Monthly Archives: July 2010

Edification and the Holy Spirit

A reader responds to the blog on edification with concerns about gifts of the Holy Spirit (see also comments on that blog)  He writes, “… what about the unmentionable, controversial inclusion of…the Holy Spirit’s role in edification by the coveting of and inclusion of charismata in the assembly as stated by Paul in 1 Cor. 14:1-4?
“If the charismata have passed, as concluded by many, how is the church going to be edified, exhorted and consoled as Paul states in these verses and especially verse 3-4?  ‘But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men edification, and exhortation, and consolution. He that speaketh in a tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church.’”

Well it is not exactly “unmentionable,” since I did mention it.  Is it controversial?  Yes, because the problem has always been about authenticity.  Persons in the assembly believe they have a prophecy for the church.  How can their words be proven and accepted as genuine?  Is it even important to do so?  Can we not simply accept that God is speaking through a person and let it go at that?  The danger of doing so is seen in the many warnings about false prophets and the tremendous damage they can cause (Matthew 7:15; Mark 13:22; 2 Peter 2:1).  John cautions us: “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1).

In the context of I Corinthians 14, the Sprit reveals through Paul how prophecy can be tested and proven genuine, “But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or an ungifted man enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all; the secrets of his heart are disclosed; and so he will fall on his face and worship God, declaring that God is certainly among you” (I Corinthians 14:24,25).  When Jesus spoke to the woman at the well and revealed facts about her life he could not have known naturally, she said, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet” (John 4:19).  Jesus was very specific, “Jesus said to her, “You have correctly said, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; this you have said truly” (John 4:17,18).

I, for one, would welcome genuine prophecy in the church.  In fact, I would welcome all authentic spiritual gifts.  How could I do otherwise?  None of us, however, should put the church in jeopardy by acceptance without testing.

In the meantime, let us strive to edify the church in word and deed.

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Filed under church, Holy Spirit, Prophecy, Scripture, Supernatural

The Imperative of Edification

Each of us is to please his neighbor for his good, to his edification (Romans 15:2)

So also you, since you are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek to abound for the edification of the church (1 Corinthians 14:12).

What is the outcome then, brethren? When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation Let all things be done for edification (1 Corinthians 14:26).

Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear (Ephesians 4:29).

…love edifies (I Corinthians 8:1).

So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria enjoyed peace, being built up; and going on in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it continued to increase (Acts 9:31).

The Greek word translated “edify” (oikodomeo) implies “building up.”  As used in the writings of Paul and Luke, it simply means that we help each other grow spiritually in the things we say and do.  This is not a mere suggestion, it is an imperative.

If I understand the above passages, in all of our interactions edification must be paramount.  Whether it is an assembly, Bible class, business meeting, a potluck, a conversation over coffee, an encounter on the street, grocery store…wherever…the goal is to build up one another, to encourage spiritual growth.

We have lost sight of this in so many ways…to our detriment.  Is edification the goal when we file into our assemblies?  Do we file out edified?  Too often we leave our assemblies having listened to an irrelevant sermon, sung to the backs of those in front of us and communed with no one in particular.  It is even worse where the use of loud musical instruments makes singing to one another impossible.  Could that be why we are commanded simply to sing (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16)?

Edification is an act of love.  It gives grace, produces peace, respect for our God, peace and comfort.  Churches where edification is paramount “increase.”

Edification is imperative.  “Let all things be done for edification.”  Those of us concerned with restoring primitive Christianity must add edification to the list.

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Filed under church, discipleship, Edification, Kingdom Growth, Love, Peace, Preaching/Teaching, Restoration, Scripture

Sir John Carew Eccles, Believer

“People who believe in God are ignorant and superstitious.  Intelligent, educated people do not believe in God.” Perhaps you have read or heard such nonsense spouted by the so-called “new atheists.”  This is an ignorant and arrogant falsehood.  From time to time in this blog, I will feature quotations from highly respected scientists (many Nobel Prize winners) who are solid theists.  Hopefully, such information will put to rest such misinformed arguments among open-minded readers.

