*This is the third piece in a 7 part blog series called “Into The Pray”*
Pic ‘n’ Mix
The church Mairi and I have left recently are awesome in many ways. But in other ways they are not awesome. This can be said of any church as well as of ourselves personally, so this shouldn’t be offensive news to any of us, should it? But as a symptom of the common departure of denominational ‘church’ from Biblical truth about the Church, into a kind of blinkered brain-washing, some of you reading this will already be offended.
Of course every church is both awesome and not awesome because as the individual ‘living stones’ that are forming the Church, we are all imperfectly hewn. So it’s all good – Peter’s tense is present and continuous.
you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. (1 Peter. 2:5)
But, within this imperfection, aren’t we still witnessing a 21st Century schmorgers board of church expression so distended that the very concept of ‘church’ has become equivalent to a weekend excursion to the Pic ‘n’ Mix sanctuary at Woolworths? With our pocket money in hand of unrealistic expectations and unbiblical convictions, we relish the freedom to chose whatever we like, and as much as we like. Then we become utterly assured that our bag of sweet confectionery is the true doorway to the Kingdom of God.
Broken Down House
The basic premise for this blog piece is in the form of a question to ponder: ‘Isn’t the identity and function of the Church of Jesus Christ created by God to always include specific vital elements, notwithstanding the colour of our imperfect human variety; and that this is true regardless of what we might feel about that on a personal, cultural, stylistic, geographical or generational level?’
Deciding on which church to go to or what the Church is actually supposed to be, based on the bespoke balance of our own ‘values’, is not what was ever supposed to happen. But this is exactly what happens all the time.
What is supposed to happen all the time is that God’s people submit to and gather around Jesus, who is the Self-authenticating, Self-disclosing Word become flesh (John 1:14) and the fullness of God in bodily form (Colossians 2:9 cf. Ephesians 3:19) – concentrated Word and Spirit. Following Jesus as Lord and King means that our primary ‘church values’ are to be based on the written Word of God.
Is a jesus who is Bible-heavy and cessationist in some post-codes, and ‘charismatic’ and Bible-light in others, really Jesus Christ?
Does Jesus not know who He is?
Do we not know who we are?
Try and shake yourself free mentally, for thirty seconds, from your denominational identity…even if you would describe yourself as non-denominational.
The Church of God, the Bride of Christ, the literal family and bridal inheritance of Jesus (Psalm 2:8), is the primary manifestation of the Kingdom of God on Earth. So how do we explain an identity and functioning of the church that is contrary to the Bible and His very word?
Biblically, the Church is meant to:
Preach the gospel
Defend the faith
Type each of these sub-titles into here and study for yourselves
To Progress Or Not To Progress
Just as the devil tried to distract and lure Jesus away from the simplicity of the ways of God as written down in a book, so too do we try and justify our own peculiar assortment of Pic ’n’ Mix. And we do this by the Bible itself because we know we have no other leg to stand on.
However, it is never a rational reading or interpretation of the text or an authentic knowledge of a Person that leads to alternative ways to identify and form a church. Rather, we seek comfort via bizarre attempts to find hidden, obscurely encoded messages instead of submitting to what is meant to be read as obvious. Remember, we’re talking about letters that were written to be read to the family of believers, including innocent little children.
- Why do we splash babies with water and call it baptism? Where is this in the Bible? It either is or it isn’t.
- Why do we assume the power to redefine marriage as though we were God? Where is this in the Bible. It either is or it isn’t. (For the love of God, will someone please show me?).
- Why do we marry, divorce and re-marry with the informality of Premier League Managers changing clubs? Where is this in the Bible? It either is or it isn’t.
- Why do we dismiss the wisdom of male headship in the church and in marriage in the name of equality and inclusion as though God’s wisdom has gone out of date? Where is this in the Bible? It either is or it isn’t.
- Why do we say that the Holy Spirit was for ‘then’ but not for ‘now’? Or that He’s now only into fruit-producing rather than gift-giving? Where is this in the Bible? It either is or it isn’t.
- Why do we have ‘talks’ instead of solid sermons? Why do we replace the skilful, mature, anointed communication of the beautiful ‘deep’ of the word of God for something more like a a first year presentation at University? Where is this in the Bible? It either is or it isn’t.
Why do we have a progressive theology over some issues and not with others?
Why do churches never talk about this?
Are we not kidding ourselves?
2 thoughts on “Into The Pray – The Bride”
Hi, Nick. Me, again. Thank you for indulging me once more. I like your metaphor of the Pic ‘n’ Mix. I fear in doing so we have the potential not only to pick those expressions of church that we like, but to attempt to redefine God as we see fit. You ask whether or not God has ordained that the church ‘always include specific vital elements. I submit for your consideration that these are more than ‘vital elements.’ One purpose of the church is to reflect God/Jesus. As God is unchanging, the church should remain fundamentally unchanged. I agree with your expectation that those elements should be simple and self-evident. Unfortunately, I fear some have become too adept at interpreting scripture to suit their purpose, while others have abandoned the study of scripture for themselves choosing to believe whatever is championed from the pulpit. My personal disappoint is that theology and doctrine are taught less-and-less in the church in favor of ‘Christian worldview’ and how we ought to live.
To your specific questions:
I don’t find examples of ‘sprinkling’ substituting for baptism in the Bible.
I don’t believe the church should redefine marriage, but do not object to non-Christians doing so. They have no reason not to do so. I would hope if and when they come to faith in Jesus they would change, but until then I have no authority over their decision. At that time, it is important we live in a covenant of grace rather than under the law.
Concur with regard to marriage and divorce.
I admit I struggle with the notion of male headship of the church and family. I don’t necessary disagree with your assessment, I just acknowledge my own struggle.
I fear the church has lost appreciation for the triune nature of God and, in particular, the role and function of the Holy Spirit.
I fear ‘talks’ and ‘Bible-based’ lectures for Biblical teaching. At the same time, I am one easily frustrated by those that merely understand the Bible as God’s instruction book. This does not encourage a relationship with God. It condemns us all under the ‘law.’ I believe the Bible is God’s self-revelation including His intent to reconcile creation to Himself. As part of this, it does identify those human acts that offend His character and how He desires we live. I think we are to hold one another accountable for the purpose of edification and sanctification, but fear we are too quick to use this to condemn those that currently hold opinions different from our ow or whose behavior we wish to control.
Thanks, again. I continue to look forward to your thoughts and wish you only the best in your journey. I hope you find the fellowship and peace you seek at the end of your quest.
Thanks again for taking the time to read, think and reply. I hope that the posts are in some small way pointing you to to the living relationship with God that you mention. It’s the God of the Book not the Book of the God that we’re longing for. It’s this longing for God that is the issue, isn’t it. I agree with John Piper in his book on fasting and prayer that we are all ravenously hungry for God, whether we know it or not (or to whatever extent we may be aware). The anaesthesia of this world numbs our hearts to the child-like, innate reflexes of hunger and thirst for Him that we stray off into man-made diversions that continue to render us calloused, even when we think we’re close to his heart (e.g. some of the examples I gave above). Where do these things come from? They come from our desire to be God and to ‘tweak’ things to the ‘wisdom’ of our kingdoms that we’re really building; if we weren’t building our our empires, we’d simply submit to His ways (as He defines, as He commands and as He invites us within to be a part).