“I know there are some who say, ‘Well, I have given myself to the Lord, but I do not intend to give myself to any church.’ Now, why not? ‘Because I can be a Christian without it.’ Are you quite clear about that? You can be as good a Christian by disobedience to your Lord’s commands as by being obedient? There is a brick. What is it made for? To help build a house. It is of no use for that brick to tell you that it is just as good a brick while it is kicking about on the ground as it would be in the house. It is a good-for-nothing brick. So you rolling-stone Christians, I do not believe that you are answering your purpose. You are living contrary to the life which Christ would have you live, and you are much to blame for the injury you do.” –Charles Spurgeon

I enjoy the above quote from Mr. Spurgeon as practical biblical truth has exposed any intent of the human heart or excuse it attempts to provide concerning the local church. It appears that not much has changed concerning this since the 19th century [or the 1st]. I posed the question, “Are you more comfortable inside or outside the church?” not to pompously prove one point, but to prove many points from one perspective concerning the [religious] affections and desires of the heart to either be with and serve Christ’s people, or not.

First, the purpose of the local church must be defined. It may be easier to first define what it is not. The local church is not [necessarily] a building. Its purpose is not to be attended only on Easter Sunday, Christmas or other major holidays. It is not a place to get free coffee or to be treated as a place to ‘hang out’ once a week. When observing and meditating upon the epistles of the Apostle Paul to the churches throughout the Mediterranean world, the purpose of the local church becomes clear. It is to demonstrate and proclaim the Gospel by the gathering of believers in a local body [part of the Body of Christ, which includes every Christian in every nation of all times] to serve and edify one another using the spiritual gifts that God has provided each for the ultimate glory of God [simplistic].

Concerning the professing Christians that do not attend church [or worship] at all, they are not even mentioned by Paul. In fact, they are generally called pagans. Of all immoralities and perversions committed within the church, the believers are compared to people “outside of the church.” There is no defense for them in the Scriptures, for believers outside of the church do not exist. If one has been truly born-again of the Spirit, then one has received at least one or more spiritual gifts to contribute to the local body or church, i.e. the Body of Christ [1 Corinthians 12:27]. Paul lays it out in a systematic manner:

“Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant:
You know that you were Gentiles, carried away to these dumb idols, however you were led. Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed, and no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit. There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all:

For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.”
1 Corinthians 12:1-11

Paul teaches that the particular individual is not the one with power, but ‘the same God working all in all’ [v. 6]. Nevertheless, ‘the Body’ is the primary example used to describe the church. He also uses the simple yet elaborate spiritual paradox of comparing the human anatomy of a body to the spiritual body of Christ [or the church]. He was not necessarily a doctor or an anatomist, but one who has received this revelation from God, who made the Body of Christ and also the human body. As individual physical parts separate themselves from and thus affecting the physical body, it contrasts into the spiritual body when individual spiritual gifts contribute to the entire body of Christ.

“For in fact the body is not one member but many. If the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body,’ is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear should say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body,’ is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing [ears]? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling [nose]? But now God has set the member, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased.”
1 Corinthians 12:14-18

Because born-again Christians are part of the Body of Christ, they are grafted in or sealed for the day of redemption [Ephesians 1:13-14]. Since you are sealed into the church by the Sovereignty of God in the enacting and indwelling of the Holy Spirit, then you are particularly gifted to serve as part of the Body, in the church. One may be gifted in prophecy or discerning of spirits. Another may be gifted in knowledge or interpretation of tongues. In contrast, one may be a nose and another, a foot. One may be an eye and another, an ear. The purpose of the analogous example in comparing the spiritual body with anatomy is that once grafted in or sealed, it is impossible to be detracted without affecting the body. Also, one cannot say that the nose is more important than the ear, for they each comprise an important and necessary part of the body.

