John MacArthur’s 10 Best Books

June 20, 2015 1:52 am

This is the first time that I have ever created a post that documents a Top Ten List from a long established Christian author/theologian. I have read nearly all of pastor John MacArthur’s books, and decided that I give my take on which books represent the author’s best work. It was very hard to compile this list, especially since the books are so different from each other, and have been influential to the Christian community in their own ways. However, I gave it my best shot.

Note: This list does not include study Bibles, commentaries, devotionals, prayer books, sermons, or editorial compilations.

 

10. Called to Lead

Called

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A great book that outlines 26 crucial keys to an effective Christian leader and/or overseer in the church. It is biblically grounded, and helpful to any person, whether they are Christian or not. Based on the life of the Apostle Paul, we get an inspiring picture of a leader and have every reason to imitate Paul, just as the apostle commands (1 Cor 11:1).

 

9. Ashamed of the Gospel

ashemed

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With its first release in 1993, this book has grown timelier in its message and appeal since then. It is a necessary critique of contemporary evangelism, and a call to return to the biblical model of doing ministry in contrast to pragmaticism and immaturity that plagues many local churches today.

 

8. The Gospel According to the Apostles

Apostles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Written as a follow-up to the wildly successful, yet controversial, book The Gospel According to Jesus, this book is near as stellar and expands on many of the themes discussed in the prequel book. Through the teachings of the apostles, we come to see what the Christian life looks like according to the disciple’s teaching and example, which excludes the idea that a person can call himself a believer, yet live licentiously.

 

7. The Master’s Plan for the Church

The Master's Plan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What should a church function in God’s eyes? This book is the key to that answer. Based on Scripture, it is an extremely helpful guide as to what comprises a healthy church, which includes what the Bible teaches concerning the qualifications of a minister, as well as practices that define a healthy church. No library of a minister is complete without this work.

 

6. Worship

Worship

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The ultimate priority in every Christian’s life is Worship. This introductory book on theology proper is both informative and inspiring, delving into the wondrous nature of God, as well as what it means to live a life of worship in spirit and in truth. Like JI Packer’s Knowing God and AW Tozer’s Knowledge of the Holy, Worship by John MacArthur does an excellent job in exploring the holy character and attributes of God, and the importance of worshipping Him, because we were created to do so.

 

5. The Truth War

Truth

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Like Ashamed of the Gospel, The Truth War is a timely apologetic that has grown more important and relevant since its release over a decade ago. The author critiques both the church and secularism’s attack on the notion of absolute truth, and calls the church to stand firm amidst Satan’s attempts to relativize standards of morality and practice in society.

 

4. Strange Fire

Strange Fire

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A couple of decades after the release of Charismatic Chaos, MacArthur returns to a similar theme in this important book Strange Fire, which is one of the most controversial books released this decade, but also one of the most impressive. It is a biblical critique on the mainstream charismatic movement which presents the case for cessationism pretty well, as well as examining the “fruit” of those who attempt to seek sign gifts in this present age.

 

3. Because the Time is Near

Because

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A book entirely devoted to explaining the book of Revelation, this work by MacArthur is one of the best developed books on Revelation, being completely faithful to the plain sense of the text but not over speculating on events portrayed in this prophetic book. It is insightful, scholarly, easy to read, shocking, as well as inspirational.

 

2. Charismatic Chaos

Charismatic

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the MacArthur’s most controversial books is also one of his best and timeliest books, which critiques the modern charismatic movement. It gives a candid and clear analysis on the legitimacy of mainstream Charismatic theology, always linking his discussion based on what the text says regarding the purpose of sign gifts in the 1st century. Whether one agrees with his analysis or view on the topic, Charismatic Chaos is definitely worth reading, especially if you are trying to figure out your stance on this issue.

 

1. The Gospel According to Jesus

Gospel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Gospel According to Jesus is arguably MacArthur’s best work as an author. It is one of those books that is not only well presented, but also important enough that you would want to pass it out to every professing believer you know. The Lordship of Christ in salvation is a big issue, and one that should not be taken lightly, especially if there is a biblical basis for it. That is an excellent theological treatise on this topic.

 

 

Ask Steve: Church and Politics

June 15, 2015 12:38 am

Pol 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Question: Steve, what role should the church play in the arena of politics and cultural debate?

Answer: The church’s engagement and involvement with politics and culture has always been debated, resulting in different views. Some believe that the church should totally refrain from any involvement in church and politics, practicing faith quietly and being a gospel influence in predominantly social circles. Others believe that the church should heavily infiltrate politics and culture with the attempt to “Christianize” the society as much as possible.

In attempting to answer this unique question, we must look at what the Bible teaches concerning the church’s involvement with politics and cultural debate. Politics is a government vocation, and as such, it is very much like other vocations that Christians partake in, whether paid or volunteer. In whatever vocation Christians engage in, they are to do it to the glory of God (1 Cor 10:31). This means that they are to do their work with the utmost integrity, submitting to bosses (Eph 6:5; 1 Pet 2:18) so as to be a godly model of service to authority. At the same time, Christians must never compromise their faith and values, especially if the government job forces or pressures them to make decisions that cause them to stumble into sin (Acts 5:29). Political work often times involves making choices or enacting laws that have a definite moral overtone to it. In such cases, Christians must always do what it right to honor the Lord, even if it should incur the wrath of the general public. How a Christian goes about pursuing the right course of action takes discernment, especially if they are working amidst a pack of unregenerate people who are not open to the Christian’s ideas.

PolA Christian makes right moral choices in political work because it is God’s will that the government acts in accordance with what is just. Romans 13:1-4 teaches that Christians, like other people, must be in subjection to the government because God has ordained government to punish wrongdoing, reward virtuous acts, and enact justice on behalf of victims. A government cannot do this properly if their definition of what is right and just is skewed, which is what we are currently experiencing in many governments around the world. That is why Christians who are engaged in politics should use their God-given position or legal privilege to help with the enactment of civil laws and statues that capture God’s will for the government. These laws should be designed to punish criminals accordingly and to defend the poor, the weak, and the marginalized against unjust or oppressive treatment. Practical ways in which pastors and laypeople can make a difference in politics is to endorse and/or vote for laws that oppose abortion, sex slavery, pornography, immoral sexual institutions, racism, and to support effective and ethical ways to assist widows, orphans, and the poor who desire to cooperate with efforts that will pull them out of their financial calamity.

