Division in the (Early) Church

I began this post at the end of my second pregnancy, and I’ve been pretty distracted since then; about a month ago I gave birth to another little girl, my little “Bug.” She was overdue by 6 days and I was an emotional wreck, as I waited for her arrival, lol.

Before then, however, I did a study on the book of John, and have since then moved on to the epistles–Paul’s letters to the early churches. The epistles are so interesting, and although, I’ve been running on very little sleep, and struggle to remain focused I figured writing would help me organize my scattered thoughts. One of the things I always enjoy about the epistles, is how Paul addressed the early Church as they struggled with many of the same things we struggle with today.

For instance, the epistles cover division (and unity), immortality, and idolatry within the Church; forgiving those who don’t deserve it, reconciliation, and generosity; salvation through grace; faith as evidenced through works; gifts of the Spirit; and so much more. They really are powerful, Spirit-filled little books of the Bible, that shouldn’t be ignored.

Today, we’ll take a quick look at 1 Corinthians 1:10-17, in which, Paul wrote to the church at Corinth about division in the church. Apparently, people were divided over teachers of the gospel. Think of it this way, they favored some teachers over others, and argued over who was the better teacher. Does this sound familiar?

Paul had to remind them that they weren’t following him, but Christ! He basically says, “Y’all weren’t baptized in my name! And you certainly aren’t saved by my words; for it’s the power of the cross that saves!”

Today’s believers often fall into this same trap. We may follow a preacher or teacher (or even, church denomination) at the expense of unity. This isn’t to say that we shouldn’t be discerning when it comes to teachers and preachers of the Word; because, obviously, if a teaching is unbiblical we shouldn’t be accepting of it. However, more often than not, the differences between pastors/teachers we follow are more about preferences, like teaching styles and traditions, than biblical foundations. (I actually shared a post on this way back in 2012, which you can find here.)

Do you know, there are some who are willing to cross denomination lines and attend churches that they didn’t grow up in, or consider themselves to be members of? For some of you, that may be sacrilegious! But if we are all Spirit-filled believers and followers of the Word, this should be the norm. After all, we’re all One body, whose head is Christ; and only once we understand this and move together in the spirit of unity, will we make a real difference in our communities.

A Wise Man’s Words

According to Proverbs, the power of life and death are in the tongue (18:21). Therefore, everything we speak should be truthful (Proverbs 12:19, 22:20-21), gentle (Proverbs 15:1, 15:4, 25:15), gracious and pure (Proverbs 15:26, 22:11). Because our words are powerfully influential (Proverbs 11:11) they should impart knowledge (Proverbs 15:2, 15:7) and wisdom (Proverbs 10:11, 10:13, 10:31), and should feed and guide others (Proverbs 10:21). Our words should heal (Proverbs 12:18, 16:24), build up (Proverbs 14:1), and correct (Proverbs 19:18, 28:23); and yet, we should save our rebuke and correction for those who would listen (Proverbs 9:7-9).

FontCandy (5)

We should not speak falsehoods (Proverbs 6:16-19, 12:22, 26:28), gossip or spread secrets (Proverbs 11:9, 11:12-13, 20:19), sow strife or contention (Proverbs 20:3, 25:23-24, 26:17, 26:20-21), harp repeatedly on the mistakes of others (Proverbs 17:9), or speak rashly (Proverbs 12:18). We should not speak perversely, or contrary to the Word (Proverbs 6:12, 10:31-32), mislead or deceive (Proverbs 4:24), or slander (Proverbs 10:18, 26:22-26).

Elsewhere in the Word, we’re told that from the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks (Luke 6:45); and that both blessings and curses ought not come from our mouths, because both fresh and bitter/salt water can’t come from the same spring (James 3:8-12). If the words that come from our mouth are an expression of what’s in our hearts, what do our words reflect about us? Are we wise or foolish? Are we full of love or hate?

I think one of the most important things for us to do, is stop and think before we speak. We’ve talked about this before, in the Characteristics of the Wise post, that we ought to be slow to speak. Our words have the capability to steer others (and ourselves) towards, or away from, the Father; to ignite a fire between friends (or brothers), according to James 3:4-6. And we will eat of the fruit, or bare the consequences, of what we say (Proverbs 12:14, 18:20).

