Standards

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Often, when I post an article or speak, I am accused of using words which are decisive or offensive. I am told that I am being hateful, that my message would be better received if I did not use such words or if my message were not as strong.  In their reply, these people often use words such as hateful or judgmental to describe me.  Some attempt to encourage me to “speak the truth in love.” Using these words to describe me, and others who are outspoken, has become a tactic of those who have no defensible argument. It is not a tactic of encouragement.  These words and responses are nothing more than an attempt to intimidate me, and others who are outspoken, when they have no legitimate argument.  But what about the notion speaking the truth in love and is there ever a time when we should stand firm or use strong language in defending a position? Is there ever a case which demands language which some would consider offensive? Yes. There are times when taking a stand, using strong language and even being offensive is necessary.

Ephesians 4:11-16 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; (12) For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: (13) Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: (14) That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; (15) But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: (16) From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.

Ephesians 4 gives us a clear picture of a Pastor addressing his church. In that picture, we see two things very clearly: speaking the truth and speaking in love.

Speaking the truth is clear.  We have a message to deliver.  That message is that the world is steeped in sin and sin has a penalty.  Sometimes, that means that we must use words and descriptions which some find distasteful. Ultimately, no one wants to hear bad news.  No one wants to be told they are a sinner.  No one wants to be made uncomfortable.  However, as Preachers, we are called to discomfort the sinner.

When I work as a Paramedic, I often work twenty-four hour shifts.  Yes, there are times when I get to sleep.  In fact, I take every opportunity I can to lay down and sleep.  When a call for service comes, the dispatchers send a series of tones over the radio.  The radio in our building hears those tones and, if they are for our unit, activates an alarm and turns on the lights in my bedroom.  This alarm is very discomforting to me.  Many times, it scares the living daylights out of me.  It is not a pleasant sound and not a nice way to be awakened.  I don’t like it! However, if that alarm were not loud and startling, I may not wake up.  If I don’t respond, a life could be lost.

Just as that alarm is discomforting to me, just as it disrupts my plans to sleep, just as it scares me into acting, we as preachers must be discomforting. We must work very hard to speak in a way which startles our audience to think and to move.  Our words must be emphatic, and passionate. Our speech must be strong enough to capture, even captivate the attention of those to whom we are speaking. Our words must startle the hearers and convict them, motivating them into action and hopefully moving the hearer toward a decision to serve Christ. To be strong enough to motivate some, others will be offended. In fact, The Bible clearly tells us that many will be offended by Biblical truth.

John 15:18-19 If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. (19) If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.

As we deliver our message, we must remember that we are speaking for Christ.  Because we are speaking for Christ, we will be hated as Christ was hated.  Does this mean that we must temper our speech? No.  When we speak for Christ, our words, rather the words of the Bible, will be offensive.  The alarm in my bedroom, at work, is offensive to me, but it is also a call to action.  It is there to motivate me to do something. In the case of that alarm, it is calling me to act in a rescue, perhaps to do something which may help or even save someone’s life. As preachers, we are also called to be an alarm, of sorts.  We must be fervent in our message to the world as we sound a warning.  Consider Ezekiel:

Ezekiel 33:1-6 Again the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, (2) Son of man, speak to the children of thy people, and say unto them, When I bring the sword upon a land, if the people of the land take a man of their coasts, and set him for their watchman: (3) If when he seeth the sword come upon the land, he blow the trumpet, and warn the people; (4) Then whosoever heareth the sound of the trumpet, and taketh not warning; if the sword come, and take him away, his blood shall be upon his own head. (5) He heard the sound of the trumpet, and took not warning; his blood shall be upon him. But he that taketh warning shall deliver his soul. (6) But if the watchman see the sword come, and blow not the trumpet, and the people be not warned; if the sword come, and take any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at the watchman’s hand.

