Dare to be a Daniel!

Daniel is perhaps one of the most cherished of stories in the Bible about non-conformity to the world and faithfulness to God.

Daniel simply means “My God is Judge” or “God is my Judge.”

But like the beginning of the 23rd Psalm can we say with David and Daniel that possessive pronoun “my.” Is the Lord ours, are we His? If we have trusted in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of our sins and if we are following Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength then the answer is “yes, God is our Judge!” He has looked upon us, and because of our faith in Christ, counted us righteous (“just”) in His eyes. He judges us and does not find us wanting.

That our God is Judge is also a reminder to walk uprightly before Him, just like Daniel (Dan 6:4). We ought not conform to the world, for worldliness brings forth judgement. We are called to be faithful witnesses. Furthermore, the knowledge that God is our Judge, bolsters our resolve to stand firm when the world pressures us to conform. The world is not our judge but God so our aim ought to be to please Him. When the world chews us up and spits us out as a result—so be it—for the day or reckoning is coming. But blessed be the one who trusts in the Lord as his Judge and so is saved from the Judgement to come.

The Lord’s Sweetest Blessings,

Pastor Chris

Membership, Conflict and Discipline

This past Lord’s Day I preached on the body of Christ, what it means to join it and what its life ought to look like. Three related matters didn’t make the cut for inclusion into the sermon, so here they as tasters:

Church Membership

When we place our faith in Christ we are in Him, meaning we share in His benefits. At the moment of justification we are then adopted into His body, the Church. This is what is often referred to as the invisible or holy catholic (universal) Church. How is this tangibly manifested, through the visible local church. We see this throughout the NT, believers engaging in the life of local churches. In Acts 2:42 it even says they devoted themselves to the fellowship. Sadly, too few Christians in these post-modern anti-institution days think we are required to become members of a local Gospel church but Church Membershiphere at the Chapel we believe this is how we formally identify with the body of Christ and its mission. A great resource for the membership sceptic, enquirer or already member is Church Membership: How the world knows who belongs to Jesus by Jonathan Leeman. I have a copy and it is worth you getting your own. It is the only book in the 9 Marks series I have read but if the rest are as sound and as helpful as this one I heartily recommend them all. If you can’t pick up the book check out their blog. I am convinced of the necessity of the principle of local church membership. Don’t remain aloof with some abstract I’m a member of the invisible church only club idea—join a church!

Conflict

No one likes dealing with conflict, which is why most people run from it. That, however, is not the wisdom we find in Scripture. That got David into big trouble when he failed to address Amnon’s sin (2 Sam 13). He went against this proverb from Ecclesiastes 8:11: Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed speedily, the heart of the children of man is fully set to do evil. Whilst the conflicts we face may not be so severe, the consequences of not dealing with them will be just as painful. So, don’t let the sun go down on your anger (Eph 4:26). If you have an issue with someone in the body, deal with it. This is the process Jesus gave:

15 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. (Matthew 18:15–17).

In other words try to solve the issue at the lowest common denominator. Don’t escalate it by taking it to the top right away (any good church leader should challenge you to first deal with the situation yourself [unless there is a safety issue]). Remember that one of the fruits of the Spirit is to be “open to reason” (James 3:17). Submit to one another out of reverence to Christ (Eph 5:21) and trust the Lord will be faithful to your attempt to bring peace to the body (Ro 12:18).

*If this involves an Elder, not because they are perfect but because Christ’s image is at stake, the Bible requires two or three witnesses for any such charge (1 Tim 5:19).

Discipline

One of hardest things a local church will have to do is discipline one of its members. Just as the Lord disciplines us for our benefit so too the church is to discipline members as medicine for their souls (and the local body, purging it of “poison”). Yes this has been abused but double YES it is still biblical. The best example is from the Corinthian church. In 1 Cor 5:2 Paul demands a man be removed from the church for incest. This story happens to have a positive ending for in 2 Cor 2:5–11 it appears he repented and was restored. 2 Thessalonians 3:6, 14–15 and also Titus 3:10—to reject a “divisive person”—are also passages to keep in mind on this subject.

Discipline lets the member know they have sinned or erred in doctrine and gives them the opportunity to repent and be welcomed back into fellowship (always the goal). To the watching world discipline says that we do not associate that kind of belief or behaviour with following Jesus and so long as they persist in it we do not recognize them as part of it.

