The Role of the Church in Society

Society is rife with many issues that are given heed to at differing levels of interest by the church today. There are varying degrees of success – or failures. No matter the cause, opponents of the church will seek to undermine any positive influences and accentuate the negatives. In view of the current trend of secularism seemingly in control of popular opinion, what then is the role of the church in society?

In speaking of and about the church it is important to note that herein “the church” means the local church body made of regenerate members and not that of the universal church. The local church body is the point of contact of, and representative for the universal church. Local church bodies should be seen acting in concert with other local church bodies collectively and cooperatively. This is seen throughout Acts and in much of the other books of the New Testament as Paul sought the support of churches for each other and for the church in Jerusalem.

Luke’s account of the activity of the early church in Jerusalem gives the most succinct picture of the role of the church in society. Acts 4:32-37 shows 1) “the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own…2) with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus…3) there was not a needy person among them, for as…it was distributed to each as any had need.

First, the members of the church were as Acts 2:1 says “they were all with one accord” (KJV). As they gathered together they celebrated. As they celebrated they prayed. As they prayed they worshiped. They gave freely of what they had out of love for each other as they epitomized the greatest commandment according to Jesus (Matthew 22:37-39), “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” and carried through with the second, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Secondly, the preaching of the gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) was important for the public proclamation all Christians are responsible for giving. The early church had the privilege of hearing first-hand from the people that were with Jesus every hour of every day for three years. Today, we are blessed with the Bible that tells the same stories and expounds upon the same doctrines (the main purpose for much of Paul’s writings). Strong exegetical and doctrinally sound proclamation of the gospel is paramount for the church today if wishes to regain a positive role in society.

Thirdly, none in the early church of Jerusalem had any need. This is not so in most churches today. Despite increasing financial burdens and lingering illnesses necessitating being home-bound the members of today’s local churches do not seek to meet the needs of its own membership. Yet, those same non-internally reaching members will lay out literally thousands of dollars to go half-way around the world to do the very thing they neglect in their own church. The hypocrisy of our missions shouts volumes to society today and causes loss of credibility.

The role of the church in society has been in large part abdicated and can only be viewed as a hollow facade of what used to be a respected and sought after leader in our culture. As a whole, forfeiture of an active role has become the norm from community to community though some corners do seem to be able to grab some form of media attention and point to that as proof of an active role. The local church as become less important due to its lack of love and compassion for its own membership (assuming regenerate membership). Instead of the gathering place to celebrate God’s work in their lives, it has become the social club for conscious-salving “mission projects” at best and dark-room-meeting places for the ego-driven power mongers at worst. Church has become more about what-someone-else-does-for-me rather than the assembly of God-worshiping, blood-bought, born again, Christians.

The church must revisit the oft repeated Great Commission of Matthew 28:19-20 and its corollary of Acts 1:8. Matthew records that the church (implied) should teach all that Jesus had commanded. This carries the overt implication that the teachers would be obeying those very commands. Obeying Jesus’ words will strengthen the church in the rest of the commission to go and make disciples. The role of the church in society starts closest to home and moved outward (Acts 1:8).

Is there concern that the church’s voice is being drowned out by alternate influences? We can change that by hearing the voice of the needy in our own congregations. Is there concern that poor preaching and teaching is corrupting our congregations’ view of God? That can be changed by giving heed to those that only preach the gospel and teach the doctrines found there. Does the church’s lack of influence diminish its presence? Taking care of each other will strengthen the right to be heard in our society.

The role of the church is to start being the church again.

Lifestyle & Behavioral Choices and Organ Transplants

Tobacco

Lifestyle and behavioral choices lead to much pain and suffering in today’s society.  Below are some facts and figures to help highlight the destruction of two such behavioral choices – smoking and alcohol consumption.

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body. –1 Corinthians 6:19-20

  • Approximately 1 in 136 or more than 2 million Americans suffer from alcohol-related liver disease.  27, 035 deaths from alcohol related chronic liver disease and cirrhosis occur each year in the US 2001 – www.cureresearch.com
  • …Percent of adults who drank alcohol in the past year:  62.5% — www.cdc.gov
  • …Currently, nearly 14 million Americans – 1 in every 13 adults – abuse alcohol or are alcoholic. – www.wrongdiagnosis.com
  • …430,000 people die each year form tobacco-related diseases making smoking the leading cause of preventable death – www.aarc.org
  • …Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is caused primarily by smoking.  Smoking is directly responsible for approximately 80 to 90 percent of all COPD cases.  COPD is 10 times more likely to kill a smoker than a nonsmoker. – www.texaslung.org
  • …COPD is the fourth leading cause of death in the U. S. and is projected to be the third leading cause of death for both males and females by the 2020. – www.copd-international.com
  • …COPD patients account for 60% of all single lung transplants. – www.lungusa.org

