The God-Man: How can it be?

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

There are many mysteries in life that we don’t understand and likely can’t understand in this life.  The Scriptures uncover some of these mysteries:  Why do the wicked prosper?  Why do the righteous suffer?  Why is there suffering in the world?  While God does explain some of these mysteries, there are many which are left unsolved.   They are not unsolved in God’s mind and in God’s plan, but they are unexplained and unresolved in our finite minds.  We simply cannot understand the ways and the working of an infinite God.  Someday we will likely understand more than we understand now, but until then we must trust in our great God as He carries out His amazing plan.  

There are no greater mysteries than when we begin to study the nature of God.   Not only will we not be able to understand everything about the way that God works, but we also can’t comprehend everything about who God is.  We cannot understand how all of His attributes work together so perfectly.  How can God be both holy and loving, both wrathful and forgiving, both kind and just?  We cannot begin to understand the Trinity, how God can exist in three Persons.  How can God be one God and yet three distinct Persons?  All the illustrations and figures which we may present cannot begin to fully explain the Trinity.  And then we have the mystery of the Incarnation.  What is the Incarnation?  The word means “in flesh.”  When we speak of the Incarnation, we are referring to the truth of God becoming man.  How can one Person be both God and man at the same time? How can God still remain God when He takes on human flesh?  It is this mystery of the God-man that we will now ponder.  

Recently I began a new series on the Lord Jesus Christ.  Thus far we have examined two questions:   “How long has Jesus existed?”  and  “Is Jesus God?”  We come now to a third inquiry:  “The God-Man:  how can it be?”  Last month I emphasized the truth of the Deity of Christ:  Jesus is God.  Now we balance this truth with another:  Jesus is both God and man.  God became incarnate. The Word who was God (John 1:1) became flesh (John 1:14).  The child born of the virgin is Immanuel—“God with us” (Matt. 1:23).  When we study the Incarnation—God becoming man—we discover the following truths. 

  • When God became a man, He added humanity but did not in any way diminish His Deity.

Jesus Christ was and is 100% God and 100% man.  He is one Person with two natures:  a divine nature and a human nature.  It is important to realize that He did not become two Persons.  Nor did He become half-God and half-man.  Dr. Charles C. Ryrie stated it well:  “More concisely one may describe the person of Christ incarnate as being full Deity and perfect humanity united without mixture, change, division, or separation in one Person forever. . . . The single Person of the incarnate Christ retained the total complex of divine attributes and possessed all the complex of human attributes essential to a perfect human being” (Charles C. Ryrie, Basic Theology, pp. 247, 250).  Yet Ryrie also acknowledges:  “The concept of the . . . one-person union of the divine and human natures in one Person is probably one of the most difficult concepts to comprehend in theology” (p. 250).  

  • There are several changes which occurred when God became man.

While  God did not change in regard to who He is, several changes did occur during Jesus’ life on earth. 

  • There was a change in where He dwelt: from heaven to earth (John 6:51).

  • There was a change in what He possessed: from riches to poverty (II Cor. 8:9; Luke 9:58).

  • There was a change in how He appeared: from glory to obscurity (John 1:10; 17:5; Matt. 17:1-8) and from the form of God to the likeness of a man (Phil. 2:6-7).

  • There was a change in what He displayed: from equality with God to servanthood (Phil. 2:6-7).

  • There are several demonstrations which display both His humanity and His Deity at the same time.

    • Jesus was weary and thirsty (John 4:6-7), and yet was the water of life (John 4:13-14; 7:37).

    • Jesus was hungry (John 4:2), and yet was the bread of life (John 6:35).

    • Jesus was weary and asleep in the midst of the storm, and yet calmed the raging sea (Mark 5:35-41).

    • Jesus wept with the mourners, and yet raised His friend from the dead (John 11:33-44).

    • Jesus experienced physical and emotional pain (Lk.22:39-44), and yet healed all diseases (Matt.4:23).

  • There were several reasons why God became man.

    • God became man in order to reveal God to man (John 1:18; 14:9; Matt. 11:27).

    • God became man in order to provide an example to believers (I Pet. 2:21; I John 2:6).

    • God became man in order to fulfill the Davidic covenant (II Sam. 7:16; Luke 1:31-33; Acts 2:30,31,36).

    • God became man in order to die for sinners (Heb. 2:9-13; 10:1-10).

    • God became man in order to defeat Satan (Heb. 2:14; I John 3:8; Col. 2:14-15; John 12:31; 16:11).

