Tuesday, July 31, 2018

This is an encouragement to the saints (1 Thess 1.2-3)
Geoffrey R. Kirkland
Christ Fellowship Bible Church

1Thessalonians 1:3 — constantly bearing in mind your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father.

When Paul speaks of the τοῦ ἔργου τῆς πίστεως of the Thessalonian church, he recalls the work that is produced by their faith. Their faith sprouts forth godly works. Note how the work is singular. There are, of course, many manifold works that believers produce for the glory of Christ. But in the body of Christ, they are unified, working together, and here noted as being singular. He notes their work produced by faith. O that every church would be marked by and characterized by its work that springs forth from its faith in Jesus Christ. That means that true faith in Christ is never alone; it always produces works. Though no one is saved by his works, true faith is never without works. All true faith will generate works, produce good works, and seek to live a life of good works NOT in order to attain salvation but in gratitude for the salvation already received by faith alone in Christ. O may churches excel still more in the Thessalonians model of having this kind of work that stems from faith!

The Thessalonian church also is recognized for its τοῦ κόπου τῆς ἀγάπης. Amazingly, Paul marks out this church’s work, labor, toil, even trouble because of their great love. The labor of this church springs forth out of its great love! The love of this church is not only for Christ but it’s also for one another. And, of course, this love that marks the church in Thessalonika did not generate with themselves but it was initiated first and ultimately by God Himself in the sovereign grace He bestowed upon His elect in saving them. Then, those who have received this saving love in Christ, respond with a great love for Christ and a contagious love for one another in the local assembly. This great love brings forth toil, work, labor and a diligence in serving one another. This kind of hard work, this unrelenting service, and this inconvenient (at times) commitment to one another all grows out of a diligent and impassioned love for Christ and for His Church. The gospel of God’s grace, revealed in Christ, granted by mercy is the great foundation of this great working love in the local church of Thessalonika.

Finally, the Apostle Paul commends the church for its τῆς ὑπομονῆς τῆς ἐλπίδος. The believers are grounded in a solid, unshakeable hope that produces their steadfastness. Their endurance, their perseverance, their steadfastness is not grounded on their own human efforts or consistency, but rather it is based upon the hope that believers have in the Lord Jesus Christ (τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ). Amidst much hardship, many sorrows, severe persecution, and harsh afflictions brought on by gospel-opponents, the church of the Lord Jesus Christ refuses to flinch and retreat. Rather, believers are marked by godly hope which springs forth joyfully and unfailingly in perseverance. Note that the church is corporately commended for this steadfastness. One cannot be steadfast apart from the local assembly. One will not persevere through trials and great oppression left to himself, in isolation, as a lone ranger. Rather, it is the community of faith, the assembly of the redeemed that stimulates one another to keep enduring because of the great hope that is laid before us in Christ Jesus, our Lord and King. O that churches would remember this and that true hope in Christ (hope in heaven, hope in Christ’s return, hope in evil’s defeat, hope in the coming Kingdom) would catapult the church to great steadfastness as believers endure together, grow together, meet together, encourage one another, and remain steadfast shoulder to shoulder. 
In Mark's account of the choosing of the 12 (Mark 3:13-19), Jesus goes up on the mountain and then selects men whom He Himself wanted to serve with Him. Drawing from the text, here are four application points to consider devotionally.

The men who were designated to be Apostles were ordinary men. Varied backgrounds comprises the men whom Christ used in His service. A tax collector, a zealot, some fishermen, other Galileans were those ordinary ones whom Christ used in His ministry. Our Lord did not go to Jerusalem to find the elitist, the scholars, the rabbis and Sanhedrenists, What an encouragement that Christ employed ordinary men, with ordinary talents, with ordinary abilities, with common issues that we can all relate to. What made these ordinary men extraordinary was not gifting and abilities. Rather, it was the call of God on their life and the empowering that came upon them to do the awesome work God had predetermined for them. Ordinary men, like you and me, can do great works for Christ as we serve Him with humble obedience, joyful reverence, and diligent persistence.

Mark’s gospel record tells us that Jesus went up to the mountain and He summoned those whom He himself wanted, and they came to Him. We also know from Luke’s account that Jesus spent all night in prayer prior to making this decision. He carefully thought about whom He would select to be engrafted into His mighty service. What a glorious Savior who initiated the selection of certain men to be His ambassadors in ministry. They did not seek Christ out. Nor did they catch His eye because of their academic achievements or political viewpoints or radical risk-taking endeavors. Rather, He prayed and came to these ones and He initiated the contact and He employed them into HIs service of gospel proclamation. All those whom Christ selected were those whom “He Himself wanted.” What joy to think that He selects men into service that He himself wants to be employed in his gospel-work.

