April, 2013

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The If & Then of Faith

010-born-again-christian-bumper-sticker-vinyl-decalIn the Pastoral Letters one will find sundry of expected Christian living based on the Character and redemptive work of God. The author uses if-then statements to control the flow of his intentions. More specifically, Paul uses “Since” and “They Must”. This could be said to be true of all of Christian living. A general example of this literary device is Colossians 3:1-2Therefore, if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. It shows cause and effect. Because we have been raised with Christ, then we set our minds on things from above.

The audience of the Pastoral Epistles is given moral ideals from Scripture because its moral perspective is not relativistic. Sins, such as murder, idolatry, fornication are not only wrong in certain geographical locations; but, are universally sinful. Yet it is the technique of the PE’s to make statements about their relationship to their Lord that gives the basis for his charge to them of their redeemed conversations. Take Titus 3:1-7 for an example of what we can also call “gift-task” language. The instruction that Christians “be subject to” the civil government indicates that such authorities are part of God’s overall order for human society. A proper Christian attitude toward the state requires the Christians “to be obedient”.This idea is a practical outworking of Jesus’ teaching concerning being “the salt of the earth … and the light of the world … that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matt 5:13–16). Paul then presents the theological basis for the charge presented to them in vs.1&2. Paul described the degenerate condition of the pagan society in which Christians had to live. Interestingly, his comments focus on the human condition within the society.The verb “were,” placed at the beginning of this sentence, emphatically contrasts the Christian’s former degenerate condition (“at one time,”), which is described in v. 3, with the present regenerate condition (“but when,”), which is described in vv. 4–7.

This expression of humanity’s depraved condition marks the beginning of the third outstanding theological statement in this brief letter. Having initiated a contrast at the beginning of v. 3 with the words “At one time we too were,” Paul completed it in vv. 4–7, beginning with the words “But when.” “But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared,” Because kindness and love are noted in their usual application to God, being noted as the “fruit of the Spirit” (Gal 5:22) the fact that Paul expressly stated that man does not naturally possess this attribute makes the case of this argument all the more forceful.

Paul then follows with, “he saved us,” in v. 5 which constitutes the main verb in this lengthy sentence (vv. 4–7). It is the fact of God’s saving action in Jesus Christ that is amplified and explained by each additional clause and phrase. It is his saving grace that enables the believer to live above the human depravity of the past and of that around them. In this passage of Scripture, coincidently is the most explicit reference of the regenerate life.

One of the many reasons for the writing of the Pastorals is to encourage the readers / listeners to be reminded that because their lives had been radically crucified with Jesus, then their words, thoughts and deeds would display the life and resurrection of their Risen Lord.

Craig Layton is pursuing a BA in Christian Studies with a Great Commission Minor.  He is a conference speaker and Revivalist who speaks to issues from Christian Worldview issues to how to prepare for genuine revival within a body of believers.  He is senior pastor of Leary Baptist Church in Leary Georgia; which is presently experiencing a protracted season of true God sent revival..  Married for 6 years to his wife Kimberly, they have two children and two grandchildren.  You can follow Craig on Twitter at twitter.com/Pastor_COLayton. And on Facebook  at facebook.com/craig.layton72

Baptist Heritage

Baptist-HeritageThe theological movement represented by the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries were reflected in the life and writings of men who all lived and died in continental Europe. These men were “first-order theologians, many of them martyrs, who were shaping Baptist teachings by what they did”, rather than what they could theorize. The incredible thing about their lives and their works is that all was done within the border of “Christendom”, albeit on the fringe. Men like Sattler, Simons, Grebel and Hubmaier; who lived their irreducible convictions publically; challenged the established theologians; and gave their lives on the firm belief that martyrdom was simply part of the cross Christ called Christians to bear. Highlights will be brought forth, in this writing, to give a glimpse into the theological battle in which these men found themselves on the front line.

