This week, the 2017 G3 Conference will be held in Atlanta, Georgia. As we pray, plan, and prepare for the attendees to arrive, we would ask that you pray with us for this conference. If you aren’t able to attend the conference, you can join us through the livestream option on the website. Thank you for your prayers. May the Lord use the G3 to educate, encourage, and equip through sound biblical teaching.
Yesterday, our church observed Sanctity of Life Sunday (a bit early due to our church’s involvement with the G3 Conference this week). For the 2017 Sanctity of Life Sunday, we welcomed Scott Klusendorf, president of Life Training Institute to our church and our pulpit. You can hear his full sermon as he pointed out the biblical, logical, and moral fallacies of the pro-choice movement.
If you have never heard James Montgomery Boice, this would be a good starting point. It would also serve as a good reminder of where the evangelical church was in his day and the present trajectory of the evangelical church, as he calls — “mindless times.”
Trump and the prosperity gospel – In case you haven’t already heard, President-Elect Trump is surrounding himself with a host of religious advisors, and many of them are from the prosperity gospel movement.
Simplicity in Preaching – Kevin DeYoung provides some helpful advice for preaching from J.C. Ryle’s work titled, Simplicity in Preaching.
Theology Word of the Week: Salvation
Salvation. ‘Salvation’ is the most widely used term in Christian theology to express the provision of God for our human plight. The word-group associated with the verb ‘save’ has an extensive secular usage which is not sharply differentiated from its theological usage. It can be used of any kind of situation in which a person is delivered from some danger, real or potential; as in healing a person from illness (Mk. 5:28), from enemies (Ps. 44:7) or from the possibility of death (Mt. 8:25). The noun ‘salvation’ can refer positively to the resulting state of well-being and is not confined to the negative idea of escape from danger. In the OT the verb ‘save’ expresses particularly God’s actions in delivering his people; in the context of his saving Israel from their enemies, the noun can be translated as ‘deliverance’ (Ps. 3:8, rsv). But it is also used in a very broad sense of the sum total of the effects of God’s goodness on his people (Ps. 53:6). Thus the OT understanding of salvation is quite concrete and often covers more than spiritual blessings.
In the gospels the word-group is used of the mighty works of Jesus in healing people from disease. But the terminology developed a distinctive sense which was based largely on the OT understanding of God and his gracious action towards his people. By the time of the later writings of the NT it was common to give both God and Jesus the title of ‘saviour’. (1 Tim. 1:1; 2 Tim. 1:1), and it would not be unfair to say that this title summed up the Christian doctrine of God in relation to his people. The name ‘Jesus’ is etymologically ‘Yahweh is salvation’, and this meaning must have been known to Christians (Mt. 1:21). But salvation is now understood in a new way. The sense of rescue or deliverance is still uppermost, but the reference is to deliverance from sin and from the wrath of God as the ultimate fate which awaits the sinner (Rom. 5:9–10). Christians are those people who are certain that they will be saved, and it has sometimes been held that this concept of a future salvation is primary in the NT (Acts 2:21; Rom. 13:11; 1 Cor. 5:5; Heb. 9:28: 1 Pet. 1:15). However, Christians are also described as ‘those who are being saved’ (Acts 2:47; 1 Cor. 1:18; 2 Cor. 2:15) and indeed as ‘those who have been saved’ (Eph. 2:5, 8). Thus the moment of conversion is regarded as the moment of salvation (Tit. 3:5).
The use of the term in itself indicates that the thought is of an action from the outside by God who is the saviour; human beings cannot save themselves by their own efforts (Tit. 3:5). Thus salvation is dependent on the grace of God. It is effected through the action of Jesus Christ whose incarnation and atoning death took place in order that he might save sinners (1 Tim. 1:15). It is revealed in the Scriptures (2 Tim. 3:15), and it becomes effective for individuals through the preaching of the gospel (1 Cor. 1:21), provided that they respond to the gospel message with faith and repentance; those who call on the Lord are saved (Rom. 10:9–10). Thus the word becomes a technical term in NT theology to describe God’s action in rescuing people from their sins and their consequences and in bringing them into a situation where they experience his blessings. Salvation is then understood comprehensively as the sum-total of the benefits bestowed on believers by God (Lk. 19:9; Rom. 1:16). Although it will not be fully realized until the consummation of the new age, nevertheless it is a real experience in the here and now (2 Cor. 6:2; Phil. 2:12).
During the history of the church since NT times the doctrine of salvation has constantly been in danger of misunderstanding and corruption. Most commonly, salvation has been thought of as something that people must earn or merit by doing actions that please God and win his favour. At the Reformation, the Protestants insisted that the doctrine of justification by faith is the indication of whether the church is standing or falling from the truth of the gospel. They realized that salvation is the gift of God and that the church must not usurp his place in declaring who can be saved, even if it is true that the church is appointed to proclaim the gospel. More recently other errors have arisen. Salvation has sometimes been separated from the person of Jesus, who is then regarded as little more than a teacher of morality; the recognition that God was in Christ to reconcile a sinful world to himself has been lost, and salvation has been thought of as exclusively deliverance from ignorance of God and not also as cleansing from sin and its guilt.