Here again you may want to check out the 9 Marks series, Church Discipline: Medicine for the Body by Jonathan Leeman.

May a robust commitment to what the Scriptures teach on these matters for the body be used to build up healthy churches.

The Lord’s Sweetest Blessings,

Pastor Chris

 

The Discipline of the Lord

It was good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes. (Psalm 119:71)

We live in an age that views discipline of almost any form as a dirty word, as morally reprehensible.[1] As a result, whether it be corporal punishment,[2] holding children back a grade, remaining firm in our threats of punishment (and not continuing to say, “Don’t do that or…” and then doing nothing), all the way to the lax laws of many of our Western lands for all ages; is it any wonder that the fruit is not goodness for us but our distress?

I recently was told the distressing first hand story of a young child who half-jokingly threatened to urinate on his mother’s leg. She put him off three times saying, “don’t be silly.” Finally, he did it, and she did nothing about it! Complete liberty with no restraint is the perfect formula concocted by Satan for pride to ferment and flourish. How much of society’s woes result from a lack of restraint, a lack of discipline, an indulgence in the self?

But discipline, and its benefits, are not merely social but spiritual and God given. The Psalmist tells us discipline is a positive thing when the Lord disciplines us through various and challenging forms of His providence.

Hebrews 12:5–6 says:

My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives. (Heb 12:5–6, c.f. Prov 3:11–12).

This uses the language of t[3]he discipline of children (instruction, training and correction), in the context of spiritual perseverance, as an analogy to teach us to respect and to submit to the will of God in the adversities that we face. Such discipline is a precious mercy for through it we learn to hate sin and be instructed in His way, a way that leads to life and not death.

A friend of mine recently shared with me a quote:

Sin is never so bitter, and holiness is never so sweet, as when our troubles are greatest and our dangers highest.  By afflictions the Lord teaches his people to sit loose from this world, and to make sure the great things of that other world.  By affliction God shews his people the vanity, vexation, emptiness, weakness, and nothingness of the creatures, and the choiceness, preciousness, and sweetness of communion with himself, and of interest in himself.  – Thomas Brooks (Puritan author, 1608–80).

So if you are facing chastisement today in any way, do not reject it as the world does, but submit to it under the Lord’s strength and be blessed and be changed.

The Lord’s Sweetest Blessings,

Pastor Chris

[1] This probably arose from abuses of discipline, namely divorcing it from being done lovingly and to a loving end.

[2] Only one tool for parenting, not in any way the tool (ex. Prov 13:24, 23:13-14).

[3] Prov 12:1, 13:18.

A Question from the Philippines

A friend of mine who is a pastor was contacted by a man in the Philippines who was seeking discipleship. As the two have developed a relationship the following question arose. This was my initial answer to assist my friend’s response.

If the Bible teaches that only men are to be pastors, why then do ministries under women often prosper?

Why do unorthodox churches seem to prosper from a worldly perspective?

Why does the church down the road that does preach the Gospel but whose form of church government is not Biblical become flooded with people?

How is it that someone is converted under an unregenerate minister who happens to state the Gospel?

How can it be that a Gospel-centred church that appears to abide by New Testament principles not grow, or even perhaps shrink under persecution?

Some of these questions relate to God’s providence, which can sometimes be mysterious.

Returning to the original question, I would say that because complementarianism[1] vs. egalitarianism[2] is a secondary matter and that above all else the Lord desires people to be saved (primary issue) the Lord at times works through unorthodox means. Complementarians must also remember that some female pastors are sisters in Christ (just like some female [and male!] pastors are not). I think the best example to answer this questions is found in Judges.

Formal positions of leadership in Israel were always male. The case of Deborah (Judges 4:4) appears to be an unusual exception.[3] It appears to be an exception until one sees that Old Covenant prophetess does not equal New Covenant pastor. It appears an exception until “to judge” (which literally means defend) is coupled with her role as prophetess (a woman, in this case, who spoke the word of God, often to people in formal positions of power). In summoning Barak she shows she is not indeed the formal leader in the sense that he is, otherwise she would not have told him to gather the troops (v. 6b). We further see their mutual-leadership in the song of Judges 5. Though Barak ultimately went out into battle he did not get the glory, not because he relied on a woman (the Lord spoke through her![4]) but because he did not assume the role of faith and leadership that he should have (v. 9). As a result the glory of the victory was given to Jael who the Lord used to kill the enemy leader Sisera. The Lord used two faithful women (in this case) who stepped up in the absence of a faithful man, instead of the faithless man, because the Lord’s ultimate aim was deliverance from Israel’s enemies.

