Church Life Together

It was the English Puritan, William Bridge, who drew up the church covenant at the Old Meeting House Congregational Church in Colegate, Norfolk, England in 1643. He had spiritual oversight over this congregation, but was not their pastor. On 28th June in that year Bridge and the fellowship of Christians in Colegate entered into the following covenant, here paraphrased in modern English.

‘We, being desirous in the fear of God, to worship and service Him according to His revealed will, do freely covenant with the Lord, in the presence of His saints and angels, that we will always endeavor, through the grace of God assisting us, to walk in all His ways, according to His written Word, which is the only sufficient rule of good life for every man. Neither will we allow ourselves to be polluted in any sinful ways, either public or private, but will abstain from the very appearance of evil, giving no offence to the Jew or Gentile, or churches of Christ.
‘That we will all love and improve our communion as brethren, by watching over one another, and as needed, will counsel, admonish, reprove, comfort, relieve, assist, and bear with one another, humbly submitting ourselves to the government of Christ in His church. ‘Lastly, we do not promise these things in our own, but in Christ’s strength, neither do we confine ourselves to the words of this Covenant, but shall at all times account it our duty to embrace any further light on truth, which shall be revealed to us out of Gods Word.’

This expresses relational church covenanting together, as a church body, and reflects the seriousness, as well as, the love shown in walking together with your brethren and being truly, wholeheartedly, committed to your church. How can any believer be in a church with one another without being joined together in relational commitment to the whole church, as well as to the individuals in the body? The questions are several that we should apply to our own church situation: 1) Do I have a real relationship to my pastor/elders that is loving and ongoing? 2) Am I as committed a member to our church as there is in the body–fully committed or half-hearted about it? 3) Do I maintain an ongoing relationship with others in the body? 4) Am I faithful and consistent at all the church meetings? 5) Am I numbered among those in the church that are considered the most faithful and most exemplary among the brethren? Showing up at a class once in a while or just on Sunday mornings to hear a sermon from a pastor I don’t really even know (and who doesn’t know me) is not New Testament Christianity. In reality and in practice, what kind of relationship do I really have with my church?

– Geoff Thomas and Mack Tomlinson

Am I a real Christian? Pt 2

But there is something more. God’s Holy Spirit must inwardly deal with our minds as we consider these things, and our affections as we respond to the wonder of being sure that we have been saved by the grace of God, so that there can be occasional eruptions of joy inexpressible that are created by the Spirit of God, assuring us even on our worst days that we are real Christians behaving as we do. This is God’s prerogative; it is his gift, speaking to our inmost being challenging our conduct, or he is telling us that he loves us and he wants us to feel loved.

It cannot be otherwise. We Christians make this claim that Father, Son and Holy Spirit have come to us personally and individually and that the living God indwells us, that we have illimitable access to him. Do you think you can have this absolute reality within the dispositional complex of our inmost beings – our hearts and souls – and not know of the indwelling God? Do you think it good or even possible to have him for years in our lives and yet possess no conviction that he is there? A Christian is married to Christ. Would such a Christian not know the stirrings of affection of the Lord Christ who is husband of the one the Savior loved and died for, to whose life the believer is joined for ever, whose body is his home, his temple?

How does the Lord of glory make himself known to us? Certainly he does so by making us understand and believe and love the truths of Christian teaching. By him we know what is true and what is erroneous. Certainly also God increases our assurance by making us hunger and thirst for righteousness, and sorrow over our daily sins.

But there are also occasions when a certainty springs up in our hearts. We are reading the Bible and some words of promise are made peculiarly comforting and personal to us. Sometimes a light surprises the Christian while he sings. When we are hearing the preaching of the word we might be blessed with a renewal of joy at hearing of the Lord Jesus in the glory of his person and work as he is being offered to us in the gospel, and once again we receive him by faith. Sometimes as we drive the car we may be overwhelmed with the love of God and need to stop. We can watch a sunset over the ocean, or look at the majesty of the Grand Canyon, or see our daughters talking seriously together listening intently and showing such affection to one another and the Spirit takes our love for them and they for us and overwhelms us with what his grace has given us. He gave us his Son and with his Son he freely has given to us – to me – every wonderful thing that has enriched my life.