It must be said that the job of the church is not to become a sort of nation or governing institution that seeks to overtake the secular government and force conversions on heathens. Dangerous things have happened in history when governments used religion to justify war, murder, or conquering of other tribes and nations, all with impure and unbiblical motives. Jesus Himself never forced the gospel or the Christian lifestyle onto unbelievers, although He warned of the eternal consequences of rejecting His offer of salvation (Matt 7:23; 25:46; Jn 3:16-18; 8:24). For political organizations, run by professing believers, to force or pressure Christianity onto unbelieving subjects is to go against Jesus’ command of reaching the lost with compassion, while honoring their choice of accepting or rejecting His word. Governments that have done this in the past exemplify a blatant misuse of the Christian faith in politics.

Pol 3However, this does not mean that Christians should totally eject their faith out of the workplace. Hostile unbelievers expect this of Christians when they advocate a “separation of church and state,” as if the state is somehow neutral ground. The truth is: There can never really be a separation of one’s Christian beliefs from the affairs of the state, because a large dose of political affairs have much to do with issues of morality and ethics. There is no neutral ground. Both the word of God and the world’s philosophy have presuppositions regarding how life is to be conducted morally, which is why the Christian must be grounded in the truth of Scripture in His work in politics. He must not only work for laws and organizations that support righteousness, but must do everything in his power to preserve the freedom of Christians to organize, worship, and proclaim the gospel to others. This means that he should not be complacent about laws that persecute Christians or heavily restrict the Great Commission.

When it all comes down to it, the church’s involvement in politics must always start with the desire to proclaim the gospel to the lost. The Great Commission is as necessary in a restaurant business as it is in politics. There is a clear difference in honoring God with our practices in business/politics and lording it over the public with threats, anger, and compulsion. The Bible teaches us that it is not external laws that will change the hearts of the people, but the word of God in the gospel (Rom 7:1-9). That is why the church should be involved in politics with the goal of bringing the gospel to unbelieving colleagues and partners in the field with the hopes that they will be saved. Only when more and more hearts are regenerated by the Holy Spirit and filled with God’s word can we see the changes we want in society, all to God’s glory. The same applies to government and politics.

A similar principle can be applied to Christians in cultural debate. Should saints participate in cultural debate and dialogue, or should they retreat altogether? This is also a matter of discernment for the church and the individual Christian. There are certain cases in which Christians are wise not to be involved in certain forums because their efforts are akin to casting pearls before pigs (Matt 7:6). This includes internet forums like response columns or webchat dialogue. However, there are other cases in which dialogue may be extremely profitable. This includes television interviews, radio, or publication. In such cases when there is a potential for a large non-Christian audience to hear the Bible’s stance of given issues (ex. religious plurality, homosexuality, euthanasia, abortion), then the Christian can use that as an opportunity to speak up for what is right, according to Scripture.

We live in a society that is getting more degenerate with each generation, which is why Christians need to shine light and truth into this dark age in order to convict and pierce the conscience of the unbelieving public. However, the Christian’s effort would not be complete, and may even be in vain, if he did not tie his discussions to the gospel. Without a clear explanation of the gospel, the Christian’s presentation on any given issue would not make any real sense to the unbeliever. The unbeliever would not understand why the Christian believes the way he does about the controversial issue. But most importantly, the unbeliever will not have a chance to be evangelized through this process, which is the ultimate goal of all apologetics. Biblical arguments on a given topic might convict an unbeliever, but will not change his heart. Only the gospel does this. This is why cultural debates should have an evangelistic focus, no matter what response comes from the debating opponent or the public.

The church’s interaction with politics and cultural debate does not have easy, clear-cut applications. The issue always comes back to how much should faith be mixed with politics, or how much should faith shape politics. The Bible teaches that the world will never have a perfect, God-pleasing government until Jesus returns to set up His millennial kingdom. Neither will the world have a perfect culture full of faith, righteousness, and unity until the return of Christ. There will never truly be peace in a godless world. The focus of the church until the second advent of Christ is to simply be faithful to the Great Commission – to evangelize the lost, teach God’s word, and make disciples of all nations (Matt 28:18-20). That is the key behind a Christian’s involvement with culture and politics. That is what it means for God’s will to be done (Matt 6:10), as one day it will be when God’s perfect government and culture comes to earth.

Ask Steve: Financial Giving

June 9, 2015 12:03 am

Family Driven

 

Currently Reading:

Family Driven Faith: Doing What it Takes to Raise Sons and Daughters who Walk with God

by Voddie Baucham Jr.

Category: Parenting / Christian Living

2007, Crossway

 

 

Question: Steve, explain your understanding of financial giving. What principles of giving will you teach to other believers (must they “tithe”?), and what principles will you follow as pastor?

Answer: Financial giving is one of the most important and blessed aspects of Christian living. It is a practice that is seen in the lives of saints in both the Old and the New Testament. Financial giving is important because it demonstrates a heart of gratitude towards God. It is also crucial in the survival of local churches and Christian organizations that participate in the Great Commission. Lastly, it is an expression of God’s love that aids fellow brethren, especially those who are poor. Giving is essentially a selfless act of generosity and sacrifice, in which we give our money for the glory of God, the propagation of kingdom work, and the further advantaging of other people. The more we sacrifice, the more we impact those around us. The more we sacrifice for the church, the more heavenly dividends we can expect to accrue and be rewarded to us at the Bema Seat Judgment (2 Cor 5:10).

The first general principle to remember about financial giving is the motivation. Why is it that we give of our money – bountifully and sacrificially? It is because Christ first gave to us. He gave His life by dying as our penal substitution (on the cross) so we can be forgiven of our sins and made righteous by faith in Him (Mk 10:45; 1 Tim 2:6). By the sacrifice of His very life, Christ served believers by saving them, canceling the believer’s eternal debt to God and affording them the undeserved privilege of eternal life. Not only did Christ give us the greatest gift of salvation, but also provides daily for the needs of Christians. Those who seek after His kingdom and His righteousness have access to the Father’s guaranteed commitment of supplying the Christian’s needs in this life (Matt 6:11-12; 6:25-34). This includes housing, job, clothing, food, and other basic necessities.

This is why Christians should give. It is in the Christian’s newfound nature to be express charity, especially as it regards money. Giving not only demonstrates our thankfulness and dependence on God, but also opens up opportunities to be more blessed and used by God for the kingdom. God gives onto Christians, sometimes quite extravagantly, so that they can, in turn, give onto others. Luke 6:38 states, “Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure – pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.” The church should not construe this to be a formula that supports the health-and-wealth gospel or prosperity theology, but it is a biblically based assertion by our Lord Jesus Himself as a general rule of life concerning the outcome of generous giving. This text teaches that believers who give abundantly for the cause of Christ will always be supplied by God so they will never lack in their outstanding work of giving. It does not necessarily teach that believers will be rich, but that they will be sufficiently supplied and blessed for their work (Matt 6:3-4; 2 Cor 5:10).