These disciples had one glorious characteristic: they were with Christ. They spent time with Christ. They watched Christ. They observed Him. They lived life with Christ. He empowered them to preach and He gave them authority to cast out demons. Their ministry was a supernatural one. That is, theirs was a ministry that they could not achieve in their own strength and by their own intelligence. But Christ empowered them to do the task that He gave to them. What they could not do on their own, they were now enabled to do by the sovereign grace and ineffable power of God that enabled them to do the spiritual work of this important ministry.

A three-fold ministry sums up the ministry of these men. First, they are to be WITH CHRIST. Second, they are TO PREACH. And Third, they are TO CAST OUT DEMONS. Note that the first element of gospel work includes that nonnegotiable duty of every minister to be with Christ. Without close communion with Christ, the ministry will be cold, heartless, lifeless, and powerless. The minister must be with Christ, fellowshipping and communing with Him, close to Him and able to say with the Psalmist: “The nearness of God is my good!” Second, Christ sent them to preach. Yes, they must prioritize the verbal proclamation of this good news of salvation found in the Person and work of Jesus Christ, the Nazarene. Preaching encapsulates the minister’s primary work, the most taxing work, the most exacting work, the most supernatural work, and the most urgent work. May the Lord help His ministers to be faithful in studying the Word and preaching the Word faithfully, accurately and compellingly. Third, they were to minister to the needs of men by casting out demons and delivering them from the power of darkness. They had the ability to cast out demons because Christ Himself endowed them with this authority. Note that they were with Christ, then they were preaching the gospel to men’s hearts and minds, and they cared for men’s bodies and physical well being to cast out demons and guard them from the Evil One. May God’s ministers be faithful in Christ’s service as we commune with Christ, preach His Word, and minister to men’s needs.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

A while back, we posted a number of articles to help Christians in understand why family worship proves to be so valuable and how to equip believers to implement this in the home.

Here are the articles:

1. Family worship & evangelism
2. Family worship & prayer
3. Family worship & Scripture
4. Family worship & theology
5. Family worship & application
6. Family worship & praise
7. Family worship & catechism
8. Family worship & regeneration
9. Family worship & leadership (complementarianism)
10. Family worship & marriage
11. Family worship & the glory of God

Here is our catechism that we've put together with our commentary & Scripture proofs (still in process).

For a simple overview of family worship, click here. Also, here are some benefits to family worship and some of the purposes of family worship.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

The Process of Becoming a Leader of Christ Fellowship Bible Church
Geoffrey R. Kirkland
Christ Fellowship Bible Church (St Louis, MO)

The church belongs to Jesus Christ! He resides as the sovereign Head over His Body, the church and He has spoken clearly and sufficiently in His Word, the Bible. What He says has total authority over all that happens in His Church. The Scriptures very clearly present qualifications for the leadership offices of elder and deacon. But the practical question remains: how does one become a leader? What is the process by which a man becomes a leader in the church of Jesus Christ?

At CFBC, we have summarized this practical process in a few practical headings.

First, Selecting men.
Leaders prove themselves to be leaders long before they’re appointed to leadership positions. That means that these men will evidently demonstrate themselves to be doing the work of service long before they are publicly affirmed with a leadership title. They’re not in it for the title, the prestige, the position, or the authority. They want to serve and they do the work with or without the recognition or official leadership title. So the leadership of CFBC selects men who already are showing themselves to be doing the work of ministry. For a deacon, it is one who shows a life of integrity, one who is consistent in his speech and commitments, one who is willing to serve, aid the shepherds, and help do the work of ministry to free up the shepherds to maintain prayer and the study and teaching of the Word as their foremost calling. For an elder, here is one who already is living out the qualifications (of personal life, home life, marital life) as well as a man who shows himself to be shepherding folks in the Word (teaching biblical truth with clarity and accuracy) as well as defending against false and harmful doctrine. So the selection of men consists in the recognizing of those men who already are doing the work in the local church. We seek them out, the leadership meets with them and asks if they have a desire for leadership in the local assembly.

Second, Examining men.
Then after the selection of men comes the process of examination. The Apostle Paul talks about leaders being tested and examined. This can be both formal and informal. Informally, it refers of course to the examination of the man’s life by observation and by careful scrutiny. It also, however, includes the necessary examination formally. This refers to a written examination (for both elders and deacons). We also, at CFBC, choose to examine the man in an oral interview where we ask specific questions about the prospect’s spiritual life (sexual purity, Bible reading, prayer time, marriage, family worship, financial condition, repentance, evangelism, etc.).  For an elder and deacon, we would interview the wife privately (without the husband there), and children (if applicable). For an elder, we would also go to his workplace and interview at least two co-workers to gather their impressions on the prospective leader. The oral and written examinations will help the existing leadership team in testing the candidate for a ministry position. This is a crucial element of the process of becoming a leader. This stage in the process is not to be rushed; nor is it to be overlooked. A man must be examined first before becoming an official leader in the church.

