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Showing posts from September, 2006


I mentioned earlier that “followers” are a major cause of disunity. So are some teachers. Paul warns against such teachers in his charge to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20:30. “Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them.” Acts 20:30 Teachers are gifted. They can distort the truth, and do it effectively. The reason is to get Christians to follow them. Paul mentions another kind of teacher in Philippians 1:15-18. “It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so in love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.” Philippians 1:15-18 Here are some additional motives, env

Teachers: Disunity

How can a teacher, who is a Christian and otherwise living a godly life, be a cause of disunity? It seems to be easy enough because there are so many participants. Let us suppose that the doctrines taught are absolutely true and that the students learn these doctrines well. Then, of course, the students will be more like Jesus, more Godly, and more Holy. This does not seem to be the normal outcome. Why? There are several reasons. These truths were taught to the head, not the heart. The teacher was not an example, he was just a teacher. This is compounded, if in fact, the doctrines are not true. Or if they are held to be as important as the gospel or if they are taught by ungodly men. There are hundreds of differences among evangelicals and many different subjects. They all could be wrong on “something”, if not everything. They could all be right on “something”. They are different “somethings”. If we are right we should hold our “rightness” in humility. If we are wrong and think

Too Many Opinions (cont...)

How does this affect our study of the Scriptures? Suppose we come upon 1 Thessalonians 5:17, “Pray without ceasing” (KJV) and “Pray continually” (NIV). If we ask the group what they think it means, there will be much discussion, largely based upon the prayer habits or abilities of the people in the group. Any discussion which maintains that it could not possibly mean what it says because none of us knows how to pray continually (or because, knowing how, we do not do it) will be invalid. If that line of reasoning dominates the discussion, there will be very little to say when we come to personal application of the passage. We will have already conformed the Scriptures to our experience, so we do not have to conform our lives to the Scripture. There is no possibility of making any application. Instead let us see what the passage says. We go back to verse fourteen for the subject, “And we urge you, brothers.” The subject of verse seventeen is “you, brothers.” The verb is “pray,” and the

Too Many Opinions

Over the years I have heard the comment that small group Bible studies were events where each member of the group “shared his ignorance” with the other members. This has gotten a defensive reaction from me because I did not think it was true. That is why I thought I was defensive. Probably the real reason I was defensive was because it was true, or true enough, to warrant a reaction. The person who attacks small group studies as “sharing ignorance” is a person who wants a teacher. However we have a problem with this. Teachers also have been known to “share ignorance” or false teaching with students. Having a teacher is no guarantee of getting true Bible teaching. In Acts 17:11, Luke speaks of the people at Berea as having “a more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” The people were commended because they did not receive the teaching from the teacher as absol

Read the New Testament in 67 Days

There are many Christians who read the Scriptures sporadically in time and place. In other words, they read the Scriptures “now and then” and “here and there.” They gravitate to their favorite chapters. If asked the last time they had read the New Testament through, they would not be sure they had ever had read it through. Consequently there is an appalling ignorance of God’s Word in the body of Christ, and a consequent lack of obedience. Listening to the best Bible teachers in the world will not make up for the personal ignorance of the individual. First, the genealogies in the New Testament take up less than two chapters total in Matthew and Luke. If they are a problem to you, skip them. Then go back over then separately; it will only take five minutes. They are important or they would not be there. However, they are not intended to stop you from reading the rest of the New Testament. Second, when you read, do not stop for hard to understand passages; keep reading. They will make

Teachers and Students

Here are a few random thoughts from and about the scriptures. “Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.” James 3:1 This text should thin out the teachers because of stricter judgment on the possibility of teaching something false. When I observe, among conservative believing churches, the vast number of differences on ecclesiology liturgy, eschatology, holiness, music and other forms of worship I have come to the conclusion that some of this is wrong teaching. At least some of the teachers should not be teachers. I suspect they cannot all be right. Of course, each teacher thinks he is peculiarly right so he does not disqualify himself as a teacher. Then we have problems with the students of the teachers. They believe what their teacher teaches. Aren’t they supposed to believe their teacher? No! “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, beca

Unity: Inductive Bible Studies

Inductive Bible Study groups flourished in the 1950’s-80’s. They were a major cause of unity in the believers. Christians were meeting together in small groups to study the Bible to find out what it said. They submitted to the text. See my next Roots by the River , “Too Many Opinions.”

Unity: Groups Are Formed

Much evangelism took place in the American Armed Forces during World War II. Returning soldiers and sailors went to Bible College, formed missionary societies and went back to the Far East and Europe. They also joined many other missionary societies. They had seen first hand the need for the Gospel in Europe and Asia. Evangelism on the universities with new effective groups like InterVarsity, the Navigators, and Campus Crusade for Christ increased. The same with high school work like Youth for Christ, Young Life, and Hi BA. The first International Student Missionary Convention was held in Toronto in 1946 and has been held every three years since. Most of these conventions have been held at the University of Illinois at Urbana. This year it will be in St. Louis, Dec. 27-31st. Most of these groups have been called para church. This is the church as it is meant to function in spiritual unity.