Giving must be rooted in a proper attitude and commitment, which is for the glory of God (1 Cor 10:31). Although financial returns are not a perpetual guarantee in this world, other forms of blessings are (Proverbs 3:9, Malachi 3:10), most specifically the eternal blessings and honors. The Apostle Paul speaks in 2 Corinthians 9:6 regarding the blessedness of financial giving: “Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.” In other words, men reap what they sow, which is why abundant giving is extremely wise (Gal 6:7).

With these teachings in mind, the church should encourage congregants to give of their financial resources to the church every Lord’s Day, as well as any other time that might be pressing on their hearts. Believers should consider willfully supporting evangelism ministry, missionary fund, mercy ministry, building fund, and other church departments in need. Financial generosity can be directed toward online giving or in-person donations, which can be directed to a particular department or where most needed. The church’s guideline for giving, especially as it regards offerings in the local church, should be as follows:

  1. Give generously (Mark 14:9): Believers should have a desire to give abundantly of their resources and not be stingy towards the church.
  2. Give regularly (1 Corinthians 16:2): Believers should be committed to giving weekly as a continual act of not only support, but as an expression of worship onto God.
  3. Give voluntarily (Exodus 35:21, 2 Corinthians 8:4): Believers should give from their own desires, and not be forced and give out of compulsion.
  4. Give sacrificially (2 Samuel 24:24, 2 Corinthians 8:2-3): Believers should give in a manner that is challenging, and not constantly easy on their bank accounts.
  5. Give excellently (2 Corinthians 8:7): Believers should to foster Christian virtue, and not done in vice or shame.
  6. Give cheerfully (2 Corinthians 9:7): Believers should give with a cheerful heart and not a heart full of resentment or guilt. God loves a cheerful, hilarious giver.
  7. Give worshipfully (Acts 10:1-4, Matthew 5:23-24): Believers should give as an act of worship to God, and not with selfish, self-glorifying, or impure motives.
  8. Give proportionally, not fixed (Acts 11:29, 1 Corinthians 16:2): Believers should give what is generously in proportion to their income, not in proportion to what society deems as impressive or lackluster.
  9. Give quietly (Matthew 6:1, 4): Believers should give in a manner that does not purposefully call attention to their act.
  10. Give deliberately, without hesitation (2 Corinthians 8:11): Believers should give intentionally, and not with any hesitation or resentment.

Concerning the debate about whether or not an offering should be at the Old Testament tithing rate of 10 percent, I believe the church should first and foremost teach congregants to go beyond this number and give wholeheartedly what they can sacrifice to God’s kingdom for the sake of their own blessings. However, there are no fixed percentages for a church gift. The 10 percent rate of giving in the Mosaic Covenant was a historically conditioned act that made up the government taxation system of Israel (Lev 27:30-32; Num 18:21-26; Deut 14:22). It applied to national Israel. The New Testament does not explicitly teach any similar rate of giving, whether it involves the church or the secular government.

The one-tenth tithe principle can be suggested as a helpful tip for Sunday giving, but it should not be expressed as a set rule or demand. If Christians feel in their conscience that a 10 percent gift should be regularly honored, then the church must allow them to honor the voice of their conscience. The 10 percent rate is a recurring theme throughout the Old Testament (Genesis 14:10, Leviticus 27:30-32); therefore this number is an indicator of what God feels is manageable for the average believer to contribute to His kingdom work while still sustaining his everyday life outside of church. However, my motto is: If Israel can give much under Law, how much more should the church give under grace?

This is the principle I teach to other believers and follow myself. As a pastor, I must give in a manner that will be reflective of my view of God, the Great Commission, and my brethren in Christ. I must also give because it is a testimony. My giving should be able to inspire other congregants to see the importance, joy, and blessing of financial giving.

Recommended Resource: Money Possessions & Eternity by Randy Alcorn

Ask Steve: The Call to Pastoral Ministry

June 2, 2015 6:54 pm

Preacher 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Question: Steve, I am debating whether or not to become a pastor. How do you define “the call” to pastoral ministry?

Answer: Entering the pastoral ministry, especially as a teaching pastor, is one of the greatest privileges that any Christian could undertake. At the same time, it is a calling to be taken seriously. As a pastor, you are essentially an overseer of the church who is directly responsible for the health of the church and the growth of believers. You are a shepherd who is tasked with the responsibility of feeding and guarding the sheep with your very life. Failure to do this adequately would not only damage the church, but would dishonor the Lord. In fact, Scripture gives a warning concerning those who enter the ministry lightly, because those who teach false doctrine and lead others astray spiritually will be judged greatly (Jas 3:1). This is why the Bible gives some helpful guidelines on what characterizes an overseer of God so that those who take it on vocationally will do so with soberness, confidence, and integrity.

Many times Christians struggle with whether they are suppose to be in pastoral ministry. They do not know what defines “the call.” Other than the brief imperatives presented in Scripture, the way to discover this truth is a mystery to some Christians. Some pray to God thinking that He will respond in an audible voice, affirming or denying their ministry interest so that the process would be easier. I would like to provide you with some helpful tips on how to discover whether or not you should enter ministry as a senior pastor, associate pastor, youth pastor, or some form of missionary work.

The first key to consider is Scripture’s guideline on what characterizes a qualified pastor. The most well-known passage that highlights this principle is found in 1 Timothy 3:1-7. It states, “It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do. An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money. He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity…and not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil. And he must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.” In short, those whom God has called into ministry excel in personal morality, which means that they are sexually pure, content, kind, loving, and are not given over to lust, hatred, greed, or drunkenness. They must also a good relationship with their family, with other believers, and even with unbelievers. They must possess a reasonable gift of teaching and of leadership, and should not be a recent convert – since new Christians generally lack the knowledge and maturity needed for vocational ministry.

Preacher 1If your life does not match this guideline (ex. you are living in sin, your ability to teach is mediocre, you are an incompetent leader), then you should consider holding off on your pursuit of pastoral ministry to see if your shortcomings can be improved or worked on. If you discover that it cannot, then you most likely are not called for ministry. If you can, then you should continue to discover the veracity of your calling by considering a couple other factors.