This question and the story of Deborah and Barak reminds me of Ezk 20:30, “And I sought for a man among them, that should build up the wall, and stand in the gap [of the wall] before me for the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found none.” The Lord is using many sisters in Christ today to accomplish salvation because Christian men are not standing up to the positions of leadership in the home, church and society that God calls them to.

Correct gender roles are not about capability but faithfulness to design. When this is not heeded, it doesn’t mean the Lord won’t use a woman when she steps up into the role of a man, even if this is not the Lord’s ultimate design. Why? Ultimately men and women are called to be faithful to the Lord’s purposes in gender, but because salvation is His ultimate end, He will not stop at this even if this means using a woman and giving the glory to her instead of the man to whom (in this case) it would normally rightfully belong.

The Lord’s Sweetest Blessings,

Pastor Chris

[1] That men and women are equal before God but created for complementary roles.

[2] That men and women are equal in ALL things.

[3] See: http://www.adfontes.ca/posts/post/article/deborah-and-the-defeater-verses/index.php. I believe Paul is spot on here.

[4] Godly men would do well to listen to the counsel of godly and respectful women. I have listened and am the wiser for it. They have spoken and have contributed to the work of the body (in my case part of the head).

ISingPop Ministry

Hands

By Chris W. Crocker

Presented at the St.Andew’s CE School ISingPop concert at St. Andrew’s Church on September 28, AD 2017, a community event sponsored by St. Andrew’s Church and Cromhall Chapel. This 360 degree reflection of the Christian faith followed the song See Those Hands.

The Lord be with you!

Hands up if you think the students of St. Andrew’s School are doing a fab job this evening! Let’s give them—and ISingPop— a big hand for all their hard work (clap [draw attention to hand actions with each subsequent reference]).

Take a look at your hands for a moment. Our hands have done a lot of things we are proud of, and if we’re honest also a lot of things we’re probably not. But our hands are amazing aren’t they! The Bible says they were created by Jesus, just as a potters’ hands shape the clay. Did you know the finger prints on your hands are unique to your DNA. No one else in the world has hands like yours, you are special!

But while we were designed to bless Jesus our creator in worship with our hands (lift them up) and live in a relationship with Him, instead we choose to go our own way and curse Jesus with our hands, we sinned.

BUT God the Father, with loving, gracious, merciful and just hands, sent His one and only Son, Jesus into the world He created so whoever would believe in Him might not perish but have everlasting life (Jn 3:16).

So, Jesus was born of the virgin Mary—that first Christmas—and she held the Rescuer with her hands as she pondered these things in her heart. As Jesus got older, He grew up with His hands in wood, working in the family business as a carpenter.

But there came a day when it was time for Jesus to set His hands to the work His heavenly Father had sent Him for. And as He began that work, and was baptised at the hand of John the Baptist, God the Father stretched out His hand from heaven and said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

During His 3 year ministry, Jesus laid His hands on people and healed them of illness, stretched out His hands and fed people, calmed the storm, taught them, all to prove who He was, but most importantly to make a way back to God, which He did in the strangest way.

Jesus suffered abuse at the hands of the Roman soldiers, crowds and religious leaders. Finally the soldiers took nails and a hammer in their hands and nailed Jesus’ hands to the Cross. He hung on that cross by His hands and died. And to make sure He was really, really dead, a soldier picked up his spear in his hand, and thrust it into Jesus side. He died the death that all those who’d believe deserved to die.

BUT that isn’t the end of the story, because three days later, Jesus rose from the dead, proving that He was God’s Son, showing He had power over sin and death in His hands.

People don’t come back to life from the dead though, we’ve got a handle on that, and they knew that back then too!

Yet, 100s of people saw the risen Jesus—this miracle—including His disciples, all but one, Thomas. Thomas said, “Unless I see His hands,… and place my hand in His side, I will never [ever, ever] believe.” (John 20:25).

But a week later Jesus appeared to Thomas and said to him, Thomas “put your fingers here, and see my hands; put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe!” (John 20:27) and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit who will give you” life and life to the full” (John 10:10).

For the Bible says there is coming a day when Jesus will return, not as a baby or a suffering Saviour, but as a great and mighty King and Judge with justice in His hand. What will be the deciding factor?

