3 Traits of What the Church is to be Like


It is hard to believe that three little words can change the landscape of a company forever.

In 1988, with the help of advertising agency Wieden + Kennedy, Nike embarked on their now-famous slogan: “Just Do It.”  From your neighborhood basketball court to the largest stars in most every sport, “Just Do it” reigns king for those looking to take their athletic greatness (at least in feel!) to the next level.

Slogans like “Just Do It” are the filter through which we interpret everything we experience.

In the New Testament, one teaching that was pronounced repeatedly to the same effect –but that is almost invisible today—is the picture of the local church.  If the measure of a successful church according to the Bible is simply the programs, attendance, and building size, then we could say, like Nike, our efforts and advertising have been a worldwide success.

However, what is missing—and why we have missed the mark on this issue, I believe—is we define the church and its success not by corporate identity (“The Body of Christ”), but rather by individual preferences (“My church does this.  What does yours do?”).

Shouldn’t the questions of “Why does the church exist? What is it there for?” be easily answered by pastors and members alike? The answer so often, though, is one of what the church does for us rather than what it is before God.

The church doesn’t exist for what it does for us—but rather what it does for God and His gloriously-purchased Bride through the Gospel of His Son, Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 3:11). According to Scripture, the church is the demonstration of the living, triune God in this fallen world for His glory. The local church is the voice of Jesus and an outpost of God’s kingdom.

What is the church to be like–both locally and universally? Here are some 3 simple points from the book of 1 Corinthians.

  1. Holy:

1 Corinthians 1:2 To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours.

1:8 who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

3:15-17 If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.16 Do you not know that you[a] are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? 17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.

10:5-6 Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did.

This sounds very simple.  But holiness is so strange to individual believers and more so to the church at large.  Holiness, in one sense, is strangeness, not because we cannot become holy this side of heaven, but because we are becoming something we are not and God is.

The heart of holiness is that God’s people—those truly saved members of the church—are special to Him.  This is, perhaps, why Paul uses chapter five to teach on church discipline and chapter six to teach on how are bodies are God’s temple.

God cares what is done in this life to the body.  This is why He calls us to be holy as He is holy (1 Peter 1:14-16).  Without any hesitation, Paul makes clear that all facets of corporate, not individual church life, are important, because of the holiness of God and His people.

  1. Unified

1:10 I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.

3:3 for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?

6:7 To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded?

Ironically, the separation of holiness the church of Corinth was to have from the world was actually separation from each other.  The church was a mess! The fact they sued—or attempted to sue—each other in open court verifies this fact.

Even in the Lord’s Supper, they were divided!

11:18 For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part

In Paul’s day, the world couldn’t understand how or why Jews and Gentiles came together.  The only reason they came together was because the Gospel bridged to be one united body.   If we are to be a true local church, our unity must be around the essentials of the Christian faith, not just a shared interest or moral values.

  1. Loving

8:1 Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up.

10:24 Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.

14:1 Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy.

16:14 Let all that you do be done in love.

Have you ever noticed that Paul places a priority of prophecy over tongues? Why is that?

Because prophecy builds up the church, while tongues are more focused on one’s self.  That goes exactly against the corporate attitude Paul is developing in the letter (See 1 Cor. 14:6-12).

Often, when it comes to “love” in 1 Corinthians, we quickly go to chapter 13.  How many wedding ceremonies and sermons have been preached on this text! Yet, according to Paul, chapter 14 is just as much about love as chapter 13.

Perhaps Paul was most tender to this truth because he himself had been a persecutor of the church.  What a miracle it is that God took one who had been a stark enemy of the church to be its biggest and greatest builder and cherisher!

Are you helping your church grow in holiness, unity, and love by your cherishing of the entire Body, instead of your individual preferences?

Politics? Position? Where’s the Church’s True Power?


After a weekend of tumultuous political discussion on my social media feed, I had to ask the question:

In times like these, where is the power for the church today?

Clearly, if this weekend proves anything, it proves that it is not in politics.  We must reject the growing belief that power politics is what really matters.  Reminded, again today, that politics is not the place for Christians to look for hope. Thankful that we have a good King to look to.

If not in politics, where is the power, then, for churches? Christians?

Romans 1:16 says that the Gospel is…

the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.

Practically, in today’s modern church landscape, what’s this means for us?

Here are 9 brief reminders for you, your family, and our church as you go through this political season–and any season until you meet your Lord.

  1. We need to stop trying to make the Gospel relevant—it’s always relevant.

To center on and proclaim the Gospel is to be as relevant and powerful as the apostolic early church (Gal. 6:14).

The Gospel doesn’t need you. The Gospel doesn’t need a fog machine.  The Gospel doesn’t need the government.

The Gospel doesn’t need us. It saves us, captures us, equips us, compels us, & trains us. It wants us.

It doesn’t need my help or yours—we need not worry. The Gospel will be just fine. The Gospel ultimately wins.

  1. When we lose the splendor of the Gospel, we substitute symbol, ceremony, and metaphor.

The power is of the Gospel is gone in most Christians and churches today. Yet, nothing “poses a threat” to the Gospel (1 Cor. 2:4). The Gospel is God’s power loose in the world. It will not be prevailed against. Ever. You can’t improve upon the Gospel because God put His power there (1 Cor. 4:20).

  1. An overabundance of advertising & church-growth tactics won’t save Christianity from being irrelevant.

Can you show me in Scripture how our problem is need of more imagination and not a great need of the Gospel? Only the Gospel has such power.

We can have the best music, the best performers, the best communicators, the best programs, but without the Gospel properly shared and lived, there’s no power of God.

Christ said “I will build my church” (Matt. 16:18). Thus, we must trust the Gospel means he’s ordained to build his church.

  1. Don’t let techniques, transitions, and technology replace the Gospel.

When it comes to excellence in the worship service, there’s a difference between adorning the Gospel and trying to help it. A church’s increasing attempts to excite me in the worship service becomes increasingly boring (Heb. 12:28-29).

Pastor, if you’re dreading corporate worship Sunday, it may be due to the entertainment standard you’ve set for yourself.  It’s called “corporate worship” and not “individualistic entertainment” for a reason.

Idol makers rioted against the church (Acts 19) because business tanked. This wasn’t accomplished by protesting but by the spread of the local church and Christians with the Gospel.

1 Cor. 2:2: Our vision is the Gospel. Our strategy is the Gospel. Our method is the Gospel.

  1. Our Christian subculture’s obsession with spiritual fads and religious hoaxes distracts from the only power stewarded to us: the Gospel (1 Tim. 4:7).

Deducing from Jesus’ gathering of large crowds that churches ought to center on consumeristic strategy is tone-deafness to the Gospels The pillars of Paul’s mission strategy: evangelism, discipleship, church planting (Acts 14:21-23). What is your strategy?