    • God became man in order to deliver slaves to sin (Heb. 2:15).

    • God became man in order to develop sympathy (Heb. 2:16-18; 4:14-16).

Though we don’t understand how God became man, we are eternally grateful that He did!  We worship the God-man!

Because of His Grace—Pastor Charlie

Is Jesus God?

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Recently I began a new series on the Lord Jesus Christ.  In this series we are examining what about Him is so amazing.  Last month we began by answering the question from a biblical perspective, “How long has Jesus existed?”  We saw that God’s Word teaches that Jesus has eternally existed.  He had no beginning, and He will have no end.  About who else can this be said?  Angels?  No, they were created.  Human beings?  They also had a beginning.  It is very clear that this can be said only of God Himself.    Only God is eternal in the complete sense of the word.  This next question is a logical follow-up to the previous one:  “Is Jesus God?”  If Jesus is truly eternal, then this second question must be answered in the affirmative.  

 The biblical doctrine of the deity of Jesus Christ—that He is God—has been under attack since the early centuries of the Church.  Unbelievers today will accept Jesus as a good man, a great moral teacher, a prophet, or a philosopher, but they will deny that He is truly God.  The cults today, including Jehovah’s Witness and Mormonism, may declare Jesus to be the Son of God, but they will boldly declare that Jesus is not God.  K. Scott Oliphint in Know Why You Believe, points out, “In the nineteenth century, a movement developed that was often called ‘The Quest for the Historical Jesus.’  This movement was an attempt to discover and write about the life of Jesus from a purely naturalistic point of view.  In other words, the life of Jesus could have nothing supernatural about it.  David F. Strauss, to use just one example, wrote The Life of Jesus.  In this work, he made his startling point clear.  He wanted to get to a ‘historical’ understanding of Jesus by rejecting any supernatural elements or stories about him.  He considered all supernatural references to Jesus as myth.  He wanted to write about a Jesus who was nothing more than a historical, even if influential, person.  Strauss wanted to promote Jesus who lived ‘one solitary life.’ No matter how impressive and influential that life might be, it doesn’t seem to be worthy of our worship.  The ‘historical’ Jesus was not God.  He performed no miracles.  Any reference to him that went beyond the natural was deleted from his life.  Because Strauss decided he would include nothing but the natural, his only conclusion would have to be a ‘natural’ Jesus, a Jesus who was as ‘natural’ as we are” (p. 56).

Is this all that Jesus is?  An exalted man?  Or is He truly God?  What does the Word of God teach?

  • He is called “God” (Isa. 9:6; Matt. 1:23; John 1:1; 20:28; Phil. 2:5-6; I Tim. 3:16; Tit. 2:13; Heb. 1:8; I John 5:20).

  • He possesses attributes which belong only to God (eternal—Mic. 5:2; Isa. 9:6; omnipresent—Matt. 18;20; 28:20; unchangeable—Heb. 13:8; omniscient—John 2:24-25; omnipotent—Phil. 3:20-21; holy—Acts 3:14).

  • He performs works which only God can do (creation of the universe—John 1:3, 10; sustaining the universe—Col. 1:17; Heb. 1:3; forgiveness of sin—Mark 2:5-7; giver of eternal life—John 10:28; judgment of the world—Matt. 25:31-46; John 5:22, 27; raising the dead—John 5:21, 28-29; 11:25-26; direction of history—Heb. 1:2; building and maintaining the Church—Matt. 16:18; Eph. 4:7-16; answering prayer—John 14:14).

  • He receives worship which only God can rightly receive (He received and demanded worship—Matt. 14:31-33; John 5:23; Phil. 2:9-11; Heb. 1:6; Rev. 5:8; angels and men refused it—Acts 10:25-26; 14:11-15; Rev. 19:10; 22:8-9; men are punished for receiving it—Acts 12:20-23; God alone is to be worshiped—Matt. 4:8-10).

  • He makes claims which can only be true of God (absolute authority over Law, temple, sabbath, and king-dom—Matt. 5:21-22, 27-28, 31-32, 33-34, 38-39; 43-44; 11:28; 12:8; 16:19; object of saving faith--John 10:30; 14:1; 17:3).

The former atheist, C. S. Lewis, stated it so well: “… people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic–on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg–or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to” (, 10/23/09).   A Jesus who is less than God is not the Jesus of the Bible.   This leaves us only one option:  “fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God”

Because of His Grace—Pastor Charlie

How long has Jesus existed?