Converted scholar and humanist, Conrad Grebel, a Swiss Anabaptist displays his fiery convictions, as well as, his willingness to be corrected, in a letter to Thomas Munster. One of the more notable arguments against Munster’s methods was the translating of song into the German tongue, for the purpose of congregational singing. No matter, how much one may disagree with his conclusion that singing should not be allowed in the congregation; one must concede to the heart of his arguments which honor the Scriptures and seek to safeguard the believers from falling into unbiblical practices. The heart of the argument is as follows, “whatever we are not taught by clear passages or examples must be regarded as forbidden, just as if it were written: ‘This do not; sing not’.

You can hear the same heart and tone in Balthasar Hubmaier, a hero of early Anabaptist faith, when he argues against the practice of Infant Baptism. In a splendid volley of argument he urges Oecolampad to concede to the clear words of Scripture. “Infant baptism is against scripture, for what is not with the Scripture is against Scripture. Or point out where the Scripture commands baptizing children.” To which Hubmaier’s opponent replied, “I want to do it”. To which Hubmaier replied, “Who has so entirely bewitched you that you do not look to truth?”

In the Schleitheim Confession, Michael Sattler wrote that Scriptural baptism was to be administered to those “who have learned repentance and amendment of life, and who believe truly that their sins are taken away by Christ…” So strongly was this belief in regenerate baptism by the men of that day, until it lead them all to concur with Sattler, when he further stated, “This excludes all infant baptisms, the highest and chief abomination of the pope.”

To be fair, there were other troubles in the establishment of “Christendom” in those tense days. There were even some just as highly abominable, like indulgences or the power of the sacraments to save; but each “season” or century in church history, to be sure, had its anthem. The Seventeenth Century saw a change across the landscape of old establishment in all of Europe. Catholics and Protestants took their shots at one another to the point of war. As war brought on violence, death, poverty and a whole host of “justifiable sins”, the Baptist camp was heralding for the cause of separation and obedience to Christ. This separation began to witness a turbulence among it’s theologians of salvific importance, namely the divide among Calvinism and Arminianism. This divide gave birth to two groups who were then known as General Baptists and Particular Baptists. Other “denominations” found their footing in this period of church history as well. There were lines clearly drawn as well as those lines that were more blurred.

One of the thinkers that sprang from this period was the self-titled “unlettered and simple man” John Bunyan. “Bunyan is claimed by both the Congregationalists and Baptists.” Although the Bedford congregation of which he was the un-ordained pastor, practiced but did not require believers’ baptism. He was author, of what is possibly the greatest Christian work outside of Scripture, Pilgrim’s Progress. A chapter from this classic is exhibited in Baptist Roots, which describes the prevailing thought of the need of careful examination of one’s walk and profession before he could be accepted in to the Church by a congregation. This comes to expression when Christian comes to the Porter of the Palace Beautiful. Porter says to Christian, “”Well, I will call out one of the virgins of this place, who will, if she likes your talk, bring you into the rest of the family, according to the rules of the house.”

Freedom from state persecution sprang forth in the following Eighteenth Century. Along with this came a waning of spiritual fortitude. Apathy, theological lethargy, and ecclesiastical entropy scarred this era of toleration and material accumulation. There was witnessed a decline of Baptists across Europe. But the landscape of America was seeing a Great Awakening at both the preaching of Jonathan Edwards and the revival meetings of Whitfield and Wesley. The Baptist Mission Society was formed in 1792 and its first missionary, William Carey was sent to India. “Baptists, who had been despised in previous years, now found themselves at the forefront of the revolutionary movement, with strong leaders.” Much of what came from this formative time in American history would set the Baptists on a course to establish them as the leading denomination in the world. However it would seem that England would see the diminishing of English Baptists for which the hype- Calvinists are largely to blame. Time and space would fail of providing volumes of example of this very thing, not only in England but in America, as well.

A “free church” effort can be seen in the Nineteenth Century. This Century was heralded by many to be the Great Century. These were the days of Baptist thought that pictured the apostolic church as a missionary church.  It was not the earlier mindset of “extending Christian Civilization; but rather, evangelizing and converting unbelievers.” It was also times of facing some difficult theological challenges which were brought on by the Enlightenment. Charles Darwin introduced a theory called “Evolution” that threatened to shake, predominately undereducated Baptist pastors to the core. Yet, God would prevail by blazing a bright and shining light through the revivals of Charles G. Finney, D.L. Moody as well as others. It was this “season” of evangelical revival that challenged Protestants to be “born again.”

