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Martyred for the Gospel

Martyred for the Gospel
The burning of Tharchbishop of Cant. D. Tho. Cranmer in the town dich at Oxford, with his hand first thrust into the fyre, wherwith he subscribed before. [Click on the picture to see Cranmer's last words.]

Collect of the Day

The Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany.
The Collect.

O LORD, we beseech thee to keep thy Church and household continually in thy true religion; that they who do lean only upon the hope of thy heavenly grace may evermore be defended by thy mighty power; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Daily Bible Verse

Sunday, December 14, 2008

God's Appointed Means of Grace

Often when witnessing to the unchurched I run into the excuse that church is unnecessary for salvation. "All I have to do is pray, read the Bible, and worship God at home," they will say. The problem with this view is that it is unbiblical. Of course, Jesus in the Bible tells us that where two or three are gathered together He would be present. (See Matthew 18:15-20). However, the context of Matthew 18:15-20 is church discipline. So the two or three gathered together refers to the process of confronting the person who is in violation of the moral law of God and breaking covenant with God and His church.


In verse 15 we are told to go to the person in private. A one on one discussion of the problem is the first step in the process of reconciliation of the one who is going astray. In verse 16 we are told to take "two or three" other believers who are members of the church to confront the person who refuses to repent or turn from the sin which has taken him or her into bondage. In verse 17 the final step is to explain the problem before the church and if the rebellious person still refuses to turn from the sin besetting him or her, then they are to be shunned or "treated as a Gentile or a tax collector."


Where two or three are gathered together there is authority to bind or loose within the church. Jesus Himself gives authority to Christians to excommunicate and shun those who are in doctrinal error or caught up in any sort of blatant immorality. (See verses 18-20).


An excuse commonly given by those who refuse to come to church is that the church is full of hypocrites and sinners. On that point I would agree. However, there is a sense in which all of us are hypocrites and sinners since the Apostle Paul says that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. (See Romans 3:9-20). Since we are all sinners, we should be careful about being harsh in church discipline and discipline should always be done with gentleness, love and concern for the person who is out of God's revealed will. (See Galatians 6:1). The purpose of church discipline is to bring reconciliation and restoration into the communion and fellowship of the church. However, where such reconciliation is impossible, then shunning and excommunication are the only options left.


Another point in answer to the objection that the church is full of hypocrites is that usually the person who refuses to come to church is in fellowship with hooligans, criminals and even drug addicts in some cases. As young man growing up my father used to say that you become who you run with. If your friends are drug addicts, eventually you will become a drug addict. If your friends are pulling you toward a life of ruin and destruction, it would be illogical to say that the church is full of hypocrites for that would make you yourself the biggest hypocrite of all for you are saying in so many words that you are a better Christian than the "hypocrite" at church! And all the while you yourself are using drugs that rob you of your fellowship with God and other Christians. You are using drugs which rob you of your youth and destroy your health, your well being and your mental abilities to think clearly and logically.


God established His church on earth as an appointed means for Christians to hear the word of God preached, to bring salvation to the unchurched, and to establish the new covenant through baptism and the Lord's supper. While it is often difficult to find a church which honestly holds to the principles of the Bible alone as our source of doctrine and faith, we are nevertheless obligated to be part of the communion of saints on earth as the normative means of finding peace with God and having faith in Jesus Christ.


10For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. 11For the Scripture says,(A) "Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame." 12(B) For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek;(C) for the same Lord is Lord of all,(D) bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13For(E) "everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."


14How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him(F) of whom they have never heard?[a] And how are they to hear(G) without someone preaching? (Romans 10:10-14).


Beloved brethren, let us not forsake the assembling of ourselves together for the worship of Jesus Christ as some do. But instead, let us come together for fellowship, encouragement, for instruction in doctrine and righteousness that we all may grow in the grace and the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Let us not judge one another but encourage one another and all the more so as we see the day of our own death approaching. Some day we will all stand before God to be judged. Christians will lose their rewards for disobedience. But they will endure to the end. Those who refuse to be part of the fellowship on earth might squeak in at the last second. But how sad that we wait till the end to receive God's blessings. And how sad that some are cut off in their sins and leave us wondering where they will spend eternity.


It is arrogant to say that we do not need church or God. It is arrogant to say that we do not believe in God. A radical individualism is in effect to put ourselves in God's place and to usurp His glory as our own. True humility acknowledges that we do not belong to ourselves but to God. How we live our lives determines who we worship. If we worship and glorify God, that will be reflected in our willingness to submit to the Bible and to become part of God's family or communion here on earth. On the other hand, if we become proud, arrogant and boastful then we will try become a god of our own and disown the Creator who made us. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.


May the peace of God be with us all!

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