Thursday, February 23, 2017

Church Member!  Fight to Attend Your Church Weekly!
Geoffrey R. Kirkland
Christ Fellowship Bible Church

Fight? Attend Church? Weekly? Church member? Yes, indeed! We live in such a swirlingly busy age with countless distractions and endless entertainments and overly-busy schedules. How easily and how quickly it can be that the gathering together with the people of God in your local assembly can be missed one week because of a scheduling conflict. And then it becomes easier the next week. And the next. And so on. So the title is intentional and the motive of this essay is pastorally & compassionately exhortational: FIGHT and make it a priority to attend your local church on a weekly basis.

I understand things come up. Illness happens. Vacations occur. There are providential workings of God that may cause a child of God to miss church. But please hear this: missing church should not be the norm; it should be the exception. It is your local church where Christ promises to walk amidst His people and bless them by speaking to them and ministering to them in very real and special ways.

Additionally, this essay is for the true Christian. This is not just another paper urging the unsaved to just ‘get to church’. This essay is for those whom God has saved and who have obediently committed themselves to a local church and submitted themselves to the leadership of that church. This is an essay for the saved to reorient the focus on the Lord and on His church because this in our culture can distract and disrupt and cloud our minds at times.

My argument? Fight with all your might to attend your church weekly. I’ll provide 7 simple reminders.

1. For the sake of your HEART.
Dear Christian, bought with the precious blood of Christ, as a newborn baby long for the pure milk of the Word so that you may grow in respect to salvation (1 Peter 2:1-2). O child of God, have you tasted the kindness of the Lord? Have you partaken of the sweetnesses of His love for you? Do you hunger for Him and thirst for righteousness? Attend church for the sake of your heart so that you can grow as you receive the food of the Word. No matter what you tell yourself and how you seek to justify it, it’s impossible for you to grow spiritually if you continually find yourself absent from the body of Christ. For the sake of your heart, attend your church to be fed God’s Word through the preaching and to hear Christ address you and the Spirit to mold your heart through the truths heralded.

2. For the sake of your CONGREGATION.
Dear Christian, Christ never called you to a life of lone-ranger isolationism. Christianity is never my Christianity. It’s always a community, joint, shared journey. And that journey is with other predestined travelers who are progressing and traveling to glory just as you are. Don’t neglect them! No matter what you tell yourself, private times in the Word (as important as that is!), and family worship (as important as that is!), and listening to sermons online (as helpful as that can be!) is not a substitute for actually going to the gathering with your fellow believers to worship the crucified & risen & interceding Christ together. Your fellow believers who have covenanted together love you. When you’re not there, they wonder where you are (at least, they *should*). They care for you and wonder if everything’s OK. We minister together as a body. A body has many members. When one member is absent, there’s something incomplete about the body. So make it a point, a deliberate point, to attend worship with your congregation.

3. For the sake of your LEADERSHIP.
You, dear Christian, submitted yourself obediently to Christ and willfully from your heart to membership in your local church (if you haven’t done so yet, you should). They are called by God to give watchcare over your soul. As a father cares for his children, so a leader loves and gives oversight to Christ’s people. As a husband leads his wife and protects her, so undershepherds are to care for Christ’s Bride by giving biblical leadership to her. As a shepherd leads and guides the sheep, so your pastor-elders must give biblical guidance and counsel to the sheep bought with the blood of Christ. Your leadership cares for you. They watch over you. They are to minister to you. One of the *primary* ways your pastors care for you is by praying regularly for you and preaching God’s Word faithfully to you. If you miss church, you’re neglecting one of God’s chiefest ways for your pastors to care for your soul -- through the feeding of God’s Word. If a child didn’t come to meals, wouldn’t a loving parent wonder what’s going on and whether the child is sick? So you, dear Christian, receive the feeding and nurturing and loving and guidance from Christ as His appointed undershepherds tenderly love your soul by praying, studying, and preaching. You should attend & receive.

