Look at this contrast: “Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who
is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God.”
(I Corinthians 2:12) “The natural person
does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and
he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.”
(I Corinthians 2:14)
The reason that Darwin promoted naturalism
was because he was a “natural person” who could not understand spiritual
things. The reason that the church of Jesus Christ continues to grow amidst the
opposition of the natural world of natural people is that the Spirit of God is
at work giving spiritual life to all of God’s children.
While the world boasts in its Darwins,
Dawkins, and Hawkings, the church boasts in this: that “we have the mind of Christ” (I Corinthians 2:16), and so we “understand and know” the only true God,
“who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth”,
(Jeremiah 9:24) as recognized by all who have received “the things freely given us by God”.
© 2013 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517,
Merritt, BC, V1K 1B8 ~ email@example.com
One of my most
perplexing pastoral problems has been what to do when a church attempts to
carry out biblical church discipline in sincere faith, love and obedience, and
the person we are trying to win over simply goes to another church that
welcomes them and rejects us, or gets the witnesses kicked out of their church
and carries on without them.
I know that I’m
not alone. In the mid 90’s, David Hocking, a prominent pastor with a popular
radio program, was caught in an adulterous relationship. When his ministry
sought to carry out church discipline in order to win him over and eventually
restore him to ministry, another ministry said, “enough of that,” and invited
the man to immediately join their staff as a pastor without any accountability
for his sin.
When I read
the classic, Watch Your Walk, by Richard Baxter, I
had to keep reminding myself that the book was written 350 years ago. His
description of pastors failing to carry out church discipline out of fear of
losing their paycheck sounded like it had been written in the twenty-first
century, not the 1600’s.
Jesus and the
apostles taught church discipline as a healthy way of dealing with sin-problems
in the church. We are the children of God. We misbehave. Sometimes our conduct
gets out of hand and it is the church’s responsibility to “win us over”, and
make every effort to “restore us”.
God disciplines those he loves,
and his church does the same.
Today God gave
me great comfort and help in how he wants me to think of these situations that
tend to leave lasting pain in the hearts of the people who go through them (on
both sides of the divide, I should add). At the end of Jesus’ instructions
about how to carry out the discipline of an unrepentant child of God, he added
18 Truly, I say to you, whatever
you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth
shall be loosed in heaven.
19 Again I say to you, if
two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by
my Father in heaven. 20 For
where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”
encouraged me so much this morning was how these words of Jesus fit all the
things we are learning about the throne-room of God in heaven. Jesus said that,
whatever even two or three people “bound” on earth by carrying out church
discipline against an unrepentant child of God, that is the way God considered
it in heaven. And, when the disciplined child of God came to repentance, and
was “loosed” from their discipline through forgiveness, these people could count on the situation being viewed the same way
in heaven. In both cases, it didn’t matter what things looked like on earth. It
mattered that there was agreement between the two or three witnesses praying in
Jesus’ name, and the throne-room of heaven where such prayers were heard and
conclusion for me was that, as God had earlier convicted me to pray the Great
Commission in faith that he will answer such a prayer because it is his own
revealed will, I could now pray that God would carry out church discipline
against unrepentant children of God even if the two or three witnesses need to
gather together and pray that God would do what other churches refuse.
bottom line is that my journey through Revelation 4, the picture of the
throne-room of heaven, tells me to look at the way things are in heaven, not
the way they will appear on earth. Even when it looks like unrepentant people are
able to go find other churches that will take them in as if nothing has
happened (as with David Hocking), or the ones who should be disciplined are
able to get the pastor removed instead (as with Jonathan Edwards), Jesus promises
that things in heaven match the justice and righteousness of the throne of God,
even when beasts, antichrists, false prophets, deceivers, and apostate churches
seem to be “getting away” with whatever they are doing wrong.
throne-room of God says things are very different than what our eyes can see.
Even two or three people praying in Jesus’ name for God’s will in church discipline
to be carried out, will be heard, and answered.
© 2013 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517,
Merritt, BC, V1K 1B8 ~ firstname.lastname@example.org
The serpent is
and a deceiver.
The sark (flesh) is unable to understand the things of God. No
matter what we would like to do to please God, our sark does the opposite. When
we want to do good, our sark does the bad things we don’t want to do. When we
want to stay away from bad things, our sark takes us there anyway.
When the serpent and the sark band together against the children of God, it
could look quite hopeless. That is, if we forget that we have the Savior and
the Spirit on our side.
