Category : Deacons

A Healthy Church Member is Genuinely Converted – Part Two

Deacons, last time I gave you the first key to defining genuine conversion, namely that we understand that in our unconverted state we are helpless to help ourselves, and we are killing ourselves with our sin. A person will not seek help unless they know that they need, and they won’t seek the right help unless they have a proper diagnosis of their ailment. A person will not seek to be raised from the dead if they do not understand that they are dead in their sins.

The second key to understanding the nature of genuine conversion, is tied directly to the first. If a person is to be genuinely converted something radical must occur in their life. Anaybwile states, “Conversion is the radical turn from an enslaved life of pursuing sin to a free life of pursuing and worshiping God.” We must be turned around. Our affections for sin must be killed and replaced with life changing affections for God. Without this life changing, radical turn, one cannot be genuinely converted.

What we must understand is that we do not turn on our own. We do not change our affections. We are turned, our affections are set right, when God takes up residence in our soul. Romans 8:9-11 tells us that genuine conversion involves the Holy Spirit dwelling in our hearts as a sign of our righteousness in Christ. In other words, genuine conversion involves our be changed from unrighteous objects of wrath to righteous objects of peace. And, as a result of this change the Holy Spirit takes over where the flesh once ruled and gives us life in place of death.

Why is this important? Why make this distinction? Because each of us must gradually come to a fuller understanding the rich mercy of God and its involvement in making us like Christ so that we do not ever exchange the gospel of Jesus Christ for the gospel of works and law.

Next time I will give some tips for us to follow in our efforts to discern the genuineness of our conversion.

Blessings, Mark

Part One

The basis for these writings on being a Healthy Church member are from Anyabwile, Thabiti M.What is a Healthy Church Member?. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books, 2008.

Continue Reading

A Healthy Church Member is Genuinely Converted – Part One

Deacons, this past Sunday we discussed the fourth mark of a healthy church member from Thabiti Anyabwile’s book “What is a Healthy Church Member” I made the comment that a person cannot be a church member unless that person is a genuinely converted person.

Now, that statement is true and not true at the same time. It is not true in the sense that a person can be on the rolls of a church as a member and not be converted. However, this is a falsity. This un-converted member is not a member of the body of Christ and therefore, is no true member of the Church. As a result of his or her nominal affiliation with the church, this person is living with an assurance of salvation and life when in reality he is dead and completely unaware of it. This is a very unhealthy state for any person, worse perhaps than that of the un-churched person who holds no such false confidence.

For this reason it is vitally important that we understand what true conversion is and how to examine ourselves with the help of other believers to make certain that we are in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5).

Anyabwile defines conversion as “the radical turn from an enslaved life of pursuing sin to a free life of pursuing and worshiping God” (pg 49). In that definition he uncovers the truth of Ephesians 2:1-3, namely that in our unconverted state we are dead in our trespasses and sins and therefore, objects of God’s condemnation. Romans 8 describes us of having set our minds on the flesh, which is death.

The first key to defining genuine conversion is that we understand that in our unconverted state we are helpless to help ourselves (we are dead, after all) and that through our current affections and way of life we are killing ourselves. No true conversion is occasioned in us outside of an understanding on at least a basic level of this fact. To be converted I must understand that I am hopelessly lost and helpless to recover from that state.

Next time I will write about what must then happen in order for us to be genuinely converted. In the mean time finish reading Ephesians 2 and Romans 8 to begin to see the complete picture of genuine conversion and spend some time in personal reflection on the book of 1 John.

Blessings, Mark

The basis for these writings on being a Healthy Church member are from Anyabwile, Thabiti M.What is a Healthy Church Member?. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books, 2008.

Continue Reading

A Healthy Church Member is Gospel Saturated – Part Three

Deacons, I am returning to the idea of being gospel saturated after a few weeks off. We know that it is important to be gospel saturated men, for being so is transformational for ourselves and the Church. We know that there are specific disciplines of the Christian life that promote gospel saturated lives. I now want to challenge you with three more goals for your life, which you can achieve as a gospel saturated person.

