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The Vanity of Churchless Spirituality

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What's the point?

This is the lingering question that surrounds those who are at rapid fire pace choosing to be done with the church. Why does church matter?

It is a question as a pastor I have tried to answer, and still do. I labor hard to try to answer this question. I think Pastors and leaders have a responsibility to. But, do you know one thing I found? The answers can be right, but they are not good enough for people who have already made up their mind to abandon Christ’s body.

The Abandonment of Christ’s Body

Christ never proclaimed that he was going to make his church completely perfect on this side of eternity, however he has claimed to perfect her (Eph 5.26). He has said that he desires to make the believers one in him (John 17.20-23). We see all through the Scriptures the promises of God in Christ Jesus that the church is the safest place to be in the whole world, because he will never abandon her (John 14.18).

All through the new testament we read of the messiness of Christ’s church, and the same thing rings true today. The Holy Spirit spoke through the apostles to give us the rich truths of the New Testament written in context to the church Christ loves and died for. Peter says it better than I can when he says.

1 Peter 2:9–10 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

Keeping up Appearances

When a Christian says they are done with the church in word and their actions it is abandonment of Christ’s body. It is saying, "I no longer identify with the people of God". It is saying I no longer believe in God’s promise of sanctification for God’s people. The irony of this, is there is still a semblance of spirituality. The Instagram stories of rich devotionals still make their appearances on social media. The latest Christian worship song that makes the heart feel full pops up on their Spotify playlist. Even the reading of an orthodox Christian author (insert John Piper, Tim Keller, or Elyse Fitzpatrick here) is still taking place.

However much we keep up the appearances, feed the fires or emotions, and sharpen the mind with orthodoxy it is all vanity. It is all a chasing after the wind. Because the promises of God is not for our individual spirituality but for the church. Christ died for those who belong to his church.

My purpose in the article is not to wade into the debate of whether someone can be a Christian while not belonging to the church. However, I would say that the author Hebrews gives us a massive warning when he says Hebrews 2:1 Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.

I would say that we fall into the category of the “self righteous” when we choose to be done with church. Because, in effect we are saying even though Christ will not abandon his church, I will. Even though Christ is not done with his church, I am. Then we proceed to individualize those promises that were made for the church that Christ bled and died for, and we misinterpret them to be given to “me” and not to the church. This is a form of legalism and self-righteousness that needs to be repented of.

It is vanity. It is spirituality without substance, and in the landscape of emerging American Christianity it is becoming a Christless way of life that keeps up appearances. I say Christless way of life because there are no Biblical examples of someone who follows Christ but does not belong to his church.

I will continue to give answers to the question “What's the point?”. I will preach, pastor, labor, and strive to give those answers however imperfectly with word and deed and lead a church to do so. No matter how compelling the answers may be, I realize that some will still say, “no thanks”. To them our doors will always be open, because we believe that Christ has not abandoned us. I write this with a deep longing to see those whom I love return to the people that God calls his own in the church.

 

Know God's Word!

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How should we study the book of Hebrews?

1. Not like Cold Scholars

We do not study like we are taking a test. We do not study to fill our heads with knowledge. We do not study to win a debate. We study the Bible so it might change our hearts and lead us to live for Jesus. It is not about scrutinizing the past, but filling our present with truth.

2. Not like Casual Admirers

I love history, and I can read history as a casual admirer. Last year when I stood on the Gettysburg battlefield I could not help but admire what took place there, and even mourn that it had to happen. While the Bible is a history book it is not to be admired as a hobby like antiques or memorabilia, it is a book that we are to dive deeply in and change us in the present.

3. Like Committed Soldiers

We must read like committed soldiers. This book is our friend for the battle. Weather we are in furlough or the thick of war. It is training us in righteousness and godliness. As committed soldiers we understand that the instructions in this book is matter of life and death. We study this book because we want to be more committed to our good King. The King who laid down his life. Committed Soldiers follow their King, they obey his words, they trust his heart, and they seek to endure in the fight until the end.

May we be a church filled with committed soldiers who love, follow, and live for King Jesus! 

- Pastor Ryan 

*Adapted from Tony Merida (Exalting Christ in Acts) 

Praying According to I AM

 "praying the I AM statements" 

"praying the I AM statements" 

Jesus leaves us with no questions as to who he is in the Gospel of John as we read the I AM statements. Something that can be easily overlooked is not only did Jesus want us to know who he is with confidence, but he wants us to know how we are to relate to him in light of who he is.