“And if they were all one member, where would the body be? But now indeed there are many members, yet one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’: nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’ No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary.”
1 Corinthians 12:19-22

Charles Spurgeon’s example of the ‘good-for-nothing’ brick seems like a harsh example to one who may say, ‘Well, I have given myself to the Lord, but I do not intend to give myself to any church.’ When such a statement is examined in 1 Corinthians [e.g.] of how Paul describes the local church as being members of the body of Christ, one who makes such a statement is simply lying. If one claims to be a Christ-follower, then according to 1 Corinthians 12, they are part of God’s family. Thus, if one is a Christ-follower, being part of God’s eternal family, then they are specifically gifted to serve God’s people in the local church for the edification of believers. They are a nose, hand, eye, ear or foot [have acquired certain gifts by the Holy Spirit]. To make such a proclamation of following Christ while having no desire or do not intend to give themselves to a local church is committing a fundamental biblical fallacy and ultimately sinning against God. It is impossible for a separated foot to call itself part of the leg. It is the same with a separated hand calling itself part of the arm. If they are completely detached from one another, then they clearly do not serve the exact purpose of their existence. The arm can lift itself, but it cannot grab without a hand. The leg can take a step forward, but it cannot plant without a foot. The foot detached from the leg is useless just as the hand detached from the arm is useless. Spurgeon ended with, “you are much to blame for the injury you do.” It is true that if you profess Christ and do not regularly attend a local fellowship or congregational gathering, you are injuring yourself spiritually as well as the local body.

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“There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews.
This man came to Jesus by night and said to him,
“Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God;
for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.”
Jesus answered and said to him,
“Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old?
Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”
Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.
That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’
The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

John 3:1-8

This powerful excerpt from the Word of God is a humbling and eye-opening truth that many people misunderstand, including Nicodemus, the great religious leader of the day [John 3:10]. In modern society, the term ‘born-again’ has taken on so many different meanings, that it seems to not only have no power in the world, but it has lost its power from the pulpit as well. If we truly understand and heed what Jesus is actually saying about being born-again in the context of which He taught it, then we leave no room for error or our own interpretation of what it means. Therefore, the more we understand what Jesus is saying, the more we realize the immediate implications, the miracle of regeneration and ultimate eternal ramifications of the soul.

Nicodemus was very learned in the Scriptures of the Law. He was one whom others sought for guidance and he taught others. Yet, the term ‘born-again’ confounded all of his knowledge because, according to Jesus, it was something that could not be learned. “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb?” he asked. Nicodemus’ inquisition was not primarily focused on eternal miracles but simply on righteousness according to the law, as he was a Pharisee. It is clearly a foolish question to inquire about the biological impossibly of one returning to his mother’s womb after he is born into the world. Certainly he knew this was an impossibly, but term born-again had never entered his mind prior to Jesus’ teaching.

Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” [v. 5]. There must have been a fear-stricken ignorant state of mind in Nicodemus as this implication was completely foreign to everything he has ever learned or taught. As Jesus shifts gears from earth [natural birth] to heaven [supernatural birth or ‘born-again’], he opens up the true spiritual or heavenly realm.
“That which is born of flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit [v.6].” This verse implies a diametrical difference between the two births. The fact that we are all born [in the flesh] from a woman does not mean that we are all born-again. Even if we all wanted to be born-again [which many people claim to be], apart from the granting and predestinating of God by exuding Grace, it is as much of an impossibility as it is to be born from a woman. “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit [v. 8].” No one can see wind or how it works in everyday circumstances. It is uncontrollable and unalterable by any human force. It comes whenever and from wherever God wills it to come and goes wherever God wills it to go. He made it and designed it. So it is with the salvation of the soul.

Although the ‘experience’ of being born-again may vary from individual to individual, the ultimate realization of being born of the Spirit is the same. It is receiving life to the soul by Grace and the Holy Spirit of God through faith. “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.” Ezekiel 36:26-27
It is a completely new life of faith. We literally pass from death to life as our hearts are revolutionized by the Spirit. Paul teaches,
“Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual.” 1 Corinthians 2:12-13

In John 3, Jesus was not only teaching the difference between natural birth and spiritual birth, but also ascertaining the difference between carnal knowledge and spiritual knowledge. Nicodemus proved his carnal mindedness and unregenerate state when he asked Jesus, “How can these things be?” [v. 9]. He was clearly not born again as he did not know what it meant to be “born of water and the Spirit”, which was Jesus’ very definition of the new birth. Since Nicodemus was a natural man, having no spiritual faculties of knowledge and wisdom given him by the Spirit, he was ignorant of the profound yet only primary event in the true Christian life [on earth]. Although Nicodemus probably knew more of the Scriptures than most modern day Christians, he remained in spiritual ignorance as he was dead in his sins.
“But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” 1 Corinthians 2:14