Not by the “good works” done by our hands but whether we’ve put up our hand and said, “Yes, Jesus, I believe,” put up our hand and said, “Jesus I’m sorry for my sin,” praising Him with our hands and serving Him with our lives.

This is the message of the Lord to us this evening. Thanks be to God!

What happens to children when they die?

What happens to children when they die?Baby

This question was asked in this summer’s People’s Choice summer series and because of space in that series and also because it may be more clearly delivered in type, I address it in this blog.

This is not a question unique to today (though emotionalism and universalism perhaps make it more difficult to address). Infants died in Bible times, pre-modern Britain, and indeed still today. Although infant mortality has decreased, still children die, particularly the unborn (miscarriage, abortion[1], the disposal of embryos in fertility treatments, etc).[2] So long as there are children and so long as there is sin and death this question will be relevant.

Before I begin to give a basic and introductory response, I want to emphasise that I do not embark on seeking to answer this question as if from a distance. My wife and I lost a child through miscarriage and we have had close friends and family members suffer the loss of both unborn and newborn children. Something else that I must stress before I proceed is that this question is often approached through emotionalism. While our affections have a role to play we must submit ourselves to Scripture, conceding that our ways are not God’s ways (Isa 55:8–9). Generally when we are uncomfortable about something in the Bible God is correct and we are wrong. If you proceed in reading this blog please pause, pray and be open to reason [or reasoning] (James 3:17). Christianity is like a train and the order of that train is important. First must come the locomotive, then the car and finally the caboose. Put another way, first must come fact (or the promises and truths of God), then faith (or belief in those) and then feeling. Get the order wrong and the train soon runs off the track. Get the order right and it runs smoothly along.

The question centres around salvation and namely, if the Bible teaches human depravity and the need of salvation (which it clearly does), what about children? It also touches upon our beliefs about what the character of God should be in relation to this question, either leaning toward His love (how could a loving God allow…) or His justice (God is soft on sin if…).

Numerous passages and verses in the Bible teach human depravity, but three are perhaps most pertinent to this subject.[3]

The first is Psalm 51:5 where the Spirit says through David: Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. This verse teaches that not only from birth but from conception we are sinners.

The second is Ro 5:12, which addresses why we are born sinners. Here the Spirit says through Paul: Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned. This means that because the head of the human race—Adam—sinned, all humans are born sinners (original sin). Not only are we born guilty sinners by nature but we also co-opt into sin through sinful choices throughout our lives.

Thirdly, and perhaps the most challenging, come passages like Deut 20:16–18 and 1 Sam 15:2–3 where the Spirit says the following about the destruction of the Canaanites:

Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘I have noted what Amalek did to Israel in opposing them on the way when they came up out of Egypt. Now go and strike Amalek and devote to destruction all that they have. Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.’”

We must remember that these last passages speak of judgement because of societal sin of a great magnitude (with simply a different means than say Sodom and Gomorrah) and not genocide. Traditionally this total judgment has been understood by Christians as a real event backed up by archaeology, but also as a picture of hell.

If children had no sin, children wouldn’t die. As death is a result of sin generally, children as well as adults tragically die.

In light of these three passages, we return to the question.

There have been at least 7 ways that Christendom has sought to answer this question.

