A Matter of Conscience

a 1689

“In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity.” Rupertus Meldenius

The church life can be complex. It can be joyful and downright difficult all at the same time. There are few things that can challenge those in the church much more than matters of conscience. It can seem hard to put your finger on it because what is it actually?

The Second London Baptist Confession of Faith (1689) says this about the Scriptures.

The Holy Scripture is the only sufficient, certain, and infallible rule of all saving knowledge, faith, and obedience, although the light of nature and the works of creation and providence do so far manifest the goodness, wisdom, and power of God, as to leave men inexcusable; yet are they not sufficient to give that knowledge of God and his will which is necessary unto salvation.

This is clear. It’s easy to understand where the conscience leaves room for someone else “feelings” right? I can say, “well my conscience is bothering me about what I’m hearing, seeing or feeling so, therefore, my feelings are validating and I’m now free to do as I please…”

1689 continues:

Therefore it pleased the Lord at sundry times and in divers manners to reveal himself, and to declare that his will unto his church; and afterward for the better preserving and propagating of the truth, and for the more sure establishment and comfort of the church against the corruption of the flesh, and the malice of Satan, and of the world, to commit the same wholly unto writing; which maketh the Holy Scriptures to be most necessary, those former ways of God’s revealing his will unto his people being now ceased.

Through His word, the Lord reveals Himself and declares His will unto His church. This preserves, propogates, establishes and comforts the church. It protects the church against the corruption of the flesh, the malice of Satan and the world.

In short, the word of God is all-sufficient. And yet, the conscience works in concert with the word of God to reveal the truth. Further on in the 1689 we deal specifically with matters of liberty and conscience:

Chapter 21 paragraph 2:

God alone is Lord of the conscience, and hath left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men which are in anything contrary to his word, or not contained in it. So that to believe such doctrines, or obey such commands out of conscience, is to betray true liberty of conscience; and the requiring of an implicit faith, absolute and blind obedience, is to destroy liberty of conscience and reason also.

J.I. Packer writes about the Puritan understanding of “the conscience in action” as we try to draw these ideas of the word of God and personal conscience together.

Then, second, this ethical teaching was all given (again, just as in the New Testament) not as a code of routine motions to go through with mechanical exactness, but in the form of attitudes to be maintained and principles to be applied, so that however much teaching and advice a man received, he was always left to make the final decisions and determinations (whether to follow his pastor’s advice; how to apply the given principles in this or that case; etc.) on his own initiative, as spontaneous, responsible acts of his own conscience in the sight of God.

Packer explains that it was important that all things be measured against the word of God, through proper biblical exegesis. This can create problems left unchecked by leaders that desire to control others, so having biblical discernment is paramount to avoid the authoritarian leader.

Puritan ethical teaching was not authoritarian; it was offered as exposition and application of Scripture, and was to be checked against Scripture by those who received it, according to the Protestant principle of the duty of private judgment. The Puritans did not wish men’s consciences to be bound to their own teaching, as such, but to the Word of God only, and to Puritan teaching only so far as it was demonstrably in accord with the Word of God.

What does all this really mean to us today? The Puritan’s view of conscience was traced immediately back to Popery. Coming out of the teaching of Rome, that men should exclusively look to their leaders. While leaders are God given, they are not infallible. Looking back to the quote by Meldenius we can see the goal of the local church and the concerned shepherd.

“In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity.”

A Christian’s great desire is to honor the Lord in the essentials of the faith, we must be united. If you do not believe God is triune, we have a problem. We cannot be unified in the faith. This is clear and easy to grasp.

However, as we jump to the non-essentials things tend to get stickier. This is where we need to have balance and grace. Or as Meldenius said… “Liberty”. Liberty or freedom of conscience frees us from the teachings of men. It allows unity without uniformity. It allows for grace and not oppression. When leaders drive home certain biblical texts that place them on the throne we need to beware. The Puritans understood this and it was of great concern for them.

If freedom of conscience is not treasured, is not fought for in and by a local church this should be a concern for you and for me. Christ died not only that we be free from the penalty and condemnation of sin but we also be free from the penalties and condemnation of men. Liberty is never a license to freely sin but it is a priceless element of the gospel of Christ.