I do not personally think of such moving experiences as being higher forms of assurance than those that come from reading the Bible and knowing that these truths are what I believe, or gaining from Scripture the confidence that this holy way of life is all my desire. They are just other wonderful privileges of the Christian life, a growing delightful relationship with a heavenly Father, and the best Friend, and the love of the Spirit for us.

The Bible’s teaching on assurance is an invitation. It is saying, “Come now and trust what you read. If you are trapped in a background of easy believism or trapped in the opposite fear of assurance being a certain sign of being presumptuous and so crushing the young shoots of hope and assurance as they appear.” Take the Bible and read it! Take and read now. Pray that you will be given deliverance from your doubts and have confidence to believe – just as the Biblical writers believed the honest and kindly promises that our one loving God has made to sinners whose hopes are all set in the lovely uniting one.

‘Come to me for rest,’ he says. ‘I am meek and lowly of heart. My yoke is easy and my burden is light.’
– Geoff Thomas

Am I a real Christian? Pt 1

There is not a true Christian who has not asked himself or herself that question; in fact, every Christian should be examine his life to see if redemption is their privilege and eternal blessedness.

As we come to the Lord’s Supper, we do so renewing our awareness of our true condition and our thanks for the glorious Son of God, who became the Lamb of God, and took away the sin of all who are joined to him, even if that faith that joins them to Christ is as thin as a spider’s thread. Oh, that such a union of me, a sinner, and Him the Savior, were mine for ever and ever!

Am I a Christian? There is a Book that can help me answer this. It is the Bible, the word that God has given us. It helps us first by telling us what a real Christian believes, that God is our Creator, that he is three persons–the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; it tells us that this holy Father loved sinners in this groaning world so much that he sent his only begotten Son, Jehovah Jesus, to save us from the judgment we deserve by living on our behalf the life we have not been living, and then dying the death that our sins deserve, exchanging our stony hearts for new hearts that love him and want to serve him perfectly.

To those who put their trust in him, God gives his Holy Spirit, who strengthens and energizes us to live brand new lives that please and honour him. We are enabled to fulfill our real end in living, to glorify God and enjoy him. So through our union with Christ, we shall be made fit to be declared righteous in the coming Judgment and be welcomed into the presence of the one before whom the angels hide their eyes and cry ‘Holy, holy, holy!’ This is what the Bible teaches and what true Christians believe.

Can you say, “Well, I believe that, not perfectly alas, but these are the truths that are very, very important to me. This is what I want to hear from the pulpit whenever I attend church.” Then be encouraged! You believe what real Christians believe. You can enjoy no assurance of your salvation unless you believe these doctrines that God has taken such pains to give us in the Bible.

The Bible also tells me how a real Christian lives. He or she is in earnest about keeping the law of God. That law is first simply summarized in the ten commandments, but then it is amplified in Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew chapter 5. A Christian’s behavior is also described in Romans 12 and Ephesians 5-6. Reading these parts of God’s book sustains in every Christians two feelings–a longing to live that way and a sorrowful confession that his life does not match up, and that he is so glad that the Lord Jesus’ life did. He kept God’s law. He was poor in spirit, and hungered and thirsted after righteousness. He was pure in heart, meek and lowly, and was a peace maker. He lived like that, in spite of the suffering it brought into his life. He loved his neighbor as himself. He loved his enemies and prayed for them when they had nailed him by his hands and feel to the cross. He did not overcome evil by evil, but overcame evil with good. That is the life every Christian esteems and admires. “I want to live that life by the power of grace, but how far short of attaining it I am, alas!”

Every Christian feels like that. No other way of life is attractive to him. His conscience convicts him when he falls short of the law of God in his inward desires, let alone in his outward behavior. The book God has given to us defines for us what we are to believe and describes for us how we are to live. There can be no assurance that we are real Christians unless we find some confidence in our hearts, some conviction, that these truths are what we want to believe, and also this new heavenly conduct is how we want to live. These are the two foundations of attaining a feeling of assurance that we are the children of God. There can be no certainty without the desire to to believe and behave as God has described for us. — to be continued

Geoff Thomas

More of the Holy Spirit

There is an old saying in fundamental circles for a long time, that you cannot have more of the Holy Spirit if you already have the Holy Spirit. That sounds good on the surface, but it is not so. Even though as a believer, we are permanently indwelt by the person of the Holy Spirit, we can still have more of the Holy Spirit—more of His anointing, more of His power, His gifts, graces, fullness, and empowering. No Christian has all of the infinite Spirit because God gives the Spirit in measure to the saints. But to Jesus, God gave the Spirit without measure or limits. Only Christ had all the Spirit without measure.

