Last week was an incredible blessing to me as our staff team was able to travel to Louisville, Kentucky for four days at a conference on the Gospel. The messages addressed issues of how we must prevent the Biblical Gospel from being “adjusted” and thereby lost through evangelical capitulations to post-modernism, doctrinal back-sliding, and pragmatism. These sermons were spiritually nourishing as well as challenging.
The title of my article is actually the title of the first message of the conference, delivered by Mark Dever. This was a great message, so I want to recount much of what he had to say in my article this week.
At the outset of his message, Dever noted that a church that is manifestly unhealthy can actually be a detriment to Gospel ministry in the community. Open, unaddressed sin, infighting, apathy, heresy, and lack of loving witness are just a few of the maladys that can ruin a church’s effectiveness and tarnish the reputation of Christ. Thus, we must intentionally endeavor to display the Person of God and the truth of the Gospel in the way we “do” church. Dever then set forth 4 areas in which the church must manifest biblical truth.
First, we must rightly manifest the nature and character of God in three key ways. First is His Holiness. God is distinct and set apart, so His people are to be distinct and set apart from the world; do we rightly reflect His purity & holiness? We are all sinners in the church, but what marks us is that we are continually repenting sinners. So are we striving for holiness or are we treating sin and God’s Person casually? Second is His Love. Do we manifest a love that points to Him, a love that inconveniences and even sacrifices ourselves in order to demonstrate concern for and to do good toward others? Third is His Authority. Satan wants us to think that God’s authority contradicts God’s love, but God both loves us and rules us. A right use of authority in our congregations reflects the authority of God Himself. Good authority is a God-given blessing. Without its biblical exercise, authority can be abused or absent, resulting in a lifeless church.
Secondly, he noted we must rightly manifest the truth about humanity. First, we should not value human beings on superficial criteria, we should value them because they are made in the image of God. Thus, the church is not just for any one demographic group, but for all those who reflect His image and love His image in others. Second, our churches should also model and teach the truth of human depravity. We must acknowledge the fact that we are all fallen. We must preach this truth, but we must also prove that we understand it. Where do we stand according to the law of God? Why are we so deeply in need of forgiveness? We are to be a living community of people who understand their sinfulness, and we must never soft-pedal the reality of sin to sinners.
Third, we must rightly manifest the truth of our Savior. We bear His name; He is the object of our worship and we are His body, we are filled with His Spirit. So how do we make Christ visible? How are we demonstrating His grace and how are we bringing it to bear on the reality of human depravity? We should be marked by embodying His love, His work, and His person. We manifest this first is the way we lay down our lives for one another. Our congregtions are full of people unlike one another in many respects — age, background, and ethnicity. Do we value those differences? Our unity in spite of differences proves the love of Christ in our midst. It also gives us a solid platform from which to share the truths of His Person and Work with unbelievers.
Finally, our churches should manifest the right response to the Gospel: Repentance and Faith. Repentance is the humble admission of fault and subsequent reorientation away from sin and toward God. Confession and renouncement of sin mark the healthy body. The Christian life is personal, but not private, and we are not meant to run the race alone. There are aspects of our spiritual lives that are only visible through relationships in the community of faith. Secondly, we are to manifest faith in God and in the promises He has given to us in Christ. The local church is a community of people all acting on things that you cannot see, and yet these unseen realities effect our very real actions continuously. Thus, we need to treasure and preach God’s Word; in doing so we hold out the promises we are running to. This is what our sermons should be doing every week, so that God’s promises are calling us forward in repentance and belief.
I hope you all enjoy these truths and give time to contemplating these truths in the weeks and months ahead. I know they will enrich your perspective and your walk as much as they have mine. I love you all dearly!