Third, Approving men
After a man has demonstrated a godly life, faithfulness in service in the local church, and after he has been examined, the CFBC leadership will bring the man before the church congregation in a corporate worship service and present him as a viable candidate for leadership. The leadership then calls on the church as a whole to give input to the leadership team about the candidate over a set period of time (say, a month or so). This includes the flock and their impressions, perceptions, concerns, or affirmations in the leadership process. After this set period of time, the leaders may approve the man by mentioning to him the weightiness and responsibility of leadership in Christ’s church.

Fourth, Recognizing men
Then after a man is approved by the leadership, he is recognized publicly in a public worship service and appointed to the leadership position (of elder or deacon). This is a public recognition and the existing church leaders will pray for the new leader and commit him, his family, and the ministry to the Lord for His glory and for the health and protection of the church. No church makes a leader. No church raises up leaders. The Spirit of God does this. We view our job to disciple, pray for, train, and encourage men to serve in many ways. As they serve, the Spirit of God makes it clear over time who is already doing the work of service. And the more these faithful servants do the work, it becomes overwhelmingly clear both to them, to the leadership, and to to the congregation as a whole, whom the Lord is raising up to be a leadership (either a deacon or an elder).

More on leadership can be found at Pastor Geoff's website.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Geoffrey R. Kirkland
Christ Fellowship Bible Church

Matthew 3:12 — “His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clear His threshing floor; and He will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

From this text, the Word of God speaks of the reality of eternal punishment. We can study it under a few headings:

1. WHO - Jesus Christ: “HE”
John the Baptist is around the Jordan River baptizing many people who are coming to him from the nearby areas and when the religious leaders arrived, he warned them to flee from the wrath to come (Matt 3:7). He warned these Pharisees and Sadducees that he baptizes with water for repentance, but Christ Himself is coming who is mightier and He baptizes with the Holy Spirit and with fire (Matt 3:11). Jesus Christ has a winnowing fork in His hand and He will thoroughly clear His threshing floor and He will gather His wheat (=believers) into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff (=unbelievers) with unquenchable fire. This tells us that judgment will be decisively and justly administered by Jesus Christ Himself. Jesus would later declare that the Father has given all judgment to the Son (John 5:22) and it is Christ Himself who sits on a Great, White Throne at the end of the age and He will cast all nonbelievers into the Lake of Fire (Rev 20:11-15). Make no mistake, it is Jesus Christ the Sovereign Lord, who judges nonbelievers.

In the message in the open air to the very religious masses, John declared that Jesus will gather His wheat into His barn and He will burn up the chaff (Matt 3:12). There is an element of certainty here. No doubt exists. No uncertainty or potentiality is in the text. Christ Himself will cast all the chaff away. For all nonbelievers, no matter how rebellious, indifferent, oppressive, or religious they have been, Christ Jesus will most surely cast all unrepentant sinners and Christ-rejecting rebels to hell.

3. VIOLENCE - “burn up”
Sometimes John the Baptist is called a “hell, fire and brimstone preacher.” To be fair, he’s a faithful prophet who delivers what God has for the hearers. In the public, John courageously and unflinchingly declares that Jesus will burn up the chaff. He will burn them up. The language Matthew uses is that Jesus will consume them up, burn them entirely, utterly destroy them violently. Later, in Jesus’ public teaching before many crowds, he will say: “Gather the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up” (Matt 13:30). All unrepentant sinners who do not come to Christ alone for salvation will be burned up. It also must be mentioned that Christ Himself will burn up the chaff. Christ actively and righteously exacts perfect judgment in the burning of all sinners who die apart from Him.

4. RECIPIENTS - the chaff
The faithful preaching of the forerunner to the Messiah also includes the description of those who will be judged. He calls them “chaff.” Chaff speaks of that which is worthless, nothing, unhelpful, light, useless. John says that the Lord Christ will burn up all nonbelievers -- and he calls them chaff. The Bible likens the wicked to chaff (Ps 1:4) who blow away in a wind. It is the Angel of the LORD who drives the chaff away (Ps 35:5). God, in His almighty and unstoppable power, makes all the wicked like chaff which are driven away (Ps 83:13). So here, John graphically and honestly speaks of nonbelievers as “chaff” -- that which is useless and unprofitable.

5. ETERNALITY / SEVERITY - with unquenchable fire
Far different than a common mantra of everyone going to heaven, or no one going to hell, John the Baptist taught that all the chaff would be burned up with “unquenchable fire.” All nonbelievers will go to the place of eternal fire (Matt 18:8). At the end of the age, Christ will judge those and say: “Depart from me...into the eternal fire” (Matt 25:41). False teachers will make their eternal home in the “eternal fire” (Jude 7). Not only does John speak of fire, but the fire is unquenchable. That signifies the enduring nature, the endlessness, the never-ending everlastingness of this fiery judgment of God that will crush all nonbelievers. It’s unquenchable, it never goes out, it never fades, it never loses its power, it never goes out, it never rests. Sinners who do not repent of sin will go into hell, into the unquenchable fire (Mark 9:43).