For teachers of the Word, it’s even more important that we’re not misrepresenting the Word of God and teaching things that are untrue, for we’ll be judged by an even higher standard than others (James 3:1)!

We’re not perfect, and we will all stumble, and say the wrong thing at some point. However, we should do our best, relying on the Holy Spirit, to lead and direct us. And when we do fail, we should aim to correct, or apologize, when possible. Lastly, when others fail in their speech, we should pray for them, and ask God to help us extend grace towards them (Proverbs 12:16, 17:9, 19:11).

Multiply: Week 3

Part I: Living as a Disciple Maker

3: The Heart of a Disciple Maker

Tonight we’re going to discuss chapter 3 of Francis Chan & Mark Beuving’s book Multiply. This is a short and very direct chapter, so there won’t be much quoting from the text this week.

Basically, Francis Chan discusses the issue of our hearts, or our motives, for becoming a disciple maker. Why are we preparing to be disciple makers? To please someone? To look good or gain someone’s praise or approval? Out of obedience?

Francis Chan reminds us that the Pharisees were quite good at keeping up appearances, but their motivation was hardly that which God accepted as pure and pleasing to Him. Neither does God want us to minister to others out of obedience, or obligation, to Him, but out of joy. Francis Chan states it this way: “God wants us to enjoy the privilege and pleasure of ministering to others. He wants us to be cheerful when we give (2 Corinthians 9:7)” (p. 41).

Francis also reminds those of us who feel led and passionate about sharing God’s message, that we should be cautious as leaders, because teaching others is a very serious thing. Remember what the book of James says about teaching and the power of the tongue:

Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check. When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. (James 3:1-6)

Leaders, teachers, and ministers have the power to set someone on the wrong course, if they’re not careful!

Most important, according to Francis Chan is that “making disciples isn’t about gathering pupils to listen to your teaching. The real focus is not on teaching people at all–the focus is on loving them.” This is where God wants our hearts!

Jesus’s call to make disciples includes teaching people to be obedient followers of Jesus, but the teaching isn’t the end goal. Ultimately, it’s all about being faithful to God’s call to love the people around you. It’s about loving those people enough to help them see their need to love and obey God. It’s about bringing them to the Savior and allowing Him to set them free from the power of sin and death and transform them into loving followers of Jesus Christ. It’s about glorifying God by obediently making disciples who will teach others to love and obey God. (Chan & Beuving, 2012, p. 44)

This is what I’ve been trying to encourage my readers to do in previous posts (Speaking in Truth, Burning One, & All-Embracing Love); to teach and share the message of Christ out of love for the lost!

And finally, Francis Chan encourages us to teach by example. Oddly enough, the passage of scripture I read today was Romans 2:17-19, which asks us how can we call ourselves wise teachers of the lost and yet do everything that we teach others not to do?! In other words, it calls us hypocrites! Romans 2:24 states “As it is written: ‘God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.'” This was written to the Jews, but I feel like this can most certainly be stated today. Many non-believers see all the things people who claim to be Christians do and say, and figure they’re no different from non-Christians; but this is not what God intended! Remember, we’re supposed to be holy and set apart. We’re supposed to be different. We’re supposed to be following in Christ’s footsteps. We cannot make disciples if we’re not living the life of a disciple.

Francis points to Hebrews 13:7, which states “remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.” New believers need godly examples to follow; and if we’re going to make disciples, we need to be putting our faith into practice so that others can imitate our faith. As Francis Chan states, “this doesn’t mean that you need to be perfect before you start. Perfection is a lifelong process that won’t end until eternity (see Philippians 1:6 and 3:12-14). But it does mean that you need to ‘count the cost’ (see Luke 14:25-33) and allow God’s truth to change your life” (p. 47).

If we want to see transformation in the lives of others, we must allow transformation to occur in our own lives.

Well, that concludes our discussion of Multiply this week. Stay tuned for next week! Take care and God bless.