In this passage, a watchman is set.  That watchman has one job – to look for the enemy and sound a warning when the enemy is at hand. This warning is a warning that danger is at hand, it is a call to man the defenses. It is a call to battle.  God using this analogy to give two clear warnings: First, a warning to the watchman.  If the watchman should see danger approaching, and fail to sound the warning, the watchman is at fault. The blood of the people are on his hands.  However, according to this passage, if the watchman sounds a clear and loud warning, and the people do not respond, the watchman has done is job and his hands are clean.  The watchman’s warning must be clear and loud.  It must startle and awaken the town. The sound of the trumpet must be loud, certain and some would even say abrasive.

Jeremiah 6:16-17 Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein. (17) Also I set watchmen over you, saying, Hearken to the sound of the trumpet. But they said, We will not hearken.

The preacher is that watchman.  As preachers, we are called to be a watchman.  We are called to be that one who sounds a loud, clear and certain warning.  If we should fail in that task, the blood of the people will be on our hands. Continue reading

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Baptist

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet” [Romeo and Juliet, Act II, Scene ii]. Shakespeare proposed that a name means little in the description of something. What does a name mean? Is a name relevant? When comparing churches, a name means a lot! The very first thing we need to look at is the name of the church. It should be distinctively BAPTIST! There are some clear distinctives to being a Baptist. These distinctives are very important and we must look for a church which is distinctively Baptist. The first distinctive of the Baptist church is its history. Contrary to popular claims, Baptists are the only ones who can trace their heritage back to Christ. The Catholic Church cannot, nor can the myriad of Protestant churches which were birthed out of the Catholic church. Why is this important? First, as a Baptist, I have a pure heritage. Second, as a Baptist with a pure heritage, I am not subject to the abominable teachings of the Catholic church. We could exhaust many books speaking about what a Baptist is not. It is more expedient to explain the basics of what a Baptist is. As the name implies, one of the key tenants of the Baptist faith is regarding baptism. According to the Word of God, a person is not saved by baptism. Salvation is by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Apart from a saving faith in Jesus, one cannot be saved no matter how many times they are sprinkled or immersed.

Eph 2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.

Yes, as we will see, baptism is important, but it does not affect one’s salvation. Salvation is a gift of God. If we had to be baptized, salvation would be the result of one’s ability to be baptized, it would be the result of a work. Salvation is a gift! Consider the thief on the cross who hung beside Jesus: when was he baptized? He was not. He died on the cross, yet Jesus promised to see him in paradise. To be saved, one must understand that he is a sinner. He must also understand that there must be a payment for his sins. The unsaved must believe that Jesus is God and that Jesus paid the price for the sins of all mankind. The sinner must ask Jesus to save him. Apart from salvation by grace through faith, one cannot be saved. When a church teaches that one may be baptized to cleanse them from their sins, that church is in opposition to the Word of God. In fact, that church is in opposition to God, Himself and is teaching heresy. The Bible teaches that water baptism is always by immersion (you go completely under the water), after one is saved. Without salvation, baptism is meaningless. Baptism is, however, an ordinance of the church. That is, one must be baptized to be in obedience to the Word of God. When one is baptized, the baptism is not to cleanse one from sins or as an act of salvation, baptism is symbolic. When we are baptized, we are identifying ourselves as a Christian. We are also using the symbolism of baptism to show the world we have been buried in sin and raised to walk in newness of life.

Rom 6:1-5 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? (2) God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? (3) Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? (4) Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. (5) For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:

Baptism is about identifying oneself with Christ. When we go under the water in baptism, we symbolize our death to sin. When we are brought out of the water, we symbolize our coming resurrection. Baptism is purely symbolic. Baptism is also an act which takes place after salvation.

Acts 8:36-37 And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? (37) And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.

This eunuch wanted to be baptized and was asking what prevented him from being baptized. Philip replied by basically asking the eunuch was saved – he believed. The eunuch could only be saved if he had already believed, if he had already been saved. Baptism is one of the many traits which make us distinctly BAPTIST. In the next article, we will look at some more of the traits which make us distinctively BAPTIST.