After Jesus says that he is the way, the truth, and the life in John 14.7 he says

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it. - John 14.11-14

Jesus links our belief in him to the work of doing greater works than the miracles that were already demonstrated. Namely the greatest miracle one can receive which is salvation because of his finished work of the cross. Belief then leads us to ask of Him in accordance with his character and he will provide. He wants us to ask because he wants to give. He wants to give so that the Father might be glorified in the Son.

Let’s get real practical with what this looks like.

Jesus says “I am the bread of life”.  John 6.35

  • Provider

  • Sustainer

  • He Satisfies

How can you thank Jesus for what he has given you? Where can you ask Jesus to be this for you? What needs do you have that you can ask of him? Where do you look to be satisfied in things that do not? Where do you need his bread to sustain you?

Jesus says “I am the light of the world”. John 8.12

  • Reveals

  • Dispels Darkness

  • Illuminates the way to follow him

Where can you praise God for revealing himself to you? Who do you know that needs Christ revealed to them? What Spiritual Warfare are you going through? How can we pray for the darkness of our city and even in our church?

Jesus says “I am the door of the sheep”. John 10.9

  • Protector

  • Guard

  • Shelter

Where do you need God’s protection? Where are you dependent on God to open the right doors for you? What relationship do you need God’s guidance with to preserve and protect you?

Jesus says “I am the good shepherd”. John 10.11

  • Leader

  • Pastor

  • Friend

Where do you need his leadership in your life? Where are you trying to lead that you can confess to him? Who do you know that needs his leadership and in what specific ways? How can our church be more dependent upon his leadership? How can you pray for your spiritual leadership? Where do you seek to know the good shepherd more intimately?

Jesus says “I am the resurrection and the life”. John 11.25

  • Healer

  • Giver of Life

  • Giver of Joy

Will you ask Jesus to be your good doctor who brings healing to your heart? What physical ailments do you or others have that you can pray for? Who needs the life of Christ that you can pray for? Where do you experience sadness or depression and ask for joy in Christ? What fears do you have?

Jesus says “I am the way, the truth, and the life”. John 14.7

  • The Only Way

  • Absolute Truth

  • Life worth living

What doubts do you have that you can share with Jesus? What lies have you believed that need to be repented of? Where do you struggle to live out the truth? Who are the people in your life that you trust to be honest with you, and pray for them?

Jesus says “I am the true vine”. John 15.1

  • Grace

  • Grows Us

  • Prunes us

What area of your life do you need to see God’s grace? Where can you thank God for the grace he has given you? How can you pray that God would grow and prune you? How can you ask God to help your cooperate with his growth and pruning? How can you ask God’s help to grow in the spiritual disciplines? Where do you need God’s help to bear fruit?

While prayer does not need to be a complicated formula it is important to know that God want’s your prayers, he wants your communion with him. Praying is less about seeking what God provides, but more about seeking God himself. He is the great gift of prayer.

Tips:

  • Avoid ME centered prayers. Utilize ACTS adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication to help with this.

  • Pray for your church, pastors, community group members, and leaders in this

  • Use this as a guide to pray for the lost and use your to lead them to Christ.

What do you want for Christmas? Advent 2016

What do you want for Christmas? It was a question I was asked as a child by my parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and by so many. As a child Christmas became a time of expectation and longing, but it was for the things under the tree. What kid would not look forward to Christmas every year if it was filled with the newest toy, gaming system, and not to mention the best of food and all that candy? But is that what Christmas is really all about? 

Christmas good tidings should be enjoyed, but the sole focus of the holiday is about 1 gift. The gift that far surpasses all others and best gift ever given came as a babe in the manger who would be the Savior of the world. Before Christ’s coming the world was promised through God’s Word the Messiah, one who would set sinners free. Those who awaited his coming lived with hope upon God’s promise. 

Isaiah 9.7

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; 

and the government shall be upon his shoulder, 

and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, 

Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Today I am learning that the joy of the Christmas season is best experienced by our joy in Christ. We celebrate with food, family, friends, and cheer, but we do so knowing that we can celebrate only because the gift of the manger was given at the cross. The babe in the manger is the crucified King. He gives good tidings of great joy because he laid down his life so that we might live. 

Advent is about making this the primary focus of our hearts. God teaches his church how to long through his first coming for his second. Christmas points forward to the second coming of Christ where he will set the world right. Revelation 22.3 tells us “No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him.” Advent is not a fairytale that we falsely hope in, but a true gift that is sealed by God’s own blood. We invite you and yours to join us this Advent season at CrossPointe Downtown. Together we worship Jesus, and make Him the focus of our hearts this Christmas season.