With the reality of eternal punishment clearly set forth in Scripture, note the hope for those who turn to Christ Jesus by faith alone. John the Baptist says that Christ Himself will “gather His wheat into the barn.” This picture provides such a personal, protective, caring love of the Savior who gathers His people, whom He has purchased with His own blood, into the barn. Think of the usefulness, the benefit, the blessing of wheat. Think of a barn and the protection it offers from bad weather, from invaders, and from harm. Christ is the only refuge and the only hope for sinners. No other way to escape eternal punishment exists. Turn to Christ and live! Repent and believe the gospel! Come to Christ and find life!
The Pastor Is the Primary Worship Leader.
Geoffrey R. Kirkland
Christ Fellowship Bible Church

Lots of titles swirl in church-circles today. Minister of music. Worship director. Worship pastor. And on they go. Often these titles that relate to a ‘worship leader’ point to the person who plans, leads, and organizes the music part of the service.

As important as those faithful folks who serve in the area of music are, and those who give leadership in the music in the church gathering, we do well to remember that the primary worship leader in the assembly of God’s people is the pastor.

If worship could be simply defined as a response to the revelation of who God is and what God has done, then the pastor is the one who has the primary duty of revealing God to the people through Scripture and preaching Christ week by week. It is he who sets the glory and majesty of God before the people through the reading, preaching and application of the Word of God. Of course, this understands worship to not be synonymous with music; music can be an expression of worship and it can be a vehicle by which the saint can adore and praise God. But the “worship time” does not equal the “music time” in the church gathering.

So how does the pastor function as the primary worship leader in the church gathering?

The pastor has the wonderful privilege of calling the saints to prepare themselves to meet with God. As Moses called Israel to purify themselves for in three days, God would descend to meet with them (Exodus 19), so the pastor leads in guiding the congregation to prepare well ahead of time to meet with the Lord. Again, worship is fundamentally a heart-filled response to who God is and how God has revealed Himself. Through the faithful preaching of God’s Word week by week, and the diligent leading the flock to the throne of grace in prayer, and the modeling of heart-preparation for corporate worship, this is one important way in which the pastor leads believers in worship.

Worship is serious. Just read Revelation 4 and 5 and one will quickly find the absence of joking and trivialities and worldliness. In fact, the innumerable multitudes in heaven (both angels and saints) are often prostrate before the sovereign Lamb worshiping Him, adoring Him, and offering expressions of praise, honor, and worship. The pastor functions as the primary worship leader as he teaches the Word of God so that there is a sobriety in the presence of God. It’s as the pastor-hymnwriter of old once penned it: “how sweet and aweful [=awesome] is the place with Christ within the doors.” As the saints gather to worship God in corporate worship, it should resemble the corporate worship of heaven (as seen in Revelation 4, 5, 7, 15). There should be a great sobriety, understanding that Almighty God, in full, unclouded glory is beheld, present, and fully deserving of our focus, delight, and worship.

Perhaps the greatest way the pastor functions as the worship leader is by setting God before His very own people through the regular, consistent, solid expounding of Holy Scripture. In preaching the Word faithfully, God shows Himself to His people through the mouthpiece of the preacher. In heralding the Bible, the greatness of God will shine forth brilliantly and unmistakably. The minister will declare the sinfulness of sin, the glory of God, the sufficiency of Christ, the propitiation of Christ, the certainty of judgment, and the call to repent and believe the gospel. As the Word of God goes forth in power, aided by the Holy Spirit, God exalts Himself, honors His Son, builds His church, edifies His people, and compels them to worship privately, publicly, and evangelistically. Thus, the pastor who tirelessly obeys God’s call to “preach the Word” is the real, ultimate worship leader in showing who God is to the congregation thus allowing them, by God’s grace, to respond in praise, worship, humility, repentance, and adoration.

The pastor has the responsibility of maintaining a Godward focus in the worship gathering. The music is to exalt Christ. The Scripture reading is to be serious, focused, and clear. The prayers in the gathering should reflect those of Scripture (in all their various forms). The preaching should be expository, Christ-exalting, gospel-declaring, and Spirit-empowered. From start to end, the worship service should maintain a focus centered on the majesty of God, the glory of Christ, and the enabling grace of the Spirit. It is the pastor who ultimately carries the service along and he is the one who is to see to it that God -- not man -- remains the focus of the entire gathering. God must be central; not man. God must be exalted; not man. God must be thought highly of; not man. God’s Word must be preached; not man’s. It is the pastor who can plan, lead, maintain, and see to it that the corporate worship gathering centers on God from beginning to end through everything that is done.
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