Theology, Doctrine and Worship

“Theology and doctrine make life simpler. They protect us from reading verses out of context, restricting our diet to our favorite passages, and making decisions based on impulses. They put meat on concepts we tend to use mindlessly like glory, gospel, salvation and love. They help us understand what we’re actually doing every Sunday. What complicates life is not doctrine but ignorance of doctrine”   − Bob Kauflin −                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  

           Theology is the study of God. Doctrine is everything that the Bible teaches on a particular topic.Last year,our church choir read Bob Kauflin’s book Worship Matters. In the third chapter titled My Mind: What Do I Believe, Kauflin discusses the importance of theology and doctrine as it relates to worship. In the chapter, he lists common misconceptions that keep us from pursuing God with our minds; the third misconception being that theology and doctrine cause problems and make life complicated. The quote above is part of Kauflin’s response to this misconception. Continue reading

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The Ground of Our Experience

“A Spirit-filled church always studies the apostolic teaching. It is a learning church that grounds its experiences in and tests those experiences by the Word of God.” − James Montgomery Boice

At the end of the second chapter of Acts, after describing the coming of the Holy Spirit and Peter’s sermon at Pentecost, Luke began to write about things that characterized the early church (Acts 2:42-47). The first characteristic he mentioned was their devotion to the apostles teaching. The apostles were specifically chosen by Jesus to teach the Word of God. Therefore, they were empowered by the Holy Spirit to carry it out. Though they may not have completely understood it at the time, the night before he was crucified Jesus explained this to His disciples. He promised that the Father would send them another Helper, the Holy Spirit who would teach them and bring to remembrance all the things He had said (John 14:26). The promise proved true as evidenced by Peter’s sermon, where he boldly preached Jesus, the Holy Spirit moved with great power, and three thousand people were saved.                                                                                                                                                                                                                              In his commentary on these latter verses of Acts 2, James Boice makes the point that after such a miraculous work, the easiest thing for the church to have done would’ve been to look back at the experience of Pentecost and try to replicate it. There’s no doubt that what happened was an awesome experience. But what is found in Luke’s description is that as the church moved forward they devoted themselves first to apostolic teaching, the study of God’s Word. The Spirit of God works mightily through the Word of God.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            As believers, we do and should experience God, but we must be careful not to measure that experience based solely on how it makes us feel or appeals to our emotions. There’s great temptation and tendency to do just that. Boice’ larger point in the quote above is that our experiences alone are not the measure of what constitutes being Spirit-filled. Nor are they the measure of what constitutes true worship. Only when our experience lines up and flows from the Word of God can it be of the Spirit and thus considered true worship. Our experiences must always be kept in check by God’s Word.         

Boice goes on in his commentary, pointing out the great blessings that have come to the church from deep study of the Bible. In answering why such is the case, he says, “It is because the closer men and women come to God the closer they want to get to where He speaks to their hearts, and that is in the Bible”. The Spirit of God lives in the heart of every believer, but we are filled with the Holy Spirit only as our hearts are yielded to His work in us. If this is to happen, we must first expose ourselves to God’s Word, and then, as was the case with the early church, the rest will follow.

Preaching the Cross

Charles Spurgeon once said about preaching, “Preach any text you want and then make a beeline to the cross.” Naturally, when we think about Jesus’ crucifixion, the scene that comes to mind is not a very pleasant one. It was horrific! Jesus was stripped and beaten almost beyond recognition before being nailed to the cross. Perhaps it makes us wonder, “Couldn’t there have been another way for us to be saved?” I suppose there could have been, but that’s not how God planned it.

