built this church on love/ and that’s what it’s all about/ Trying to get everybody saved/ not to keep anybody out…”

What got me to thinking about this old song was the simple message of the song title itself. “Jesus built this church on love”…

The more I keep thinking about those simple words the more obvious it becomes that Jesus actually did build His church on love. Or at least that was His intention until we got in the way and decided we knew a better way to build a church. Notice the difference there?

Jesus said He would build His church. We the church of today want only to build “A” church. I wonder how well we’ve done in building “A” church?

Jesus did NOT build His church on the things that we all too often stumble over.For example Jesus did not build His church on a particular denomination. Shocking isn’t it? Especially to those of you who love to espouse your denomination’s doctrinal positions above the word of God!

Neither did Jesus build His church on a foundation of rules and regulations. Sorry legalistic Christians, if it isn’t in the Bible you’ve went too far!

Oh, and lest I forget, Jesus did not build His church upon the traditions of men that dare attempt to usurp the authority of Christ on earth.

Nope. In it’s most basic,simplistic fashion the church of the Living God was built on love. The love of Christ for a sinful world. A love so deep that One would dare give His own sinless life in order to become the very foundation of this church.

If Jesus built this church on love….then where is it?

Where in the world is the love that the church was built upon?

Where is the love for one another within the body of Christ? From where I sit on the front row of the church I see a famine in the church.I hear all the right words. I listen to songs about the love of God. I hear sermon after sermon filled with words about love.

But I don’t SEE much of it. What I do see is this:

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. James 1:22-24

I hear hearty “Amen’s”. I see heads nod in affirmation at the call to love one another. Hearers of the word abound! After all, if all we ever do is hear the word and never act upon it…it costs us nothing!!

So what does the Bible have to say to us about loving one another?

John 15:12 (NKJV)
This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.

John 15:17 (NKJV)
These things I command you, that you love one another.

Romans 12:10 (NKJV)
Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another;

1 Peter 3:8-9 (NKJV)
Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous;
not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing.

1 John 4:11-12 (NKJV)
Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us.

Seems to me we ought to be all about the doing when it comes to loving one another and not just be content witn hearing about it.

Yes, Jesus built His church on love.

But if we’re not careful we will dismantle it with our lack of true love for one another.

Ron