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

When I wrote to you last month, our focus was on One portrayed in the Scriptures as amazing and wonderful.  When we think of Him, we reflect awe and wonder at One so great.  I am referring, of course, to the Lord Jesus Christ.   The many aspects of His character and nature reveal how glorious He is.  Let’s begin to look at His glorious character.  

As we examine the first of these qualities of Jesus Christ, we must answer the question:  “How long has Jesus existed?”  People who take history seriously will not deny the existence of Jesus Christ.  Even ardent unbelievers will admit that Jesus actually lived on this earth.   While they do not normally honor Jesus at the Christmas season, they usually recognize that He was born in a manger.  But to think that Jesus existed before His birth in Bethlehem is something which they are not willing to acknowledge.  They will agree that He existed on this earth and that He was born in Bethlehem, but they will argue against His preexistence before His birth.  

Why is it is so important that Jesus existed before His birth?  If His existence began when He was born in Bethlehem, then Jesus is no different than any other man.  He would not be God.  He would not be fit to be our Savior.  We must believe what the Bible clearly teaches:  Jesus Christ existed before His birth because He is eternal.  This is the first aspect of His nature on which we will focus:  His eternality.  He is the Eternal One.  John F. Walvoord in his book, Jesus Christ Our Lord, stressed the importance of this doctrine:  “The doctrine of the eternity of the Son of God is the most important doctrine of Christology as a whole because if Christ is not eternal then He is a creature who came into existence in time and lacks the quality of eternity and infinity which characterizes God Himself” (p. 22).  If Jesus Christ is truly God, then He must be eternal.  His eternal existence, His preexistence before His human birth, and His deity as God are all tied together.  What does the Word of God teach about His eternal nature?  Here is a summary of what it teaches.  

  • Old Testament prophecy teaches that Jesus is eternal.

    • He would be the Ruler born in Bethlehem “whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting” (Micah 5:2). His birthplace as man is predicted, but His eternal nature as God is revealed.

    • He would be the Child born and the Son given, called the Eternal Father, or literally, the Father of eternity (Isaiah 9:6). The Child born into the world is also the Father of eternity!

  • His eternal existence and His deity are connected.

    • The Word (Jesus Christ) was in the beginning with God and was God Himself (John 1:1).

    • The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, having come into the world (John 1:14).

  • The truth that Jesus came into the world presupposed that He existed before He came.

    • Jesus claimed to have come down from heaven (John 3:13,16-17; 6:33,3842,50-51,58,62; 7:29; 8:23,42; 9:39; 17:5,24).

    • Others declared His coming from heaven (John 1:15,18,30; 3:31; I Pet. 1:18-20).

  • When the Scripture declares who He preceded, the truth of His eternal existence is revealed.

    • Jesus existed before John the Baptist (John 1:15), even though Jesus was six months younger.

    • Jesus existed before Abraham (John 8:58), also identifying Him as the “I AM” (cp. Ex. 3:14).

    • Jesus existed before the creation of the world (John 17:5).

    • Jesus existed before all things (Col. 1:17), and later created all things (Col. 1:15-16).

Jesus declared His eternal nature when He announced to John:  “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. . . who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty. . . the First and the Last” (Rev. 1:8, 11; cp. 1:17; 22:13).  Jesus Christ not only existed before He was born in Bethlehem, but He eternally existed as God.  What is said of God in Psalm 90:2 can also be said of Jesus:  “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, you are God.”   Jesus possessing an eternal nature shows Him to be God. The fact that He is eternal should lead us to bow before Him in worship!

Because of His Grace—Pastor Charlie

That's amazing!

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

How often have we used the phrase, or heard the phrase used, “That’s amazing!”  According to Webster, something amazing causes astonishment, great wonder, or surprise.  To be truly amazing, it catches our attention.  It may be something which we have never seen or experienced before.  It is likely something unexpected. . . . we can’t believe that it actually happened.   It is usually an event or happening out of the ordinary.  Throughout the Scriptures, we see amazing things:  the creation of the world in six literal days. . . the worldwide flood. . . the Red Sea parted. . . water pouring from a rock. . . to mention a few.  Miracles are performed which transcend the laws of nature.  When we come to the New Testament, we see One who is more amazing than anyone else on earth.  What He did, what He said, and how He lived were truly amazing.  

This month I’m beginning a new series devoted to this One who is so amazing:  the Lord Jesus Christ.  There is no greater person to ever live on this earth.  No one else in history can catch man’s attention like He can.  We see the effect that He had on others during His earthly ministry.  He was amazing in the impact which He made.  When you study the word “amazed” in the Scriptures, you see that it is used mostly of the Lord Jesus and how He affected others.  What was so amazing about Jesus?  Let’s see what the Gospel writers say.  