Lifestyle and behavioral choices lead often to organ failure.  Below are some facts and figures that highlight the cost on society, the possible agony of waiting for a replacement donor organ, and the economic impact of lifestyle and behavioral choices

What man can live and not see death? Can he deliver his soul from the power of Sheol?  –Psalm 89:48

  • …In social and medical venues, debate continues to focus upon alcoholism…smoking…and other behaviors as diseases or character flaws.  Such behaviors are associated with disease processes in many adults.  The Ethics Committee (United Network for Organ Sharing) has historically supported the conclusion that past behavior that results in organ failure should not be considered a sole basis for excluding transplant candidates.  However, additional discussion of this issue in a societal context may be warranted.  – UNOS Ethics Committee General Considerations in Assessment for Transplant Candidacy (www.optn.org)
  • Nearly 21% of all persons waiting for an organ transplant in 2003 were waiting for a liver (a 2% increase over the previous year).  Over 27% of all persons waiting for an organ transplant in 2003 that were waiting for a liver died, representing close to a 10% mortality rate among those waiting for a liver transplant. – www.ustransplant.org
  • …Over 4.6% of all persons waiting for an organ transplant in 2003 were waiting for a lung (a 3% increase over the previous year).  Over 11.6% of all persons waiting for an organ transplant in 2003 that were waiting for a lung died, representing over an 11.6% mortality rate among those waiting for a lung transplant. – www.ustransplant.org
  • …Average cost of a lung transplant in 2002, including evaluation, procurement hospital, physician, follow-up, and immunosuppressant pharmacological therapy — $343,000.  Average cost of a liver transplant in 2002 — $313,600.  — Milliman USA Research Report, July 2002

Better is a little with the fear of the LORD Than great treasure and turmoil with it. –Proverbs 15:16

Behold your God!


Strutter

Originally uploaded by Through the Veil

(Eighth in a 52 part introspective devotional series, weekly more or less, based on the Scriptures that inspired George Federick Handel to write The Messiah.)
[see the entire series here]

Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the LORD is risen upon thee. For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the LORD shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee. And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising. –Isaiah 60:1-3

History is the display of the supposed advantages of power and intelligence which some men possess over others, of the struggle for existence hypocritically described by ideologists as a struggle for justice and freedom, of the ebb and flow of old and new forms of human righteousness, each vying with the rest in solemnity and triviality…

–Karl Barth, The Epistle to the Romans (p. 77)

Looking at history it is all to common to see the struggle for power be so prominent. In fact, history could be conceivably described as the running account of sin on mankind since sin originates in the power seeking of Satan himself.

The judgement of God is the end of history, not the beginning of a new, a second, epoch. By it history is not prolonged, but done away with…God speaks: and He is recognized as the Judge…the end is also the goal; the Redeemer is also the Creator; He that judgeth is also He that restoreth all things. –Barth (Ibid)

If history then is a running account of the effects of sin on mankind then our history is not something to be tolerated by God. He, if He is indeed the Holy God described in the pages of the Bible, must end it. In fact, Jesus Christ on the cross was the beginning of the end of history. That was the statement of action that put God’s judgement on all humanity.

The most radical ending of history, the negation under which all flesh stands, the absolute judgement, which is the meaning of God for the world of men and time and things is also the crimson thread which runs through the whole course of the world in its inevitability. –Barth (Ibid)

Yet, we are stumbling around in darkness looking for the light as Isaiah foretold to Judah. Humanity knows its fate in the darkness. Will the church universal hide the light? Will the bride of Christ not look expectantly for her Bridegroom in the dark of the night?

One day the fulfillment of history will occur and God’s final Judgement will bring an end to “this terrestrial ball.” With expectancy, we must look to shine the gospel light into the darkness of mankind, freely weave the thread of the crimson stain that is the blood of Christ for redemption, and bring all “to thy light.”

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I pray, Lord, that I will be able by Your strength, to look with expectancy to Your coming. Until then help me to bring out darkness those that would seek Your light and glory. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

April 19, 1995

oklahoma-city-bombing-1

(Photograph by Charles Porter IV, a freelancer, taken after the Oklahoma City bombing and distributed by the Associated Press, showing a one-year-old victim handed to and then cradled by a local fireman. http://www.pulitzer.org/year/1996/)

As we went about our lives another went about our deaths. He wanted to steal the innocence from our routine and interject shear terror into our existence. As he slipped away into obscurity we cried out for justice. Our children died horribly while we lived horrified.

