Thursday, December 11, 2014

How does one become a member of a church? Does church membership matter?

Before this question can be answered, some terms need to be clarified and defined. 

What does the word “church” mean?

The word “church” in its most simple and literal sense means “assembly or gathering”.  Often times people will say “I am going to church”, when they are talking about attending the assembly. The word church is at times in reference to a local body of believers like the churches mentioned in the beginning of the book of Revelation (such as  “the church of Ephesus”). 

The word “church” may also be in reference to the universal body of Christians in all locations. This is what is being referred to in passages like (Ephesians 5:25) where Jesus is said to have died for the church, or in (Colossians 1:18) where Jesus is called the “head of the church”. 

When does one become a member of the church?

Once you believe in Jesus (John 8:24), change your life/Repent (Luke 13:3), confess Jesus as Lord (Romans 10:9-10) and are baptized into Christ (Acts 2:38), God saves you by His grace and adds you to HIS CHURCH (Acts 2:41,47).
So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls...praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.
A person does not “join” the church, but instead, at the moment of their salvation, God adds them to the church. For a person to say they are a Christian, but not a member of the church, would be an impossibility. 

What about local church membership?

The Bible does not specifically outline how a person becomes part of a local congregation. It would be assumed that one would assemble regularly with the people who brought him or her to Christ. It is important for an individual to be part of a local congregation in order to be spiritually shepherded and encouraged.

What if you move to a new town? Can one choose to not be a member of any church?

The Bible is full of examples of how local churches are to function. You do not have Christians ever mentioned as living in a specific locale and refusing to gather with other Christians (except for those “forsaking the assembly” in Hebrews 10:25). 

Elders are to help shepherd a local flock of Christians. How could this happen if one is not part of a local congregation? The Bible mentions a church gathering together and trying a restore a lost brother (Matthew 18). This could not happen if one is not part of a local church. The church is to raise up elders from its membership. If a local church had no members, this would be impossible (1 Timothy 3). A local congregation is to reach out and meet the needs of widows (1 Timothy 5). This would not be possible without local church members working together as one. The church functions because each member depends on one another. 


There is not set way that a person “places membership” in a congregation, however, it is needed for a person to let a congregation know that they desire to be at that location full-time. Some congregations have you fill out a “getting to know you” type form, others have you stand and introduce yourself to the congregation, while others just list your name in the directory. However it is done, the leadership of a church does need to know who they should expect at services. It is important for ministry coordinators to know who they can call on to staff programs. Being an active member of a local congregation of the Lord’s church is very important to one’s spiritual growth.

By Cliff Sabroe

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Should Christians celebrate Christmas? What is the true meaning of Christmas? Is December 25th Jesus’ birthday? Is Christmas a religious or a secular holiday?

This post will attempt to present a Biblical view of the Christmas holiday as well as answer many of the questions that believers have this time of year.

Is December 25th Jesus’ Birthday?
The Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), do not give a date for the Nativity. This author is of the conclusion that the time of the Savior's birth is more likely to have occurred in Spring instead of the Winter. Luke 2:8 reads:
“Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night” (Luke 2:8)
Most scholars note that shepherds guarded their flocks day and night only at lambing time, which would be in the spring. In winter the animals were kept in corrals unwatched. In the early years of the church you do not have any mention of a celebration in relation to the birth of the Messiah. 

What is the origin of the Christmas holiday?
When “Christmas” was first celebrated is up for debate as well as when was December 25th first designated as the date of the Nativity. Concerning this point Dan Graves at Christianity.com writes:
No one knows for sure on what day Christ was born. Dionysus Exiguus, a sixth century monk, who was the first to date all of history from December 25th, the year of our Lord. Other traditions gave dates as early as mid-November or as late as March. How did Christmas come to be celebrated on December 25th? Cultures around the Mediterranean and across Europe observed feasts on or around December 25th, marking the winter solstice. The Jews had a festival of lights. Germans had a yule festival. Celtic legends connected the solstice with Balder, the Scandinavian sun god who was struck down by a mistletoe arrow. At the pagan festival of Saturnalia, Romans feasted and gave gifts to the poor. Drinking was closely connected with these pagan feasts. At some point, a Christian bishop may have adopted the day to keep his people from indulging in the old pagan festival.
There is good evidence that the Christmas holiday was formed in order to serve as a “Christian” alternative to pagan celebrations.

Does God require us to celebrate Christmas? 

*POINT: There are NO set days in Christianity that God Requires us to Observe other than Sunday.