 Our Gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction…1 Thessalonians 1:5

God’s strategy for making the church bold: imprison her leaders (Philippians 1:14).  Are we ready to do that for His sake?

  1. The Gospel is the power of salvation, so quit trusting your programs, strategies, visions, props, concepts, & speaking ability.

The word of Christ’s finished work changed me, rescuing me from sin, hell, shame, depression, & suicide. No marketing gimmick can do that. In all my counseling of hurting people in the church, nothing comforts, encourages, & transforms like the Gospel (1 Thess. 2:4).

Programs will never make a church evangelistic. Only the Gospel will transform a cold church into an evangelistic church

The power of God is not in us but in His Gospel. Our job is to preach it. The Holy Spirit will take it from there (1 Cor. 3:1-7).

  1. Let’s stop believing the Gospel’s power stops at conversion.

The Gospel is the spiritual power for justification through glorification. It is the power of God for a conversion experience and for total life transformation. The Gospel teaches us everything of eternal value that we need to know. The Gospel doesn’t change, but neither does our need for it (1 Thess. 2:8; 1 Cor. 15:1-4).

  1. Fetching “the Gospel” out twice a year for special occasions reveals something about a church.

Even a loving, gracious church will lose people who love their sin if it preaches the Gospel and repentance.  When the Gospel is truly preached, people are brought to the church without entertainment, events, or promises beyond those given by the Gospel (See the New Testament!)

The Gospel is not a program, gimmick, phase, or product to me. It is bread, water, sunshine, shelter for every church conversation, gathering, prayer, and program—and everything in between.

  1. Pastor, preach as if you yourself are the greatest sinner in the congregation in the greatest need of the Gospel. It’s probably true anyhow.

Our daily evangelism: Proclaim the Gospel to self, spouse, children, friends, church, neighbor, world. Repeat (2 Tim. 4:1-4).

Luther’s counsel to preachers in modern vernacular:

First we need to get the Gospel into their heads and then just keep pounding it down into their hearts.

If people who believe the “Gospel” that you preach are not being transformed by that Gospel, you might need to reconsider what you preach

Christian, let’s not lose hope, lose heart, or lose our nerve.  Let’s boldly pray that through the simple-yet-fathomlessly-eternal message of the Gospel, God will continue to use us and our churches to reach those without Jesus as Savior (2 Tim. 2:24-26).



When Life Really Doesn’t Make Sense


Where do you expect to find a prophet?

You might expect to find a prophet praying or telling of God’s future plans. In Habakkuk, what you find in chapter 1 is a prophet who is not praying or prophesying, but rather complaining. Habakkuk is complaining and confused as to why God is passive to the sin of Israel. In Habakkuk’s mind allowing sin is not consistent with God’s character.

We learn later in chapter 1 that God is not passive to his people’s sin and He will punish it. The surprise is that he will punish them with an unrighteous people, the Babylonians. Habakkuk is confused by God’s plan of using an unrighteous people to punish and he asks the LORD for an explanation. He says,

Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrong. Why then do you tolerate the treacherous? (1:13).

Early in chapter 2 the LORD answers Habakkuk. Understand that the LORD had no obligation to answer, but in his mercy he did. The LORD says his ultimate purpose would be fulfilled.

For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea (2:14).Notice that circumstantially nothing has changed with the LORD’s response.

But in chapter 3, Habakkuk’s heart IS changed. He says after hearing about the future calamity:

yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior (3:18).

To Habakkuk life didn’t make sense, yet he rejoiced in the LORD.

What does this passage in Habakkuk mean for us? What does it mean for us who are suffering? What does it mean for the rest of us who are not suffering but eventually will?

D.A. Carson says:

If we live long enough, we will suffer.

How will we react when we suffer? When life doesn’t make sense? Will you resemble the Habakkuk of chapter 1 or chapter 3?

In chapter 3, we notice three characteristics of a transformed prophet:

  1. Praying
  2. Waiting
  3. Rejoicing


In 3:1, we see that Habakkuk is no longer complaining but praying a God-centered prayer. There is no more mention of God’s idleness. Habakkuk prays, “…in wrath remember mercy (3:2b).” Habakkuk prays for salvation again in verse 13:

You came out to deliver your people, to save your anointed one. You crushed the leader of the land of wickedness, you stripped him from head to foot.

We know this prayer is fulfilled because of what we read in Ezra 1 and Jeremiah 29 of how God redeems his people.

What about you? Examine the content of your prayers. Are your prayers like Habakkuk’s when you undergo suffering? Often, the focus of our prayers during suffering is to relieve the suffering. This is good to pray, but do we in addition, or instead, pray for God’s purposes to be fulfilled?

Did you ever think it might be part of God’s purpose that you suffer? We should transition our prayers from focusing on our relief to prayers that focus on God’s glory.


In addition to prayer, we see Habakkuk waiting. He says he will wait at the end of verse 16:

Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity to come on the nation invading us (3:16b).

Our requests and prayers usually don’t involve waiting. We’re more likely to make a demand and set a deadline. Waiting requires faith and trust in God’s timing. What things have gone unfulfilled in your life? Marriage? Pregnancy? A loved one who is not saved? Waiting is not resignation. It is trust in God.


Lastly, we see Habakkuk rejoicing. Despite the knowledge that destruction will certainly come, he says in verse 18:

yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior.

The prophet is liberated from selfish rejoicing and finds his joy in God. We can find our joy in God too. Notice that Habakkuk doesn’t minimize the suffering, rather he chooses to focus on God’s salvation. He focuses on the God who saves us from present and future judgment. Which are you more aware of, your suffering or your salvation?

Habakkuk understood that the suffering Israel would endure was never as great as their sin. Your sufferings are never as great as your sins!

Which would you rather have taken away, sufferings or sins?

Jonathan Edwards said:

How far less are the afflictions that we meet in comparison to what we deserve?

Habakkuk’s joy was that though God would punish Israel with the Babylonians, he would take joy in God’s provision of salvation. What are your thoughs? Though you are still not married, or though you have cancer, will you still rejoice in the LORD? If you don’t have any thoughs, you will.

Oftentimes we are prone to ask, why do I suffer? However, the more perplexing question is why did He suffer? Jesus Christ, who was blameless, suffered as our substitute so that we could be made right before God.

Habakkuk provides us with a tremendous example. If Habakkuk, in view of the cross, trusted in God, how much more should we trust God looking back on it?

Do You Really Desire God?


Do you struggle to see God working in your life? Have you lost track of where you are spiritually?

We see God’s undying care and love for His servant David in Psalm 23. God will provide for His children the best gift of all—Himself. God has given His children everything we need.