We face the same spiritual reality from the god of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4) that seeks to blind and destroy us. He seeks to blind and destroy us because we are God’s creation, created in God’s image (Genesis 1:26,27). The same emotions we expericienced on April 19, 1995 are very much akin to the ones God feels for us. And yet He did something more than bringing one man to trial and punishment.

God gave of Himself in the fashion of Jesus Christ, God’s own Son, to die in our place (Luke 22:42-44). By His sacrifice the one who would see God thwarted saw his trial and coming punishment (Revelation 12:9).

Death is not what God intended for His creation. Uneasiness of spirit, of feeling, of emotion that may be in the reader at this moment should be addressed as leading by God to receive His adoption. Find a pastor, elder, — or better yet, a friend that knows the comfort of God for His children. Talk about your spiritual fate. Read what God says in the Bible. Know that this day is not forgotten.

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God;

1 John 3:1a

Behold! A Virgin Shall Conceive

Behold...(Sixth in a 52 part introspective devotional series, weekly more or less, based on the Scriptures that inspired George Federick Handel to write The Messiah.)
[see the entire series here]

Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. Isaiah 7:14

This verse forms a basic foundational belief for Christianity. It molds the understanding of the supernatural in our theology. Without it, most of our treasured orthodoxy crumbles.

Isaiah brings a message to the King of Judah, Ahaz. Essentially, he informs King Ahaz that God will deliver Judah from destruction and therefore Ahaz is to request a sign from God that will show Isaiah’s words to be true. Like most of today, Ahaz was too proud to actually obey and request a sign. He deferred! How curious to be granted safety and then give up the option for gratification by seeing what you actually expected. Perhaps this is still in play today.

Since Ahaz would not ask for a sign God gave a sign to him instead. It is this sign that we read of in Isaiah 7:14 “Behold a virgin shall conceive.” There is a particular strain of scholarship that implies this only referenced the immediate time of Isaiah understanding that this meant judgment before the maturation of future offspring for either Isaiah or Ahaz. While this is possible historically speaking the scope of the canon of scripture gives another and better understanding…

Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. –Matthew 1:23

And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. –Luke 1:26-27

…and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David –Luke 1:32

…he shall save his people from their sins. –Matthew 1:21

What do all the above references have in common? They all refer to Isaiah 7:14 centuries after the exile to which Isaiah prophesied about. They each refer to the miraculous conception and birth of Jesus Christ through whom the salvation of His people would be dependent upon.

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Father, by the words of Your prophets You proclaimed Your plan for Your children. By the life death and resurrection of Your Son You fulfilled those prophecies. Help me to live each day with the expectancy of Isaiah, Mary, and Joseph until Your Son comes again. In His Name, AMEN.

But who may abide the Day of His Coming?

(Fifth in a 52 part introspective devotional series, weekly more or less, based on the Scriptures that inspired George Federick Handel to write The Messiah.)
[see the entire series here]

But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner’s fire, and like fullers’ soap: Malachi 3:2

From every perspective of mankind’s being there is not even one that could withstand the coming judgment of God (Romans 3:10). As I contemplate the vast passage of time gone by and the great learned men (and women) that have struggled with this very thought, I am awed by the immensity of the thought processes. Paul, Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Martin Luther, John Calvin, Charles Spurgeon, Karl Barth, John Piper…all come to the same conclusions — as mankind stands on its own mankind will perish.

Who am I? I have no heritage like Israel, the chosen children of God. I have never been selected to write a canonical tome. I have a hard time thinking the small thoughts that never seem to come from the pens of the men I have previously mentioned.

Yet, my purpose (not the copyrighted version of recent infamy) is determined by the One who will test me by a refiner’s fire. As He purified the sons of Levi, so God will purify you and me alike. My purpose is to worship Him (Revelation 4:11).

As a sinner, there is no way I can stand and face His coming. To do so would mean certain annihilation.

But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. –1 Corinthians 15:10

God’s grace is the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. It is the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). It is the eternal life given to His adopted children and heirs (Romans 8:14-17).

Who then, without the grace of God may abide the Day of His coming? No one. Unless the gift of eternal life is received then death is the only course (Romans 6:23).

Therefore the question is really more about what I will do with the gift of grace given to me by God. Am I truly prepared in any circumstance to proclaim Christ crucified (2 Timothy 4:2; 1 Corinthians 1:23)? Is what I preach, teach, and say “as the droplets on the fresh grass”, that is, are my words true and right doctrine (Deuteronomy 32:2)? More importantly, do I do it because I am properly trained and do it well? Or do I do it because I love it (Revelation 2:4,5) and want to do it the best I can (2 Timothy 2:15)?

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Lord, hear Your Servant. By Your Holy Spirit, strengthen me for Your will unto that day of Your coming that I may be found obedient under Your blood shed for my sins. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.