After reading the Gospel of John, it becomes clearer that merely believing or inquiring is not enough to be born-again. Jesus ends the encounter with Nicodemus by proclaiming, “Most assuredly, I say to you, We speak what We know and testify what We have seen, and you do not receive Our witness. If I have told you earthly things and do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?” John 3:11-12
In two sentences from Jesus, everything that Nicodemus studied, represented, stood for and defended all of his life was immediately brought to ashes. It is not a mistake or a mere chance that one of the most religiously learned Pharisees of the time was confounded and embarrassed with real spiritual knowledge. Jesus not only told Nicodemus that he did not believe heavenly things; He said that he did not even believe the earthly things. Namely, Nicodemus was not questioning Jesus as God but as “someone that has God with him” [v.2]. Jesus was merely a religious leader to Nicodemus; someone who could stir up a crowd with his signs and wonders. Jesus was not his Lord as he was the disciples [whom He was with that evening]. He did not waste time or even attempt to debate with Nicodemus but cut him to his heart in only saying that he must be born-again and that every deed performed thus far in his life is only worthy of eternal damnation. Nicodemus attended numerous religious services as he was a religious teacher! He fasted, gave to the poor, tithed, prayed and read the Scriptures. Yet, it was all for naught as it did not glorify God but pleased his self-righteous religiosity. He wanted to make a name for himself. It was not done out of faith in Jesus Christ.

“He who believes in Him in not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than the light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.” John 3:18-21

Jesus preached the correspondence of believing and repenting in the process of being born-again. If we are to be saved, we need not only believe that Jesus is the Son of God, but also repent of the infinite sins we have committed against Him. If we find ourselves believing that Jesus is the Son of God but love the darkness or our sin, then we blaspheme the perfection of His Name. “He who says, ‘I know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” 1 John 2:4
When true believers acknowledge Jesus as the Son of God, we abide in Him by walking as He walked [1 John 2:6]. One who is born-again wants his deeds to be exposed as the original disciples did. Peter could not walk with Jesus having sin in his heart for Jesus said, “Get behind Me, Satan!” The truth of the Gospel and saving knowledge is coming to the light, who is Christ, so that our [evil] deeds can be exposed to the reality of judgment. These sins that are exposed are ultimately nailed to the Cross on which He hung and, by His blood, Mercy and Grace, are no longer remembered. This miracle of miracles results in eternal life. Otherwise, we are like Nicodemus, merely making intermittent inquisitions to Christ while leading an infinitely blasphemous life.

10.) What is your born-again experience?

9.) Are you more comfortable inside or outside the church?

8.) What do you consider “fellowship” and how often do you have it?

7.) When you read the bible [assuming you do], do you find yourself very anxious to finish?

6.) Do you ever share your faith with others or have an extreme desire to do so?

5.) When someone attempts to discuss your personal sin, do you get offended?

4.) What is your relationship to sin? [Are you growing to hate it more or find yourself comfortable with it?]

3.) Were you ever baptized? [Why or why not?]

2.) Do you desire to ‘mature in the faith’ or are you maturing in the faith?

1.) Who is Jesus Christ to you?

“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed.” 1 Peter: 3-15-16

[Response to each one of these questions on next ten posts]

I am currently reading a book by A.W. Pink called “The Sovereignty of God.” Until now, I have not written a blog post regarding a particular book.

I enjoy books that display sound doctrine in the sense that The Sovereignty of God is about a scriptural attribute of Him. He is not discussing things that may or may not be true about God [like the case is with many books], but of His very nature. Pink does an extraordinary job of not only expositing particular verses, but exemplifying God’s Sovereignty in each of them. So far, this book is a great deal of encouragement as it provides a biblical defense for what is so little preached in today’s society.