Week 1 (11/27) -Waiting: Hope

Week 2 (12/4) - Receiving: Love

Week 3 (12/11) - Proclaiming: Joy

Week 4 (12/ 18) - Longing: Peace

Week 5 (12/ 21) - Fulfillment: Christ (Special Wednesday 6pm Service) 

Happy Thanksgiving! 

Pastor Ryan 

Let the bible read you

Chances are if you are reading this you have read the bible at some point in your life either alone, with others, or maybe even at church. It is easy to say think about reading your bible, but getting to the place where you find the time, space, and right frame of mind to actually do it is a different story. Why is this? Probably because we have all had these experiences in reading the bible personally and it is just kind of ho hum, mediocre, or maybe just ok. We hear the value of it, we want the transformation of our souls of what we believe it will produce, but day after day that bible sits on our nightstand collecting dust.

Sound familiar? I know it is for me, I have had lots of good intentions for bible reading and countless times I have felt the wind from my sails being sucked away when those times are just kind of eh.

What is the problem? I am finding that the problem with bible reading is not so much reading the bible but an internal heart issue that I need to submit to God. The crazy thing is that if you want to get to the heart of the problem you have to actually go to God’s word in order to find the cure. Here is what we know about the Bible from the Bible according to Paul from 2 Timothy 3.16-17 “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”

All Scripture is God breathed

This means that it is pure, true, and without defect. The source of the word of God is God, and he is perfect and because he is perfect and without error, so is his word. This means that the problem with reading the bible is not with the bible with us, this is why I believe that we should not read the bible but allow the bible to read us. What does this mean? It means we place our lives under the authority of the word of God that is breathed out by God. It means that we subject our lives to the true words of scripture and we depend upon God in prayer for this as a means of our transformation. God’s word trains us, it rebukes us, and it corrects, and conforms us into the image of Jesus making us holy, as he is holy.

When we take the problem of our heart and place it under the submission of God’s word we see from God that we are actually forgiven. How do we know that? Well, God’s word tells us, and it also tells us of the freedom that God gives for our everyday life. Go ahead see for it yourself it is right there in Ephesians 1.7-10 and also Romans 3.23-24 and in a whole lot more places in the bible.

However, the argument I want to make today is that making it a habit of your heart to allow the word of God to read you will change your life. It takes time, it may seem rigorous, and it may even feel boring. But when a heart is submitted to the word of God based on the forgiveness we received in Christ Jesus the word is ALWAYS at work.

How do I begin to allow the bible to read me?

Step 1: Pray, God Help Me! Notice that the first step is prayer, because even in our bible reading we are acknowledging that we are dependent upon God to experience a work of his grace.

Step 2: Choose a book of the bible to study. However tempting it may be to just pick up the bible and pick a passage blindly, don’t do it! You need a plan of action, and a plan that gives you the opportunity to read passages in their entirety for your growth.

Step 3: Create a habit. If you want bible reading to penetrate your heart you need to make it a habit of the heart. This needs to be a regular occurrence in your life. I really believe making it a daily habit is best, but I also realize that starting there is difficult. What if you carved out 30 minutes a day for 3 days during the week? The Holy Spirit will work to rearrange your hearts desires so that this is not only something you have to do, but want to do.

Step 4: Use a plan. Reading the bible verse by verse for a 30-minute chunk of time can seam daunting, but this is where we allow the bible to read us. There is a tried and true tool that allows for us take our lives and submit them to God’s word in order for it to read our lives.

·      Observation: What does it say?

·      Interpretation: What does it mean? How does this passage point me to Jesus?

·      Application: How can I live out, or walk in obedience to the truth of God’s word?

Step 5: Read with others. Personal bible reading is important, but make sure you neglect reading God’s word with others. This is why at CrossPointe we have community groups where we can learn and discuss and allow what we have read in God’s word together to impact our lives as a church body.

Finally, I want to ask the question what is the goal? Every good beginning should have a good end in mind. What is the end? It’s helpful to know that Bible reading is just a means to the end. This means that when we allow the bible to read us it leads us to beyond simply the reading of the bible and into worship. Bible reading fans the flames of our love of God, it causes us to be confronted with our sin and empowers us by grace to walk in obedience. The bible melts our hard hearts and it does so by ushering us to the feet of Jesus who died so that we might live.

We go to the Bible because the bible points us to Jesus and reveals to us that he is the word of God and life unto our souls (John 1.1-18).

Here is more on the plan: http://www.thevillagechurch.net/sermon/tools-for-studying-the-bible/