While the Lord has given gifts to the church of pastors and teachers their authority is limited and we should allow no-man to take us captive. This is crucial to true Christianity.

Lastly, of course… charity in all things, even in disagreement. Without love we are clanging gongs and tinkling cymbals. We are obnoxious noise makers void of love. But often times true love comes with conflict. Conflict can be and is sometimes necessary. We cannot roll-over, be intimidated or bullied.

May the Lord endow us with wisdom from on-high, and grace to love His church.

Kevin

A Sure Thing

a sure thing

Back in my younger days, BC (before Christ) I had my hand at the stock market a time or two with pretty mixed results.  Well, let’s be painfully transparent here, it wasn’t good.  I’ve learned some hard lessons.

I can’t honestly ever remember hearing the words, “I’ve got a sure thing for you to invest in…”  but if I had I probably would have given it a try.  Thankfully I’ve abandoned those bad ideas and invest in a slow and steady way.

Remeber the quote that “nothing in this world is certain except for death and taxes”?

There is one sure thing I was reminded of today.  Christ lives.  He is a sure thing.  He is THE sure thing, and more importantly, we have evidence of that surety.  Look at the amazing claim made here and see if you find the evidence as compelling as I do.

Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.  Luke 1:1–4

When we want to know about things what do we do?  We dig in, we research it, we seek it out by talking with people, search the internet.  This is what Luke has done, well except search the web.

He did his due-dilligence in the matter because this was important.  The claims made by and about Jesus are hard to believe, but if you had a chance to sit and talk with those that saw them would it be compelling to you?  Luke says you can have “certainty” about these things.

Think about that.  Prophecies from the Old Testament came true before them.  Jesus predicted His death and resurrection. Jesus was resurrected and seen by over 500 eye witnesses.  The testimonies of changed lives.  These are just a quick few mentions.  There are countless reasons to believe and have certainty.

So I’ll ask you…  do you?  Do you believe?  Nothing is stopping you, it’s not the evidence.  It’s your unwillingness to surrender; to give in and believe Christ.  This is what faith is all about.  It’s not blind faith, it’s educated faith and it’s a life changing faith.

Believe the good news today.  It’s a sure thing.

 

Kevin

Hypocrite!

a kid catcher

What exactly is a hypocrite?  I’ve been accused of it before, and I’m sure you have as well.  If you are a Christian you will undoubtedly be accused of being a hypocrite throughout your life.

Let’s first define the term from three different sources.

1. Merriam Webster.com: a person who puts on a false appearance of virtue or religion.

2. Webster 1828: One who feigns to be what he is not; one who has the form of godliness without the power, or who assumes an appearance of piety and virtue, when he is destitute of true religion.

3. New Testament Greek: hypokrisis: acting under a feigned part, i.e. (figuratively) deceit (“hypocrisy”): — condemnation, dissimulation, hypocrisy.

In a sense, these all, (mostly) say the same thing.  The Greek goes on to use the imagery of a stage actor.  Someone pretending to be something he is not.

So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. Matthew 23:28

Jesus was condemning the Scribes and Pharisees, the religious elite of the day.  You remember, whitewashed tombs, full of dead men’s bones.  There is little doubt there is a LOT of religious hypocrisy.  Notice they are full of lawlessness.  Here is the defining point.  Looking religious but living in rebellion to God’s word, this is true hypocrisy.

Just because someone calls you a hypocrite doesn’t mean you are one.

The religious hypocrite should be dealt with, just as Jesus did, but not all religion is automatically hypocritical.

True Christianity is an affair of the heart.  It’s an internal desire to please Christ as I stated in yesterday’s post.  We may be hypocritical at times as all mankind is prone to do but won’t reside there.  It won’t be our manner of life.  We desire true piety.

There is another type of hypocrite.

I’m talking about the irreligious, God hater, that thinks to throw the term around and identifying every type of religious person into the class he has determined relieves his conscience of any guilt.  This person, whoever he might be, puts any desire for piety into one camp.  And by doing so, becomes the hypocrite himself.

Do you see that?

After all, who is not hypocritical at times?  Certainly not that guy right?  It’s a dangerous position because in this manner of self-righteousness this guy has exalted himself to the standard of righteousness.

