Our most recent family pic with only Andrew missing

Friday, November 17, 2017

Hypocrites, Church decline and Disobedience

Why do we have communion as often as we do? Plain and simply, because Jesus told us to. And if Jesus said: “Do it!” ... we believe we ... must ... do ... it. And if we are going to be people who, with integrity, are going to back up our arguments with: “The Bible says ...; or, Jesus says ... ” ... well, then we have to be very, very, careful. Because we can’t pick and choose which commands we will obey and expect others to obey ... and which we will ignore and tell others they can ignore as well. Jesus had a name for people like that .... hypocrites ... and hypocrites and church growth don't go together.

[A note to my readers: this teaching is coming at the end of a series of Bible studies on the conquest of Canaan. I'm sure it will make sense to any reader who has not been part of the study groups, but you'll now understand what I am referring to in the preaching of this teaching. The material I reference is from ThatTheWorldMayKnow and you can preview it here. I strongly recommend this resource for personal and group use. I have been using it for nearly 20 years]

What are the commands of Christ, or to put it another way, what did Jesus tell us to do? There are many (I have found 50 direct commands on the lips of Jesus) and I find Jesus saying things like: If you love me you will obey my commands (John 14:15) and Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock (Matthew 5:24). Too many people want Christian faith, but they don’t want Christian obedience.

Now, if you’re silly, you’re thinking that I’m saying you must do these 50 things and then you’ll be saved. But you’re not silly because by now you know I preach salvation by faith alone. These things have nothing to do with salvation, but everything to do with obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus says: I’ve saved you ... now, please obey me. This is the way God has always worked ... it’s not new. He saved the Israelites from captivity in Egypt and only later gave them His Law and said: I’ve saved you ... now please obey me. 

Regarding the Land of Canaan, the Promised Land, he commanded them to occupy the land. As we’ve seen in our home group material, the saved Israelites were like many saved Christians today: they were happy for God to save them, but refused to live in obedience to Him. He told them to occupy the land, but they decided that they wouldn’t occupy the land ... only the parts they liked. He didn’t take away their salvation and send them back to Egypt ... they remained saved from captivity in Egypt, they remained in the Promised Land, but their disobedience meant they made things so much more difficult for themselves ... they punished themselves, they didn’t enjoy the fullness of God’s salvation ... Why?, because they wanted salvation without obedience. God promised them victory over stronger enemies, He miraculously proved to them that He would give them the victory, he said “Conquer and take possession of the land I am giving you” ... but they chose not to ... what do we call this? Disobedience.

We started off our home group material looking at city gates and city walls ... huge and formidable. When the Israelites first saw them, they’d never seen anything like them. They must have thought: “How will we conquer these people?” Then we looked at the Jordan River, and again, the new generation of Israelites must have thought: “How will we cross this barrier?” Then we looked at the concept of First Fruits, giving to God obediently at the beginning of getting something and trusting Him to provide the rest. And in each instance in these lessons we saw how God rewarded their obedience. Then it came to conquering the territory given to Dan ... and they didn’t like that territory, or in fact any of the coastal belt ... and they disobeyed and didn’t conquer it, leaving the Philistines there who became a huge thorn in their side, causing them much suffering and hardship. Why did they do this? Because they wanted a salvation with no need for obedience ... but there is no such thing and disobedience always leads to unpleasant consequences.

If you love me you will obey my commands. Do you love the Lord Jesus, or are you living a salvation that allows you to be disobedient to His commands? Remember, this doesn’t affect your salvation, but it seriously affects the quality of the Christian life that you’re living, the effectiveness of your Christian witness, which in turn determines whether the church of Jesus Christ takes possession of the land, in other words, whether the church grows. Remember, the victory is the Lord’s ... this is the recurring message of Scripture, in the Old Testament, the Gospels and the rest of the New Testament. Victory is the Lord’s and all God asks is peoples’ obedience. It isn’t David who wins victory over Goliath, it’s the Lord ... David is just obedient. The New Testament describes what God means when He calls David a man after His own heart in Acts 13:22: God testified concerning him: “I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.” The Cross of Jesus Christ demonstrates that victory is the Lord’s: put away your sword Peter, it is the Lord who will win the victory, not you and your sword. The victory is the Lord’s, He just needs His people to be obedient. In the early church, who is it that added daily to their number? The Lord added daily to their number ... the Lord grows His church, but only when He has disciples/followers/Christians who are obedient. This is clearly set out in Acts 2:42-47 where we find the believers doing various things that Jesus commanded, so the Lord added to their number daily.

Wherever the church of Jesus Christ is not being added to in number, you more than likely have a church that is preaching faith without obedience. I put it to you that wherever the church is in numerical decline it is plainly and simply because the church preaches/teaches faith without preaching/teaching obedience. This means it probably does not encourage or, dare I say, demand, obedience to the commands of Christ; worse, it perhaps clings to some commands, but dismisses others ... that is hypocrisy.

The commands of Christ, which we are called to obey if we love Him, are many. Some are "easy" ... do this in remembrance of me, or, be baptised in my name ... some seem more difficult, like forgiving others, loving neighbour as yourself ... some seem impossible, like loving enemies or turning the other cheek. But the One who said: If you love me you will obey my commands is also the the one who gives us the grace and power to obey His commands.

Draw near, now, in faith to this table of grace. Let us do this in remembrance of Him and receive from Him the grace and power to keep His commands. 

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