The second key is to consider the feedback from other believers. Many pastors and elders testify that one of the things that have helped guide their decision to enter into ministry is the affirmation from other Christians. They have received comments like “You have a great gift of preaching and evangelism. Have you considered ministry?” or “You possess a great deal of leadership and know your Scriptures well. Have you considered seminary?” This does not automatically prove that a Christian should be in ministry, but it is a noteworthy indicator, especially if these affirmations line up with other factors that affirm a Christian’s pastoral calling. There are many instances in which God moves in other believers to help Christians find answers to issues that are not clear in the Bible. And one of those issues is the personal call to pastorate ministry. That is why the Bible extols the act of seeking counsel from other godly men in making important decisions like these. Proverbs 15:22 declares, “Without consultation, plans are frustrated, but with many counselors they succeed.” Proverbs 11:14 also says, “Where there is no guidance the people fall, but in abundance of counselors there is victory.” A Christian seeking to enter ministry should listen to the amount of feedback he is getting from others and to intentionally get counsel from elders regarding this blessed path.

The third key to consider is personal conviction regarding this matter. Once you have established the first two keys, then you should examine yourself to see what your convictions are in this matter. You must ask yourself, “Do I really want to become a pastor/minister? Can I do this for the rest of my life with endurance and joy? Do I feel that this is the only thing I can do well in my life? Will I regret this if I decide to enter into another vocation?” Christians constantly seek God in prayer for answers to which job they should take, where they should live in, what doctor they should go to, what car they should purchase, etc. Christians will not be able to discover God’s sovereign will (at least not in the short run), but they can first and foremost be obedient to God’s commanded will (what is revealed in Scripture). Once they honor this, then Christians have every right to pursue the endeavor that most pleases, intrigues, or convicts their heart (Ps 16:9; 20:4; 37:4). In other words, if Christians follow the Bible’s moral instruction to weed out undesirable vocations and are still left with two or more possible choices, then he is free to choose according to his heart’s conviction. Much of the time, those convictions are placed there by the Holy Spirit (Acts 17:16; Phil 2:13), especially if it has to do with a pastoral calling.

It must be said that a person entering ministry should be cautious regarding his heart motives. It is a great thing that a Christian be trained to become a minister. However, there are many instances in which pastors have destroyed their own reputation, those of other Christians, and the church because they entered into their vocation with evil intentions. You must ask yourself, “Am I doing this for the glory of God? Or am I doing this for my own glory?” Even if candidates do not have the motives of fame, riches, or glory, they can still weaken the reputation of the church because of other poor inclinations. Some believers enter ministry because they have nothing else to do in life. Some believers enter because of peer pressure from godly parents and/or the community. Some believers enter because of excitement from the heat of the moment.

Preacher 2Whatever the case, make sure your motives are good. Be committed to keeping your actions selfless, especially in your commitment to serve others in the church as Christ Himself served the church in humility (Matt 16:24; Mk 10:45). Be sure that you want to enter into the pastorate because you desire to teach others the word of God. You want to disciple weak brethren to grow in Christlikeness. You want to reach the lost with the gospel. You want the glory of God to spread through your local community in the Great Commission effort. If this is your burning passion and conviction, then you should seriously consider pastoral ministry.

The role of a pastor/shepherd is an important one that requires sound character and lasting commitment. That is why approaching this field requires careful self study, prayer to God, and counsel from others. However, this process should not be so mysterious or painstaking that a Christian labors for many years in trying to find the answer, or thinks that he should not become a pastor/elder because he is not perfect. If a Christian is at ease in his conscience regarding the principles I described, then he should by all means enter into ministry. There is a great need in the world for pastors and evangelists. Many will perish eternally for not hearing the gospel and many others will starve spiritually for lack of nourishment. That is why teams of pastors are needed throughout the world. That is why Christians should step up to the plate if they have the character and conviction for this task. It is hard work, but a blessed one that will surely pay off with spiritual blessings (2 Cor 5:10; 2 Tim 4:8).

Ask Steve: Suicide

May 31, 2015 11:30 pm

Suicide

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Question: Steve, how are Christians to look on the act of suicide? Can truly regenerate believers commit suicide? How would you deal with a member of your church with suicidal thoughts? How do you counsel a family which has lost a member due to suicide?

Answer: Suicide is self-murder and is one of the most grievous of occurrences. It happens in a person’s life for various reasons, but regardless of those reasons, it is by no means a justifiable act. From the very beginning, God looks upon the taking of human life (murder) as sin (Gen 4:8-14), and reaffirms the gravity of this deed in the Sixth Commandment (Ex 20:13). It is not only wrong to murder others, but to murder oneself, which is essentially an act of self-hatred and an attack on the image of God in man. Christians should never encourage or tolerate any form of suicide, even if it can lead to the lessening of the person’s trials in life. Christians are to value life and preserve it to the best of their ability. The taking of one’s own life is not only a serious sin against the Lord, but a poor testimony to the Holy Spirit’s work in the church and in the life of a sinner.

A popular question that often arises concerning suicide is whether or not Christians can commit suicide? If so, what becomes of their eternal destiny? Is it an unpardonable sin that undoes the justification and grace granted onto the believer at the time of his conversion?

I must begin by commenting that suicide is amongst many sins that characterize the condemned unbeliever, but one that can be forgiven by God. A person who has repented and trusts in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior are justified and have their sins washed away, whether it be suicide, adultery, blasphemy, abortion, cursing, idolatry, or sorcery. The Holy Spirit not only justifies the person and no longer holds the sins against them, but also regenerates the believer. Spiritual rebirth is responsible for the believer seeking after God and being able, and willing, to follow in on God’s commandments. The Holy Spirit’s ministry is not only about saving the believer from the penalty of sin (justification), but also from the power of sin (sanctification). He grants Christian’s a new heart with new desires (2 Cor 5:17) so that he will turn away from the life of sin and pursue righteousness. That is why believers will abound in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control (Gal 5:22-23), and not usually be given over to the destructive behavior that characterizes the unregenerate man.

Even though most Christians will end up never committing suicide or even entertaining the idea, there are some cases in which believers fall into this tragic sin, much like they commit blatant adultery or abortion. In other words, it is possible for real believers to commit suicide. It happens for various reasons, some which are not related to escaping the pains or tragedies of life. Whatever the motives, suicide is a tragic by-product of the flesh – one that seriously grieves the Holy Spirit.

The Roman Catholic tradition holds that suicide is a mortal sin that leads to forfeiture of one’s salvation. Some Protestants even believe something similar. However, there is no clear cut Scriptural reference that validates this view. It is true that suicide does often times lead a person to eternal damnation, but it is not solely because of the suicide issue. People are damned because of their unbelief (Rom 1:18-20; Heb 3:19), which manifests in their life of unrepentant sins against the Lord. And suicide is one of the observable symptoms of a spiritually dead, sinful person. It is just another expression of one’s pride and rebellion against the Lord, and another sin that the person will be held accountable to on the Day of Judgment (Rev 20:11-15).