  • People were amazed at the works of His power.

    • They were amazed when He calmed the raging winds and waves (Matt. 8:26-27; Mark 6:51; Luke 8:24-25).

    • They were amazed when He made the paralytic walk (Matt. 9:6-8; Mark 2:11-12; Luke 5:25-26).

    • They were amazed when He cast out the demon and enabled the man to speak (Matt. 9:32-33; 12:22-23; Luke 11:14).

    • They were amazed when He cast out the demons and set men free (Mark 1:26-27; 5:18-20; Luke 4:35-36; 9:42-43).

    • They were amazed when He healed the mute, maimed, lame, and blind (Matt. 15:30-31).

    • They were amazed when He raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead (Mark 5:41-42).

    • They were amazed when He withered the fig tree (Matt. 21:18-20).

  • People were amazed at the words of His wisdom.

    • They were amazed at His understanding and answers as a 12-year-0ld in the temple (Luke 2:45-50).

    • They were amazed when He proclaimed gracious words in the Nazareth synagogue (Luke 4:16-22).

    • They were amazed when He taught the people with authority on the mountain (Matt. 7:28-29).

    • They were amazed when He taught in the temple during the Feast of Tabernacles (John 7:14-15).

    • They were amazed when He answered the Herodians regarding paying taxes (Matt. 22:17-22; Mark 12:13-17; Luke 20:22-26).

    • They were amazed when He answered the Sadducees regarding resurrection life (Matt. 22:23-33).

  • People were amazed at the ways of His conduct.

    • They were amazed at His supposed violation of ceremonial laws (Luke 11:37-45).

    • They were amazed at His supposed violation of cultural customs (John 4:27-30).

    • They were amazed at His composed silence at multiple accusations (Matt. 27:12-14; Mark 15:3-5).

  • People were amazed at the wonder of His resurrection.

    • They were amazed at the angelic announcement (Mark 16:4-8).

    • They were amazed at the empty tomb (Luke 24:12).

    • They were amazed at the risen Christ (Luke 24:36-43).

When people saw and heard Jesus, their common reaction was one of amazement.  What He did and said was amazing because He Himself is truly amazing.  No one who has ever lived on this earth can begin to compare with the Lord Jesus Christ.  Why was He so amazing?  In upcoming letters we will see those aspects of His character and His nature which reveal how glorious He is.  I welcome you to join me in this study.

Because of His Grace—Pastor Charlie

How is your home?

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

What is the first institution which God established?  As you look at the first book of the Bible—Genesis—you discover what it is.  The first institution was not a community or a city, which we first find in Genesis 4.  It was not civil government—it first appears in Genesis 9.  It was not the nation of Israel—its beginning was in Genesis 12. Nor was it even the Church, which does not appear in the Old Testament at all, but began in Acts 2.  What is the first institution of God?  It was the family.  It was the divine institution of marriage.  We find its beginning in Genesis 2.  The home should take priority over all other institutions.  It has been described as the building-block of society.  As goes the home, so goes the nation.  As goes the home, so goes the church.  

In my preaching series on “Confronting Complacency,”  I addressed the question, “How Is Your Home?”  I emphasized that you must place your family as a top priority in your life.  How can you ensure that it is top priority?  We examined three key principles.  Evaluate your own home in light of these principles.  

  • In your home. . . . are you founded on the rock?

The only solid foundation for any home is Christ and His Word. . . any other foundation is like sinking sand.  

  • No home can be built effectively without dependence on the Lord (Psa. 127:1). If you are seeking to build your home on your own strength and resources, you are building in vain.

  • No home can be built effectively without commitment to the Lord (Josh. 24:15). Joshua’s commitment should be ours: “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

  • No home can be built effectively without teaching of the Word (II Tim. 3:14-17). It is the Word of God by which we are saved from our sin, grow spiritually, and become equipped for service.

  • In your home. . . . are you fulfilling your role?

Each member of the family has a God-given role to fulfill.  If the home is to function properly, each member must fulfill his/her role.

  • What’s a husband to do? He is responsible to lead and love his wife (Eph. 5:23, 25-33; Col. 3:19; I Pet. 3:7).

  • What’s a wife to do? She helps her husband (Gen. 2:18-25) and submits to him as her leader in the home (Eph. 5:22-24, 33; Col. 3:18; Tit. 2:5; I Pet. 3:1-6).

