Should We Forget the Church
Thursday, April 19, 2012
In a small room on the second floor of the National Museum of American History in Washington. On display til July 15, an 18-th century Bible with pages full of holes. It was the Bible of Thomas Jefferson.
A seventeen hundreds Bible full of carefully cut holes with more missing that what remains. At 27 the second president of the United States took a sharp knife and began slicing and dicing to come up with a Bible that he thought accurately portrayed the teachings of Jesus. What he didn’t agree or like, he removed and blamed on disciples of Jesus with faulty memories. He said it was like finding diamonds in a dunghill. As Andrew Sullivan in Newsweek mentioned in a cover story a few days ago, Thomas Jefferson, who always called himself a Christian, was calling “vast parts of the Bible religious manure”. He said he was a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus. Is it possible that we do the very same thing today? Even if we count ourselves as Christians and would say we believe that all scripture is from God … is it possible that we are not taking all the Bible as God’s Word speaking to us? Welcome to HT, I’m CM sharing the GS that’s all about Jesus and a program called Should We Forget the Church. Very rarely did Thomas Jefferson go to church. Do you go to church? Thomas Jefferson decided the way he could accept the Bible was to leave out the places in scripture he didn’t agree with. And that left not only a much smaller New Testament, he left out the Old Testament entirely. Do you leave out some of the Bible because you don’t agree with it? I think I would have to say, “Yes I have,” and sometimes not even realized it. We’re going to look at God’s Word in the next few minutes. Would you study it with me? We’re going to study this idea of going to church and whether the Lord wants that from us. The implication of the Newsweek article by Andrew Sullivan is that if you want to follow Jesus, forget church. But is this journalist right? I don’t think so, but you decide.
Now as we get started, a couple of things I need to mention. As I walked into the studio, the family had been called to the bedside of former White House Counsel and the founder of Prison Fellowship, Chuck Colson. Maybe you’ve heard him through the years on the radio feature called Breakpoint. He’s been hospitalize for several days and Eric Metaxas has been filling in. Would you pray for Chuck and Patti and all the family as his homegoing is imminent?
Second, listeners to this program just won’t let me forget the movie Ben Hur. And so I’d still like to send you the two DVD or the Deluxe boxed set of the digitally remastered 50th anniversary edition of Ben Hur as our thank you for your gift to HAVEN Today. We keep telling the Great Story all about Jesus thanks to you. So would you call us after the program at 1-800-654-2836? That’s 1-800-65-HAVEN. Or go online at haventoday.org. That’s haventoday.org. And for your generosity, we want to send you Ben Hur. Just ask for it when we hear from you. HT opens with two songs blended together, leading us to Jesus and his bride, his church.
OPEN – Trusting You Alone/My Hope is Built – Al Denson
HAVEN Today and Trusting You Alone with My Hope is Built on Jesus Christ by Al Denson opening some precious minutes together called “Should We Forget the Church”.
I’ve seen pictures, but if I were near the US Capitol before July 15, I’d like to see first-hand that Bible that Thomas Jefferson came up with, although I don’t agree with what he did. In a minute we’ll turn to God’s Word that should speak to us about the church of Jesus Christ. But first, some historical context. Like many other upper-class, educated citizens of the new republic of the United State, Thomas Jefferson was a deist. And while deists believed in the need for religion, and could write with a Christian vocabulary, it doesn’t mean they were Christians, in a biblical sense Many scholars believe the first president of the United States, George Washington, was also a deist. But Jefferson certainly was. Deists differed from orthodox Christians by rejecting biblical miracles and prophecies and embracing the notion of a well-ordered universe created by a God who withdrew into some kind of detached transcendence.
Ministers of the Gospel at the time regarded deism as an ill-conceived attempt to reconcile religion with science. For rationalists back in the Age of Enlightenment, deism was one of many efforts to liberate humankind from what the deists viewed as superstitious beliefs.
In a letter to [physician Benjamin] Rush in1803, Jefferson said his editing experiment aimed to see whether the ethical teachings of Jesus could be separated from elements he believed were attached to Christianity over the centuries.
"To the corruption of Christianity I am indeed opposed," he wrote to Rush, "but not to the genuine precepts of Jesus himself."
Well, to put it mildly, I disagree with Thomas Jefferson. He ignores much of what Jesus said and did. He forgot that Jesus said his kingdom was one of Spirit and truth. No matter how smart you are or think you are, I believe that the Bible is ALL God’s Word and while I may not always understand all of it, I need to receive all of it as coming from ‘God, by way of the Spirit of God speaking through human authors. Jefferson didn’t buy that. The cannon that we call scripture, I believe was part of a process overseen by the Holy Spirit and the cannon – our Bible – has been amazingly preserved and continues to be affirmed in accuracy. All that said, what about the church? My bottom line? Don’t take a razor blade to the Bible, whether literally or figuratively.