Christians must be open to the possibility that believers who commit suicide – for whatever reason – end up with the Lord upon death. Once again, it is not a sin to be encouraged, and must strongly be exhorted against. Yet it is one of many sins that the Lord Jesus died for on the cross so believers will not have to be held judicially accountable for it. To say that suicide is an unpardonable sin or one that causes the reversal of one’s justification is to say that Christ’s sacrifice on the cross was not complete or satisfactory before the Father. If a person is truly regenerate and has been graced with the gift of salvation, he will experience salvation and glorification, even if he has fallen into the tragic sin of suicide.

People in church sometimes become troubled to the point of contemplating suicide, both teenagers and seniors. How do we handle such people? Once again, suicide is a sin that must be dissuaded at all costs. Christians must seek to protect and save the lives of others, whether they are Christian or not. A Christian in the church who is thinking about suicide must be handled with care and patience. But he must also be confronted with the truth of God’s word. The best approach in dealing with the matter is to obviously counsel the depressed Christian, first attempting to hear his story and his complete thought process on the matter. After the believer has expressed his pains and emotions, the Christian counselor should seek to find out whether this person is truly saved, since suicide is an action undertaken predominantly by unregenerate people. If the person is not a believer, then the counselor should teach and encourage the counselee with the gospel in the hopes that he will come to repentance and faith. Do not underestimate the power of this step, because a person’s experience of the gospel can really be the difference between life and death, motivation and depression in a person (Jn 10:10; Gal 2:20; 1 Jn 3:9). The Holy Spirit regenerates the sinner and uses the word of God in the gospel to bring healing to the grieved person, which is why compassionate, but candid evangelism is crucial.

If the person is a true believer, then the counselor should likewise seek to understand the person’s story. After he has heard everything, the counselor should be quick to identity the main source of sin that is causing the troubled believer to be acting this way, which is self-pity, anxiety, or hopelessness that usually finds its source in selfishness and pride. The counselor should comfort the believer, but also seek to bring about spiritual healing by teaching him how the word of God addresses his particular troubles and teaches him to respond to it. Of course, all this must be anchored in the glorious gospel message that brings faith, hope, and love to all Christians. Towards the end of the discussion, the counselor should seek to get a commitment from the believer to take the practical steps to restoration. This includes immediate removal of all obstacles that would drive the believer back into suicidal tendencies.

Regrettably, these steps do not guarantee that a professing Christian will seek healing, and Christians will at times end up taking their own life. Then comes the inevitable stage of comforting grieved family members who are looking for answers. When counseling a family of such a tragedy, you should not try to spend all of your time giving a lecture on God’s sovereign purposes for this event or theorizing about whether the suicide victim is in heaven or in hell. The counselor should first and foremost seek to comfort the family and to pray with them. How one conducts such counseling will vary depending on the family’s questions, concerns, or emotional state. But the general idea is to listen to the family, comfort them, and exhort them with Scripture as it relates to the goodness of God, the grief of God over sin and fallen nature, and to tie that in with the hope of the gospel. In fact, this counseling session could be an ideal time to evangelize the family if they are unbelievers.

Ask Steve: Perfectionism

May 25, 2015 11:27 pm

Freedom

 

Currently Reading:

The Freedom and Power of Forgiveness

by John MacArthur

Category: Christian Living

1998, 2009 repr, Crossway

 

 

 

Question: Steve, what is perfectionism and why is it unbiblical?

Answer: Perfectionism is the teaching that Christians can attain to sinless perfection in this life through self-effort and/or the aid of the Holy Spirit. In other words, perfectionism claims that Christians can reach the point in which they no longer sin, that they have successfully mastered the flesh in every single way. However desirable and good pefectionism might sound, it is an unbiblical teaching that has dangerous consequences. It is appropriate to look into Scripture to see if perfectionism is true, and if it is not, why we must have a right view concerning a believer’s moral abilities pre-glorification.

Perfectionism is an idea that is popular amongst certain groups of Weslyans and Charismatics. They believe that believers can, and should, reach a second stage of sanctification in which they can be filled with the Spirit in a manner that frees them from all sinful inclinations. Those who advocate this false teaching are either in delusion, or have lowered the standard of God’s Law so that they can fulfill them with relative ease.

Perfectionism begins with an informed understanding of God’s Law and humanity’s moral condition. Advocates of perfectionism claim that spiritual perfection is possible because the Bible commands us to be perfect and holy (Matt 5:48; 1 Pet 1:16). However, we must look at this verse in context. It is part of the Sermon on the Mount – a message in which Jesus expounds on the true meaning and depth of God’s moral law. Jesus was not teaching that people need to be perfectly holy in order to be saved or even that perfection was possible in this life. Rather, the Sermon on the Mount was meant to demonstrate the impeccably high order of God’s Law in order to reveal the absolute moral deficiency of every human being on earth, whether they are Jew or Gentile. These perfect kingdom ethics demonstrate that every man is depraved and needs to be justified, if not sanctified, by God’s grace. It is only by grace through faith in Jesus Christ that any man can be made righteous and saved.

Because the Sermon on the Mount demonstrates the righteousness of God, it is a standard that Christians are called to emulate – not for salvation, but for sanctification to God’s glory. We are called to live holy and righteously because such a commitment of lifestyle gives glory to God, is a brilliant testimony to others, and is in conjunction with our new identity as children of heaven. 1 Peter 1:13-16 teaches us the importance of Christian holiness when it says, “Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Romans 12:1-2 also teaches the importance of living out a renewed mind when it states, “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” Christians are not called to be complacent about their moral lives, but to strive for excellence, knowing that they are in a race for the top prize when God brings all Christians to account for their life’s work (1 Cor 9:24; 2 Tim 4:7).

This begs the question: Does the Spirit of God grace us in such a manner that we can live out a perfect life? Although the Bible exhorts us to strive for perfection, it also tells us in multiple passages that perfection will not be possible in this life. Some Christians will do much better than others, but that does not mean that he can reach sinlessness in this life. 1 John 1:8 says, “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.” In fact, the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:12 anticipates that repentance will be a habitual part of the Christian life: “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” If Christians can reach perfection, then there is no need to ask for such a divine provision, which goes against what this passage teaches.

Paul appropriately expresses the lifelong struggle between spirit and flesh using his own life example. Romans 7:18-20 states, “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.” Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, even struggled with sin throughout his life and recognized himself as the worst of sinners (1 Tim 1:15). If even an apostle recognized this, then it is undoubtedly a reality amongst all believers, regardless of time, race, or culture.

