Opening Prayer Thoughts.
Praise God that Christ is King and head of his Church, and that he rules over her perfectly to the glory of his own name. Colossians 1:18-20.
Acknowledge and confess the sin of sometimes thinking that the church is ours because we belong to, and return our offering to, her. Pray through a growing understanding of God's Word, that we would become more acquainted with the reality of the church and her role in the world.
Please ask for the Holy Spirit's help as you come to his Word.
Please read Luke 14:25-35
True Biblical Christianity.
Before moving on to verses 34 and 35, I want to make some further application from the verses we considered yesterday.
It's important to note the relevance of verses 25-33, not only for the individual who professes faith but also for the Church. It seems that much of the Church in our nation is overzealous to receive and assume that people who say they believe in Christ are Christians. Yes, we should rejoice with the angels in heaven over one person being saved, Luke 15:10. Still, there is such a desire to see the Church be 'successful' that anyone who shows any interest is encouraged to think of themselves as a disciple of Christ. They are addressed as though they are a Christian, admitted to the Lord's Supper, given some responsibility in the church, before manifesting any evidence, either in knowledge or deed, of saving faith. Of course, no one can read the human heart, but there is ample teaching of the Lord that says that evidence of faith can and must be sought. "By their fruits, you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles?" Matthew 7:16.
It takes time to discern whether what a person is saying is supported by what a person is doing. If there is a genuine love for Christ and a desire to grow in faith, then that will become clear. The telltale signs are there to be seen by those appointed by Christ to discern such things. Signs such as how the person understands and participates in the public worship of God. How they are interacting with other believers; even the most introverted of believers will make it quietly known that they have a need to be with, and have fellowship with, other believers. Their financial return to the Lord will, once they know what God says about that, show if they are truly converted. Now, as Christians we all can go through seasons of disobedience, so wisdom has to be exercised. But that fact remains, fruits do speak to the true nature, and where there has been gentle instruction and supportive encouragement, and yet there is no fruit across the spectrum, serious questions have to be asked.
There are parts of the visible Church where the exercise of such appropriate and necessary discernment has been set aside. Why? Because of their understanding of how growth takes place in the Church. The calculation is made that it is best not to ask too many questions and not to look too closely at the person's life, in case they become offended and leave. What is the result? People are encouraged to think they are converted regardless of who they really are, and how they actually live. Ultimately, they are confirmed in their self-deception – where is the love in that? Yes, we must always be proactive in encouraging the apparent initial workings of Christ in a soul. But we must never lead people to think that they are right with the Lord until we see the fruits of his work in their life. To be able to thoughtfully do that, the church's leaders must get close enough to people to see who they are – something, which regrettably because of circumstances, I am only beginning to do now in Ottawa.
It is so important to exercise this dual need of encouraging men and women to both 'come with us' as we grow in our love for the Saviour and, at the same time, declare this clear teaching of the need to 'count the cost'. This must be done, not only to help the individual avoid the danger of self-deception but also for the good of the Church. Many congregations have been harmed by permitting spiritually unproven people into positions of responsibility. Individuals who, because of their personality, ability, and willingness to 'do', are given positions of responsibility too quickly. It always starts, and rightly so, with them being given a small task to undertake. However, not enough attention is paid to their character and love for Christ. Then, over time, their competency leads to them 'climbing the ladder' of opportunity in the church until they reach a position of real influence. By that point, even though it's clear that things in their character aren't adding up, the decision to remove them is almost too difficult to contemplate. The evident lack of aroma of Christ in their words, the attitude when under pressure, the frequent tendency to make decisions that benefit themselves – these all speak to an absence of true saving faith. Eventually it will get to the stage where a decision has to be taken. But, by that point, the only way to prevent terminal damage to the church is to go in hard. That inevitably involves a lot of time, a lot of energy, and is often met with confusion and hurt. Ultimately, these situations do not end well for anyone.
The moral of the story is – ask the serious questions at the beginning, even if personal offence will be taken. It is better for the minister and elders of the church to be called a few names, and the flock to be protected, than, for them, for the sake of their comfort, to avoid what is necessary at the outset.
V34,35. Salt is only useful if it retains it saltiness
Salt has been a highly significant commodity in the world's history, so much so that wars have even been fought over it, including both the French and the American Revolutions.(Salt wasn't the only reason, but it was a significant factor in both these wars). The value, qualities, and numerous uses of salt were probably better known in a previous generation, especially so before fridges, when it was used to preserve food.
Jesus says that salt is 'good'. So, the idea of salt losing its saltiness is a serious matter and not to be taken lightly. Jesus' equating the loss of the flavouring quality of salt to those who have professed faith but not shown true evidence of it, is a sombre warning. He seems to have addressed this issue several times in his ministry, e.g., Matthew 5:13, Mark 9:50. And on each occasion in a distinctive and significant way. As the writer of the book of Hebrews says – "For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt." Hebrews 6:4-6
No wonder that the Lord said, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear."
Sing with joy in our heart to the Lord.
Psalm 72C - Link to the words. Link to it being sung.
Store up the Word in your heart.
Luke 14:11 - "For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled,"
Truth for the Mind and Heart.
Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question 104 - What do we pray for in the fourth request?
Answer - In the fourth request (which is, Give us today our daily bread) we pray that by God’s free gift we may receive a sufficient share of the good things of this life, and enjoy his blessing with them.
This is taken from https://matt2819.com/wsc where you will find proof texts.
Thank God for the joy we have of celebrating 'new birth' in a person's life. Pray that it would become an increasing experience in your life and mine. Pray also for myself and the elders, that we would be discerningly wise in our leadership of the congregation.
Take care in Christ,
Rev. Dr. Andrew Quigley
Minister, Ottawa RPC