            The truth is, our sin cost Jesus a lot. The greater truth is He willingly paid the cost. Pray that our preachers never get tired of preaching, not only the necessity, but also the sufficiency of the cross for salvation. Pray also that we never get tired of hearing it. When you envision the scene at Calvary, remember, it is love that flows from the cross because it was out of love that Jesus went to it. Our only proper response is to love Him in return. “And you who were dead in your trespasses…God made alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This He set aside, nailing it to the cross.” (Colossians 2:13-14)

The Battle of Wills

“Our battles are first won or lost in the secret places of our will in God’s presence, never in full view of the world.”  − Oswald Chambers −

If our wills are to be conformed to God’s, it is critical that we come into His presence. Outside of the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives, our wills are never submissive to God’s. We love to have our own way. When God brings you to a major crossroad in your life, what will you do? We’re always left with a choice, a choice that will either move us closer to the Lord, or farther from Him. Have you spent time in the God’s presence today? Have you spoken to Him and allowed Him to speak to you? There’s no better place to be than in the presence of the Lord. And there is nothing that better prepares you in dealing with life’s issues and living for God’s glory.

Knowing the True God

“No religion is stronger than its god, and in the case of Christianity, no Christians have ever been stronger than their knowledge of the true God and their desire to obey and glorify Him.”

                                                                                                 – James Montgomery Boice –

             What keeps us from having a greater passion to know the true God? Are we just too busy to spend time getting to know Him? Could it be because we’ve made up a god of our own choosing; one that conforms His will to ours instead of the other way around? James Montgomery Boice’ quote above is found in the introduction to his commentary on Romans 9-11. In many ways, these are three of the most difficult chapters in Scripture. They are difficult because they make it abundantly clear that God, not man, is the center of all things. He is above us in every way. Paul concludes Romans 9-11 by expressing the depth of God’s wisdom and the impossibility of our complete understanding of His ways (Romans 11:33-36). We can never separate our desire to obey and glorify God from our knowledge of Him. That knowledge comes as we submit to His authority and allow free reign of the Holy Spirit in our lives. All of it is by God’s grace. Let us pray that our hearts would be open to His work, that we would have a greater desire to seek to know the only true God. Let us see His greatness, obey His will and glorify Him more and more each day.

Something Higher

“God’s purpose in all His dealings with us is to make us grow into something higher. The greatest calamity that can come to a soul is to be satisfied with its present condition. – A.B. Simpson –

Twice in 1 Thessalonians 4, Paul stresses the “more and more” to those he was writing to in the church at Thessalonica. The “more and more” had to do with living a life pleasing to God and of expressing brotherly love (1 Thessalonians 4:1, 9). They are both characteristic of Christians. Some in Paul’s day took his teaching on grace to mean something it didn’t. They took it to mean that sin offered an opportunity for God’s grace to be magnified. That is not what Paul taught (Romans 6).

The Christian life is a progressive process of being made more and more like Christ. It’s very easy to settle into the routine of our Christian lives in which we become satisfied with our present condition instead of seeking a deeper fellowship with the Lord. This is neither God’s intention nor desire. Continue reading

Suffering: The Reality, Purpose and Promise

“When God allows suffering and trials in our lives, sometimes it’s for us to unlearn something and simplify our beliefs until our relationship with Him is like that of a child.”  – Oswald Chambers – 

It’s not that we should desire to suffer or go through trials, but we do need to accept this truth of what Scripture teaches. As God’s people, we must be prepared to suffer, because suffering is certain.  

–          “Many are the afflictions of the righteous…”  (Psalm 34:19)  

–          “through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.” (Acts 14:22)  

–          “and we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s co-worker in the gospel of Christ, to   establish and exhort you in your faith, that no one be moved by these afflictions.  For you yourselves know that we are destined for this.” (1 Thessalonians 3:2-3) 

–          “For to this (suffering) you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you…” (1 Peter 2:21)   

–          “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.” (1 Peter 4:12) 

However, equally certain to suffering, is not only God’s sustaining grace through it, but also His Divine purpose in it. One purpose according to Chambers is that we simplify our beliefs. We should never outgrow our dependence on God, and often, trials are to ensure that we don’t. One of the biggest mistakes we make as Christians when encountering an unbelieving world is to not be prepared to answer why a loving God would allow His people to suffer. Sometimes, the best answer comes when they see you, His child, display that grace in your deepest time of need. Trust that God’s grace is always sufficient, His purposes always right, and that He will be with you each step of the way. You can, because He keeps all His promises.    

–          “But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’” (2 Corinthians 12:9) 

–          “More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5) 

–          “I will never leave you or forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5)