“If everyone just lived the way I do, then everything would be okay…”

“That idiot is the problem with the world…”

“Thin the herd…”

Haven’t we all been there?  I know I have.  Be careful.  Our thoughts, our words, our actions carry responsibility.  Our own words will condemn us.  Yes, judge with righteous judgment but don’t be too quick about it.

So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander.  Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation—  if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.
As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 2:1-5

 

Kevin

Finishing Well

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If you don’t start well you usually can’t finish well. In most cases.

I’m sure you are wondering what this picture is about. I’d love to tell you about a friend of mine in the event business that did an amazing job, somewhat sarcastically, about how to properly coil an extension cord on a reel. It was brilliant.

If you don’t wind these right from the git-go, it doesn’t go well when you actually want to use it and that that’s the point of the whole matter. Do it right from the start, don’t be lazy, do a good job.

The Christian faith is sorta, kinda like that but not really. As a Christian, I make a lot of mistakes. We actually call this sin. I sin. If my faith was dependent upon me there would be massive failures and I really wouldn’t finish well because I never started well.

But following Christ is not about how good you are, it’s about how good He is. Faith is putting trust in Christ, not in our abilities. Now that doesn’t mean you get to do whatever you want, but it means that when you walk by faith and you trust Christ you desire to please Christ.

So while my sins are great and plentiful, they are less than they once were. As I walk the path of holiness, striving and desiring to be like the Lord, He gives me small victories along the way. Sometimes He lets me feel the evil that still resides in my heart. It’s never a dull moment.

If you are feeling weighed down by guilt or shame, give it all to Christ. He is eager to take it for you. And then finish well.

Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13-14

Kevin

Carnie Worker

a carnie

By most measures what I do for a living is paramount to being a professional carnival worker.  I don’t mean to sound demeaning in any way to “Carnies” as they are known.  I’m a Carnie…  I might be a little more sophisticated or a little more technical but I do exactly what Carnies do.

I go somewhere different each week, setup, participate in the Carnival, tear it down and move onto the next town.  That’s really it in a nutshell.

I’m a professional running race timer, we go to running events across the country, setup equipment and tear it down at the end of the day.  I’ve made a living doing it for 13 plus years or so.  I don’t think too highly of myself in my area of expertise, but I’ve done pretty well at it.  I’ve timed some “big time” events in my day.  Back in the earlier days some of my Carnie life loving buddies nicknamed me WGT.  World’s Greatest Timer…  Yes, it’s pretty funny and I still laugh about it.

In no way, shape or form am I the world’s greatest anything and most especially not the world’s greatest timer, but I’ve done well in the profession.  I’m mostly unknown in the industry but that’s fine by me.  As long as my race directors know and remember me that’s all that matters to maintaining our business.

I’m sitting in an airport right now heading out to Anytown, USA for another event.  The reason I’ve been decent can be summed in one word.  Consistency.  I’ve remained consistent in what I do for all these years and that does get you a reputation of sorts.

This is directly applicable to the man of God.  He must be steadfast and sturdy in times of trouble.  He must have a reputation as a consistent man.  He is consistent in his home, in the way he lives, with his children, with his wife, with his ministry and all things he does in life.  If he waivers and crumbles under pressure he blows it.  This is not to say he won’t blow it at times.  We all will.  We all do.

However, he must have a reputation and be thought well of by those that are on the outside.  This is consistent with leadership for elders and should be sought after by all men that proclaim to be godly men.  It’s straight up easy to understand, but straight up difficult to live out.  You can’t do it in your own power.  Just like I’m not WGT outside other influences in my life.  The guys that slug it out with me day in and day out.  I need their help.

Man of God, you need the power of the Holy Spirit and so do I.  Everyday, every second of every day.  Otherwise, our lives will be inconsistent.  Then we need to explore our relationship with God and the Spirit of God in how we live.  Is it a matter of just being inconsistent?  Is it a “besetting” sin?  Or is an unregenerate soul?  I don’t know, but it’s worth digging into.  Right?

Men, you and I must strive for consistency.  We must be set apart as godly men.  Even if they don’t appreciate your message, they can’t condemn your life.  But if your life is a mess, they will surely condemn your Christ.

But as for you, O man of God, flee these things.  Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.  Fight the good fight of the faith.  Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.  1 Timothy 6:11-12

 

Kevin