However, it is the opinion of the present author that many historians misse the mark when dealing with the century that followed. Even though a few godly Baptist men beat the drum for a righteous church; the “born again” mentality of the previous era reduced largely to a church of tradition and hollow religion.  The days of prohibition drew a divided line all across the American culture. And by the time of the great depression, Americans were looking to politicians and government for salvation from ruin. Sadly, a scant few were crying out to God in repentance and brokenness.

The World Wars brought great wealth and prosperity to a nation that formerly had been eager to strive vigilantly for the freedom to worship a Holy God. By the end of the Second World War, a nation free from the Great depression, was no longer marching to “Onward Christian Soldiers”; but rather “Happy Days are Here Again”. Although, the days seemed to mark the Great Falling Away in American Baptist life; God was not left without a witness. Mighty men of God were rising up to call a nation unto God. The Forties saw the simple Gospel call of the great evangelist Billy Graham. In the same decade, a fiery young Baptist preacher by the name of Percy Ray, from Myrtle Mississippi, emerged to warn and to plead with a backsliding America to repent and turn to God. The Ministry of this great man of God must have, surely slipped under the radar of many. It was due to Dr. Ray’s ministry that State Capitols as well as the Federal Capitol found hundreds on their steps praying and pleading for a revival like those of Finney and Edwards.

Then there was the resurgence led by Dr. Pressler and Adrian Rodgers; the Moral Majority led by Dr. Jerry Falwell  The Secular Humanism, Liberalism and Feminism of the Sixties and Seventies threatened to snuff out the Christian life of a once evangelistic nation. All of these men rose up at a time when the spiritual pulse of Baptists and a nation was critically low. Through radio and television God sent the heralding voice of men like Rogers and Falwell into the living room of nearly every home in the nation.

 

Craig Layton is pursuing a BA in Christian Studies with a Great Commission Minor.  He is a conference speaker and Revivalist who speaks to issues from Christian Worldview issues to how to prepare for genuine revival within a body of believers.  He is senior pastor of Leary Baptist Church in Leary Georgia; which is presently experiencing a protracted season of true God sent revival..  Married for 6 years to his wife Kimberly, they have two children and two grandchildren.  You can follow Craig on Twitter at twitter.com/Pastor_COLayton. And on Facebook  at facebook.com/craig.layton72

Hollow Religion and Vain Rituals

Generic Concrete Quote (ES)Throughout the last century in America, people have labored to build houses of worship. The old “Home Mission Board” was stocked with pioneers who would seek out rural locations to build church buildings for the people to have a place to gather and hear the Word of God and assemble for the purpose of prayer and intercession. During the Great Depression, men like Dr. Percy Ray would organize the building of many rural churches and the people of the communities would come, filled with enthusiasm and expectancy, to help in the building of these houses of worship.

Once established, these buildings would be filled (almost continually) with the saints of GOD. Prayer meetings would last for days on end; petitioning God for the souls of a lost loved one or a friend across town. Revival meetings would last through the evenings and onto the mornings as countless souls would be won to the Lord. As a result of these clap-board, one- roomed buildings, saints united in success to bring about a great change in the communities all across the southeastern United States, for the glory of GOD. It would seem that the opportunity to gather as one, for worship was received with great gladness and Christian fervor. It was a grateful heart that brought about such love for fellowman and abounding adoration of a Savior, who would look so kindly upon them as to provide a building for worship and service.

Sadly, as that generation has gone on to be with their LORD, a new breed of Christians has emerged. They don’t know what it is to ” pray the price” or labor for the sake of the gospel. They’ve forgotten the purpose of the building in which they sit week after week and give their money to maintain. All too often, people come to these stained glass empires to strut the latest fashion or get some feel good message that will bolster their already inflated ego. More often than not, this house, where God was once the object and the lost its mission; is now a place to get the latest “pop-psychology” of self-help in a prepackaged drive-thru manner. This feel good nicety-nice message has replaced a repentant heart and a tearstained alter with a hollow religion that has no power to save. The hard doctrines of repentance and sanctification have been tossed aside for an emotionalism that offers a temporary excitement but offers no lasting Peace.

