Reformed Baptist Fellowship

Does God love us just the way we are?

In Reformed Baptist Fellowship on July 28, 2014 at 4:59 pm

Persecuted Christians and You

In Reformed Baptist Fellowship on July 24, 2014 at 2:34 pm

chains

Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body.

μιμνῄσκεσθε τῶν δεσμίων, ὡς συνδεδεμένοι· τῶν κακουχουμένων, ὡς καὶ αὐτοὶ ὄντες ἐν σώματι.

Do we care about persecuted Christians around the world? I mean really care—so that we think of them often, feel for them, pray for them, and do what we can to alleviate their suffering. Unquestionably, it is God’s will that we should.

Many in the USA are ignorant and apathetic about international concerns generally. Materialism and narcissism, to name just two perverse aspects of our culture, conspire to rivet our attention to our own physical and psychological needs and desires. We are prone to become terribly selfish and frivolous in our daily routine.

When news of persecuted Christians does occasionally penetrate our protective cocoon, we may wince for a moment, but we find that dwelling on such things is too uncomfortable to indulge for very long. So we quickly dismiss them and return to our private world.

Before the fall of man, Adam and Eve loved one another perfectly. Those two composed the whole human family in those days. They lived as one, joined together in mutual service and concern. He looked out for her best interests, and she, for his. It was the way things ought to be.

After they sinned, their unselfish love was ruined, and malice made its early and disturbing appearance in their sons. Cain rose up and killed his brother Abel. When confronted by God, Cain impudently said, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” as if he had no moral responsibility to promote his brother’s best interests. All Adam and Eve’s children ever since, naturally conceived, have suffered the same depravity.

Enter the gospel of Jesus Christ. When we believe it, we know that God has renewed our hearts and begun transforming us into the brother-lovers we were meant to be. Our capacity and actual practice of love is progressively restored. This is one of the clearest signs of a real Christian. Jesus said, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13.35).

That means we discover true and deep feelings of compassionate concern for the welfare of other people, especially our fellow Christians. This is more than the remnant of natural humanity which is found to some degree even in unbelievers. For the sake of Christ our Lord, and because He loves them, our hearts yearn that sinners might be saved and saints might be blessed. This ethical yearning prompts us to redemptive and compassionate action on their behalf.

No one has a more legitimate claim on our concern than severely-persecuted Christians, wherever they may be found. They are especially precious in the Lord’s sight, and they suffer the greatest injustice. With them in mind, Scripture says the world is not worthy of them (Heb 11.38). And what could be more unjust than violence against others just because they love God and His Son, Jesus Christ? These sheep led to slaughter are treading in the steps of the blessed Savior, the Just One crucified for our sins. They are the excellent ones of the earth.

Consider the counsel of our text about our relationship with them.

Remember Them

“Remember them that are in bonds,” or, “Remember those who are in prison” (ESV). This exhortation stands opposed to our natural forgetfulness.

The context constrains us to understand this as referring especially to persecuted Christians. Both the historical situation of the original readers (i.e., somewhat persecuted, cf. 12.4) and the immediate context (11.1 ff.; cf. 13.1-2, 5-6) justify this interpretation. To “remember” them here is not just to think of them, but to “give careful consideration to,” “care for, be concerned about.”[1] The same Greek word is used in the same way in Gen 30.22 (LXX) and Luke 23.42. It couples loving consideration with practical action, the inevitable fruit of sincere concern (Jas 2.15-16). 1 John 3.14-19 powerfully insists on the linkage between true Christian love and good works.

Sometimes all we can do for some is to pray, but how can we do less than pray? And we should seriously consider what else we might do.[2]

Relate to Them

The rest of Hebrews 13.3 stresses our need for empathy and solidarity with our suffering brethren. Its parallelism helps interpretation. Remember:

them that are in bonds, as bound with them

them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves in the body

They are “in bonds” and thus “suffer adversity.” You are to remember them with the same compassion and concern as if you were right there with them, for, after all, like them, you are “in the body.” The likely idea is that in this life, you are vulnerable to the same kind of suffering, so theirs should be a matter of special concern to you. “Remember those who are in prison as if you were their fellow prisoner, and those who are ill-treated, since you also are liable to bodily sufferings” (ANT). Our remaining sin makes us less concerned for others, so we need to put ourselves, mentally, in their place. When we are deeply touched like this, we will be more faithful to remember our brethren with a compassionate response, and be more like Christ. Amen.

D. Scott Meadows, Pastor
Calvary Baptist Church (Reformed)
Exeter, New Hampshire USA
http://cbcexeter.sermonaudio.com
 
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[1] Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., & Bauer, W. (2000). A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

[2] One helping organization that has won the support of many discerning Christians is “The Voice of the Martyrs” (www.persecution.com).

Are church prayer meetings necessary?

In Reformed Baptist Fellowship on July 22, 2014 at 11:48 am

prayer

Matthew 18: 19-20  Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.

The corporate mid-week church prayer meeting is all but absent in the churches of our day. The vast majority of churches no longer have one because they think it is either unpopular, irrelevant, or unnecessary.

Excuses for its cancellation abound. We often hear it said:

“The attendance is low, most people don’t come; we should not have a service that is unpopular with the people. It is a struggle for busy working people to make a mid-week prayer meeting; they don’t want it, and therefore we should cancel it.”

“Prayer meetings are irrelevant; we need to do the work of God through methods that are more relevant and impactful in meeting people’s needs and drawing them into the church. Prayer meetings are a relic of a bygone era.”

“A meeting devoted to prayer is unnecessary; we pray at church during our Sunday service and in our homes during the week, surely it is not necessary to pray more than this.”

The net result of such thinking is a dramatic reduction in corporate church prayer, to the point that prayer in the congregation is reduced to that which occurs in the morning worship, (most churches do not have an evening service on Sunday either) and focused, extended, and participatory prayer is entirely absent from the life of the church.

And yet, it is corporate, participatory, and extended prayer that is exactly what we desperately need in our day of spiritual weakness, apathy, and worldliness.

In the passage cited above, Jesus in the context is speaking of corporate church discipline, and corporate church prayer.

He expects that just as the church practices corporate discipline, that it will practice corporate prayer as well.

But must it practice it at a mid-week prayer service? Obviously, there is no command for it to do so, and it would be legalism to insist that it must. Some have prayer meetings on Sunday before or after the worship services, and some at other times.

But what must be insisted on is that the church needs to have times of focused, extended, and participatory prayer, and her failure to do so is a direct manifestation of her self sufficiency, complacency, and spiritual apathy.

We see prayer meetings of the church recorded in Acts 1:13-14, Acts 4:23-31, and in Acts 12:5,12. In each case, people did not just pray privately in their closets, but met together for corporate public prayer. The results were astounding in each case.

The early church understood the need for extended times of corporate prayer that were separate from and in addition to the regular corporate worship. We need to understand it as well. If you are thinking about canceling your prayer meeting, don’t. And if you don’t have one, start one up.

There are great benefits from doing so. Historically, revivals have begun out of corporate prayer meetings. Furthermore, they greatly deepen church unity – the people you feel the closest to, are the people you pray with the most. And most importantly, through them the Bride of Christ most intimately communes with her Lord, and receives grace from Him.

The spiritual condition of a church may be accurately gauged by her prayer meetings. If the spirit of prayer is not in the people, the minister may preach like an angel, but little will come of it. May God fill our prayer meetings with His presence, His power, and His Spirit, as His people gather to bow in His presence and seek His mercy and grace.

Pastor Max Doner
Sovereign Grace Bible Church
Lebanon, Oregon
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