There is this theology of the church – ecclesia – community – which theologians teach is both invisible and visible. The invisible is the true church of Jesus Christ. Some day it will be visible. The visible is the outward expression of Christ’s church that we can see. And not everything we see that goes by church is part of his church. But we’re not dissecting that doctrine today. Read the Bible and what does it say? Should we forget the church? Should we fail to go because we’ve had a bad experience in a place called church. Should we reject worshipping in community with fellow Bible-believing Christ followers because we were burned? To do that, is following the same road of Jefferson and I don’t think that’s following Jesus who left us his words and said only he is the way, the truth, the life.
If you grew up with the authorized version of the Bible, you no doubt heard Hebrews 10:25
The preacher writing by way of the Spirit said not to
forsake the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.
That’s a pretty good translation of the original Greek. The New Testament also speaks of Christians meeting on the first day of the week. Some Christians around the world still meet on the seventh day – or Saturday. That’s what Messianic Jews do in Israel today because that’s the one day off, when businesses are closed. That’s what the Seventh Day Adventist minister I sat next to returning from Israel does. But there’s one important thing to take into account. There is no direct command in the New Testament that Christians must go to church once a way. It’s just not there. But what is in scripture is very important. Read Acts, read all the letters, and there is the assumption that this is what Christ-followers do. We go to church. Let’s go back to Hebrews 10 again. Let’s go to the context of the preacher’s words. He begins by talking about how the death of Jesus as the supreme sacrifice has done away with the old covenant’s sacrificial system of animals in the temple in Jerusalem. It’s no longer needed. Listen for the assumption in his language that Christians do not fail to meet together regularly and worship the risen Lord in community, not isolation. It is a call to persevere in living the Christian life together. He uses temple vocabulary from the old covenant but puts it into the new covenant – living in Christ’s Kingdom today and looking forward to THAT day, the day of our Lord’s return.
19 And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. 20 By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place. 21 And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house, 22 let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water.
23 Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. 24 Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. 25 And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.
God’s Word to us from Hebrews 10:19-25. Did you hear the words “let us” repeated over and over. There’s the assumption. It’s something Christians do. Let us. Let us. Let us. Verses 24 and 25 where we ended. Christians get together as community. Let us draw near … let us hold fast … let us consider.
Literally, the text is telling us stir up one another to love and good works. All of this only comes about as we see earlier in Hebrews by the love of Jesus as our ultimate sacrifice and high has been totally accomplished in the new covenant. Something more than individual effort is needed if love and good works are to be fostered. Christians must be alert to the needs of other Christians, that can only come about by being together. Corporate action is indispensable. The Greek word for stirring up is a striking term meaning incitements. It seems to suggest that loving one another will not just happen. It needs to be worked out, even provoked, in the same way as good works. This combination of love and good is remarkable in emphasizing that love must have a practical outcome. The agitated for good used here marks out the works as good interference, as having an attractive quality about them. It suggests that the works must be so self evidently good that no doubt can exist about their true value. There is a need community. For fellowship. It stands to reason that no provocation to love is possible unless suitable opportunities occur for the steering process to take effect. The words, not neglecting to me together, resume lovely refer to worship meetings. The Greek word suggests some official assembly. Some had evidently been neglecting to meet with Christian brothers and sisters and this is seen as a serious weakness. It may be that the readers had splintered off from the main group, which meant that there opportunities for both to love and good works were severely limited. Christian assemblies are intended to have a positive and helpful outcome–encouraging one another. The words used here in summary can fall so he translated exhorting. The basic idea is that Christians should strengthen and stimulate one another. There is no doubt that in measurable influence for good–good kingdom–can come from the powerful example of right minded people in association with others. If you do not want to be a Thomas Jefferson, you must realize that the new Testaments lends no support to the idea of loan Christians. Close and regular fellowship with other believers is not just a nice idea, but an absolute necessity for our encouragement in Christ. The passage ends with a surprise. It speaks of seeing the day drawing near. Nothing has prepared the readers for the reacher mentioning the word day. There are many references through the New Testament to the day of the Lord. 1st Thessalonians 5. 2nd Peter 3. Readers of this letter would have known at once of what is referred. It is familiar from the old testament, but the writer is using it in a specificallyway implying a day of reckoning. Luke 17. Romans 2. Revelation 6. Certainly preacher of Hebrews is connecting the word they with the 2nd coming of Christ. The expression drawing near is commonly used in the New Testament to describe the roach that day are you Romans are keen. Philippians 4. James I 1st Peter for. The eminence of that coming day was considered to be plain. It was not a secret. Christians are to live as if the dawning of the day is so near that its arrival is only just the on the rise. Even if centuries have passed, the possible imminence of that day still supplies a powerful motivation for all believers in Jesus. All Christians are called to find fellow believers who hold to the scriptures as God speaking to us. It may be a house church like in China. It may be a drive for us to get there. It may be next door. Christians find other believers and worship the Lord together. We stir each other up. We encourage each other. We sing together. We repent together. We find our hope together in one Person – the Lord Jesus Christ. This ecclesia is the church of Jesus Christ.
CLOSING – The Church – Derek Web – She Must and Shall Go Free
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