Disunity--Teachers and Followers

Here are two of the major causes of disunity. They are: 1) Teachers 2) Followers of the teachers. The Bible speaks to followers clearly in 1 Corinthians 1, 3, and 11. “I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought. My brothers, some from Chloe's household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: One of you says, "I follow Paul"; another, "I follow Apollos"; another, "I follow Cephas"; still another, "I follow Christ.” 1 Corinthians 1:10-12 “Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly—mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men? F

Causes of Disunity

The last part of the nineteenth century and the first fifty years of the twentieth century was a major blow to Christian Unity in that liberalism had taken over many seminaries and many denominations. There was also an ecumenical movement by the same denominations. “Ecumenical” means “promoting or tending toward worldwide Christian unity.” The difficulty with this movement was that the cardinal doctrines were denied or played down and so was the “born again” experience. Real Christians were marginalized in their own churches. Many Christians and churches left these liberal denominations. That was good in that there was no compromise. It was bad in that the attitude was more of an anti-modernist than a love for enemies. This turned around at the end of WWII.

Maintaining Unity

One of the best ways to maintain the unity that come about when we first received Christ is the contextual reading and rereading of scripture. This includes reading all of the New Testament fairly rapidly, four chapters a day. If you are a slow reader it will take you about twenty minutes each day. You will finish the New Testament in about two months. Concurrent with this, pick a short book of the New Testament (1 John) and read all five chapters each day for a week. This will reinforce what you read yesterday plus you will learn more each day. Confess as sin any violations of the text. Choose to believe and obey what you read. Add a new book each week to your repetitive reading. The next post will give you a reading schedule.


If God judges on merit, where is the bar? Is it high? How do you know? Is it low? How low? How high? Does God grade on the curve? What happens to those who do not make the grade regardless of how low the bar is? Do they go to Heaven anyway? If so, then the bar has no significance. If everyone goes to Heaven when they die regardless of their belief or character does their character change when they die? How? Why? If it does not change then Heaven would be Hell. Heaven would be filled with immoral people. If, however, God has a high bar then overwhelming numbers of people are lost. If merit is the way then they have no hope. If God has 4.0 moral standard then 100% of the population is lost. If God has a solution which is not based upon the merit of man, but on his own merit of Justice and Love, Mercy and Forgiveness, then there is a solution for everyone. That is the way it is! Without the cross of Christ the bar is very high, so high that no one has ever made it except Jesus. “The

Unity Continued

The greatest advocates of unity in practice, not necessarily in words, are the evangelists. They are in the work of bringing people into the kingdom. At the instant of conversion, a person is one with all other Christians in the world. Those people who are major on evangelism are workers for unity. Here are a few that you may recognize: Campus Crusade for Christ, Young Life, Youth for Christ, Child Evangelism, Billy Graham, YWAM, OM, most foreign missions, African Enterprise. Many years ago I was riding a bus from a refugee camp (Rennie’s Mill) back to Hong Kong. I was seated with an older woman, a Missouri Synod Lutheran missionary. We had great fellowship. Then she told me how close she was with the Southern Baptist missionaries. She also added that she had to be careful when she got back to the states. That was a “No, No.” Evangelism is a great means of unity.

More On Disunity

I can imagine all of the saints in this world, all of the assemblies, all of the congregations with no seekers and no hypocrites in them. Boy! That is a great imagination. I can further imagine that they are all in agreement in everything biblical, salvation, holiness, end times, form of worship, theology, singing, preaching, and church government. That is wild! Here is the easy part of this imagination. No one or very few would like this unity. Why not, it is wonderful? Because no one is more right or most right about one or more of the above mentioned. Look at the present denominations. Each one is most right. We like that.


The following reasons are not separate reasons. They are mixed together, intertwined. I am arbitrary by putting them in an order. “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know. But the man who loves God is known by God.” 1 Corinthians 8:1-3 It looks like knowledge is the opposite of love. If that were so, we would have to stay ignorant in order to love. No! The knowledge is the temptation. Being puffed up is the sin. The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know. He is the man in sin and a cause of disunity. There is a “knowing” that is way beyond knowledge. We see it in Ephesians 3:17-19. “To know this love that surpasses knowledge.” This prayer is for all the saints. Knowledge can be measured on a written exam. Knowing love cannot be measured by any means, “wide, long, high, and deep.” We are to grasp it by the power of God. It is like grasping the Pacific Ocean in our hands.


The next several posts will be talking about the cause of disunity, but first I will quote a few verses on the normalness and requirement of unity in the body of believers. “For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.” 1 Corinthians 12:13 Regardless of our social, religious or racial background we become one body when we’re baptized by the Holy Spirit. “This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.” 1 John 1:5 “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” 1 John 1:7 When you are walking in the light and I am walking in the light we have fellowship with one another. We cannot help having fellowship. “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the

Paul & Barnabas

There is a short piece of scripture that describes an argument between Paul and Barnabas. Here it is: “Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord.” Acts 15:37-40 Barnabas was the one who endorsed Paul when the Apostles would not accept him. “When he came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus. So Saul stayed with them and moved about freely in Jerusalem, speaki


“Big words” normally mean lots of letters and a surplus of syllables. I will use “big” in its frequency of use and its influence on society. I will use wide in its breadth of definition, that is not precise English. There are many wonderful words in the languages of the world. Some of these words have precise definitions like the word “kind.” Because of this preciseness, the word is not a “wide” word. There are other words that are “big,” “wide” and are NOT wonderful. “Sin” is one of those words. However, there is a word whose definition is “big,” “wide,” and it I is still wonderful. The word is GRACE. Before we start to tell you about this word, let us look at the definitions of the word “definition.” The dictionary defines “definition” as: Definition #1: A statement of the meaning of a word or word group or a sign or symbol. Definition #2: The meaning of a word from the context of a paragraph or a story or a lecture. There are many such examples from the books of L.M.