But for the child of God, there are varyings and intensities of anointings. And some things we simply cannot explain in our own terms. We start trying to comprehend the incomprehensible God with our own minds, and it is like a bench trying to understand the carpenter that made it. It is impossible.

As a believer, you can have more of the Spirit, for what else could Luke 11:13 mean—‘If you, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him’? This is Paul’s prayer, that we might be strengthened with might by the Spirit in the human spirit, the inner man, to the point that Christ dwells in such a deeper and relational measure, that we increasingly know and experience the love of Christ which passes knowledge; it transcends the mind, that you might be filled with all the fullness of God.

“More, more, about Jesus; more, more, about Jesus; more of His saving fulness see, more of His love, who died for me.”

– Mack Tomlinson

Wisdom Speaks

In every generation the number of the righteous is small. Be sure you are among them.
– A. W. Tozer

In the Irish Revival of 1859, people became so weak that they could not get back to their homes. Men and women would fall by the wayside and would be found hours later pleading with God to save their souls. They felt that they were slipping into hell and that nothing else in life mattered but to get right with God… To them eternity meant everything; nothing else was of any consequence. They felt that if God did not have mercy on them and save them, they were doomed for all time to come.
– Oswald J. Smith

As a Christian, I am responsible for the furniture of my mind.
– Frank E. Gaebelein

Holiness is an impossibility without the Holy Spirit.
– Anonymous

God can gift people, but it is something else when a man is in favor with God; when God can say, ‘For this man’s sake, I will not judge this city or I will show favour to this church’.
– Greg Gordon

Live in Christ and the flesh need not fear death.
– John Knox

God’s choice acquaintances are humble men.
– Robert Leighton

Does God need us?

A few weeks ago, in a Scripture class, we drifted off the topic onto ‘the attributes of God’. In answer to a question, I referred to Acts 17:24-25, ‘The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.’ Immediately, one of the brightest students was duly offended by the thought that God does not need us, and commented rather sadly: ‘You have just made me feel worthless.’ I suppose a steady diet of self-esteem philosophy does that to one, although it is not easy to derive much comfort from a deity who needs us. He would be like a well-intentioned, but not altogether competent friend who was always offering to help when we wished that he wouldn’t.

Back in 1952 J. B. Phillips wrote a book entitled Your God Is Too Small. Since then, God seems to have become yet smaller, in many eyes at least. Theologians who take the Bible seriously say that God is self-sufficient, which means that he simply exists, and can exist quite happily, as it were, without us. They speak of ‘the aseity of God’, meaning he is sufficient in himself, whereas we human beings most certainly are not sufficient in ourselves. The very first verse in the Bible, Genesis 1:1, implies the self-sufficiency of our Creator. In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, and so, we might ask, what was he doing before he created the universe? Aristotle thought that the world was eternal, and Carl Sagan’s slogan was ‘The Cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be.’ Against this, the God of the Bible exists for all eternity as ‘I am who I am ’ (Exod. 3:14). It is highly significant that Jesus speaks the same language (John 8:58). Before he created the heavens and the earth, the triune God enjoyed love and fellowship within the three Persons of the Godhead. In his ‘High Priestly Prayer’, Jesus prays: ‘And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed’ (John 17:5).

Further into the prayer we read: ‘Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world’ (John 17:24). So the creation of the world by the triune God was an act of grace, not necessity. He was not lonely! To God, the nations are but a drop from a bucket or dust on scales (Isa. 40:15); indeed, they are nothing and less than nothing before him (Isa. 40:17). We are like grasshoppers, and God has no difficulty in bringing princes to nothing (Isa. 40:22-23). My offended student did not know the half of it! The truth is, as A. W. Tozer wrote: ‘Without doubt the mightiest thought the mind can entertain is the thought of God.’