  1. When God is your shepherd, you won’t lack guidance.

The image of a shepherd leading his sheep was an image Israel was familiar with. God leads His people to liberal provision in Himself. David understands he won’t lack anything he needs. David applies these images personally to himself. David puts himself humbly in the place of the sheep in spite of his leadership position and it foreshadows the Great Shepherd to come.

If we humble ourselves, God will guide us and give us everything we need. He won’t leave us to fend for ourselves. His good might not taste good at first, but will satisfy us more than we can imagine. No good gift is from us, but from God (James 1:17). We’e incapable of even the smallest achievement apart from God.

Who is leading your life this day? Do you consult God’s guidance regularly? Or, do you try to plan your own way (Proverbs 16:1-9)?

As Christians, we have great confidence that God will lead us because He loves us and provides generously for His people. Sheep are not smart animals. They need a shepherd. God will never leave His people or lead them astray.

  1. When God is your shepherd, you will not lack His comfort.

God promises to be with His people, and His very presence is comfort. God assures us of simple truths as well as complex ones—like His love and care for us. The more difficult the trial, the more amazing is God’s comfort.

David takes comfort in His rod and staff, which are used for guidance and protection. David was probably looking back on a life of trials and realized he had nothing to fear because God Himself was with him throughout those times.

Christian, take comfort today that even the pain you’re feeling is God leading you. Seek out the means of God’s comfort:

*Read His Word until you can’t hear any voice other than His.

*Reach out to God’s people in your local church.

*Go to the people who have promised to help you even when it’s difficult. And be honest with them about your struggles. God uses His people to comfort others.

And remember: Trials will test your knowledge of God. They will bring head knowledge into heart knowledge—but He is with you (Psalm 119:71).

  1. When God is your shepherd, you won’t lack hope.

The shepherd image switches to a host image. David’s hope is that enemies and evil cannot keep him from enjoying God’s presence.

As Christians, no matter what our circumstances, we get God with us. He turns our hardships into blessings for our good (Romans 8:28-39). God brings trials so that goodness and love will chase you into His presence. You will be overwhelmed with blessing found in Him alone.

We’ve the assurance of dwelling with Him forever. We need to keep our eyes fixed on the throne and eternity. That will give us perspective on our temporary trial. Listen to God, not the pain and doubts. He promises to provide for His sheep His presence to guide and a hope that will not disappoint.

Is God’s promise here trustworthy? These promises have already been kept. God didn’t just remain in heaven. The Shepherd Himself came down from heaven in the person of Jesus. He became like us in every way, yet without sin. He knew rejection and pain. The Shepherd was struck down and forsaken, even by his heavenly Father. He lived a life of perfection. His death and rejection should have been ours. The good Shepherd laid down His life for His sheep.

Friend, do you know this good Shepherd? He is calling you. He doesn’t promise all your problems will go away. But at the end of the valley are rich green pastures where we can enjoy Him forever. Along the way, He will be with us, even through death. Jesus was forsaken by God so His people wouldn’t have to be forsaken. We must know Jesus’ death to know God’s presence.

We are all sheep who have gone astray (Romans 3:10-23). We are all transgressors. We need the blood of the Shepherd to cover our sin. The good Shepherd took the guilt of those who will turn from sin and put their trust in Jesus Christ, who died in their place.

Christian, Jesus is your good Shepherd. We have all we need in Him. He comforts and is with us and soon we will dwell in His house forever. (Revelation 7) Jesus drank the cup of God’s wrath so we won’t have to.

If Jesus is your Shepherd, what more could you want?


Is There Good Grief?


Christianity is often confused as being either too simple or too complex.  Many people look for their “religion” to be simple so that it doesn’t require much from them.  Even preachers play into this game, preaching to the lowest-common denominator, which is always popular but not always satisfying.

Our impulse is towards simplicity.  We look to make religion simple but in doing so we understand that reality is more complex.  Hope is simply defined as being with God forever; however, how we come to be with God forever is more complicated.

In Christianity, there are many such paradoxes between simple and complex.  For example, how are we to have joy in the midst of pain, love in response to hate, and forgiveness in response to intentional wrongs?

In the end, every Christian at some point will ask,

How as a Christian am I to understand how to live through difficulties?

Is there really good in grief?

The apostle Paul wrote 2 Corinthians to help the Church at Corinth to understand the truth about God through faith in Christ.  The Corinthian church loved worldly, flashy, and confident teachers, and to them Paul did not quite measure up.  Why? He was always in the midst of conflict, in jail, or confronting the Christians at Corinth.  They did not understand the complexity of his love for them but in this letter he would explain.

Christian:  God’s comfort is related to your suffering (2 Cor. 1:1-11).

In the first two verses, Paul extends his normal greeting, introducing himself as the author and directing his letter to his specific audience.  From verses 3-11, Paul begins by explaining how he lives with conflict but yet knows God’s comfort.  In fact, we see from Paul’s beginning as a Christian that his life would be defined by suffering.

In Acts 9:10-19, the story of Paul’s conversion and the help he received from Ananias, God told Ananias that,

This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel.  I will show him how much he must suffer for my name (Acts 9:15-16).

Paul is convinced that the Corinthian believers would share in his suffering and in God’s comfort to him.

In verses 1:8-9, Paul describes his suffering as so strong that he “felt the sentence of death.”    In fact, this intense suffering, to the point of wanting to die instead of continuing in the suffering, puts Paul in great company with Moses, Elijah, and others.  In this, we see that many who were used greatly by God endured great suffering.

However, in the midst of this suffering, when Paul “despaired even of life” (v. 8), his despair was not the same as if Paul was a non-Christian.  Despair to a non-Christian is without hope, but Paul was confident of deliverance.

In Philippians 1:12-26, Paul emphasizes this point stating that, “what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance” (Phil. 1:19).  Paul knew that his suffering was for his good and God’s glory.

Christian, our sufferings are not random but have a purpose in our life and in the lives of others.  Your suffering and God’s comfort to you in those times are not only for your development but also for the development of those believers who come beside you in prayer, encouragement, and love.  Your suffering and God’s comfort benefit the entire body.  Do not suffer alone but share that suffering with those in Christ.  Paul shows that others benefit from his suffering in verse 11 by seeing the power of God in answered prayers.

Church, learn to suffer more, it is an aspect of following Christ in this life and it has eternal value.  The suffering happens that we might rely on our God (v. 9).

Christian:  God’s grace to you can lead to a good boasting (2 Cor. 1:12-14).

In verses 1:12-14, Paul discusses the relationship between boasting and grace.  In Acts 18:11, we find that Paul stayed in Corinth in spite of difficulty and resistance to his teaching.  In verse 14, Paul uses the phrase “in the day of the Lord Jesus” which is to say the last judgment.