The focus of the Contemporary Church has shifted from the service and worship of GOD to the exaltation of self and the sustaining of a bulging church budget. The Church of the living God has taken on the image of a Shopping Mall. The pastor’s latest Publications or DVDs are being peddled in the foyer next to  “Coffee Bars” that could rival Starbucks. Moreover,  The sights and sounds of the Worship Center mirror the production seen at a Rock Concert. What is the reason for this? To be more relevant to a society that has no room for GOD? True are the words of the Apostle, “In the last days…men will become…. lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power.” In truth, is this the house of the Living GOD, or has the Glory departed? Paul followed this statement with these words, “And from such people turn away!”

Is this not the same sin as the prophets charged Israel with? Where is the care for the widow, the fatherless and the poor? Where does surrender to Christ find its place in this man made ritual? Is this behavior what the contemporary Church considers taking up our cross and following Him? Has not the Cross ceased to humble us and the Blood to make us weep? Has the idol of “self and status” eclipsed the bloodstained banner? Is not what we call “Church” nothing more than a stench in the nostrils of Almighty GOD? Will we come to see this hollowed out charade for what it is and repent; humble ourselves before GOD and do the first works? Judgment must first begin in the house of GOD. If we will not judge ourselves; there is ONE who will judge by the Blood He shed for it!

Saints, Be encouraged, for the day Declares the coming of Our LORD!

So Come LORD Jesus,
Pastor Craig 

 

Craig Layton is pursuing a BA in Christian Studies with a Great Commission Minor.  He is a conference speaker and Revivalist who speaks to issues from Christian Worldview issues to how to prepare for genuine revival within a body of believers.  He is senior pastor of Leary Baptist Church in Leary Georgia; which is presently experiencing a protracted season of true God sent revival..  Married for 6 years to his wife Kimberly, they have two children and two grandchildren.  You can follow Craig on Twitter at twitter.com/Pastor_COLayton. And on Facebook  at facebook.com/craig.layton72

A Pastor’s Perspective of the Pastorals part 2

sovereignty of GodThe Pastorals are flush with the works of God in his plan of Salvation. Paul presents the mighty hand of God in the Pastorals to initiate and perform the salvific plan in the now and in the eschatological future.

It seems rather plain that the churches of Ephesus and Crete are under some sort of attack of false brethren and their false teachings. It would be wise to surmise that Ephesus was more directly impacted by the false theology than was Crete at the time of the writing. Paul’s writing to Titus in Crete seemed to be more preventative than corrective in nature. Ephesus appears to be inundated with teachers claiming that the resurrection of the Saints had already passed. It would further seem that these “teachers’ in Ephesus were drawing there teachings from the law and turning the redeemed from the working out of the salvific purpose of God which sees its fullness in love. “But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” (1 Ti 1:5)

Paul seems to stress the Sovereignty of God in the working out of that Salvation in the churches despite the hindrances of these false teachers. In all three letters it is as if Paul was telling the young and capable men to “stick to the script”. In 1Timothy and in Titus it is clear that the initial charge to both men was to appoint capable men to leadership positions, who were able to forward the “true” gospel deposit which was entrusted to them. The implied message is that truth preached and taught will prevail over the cunning and crafty winds of doctrine that would blow through the churches. Paul asserts that nothing has changed in God’s saving work, even though the antagonists teach otherwise. The Apostle’s letters strongly affirm that correct theology should prevail as the shaping force in the life of the community and in the Church.

In all three Pastoral Letters; but especially in 2 Timothy, Paul stress the confidence that he had in the perfect salvation plan of God.  He writes to a young man in whom he has entrusted a major work of “troubleshooting” with affirming words of encouragement and cautioning. It does not seem that Timothy has been caught up in the antagonist’s disordering of the gospel; but rather that he was feeling the weight of such false teachings. Paul reminds young Timothy that they are devoid of power and only have a form of godliness; while Timothy, on the other hand, has the gift of God which was in him  through the laying on of Paul’s hands. He tells Timothy to stir that gift up; to do the work of an Evangelist: and to endure the present hardship as a good soldier. All of this was to affirm in Timothy the heart of the Christian warrior that Timothy was called to be.