Regeneration of a believer by the Holy Spirit allows the believer to respond to the gospel in saving faith and to grow in Christlikeness, but it does not do completely away with the flesh before the time of glorification. The old nature has been crucified and buried, and the new nature of a man allows the believer to live a God-glorifying life. But the important thing to realize is that the believer is still in the flesh. He wears the sinful, fallen garments of his flesh, which at times hinders the Christian’s goal of moral perfection. However, when the Christian is glorified at the rapture of the church, the old body is shed away, and the new body will thereafter work in perfect conformity to the desires of the regenerated spirit (1 Cor 15:50-58). That is what all Christians long for, and are working towards in this life despite their imperfections.

Why is the doctrine of perfectionism dangerous? First, it causes Christians to believe that they can obey God’s Law perfectly in this life. Like I said, this is a noble pursuit, but one that can cause believers to puff up in pride and no longer depend on the Holy Spirit for guidance and strength. Second, perfectionism lowers the standard of God’s Law so its advocates can live under a false standard and rely on that as their means of boast before the Lord and before others. Third, it takes away from the anticipation and meaning of glorification. Glorification is that time when Christians receive the same resurrected, glorified body that Jesus had at His resurrection. It is a body unsoiled by sin and its effects, which include physical weakness, ailments, and death. It is a body in which Christians can live out moral perfection on the same level as that of God. To tell Christians that they can achieve perfection in this life is to downplay the need for a glorified body, which underestimates the effect of sin on the human body. In summation, perfectionism is an attack on God’s grace and an undue elevation of man’s ability. This is why the gospel is necessary in a believer’s life, and God uses the gospel in stages to first deliver the sinner from the penalty of sin (salvation), then from the power of sin (sanctification), and finally from the presence of sin (glorification).

Ask Steve: Officiating a Wedding

May 18, 2015 2:46 am

Wedding 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Question: Steve, what are your requirements for performing a marriage ceremony?

Answer: A marriage ceremony is a special time in which a man and a woman enter into a divine covenant that brings joy to both persons, yet marriage is governed by a set of God-ordained principles that should not be taken lightly. That is why every minister, including myself, should have a standard when it comes to performing marriage ceremonies. This standard should not be based on personal opinion, popular opinion, or rational opinion. Rather, it should be grounded in the word of God, which guides us in how we are to make our decisions, especially as it regards human covenants. That is why I have a few set requirements when it comes to performing a marriage ceremony.

The first requirement is that the marriage involves the proper participants. The Lord defines marriage from the beginning of creation in Genesis 2:24 as a lifelong covenant union between one man and one woman. Jesus even reaffirms this truth in Matthew 19:4 when he talks about the essence and sanctity of marriage. That means that such a human covenant cannot be between people of the same sex (homosexualism), people of the same family (incest), people who desire to take on multiple partners (polygamy), people who are legally underage (pedophilia), and people with that of other kinds (bestiality). Marriage is very particular because it is the way God has designed it from the start, and it is a symbolic representation of the future marriage and bond between Jesus Christ and His church when He returns (Eph 5:32; Rev 19:6-9). To do away with and redefine marriage is not only to attack the heart of the gospel, but to rebel against the role and function that each gender is to live up to, regardless of what they feel or desire. These roles and responsibilities are also seen in the parent/child, husband/wife, employer/employee, and government/subject relationships. The design of leading and submitting in relationships are inherent in all creation because they represent God’s nature within the Godhead (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), and people generally know this fact in their conscience, but suppress the truth in unrighteousness (Rom 1:18-20). Christian pastors, elders, and ministers cannot officiate or endorse marriages that are not between a man and a woman. They cannot pronounce blessings on gay marriage, incestial marriage, polygamous marriages, or any other sins that distort the definition of marriage. To do so would incur the wrath of God (Rom 1:27; 1 Cor 6:9; Heb 13:4; Jude 1:7) and distort the gospel picture, linking Christ with an idol (1 Cor 3:17).

Wedding 2The second requirement is that marriages are to be equally yoked. This means that marriages must be either be between two believers or two unbelievers. The Bible never endorses marriages between a Christian and a non-Christian (2 Cor 6:14). It is a sin to enter into such marriages because it goes against God’s design for a believer’s marriage. There can be no true compatibility between a man and a woman if one of the covenant partner’s spiritual condition is not right with God. If God tells us not to befriend unbelievers so intimately (Jas 4:4), then that principle certainly applies to an unbeliever in marriage – the most intimate of relationships. Moreover, an unequally yoked marriage is a false representation of the gospel. Instead of picturing Christ and the church, such marriages link Christ with an idol (v. 15). No marriages should ever be endorsed and officiated by pastors who are serious about the gospel and Christian living.

The third requirement is that the marriage ceremony be between those who are completely free to marry. I am not talking about people who are single and have never betrothed in their lives. I am speaking about Christians who have had previous marriages, but are no longer married and want to remarry. The Bible sets some specific guidelines on when Christians can remarry. God hates divorce (Mal 2:12), but permits it under limited circumstances. These circumstances are: 1). The marriage partner commits unrepentant adultery (Matt 5:32; 19:9) 2. The marriage partner is an unbeliever who deserts the believing spouse (1 Cor 7:15), 3. The marriage partner dies, leaving the Christian as a widow (Rom 7:2-3). Only under these terms can a Christian remarry a believer. If these conditions are not met, then a pastor must not marry a couple, or else his blessing on that union is sin before God. Pastors cannot marry a couple in which one or both of the partners unjustly divorced their spouse due to “irreconcilable differences.” To do so would be disgraceful to the institution of marriage. It would link a Christian to another spouse, and thereby causing both of them to commit adultery (Matt 5:32), since God has not endorsed the dissolution of the first marriage.

The fourth requirement is that the marriage ceremony be entered into with proper knowledge from both parties. This means that the couple should undergo some form of biblical counseling in which the potential husband and wife understand the significance of marriage. Marriage cannot be entered into simply because the man and the woman “love each other” or want to start practicing sexual intimacy according to biblical standards. Both the man and the woman must be going in the same direction spiritually. They must understand how marriage relates to the gospel – that it is a glorious picture of the gospel truth in which husband symbolizes Christ (the groom) and the wife symbolizes the church (the bride). Such knowledge should be the impetus for which they live out their calling to one another in order to glorify God, to be a fitting testimony to observers, and to simply make the marriage work.