First, take it to its natural conclusion in your life. Anyabwile borrowed this thought from John Piper. We need to work in our Christian life to see that the gospel moves us to embrace God fully, behold God in all His glory, delight in God above all other things, and display God’s supreme beauty and worth. As we become gospel saturated people these things will be the natural result. Finding ourselves loving and serving God with our whole being is what we ought to desire, and the natural conclusion of being gospel saturated people is just that.

Second, let it animate every area of your life. Let it change the way you talk about others. Let it propel you to be an encouraging and correcting influence in the lives of others. Let it direct your career and relationship decisions. Let it govern how you invest your time, money, energy and emotions.

Third, share it with others. I’m sorry to say that it really isn’t enough to live a good clean life in front of others. It isn’t enough to have a smile on your face, joy in your heart and a good work ethic when you are concerned about obeying the command of Christ to make disciples. We must share the gospel and as we become increasingly saturated by it, we will be compelled to do so.

In all of these things you will be promoting a healthy, obedient and spiritually minded Church, where the work of the gospel is a natural thing not something forced by programs or personalities.

May God strengthen us to a consistent and active pursuit of a gospel saturated life.

The basis for these writings on being a Healthy Church member are from Anyabwile, Thabiti M.What is a Healthy Church Member?. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books, 2008.

Continue Reading

A Healthy Church Member is Gospel Saturated – Part Two

Deacons, I hope you have been blessed by your efforts to know the gospel as you have studied God’s word over the past couple of weeks. As we continue to seek ways to be saturated with the gospel, we note that the second means suggested by Anyabwile is that we desire to hear the gospel. We must seek out those who preach it and open our ears to hear. As we sit in the pew listening to the preacher, we must prick our ears to hear the gospel preached. And wherever the whole council of God is preached there too is the gospel.

But we must not depend solely on the preacher or the teacher of a Life Class to preach the gospel to us. No, we must preach it to ourselves. There are various ways that we can do this, and I would encourage you to explore them in your devotional life. Some of the ways that Anyabwile mentions that I have found helpful are:

  • Prayer – As you read the word and understand the message of the gospel found there, allow that message and particular text to guide your prayers. In other words pray the gospel as you find it in scriptures. Talk to God about your understanding of His work and how it is impacting your life.
  • Journaling/Writing – Similar to praying the gospel, I find that when I express in writing the message of the gospel found in my text of study and my personal reflections upon that message and text, my affections for God are increased.
  • Memorization – This can be difficult, but it is a crucial means of hiding God’s Word in our hearts and filling our selves up with the gospel. You don’t need to attack huge passages. Take it slow and over time your recall of God’s word will grow as the small bits become a larger whole. Each bit memorized will become a help to you in ways you can’t imagine.

There are other ways to preach the gospel to yourself, but here is a crucial place to start. Encourage each other in these disciplines and share with each where you are being blessed in these efforts.

Next time, God willing, I will write about some of Anyabwile’s other tips for being saturated with the gospel. Until then, preach the gospel and learn to love it so that you seek it always as the very sustenance of your soul.

Blessings, Mark

The basis for these writings on being a Healthy Church member are from Anyabwile, Thabiti M.What is a Healthy Church Member?. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books, 2008.

Continue Reading

A Healthy Church Member is Gospel Saturated – Part One

Deacons, as you know, this past Sunday we discussed the Third Mark of a Healthy Church Member from Thabiti M. Anyabwile’s book, “What is a Healthy Church Member?”. Anyabwile argues that “The gospel is absolutely vital to a vibrant, joyous, persevering, hopeful and healthy Christian and Christian church.”

I believe that statement is true. For that reason I commend to you the task of becoming saturated with the gospel. When something becomes saturated by something else, it takes on a different quality or nature. The nature change of a Christian, who is gospel saturated, is magnificent. One goes from negative and despondent to joyous, from consistent struggles with sin to persevering in righteousness, from always seeing doom around every corner to hopeful for a future glory promised and certain. In short, one who is gospel saturated moves from a state of sickliness to a state of vibrant health. So again, I commend to you the task of being gospel saturated men. The church needs its leaders to be among the healthiest of everyone in the church.