  1. All children go to heaven (universalism: that God ultimately accepts everyone because He is “love”).
    1. This has been the death knell of ‘liberal Christianity.’ The basic teaching of the Bible is that sinners are saved through faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ (John 3:16). Jesus’ death did not save everyone but only made that salvation possible. Jesus died to save those who would believe in Him, He died to save His own (Jn 10:14). The Bible clearly teaches that notall humans are saved.
  2. No children go to heaven.
    1. Based on the above passages and that children cannot believe some do not think any children go to heaven.
  3. Christened children go to heaven (Roman Catholicism).
    1. Roman Catholics believe one is saved by faith+sacraments+works. One of the sacraments is to christen children. In a sacrament the church is seen as having the authority to dispense God’s grace on earth. As such those children who are baptised are saved, hence why Roman Catholics are so quick to want to baptise their children. The clear teaching of the Bible that we are saved by faith and not by works (whether personal or ecclesial [by the church]) discounts this view.
  4. Children who die before the “age of accountability” go to heaven.
    1. Another popular view that seeks to balance accountability for sin and the need for faith in salvation is this one: that children are only subject to the penalty of hell if they reject Christ after some arbitrary or subjective “age of accountability.” If they haven’t reached that age they go to heaven. But what is this age? Is it 4, 6, 8, 12, 20, 40, 80? The Bible doesn’t say, because it doesn’t exist. Anyone who has worked with children knows that children wilfully choose sin from a very early age and should be held accountable much earlier than 18!
  5. In His mercy God applies the meritorious work of Christ to children because He is a God of grace.
    1. In this view children do not exercise normal faith in Christ that is needed by those who can choose, but rather He has mercy upon whom I have mercy (Ro 9:15). While it is true that God has mercy upon whomever He will (in this passage as it relates to election), the consistent teaching of Scripture associates receiving this mercy in faith. The strength of this view is it fights universalism by appealing to the need for the work of Christ. The downside is that nowhere in the Bible is this clearly stated.
  6. Only elect children go to heaven (or children of the elect are saved).
    1. This was the view held by the founders of our chapel. Article 10.3 of our founding confession said this: “Elect infants, dying in infancy, are regenerated, and saved by Christ, through the Spirit,[12] who works when, and where, and how He pleases:[13] so also are all other elect persons who are incapable of being outwardly called by the ministry of the Word.[14]” (The Scriptural proofs for some of these show that even the most robust theologians need to bend Scripture to address this question). In this view infants who are elect are saved without faith shown on earth[4] according to the mercy of God. A similar view believes children of believing (elect) parents are saved on account of the faith of their parents. This view would account for why not all children (like those of the Amalekites) are saved and why some possibly are, but no one could know who an elect child was or was not, because the elect are normally only justified through faith on earth.
  7. This is a mystery best left to the Lord (my personal view).
    1. I do not stay awake at night wondering about the eternal state of my unborn child. Why? Because I entrust its soul to an all wise, good and sovereign God and accept His will, whatever it may be. While point 6 comes closest to sounding reasonable, I believe that because the Bible does not even remotely touch upon this subject clearly, it therefore must not be a subject God wants us to concern ourselves with, otherwise He would have told us.

There are two things, however, that the Bible does clearly teach: 1) personal comfort grounded in the promises of God (vs. speculation) for those who mourn the loss of a child, and 2) the personal need to respond to the Gospel.

  1. For those who have suffered the loss of a child comfort is available in the face of such loss but it does not come from speculating about your child’s salvation but hoping in the promises of God such as, Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted (Matt 5:4).
  2. The Lord commands all people everywhere to repent… (Acts 17:30).

The Lord’s Sweetest Blessings,

Pastor Chris

[1] In 2015 there were 185,824 in England and Wales (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/may/17/abortion-rate-england-and-wales-five-year-high).

[2] I believe it is possible to differentiate between the immorality of abortion for instance and issues of infant salvation.

[3] Jesus saying, “let the little come to me” has as little to do with salvation as it does baptism, rather Jesus is breaking down barriers in the apostles hearts, because the Gospel was not meant for “us” (the disciples or the Jews) but for them (Jews and Gentiles and all who believe).

[4] This is very similar to forms of universalism where it is believed people will get a second chance before entering heaven to believe (but see Heb 9:27).

Faith + Hope

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

So begins the ‘hall of fame’ list of faith in the eleventh chapter of Hebrews. Given the dark days in which we live—rife with evil, moral decay and unbelief—days in which humanly speaking I resign myself to believe our civilisation is doomed, what is faith, what is hope?

Most people today are hopeless, their lives uncertain, because they have a presumptuous ‘faith’ (trusting in themselves, others or in ungrounded optimism & wishful thinking [a ‘faith in faith’ mentality]) that ‘hopes’ in uncertainties (selfish desires, earthly shifting sands, fallible people). It is a trust in a hope of a feeling of expectation that something good might happen. When this leads to shattered hopes and broken faith—as it almost always does—people invariably despair; over time they give up.

Biblical faith and hope are not so vague, but are described as an “assurance” and a “conviction.” Faith is a trust in a promise made by a faithful God. He is the object of our faith, His promises the basis of our hope. Therefore, whatever He has promised we can trust and as we actively wait for it we hope. In fact, our trust is so firm and our hoping so active, it is as if what is invisible is visible before our very eyes (see: Ro 8:24–5; 2 Cor 5:7; 1 Pet 1:8).