  • What are children to do? They must obey and honor their parents (Eph. 6:1-3; Col. 3:20).

  • What are parents to do? They should not provoke their children to anger, but instead bring them up in the training of the Lord (Eph. 6:4; Col. 3:21).

  • In your home. . . . are you focusing on relationships?

Healthy relationships are vital to a God-honoring home.  What are some essentials in developing such relationships?

  • There must be binding commitment. . . . maintaining loyalty (Prov. 17:17; 18:24; 27:17) and keeping confidences (Prov. 11:13; 17:9; 26:20).

  • There must be effective communication. . . . a listening ear (Prov. 18:13) and a controlled tongue (Prov. 12:18; 15;1; 16:24; 21:23).

  • There must be self-control. . . . controlled anger (Prov. 15:1, 18; 29:8, 11) and a composed spirit (Prov. 15:1; 17:14; 20:3).

  • There must be unselfish consideration. . . . putting interests and welfare of others before our own (Phil. 2:3-4) and demonstrating humility, meekness, kindness, and forgiveness (Eph. 4:1-3, 30-32).

  • There must be time concentration. . . . quality time (Mark 3:14) and quantity time (Deut. 6:7).

Evaluate your home and your responsibilities in the home. . . . 

  • How is your home founded on the rock of God and His Word?  How can this be strengthened

  • How are you fulfilling your role in the family?  How can you improve in fulfilling it?

  • How are you focusing on relationships in the family?  Which relationships need to be improved?

  • Take steps today to make your home one which glorifies and honors God!

Because of His Grace—Pastor Charlie

Are you obeying the two greatest commandments?

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

When I say the word, “commandment,” of what do you first think?  Many think of the Ten Commandments, which God gave to Israel through Moses on Mount Sinai.  Some think of obedience, because when command-ments are given, obedience is required.  Others think of the Law, or the Mosaic Law, which was given to Israel and consisted of hundreds of commandments.  But rarely does anyone think of love.  And yet Jesus made it clear that love is at the very core of the greatest commandments.  

In my preaching series on “Confronting Complacency,”  I addressed the question, “Are You Obeying  the Two Greatest Commandments?”  Jesus identified these two commandments in answer to a question by a Pharisee, one skilled in the law: “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” (Matt. 22:36)  As so often with the Pharisees in their confrontation of Jesus, their question was intended to trip Him up.  It was a “trick” question.  What would you expect Jesus to say in response?  Would He point out two of the Ten Commandments?  Which of the 613 under the Law would He select?  He likely surprised the Pharisees with His answer.  The answer likely convicted their hearts, as it does ours.  Once we see the two greatest commandments, we realize that we too often are not obeying them.   Evaluate your own obedience to these two commands. . . .

  • The first commandment: who do you love more than anything/anyone else?

In answer to the Pharisee’s question, Jesus declared, “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.  This is the first and great commandment” (Matt. 22:37-38)   This was not new truth for the Jew of Jesus’ day, for Jesus was quoting from Deut. 6:4-5.  Loving God with your complete being is the greatest of all the commandments which God has given us.  In fact, all other commandments relating to God directly point to this supreme commandment.  Even the first four of the Ten Commandments, which relate to one’s relationship to God, all reflect love for God. Analyze this great command:

  • It is not optional—it is a command, the greatest command.

  • It is not usual—it is exclusive, reserved for God alone.

  • It is not partial—it is complete, involving your total being.

  • It is not occasional—it is constant, encompassing all our time.

  • It is not merely emotional—it is volitional (a choice to make) and mental (a devotion to God in thought).

  • It is not merely verbal—it is demonstrated in action. Consider these evidences of love for God: worshiping Him only (Ex. 20:2-6), honoring His Name (Ex. 20:7), obeying His commandments (John 14:15, 21, 23), shepherding His sheep (John 21:15-17), and loving His people(I John 4:20-5:3).

Evaluate your obedience to this greatest commandment:  do you give God the supreme love of your heart in all that you think, say, and do?  Is your Christian life a love relationship with the living God, or has it degenerated into merely obeying a set of rules, a list of dos and don’ts?   Remember:  there must be no love in your life great-er than your love for God.  Which idols in your life need to be removed to give God supreme love and devotion? 

  • The second commandment: who do you love more than yourself?