Wedding 3The man and the woman must understand the significance of how Christ relates to the church in order that each person can relate to each other in the same spirit. This goes against the spirit of selfishness, self-entitlement, and pride that causes many of the petty arguments, serious fights, and marital unfaithfulness that tragically lead to divorce. Both the man and the woman need to understand how to love one another sacrificially, how to serve one another, how to properly use Christian liberty in order not to offend one another, and how to practice humility toward one another. Such commitment results in a lasting covenant relationship, which is why I would require that an engaged couple learn these important truths before I officiate their wedding ceremony. If the interested party was an unbelieving couple, then I or a Christian counselor would do the best possible to evangelize them so they can be saved. Only when a Christian is reborn and fill with the Holy Spirit can he/she be receptive and willing to grow in holiness, which includes practices in marriage.

With that said, marriage is a special institution that should not be entered into lightly. It is an institution created by God to reflect His eternal love relationship with the church. Because marriage derives its source from God’s nature, it is a truth that is seen all over the world, and experienced by even unbelievers as part of God’s common grace. Like all things created, marriage exemplifies the character of God and is rooted in timeless, unchangeable truth. This is why a marriage ceremony must be conducted based on God’s revealed word, and point as many people as possible to the gospel so they can learn the significance of the marriage institution.

Ask Steve: Alcohol

May 12, 2015 10:38 pm

Alcohol

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Question: Steve, is it acceptable for a pastor to drink alcohol?

Answer: Drinking alcohol is a matter of liberty for Christians. It is not a sin to consume alcohol anymore than it is to consume food. However, there is a danger to drinking alcohol, because it can easily affect Christians if they are not careful to practice self-control. It is drunkenness, which the Bible clearly identifies as sin (Eph 5:18). Drunkenness is sin not only because you allow your body to be given over to abuse and cognitive impairment, but because you become mastered and enslaved by its damaging effects (1 Cor 6:12; 2 Pet 2:19). In other words, you are addicted to it, and it becomes your idol. That is why alcohol has an undeniable social stigma that causes Christians to be cautious about drinking it, both in front of other Christians or in private. How and when Christians decide to drink alcohol of any kind (ex. beer, wine) should be a matter of great discernment and caution so that it will not cause you or anyone else to be tempted or stumble into sin. That is the art of Christian liberty, whether it deals with drunkenness, gluttony, or addictions to smoking and drugs (1 Cor 8:9-13).

Now the question is: Should pastors drink alcohol? This is a question that stirs up different opinions and concerns. The answer to this question is simple: There is nothing in Scripture that forbids a pastor from consuming alcohol, but he must not be mastered by or entertain a particular thirst for it. Pastors and elders must be careful in drinking alcohol, more so than laypeople. Pastors are required to constantly be temperate in their work, but also be able to provide a type of example that will garner him a reputation of being respectable and above reproach. This principle is outlined in 1 Timothy 3:2-3, which describes the qualifications of an elder: “An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money.” Deacons, who serve in the church, are also held to similar standards: “Deacons likewise must be men of dignity, not double-tongued, or addicted to much wine or fond of sordid gain, but holding to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience.”

Pastors must not be addicted to alcohol, or be in the habit of drinking it habitually as a pastime. Such actions expose overseers as being given over, controlled, or dependent on alcohol, which goes against his call to be sober and prudent in all matters. Even if the pastor drinks but does not get drunk, he still must moderate his usage of alcohol so as not to further expose himself to addictive danger, or be a poor testimony to the congregation. Pastors are called to model the godly lifestyle, and one cannot model holiness if he is being given over to drunkenness, or at least imitating a habit that is characteristic of pagan unbelievers.

Alcohol 2Once again, this is not to say that pastors are forbidden to drink alcohol under any circumstances. There are occasions in both the Old and New Testament in which believers consume wine, but in a spirit of festivity and celebration onto the Lord. Ecclesiastes 9:7 says, “Drink you wine with a merry heart.” Amos 9:14 also describes God’s blessing on the grape harvest of believers, in which men celebrate God’s goodness by their consumption of wine. Jesus was even depicted in the NT as drinking wine at the wedding of Cana (Jn 2:1-11) and will drink wine with the church in a celebratory sense when He returns and sets up His kingdom on earth (Matt 26:29).

The model of Jesus is an informative one, but as I said, pastors must always be cautious of drinking wine as it regards his conscience, his personal life, and the cultural context of his ministry. Even if the pastor has excellent self-control over addictions and has a clear conscience in drinking wine, he must do so wisely according to the occasions. There are certain countries in which it is more permissible and normative to consume wine because it has a therapeutic affect. It also sanitizes water that is contaminated. In fact, Paul instructs Timothy to drink wine as a medicine (instead of the polluted water) when he says in 1 Timothy 5:23, “No longer drink any water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.” Therefore, wine would not only be for enjoyment, but for health.

However, there will be other times when pastors must be willing to abstain from alcohol, even for the duration of his life if necessary. In certain cultural contexts like the West, alcohol (especially hard alcohol and beer) is often times associated with sinful worldly practices like partying, orgies, and drunkenness. In societies like these, pastors who partake in alcohol could be viewed as one who is in the world. In this case, pastors must be cautious and abstain from alcohol (at least publicly) so that he can avoid the appearance of evil (1 Thess 5:22) and be a biblical testimony to both believers and unbelievers. He must not “conform to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of his mind,” as Romans 12:1-2 teaches. This means that pastors/elders should have a desire to abstain from alcohol if it can evidently bolster his testimony of being consecrated from the world onto the holiness that God has called him to. The principle behind these practices is laid out in many OT passages such as Leviticus 10:9, Deuteronomy 29:6, and Judges 13:4. Pastors are called to not to imitate the world, but to reflect Christlikeness, which means that he will not partake in or be wrongly associated with the ways of pagans. He must be salt and light and an evangelistic witness (Matt 5:13-16).

Alcohol 3There are also times that pastors must be willing to refrain from alcohol if it will cause Christians to stumble into sin. Earlier in the response, I said that drinking alcohol is a matter of Christian liberty. However, Christian liberty can be misused and abused if it is not done to the glory of God, but done for selfish purposes. For example, if there is a member of the church who has struggled with alcoholism in the past and still finds it to be a temptation, it would be unwise for a pastor to drink alcohol of any sorts in front of him, or even to drink it occasionally out of enjoyment. A pastor who abstains totally from alcohol to help a weaker brethren to be edified and built up in the faith is to demonstrate the type of self-sacrificial love that Scripture talks about, especially as it regards the use of Christian liberty (1 Cor 8:9-13; 13:1-2). Pastors must examine their conscience to see if choices like these are necessary, especially if they know that it will bring glory to God and will make his ministry more effective. This issue not only relates to a pastor’s use of alcohol in front of a sensitive church, but also his involvement with certain types of food, movies, music, and recreation.