Multiple passages (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:2, Rev. 1:10) teach that Sunday is a holiday for the Lord. During Bible times there were individuals who were trying to coerce Christians into celebrating holidays brought over from Judaism but Paul rebukes them for trying to require something that God does not and tells the Christians to not allow these individuals to pass judgment on them.
“Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day-- things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ” -  (Col. 2:16-17)
Some Christians choose to not celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday or not even at all. They should not feel “pressured” into celebrating a certain day. No one has the right to religiously bind on others any special day carried over either from pagan practice, or an expired divine religion (i.e. Judaism).  Christians should not let themselves be pressured to conform. Do not feel pressured to keep any “day” just because someone says you should.

Is it ok to celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday? What about keeping secular  Christmas traditions?

The Bible makes it clear that it is acceptable for Christians emphasize certain days (for religious reasons or not) as long as they do not violate two rules. 
  • #1 - Nothing sinful is done during the celebration (such as worshiping an idol - Galatians 4:8-11).
  • #2 - That the day is not bound upon nor required of others (Romans 14:5-6)

One may choose to make up there own special days or even utilize ones that were left over from religious practices (As is the case in Romans 14). According to Romans 14, it would be wrong for me to demand that others celebrate the day with me, but it would also be wrong if brethren condemned me for celebrating such a day. An individual may even choose to take a certain day and use it to remember an event in Scripture (as many do with the birth of Jesus in December). 

Many Christians understand that there are a lot of false ideas about Jesus presented during Christmas time. Because of this, some choose to just celebrate Christmas as a “national” or “secular” holiday. Celebrating Christmas as a secular holiday and not a religious one would also be Biblically acceptable.  As a Christian I have the Scriptural right to celebrate secular events and days as well as long as the celebration does not cause me to engage in sinful behavior.

Some individuals have a problem with certain holiday traditions that have their origin in pagan practices (if it violates their conscious, they should not do it). There is nothing wrong with engaging in behavior that had its origins in a false practice as long as you yourself are not engaging in any sinful behavior. The name of our day of the week “Thursday” comes from the word “Thor” (the Norse God of Thunder). In fact the name “Thursday” means “Day of Thor”. To use that name today is not an endorsement of pagan religion. (The same would go for Easter Eggs or Christmas Trees). 

Conclusion:
  • If a Christian chooses to engage in the traditional Christmas activities, that is his or her right.
  • If a Christian chooses not to, because it violates their conscience (because of its Religious or Pagan roots) that is his or her Scriptural right.
  • Even if a Christian chooses personally to remember the birth of Jesus on December 25th without teaching something the Scriptures do not teach, that is his or her choice
  • No one has the right to condemn either person because of them choosing to or to not esteem certain days.
Final Thoughts:
  • It may be wise to not do certain things that give the impression that you believe that December 25th is Jesus Birthday. 
  • One should also use caution with “Christmas Songs”. Some teach things that are false and offer worship that God is not pleased with.
  • Don’t get overly preoccupied with correcting everybody who does believe that December 25th is the exact day Jesus was born, their interest in Jesus may serve as an opportunity for sharing the Gospel.
Jesus is the Reason for Every Season:
Jesus birth was a miraculous event no matter what day it happened. It fulfilled many prophecies and proved His Deity. It is a marvelous event because Jesus would ultimately “…save His people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21). Jesus was born, lived, and died to save mankind. 


By Cliff Sabroe - Citations from NASB and http://www.christianity.com/church/church-history/timeline/301-600/the-1st-recorded-celebration-of-christmas-11629658.html

Thursday, November 20, 2014

During the time of the Old Testament, did the Gentiles have to become Jews in order to be saved?

It was possible for a Gentile to become what is called a “Proselyte Jew” (a convert to Judaism). If a Gentile wanted to partake in the actions of the Jewish nation they would need to keep all the requirements of the covenant. In the book of Exodus it reads,
But if a stranger sojourns with you, and celebrates the Passover to the Lord, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near to celebrate it; and he shall be like a native of the land. But no uncircumcised person may eat of it. The same law shall apply to the native as to the stranger who sojourns among you. (Exodus 12:48-49)
Was Gentile conversion to Judaism necessary for salvation?

No... although a Gentile could convert (in part) to Judaism, it was not a necessity. The Jewish nation was a family that could trace its roots back to Abraham. A Gentile could never do that. God made a special covenant, with a special family, in order to prepare the way for the coming Messiah. 