Jesus added a second commandment which is greater than other commandments:  “And the second is like it:  ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’ ” (Matt. 22:39).  This commandment is also grounded in the Old Testa-ment (Lev. 19:18).  When you love your neighbor, you do what is beneficial and best for him.  You do him no harm.  The last six of the Ten Commandments are fulfilled when you love your neighbor (Rom. 13:8-10).  Who is your neighbor?  Jesus illustrated in the parable of the Good Samaritan that your neighbor is anyone whose need you see, whose need you are in a position to meet (Luke 10:25-37).  You should love your neighbor as you already love yourself, putting his needs, welfare, and interests before your own (Eph. 5:28-29; Phil.  2:3-4).  Think of how far-reaching this command is:

  • It is expected of every believer (Matt. 22:39; Rom. 13:8).

  • It is not exclusive to any group (Luke 10:25-37; Mark 5:43-44; Jas. 2:8-9).

  • It is expressed in many ways (Luke 10:29-37; Rom. 13:9-10; Gal. 5:13-15; Jas. 2:8).

In order to fulfill this second commandment, you must not make yourself the focus of your love, but instead place it on others.  In what specific ways do you need to regard and treat others as better than yourself?

Obeying these two greatest commandments centers on love:  love for God and love for others.  It must be His love flowing through you.  How well are you doing in obeying these commandments?

Because of His Grace—Pastor Charlie

Are you sitting or serving?

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

What is the average person’s image of the church?  Too often our look at the church is what’s in it for me.  Too many times there is an emphasis on being served, rather than serving.  Remember what Jesus said about servanthood in Matt. 20:25-28.  He came to serve rather than to be served.  That should be our philosophy of life.  This should be our emphasis whenever we gather together with other believers.  What needs do they have that I can seek to meet?  Closely related to what the Lord Jesus commanded concerning servanthood is what the apostle Paul said in I Corinthians 12 about our placement in the Body of Christ and how we should be involved as members of the Body.   

In my recent preaching series on “Confronting Complacency,”  I addressed the question, “Are You Sitting or Serving?”  In answering this question, we focused on I Corinthians 12 and how to become an active member of the church.  There are four problems which need to be confronted and eliminated to be an active member.

  • The problem of limited capability:  there is no member that has not been equipped for service (I Cor. 12:7-14, 28-31).   “I can’t do it.”

You may use the excuse for not ministering, “I can’t do it,” but it doesn’t hold water.  It is not true, considering how God has equipped each believer for service.  You as a believer are equipped with a spiritual gift (I Cor. 12:7-11, 28-31).  You are equipped by the Holy Spirit—He has given you a gift (I Cor. 12:7-11) and has placed you in the Body of Christ (12:12-14).  You can be an active member of the Body because He equips you and empowers you.  

  • The problem of unwise comparison:  there is no member that is less or more important than another (I Cor. 12:15-26). “They don’t need me.” “I don’t need you.” 

There are two attitudes which Paul confronts in this chapter regarding a believer’s place in the Body of Christ.  They are attitudes which hinder one’s involvement in the Body.  And they are built on unwise comparisons.  There is the attitude of inferiority—“they don’t need me” (I Cor. 12:15-20).  But you shouldn’t say this because each member is equally important (12:17) and God has placed you where He wants you (12:18-20).  On the other extreme, there is the attitude of superiority—“I don’t need you” (12:21-26).  Even the weaker and less important members are important (12:22-24), and there must be unity and caring in the Body (12:25-26).  These truths argue against a superior attitude.  Removing these wrong attitudes is necessary to be an active member.

  • The problem of inaccurate conclusion:  there is no member that is not needed (12:21-24). “I am not needed.”

You cannot say that you have no need of other believers because even the weaker and less honorable members are necessary.  Paul illustrates this again from the human body.  He shows the importance of three kinds of members of the Body.  The weaker members are necessary, likely referring to members such as the internal organs which require the protection of the rest of the body (12:22).  The less honorable members are vital, likely referring to the parts of the body which are not attractive (torso, thighs, stomach) and need to be clothed (12:23a).  The unpresentable members are essential (12:23b-24), likely referring to the private parts (not shameful in themselves, but rather the display of them—showing concern by covering them).  Since each member of the Body is needed, each should be active.  

  • The problem of mutual consideration:  there is no member that should be rejected or neglected (12:25-26). “I don’t care.”

The purpose for God blending together the Body and giving more abundant honor to the part lacking is in order that there may not be a schism in the Body.  God wants no division, but unity.  If some members feel superior, it can make others feel inferior and unimportant.  This destroys unity and causes one to isolate from other members and have a lack of caring for other members. Functioning properly in the Body requires mutual consideration for one another.  There must be the same care for one another (12:25) and a sympathizing sharing with one another (12:26). Each member should be considered important to the Body.  