The Savior delivers
us from the evil one. He
set us free from “the
prince of the power of the air”, and “made us alive together
with Christ”.God “seated us with him in the
heavenly places in Christ Jesus”.He made us a “new creation”,and gave us a “new self, created
after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”
Paul described the frustrations of those who live in the sark, he concluded by
raising this piercing question: “Wretched
man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” That is exactly what a sarky life, “following the course of this world, following the prince of the
power of the air,” is like. It feels wretched, and it feels like death.
answers this question with a declaration of victory: “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”The cure to our wretched condition, and the cure to the feeling of
death that permeates our lives, is what God does for us through Jesus Christ
our Lord. If Jesus is “our Lord”, we
have the opportunity to live a life characterized by victory. As Paul wrote at
the end of the next chapter: “we are more
than conquerors through him who loved us.” That is what Jesus will do with both the serpent and our sarks. He
will defeat them, and lead us to conquer in his name.
not only have the Savior who has delivered us from the evil one and made us new
creatures with a new nature in a new family. We also have the Holy Spirit of
the Living God who “helps us in our
weakness”. If we have received Jesus Christ, then we have “received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba!
Father!’” If we have the Holy Spirit, he “bears
witness with our spirit that we are children of God.”
No matter how
much this day is characterized by attacks from the “red dragon”, “that ancient serpent, who
is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world”, and no matter how much our sarks (flesh) are lying to us about what
we should think and feel about anything we are going through, Jesus Christ our
Savior, and the Holy Spirit of the Living God, are working to give us the
“4 For everyone who has been
born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the
world—our faith. 5 Who is it that overcomes the
world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?”
given his brothers a new heart,
and called us to be filled with his Spirit. Put
your faith in your Savior working through his Spirit, and you will overcome the
world, the sark, and the devil.
© 2013 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517,
Merritt, BC, V1K 1B8 ~ email@example.com
For over a year,
I have been carrying a painful story that I have not been able to share. It
involves too many other people who also have their own side to the story, and I
do not want to fall into the trap of trying a case in public that God intends
the church to deal with “all in the family”, so to speak.
However, I am
sure that other people have gone through similar things, and so I have wondered
how to give a testimony of God’s work that would glorify God, that would
encourage others who have experienced the same kind of heartache, and would leave
a door of grace open to anyone who wanted reconciliation.
Did the word, “God-sized”
just pop into your head? It certainly feels that way to me. And, this morning,
God moved in my heart to turn my thoughts from deep despondency about what has
growing excitement about what will happen. Perhaps my story will encourage you.
As I continued
praying about my situation, wondering how much to share with others, I knew I
did not want this to turn into a sarky pity-party to indulge a childish need
for attention. Instead, I remembered that the Bible already gave me a description
of the situation. I can share this with you as something that really did happen
in the first century church, that the apostle John said he would deal with, that
God chose to include in his breathed-out words of Scripture,
and that feels very much like what happened to me.
Here it is:
9 I have written something
to the church, but Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first, does not
acknowledge our authority.
10 So if I come, I will
bring up what he is doing, talking wicked nonsense against us. And not content
with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers, and also stops those who want to
and puts them out of the church. (III John)
me just say that my situation has felt like a Diotrephes has talked “wicked nonsense” against me, refused to
meet with “the brothers” who are
witnesses of what happened, and has “stopped those who want to” meet with
the brothers from doing so. It has hurt a lot. If this sounds familiar to you,
I trust you will find the Lord’s comfort. If it does not sound familiar, please
accept that such things still happen, and God’s people need to know how to
carry on, even when the pain of such a situation lasts so much longer than we
would ever have dreamt possible.
testimony is not that I perfectly understand the situation, or that my side of
the story is the only way of looking at what took place. My testimony is that,
when we feel like this description of Diotrephes is God’s own commentary on
what someone has done to us, God will lift up our hearts to him so that we can
pray in ways that are fully in line with his will. He will lead us to wait on
him in expectation for his most certain answers rather than wallowing in
feelings of despondency and defeat. There is something we can pray that is so
according to God’s will that there is no doubt that God will hear and answer
our prayers to our hearts’ contentment.
our journey through the book of Revelation, God revealed Jesus to me as the one
who “opens and no one
will shut, who shuts and no one opens.” My conclusion was that it would not be right to pray that God
would open a door that Jesus had shut. My prayers had to aim at things I knew
to be his will, not things that would pit my will against his. There had to be
a way to pray about my life, my place in God’s work, and the fulfillment of all
God’s plans and purposes for his children, that would give me complete freedom
to ask for something, and fully expect God to give it to me according to his
good, pleasing and perfect will.