Some people believe that they can live their way into God’s favor, but that is not going to happen.  Others think that because God is gracious, He will not turn his back on anyone in the last day.

In the end, no one will be saved without works – the works of Jesus Christ.  It is his work of righteousness on the cross that we are saved for eternity (John 3:16).  Yes, you must repent and believe the good news of Christ.  Our only hope is faith in Jesus Christ.  Worldly wisdom will perish as sure as our bodies will die.  Do not trust in passing things, as they will only disappoint.

In verse 12, Paul shows that our conscience is not to be ignored but it is to be educated by the Word of God, which is written in clarity so that we can understand (v. 13).  Christian teaching should be plain and clear.  Paul talks of his hope of boasting of the believers at Corinth “in the day of the Lord Jesus” (v. 14) because they have in the end understood his teachings.

The design of ministry is preparation for “that day”.  How do you remind yourself of the coming of Christ?  Who will boast of you on that day as the Corinthian believers will boast of Paul’s faithful teaching?  Who have you poured your life into in such a way that they will boast of your faithful teaching of God’s grace?

Christian:  Real love can lead you to be absent from the one you love (2 Cor. 1:15-2:4)

In these verses, Paul explains that he did not come to them as he had planned because he loved them.  In verses 15-17, he explains that his reasons for not coming were not because he was unfaithful in his promise to visit.  He exclaims that he did not make his plans “lightly” and that he is faithful to them.  He uses these verses to set up in verses 21-22 the faithfulness of God in “guaranteeing what is to come” (v. 22).

In verses 1:23-2:4, he gives his specific reasons for changing his plans, which was the same motivation for writing them, so that they would “know the depth of my love for you” (v. 4).  The Corinthian congregation was proud, unyielding, and not obeying Paul’s instructions so he decided to not visit them.

To a non-Christian, this tough love does not seem very loving at all.  However, we as Christians understand love to be more than just blindly accepting disobedience out of love.

Paul’s example should show us three things:

(1) Paul’s example should not be used to justify neglect.  Paul still told them the reasons he did not come to them.  He did not simply ignore them.

(2) You should carefully pick the time to confront one another in love.  Paul did not feel that the time was right to visit.  Pray for wisdom in timing.

(3) Be aware that the good to come in verse 22 is guaranteed.  How does our love demonstrate our love of God to others?  Sometimes, real love can lead to being absent from the one you love.

Christian:  Proper punishment can lead the way to real forgiveness (2 Cor. 2:5-11).

Paul discusses the punishment of an unrepentant Corinthian.  It is unknown who specifically he is discussing.  But it is clear in verse 6 that the punishment was handed out by a majority of the congregation and that it was sufficient.  In verse 7, he encourages forgiveness and comfort for that person.

In verses 7-11, Paul stresses that forgiveness is essential to defeat Satan who would tempt them to dwell in unforgiveness.  Christians understand the relationship between punishment and forgiveness.

It is implied in the text that the Corinthians in question repented. What do you need to repent of?

Church, we should be looking out for those who have confessed guilt of their sins in order to see the wounded become whole.  We should thank God for repentance that comes from correction.  God works in discipline and in love.  Romans 8:28 shows us that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

Yes, grief and woes will follow Christians, but consider also the great privileges you have in Christ.  Nothing is worth keeping that keeps you from God.


What is your church about, really?


Acts 20:28

Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God,[a]which he obtained with his own blood

1 Peter 5:2

shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight,[a]not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you;[b] not for shameful gain, but eagerly

Many people say they love Jesus, but won’t commit to a church.  They may even like the church, but church membership isn’t a priority or even a necessity.  The concern with this outlook is that if you don’t love the church, you may not really love Jesus.  We have a strong ability to deceive ourselves about our walk with God, and one of God’s means of grace to us in this is the church.

The church is important in God’s plan.  It wasn’t a human idea.  If we are to be Christ’s followers, the church must be important to us.

Here are seven questions we need to remember and ask about the church.

  1. What is the church?

The group of people called by God’s grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ to glorify Him together by serving Him in this world.  This corporate relationship has been important since creation, through the flood and exodus and establishment of Israel.  Jesus is the fulfillment of all that Israel pointed toward.

Church is fundamentally an assembly.  The church is the people of God, the new creation, the body of Christ.  Christians constitute the kingdom of God in that we recognize the King and submit to His authority.

2. What is the church like?

In short, the church is like God.  We’re to reflect His character: His unity, His holiness, and His desire for the salvation of man.  This is seen in the church being one, holy, universal, and apostolic.

Could your church be defined as anything other than Christ?  How is  your church doing in our unity, in our set-apartedness from the world?  Have we given ourselves to understanding God’s Word?

3. How do I know if a church is “good”?

The right preaching of God’s Word and the right administration of the ordinances: baptism and the Lord’s Supper.  Specifically, a church must preach the Gospel, the message that has been preached since Christ to now: that we are created in God’s image, but we are in rebellion against Him.  God’s Son, Jesus Christ, came and lived a perfect life, died bearing God’s righteous wrath against sin, and God demonstrated His acceptance of Christ’s sacrifice by raising Him from the dead.  Preaching this Gospel is central to a good church.

All evangelical Christians understand that believers’ baptism is a symbol through which we identify ourselves with Christ.  Differences on infant baptism aside, all Protestants agree on believers’ baptism.

Scripture is not explicit concerning how the Lord’s Supper is to be conducted; far more important is the issue of who is allowed to take it.  Like baptism, this meal is an identification with Christ’s death and resurrection.

4. Who should regularly take the Lord’s Supper here?

Church members.  The idea of a clearly defined community of people is essential to God’s plan in both the Old and New Testaments.  Christianity is personal, but it is not private.  Christians have an obligation to attend and ensure that church members’ claims of belief – both their own and others – are being lived out.

Consider the joy of Psalm 84.  God’s people don’t need to come to a specific building to experience His presence, but they should yearn for communion with his people.

We have a responsibility to love.  Love is the summary of our duties.  Scripture fleshes out more of what that means, but love is the thumbnail sketch.  Jesus taught that we should show Him to the world by loving one another.

5. How should a church be run?

Church leadership for a local congregation – not the church universal – is defined in the New Testament.  Members of the church are and should be the authority in matters of church membership, church discipline, and settling disputes between Christians (Matthew 18:15).

Members, are you relating to others in your church closely enough to make this possible?

Paul’s assumption in Galatians 1 isn’t that Christians can sit in judgment on matters of doctrine.  His assumption is that they must make such judgments in the context of the local church.  There is responsibility all around—for teachers as well as hearers—to support good doctrine and reject bad doctrine.