No doubt this is why grace has ceased to be amazing in the Western world. God, if he exists at all, is just a few rungs above us on the ladder of importance, and he is very much just a slightly larger version of humanity. Armed with no concept of sin, holiness nor the almighty self-sufficiency of God, we almost think we do God a favour by choosing him. It is almost like we have voted him into office. Hence we have lost the powerful impact of the Bible’s teaching that God stoops down to us, as, for example, in Psalm 103:13-14, ‘As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.’

Does God need us? We need each other. Society is a set of intertwined relationships. But God does not need us in the slightest. If we are saved in Christ Jesus, this is ‘to the praise of his glorious grace’ (Eph. 1:6), not because of any supposed need on God’s part. We can conclude with the words of John Flavel: ‘Those who know God will be humble. Those who know themselves, cannot be proud.’

– Peter Barnes

Why do we pray for one another?

Requests for prayer; we hear them over and over again, as we read the New Testament Scriptures (and especially the letters of Paul), and as we come week by week to the church prayer meeting. Christians asking fellow Christians to pray for them. Why do we make such requests? And why do we respond to them with the very prayer that is sought?

Let us assume what is ordinarily the case, that the believers who are seeking our prayers are praying themselves. Is that not enough? Why is it felt to be important – even necessary – to multiply voices, to have many people praying? Shouldn’t the individual prayers of believers be sufficient? Especially given what James says about the prayers of a righteous man being ‘powerful and effective‘ (Ch.5.16)

The answer lies in how God in his wisdom has arranged things. He has made us, as believers, to be dependent on one another. He intends that we should function, not in isolation from one another, but together.

We see this in the area of understanding the Scriptures. It is perfectly true that someone alone with his Bible and with only the Holy Spirit to teach him may grasp much of the mind of God. But it is also the case that ordinarily we are dependent upon others for understanding. That is how God has constituted things. Hence the need for parents to teach their children. Hence the church’s need for teachers. We are not meant to go it alone in this matter.

Nor in regard to prayer. God has ordained that in large measure we should be dependent on one another’s prayers. We are part of a body and God would have us function as a body. We are members of a church and God would have us function as a church. And so as one man preaches the others are upholding him in prayer, asking God for courage and clarity and for the word to be made effective. As one believer faces danger, his fellow Christians are interceding for his safety. There is a divinely constituted togetherness when it comes to prayer.

Two things follow. One is that in imitation of the Apostle Paul believers should not hesitate to ask their fellow Christians for prayer. The other is that, in response to such a request, those fellow Christians should pray. Sometimes this will involve only a small number of Christians – maybe as few as two (the one who is in need and the one who is in the know). At other times it will involve the entire church.

Our missionaries are a case in point. It is their situation that most closely parallels that of Paul. A missionary should feel, ‘I am dependent on the prayers of God’s people’. And sensing that, he should seek their intercession. His supporting churches, for their part, should understand, ‘This brother needs our prayers’. And accordingly they should pray.

And if they don’t pray? There is every reason to suppose that in some measure there will be a withholding of divine blessing. For God has made us dependent on one another. Therefore we fail our missionaries if we do not pray for them, and for our ministers too. They will be less effective than they otherwise would be. As they come to us, then, with their requests that we pray for them, understand that they really do need our prayers. So pray.

– David Campbell

When I am Afraid

“When I am afraid, I put my trust in You.” – Psalm 56:3

It cannot be said of any man that he is made without fear. Even the most courageous are not without some fear. When the church is in the
storm of persecution, and almost covered with the waves, the stoutest passengers in the storm may suffer from this boisterous passion as the storm rages without, and all for the lack of thoroughly believing, or not seasonably remembering that the Lord High Admiral of all the ocean, and Commander of all the winds, is on board the ship to steer and preserve her in the storm.

The Lord of hosts governs all creatures and their actions. All the armies of heaven and earth are at his command. We can rely
upon his care and love if we look to him in the day of trouble. We can trust him in danger, as a child trusts in the care and protection of his father—O what peace and rest!