Consider Nobel Prize winner Sir John Eccles.  Sir John was an Aussie, born in Melbourne in 1903 and died in 1997.  More information can be found in Wickipedia and at Nobelprize.org.

Science and religion are very much alike. Both are imaginative and creative aspects of the human mind. The appearance of conflict is a result of ignorance.

We come to exist through a divine act. That divine guidance is a theme throughout our life; at our death the brain goes, but that divine guidance and love continues. Each of us is a unique, conscious being, a divine creation. It is the religious view. It is the only view consistent with all the evidence.

There has been a regrettable tendency of many scientists to claim that science is so powerful and all pervasive that in the not too distant future it will provide an explanation in principle for all phenomena in the world of nature, including man, even of human consciousness in all of its manifestations. [Karl] Popper has labeled this claim as promissory materialism, which is extravagant and unfulfillable.

Yet on account of the high regard for science, it has great persuasive power with the intelligent laity because it is advocated by the great mass of scientists who have not critically evaluated the dangers of this false and arrogant claim.

I regard this theory as being without foundation. The more we discover scientifically about the brain, the more clearly do we distinguish between the brain events and the mental phenomena, and the more wonderful do the mental phenomena become. Promissory materialism is simply a superstition held by dogmatic materialists. It has all the features of a Messianic prophecy, with the promise of a future freed of all problems—a kind of Nirvana for our unfortunate successors.

We have to recognize that we are spiritual beings with souls existing in a spiritual world as well as material beings with bodies and brains existing in a material world.

The amazing success of the theory of evolution has protected it from significant critical evaluation in recent times. However, it fails in a most important respect. It cannot account for the existence of each one of us as unique, self-conscious beings.

Thanks to John Clayton and Does God Exist? Quotes were downloaded from http://www.doesgodexist.org/MayJun10/Eccles-Nobel.html, 18 July 2010

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Filed under Apologetics, Atheism/Theism, Bigotry, Culture Wars, Faith, Ignorance, Intelligence, Philosophy, Quotations, Religion, Science, Supernatural, Theism, Thinking

The O’Malley Method

“But Mr. O’Malley, you already drilled five wells on your property and they’ve all been dry.  Why do you keep drilling?”

“I keep drilling, hoping for different results.”

“But isn’t that a waste of money and time?”

“Not if I strike water.”

“But how will that ever happen if you keep doing it the same way?”

“Maybe if I use a different method, drill deeper, use better equipment…maybe then I’ll strike water.”

“Have you thought that all that money and time could be spent on piping water from another well or, maybe, a good rainwater harvesting system?”

“I don’t recall asking for your opinion,” said O’Malley.

So many churches use the “O’Malley Method.”  Just keep doing the same things over and over, hoping for different results.  Our “drilling” is our assembly or, as it is mistakenly called, “The Worship Service.”  It is the method of choice for outreach.  “How do we get them to ‘come to church?’  Oh, I know, let’s make assembly better!  Better singing, exciting sermons, the latest presentation technology, nicer buildings.  Everyone should invite someone to church (assembly).  Okay, I know, it hasn’t worked so far, but maybe we should just try something new…something different.  Let’s have a worship team leading the singing.  Let’s try some dramatic lighting.  Maybe we should get rid of the pulpit and let the preacher wander around.  Maybe he should dress in jeans and polo shirt.

Somehow we have been deceived into thinking that the most important part of Christianity is the assembly.  We focus on what happens when we come together.  It becomes the major event…the “be all and end all.”  Churches fuss about what can and cannot be done in them.  It’s how we judge other churches.  It’s what we divide over.  We measure success by warm bodies in attendance and how much they give in “the offering.”

Here’s the irony: we claim to follow a man who never spoke of an assembly and spent precious little time in them.  Aside from some work in a synagogue or two, he did all his work outside, among the people.  It was not easy or comfortable but it was what he came to do.  He came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19) not merely preach to the saved.

If we don’t change our focus from assemblies to following Christ, we are in danger of fading into obscurity.  The church in Australia, America or anywhere else, cannot survive by doing the same ineffective things the same ineffective way and expect effectiveness to magically result.