In 1 and 2 Corinthians, the whole local church is called on to enact discipline; it is not only a matter for elders and leaders. The church is finally congregational, which is why church membership is so important.

6. Should we ever put anyone out of the church?

Discipline happens in both the Old and New Testaments.  God expects His children to be holy.  Discipline is inextricably bound up in the idea of church as presented by Jesus.  A true church is only for sinners – repentant sinners.

7. What is the church for?

To serve as an example of Christ to those who are not yet believers, to commend the Gospel to them.  To instruct, encourage, and nourish believers – a place for us to spur one another on to holiness.

Recall Jesus’ words in Matthew 19:29:

everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My name’s sake will receive many times as much, and will inherit eternal life.

Look around; Jesus was telling us the truth.

The true church ultimately exists for God and His glory.  The church is the mirror reflecting the Divine character in this world.

Do you want to be part of that reflection?


What about “asking Jesus into my heart”? The “sinner’s prayer”?

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This post is inspired by a question from a church member.

If there’s a Guinness Book of Records for the amount time we Christians pray the “sinner’s prayer,” I am sure many of us would have broken it—including me!  My life was a cycle of doubt and assurance.  I always wondered whether or not I would or could really know Jesus.  I’d pray the prayer again and wonder if I had done it right and repented truly.

And countless millions of people, especially products of American churches, have no desire for God, no fellowship with Him, and no connection to the local church and believe themselves saved and going to heaven.

Why? Because one time someone led them in a prayer to pray and “ask Jesus to come in.”

This is a problem that is common among Christian churches.  And it springs from a deficient way of how we share and understand the Gospel.

So what is the “sinner’s prayer”?

Generally, it involves a preacher, pastor, or evangelist—or a layperson, too—exhorting someone to pray a prayer or to “ask Jesus to come into your heart.”  Other phrases include “Ask Jesus to enter your life” or “Allow the Lord to take control.”  Sometimes it comes at the close of a worship service or sermon.  Sometimes it is done in private.

What does the Bible say about the “Sinner’s prayer”?

Simply stated, asking Jesus “to come into your heart” isn’t found in any nook, cranny, or specific place in the Bible.  None of the apostles or Christ Himself went around asking, “Won’t you please come and ask Jesus in your heart?”  The Gospel message has always been, “Repent and believe the Gospel!” (Matt. 3:12).

Many people are simply missing the life of Christ.  Much of it has to do with what we sold them as the Gospel – pray this prayer, accept Jesus into your heart, and you will be saved.

Shouldn’t it concern us that there is no such prayer in the New Testament? Shouldn’t it concern us that the phrases like “invite Jesus in your life” or “Accept Jesus in your heart” aren’t in the Bible? Such sharing of the Gospel is built on sinking sand and runs the risk of disillusioning millions of souls.

Indeed, we ought to be concerned that it’s a very dangerous thing to lead people to think they’re a Christian when they’ve not biblically responded to the Gospel.  If were not careful, we will take the lifeblood out of Christianity and put Gatorade in its place and give it to the crowds.  It is not just dangerous – it is eternally condemning.

When we think of people coming to Christ, we’ve been trained to think, “It is just getting people to pray this sinner’s prayer.  If we just spread this – we’ll be good and so will they!”

No, let’s give them a full picture of the Gospel and show people the greatness of God.  Yes, He is a Father that loves us and who will save us … but He is also a wrathful judge that may condemn us for eternity if we don’t go through His Son alone.

Remember, the evidence that someone has truly opened their life to Christ is continued fellowship with Christ, not just that someone has prayed a prayer.

What about Revelation 3:20?

Revelation 3:20 is a verse used by many evangelists.  However, it is written to confessing Christians.  This is not an image of a visitor stopping by and knocking.  This is the Master returning to his house.  The servant is to throw open the door wide and welcome Him – the house is his!  We as a church want to hear the words of Christ.  We want to recognize the word of God as the truth we need to hear and know, and acknowledge.

Hearing is the way to eternal life.  Each message includes a final exhortation—to hear and take to heart.  This is to be read and received as the word of God in all the churches.

If you are not a Christian, know that though we are separated from God due to sin, God became flesh in Jesus of Nazareth.  He lived a perfect life – deserved no penalty.  When he died, He bore the wrath of God against all who would trust in Him.  To let us know this is true, God raised Him from the dead, He ascended into heaven.  The way to have eternal life is by turning from your sins – repenting – trusting in the righteousness of Christ.

The Laodiceans had gold, medicine and wool in plenteous amounts, but Jesus tells them they must rely on Him.  Hearing is the way to eternal life.

How would the Laodiceans know this if they were not told by the messenger?  No one realizes their state unless they hear the message.  You can see the glory of God in the heavens – but the heavens do not communicate the Gospel.  Christians must be speaking the good news to our neighbors.

We have no right to expect popularity in this world for speaking the Gospel.  The Gospel contradicts people on their desires – their sin.  One cannot repent from what you’ve never been told is a sin.  Eternal life begins with hearing.

It all goes back to conversion!

4 Reasons Why Getting Conversion Right is So Important

As the church, we don’t simply have a social or religious interest in conversion. Our understanding of conversion is essential to our concept of Christianity.

In fact, “conversion” isn’t considered civil in our politically correct world—it smacks of intolerance.

And, more often than not, we tend to think of ourselves on a spectrum of spirituality. After all, we’re all spiritual beings. But some of the most supposedly “spiritual people” in today’s time have admitted they don’t know and have not seen God.

Yet the Bible says that people throughout history have known God.  How is this relationship possible?

What is conversion?

“Conversion” literally means “to turn.” It is the act of turning from sin and turning to Christ in faith.

At conversion, Christ becomes the center of our universe, the source, the purpose, the goal, and the motivation of all that we are and do. Conversion isn’t like a multiple choice question in which you can check Jesus as Savior, but pass over His lordship

Conversion is a work that God begins and perfects. It is for His sake that He begins the work & for His praise that He sees it through. Conversion is a miraculous work of God that transforms a man’s nature, producing righteous affections that move him to keep God’s commands. Conversion is a supernatural and miraculous work whereby God changes the very heart of the sinner.

If the Gospel is grace alone–and it is–then every conversion is a miracle.  Paul’s conversion is a great reminder that no one is beyond the reach of Jesus.

Conversion is distinguished from the rebirth Jesus talks about in John 3.  We contribute nothing to our rebirth, but our God-given faculties are engaged in conversion.

How does conversion happen?

Thinking clearly about conversion will result in clear thinking on the Gospel.