Who would be afraid to pass through the midst of armed troops when you know that the General of the army is your own father? If we
sanctify the Lord of hosts as our heavenly Father, he will be a sanctuary to us in times of danger. He will surely protect, defend, and provide for us in the worst of times and cases. We can follow him as a cloud by day and a flame of fire by night! His glory will be our defense and place of refuge. Let the winds roar, the rains beat, the lightning flash—yet you are in safety.

The best of men are too apt to be overcome with fear in times of imminent distress and danger. But we do not duly consider God’s
almighty power, his vigilant care, unspotted faithfulness, and his engaged covenant for his people! This lies at the root of fear. If we
but once thoroughly understood what power there is in God’s hand to defend us, what tenderness in his heart to comfort us, and what faithfulness to all his promises given over to us, O, how quiet and calm would our hearts be! Our courage would quickly be up, and our fears down.

– John Flavel

Hindrances to Discipleship

We’ve been invited.

Invited to a feast, a banquet of epic proportions, to celebrate the greatness of this God who redeemed us from our sin and separation from Him. The festivities have begun and the appetizers are being served so we can taste and see that the Master of Ceremonies is indeed as good as He claims, but we’re not yet to the main celebration.

No, the doors to this eternal marriage supper have yet to fling open and we haven’t been granted full entrance to the reception, but until then we’ve been issued a divine edict and a high privilege.

We get to deliver party invitations to others.

Before He ascended, Jesus gave His people the command to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:18-20).

A few days later, His Spirit exploded on the scene and His followers were given power and authority to bring as many people as possible to the party that will (literally) end all parties.

Jesus enlisted us in this amazing mission, giving the command and the ability to carry it out. What could possibly keep us from joyfully obeying?

Well, as it turns out, lots of things.

Let’s look at four hindrances to the Great Commission.


When the Gospel is nothing more than a list of facts, we won’t see the need to participate in the mission. We might not even realize or remember the mission is for us.

Do we remember what we’ve been rescued from? Do we remember how Jesus came to us at our darkest and spoke light into our self-built cave of sin and shame?

Not remembering, not having our lives saturated in the truth that saved us, will hinder us from fulfilling Jesus’ command because the importance and urgency will be drowned out by our day-to-day routines.

When we don’t know the Gospel for ourselves and we forget what Jesus has done for us, there is little to no motivation to get into the messes of others in order to snatch them from the fire (Jude 23). But when we remember how Jesus laid aside His dignity and got into our miry pit to lift us out, it propels us to do the same for others so they can know the hope and rescue we’ve been given.


This life on life stuff is no joke.

Discipleship, as Jesus defined and demonstrated, takes work. It would be so much easier to do other things (or nothing) rather than invest in others for the long haul, but Jesus didn’t rescue us from the wrath of God to give us an easy life.

Running the race, fighting the fight of faith, waging war on sin, and pouring our lives into others are action verbs for a reason. When Christ saves us, He doesn’t call us to a passive existence but to an abundant life of activity where we forcefully discard self-gratification (including our inclinations to laziness) and intentionally pursue holiness.

Laziness sets in when we forget that extending party invitations is a joy and privilege, not a depressing duty from a harsh taskmaster. When we remember what the Gospel has done for us and called us to, we will be willing to lay aside our desire for ease and comfort and actively pursue Christ and others for His glory.


“What do you have to offer anyone?”
“You don’t know enough.”
“You’re not equipped for ‘ministry.’”
“If people spend time with you, they’ll see you’re not as holy as you claim to be.”

The lies rattle in our brains with compelling force. And you can be sure of this: Where two or more lies are gathered, fear is there in the midst of them.

Fear hinders disciple making because it’s an anesthetic, a potent tranquilizer that numbs us to our responsibilities and to the truth that God has called, equipped, and will continue to equip us to fulfill His mission.

But fear can also serve us because it exposes where our dependence is.

Fear arises when we imagine everything depends on us. –Elisabeth Elliot

When dependence is on what we can do not what God can do through a jar of clay yielded to Him, our hearts will be tossed to and fro by the turbulent fears. But when we remember the Lord is the One who chose us and has provided all things that pertain to life and godliness, which includes providing the grace necessary to make disciples who make disciples, confidence rises and action will be taken.

Do you believe that when God saved you, He gave you everything you needed for this situation? Your life will reveal what you believe.

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