The Jews were never commanded to convert the nations (ie. the Gentiles). Nothing in the Old Testament speaks of Jewish evangelistic outreach toward the Gentiles. Also, the Gentiles were never commanded to become Jews in order to be saved. Before the formation of the Israelite people there were opportunities for people (non-Jews) to be saved. One would assume that such a policy would remain until the time of Christ.

Jonah was a Hebrew prophet. He was told to go to Nineveh (a Gentile city) and tell them to repent. They repented and were spared. There is nothing said about the citizens of Nineveh becoming Proselyte Jews. 

Also, in the letter to the Romans, Paul makes this statement,
For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them, on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus. (Romans 2:14-16).
The Gentiles had a law written on their conscience that God held them accountable to. It was not the law of Moses, although parts of it were in alignment with it. 

Now, all people (Jew or Gentile) are accountable to the same message (the Gospel). Under the New Covenant, all people must follow Christ in order to be saved. This is what Paul declares in (Romans 1:16).
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

By Cliff Sabroe - Quotes from NASB. Image from Overstock.com 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Is it ok to question my preacher or pastor? Should I just trust they are teaching the Truth?

Christians are to love all people, be kind to all and it is true that “love hopes all things” (1 Corinthians 13:7). This does not, however, mean that we should be naive, gullible or immediately believe everything we are taught. The New Testament makes it very clear that we are hold ourselves accountable to the Word and not just take a preacher’s word for it. If we are not careful it would be easy to be misled and end up being “...children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes” (Ephesians 4:14).

We should question and examine!
Several passages of Scripture teach us to examine what we are being taught.
(Acts 17:10-11) “The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so” 
The Christians in Berea were being taught by the Apostle Paul, yet they still examined the Scriptures.
(1 John 4:1-3) “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God...”
Some teach things that are false, John makes it clear that it is up to us to “test” what is being taught. He warns that there are “false prophets”.
(1 Thessalonians 5:20-22) “Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil”.
At the end of his letter to the Thessalonians, Paul by inspiration tells them to not “despise” prophecies, but instead “test” them. If the message is good (ie. true to God’s will), “hold fast” to it. If a teaching is evil, “abstain” from it.

Conclusion
It is VERY biblical to question what you are being taught. This does not mean we assume that everyone is teaching something false, but instead we analyze everything we are being taught in light of Scripture. If what we are being taught by our teachers is biblical, then we should hold fast to it. If it is contrary to Scripture, we should reject it.

By Cliff Sabroe (Quotes from ESV Bible) (Image from Zazzle.com)

What does Philippians 4:13 mean? “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!”

A prizefighter is getting ready to step into the ring, a football team is about to take the field and a soldier is about to cross into battle. When asked if they are going to prevail, they all reply “Yes, because Philippians 4:13 states ‘I can do all things through Him who strengthens me!’”.

Philippians 4:13 is one of the most quoted verses of the New Testament. In fact, many would say it is their favorite verse of the Bible. Because of its popularity, it is often misapplied accidentally by those who have never considered the context of the passage where it is contained. 

The Text
But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned before, but you lacked opportunity. Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. can do all things through Him who strengthens me. Nevertheless, you have done well to share with me in my affliction. (Philippians 4:10-13)
The Context of Philippians 4:13
Paul is very thankful for the Philippians’ support of his ministry. He wants to assure them he is grateful and content with his circumstances. He tells them he knows how to live in poverty as well as in prosperity while continuing to find joy. What is the secret to such a positive attitude? Answer: Understanding that Jesus can see you through. Paul gets strength to endure hardship in his ministry through Jesus. 

Paul is expressing his thanksgiving for their continued gifts and is informing them of his strength of character in the midst of hardship. He let’s them know that he is very content in whatever situation he is in, because the Lord provides him strength.

Conclusion
Philippians 4:13 is not designed to give a football player hope that his team will win, but instead, it shows that a good minister like Paul can be content with lowly means as long as he understands that Jesus will see him through. Whether you have a lot or a little, the secret to happiness is to get your strength from the Lord!

By Cliff Sabroe (Quotes from NASB Bible)

Friday, November 7, 2014

What is Gossip? Is it a Sin?

This post is brought to you by Wesley Walker at studyyourbibleonline.com (Please check out his site and read the many great articles he posts on a regular basis). Wesley is the preacher for the Woodson Chapel Church of Christ in Nashville TN.

Gossip

We all know gossip is bad.  In Romans 1, Paul lists a variety of sins that condemn people. In this list with sexual sins, murder, and others, he also includes gossip. But what exactly is gossip?