No one asked for my opinion, but Mr. O’Malley had better change his focus or he will remain dry.  We had better change ours or we will dry up and blow away.

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Filed under Christlikeness, church, Community, discipleship, Evangelism, Kingdom Growth, Missions/Evangelism, South Pacific

The Full, Upright Position

When one flies economy (cattle) class, space is precious.—between you and the passenger next to you – especially space between you and the person in front of you.

All flights are different … some with more room, some with less.  It is seldom enough for comfort.  And so, it is particularly difficult when the person in front decides to put his seat in the recliner position.

By some unknown combination of mysterious “forces” and blind chance, it seems I get placed behind someone who, with thoughtless disregard, reclines his seat upon reaching cruising altitude (sometimes before) and leaves it there until a meal is served and the flight attendant makes him put his seat forward.

It happened today on a flight from Brisbane to Auckland – not a terribly long flight but too long to have someone’s headrest nestling in your beard.  I looked around and absolutely no one (even the beardless) in sight was having a similar problem.  One feels “singled out” in some way.  One asks, “Why me?”

Now the temptation is to express one’s irritation in a number of ways: leaning forward and clearing one’s throat loudly in the offender’s ear; bumping one’s knees against the back of the offending seat; pressing the button to return the chair to the “full upright position” while the perp has gone to the lavatory.  Or one could loudly say, to no one in particular, “Don’t you hate it when someone reclines their chair when no one is sleeping?!!  How IRRITATING!”

Two forces combine to keep this from happening: 1. Reluctance to create a scene not orchestrated by the Holy Spirit and, 2. A desire to be like Jesus.  What would Jesus do with the situation under discussion?  Well, since Jesus gave little consideration to personal comfort, I don’t think He would do anything unless it furthered the mission He came to accomplish.

And so…when it became apparent that no good could come from creating a scene, I did nothing.  Ok, I did bump his seat a couple of times…but that’s all.

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Filed under Christlikeness, Humor, Jesus Christ, Kingdom Growth

CREDIBILITY = SUCCESS

We have not been very smart to expect people to listen to the gospel simply because we are preaching it.  We do a bit of advertising, get into our building or some other auditorium and expect people to beat down the doors in order to hear our wonderful speeches.

We forget that people listened to Jesus because he loved the souls of men and women and they knew it.  He proved his concern by the deeds of kindness he performed (Acts 10:38).  He, and those who first followed, earned the right to be heard.  Jesus, His apostles and disciples validated the gospel by their deeds (Mark 16:17-20).  Validation is still needed. We still have something to prove!  We must prove that what we want to give away is worth taking.

Consequently, in the teaching of Jesus and the apostles, we see tremendous stress upon good deeds.  They taught that the gospel must be seen as well as heard. Jesus knows that people are not likely to believe, trust and obey a Savior who is not visible in the lives of those who claim to be his followers.  He pointed out to his contemporaries in the religious leadership that they were “…invalidating the word of God,” by their “tradition which you have handed down; and you do many things such as that. (Mark 7:13)”

Our problem today is not so much that we invalidate the gospel, but that we fail to validate it at all. If we think that having a benevolent program and passing out Christmas baskets is sufficient, we are sadly mistaken.  To these good works must be added such things as assistance to the hurting areas of our inner cities.  We must offer assistance to struggling marriages and families.  We must utilize the spiritual gifts of our members to help heal the hurts of those under our influence.  And, all these good works must be solidly linked to the good news message.

Nice, comfortable buildings, “meaningful” worship services and impressive programs will not get the gospel to the lost.  Only when converted people preach a valid gospel will it be listened to.  Lives that are “adorning the doctrine of God in every respect, (Titus 2:10)” will provide that authentication.  It is madness to expect success when we have no credibility. We must gain the attention of those to whom we would preach by letting Christ be seen in us.

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Filed under church, Community, conversion, Culture Wars, Jesus Christ, Kingdom Growth, Missions/Evangelism, Persuasion, Preaching/Teaching, Religion, Uncategorized