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Thursday, 15 October 2015

The Great - and Gospel - Value of Work

Created to Work
Adam and Eve were placed in a Garden  to work it and take care of it (Gen 2:15), as well as to enjoy it. They were created workers as well as enjoyers. There is something amiss in our lives if we are only enjoyers and not workers, takers only rather than workers too.

In one sense all work is gardening - all true work involves taking the raw materials around us (homes, fields, cloth, iron, etc.) and using our God given gifts of creativity to produce something beautiful and beneficial (homes that are functioning and warm, objects of art or usefulness, etc.).

After the fall work became somewhat laborious, but it is still in God's plan that all should work. Work brings in wealth and hard work leads to influence.

For a believer, work takes on new and greater significance. Our work is one way we please and serve the Lord (Col 2:23), and our work is one way we witness to the world (Matt 5:16, 1 Pet 2:12). Before we open our mouths and share the Gospel, unbelievers should have already noted the quality and faithfulness of our work.

The effects of Laziness
In Solomon's Proverbs, there are few human states more pitied (and frankly ridiculed) than laziness. Solomon even invents a word to describe the lazy man: "sluggard" is his name. The sluggard is slow by definition, does little work and is often found sleeping - the snooze button on his alarm clock is worn out. Four particular perils await the lazy man.

1. The lazy man ends up poor (6:10-11). This is not right-wing politics, it is a law of nature.

2. The lazy man's life is just plain old difficult. His path is blocked with thorns (15:19). This is a deep truth, but since we were designed to work, not working has profound consequences upon us physically, socially, mentally and bodily. For example, a lazy man will have too much time to spare and may end up a busybody, end up bitter as he ponders small offences which the working man has soon forgot, or end up addicted to sins that he has had too much time to think about and nurture.

3. The lazy man harms other. He is brother to a vandal (18:9), because through his slack work, people who buy his poor products are endangered. Captain Scott's ship "The Endeavour" was dogged by a leak deep down in the ship which could well have been created by a lazy man who knew his slack work would never be detected (Captain Scott beleived that's where the leak came from).

4. The lazy man's character is eventually corrupted. A lazy man with far too much time to think ends up building a fantasy world of his own, which becomes, as the years pass, more and more sureal and unreal. He finds himself making ridiculous excuses as to why he can't work (22:13, 26:13) - there's a lion outside, or a murderer in the street. The whole of his character is corrupted and he ends up living in his own fantasy world, no less fictional than Assassin's Creed.

Laziness is a sin, and will lead not only to financial ruin but spiritual ruin too, for to grow as a believer requires us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. The Gospel is able to cure this terrible sin and give to a lazy man the power to labour and to restore him to the world of work. 

Monday, 12 October 2015

Impostor "offices" in the Modern Church

One lesson from the Reformation
Protestants learnt some good lessons from the reformation (small "r" because it was only partial - little was done, for example, to reform the church's ecclesiology back to the New Testament's vision of the church as a body; the forgotten Anabaptists did far more than the famous reformers in that department). We don't buy into everything the reformers, whether Zwingli or Calvin, Luther or Melanchthon taught or did - only One Man deserves that sort of following. But they did take us back to the New Testament in important ways - and that is what reformation is always all about (when it is genuine).

The reformers said that no man should be called a priest, rightly so. The office of "priest" is an impostor office, an office that imposes itself unlawfully on the church. Jesus Christ is our High Priest and we need no human priests any longer. For a man to call himself a priest (which means mediator between man and God) puts him in blasphemous competition with the Great High Priest. So away with priests.....

Two Lessons from Jesus and his Apostles
Jesus exhorted us to call no man "father" (Matthew 23:9), because we have only one Father, our Father in heaven. His apostles know of only two church offices, that of pastor (synonymous with bishop and elder) and deacon (1 Timothy 3, Philippians 1:1), and it is not even clear whether those men (in the case of elders) or men and women (in the case of deacons) should be called/named that, "Deacon Helen, Elder Bob".

So there are only two offices, elder and deacon and that's it. There are evangelists and apostles with a small "a" (sent ones - missionaries for example), but no other offices in the church.

A modern reformation needed
However, sneaking into the church by the false academy door, is a new office in the protestant church, or two. There is the "Scholar" and the "Theologian" - or even one I have recently seen "Theologian at large". The idea is that the church needs folk who spend all their time in books, and that these men should be given a voice in conferences and their books given precedence over those written by the mere plebs of the church - namely full-time Gospel pastors. This notion presides over many of the conferences that are held for church pastors: what dignifies the conference is the presence of some famous scholar.

But "scholars", "theologians" and "academics" are impostor offices in the church of Jesus Christ. There is no warrant for them in Scripture, and the sooner we exclude them from positions of influence and authority, the better. The only men who should be listened to authoritatively are those whom God has called by the Holy Spirit to the office of pastor (=elder=bishop).

We honour men like John Piper and Timothy Keller and John MacArthur purely because they are Spirit-anointed pastors (who, by the way, did you know?, spend alot of time studying God's word. But then, every pastor and every Christian should be an avid student of the Word).

Where does this come from?
Where does this foolish honouring of scholars, theologians and academics in the church come from? This crazy pursuit of man-made eternity-forgotten academic qualifications?  It comes from the seductive nature of the academy (i.e. pride) and the academisation of the modern church. To be a something in a scientific knowledge-based, knowledge-honouring culture, you have to be called Dr or Prof or some similar weird title. Such is the power of this seduction that pastors aren't happy with being mere pastors, so they embark on PhDs so that people might be really impressed with them because they will then be called "Dr." It comes, ultimately from Satan's first seduction - Eve was attracted by new knowledge; the fruit would give her desirable wisdom (Gen 3:6).

A great added tragedy of this pursuit of the academy, is that most of the modern errors in the church have come through men and women who hold these impostor offices and are not accountable to their/any local churches. In the most recent spate of moral errors the books propagating immorality are mostly written by Bible College lecturers over the pond.

The next reformation must take us back to fishermen and ex-tax-collectors and ex-scholars like Paul (who called all that academic jazz 'dung') and back to men who filled with the Holy Spirit are called to influence the church; and not because they've studied at some "prestigious" (but unknown in heaven - where it counts) institute of learning or have earned some higher degree, but because they have been with Jesus. "Scholars", "theologians", "academics" and what nots would be consulted when and if necessary, but with no authority whatsoever assigned to them.