Not everything you say negative about someone else is gossip. There are times when it is okay to warn someone of another person’s character, or to go to others for advice on how to help someone.  We recognize that Jesus warned his disciples of certain people.  For instance, he told them to avoid the influence of the Scribes and Pharisees (Mark 8:15).  Paul names Alexander the coppersmith as someone who did him much harm (2 Timothy 4:14). So how do we define gossip? The truth is it is not easy to define.

Therefore, rather than giving a definition of gossip, I want share with you three categories. These categories are the ones I find in Scripture that help us better understand what is meant by gossip. I hope you will use these categories as an intellectual grid.

3 Categories of Gossip

The first category is gossip includes slandering someone.  To slander means to attack or harm someone’s character with something that is either untrue, or you do not know if it is true. In 2 Corinthians 12:20 the word translated gossip (or some have whisperings) means to slander someone in secret, or slandering with whisper. If what you are saying about someone is untrue, or you do not know whether it is true or not, then when you share it with others you could be gossiping.

The second category is to betray a confidence. There are things that friends or family tell you with the hopes that it will stay between you and them. They do not want others to know, but they have decided to share it with you.   Two different Proverbs come to mind. First, we have Proverbs 11:13 that says a “Gossip betrays a confidence, while a trustworthy person keeps a secret.” Also Proverbs 20:19 says a “gossip betrays a confidence, so avoid someone who talks too much.”  If someone tells you something, believing it will be kept between you and them, then to betray that confidence is gossip.

The final category is connected with the person who is a busybody. The person who simply wants to know everyone’s business and then desires to share it with anyone they can. In 1 Timothy 5:13 Paul uses the phrase “house-to-house.” The imagery is someone finds out something “juicy” about a person, and then decides to make the rounds letting everyone know about it.  The person has idle time on his/her hands and instead of using that time to serve the Lord, uses it to share the latest “important” news.

Effects of Gossip
So why is this bad? Two reasons come to mind.  We are told in Proverbs 16:28 that gossip divides close friends. If someone tells you something that you share, or if you slander a friend behind their back, then eventually you will no longer have that friendship. Proverbs 26:20 states that just like wood adds fuel to a fire, gossip intensifies a fight. Gossip is a relationship destroyer.

Gossip is also a reputation destroyer. Gossip can make others feel differently about a person. It can forever hurt someone.  Once it is out, it can have a life of its own.

A Word of Warning
Let me end with a warning. Gossip is not easy to overcome. We are warned three times in Proverbs that gossip is like a tasty morsel.  When you eat delicious food, your immediate response is to want more. Gossip elicits that same desire within us.  Social scientists state we want more because when we gossip we feel powerful. We have information no one else has and therefore people have to listen to us. We want more because we feel included. It makes us feel like we are part of a group if we are sharing and hearing gossip. And it makes us feel better about ourselves. If we can talk about how bad someone else is, we don’t have to examine our own weaknesses.

Since we know the temptation to gossip is so strong we need to be aware of it and battle against it.  Before you share information about someone else with another person, check your heart, make sure you are not slandering, make sure you are not sharing something you were supposed to keep private, and avoid always being in others private affairs. If we did this we would go a long way in avoiding gossip.

By Wesley Walker

Read the original article and other great posts at:

Thursday, October 16, 2014

How does "Inspiration" work? What does it mean?

In (2 Timothy 3:16-17) the Apostle Paul makes a huge claim regarding the importance of Scripture. He states, 
“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work”.
Inspiration Defined
The New Testament was a originally written in the Greek language. The Greek word for “inspired” in this passage is the√≥pneustos. The√≥pneustos is a compound word that contains theos (the word for God) and pneo (the word for breath). The simplest way to define this term is that inspiration means “God breathed”. This is the way the NIV and the ESV translate this passage. 

When one is reading the Bible they can trust that what they are reading is not the words of men, but the words of God through men. This is what Peter means in (1 Peter 1:20-21).
“knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit”
This does not mean that God restricted human activity in order to have them pen exactly what He wanted, but instead He utilized their own styles, abilities and personalities to create Scripture as He saw fit. God enabled and empowered in order to have written exactly what He wanted. Geisler and Nix in their book A General Introduction to the Bible, articulated it this way,
Inspiration is that mysterious process by which the divine causality worked through the human prophets without destroying their individual personalities and styles to produce divinely authoritative and inerrant writings (39).
Answer
Although some use the word “inspired” in reference to motivation to paint or write, (such as a singer being inspired by a life event to write a particular song), in the biblical sense,  inspiration means “God breathed”. Inspiration is how God was able to use people to create HIS message for mankind. Inspiration is the important link in the chain from God to man.

By Cliff Sabroe