Three Different Thoughts on Church Membership
Does God really care what His Bride, the true Church, looks like?
1) The Early Church
Acts 4:32-35 Now the company of believers was of one heart and soul, and not one of them claimed that anything which he possessed was [exclusively] his own, but everything they had was in common and for the use of all. And with great strength and ability and power the apostles delivered their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace (Mercifulness (as gratifying), of manner or act, especially the divine influence upon the heart, and its reflection in the life; including gratitude) rested richly upon them all. Nor was there a destitute or needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses proceeded to sell them, and one by one they brought (gave back) the amount received from the sales and laid it at the feet of the apostles (special messengers). Then distribution was made according as anyone had need.
Act 5:9-13 Then Peter said to her, How could you two have agreed and conspired together to try to deceive the Spirit of the Lord? Listen! The feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out [also]. And instantly she fell down at his feet and died; and the young men entering found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. And the whole church and all others who heard of these things were appalled [great awe and strange terror and dread seized them].
Now by the hands of the apostles (special messengers) numerous and startling signs and wonders were being performed among the people. And by common consent they all met together [at the temple] in the covered porch (walk) called Solomon's. And none of those who were not of their number dared to join and associate with them, but the people held them in high regard and praised and made much of them.
2) Tozer's Thoughts
Sun, October 29, 2017
The Only Way to the Father
It is more than a little strange that persons who modestly decline to risk an opinion on matters that do not touch them at all closely, such as philosophy or science for instance, are often ready and eager to pronounce with finality on religion which above all else is vital to their welfare for this world and that which is to come.
This follows the popular notion that everyone is capable of discovering for himself the true way to heaven and that one man’s belief is as good as another’s in any kind of weather.
A second tenet in this creed is that no one has the right to question the belief of anyone else or to try to influence him in any way in religious matters.
This leads naturally to the third tenet which is that we should practice complete tolerance toward every expression of religious belief, however base or ill-founded it may be, and accept it as someone’s way of worshiping God even if it isn’t ours.
All this has about it a certain savor of charity and slips well off the lips of politicians, who are forced to try to please everyone, and liberal ministers who find it profitable to do so. But the man who has knelt before the burning bush or heard the sound of thunder on the mount can never bring himself to sell out his soul in that manner. The man who has walked beside the sea and has heard the voice of Jesus saying “No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6), can ever get the consent of his heart thus to trifle with religion. He has been smitten with the love of God and the wonder of the cross and he can never again be tolerant in things that touch his soul and the souls of his fellow men. He will live beside, be patient with, minister to, pray for and love any religionist of whatever color or creed from a cardinal to a medicine man from the long grass, but never will he compromise the truth to stay on good terms with anyone. He may die for men, but he will never trifle with them.
Jesus answered, 'I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.' John 14:6
No one comes to the Father except through Jesus Christ. No one! No one! Because only Christ has paid the sin-debt for humankind. We cannot acknowledge as a way to the Father anything except the only way.
Mon, October 30, 2017
No Light Without the Divine Enlightener
However unpopular we may become as a result, we must cling to the knowledge that all men are heretics by nature and can never know redeeming truth till they are enlightened from above by and through the inspired revelation we call the Scriptures. We are never kind to our neighbor when for the sake of sweet charity we smile away his perilous error and let him go unrebuked and uncorrected. The sons of light have an overwhelming obligation to the children of darkness. The lighthouse keeper dare not compromise with the storm; neither dare the light become friendly with the darkness.
The temptation to create our own creed and settle religious questions out of our own heads is as great in the pastor’s study as in the corner tavern. No man knows enough to be sure he is right about divine things until he has submitted his ideas to the test of the Scriptures. Intelligence is not enough, nor experience nor brilliance. The Word of God is the final court of appeal. “I gain understanding from your precepts; therefore I hate every wrong path” (Psalm 119:104).
The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. First Corinthians 2:14
Access to the Scriptures does not insure encounter with God. One may commit the entire contents of Scripture to memory and continually meditate upon it without personally experiencing God. Imperative to any divine encounter is the illumination of the Holy Spirit.
O God, forgive me for trying to share the Good News with others while losing sight of the fact that only the Holy Spirit can illuminate that truth and open the minds of people to understand it.
3) Current C&MA Leadership Thoughts
Our justification before God is by our faith alone in the accomplished work of Christ.
by Frank Chan...
...The Problem of Restrictive Church Membership
As American society becomes increasingly secularized, more and more converts to Christianity will come from non-church backgrounds. Evangelical churches will have to get used to having applicants for church membership who are cohabiting couples, gay-lesbian couples, transgendered, smokers, drug addicts, sex addicts, gambling addicts, child abusers, spousal abusers, and many other behaviors that traditional church culture has rejected. Should these people be granted church membership?
I believe the conditions for membership in a church should not be that much more than the conditions for membership in the Kingdom of God.
I am an elder at my church, and I frequently screen people who seek to join it. When I interview them, I ask them almost exclusively about how they heard about and came to put their faith in Jesus Christ. Once I am convinced they have done this and ensure they are in agreement with the core values of the church leadership (and life change is one of our core values), I typically shake their hands and welcome them into membership. I never ask about their habits or whom they choose as friends.
Now, of course, I affirm that part of the Christian life is putting aside sinful ways. But the doctrine of sola fide means no one should have to do this to become a Christian or to be received by churches as a Christian. The power to change one’s character and behavior can come only after one has met Christ. No newcomer to Christianity should be led to think, I have to quit stealing to be loved by God. Rather, he or she should think, Because I am loved by God, I want to quit stealing. Sola fide rightly puts life-change after church membership, not before.
The Protestant Reformation is worth celebrating. The doctrine of sola fide and its good effects on the lives of evangelicals today is a reminder of why.
Frank Chan is a professor of Bible at Nyack (N.Y.) College
For although they knew God, they did not glorify him as God or give him thanks, but they became futile in their thoughts and their senseless hearts were darkened. ....Therefore God gave them over in the desires of their hearts to impurity, to dishonor their bodies among themselves....
For this reason God gave them over to dishonorable passions....
....And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what should not be done.
They are filled with every kind of unrighteousness, wickedness, covetousness, malice. They are rife with envy, murder, strife, deceit, hostility. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, contrivers of all sorts of evil, disobedient to parents, senseless, covenant-breakers, heartless, ruthless.
Although they fully know God's righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but also approve of those who practice them.
If mankind is 'saved by faith alone' it surely no longer matters what you are wearing when you get to the banquet, right? Since all from the highways and by-ways where compelled to come, do you really even need an invitation? ...just show up, come as you are, surely no one is asking any questions or cares what you look like? I wonder what Ananias and Sapphira would think about the teachings of the modern church, a people that call themselves by the name of Jesus Christ?
(Luke 6:43-49, Acts 5:1-11, Ephesians 5:27, Matthew 22:1-14, Revelation 19:7-8, Revelation 2:5, 22-23, Revelation 3:1-4).