It is the case of many, if not most, churches that the great majority of the work and ministry in the church is being done by the small minority of believers.   The 80/20 principle is so often mentioned:  20% in the church are doing 80% of the work.  Are you part of the 80 or the 20?  Are you inactive or active?  Are you sitting or serving?

Because of His Grace—Pastor Charlie

How are you identified with the church?

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

In their book, A Heart Like His, Mike and Amy Nappa present a list of hypothetical reasons why a person stopped going to ball games. While these reasons seem extreme, they sound too familiar to excuses given today for not attending church. Here are the twelve reasons given regarding why he stopped going to ball games: When-ever I go to a game, they ask for money. . . . The other fans don’t care for me. . . . The seats are too hard. . . . Coach never visits me. . . . The referee makes calls I don’t agree with. . . . Some of the games go into overtime and make me late for dinner. . . . The band plays songs I don’t know. . . . I have other things to do at game time. . . . My parents took me to too many games when I was growing up. . . . I know more than the coaches do anyway. . . . I can be just as good a fan at the lake. . . . I won’t take my kids to a game either. They must choose for themselves which teams to follow (Barbour, 1999; pp. 182-183). I’m sure you get the point. While the typical sports fan would not use these excuses for avoiding sporting events, many professing believers use these very excuses for avoiding church attendance.

In my recent preaching series on “Confronting Complacency,” I addressed the question, “How Identified Are You With the Church?” We must first distinguish between the universal Church (Matt. 16:18; Col. 1:18) and the local church (Acts 2:42, 47; 8:1; 9:31; 12:1; 13:1; 14:23). While every true believer is a member of the Universal Church (composed of all born again believers in Christ since the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2), not every believer is a member of a local church. Many don’t see the need to be involved in a local church. They rarely, if ever, attend church services. Others attend church services periodically, but they never commit themselves to a particular local church. This is not the pattern that we see in the New Testament. In the early Church, when a person became a believer in the Lord Jesus as his Savior, he soon banded together with fellow-believers, recognizing the need for fellowship with believers. He became identified with a body of believers. Such should be the case with every believer today. This identification will be displayed in commitment, specifically in three areas: where the church is going, on what the church is grounded, and how the church is growing.

In my message on this topic, I addressed the direction of the church—where the church is going. We as believers must be committed to where the church is going. The mission statement of Blue River, which defines the direction of our church, is to make disciples of Jesus Christ who actively praise God in worship, practice godliness in character, promote growth in believers, and proclaim the gospel to unbelievers. As a church, we focus on relationships—our relationship with God, with believers, and with unbelievers. Second, we examined the doctrine of the church—that on which the church is grounded. The early Church was grounded on the teaching of the apostles (Acts 2:42), and the local church must be grounded on the truth of the Word. All that we do revolves around sound doctrine, having a firm commitment to it (I Tim. 4:6; II Tim. 3:10), a faithful communication of it (I Tim. 5:17; Tit. 1:9), and a godly conduct in accordance with it (I Tim. 1:10; 6:1, 3). Finally, we looked at the development of the church—how the church is growing. We saw six marks of the development of the early Church: faithful teaching (Acts 2:42a), regular fellowship (Acts 2:42b, 46), consistent remembrance (Acts 2:42c), corporate prayer (Acts 2:42d), reverential fear (Acts 2:43), generous sharing (Acts 2:44-45), genuine praise (Acts 2:47a), and daily growth (Acts 2:47b). Just as with the early Church, our church is committed to the proper direction, to sound doctrine, and to steady development.

Many of those who are reading this letter have in one way or another identified with Blue River. Do you as a believer identify with the direction, doctrine, and development of our church? How is this identification demonstrated?

  • Are you committed to regularly attending the services of the church? Or is your attendance sporadic at best?

  • Are you committed to developing relationships with believers in the church? How many do you know well and encourage?

  • Are you committed to faithful involvement in at least one ministry of the church? How are you using your spiritual gift?

  • Are you committed to sacrificial giving to the church, both to our local ministry and to our worldwide missions outreach?

  • Are you committed to reaching out to the lost, seeking to win them to Christ and help them grow spiritually?

  • Are you committed to consistent prayer for the church and to corporate prayer with other believers in the church?

  • Are you committed to making disciples within the church, selecting those who you can help toward spiritual maturity?