4. For the sake of your TEMPTABILITY.
Dear Christian, still growing in godliness, fight sin and temptation with zeal. Have you forgotten you have a cunning enemy who would love to distract you and put obstacles (enticing and entertaining ones!) so that you don’t attend church? Don’t isolate yourself! If you miss one or two or three weeks, how easy it is (and Satan loves to underscore this in your mind) to miss just *another* week. After all, no one has called and (you may think) no one notices or cares. But how temptable we are -- even as children of God. We are not to abandon the gathering with the saints and we’re not to let worldly endeavors take precedence over, or priority over, the Word of God. To help guard you from temptation and to help keep you alert to your sinfulness, sin’s attractiveness, Christ’s beauty, and heaven’s nearness, fight to attend corporate worship as a safeguard and as a blessing to fortify your soul in grace & in the gospel weekly.

5. For the sake of your WITNESS.
Dear Christian, one way you can represent Christ to the lost is by prioritizing your church attendance. This is your new family -- your eternal one that is wed far stronger than just biological ties. You have a family of blood-bought Christians that you’ve joined yourself to. So, it’s OK (I would argue, it’s *good* and *right*) to deny attending a party or a dinner or an entertainment activity if it conflicts with your corporate worship. Priorities are good. Have them. Hold them. Stick to them. Let the lost see that you prioritize Christ and His Word. If you don’t prioritize meeting with Christ and the people of Christ and hearing the Word preached, why would you think the lost would do that as they watch your mediocre attitude toward it? For the sake of your witness, fight hard to prioritize corporate worship.

6. For the sake of your CONSCIENCE.
As a believer, you obediently submitted yourself to undershepherds to love and nurture and care for you. You joined yourself to a church and there was some sort of commitment or covenant that you signed. In that, undoubtedly you affirmed that you’ll attend church regularly. Do you have a clean conscience before your Savior that you’ve been true to your commitment? Additionally, your Savior loves you and calls you to attend and not forsake the assembling together with the saints. Never forget, going to church is commanded for the people of God. It’s never a burden but a blessing. Never a weighty duty but a delightful yearning. Prioritize the gathering with the people because Christ calls you to it and also because you committed yourself to it in your own membership agreement.

7. For the sake of your SAVIOR.
Dear elect child of God whom the Father sent His Son to redeem, Christ is present among His lampstands and He walks amidst His churches. Christ gathers to meet with you in corporate worship, will you skip it and refuse to meet with Him? O how He yearns to fellowship with you and address you from His Word. Will you find other things more important, more pressing, more entertaining, more worthwhile than meeting with your Beloved? In corporate worship, Christ speaks to you in a very real and powerful and special way through the preaching of the Word. If you miss corporate worship consistently, you miss the ordinances (baptism and Lord’s Supper) which are two commanded means of grace for you to remember Him and His substitutionary death with the people of God. Do you miss this? Do other things take priority over this? O your Savior yearns for you and loves to meet with you and anticipates meeting with you? So should you, O Christian, attend the sweet times of fellowship where you remember the gospel, feast upon Christ, receive conviction by the Spirit, and edification from God’s people. Prioritize it!

More articles at Geoff's articles page.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Over the last few months, we at Christ Fellowship Bible Church (St Louis, MO) have been working through a course called: The Foundations of the Local Church.

Here are all the topics, audios, and links put together in one place.

1. Preaching the Word of God  |  Link
2. Penal, substitutionary atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ  |  Link
3. The authority and inerrancy of the Bible  |  Link
4. Submission to government, a minister of God  |  Link
5. Worshiping the Triune God of glory  |  Link
6. Qualified, converted, male biblical leadership in the local church  |  Link
7. The purpose of the church: comprehensive discipleship  |  Link
8. The joy of evangelizing the unsaved  |  Link
9. Equipping the saints to do the work of ministry  |  Link
10. The absolute sovereignty of the one, true God  |  Link
11. The power, privilege, and duty of prayer  |  Link
12. Cessationism:  the ceasing and fulfillment of the miraculous, sign gifts  |  Link
13. The kind of church you wanna be a part of (lessons on a healthy church)  |  Link
14. Participating in corporate worship  |  Link
15. Preserving unity in the body of Christ  |  Link
16. Using your spiritual gifts  |  Link
17. What is true conversion?  |  Link
18. Christ as the gospel: the remedy for lawlessness and legalism  |  Link
19. What are the marks of true conversion?  |  Link
20. Restoring a sinning brother in the church  |  Link