It is not a sin for pastor’s to consume alcohol, but the best course of action is for the pastor to refrain from a habitual or recreational consumption of alcohol for the good of his spiritual health and his testimony in front of others. In fact, some of the most effective pastors in the world are those who choose not to drink alcohol. It is the safest option, and one that will not bring any negative impression by or temptations upon other Christians. If pastors choose to drink alcohol at times – at birthday meals where others are drinking it as well, for providing an opinion on a product, for medicinal purposes – they must exercise great discernment in every situation. That is what it means to be an effective overseer.

A Great Cover

May 5, 2015 12:08 am

“You Never Let Go” by Matt Redman is a popular contemporary worship song. Here is a nice rendition from actress AJ Michalka, who starred in quite an inspirational movie called Grace Unplugged. Let’s always be praying for celebrities, especially the Christian ones working in Hollywood:

YouTube Preview Image

Ask Steve: Children’s Ministry

May 4, 2015 2:20 am

Transforming

 

Currently Reading:

Transforming Prayer: How Everything Changes When You Seek God’s Face

By Daniel Henderson

Category: Prayer / Christian Living

2011, Bethany House

 

 

Question: Steve, how will you view the place of children in the church? What is the church’s responsibility to children and children’s ministry? How will you respond to children (and their parents) who desire to be baptized and become members of the church?

Answer: Children of all ages should always be a subject of the church’s care. They should not be neglected or treated as merely a side-project in which the church is there to babysit them or entertain them with stories. Like all people, we must see children as part of our Great Commission (Matt 28:18-20) efforts in which we are actively seeking to evangelize and disciple them. Since these children are the future generation who will lead, govern, and influence culture, we must see to it that they come to salvation in Christ and be instilled with a Christian worldview so they can honor the Lord with their lives in the future and be a light in society. This shows how important children are in our ministry work.

In fact, the New Testament depicts Jesus as having a particular fondness for children. Matthew 19:14 says, “Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Jesus understood the importance of caring for and fostering the faith of the youth. Children are humble, dependent, teachable, and tender in their conscience, which is why the church must devote a good amount of time teaching them the fundamentals of the faith. Ecclesiastes 12:1 tells us to remember our Creator in the days of our youth, because as time goes by, people’s heart becomes hardened and they get desensitized to the sinful lifestyle. Deuteronomy 6:7 captures the important principle of parents passing down godly instruction to their children (as Israelites did in the days of Moses), when it says, “These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.” This means that parents should make every effort to speak about and glorify God in conversation in front of the children, and teach them Scripture with the hopes that they will be godly people in the future.

CM 1The church has a major responsibility for both ministering to the children and teaching parents how to guide their children in the Christian faith. Like I have said, the church’s education or youth department does not exist to give children a pastime, a playground, or a social circle. These things are good, but they should be part of the larger agenda of seeking to instill the gospel within children so they can be saved and transformed by the Word of God and the Holy Spirit.    The children’s ministry must be faithful to preach the gospel to children. It must be able to evangelize the children, whether through the pulpit or through personal discipleship, in which children learn the truth of God as Creator, man as a lawbreaker, the eternal punishment of hell, the incarnation of Christ, His atonement, the resurrection, and repentance and faith. The ministry must also be committed to teaching children the whole counsel of God, or the contents of the entire Bible. It must do so in a manner that is understandable and relatable, since children do not have an attention span or comprehension level that is the same as adults. To teach the Word of God in a way that connects with children, but at the same time is confident, full, and truthful, is to practice what Paul did when he became “all things to all people so that by all means [he] might save some” (1 Cor 9:22).

The children’s ministry should help children not only see the truth of God, the gospel, and Christian living, but be able to understand and defend it. That is why apologetics is an ideal, if not significant, part of children’s discipleship, which must be presented through pulpit preaching, Bible camps, Bible studies, or personal teacher/student discipleships in class. As children slowly progress toward adolescence, they encounter struggles of finding specific questions to their faith, especially since they are bombarded with anti-biblical messages from the media, school, and friends. This is how many teenagers end up leaving the church and the faith once they graduate from high school. Although the Bible teaches that internalization of the gospel by faith is the means by which children remain in the faith, God still places importance in the church’s ability to “give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that is in you.” That is why gospel ministry should always have a healthy dose of being able to shed light on the validity of Scripture through scientific, philosophical, prophetic, and archaeological discussions. It gives children more reason to come to faith, and others a tremendous encouragement to grow in their faith and defend it in public.

CM 3As much as the church is involved in the spiritual growth of children, parents must likewise be committed to this task. It is not enough for parents to simply drop kids off at church on Sundays and go on with the rest of secular life on weekdays. Parents must be committed as Christians, evangelists, and disciplemakers to disciple their children in the faith, starting from the time children are able to speak and learn. That is the whole principle of Deuteronomy 6:9. That is why the church should have regular meetings with parents to inform them of their children’s progress in the faith and what they can do to help in the church’s efforts. Parents must be taught the importance of having regular Bible devotions with the children, teaching them as much in the Bible as they can. They must also train their children in all righteousness, which includes instruction, reproof, rebuke, etc (Prov 22:6, 15, 2 Tim 3:16-17). Parents must also be taught the importance of living out a Christian worldview as a testimony to their children, in which all of their speech and action glorifies God in truth and grace. Parents must model such things as holy living, prayer, Scripture reading, evangelism, proper exercise of Christian liberty, godly discipline, and attitudes of thanksgiving, faith, love, and other practices that give credence to the gospel and the work of the Holy Spirit. It is through the teaching and testimony of parents that many children come to saving faith, because they see their parents good works and glorify the Father in heaven (Matt 5:16).

CM 2If children make a profession of faith and desire to be baptized and serve in the church, the children’s ministry should follow several key steps. The church should make sure the child is baptized before taking communion and serving in any major department of the church, since baptism is the first major step of a Christian’s obedience to the Lord. The church should be eager and joyful to baptize the child/teenager. However, they should take precaution by ascertaining to the best of their ability the child/teenager’s salvation. This is done by asking the teenager his salvation testimony and observing fruits of saving faith for a short period of time. After the child is publicly baptized, he is fully entitled to become a member of the church and receive the benefits that it entails (ex. serving in church, deacon’s funds, accountability). The child/teenager should take a member’s class or at least be instructed by a brethren in Christ so he/she can understand the purpose of church membership and what commitments are involved. This model is very similar to the process with adult Christians who want to become church members.

Ministry to children is challenging at times, but significant and rewarding. They, like all unbelievers, need the gospel and need to be taught the truth of Scripture with power, love, and conviction. That is why the church should give a significant amount of their time, resource, and help to specifically evangelizing and discipling children in the faith, and teaching parents how to do likewise with specific strategies.