consideration of what I could pray that would be fully according to God’s will,
I remembered the impudent man who had a friend visit late at night and had
nothing to feed him. He knew that his neighbor-friend had food in the house,
and so, even though his buddy and his family were all in bed, he kept pounding
on the door until his neighbor reluctantly got up and shared his food. Jesus said
that if we ask, seek, and knock with the kind of persistent shown by the “impudent”
man, we would receive, find, and open doors.
to me was that there had to be a way I could pray about my life, and my place
in God’s work, that would allow me to knock on the door of God’s will expecting
that he absolutely had to say yes to me. This still could not include asking
God to give me back what I once had (the door was closed until he said
otherwise). However, there was a way that I could pray like the impudent man,
pray without ceasing,
and know that my prayers would be answered; in fact, would be answered beyond
what I could ask or think.
What came to
mind was simple, and God-sized, at the same time. It was to take the words of Jesus
Christ telling his church what he wanted us to do until he returned, and asking
God to fulfill that mandate in my life however he pleased. This would mean that
God would have to do something specific with me, and with people around me, but
without me telling him how much work I would allow him to do in me, or how much
work I demanded that he do in someone else.
I could pray
this prayer without telling God who had to be included in his answer to my
prayers, how much it would cost me, or how much time it would require. And, I
definitely could not tell God how much sorrow and heartache I was willing to
feel as I let him work into my heart the same shepherdly longing to find lost
sheep as would make me like Jesus, the man of sorrows.
realized I could focus on in prayer, with all the childish impudence that my
freshly awakened faith could muster, was that Jesus’ commission to his church
would be fulfilled in my life, in my family, in my church, in my community, in
my world, in every way that the sovereign will of my heavenly Father would ever
desire to perform. Jesus said,
All authority in heaven and on earth has
been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all
nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the
Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have
commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Jesus has all authority in and over everything in heaven and on earth, and
because he has commissioned the church to do his will, every child of God has
every right to pray for the fulfillment of Jesus’ commission in our lives. We also
have every right, and calling, to wait in honest, sincere, hope-filled
expectation that he will answer this prayer without reservation. (Warning: this
line of prayer is sure to smack a mirror right before our eyes so that we have
to look at God’s work in ourselves before he will allow us to see any work he
is doing in others, even though his work in others is taking place on the other
side of the mirror as surely as it is in us.)
marks the day that God has put my attention on his will so clearly that I can
say this (feel free to hold me accountable):
God is working in me to ‘will’ to keep in step with the Spirit in the
fulfillment of the Great Commission, and to ‘work’ the duties of the Great
Commission in my life however he desires, I agree to work out my salvation with
fear and trembling, praying that my whole body, soul and spirit would conform
to the divine will in every way that God directs my paths.”
the Great Commission as my guide, I pray that God would make me a
disciple-maker in whatever way he chooses, with whomever he chooses working
with me, reaching out to anyone he desires, without any favoritism, partiality
or prejudice hindering this work, so that I am a genuine expression of a branch
so abiding in Jesus Christ my Lord that I am part of a church that bears much
fruit to the glory of God my Father.”
pray that I would be part of a soul-winning church that has as many new disciples ready to confess Jesus Christ
as Lord and Savior through baptism as God himself has chosen, and that we would
have the celebration of many baptisms glorifying the name of Jesus Christ as
the name that is above every name, the only name that God has given to men by which we must be saved.”
I pray that God would grant us an ever growing number of churches where newly
baptized disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ would have mature elders teaching
them to observe and obey and practice everything Jesus has commanded us, and
that mature elders would have the wonderful joy of seeing new disciples longing
to obey and follow our Lord Jesus Christ.”
matter what any of us are going through, and no matter what you think of what I
perceive that I have been going through, there is some way that you could join
in this kind of praying, some way that God would direct your steps to join him
in his work, and some way you could keep in step with his Holy Spirit’s
application of all that the Father and the Son have spoken to him.
I just realized that this week’s assignment includes meditating on this
Scripture: “and before the throne were burning seven
torches of fire, which are the seven spirits of God.” Let us band together in Jesus’ name to make sure we do not quench
such a fire in the church, and to encourage each other to be on Great Commission fire until
our Savior returns in glory, gathering all these disciples to be with him forever.
tuned for God’s answers to our prayers!
2013 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, V1K 1B8 ~ firstname.lastname@example.org