Listen to any or all of these and be blessed by the truth that is preached at Christ Fellowship Bible Church.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Give Yourself to Constant & Committed Prayer.
Geoffrey R. Kirkland
Christ Fellowship Bible Church

Proverbs 15:8  — The prayer of the upright is His delight.

Every Christian has at his disposal the most mind-boggling wonder. The weakest saint can come before the throne of Almighty God in heaven in simple prayer. It’s not the might of the saint that changes things. It is the intercession of the sufficient Savior who intercedes for the weakest Saint as the Spirit takes those prayers before the Father in heaven. That’s where the power resides. O that every Christian would set aside time in his daily schedule to be alone with God in the communion of prayer. Not praying ‘as you go’ or praying ‘as you drive’ or praying ‘from time to time.’ And all of those are not bad, nor are they to be rejected. But the goal of this essay is to exhort and plead with Christians to set daily aside to go into the ‘inner room’ and be alone with God -- to pray, to really pray, to call upon God fervently, passionately, unceasingly.

In this brief essay, I’ll provide 7 pastoral suggestions as you give yourself to constant & committed prayer.

1. Pray till you pray.
Elijah was a man like us and he “prayed in his praying” that it would not rain (James 5:17). And it didn’t for three and a half years! There’s a difference between saying a prayer and praying. There’s a world of contrast between muttering a few half-hearted yet often repeated phrases in prayer to God for the same old things (or the same old people) and truly falling on one’s face in fervent and tireless wrestlings with God till the cause is won. Do you what it is to pray like this?  God has used men of prayer to rock the world for Christ’s renown. Maybe there is little spiritual fruit in our land because the church of the Lord Jesus Christ is content to say its ‘prayers’ rather than to pray till one has truly prayed -- that is, to pray in one’s praying and seek God by taking hold of His garment and not letting Him go till the answer comes. O dear saints, pray till you pray. Godly saints of old have said that truly praying doesn’t happen in three minutes while you’re at a red light. No! It may take time to get in the spirit of prayer, the attitude of prayer, the fervency of prayer, and the warmness of prayer. But pursue it! Don’t be too busy to quiet yourself to pray. Those who have truly called on God know what it is to pray in your praying. Seek God for this grace and this blessing.

2. Pray with an open Bible.
How does one pray so fervently?  Perhaps the greatest way to do this is to open your Bible and read a portion of it, a phrase, a verse, even a word (!) and let the truths therein produce the outgushing of your soul to God! Speak to God in light of what He has spoken to you from the written Word. Our God initiates. So let Him initiate conversation with you by reading His Word and then respond (=a conversation) to God with genuine praise, heartfelt requests, contrite penitence, and diligent intercessions. Don’t hurry in prayer. Don’t hurry in conversing with God. Relationships take time and conversations take time. Going deep with a loved one takes time. So it is with God. Hear from Him (thru the Word) and then respond to Him (in prayer). Dear beloved, pray with an open Bible before you.