We are called to repent of our sins and believe in Christ (Isaiah 30:15; Jeremiah 31:19; Matt. 3:2; Acts 3:19, 26:19-20; Romans 2:5; 2 Pet. 3:9, etc.). This thread is consistent between the Old and New Testaments; a walking away from old ways in order to obey God.  Faith is trust in Jesus’ ministry and work alone as the perfect Son of God.  True repentance always accompanies saving faith.

If we are to be saved, God must give us the gifts of repentance and faith. God promises to write His Word on His people’s hearts in the Old and New Testaments.  People give thanks to God for their conversion (Ephesians 2:1-10).

God uses means to give the gifts of repentance and faith. The fundamental means is the Gospel (John 17:20).  The summary of Christian ministry is that “faith comes by hearing” (Rom. 10:17).  Local churches help us apply the gospel to our lives through membership and discipline.  These practices and doctrinal teaching, taken together, are indispensable.

Why is conversion important?

For our church. Membership is a local church’s external affirmation of a person’s spiritual conversion.  This is why we have high expectations of each other in biblical church membership.  If you are a member of our church, we assume that you are sorry for your sins and want to grow in Christ.  This is a key point in determining how apparently and overtly exclusive we should be as a local body of believers.

For our own assurance. 2 Corinthians 13:5 reminds us that we must shed any sense of cultural Christianity and examine ourselves.  The evidence that a man has truly repented unto salvation is that he continues repenting throughout the full course of his life, not that a person simply “prayed a prayer” and got his or her “Jesus flu shot.” 2 Peter 1 and the entire book of 1 John says that struggling believers can have assurance that their salvation is secure.  Enjoy a full sense of what your conversion means.  If you struggle in this area, recall what God has already done, how your heart stands affected before God, and what God has done in Christ.

For our identity. Perhaps you are not in a crisis of faith, but you have taken your identity in Christ for granted.  When we are converted we become more fundamentally Christian than anything else we might have in common. Meditate on this amazing truth.  And remember: Biblical assurance is not based merely upon an examination of our conversion, but also upon an examination of our life from that moment on.

For non-Christians. If you don’t yet believe, know this: Paradise was lost at the beginning of the world. Yet God had drafted a plan of redemption before the very foundation of the world! And, what’s more, understanding conversion is essential to obeying God’s call to repent and believe. One will not seek salvation until he knows that he is lost—he will not flee to Christ until he knows that there is no other Savior. You are not beyond God’s reach; the Gospel is our hope for salvation. Christ has given himself for all those who repent and trust in Him.  Will you repent and believe?

Our greatest need before conversion is the Gospel. Our greatest need after conversion is the Gospel.

How, then, should we evangelize?

By sharing, preaching, and telling the Gospel—telling the good news. How do we spread the Word? Not everyone is going to come to church to hear it.

1) Share lovingly, forthrightly, and boldly that it is only by repenting and believing the Gospel that a person is saved and it comes a great cost (Mat. 3:2; Matt. 10:38) that if they repent and believe they will be saved—but it will be costly.  We have to share with everyone that they are, by nature, sinners and are alienate from the thrice-holy God (Rom. 3:10-18; Eph. 2:1-5).  We can’t sugarcoat it.  We can’t cover it up.  The only truly biblical Gospel presentation tells the honest truth and doesn’t just trump-up the positive aspects of our faith that people may want to hear,

2) We have an urgent message.  And this must be shared! Time is short.  People must repent and believe by faith alone in Christ alone to be saved.  There’s no better deal coming.  There’s no other Messiah coming.  Jesus is the only way (Acts 4:12; John 14:6) and we don’t know today or tomorrow holds.  There’s only one way, and we don’t know that tomorrow is ours (Luke 13).

3) We can assure that in the name of the God-man, Jesus Christ, when a person truly repents, he or she is saved.

4) Take your Bible, and remember to pray, for salvation is all a work of God.  Our job is to be faithful and share and trust this sovereign God to work in the person’s life.


The Gospel isn’t “pray this prayer and be saved.”  The Gospel isn’t “we’re ok.”  The Gospel isn’t just God is a God of love.  The Gospel isn’t Jesus wants to be our friend or are example.  The Gospel isn’t just a message that we should live right.

The Gospel is news, has a cognitive content, and it’s true (unlike these errors).  Do you know the Gospel?

Gender Uniqueness in Salvation


As our nation debates issues of gender and bathrooms, we must ask some questions:

Are race and gender parallel issues?  How should Christians think about gender?

Our text—Galatians 3:28 below—has been described as the Magna Carta of humanity. Here’s the verse:

 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

 What does this verse say?

The central message of Paul’s letter to the Galatians was that salvation is only available by trusting in Christ alone.  It’s not available through keeping a system of laws.  Paul warned the early Christians about getting this Gospel message right.  In Galatians 3, we read that all who believe, Jew or Greek, are together God’s children by adoption.

Is Paul saying gender is irrelevant?  The purpose of the pairings in this verse is to show that distinctions are no longer relevant in the New Testament church.

In the church, women are baptized, just like men, upon believing the Gospel.  Male and female differences are part of the wonderful kindness and creativity of God.  The point is that our initiation into the church has nothing to do with these divisions.  One is included in the church if one has faith in Christ; they are excluded for not trusting Christ.

In the Christian Church, no questions of social status, gender, or rank have anything to do with acceptance in Christ.  Paul is teaching of the unity of all Galatian Christians in Christ Jesus.

Yet, some in Galatia were teaching otherwise.  They were teaching there was a difference between Jewish and gentile (non-Jewish) believers.  Paul wrote to correct the false teaching.

There’s only one way to reflect the unity of God—unity in Christ.  Unity in Christ comes only from faith in Christ.  You don’t have to become a Jew to become a Christian.  It is available to all through trust alone.  If you belong to Christ, you are Abraham’s seed (Gal. 3:29).  Christians are not divided by worldly divisions.  Unity in Christ abolishes all ethnic, material, and gender differences.

  1. What does the Bible say about men and women?

Both bear His image.  They are meant to be inter-dependent, to complement one another.  Women were made to help in ruling the earth.  Women are blessed with the privilege of bearing children—but due to the curse—only with much pain.

In Genesis 3, we read of our first parents’ sin.  They rebelled against God, and God cursed them.  He cursed them in the very roles they were created to fulfill.  The man’s work would now be cursed with difficulty and less productivity.  The woman’s experience of childbirth would now be full of pain.  The roles did not come from the fall; natural roles were perverted by the fall.  Our common pains are a reminder to us all of the curse of the fall.

The role of men is to initiate, to protect, and provide.  The role of women is to nourish, affirm, and accept the leadership of men.

It’s not that God hasn’t used women as leaders.  Our Bible tells us of a number of female leaders.  Most of the Bible is written by men, but God’s Word came to us by women as well.