The scope of salvation has also been a matter of dispute. The OT usage of the term to express God’s action in saving his people from their enemies has been taken as normative, and salvation has been understood as freeing people from hunger, poverty and the threat of war so that they may live a whole life in this world; the thought of spiritual salvation has retreated into the background. But while there can be no doubt that Christians should be working for these desirable ends, the unfortunate effect can be that the distinctive theological emphasis of the term, which lies at the centre of the NT message, is lost. People fait to realize that the major need of humanity is for reconciliation with God, and that it is only when there is peace between God and humanity that lasting peace between the peoples of the world is possible; in other words, spiritual salvation is not simply a small and dispensable part of a broader ‘salvation’ but is the basis of a new attitude between people. Granted that the task of the church is to care for the spiritual and the physical needs of people, the NT sees the spiritual task, which is inseparable from material concern, as fundamental.
The present evangelical church culture that we live in is, in many ways, hitched to the train of pragmatism. Whatever works is what the church practices because it brings about results. What if a church grows larger and looks successful from the outside, but did it all without any functional church discipline taking place in the congregation? It would be like an athlete growing really large by eating something other than protein and lifting weights. If an athlete takes steroids, he can bypass the normal way of growing muscles, but in the end, it’s very unhealthy.
In some church circles, the practice of church discipline has been relegated down to the level of an ancient method of church life that’s been placed next to the old river baptismal services where the church gathered down by the river because they didn’t have a modern baptistry. In those same circles, the idea of practicing church discipline is not even a consideration, because it’s believed that church discipline somehow prevents a church from growing. Is that a helpful way of looking at church discipline?
The Purpose of Church Discipline
Although some cases exist in church history of people abusing authority and misusing the practice of church discipline, the real purpose of discipline is reconciliation. This is the loving thing to pursue in the life of the church. Contrary to popular opinion, church discipline is not a means of retaliation against someone who has wronged you. The overarching purpose of church discipline centers on the goal of reconciliation.
Reconciliation between the church member and God.
Reconciliation between the church member and the body of the church.
Therefore, as the church sees this practice taking place on a regular basis, it causes the church to grow. What type of growth comes from the practice of church discipline? First, the church will grow spiritually as sin is confronted and properly dealt with. Next, the church will grow in unity together as sins that have caused divisions are properly exposed and disciplined. Last of all, numerical growth will take place as the healthy church demonstrates a passion for God, a love for one another, a hatred for sin, and a love for their community. The church will be known as a genuine church in the community rather than a “bunch of hypocrites” as the world often labels the local church. Church discipline is not antithetical to church growth.
The Necessity of Church Discipline
If we read theologians and scholars from church history, we will see that the common belief among the church in former days was that if a “church” didn’t practice church discipline, it was not a true church. It may have a steeple and stained glass, but it can’t be a true church if regular, biblical, and functional church discipline isn’t being practiced. Gregory A. Wills who is a professor of Church History at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and noted historian commented, “To an antebellum Baptist, a church without discipline would hardly have counted as a church.” 
In the early church, Jesus commanded church discipline to be practiced in Matthew 18:15-20. Paul urged the church at Corinth to practice it. A man was sexually involved with his father’s wife and the people of the congregation knew about it. Paul told the church at Corinth to “purge out” and to “deliver his soul to Satan for the destruction of the flesh that the spirit may be saved” (1 Cor. 5). We see similar language in 2 Thessalonians 3 and in Titus 3 regarding the need to separate from those who persist in sin. In other words, church discipline is not an item on a spiritual buffet that we can choose if we believe it to be appealing. It’s an absolute necessity.
Having walked through painful situations of public church discipline and having seen it work as Jesus intended it to, I can firmly state that not only is the practice mandated by Christ, but it’s for the good of the church and the glory of God.
What if my church is not practicing church discipline? Don’t become a rogue church member who seeks to lead the church by usurping authority that was never given to you. Take time to sit with your pastors and discuss the subject and ask healthy questions. Try to work through the need for discipline in the life of your church by starting with your pastors. Don’t be divisive over the subject of church discipline.
What if I’m looking for a church, but the church we feel led to doesn’t practice church discipline? The simple answer is—don’t join it. Perhaps you “feel” led to the church for some other reason, but if they aren’t practicing church discipline, the health of the church has been greatly compromised over time. It will only be a matter of time before things compile and become much worse.
Albert Mohler has written, “Without a recovery of functional church discipline-firmly established upon the principles revealed in the Bible-the church will continue its slide into moral dissolution and relativism. Evangelicals have long recognized discipline as the ‘third mark’ of the authentic church. Authentic biblical discipline is not an elective, but a necessary and integral mark of authentic Christianity.” 