3. Pray starting with praise & thanksgiving.
Before we seek the hand of God and the roll off the things we want God to do for us and for our loved ones, consider starting your seasons of prayer with praise and thanksgiving. To put it simply: seek the face of God before you demand the hand of God. And one easy way to do this is to have your Bible before you as you seek God in the inner room and on your knees. Go through the psalms. How easy it is to read a verse and turn that into a shout of praise for God’s character! You can read what God has done and exclaim His marvelous deeds! You can marvel at David’s pains and thank God that He never leaves His redeemed ones. O begin with praise before you petition Him! Start with thanksgiving before you lay out your wants. Thank God for everything He is and everything He has given -- even your trials. The cure for complaining and grumbling is thankfulness. So thank God for that hard family situation. Thank God for that person who is after you, angry with you, persecuting you. Thank God for the hardships in life (no matter what they may be). Set your soul aright with God as you remember who He is and who you are. Remember, God is in heaven and you are on earth. Praise Him. Thank Him. Lift up your eyes in praise!

4. Pray bewailing your sins.
When you praise God and remember who He is -- especially when you have your Bible still open before you -- you will see the holiness of God, the character of God, the gospel of grace, and the commandments God has given and you will see how far short you fall. Don’t let this lead you to despair and depression but rather let it lead you to genuine repentance and heartfelt bewailing of your shortcomings as you behold the grandeur and glory of God in Christ. Bewail how much iniquity still resides in your heart -- even as a Christian! Sorrow over your selfishness that still exudes out from the heart so frequently! Repent over the littleness of your love for Christ and over the littleness of your hatred -- God-like hatred -- for wickedness. Repent that you have laughed at sin rather than been grieved over it. Bewail the sins that we still commit and the duties that we often neglect. O come before God humbly as a penitent sinner.

5. Pray laying hold of Christ.
And as you find yourself with your open Bible flat on your face before God in repentance, lay hold of Christ and His omnipotent righteousness. Cling to Him and His intercession as a loving and great High Priest. Don’t stop your prayer as you repent and see yourself as a vile transgressor. Flee quickly and decisively to Christ alone and cast your eye upward to Him at Calvary and see Him who paid for your sin there! Behold Him who bore your transgressions upon His own righteous soul. Gaze at Him who mightily and sufficiently shouted: “It is finished!” Lay hold of Christ and seek Him till your soul is warmed afresh with the saving mercy and tender compassion of your Bridegroom. Lay hold of Christ and let the love of this Savior warm your heart and fill you full as you seek God in your fervent praying.

6. Pray specifically & largely.
What if God answered all of your prayers affirmatively? What would change? Would the city be saved? Would all your church congregation be converted and discipling and revived and street preaching and pleading for souls? What would happen if you prayed big prayers? Don’t limit God by asking small things of a global God! Maybe we see little fruit around us in contemporary Christianity because the saints are not earnestly yearning for big things from our big God! God does say, after all, open your mouth wide and I will fill it (Psalm 81:10). God is able to do far more abundantly beyond all we ask or think (Ephesians 3:20). Do we forget this? Do we forget that the God who brought revival to the entire city of Nineveh can bring revival to our cities? Do we forget that through one Christ-exalting sermon, the Spirit of God cut many to the quick so that thousands were converted on the Day of Pentecost? We worship the same God today! Let us ask big things of God. And indeed, when you pray, believe that God hears and that God will answer. And with your open Bible, make a case with God. Pray prayers in conformity with His will so that God can’t refuse our prayers. Yes, make biblical cases with God and hold Him to His Word. Press Him!

7. Pray worshipfully.
And in all this earnest praying, pray worshipfully. Worship, after all, is responding rightly to who God is. Respond to God’s glory revealed in Scripture with genuine and heartfelt prayers to Him through Christ. Behold the glory of God in the face of Christ as the Spirit impresses His truth upon your heart in prayer and Bible reading. Worship your God in prayer. Let it not become a sheer duty or a mindless ritual. Engage with God. Discipline yourself. Mere activity in the name of God without heart-affection is utterly worthless before God. Don’t come in the dark, early morning hours and seek God in prayer because you must -- seek God because you can! And because you can, then we can say that we must! For I do believe that we can do much of great value after we’ve met with God in quiet and communing prayer. But I believe that you can’t do anything of great value till you’ve met with God in quiet and communing prayer.  Worship God in sweet communion of prayer. He is delighted in the prayers of the upright. So get to it!
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