Hebrews is speaking about Jesus and His return, but He seems to tarry; we’ve also been promised eternal life, but can feel so dead; we’re promised a happy resurrection, but our bodies know corruption; we are made just, as yet sin dwells in us; we hear the call to rejoice, but are in the midst of miseries; we have the promise of good gifts, but still we hunger and thirst.

What would become of us if we were not supported by true hope and faith, the ministry of Christ’s Spirit and the Word, along with the example of a cloud of witnesses, who together enable us to triumph over the world and endure to the finish line, “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith” (12:2).

The Lord’s Sweetest Blessings,

Pastor Chris

Half-way evangelism

I recently played host to some family member tourists from Canada. As part of the usual trail of places we took them too, it included some historic churches, cathedrals and abbeys. Often people treat these religious sites as merely sites of historic and architectural interest, no different from a National Trust Property or museum. So, I always value it when the community that represents the building has hourly prayers and asks people to pause to remember it is a Christian place of worship, or when they put up panels explaining the essence of who Jesus is and what Christianity is about.

If you had to write such a panel or explain this to a friend what would you say? Perhaps you might try writing something down yourself, looking up a couple Bible verses to include, it would be a helpful exercise to prepare you for evangelism.

Sadly, some of these panels or leaflets, while beginning with good intentions, end up being a form of half-way evangelism. Consider the following example I came across. There is lots a Christian could say “amen” to, but also much that remains to be said and a few questionable statements. Have a scan to see what you think:

leaflet

Your thoughts?

Allow me to share mine…

1st Paragraph: Amen and amen!

2nd Paragraph: This begins well but in the list of extraordinary things the main reason he came (to defeat sin and death) is not mentioned? The last sentence is also somewhat fuzzy, not necessarily wrong just a bit fuzzy. Perhaps something better would have been to say, “He lived the perfect life we cannot live to show us what it means to live uprightly before God and others” or something to that effect.

3rd Paragraph:

  • 1st sentence: yes
  • 2nd sentence: add…”and for who He claimed to be”
  • 3rd sentence: somewhat vague and universalist (meaning because He died we are all okay without personal faith in Him). How about, “But through His life and death He knew he would atone for the sins of all who would believe in Him, reconciling them to God.” (1 Jn 2:2, 2 Cor 5:18)
  • 4th and 5th sentences: hurray, back on track. Amen!
  • Last sentence: fine

4th Paragraph:

  • 1st sentence: “…are Christians” should read “claim to be Christians” for many who identify as Christian are only nominally so (Mt 7:21). Perhaps they were trying to point to the giant wake Jesus left behind Him as a tool to encourage others to think about following Him?
  • 2nd sentence: Wait a minute! How about, “Through Jesus death and life changing and life giving gift of the Holy Spirit believers are given life to the full, starting now and for eternity.” (John 10:10)
  • 3rd sentence: great

We certainly do not want to be automatically confrontational when we encounter such leaflets (remembering 1 Pet 3:15b), however, we do need to be zealous for truth (Jude 3) and as we are we will be sharpened in our knowledge of Jesus and His Gospel, help others to be so, and together more able to effectively spot error and proclaim with purity the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The Lord’s Sweetest Blessings,

Pastor Chris

Are there different ranks of Christians?

This question was asked of me by a boy who heard a Christian leader infer that they were a better or higher ranked Christian than so and so. It is a very good question and I’ll attempt to answer it straightforwardly.

Short answer, NO!

Medium answer, read on…

This has been a common misconception amongst Christians for ages. Consider how the following three groups each opt into this view:

Roman Catholicism: There is the laity, deacons, priests, bishops, etc. Priests for example are believed to actually change (ontologically) when they become a priest as a higher level of holiness is required to handle the sacraments (like communion). This is not to mention the canonisation of people as saints and RC’s worship of them.

Pentecostal/Charismatic Movement: There are unbelievers, Christians (those who have been forgiven of their sin by believing the Gospel), and then super-Christians (those baptized by the Holy Spirit as a separate event subsequent to salvation, usually evidenced by speaking in tongues).

Works/Legalism: There are those who believe Christians are saved by works. Even many legalists, who think they believe the gospel but deny it by living as if it is in obedience to the Law that we are saved (the Law is good and points us to our duty but it cannot save).

Popularity/ Skill: Some buy into our cultural viewpoint that if you are a popular Christian, have published lots of books, or have incredible skills, that makes you a better Christian.