Gregory A. Wills, Democratic Religion: Freedom, Authority, and Church Discipline in the Baptist South 1785-1900 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997), 12.
Albert Mohler, “Discipline: The Missing Mark” In Polity (Center for Church Reform: 2001, 43-62), 2001.
One of the great expositors of recent church history is Martyn Lloyd-Jones, known as “The Doctor.” In this sermon, he preached on the doctrine of election, and you will find it helpful and powerful. If you are tempted to listen only to a few minutes, listen all the way to the end if time permits.
John MacArthur on the Legacy of Martin Luther – This is how the article begins, “Much of the discussion about Martin Luther these days seems to focus on his flaws rather than his faith, and that’s a pity.” It’s worth reading and taking to heart.
John 6 for Roman Catholics – James White is preparing to debate Trent Horn, a Roman Catholic, as a pre-conference to the G3 Conference next week. The issues discussed in his coverage of John 6 is key to the upcoming debate.
As I watch my children grow up in the life of the church, I often find myself having conversations with them in order to prepare them for “real life” (as if they’re not already experiencing it). That’s the role of parents in this life. We teach, instruct, and prepare our children to live life for the glory of God. This time of preparation involves having awkward conversations with our children, honest conversations, and at times—serious conversations that will help them navigate the journey before them.
Why do we prepare our children for adversity on the basketball court, intense opponents on the soccer field, and difficult battles on the football field, but we fail to teach our children to deal with conflict and disappointment in the church? Maybe that’s why so many young children are growing up to be really good ball players—but not very good church members.
It’s essential to prepare your children for disappointments in the church. Your children need to know that people will disappoint them in the life of the church. It happens. It will happen. It’s just a matter of time before it happens again. The cycle of life involves both encouragement and disappointment, but all of life in the church is not “vanity of vanities.” I don’t want my children to learn about life at the ball field, in the school lunchroom, or on social media. I want my children to learn about life and experience life through the church. This involves both encouragement and disappointment, but they must be prepared for both the highs and lows.
Disappointments and conflict in the church can produce:
Opportunities for learning.
Opportunities to learn how to handle conflict.
Opportunities to see the fruit of real repentance.
Opportunities to see good examples of faithfulness to God.
Opportunities, perhaps, to see bad examples of unfaithfulness, compromise, and sin.
Opportunities to see the true value of church membership.
Opportunities to see the functionality and value of biblical church discipline.
As a father and pastor, I wear both hats for my children. I always want my children to love the church and to grow up and have their lives rooted and grounded in the local church. This Sunday evening, as we were riding home from church, I had an honest conversation with my children. I told them that I wanted them to always love the local church. I also warned them of the disappointments that will come their way at times. They need to know that people will fail them. People will disappoint them.
Why was I having this conversation? We had just shared a meal with our church family and held a member’s meeting to discuss the state of the church and goals for 2017. There was no public church discipline discussed in the member’s meeting. It was a good night, but as I reflected and thought about my children growing up so quickly, I wanted to encourage them and warn them at the same time. In short, I was seeking to prepare my children for real church life.
Hiding the disappointments from your children in the life of the church is like changing the story line of Bambi to avoid dealing with death. Your children shouldn’t grow up thinking that the church is perfect. Children need to be taught that all churches are made up of sinners—imperfect people who must learn daily to cling to Christ. Paul Daivd Tripp writes:
The goal of parenting is to work yourself out of a job. The goal of parenting is to send young adults out into the world who are prepared to live as God’s children and as salt and light in a corrupt and broken world. 
When you hear of disagreements or experience them head-on in the life of the church, take such opportunities to shepherd your child’s heart. Depending on the ages of your children, you may want to withhold such information. You certainly don’t want to demonize a fellow church member in the life of the church. However, if your children are able to think clearly and with maturity, you would do well to point out the disagreement or situation of controversy in order to use it as an opportunity to disciple them in righteousness. Alexander Strauch writes:
There is nothing wrong with Christian disagreeing with one another or trying to persuade another of the rightness of a particular position. What is wrong, however, is loveless conflict that ends in hate and bitterness. 
Each week in the life of the church, the children are watching us. They’re listening to our conversations. They’re watching us interact in person, in private, and in the pixelated world of social media. It’s vital that we deal with conflict in a biblical manner. Sadly, many 8 year olds watch their parents behave like 8 year olds when dealing with conflict in the church. Children need more than lessons from Jesus’ preaching in the Sermon on the Mount. They need to see their mother and father living out that doctrine that was taught in the Sermon on the Mount.
Paul David Tripp, Age of Opportunity, (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 1997), 192-193.
Alexander Strauch, Leading With Love, (Colorado Springs, CO: Lewis and Roth, 2006), 166.