The question is, how do we become gospel saturated people? According to Anyabwile, first we must know what the gospel is. We must know that it is the good news of God’s saving grace and redemption brought to a lost and justly condemned people through the obedience and sacrifice of God’s Son so that any who would believe in Him, confess Him as Lord and repent of their sins are guaranteed forgiveness and life ever more.

We will talk about further means of becoming gospel saturated over the next few weeks. For now, I encourage you to seek out, in God’s Word, pictures of the gospel, things that help you better understand the gospel in its entirety and commit those things to your heart.

Blessings, Mark

The basis for these writings on being a Healthy Church member are from Anyabwile, Thabiti M.What is a Healthy Church Member?. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books, 2008.

Continue Reading

A Healthy Church Member is a Biblical Theologian – Part Three

Deacons, as we finish this Mark of a Healthy Church Member I bring you two very important benefits of being a Biblical Theologian. These two benefits speak to me of the criticality of each of us taking the whole council of God into view as we study in single part of scripture.

As we begin to read the book of Hebrews we learn that God has spoken at many different times throughout history; He has done so in many different ways and to many different people. This tells us that God’s revelation of himself is spread out over a large range of texts. We have each of those texts in scripture, and therefore, in order to know the full revelation of God about himself we must take all the text of the bible into our purview.

The impact of this is that our erroneous ideas about God, which are caused by our misinterpretations of particular texts of scripture are corrected as those ideas are stood up against the entire council of God. When, as Church Members, we approach our theology in this matter, we provide a protection for the church.

We must remember that the scriptures were given to us so that we would not fall (1 Corinthians 10:11). As pastors and even church members study and teach as Biblical Theologians, they protect the church from error, silly myths and irreverent ideas about God (1 Timothy 4:1-7). The end result of this approach to biblical study and teaching is that God’s people are made wise unto salvation (2 Timothy 3:14-15).

Finally, as our commission is to make disciples of all the nations, in agreement with Anyabwile, I will state that we cannot easily or very well obey the command of Jesus if we do not have a strong biblical theology. Such theology gives a greater facility with the gospel . We need to see the unity of the bible in its proclamation of the gospel in order to be effective and true disciple makers.

I hope you will make being a Biblical Theologian a priority in your life.

God’s blessings, Mark

The basis for these writings on being a Healthy Church member are from Anyabwile,TThabiti M.What is a Healthy Church Member?. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books, 2008.

Continue Reading

A Healthy Church Member is a Biblical Theologian – Part Two

Deacons, I want to begin today’s post by wishing you a very Merry Christmas. I pray that you are blessed with the richness of Christ in your hearts and that you and your families are filled with the joy that is known by those who see in Christ’s birth the reason for their hope.

In follow-up to last week’s note about what is Biblical Theology, I want to take a few moments to talk about why it is important – what are its benefits?

In recording these benefits Anyabwile notes that these were first put forward by Wayne Grudem. I would recommend Dr. Grudem’s Systematic Theology and his book Bible Doctrine for further reading on this subject.

One benefit of being a biblical theologian is that, as you take in the whole council of God, you begin to see who God is and who He has been. In so doing, you realize that He has always been the same, which gives you confidence that He will never change, and therefore, all His promises are true. You recognize that His love for you will never change, His faithfulness to you will never fade, His Holiness will never be defiled, and His sovereignty over all things will never be removed. As you begin to see these truths shine forth in scripture your reverence and adoration grow and your love for your Father in Heaven deepens. This in turn translates itself into outward service for the Kingdom of God. What a magnificent blessing indeed.

I won’t list more today. I will simply state that my desire for you is, indeed, that your faith would so move your heart that you would love the work of God; that you would desire more than anything to be about the Father’s work in the world. For that very reason, I commend to you the study of the whole council of God; that you would love it, feed on it and take it deep into your heart where it can change your desires and motivate your will to glorify God.

May He bless you richly, Mark

The basis for these writings on being a Healthy Church member are from Anyabwile,TThabiti M.What is a Healthy Church Member?. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books, 2008.

Continue Reading

A Healthy Church Member is a Biblical Theologian

Deacons, as we discussed this past Sunday, our first calling in life is to know God. This calling is common to all people and especially requisite of Christians. In fact, when Christians fail to obey this calling, their faith and the impact of their faith is weakened. By extension, a church that does not obey this calling is a weak church. All other duties laid upon believers and the church are dependent upon knowing God. If we do not know God, then we struggle and fail in our other duties; we are hindered in performing them by the weakness of our faith.