These perspectives are all wrong. Listen to what Jesus said to His disciples:

At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingomd of heaven?” And calling a child, He put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt 18:1–4).

Jesus was not saying all children are automatically innocent (their first word is often “no!”). He was saying they are a prime example of being dependent upon another (their parents). What is required of someone to become great in the Lord’s eyes is to humble themselves and trust/believe/follow Jesus. Because salvation is of grace (Eph 2) and from start to finish it is rooted in faith (Ro 1:17) all Christians are equal in value before the Lord. Though some receive more gifts and high callings and authority (1 Cor 12:11) and some might be more mature in the faith (further along in the process of sanctification), they are all nonetheless equal in the strictest sense for all of this is of grace. The attitude of more mature Christians should never be to “pull rank” or boast as the disciples did but to have the spirit of Christ, which is humility. Humility is the true mark of a maturing Christian.

The Lord’s Sweetest Blessings,

Pastor Chris

Perfecting Your Personality

Christianity, unlike the secular view of the person, views the person as created in the image of God but through the Fall having lost our likeness to Him. While proud secularists in the extreme deny any need to change, Christianity starts with the message of sin and imperfection but ends with the promise and hope of total transformation by the Spirit (on this read My Heart Christ’s Home[1]). Christians know we need to grow and change:

Be conformed into the likeness of Christ (Ro 8:29)

Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect (Mt 5:48)

This is a journey, just like Christian in Pilgrim’s Progress. It is a journey and it can only be accomplished by God’s grace. We often refer to this as sanctification (the process of being made perfect by the Spirit). This has many different dimensions. We grow in our faith, our trust in the Lord. We grow in our humility, our recognition of our need for him. We fight temptation, growing in holiness. Another area we are called to grow in is our character [personality] (Ro 5:4).

The Lord has created each of us unique and special in our personality, however, even sin has affected this realm and so it must not be left outside of God’s great work of sanctification. Every personality has its strengths and weaknesses. We need to submit both of these to the Lord, the strengths so he might sharpen and use those to greater effectiveness and the weaknesses so that our strengths are not limited by them.

One personality test that I have found very helpful is what is called the “Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator” (to take a free test click here). This world renowned system is uncannily accurate! It notes that there are 16 personality types in the world. Each type is made up of 4 letters that identify primary and secondary traits (you can read more about this online if you are interested). Since I am encouraging you to reflect on your areas for growth I’ll take the lead and openly share my personality as an example (now you can read me like a book—though be careful— as with any generalised indicator no two people are the same even with the same personalities!). I am an ENTJ (see also official website), the rarest personality in the world! Only 2% of people are like me in this respect.

As a result some of my strengths are:

I am efficient, a visionary and a doer, passionate, focused, strong, articulate, a good teacher, often capable, and can quickly and clearly identify an issue and create a plan of attack to solve it, etc.

But my very own strengths can become my greatest weaknesses if I am not careful:

I can too quickly pass people (and their emotions) by, become impatient with people who take longer to process things, can appear intimidating (even if I don’t mean to be), can abhor inefficiencies, and can over all allow my thinking to make it seem that I am cold and indifferent (when that is actually not the case), etc.

While I am a thinker I try very hard to be compassionate, loving and understanding. While a doer I try very hard to be patient and to listen. Most of all, as I am naturally confident, I seek to aim to not misplace my confidence. This is why over the last decade or so the theme of pride and humility in Scripture has become so important to me (and also because it is so to the Biblical worldview!). I want to ensure my confidence is not ill founded, not placed in self but in Christ. I pray that as I seek to humble myself to Him I am becoming meek (Mt 5:5, Nu 12:3): exercising God’s power under God’s control, rather than selfish power in any way I please. These are my challenges and I trust as I am made aware of them I look to Christ to perfect them so that I can become the man of God He wants me to be. It is not easy to lay oneself before the Lord or others and expose our faults, but it is for our benefit (the wise take constructive criticism: Prov 9:8–9).

Whether you end up taking the test or not I hope you can see what is meant about being aware of who you are so that you can allow the Lord to transform all of you, including your personality weakness(es).

May we bring these to the Lord for He is gracious and capable to transform us so as to be able to present us blameless on that great day!

The Lord’s Sweetest Blessings,

Pastor Chris

[1] Also available for purchase on Amazon from £1.50.