Let’s be clear: Women are not second class citizens.  Women stayed with Jesus at the foot the cross to the end after the men fled.  Women are the first to show up at the tomb that Sunday morning.  Women are the first to witness the resurrection.

So should we then no longer refer to men and women?

No, Paul is teaching that gender is irrelevant only in terms of value and worth, and acceptance into the Kingdom of God.

  1. What does all this mean?

Some say that before the fall there was no hierarchy.  This isn’t taught by the Bible.  God was the #1 authority then and now.

In 1 Corinthians 11:7-9, we read that the woman is the glory of the man and came from man.  In 1 Timothy 2, Paul teaches that the priority of man in creation was significant.  The fall did not create hierarchy.  In Genesis 3:16, we see the effect of the fall on hierarchy, leading to man’s tyranny over the woman, and the woman’s desire to replace the man in authority.

Galatians 3:28 doesn’t teach that in Christ we lead a genderless, unisex life.  While there are abuses of authority, authority is a good thing.  It’s not eliminated by unity.  Authority, well used, is a blessing.  Good authority— in marriage, in the workplace, in the home, in the military – serves us well.

When the authority over us denies us what we want, then we see our real view of authority.  When our desires conflict with authority, we are tempted to please ourselves, not the authority.  This is precisely where Satan attacked Adam and Eve.  Satan led them to reject God’s authority.  In essence, she said, “A God who would deny me such pleasant fruit must not really love me.”

In our thinking, we often think that those in authority are greater.  Yet Christ portrayed Himself as a servant.  We praise Christ for His submission to the Father’s authority.  The nature of our hope is that one would submit oneself to a higher authority.  Submission is not inherently degrading—remember, Christ submitted.

  1. How does this matter?

In the local church, we see the beginning of this new way of living.  The events of Genesis 3 disturbed relationships.  The church presents a new reality—a new unity with our fellow believers—even those of the opposite gender.  We share the same Spirit within us—not Mr. or Ms. Holy Spirit—but One Holy Spirit.  We experience an uncanny closeness to folks we may not know well.  This is evidence of the Holy Spirit within all of us.

Should we have gender-specific ministry? 

The main men’s ministry at our church is the regular preaching of God’s Word.  The main ministry of women in the church at our church is the regular preaching of God’s Word.  And also baptism, the Lord’s Table, praying together, etc.  Men and women participate in discipling relationships, retreats, and small groups.

Some of these items are gender-specific—men discipling men, or women on retreats with women, and the like.  But most of our ministry isn’t gender-specific, because we all need the same thing—to learn more about Christ.  In this gender-war world, we have an island of peace in the church through unity in Christ.

The church is the place where God’s kingdom and rule is revealed to others.  We have to work at this kind of unity.  Satan attempts to steer us wrong with false unity.  The world wants unity by eliminating categories.  Paul teaches we are united with one another in Christ by faith.  We must be willing to expend energy to live out this unity.  It will take effort.  Think about who you talk to, meet with, and hang out with.  We covenant to work for one another’s good in the biblical church.

Gender is a gift of God—a portrait of the One whose image we bear.  We have one human race, one hope, one God, and one divine Savior.





America At A Crossroads: Race–How Should Christians Respond?


This was written in early July after many of the tragic events and shootings around America.  

After two weeks of brutal, violent and tragic scenes from Baton Rouge to Dallas to Falcon Heights, the social, cultural and spiritual divergence within America is no longer avoidable.

The festering tenseness in cities small and large following the deaths of two African-American men and eight white and African-American police officers serves to prod Christians to remember our biblical call and charge to showcase the Gospel in word and deed on social media and in our normal, routine lives (2 Cor. 5:18-20).

America is at a crossroads. And the response of the Christian community isn’t only a vital voice in the days ahead, but, above all, serves to either distinguish or degrade the simplicity of the eternal Gospel to God’s glory (1 Cor. 15:1-8).

As Christians, we would do well to mourn for the loss of those created in God’s image in each situation and fervently petition and pray for the “peace of God, which surpasses all understanding” to guard the hearts of all in Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:7), and for true justice and wisdom to rule the day. As a white male, it’s impossible for me to understand the African-American experience, but I can pray with them for peace and justice (Acts 27:21-25) and seek to understand. The command of the Lord to any state in Scripture (Romans 13) is to adjudicate with fairness and with integrity. As residents of this country, we must, by God’s grace, make certain this is the case in every area and facet.

Additionally, may we never forget that in this racism-filled world, individual Christians and local churches must not only be on the frontlines of racial resolution, but must truly personify it. The devil loves to fan the flames of every shade of racism and stoke its fires and then convince us that it’s justified. Explicit racism will never be eradicated until we acknowledge and eliminate implicit racism in ourselves, our families, and churches. Racial stereotyping can only thrive in the absence of personal relationship. The Gospel demands not only indifference toward racism and patriarchy, but intentional action toward sin-killing and grace-lavishing through linking arms.

What’s more, let us remember that to stereotype an individual based on race is to deny their personhood as a unique creation of God—the Imago Dei. May it not be among those who claim Jesus! Remember: The “neighbor” referenced in the parable of the Good Samaritan was a different race and lived in a different community as did those who followed Jesus (Luke 10:25-37). EMS workers don’t worry about racial target groups during emergencies. You can’t afford to worry about that when you are saving lives.

What about the police officers and their families? They’ve taken oaths to serve and protect us.  Now many are dead and many are recovering in the hospital.  Like all serving in authority, we’re commanded (1 Tim. 2:1-2) to pray for them as they strive to keep us safe and secure.

Here are 9 ways you can pray for the police officers, their families, and our nation’s response:

  1. To come to a saving knowledge of the Gospel truth (1 Tim. 2:4).
  1. Not to fear but to remember God is their refuge and to see the reality of the circumstances alongside the character of God (Psalm 46:1-3).
  1. To know that God’s presence and power bring security (Psalm 46:4-5).
  1. To depend on God to answer their prayers, for relief from distress, and for mercy (Psalm 4:1).
  1. To accept God’s truth by believing it, not rejecting it, and knowing it (Psalm 4:2-3).
  1. To obey God’s truth by not sinning in anger, obeying in matters of worship, and trusting in the Lord (Psalm 4:4-5).
  1. For officers’ families to trust in the goodness of God (Psalm 78:12-16).
  1. For the nation to cry out to God, wait on Him, and hope only in Him (Psalm 130).
  1. For all to have confidence in this God who hears prayers, reverence for this God who hates evil, and a joy toward this God who saves sinners (Psalm 5).

Ultimately, the truth is that racism is not a skin problem but a sin problem, and there is a solution. The biblical Gospel is a race-surpassing Gospel. It is the Good News for all people. Jesus died that we might be saved from our sins, including the sin of racism. As long as we classify it as a social problem, it won’t be fixed. It is a sin problem that grows out of a theology problem.