Most Christians, even among the reformed spectrum, do not attribute all things to the Sovereignty of God. Some verbally attribute that ‘God was Sovereign’ over certain situations, but not every situation. For example, some may attempt to say that God is Sovereign over ‘good’ things but not the ‘bad’ or ‘evil’ things. This book doesn’t necessarily have to prove that God is Sovereign, but simply enlightens the topic to show that God is Sovereign in every way over all things [created and eternally universal]. His decrees are infinitely beyond the scrutiny and compartmentalization of fallen sinners. Consider the following paragraph by A.W. Pink:

“Let us pursue a similar course of reasoning in connection with the human race. Is God governing this world of ours? Is He shaping the destinies of nations, controlling the course of empires, determining the limits of dynasties? Has He prescribed the limits of evil-doers, saying, Thus far shalt thou go and no further? Let us suppose the opposite for a moment. Let us assume that God has delivered over the helm into the hand of His creatures, and see where such a supposition leads us. For the sake of argument we will say that every man enters this world endowed with a will that is absolutely free, and that it is impossible to compel or even coerce him without destroying his freedom. Let us say that every man possesses a knowledge of right and wrong, that he has the power to choose between them, and that he is left entirely free to make his own choice and go his own way. Then what? Then it follows that man is sovereign, for he does as he pleases and is the architect of his own fortune. But in such a case we can have no assurance that ere every man will reject the good and choose the evil. In such a case we have no guaranty against the entire human race committing moral suicide. Let all Divine restraints be removed and man be left absolutely free, and all ethical distinctions would immediately disappear, the spirit of barbarism would prevail universally, and pandemonium would reign supreme. Why not? If one nation deposes its rulers and repudiates its constitution, what is there to prevent all nations from doing the same? If little more than a century ago the streets of Paris ran with the blood of rioters, what assurance have we that before the present century closes every city throughout the world will not witness a similar sight? What is there to hinder earthwide lawlessness and universal anarchy? Thus we have sought to show the need, the imperative need, for God to occupy the Throne, take the government upon His shoulder, and control the activities and destinies of His creatures (Pink, The Sovereignty of God, p.34-35) .”

Some may scrutinize Pink and many biblical teachers by writing a book on the Doctrine of the Sovereignty of God. Many consider it a difficult doctrine as it strips the thought of free-will that most men have. However, the purpose of the book is not to take away all power and free will of man [although it does]. It is not to demonstrate a comparison between man and God. Neither is the purpose to see just how many things God is Sovereign over or even how depraved man is [although it does this as well]. No. The purpose of this book for believers is to cause us to throw ourselves upon Mercy of God in utter dependence of His Sovereignty; which means that He is good. If God is good, then he will not be anything other than good. On the other hand, If God is Sovereign, then he will not be anything other than Sovereign. He is not in control sometimes and other times not. He is not Sovereign over most things but not some things. Otherwise, He would not be Sovereign. To be Sovereign is to rule and reign with absolute dominion. Resting in the Sovereignty of God causes complete humility in the hearts and minds of believers; thus it causes complete dependence upon Him and gives Him Glory. It reminds us that we have nothing in our hands to give to God but to trust Him for everything [I mean everything].
“For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever.” Romans 11:36
It is only when we realize that of [from] Him and through Him and to Him are all things that we see and understand God’s Sovereignty. How can the One from whom everything came to be, not maintain and sustain absolute control over everything He has made?

10.) Do your parents know and particularly, your father? [If so, how do they feel?]

9.) What is your relationship like with your parents? [Are you close or do you have good fellowship?]

8.) What is your born-again experience? [If you believe yourself to be a Christian, what does the term ‘born-again’ in John 3 mean to you?]

7.) Are you ready for marriage (spiritually, financially, emotionally)? [If not, to the male, what is your reason for pursuing a relationship? To the female, what is your reason for accepting?]

6.) Do you attend church regularly?

5.) Do you understand the practice of church discipline? [i.e. the explanation in Matthew 18]

4.) Does your church allow teen dating relationships?

3.) What is your understanding of the Word of God? [How do you interpret Scripture and do you believe that it is God’s infallible and inerrant Word?]

2.) Do you believe you would be a good mother or father at this point in your life?

1.) Do you believe your relationship glorifies God?

This is clearly not an exhaustive effort as a book could be written on the subject. They are serious questions to consider and should be fairly easy to answer as each are tied into one another, creating a domino effect.

And a ruler asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.'” And he said, “All these I have kept from my youth.” When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich.”
Luke 18:18-23