What are specific ways that you need to strengthen your identification with Blue River Bible Church?

Because of His Grace—Pastor Charlie

Are you isolated or involved?

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

A sad story appeared in the Boston Globe in October 1993.  It reads as follows:  “It can never be said that Adele Gaboury's neighbors were less than responsible. When her front lawn grew hip-high, they had a local boy mow it down. When her pipes froze and burst, they had the water turned off. When the mail spilled out the front door, they called the police. The only thing they didn't do was check to see if she was alive. She wasn't.  Police finally climbed her crumbling brick stoop, broke in the side door of her little blue house, and found what they believe to be the 73-year-old woman's skeletal remains, where they had lain, perhaps for as long as four years. ‘It's not really a friendly neighborhood,’ said Eileen Dugan, 70, once a close friend of Gaboury's, whose house sits 20 feet from the dead woman's house. ‘I'm as much to blame as anyone. She was alone and needed someone to talk to, but I was working two jobs and was sick of her coming over at all hours. Eventually I stopped answering the door.’ ”  (Source: Sally Jacobs, "Years After Neighbors Last Saw Her, Worcester Woman Found Dead," Boston Globe 10/27/93)

This story is morbid, but true. Even though it is an extreme case, it reveals the danger of isolating from others.  Adele Gaboury, who seemed to be seeking relationships with others, did not evidently have any family or friends to whom she was close.  She must have lived a very lonely life.  All those who lived around her were too busy to develop a close relationship with her.  Perhaps there are those around us like Adele.  They have deep needs, but we don’t have time to develop a close friendship with them.   Maybe we choose to live isolated from others, not taking time and effort to get involved in their lives.   This can be true in families and in neighborhoods, but it is so often the case in churches.  We can attend the same church for years and never develop close relationships.  We can sit across the sanctuary Sunday after Sunday and yet never know the name of that person, or never speak to him or her. All conversations and relationships that we do have are surface in nature and go no deeper than a courteous greeting.   We see each other, but know very little about the other.  There is no accountability nor any desire to get to know each other. We too often choose the path of isolation and have little involvement with others.

In my recent preaching series on “Confronting Complacency,”  I addressed the question, “Are You Isolated or Involved?”  I pointed out that isolation is one of the greatest hindrances to developing relationships.  When you isolate yourself from others, you cut yourself off from a ministry from others (Eccl. 4:7-12).  You need someone to help you and someone with whom you can share, but you choose to go it alone.  Isolating yourself also cuts you off from a ministry toothers(Heb. 10:24-25).  The writer to the Hebrews exhorts us to consider one another, focusing our attention on the other and turning our focus from our needs to those of others.  We should consider one another in order to stimulate and stir up one another to love and to good works.  How do you consider one another?  Negatively, by not abandoning the assembling of ourselves together, and positively, by exhorting (encouraging/admonishing) one another.   This is a major purpose of meeting with one another, not only on Sundays, but whenever the opportunity arises. You cannot study the “one anothers” of the New Testament without realizing the necessity of being involved in one another’s lives (cp. Rom. 12:10, 16; Gal. 5:13; Phil. 2:3; I Thess. 4:18; 5:11; I John 4:7, 11). In addition, the experiences of life require involvement as we share in the rejoicing and in the suffering of others (Rom. 12:15; I Cor. 12:26).  

Let’s take personal inventory.  The answer to these questions may reveal how isolated or how involved you are:

  • With which three people in our church have you begun to develop a relationship this past month?

  • Can you name the new families who have come into our church in 2018?  Which have you made an effort to welcome?  With which have you developed a relationship?

  • Are there people down the pew or across the aisle to whom you have never introduced yourself?

  • Do you confine your involvement only to the people with whom you sit/associate each Sunday?

  • Is there anyone in our church to whom you are accountable? Who are you keeping accountable?

  • Do you regularly attend small groups (Sunday School, connection groups, etc.) to get to know others?

  • Do you utilize time before and after services to get to know others?

  • Do you limit your interaction with church members to Sunday mornings?  Or do you make contact during the week also?

  • What percentage of your relationships at church are only surface in nature?  How many close relationships do you have?

  • Do you regularly pray for the needs of those in our church?  Do you communicate this to them?

In this new year, commit yourself to leave isolation behindby deepening your involvement in the lives of others. Take the risk to get to know others . . . move out of your comfort zone.  Take the initiative in making contact . . . don’t expect others to come to you.  Go beyond the surface. . . use each contact to learn more about the person.

Because of His Grace — Pastor Charlie