An effective means to knowing God is through, what we call, Biblical Theology. Biblical Theology is the study of God as he reveals himself throughout the whole of scripture. Note: when I talk about Biblical Theology, I am simply addressing the idea that if we want to know who God is, we will look no further than The Word of God. The theology of the Bible is the interest of the believer who wants to know God. The term itself has some negative connotations throughout history, but I use it in its oldest, purist and simplest understanding only. Biblical Theology points the believer to seek God not in his or her experiences and not in scholastic or philosophical study but rather, in the Divine Revelation of God from God: the Bible.

It is important to understand that both experience and philosophy play a role in our understanding of God, but they do not fully reveal God, perfectly define God or bring true knowledge of God. Only God’s word can do these things. Therefore, experience and philosophy must be interpreted within the confines of the truth of God’s Word.

I am stressing this point because of the vital necessity for the church to agree with and embrace the preeminent authority of God’s word as the sole means of knowing God and therefore fulfilling our first and highest calling.

Next time we will discuss some of the benefits of Biblical Theology.

Blessings, Mark

The basis for these writings on being a Healthy Church member are from Anyabwile,TThabiti M. What is a Healthy Church Member?. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books, 2008.

Continue Reading

Leaders Promote More Leaders

Deacons, I posted this article to my personal blog today and thought it fitting that I post it for you too. We will return to “What is a Healthy Church Member” next week.

If you are a leader and want to be a better leader then I suggest to you that you will pray for, mentor, train and encourage other people to be leaders. This is not just my opinion. It is biblical.

When Moses appointed the 70 elders there were two men who did not come to the council to be appointed. It is thought that they considered themselves unworthy or unqualified to be elders. Nevertheless, God had the Spirit rest upon them so that they prophesied, which was how God confirmed the 70 elders.

This concerned Joshua. He knew that they would be seen as leaders of the people of God. He approached Moses and said, “My lord, stop them.” Moses’ response was, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!” (Numbers 11:26-30)

Moses wanted everyone to be so affected by the power and presence of the Spirit of God that each of them would be qualified to lead the others and themselves.

Leaders, who truly are leading for the benefit of others and not their own glory, desire that others become leaders themselves. I want to lead you to be a leader of yourself and a leader of others. Is that how you define leadership? Are you a leader? Who are you raising up to be a leader?

Blessings, Mark

Continue Reading

A Healthy Church Member is an Expositional Listener – Part Four

Deacons, this is the last note concerning Expositional Listening. Here I want to remind you about some ways to cultivate the habit and skills of an Expositional Listener. As with any discipline, one must take steps to become proficient at being an Expositional Listener in order to reap the benefits.

One step is to meditate on next week’s sermon text. Find out from what text the Pastor will be preaching and study that passage yourself throughout the week while taking notes. As you do this, you will gain insights and form ideas about the message of the text on which you can build while listening to the sermon. You will be amazed at how God blesses you as you listen because of how prepared your heart is to hear.

Another step is to make the sermon the topic of your conversations with your friends after the service. As you eat lunch together, share your thoughts with each other about the message of the text, how you think it applies to your life and that of the body. Remember, the point is not to critique the preacher, criticize his delivery or argue with him about his theology. The point is to discover the message of the text and be blessed by it as an individual and as a body. Encourage each other during this time with the truth of God’s Word.

A third step is to pray for our congregation that we would not become dull in our hearing but that we would understand with our heart, return to God for healing and grow in our hunger for the Word of God. Make Isaiah 6:9-10 a guide for your prayers.

The final step I want to highlight is that we should be doers of the Word not just hearers. An Expositional Listener doesn’t just listen. He hears and acts accordingly. In order to be a Expositional listener you must listen intently to the Word of God and abide by it. (See James 1:22-25)

I hope these things help you grow in your faith and help our congregation grow in unity and love for one another.

Blessings, Mark

Anyabwile, Thabiti M. What is a Healthy Church Member?. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books, 2008.

Continue Reading