The present heresies could in no way hinder the saving work upon God’s people. The foundation could not be shaken that had been laid by the Spirit of God. The whole of mankind would be judged by what they did with Christ and the faithful would be rewarded. Therefore, it was imperative that Timothy and Titus preach persistently his unaltered word whether the audience wanted to hear it or not. God would prevail in His plan and nothing or nobody would prevent God’s sheep from the saving graces of the Good Shepherd.

 

Craig Layton is pursuing a BA in Christian Studies with a Great Commission Minor.  He is a conference speaker and Revivalist who speaks to issues from Christian Worldview issues to how to prepare for genuine revival within a body of believers.  He is senior pastor of Leary Baptist Church in Leary Georgia; which is presently experiencing a protracted season of true God sent revival..  Married for 6 years to his wife Kimberly, they have two children and two grandchildren.  You can follow Craig on Twitter at twitter.com/Pastor_COLayton. And on Facebook  at facebook.com/craig.layton72

A Pastor’s Perspective of the Pastorals part 1

passiing the gospelIt has been stated that the Pastoral Epistles contain poor literary structure and are only useful for the immediate recipients. It can be clearly shown that the Pastoral Epistles are filled with purpose and are essential in leading churches to order the household of God.

Each Pastoral Epistle is controlled by the extended metaphor of the household. More particularly God’s Household (1 Timothy 3:15).The concept of this household theology is not a new one; it has been upon from a more or less degree from the first. It is derived from the concept of the ancient oikos. This metaphor is the theological key that envisions a divinely organized pattern of life within the church.

It is evident that the household of God is not confined to Crete or Ephesus. For it is stated, by Paul in 1 Corinthians 1:2, “with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours:. It is certain that he was addressing not only the Corinthian church; but also all other churches in every place. Is not “all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ” speaking of the households of God.

It is obvious that Paul has dispatched Titus to Crete and Timothy with definite instructions. They do have specific tasks in their respective cities. For Titus it is, “For this reason I left you in Crete, that you should set in order the things that are lacking, and appoint elders in every city as I commanded you”— (Tt 1:5) For Timothy it was, “remain in Ephesus that you may charge some that they teach no other doctrine” (1 Ti 1:3). However it appears from the text that there are other purposes for writing the Pastoral Letters, as well.

All of these secondary purposes are charged with “Household” language. In 1st Timothy it is the unit endings that charge Timothy to “Guard the deposit which has been entrusted to him.” Timothy and Titus are considered as the “despot of the oikos” or keeper of the home.  In Titus, Paul speaks to the theological basis for correct behavior within the household (2:11-15)

In regard to 2nd Timothy there is certainly more of a personal feeling; however, there is much practical instruction within for all young ministers in every age. There is warning of “perilous times”, even the inference of trusted fellow servants leaving his side. Although the ad hoc element was to summons Timothy to Rome; the broader element is to remind the man of God to “Guard the Valuable Deposit!” These instructions are based on the life and ministry, which serve as an example, of the man of God who is soon departing.

If Paul were to die before Timothy arrives in Rome, this 2nd letter to Timothy would be a reminder of a life well served in the witness and ministry of Jesus Christ. Maybe most importantly, it would reflect on a “deposit” held in faithful trust till the end.

The Pastorals are a glowing reminder, to the minister in any stage of life, that he is entrusted with the gospel deposit from Christ and is responsible to be a faithful steward until which time his Master returns.

 

Craig Layton is pursuing a BA in Christian Studies with a Great Commission Minor.  He is a conference speaker and Revivalist who speaks to issues from Christian Worldview issues to how to prepare for genuine revival within a body of believers.  He is senior pastor of Leary Baptist Church in Leary Georgia; which is presently experiencing a protracted season of true God sent revival..  Married for 6 years to his wife Kimberly, they have two children and two grandchildren.  You can follow Craig on Twitter at twitter.com/Pastor_COLayton. And on Facebook  at facebook.com/craig.layton72