Certainly, the government can pass laws forbidding discrimination (and they should), but that doesn’t cure racism. It just drives it underground to be expressed in more subtle ways.

So, what can we do?

The solution lies within the church in the proclamation of the Gospel that delivers sinners from their natural-born and inherent sin since birth. It is as the church boldly proclaims the Scriptures that racism will begin to fall—one person at a time. But most importantly, a sinner will be saved from God’s wrath (John 3:35)!

Here are four very practical steps we can take in addition to the above:

  1. Repent of racism. Racism is a violation of the Gospel itself. The God-man, Jesus Christ, came to redeem His people, and this God has but one people and one church. All of us has been stained by the racism in our culture and country—every last one of us. We have bathed in it for years, years and years, so much so that when we look at people, we make snap judgments.
  1. For those who have been the recipient of racism—forgive. A bitter and angry spirit robs you of the joy of the Lord. Bitterness (unforgiveness) is the only sin that puts the person who has been harmed in jail, and lets the offender go free. As an act of the will enabled by God’s grace—forgive.
  1. Confront in love racism among Christians. There is a biblical precedence here. In Galatians 2, Peter came to Antioch to spend some time with the Gentile believers. He hung out with them—perhaps eating ham sandwiches—until some Jews came from Jerusalem. When they came, Peter separated himself from the Gentiles. His example led others Jewish believers like Barnabas to do the same thing (Gal. 2:13-14). Peter was rejecting and excluding some because they were not ethnic Jews, and Paul, under the direction of the Holy Spirit, called him out over it.

What would happen in the church if every time another professing believer told a racial joke, made a slur, or rejected another person because of their people group, another brother or sister confronted them in love?

  1. Pray for our churches to be more ethnically diverse. A church should be a little colony of heaven in this evil world. Our unity is most evident through our diversity. When we are centered around the Gospel, our diversity displays the glory of God. As Christians, we should not only allow diversity within the church, we should celebrate it as we look to our true union in Christ. If we welcome racial diversity in the church, but require adaptation to majority culture to be welcome, then we don’t reflect the kingdom of God. Human diversity isn’t a problem for the Gospel. The Gospel requires diversity for the full display of Jesus (Ephesians 2:11-22).

My prayer in these days is that Christians hold up high the banner of Christ—period, end of discussion. May we not just talk about how to solve these problems in beautiful rhetoric, blog posts, and coffeehouse discussions, but may we truly be living ambassadors of it—by God’s grace and for His glory and Gospel, all the while advancing and uniting His kingdom under His authority. The Gospel of the kingdom must be brought with love and mercy to every person regardless of their identity, status, race, and gender.

3 Marks of a Real Pastor


In this passage, there is a striking contrast between real pastors and the faithless ones—the impostors.

Three marks of a real pastor from 1 Corinthians 4:

  1. A cross-centered message

Servants are judged by whether they’re faithful to the message. Apostles were servants of Christ to spread the Christian faith. Ministers are stewards, not owners of the church, employed by God to reveal the secret things of God (1 Cor. 4:1). Above all else, a steward is to be faithful (1 Cor. 4:2). All Christians are stewards (1 Peter 4:10), but ministers are especially accountable to be faithful.

We Christians realize that this message isn’t going to be popular everywhere. Messages aren’t composed by results from polls, but the Gospel. The message of gaining forgiveness of our sins through faith in Christ crucified and risen and returning to judge is offensive. Yet, we all have lived badly enough to need a Savior and this must be shared.

We’re called to make provincial judgments, but no human is our ultimate judge. The only judge that really matters is God. The Corinthians were judging according to human standards. Assure yourself of God’s verdict in Christ. You can’t live to please God if you live to please man.

The Corinthians were tempted to judge their teachers by their hair, accent, clothes, instead of their message. When affections are attached to a teacher on merits besides their message, it’s easy to follow them when they go beyond teaching the truth.

What do you have that you did not receive? What do we have to boast about more than the cross of Christ by which God has satisfied His love and mercy and His justice and holiness and displayed it to all the world?

A real minister has this at the center of His message!

2. A cross-centered life (1 Cor. 4:3)

Paul understood that he and the cross were foolishness in this world’s eyes. He knew he wasn’t to be judged by the world’s standards.

Do you think you’re a great person? Do you think your conscience is an imbalance in your self-esteem, something to be ignored? Then you’re not following Christ.

The message of the crucified Christ calls us to a different goal—what the world, who decided to crucify Christ, thinks is no longer wise. We’re not captivated by honor from those who rejected Jesus.  We have a different worldview. The world promises so much more than they deliver.

There is a better way. It may sound strange, but Christ’s death on the cross saves us (Isaiah 53:5-6). If the one whom we follow was stricken, crushed, and wounded, then we can’t be too surprised if some of this happens to us, especially to His ministers. Because we live in a way that this world rejects, true ministers of Christ are happy to be despised and rejected, if by their message, others are being saved. When the world persecuted Paul, he knew he wasn’t losing anything that he could take with him out of this world anyway.

The only way to follow Christ is to daily die to self-interest perceived in a worldly way. Live as Paul lived. Live a life that shows we care most about Christ.

Prosperity and worldliness often come together. Prosperity isn’t wrong, but dangerous. We are to live to show there are things that are worth more than this world’s prosperity. How can you show that Christ is worth more than the things of this world?

  1. Normally has cross-centered followers.

Paul really loved the Corinthians. He’s holding out his arms to them appealing to them to imitate him (1 Cor. 4:14-16). As Christians, we’re to be examples, especially those who are ministers. Ministers should not only be prayed for, loved, obeyed, and supported, but their example should also be followed.

Paul ordered the Corinthians to be humble (1 Cor. 4:18-19). It’s our Christian duty to be humble. How can you think to follow Him in His self-giving love, without seeing your concern about yourself shrink, and your concern about God and others grow?

Both gentleness and severity are parts of Christian love. Paul is a great example to us. We should be willing to be bold for Christ, to be misunderstood in order to be of service to others (1 Cor. 4:20-21).

If you’re wondering if you should be in pastoral ministry, realize this desire to see people changed by the Gospel of Christ—and even seeing some fruit in that, whether through evangelism or discipleship—is a normal part of the experience of those God calls into the ministry. It’s often called the external confirmation of that internal sense of calling. Does God seem to use you unusually as a change agent in others’ lives?

Your life is about to be intersected by God, either through His return, or through your death. How will that be for you? Will you be prepared with the truth of the cross, or will you be caught unprepared, living as if this world will last forever? And does these marks have life in your favorite minister?