A Word from the Elders of Grace Community Church

Note from Erik: I’m thankful for the wisdom and leadership exhibited by the Grace Community Church Elders during the past several months. They and Pastor John have set an excellent example through this trying time. May God be glorified and his fame increased during this time until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. (Ephesians 4:13)

“We were elated yesterday morning when President Trump declared churches to be essential, asked us to open this very Sunday, and promised to fight any state government that tried to stand in the way. As I’ve said many times, the Bible would have us submit to the governing authorities, and in the United States, there is no higher human executive authority than the president, who was speaking on a matter of federal and constitutional interest, specifically the First Amendment.

With that said, at our last elder meeting, we talked about how this situation was changing not just day-by-day, but even hour-by-hour, and that sadly turned out to be true here. Late Friday night, the Ninth Circuit, which is generally known as the most left-wing and anti-biblical circuit court in the nation, ruled 2-1 in favor of California Governor Newsom’s statewide stay-at-home order, rejecting an emergency motion to allow for religious services to proceed.

To say that we strenuously disagree with this decision would be an understatement. All credible data show that this coronavirus is far less dangerous than initially projected, even while the economic, mental, and spiritual toll of an extended lockdown order is far more dangerous. Meanwhile, although the initial response arguably might have been somewhat even-handed, as the situation has developed, religious organizations have increasingly been unfairly treated, even targeted.

For a state like California to decide that abortion providers, marijuana dispensaries, and liquor stores are “essential” while churches are forced to the back of the line via a seemingly endless series of moving goalposts and ever more restrictive hoops to jump through, is the very essence of upside-down Romans 1immorality. We stand against it plainly, and moving forward, we are striving to pursue every biblical and legal means to oppose it.

Even so, for now, the Ninth Circuit decision is sadly the law of the land in California, and we gladly submit to the sovereign purposes of God.

Separate and apart from the legal questions raised above, our worship services are not to be times of media circus and frenzy, particularly when we gather around the Lord’s Table. To prevent that from occurring, the elders of Grace Community Church desire to delay our reopening and leave it in the hands of God.

We covet your prayers even as we pray for you. We will continue to meet with live stream at 10:30 AM and 6:00 PM, which obviously the Lord has blessed.”

-The Elders of Grace Community Church, SunValley, CA.

https://www.gracechurch.org/news/posts/1956

MacArthur: Should Churches Reopen?

John MacArthur on churches reopening despite government suggestions and policy:

“Yeah, let me make very clear this question because it keeps coming up. If the government told us not to meet because Christianity was against the law, if the government told us not to meet because we would be punished, fined for our religion and our religious convictions, we would have no option but to meet anyway. And that takes you to the fifth chapter of Acts where the leaders of Israel said to the apostles, “Stop preaching.” And Peter’s response was very simple. He said, “You judge whether we obey God or men,” then he went right out and preached.

If the government tells us to stop worshiping, stop preaching, stop communicating the gospel, we don’t stop. We obey God rather than men. We don’t start a revolution about that; the apostles didn’t do that. If they put us in jail, we go to jail and we have a jail ministry. Like the apostle Paul said, “My being in jail has fallen out to the furtherance of the gospel.” So we don’t rebel, we don’t protest. You don’t ever see Christians doing that in the book of Acts. If they were persecuted, they were faithful to proclaim the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ even if it took them to jail; and that’s been the pattern of true Christianity through all the centuries.

But this is not that. Might become that in the future. Might be overtones of that with some politicians. But this is the government saying, “Please do this for the protection of this society.” This is for greater societal good, that’s their objective. This is not the persecution of Christianity. This is saying, “Behave this way so that people don’t become ill and die.”

Now you may not think that you’re going to have that impact on somebody, you’re not going to be the one that becomes a carrier and causes something to be passed on to somebody else down the road and somebody dies. You may think that’s going to be you. But you cannot defy the government. And I don’t think pastors should do this. You cannot defy the government and say, “We’re going to meet anyway because God has commanded us to meet, no matter what damage we do to people’s lives.”

I mean, what should mark Christians is mercy, compassion, love, kindness, sacrifice. How are you doing that if you flaunt the fact that you’re going to meet; and essentially you’re saying, “We disregard the public safety issue.” You don’t really want to say that. That does not help the gospel cause.

What helps the gospel cause is to say, “Of course, we don’t want to be the cause of anyone’s sadness, anyone’s sorrow, anyone’s sickness, and certainly anyone’s death. So we will gladly comply. This is consistent with what Scripture says, that we are to live quiet and peaceable lives in the society in which we live. We don’t rebel, we don’t do protests, we don’t fight the government, we don’t harass and harangue, we don’t march, we don’t get in parades, we don’t stop traffic; we lead quiet and peaceable lives, and we pray for those in authority over us, and we submit ourselves to them.

In Romans chapter 13, Paul says, “You submit yourself to the government, the powers that be.” But Peter adds to that, “You submit yourself to the governor and the king,” whoever that personal authority is. I’ve heard people say, “Well, this isn’t constitutional.” That’s irrelevant. That is completely irrelevant. When you’re told by an authority to do something and it’s for the greater good of the society physically, that’s what you do because that’s what Christians would do. We are not rebels and we’re not defiant, and we don’t flaunt our freedom at the expense of someone else’s health.

How do we back out of that to communicate the love of Christ? Look, Jesus came and basically banished disease from Israel. He was a healer. The last thing the church of Jesus Christ would want to be is a group of people that lived in defiance and made somebody sick, caused somebody’s death. So you restrain yourself from that.

Again, the issue is so clear that even going back to Richard Baxter back in 1600s, Richard Baxter has a great section in one of his books where he says, “If the magistrate,” as he calls it, “asks you to refrain from meeting because of a pestilence, you do not meet. On the other hand, if the magistrate tries to force you not to meet because of persecution of Christianity, you meet anyway.” I think that’s the dividing line.”

-John MacArthur

MacArthur: Judgement Is by Works

“Christ then addressed a word of comfort to those true believers in the Thyatira church who had not followed Jezebel’s false teaching: I will give to each one of you according to your deeds.

Christ’s unerring judgment would be based on each person’s deeds; those who were innocent would not be punished along with the guilty. That everyone will be judged by his or her deeds is a frequent theme in Scripture.

In Matthew 7:16 Jesus said of false prophets, “You will know them by their fruits.” Speaking of His second coming, Jesus warned, “For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and will then repay every man according to his deeds” (Matt. 16:27; cf. Rev. 22:12).

God is the righteous judge “who will render to each person according to his deeds” (Rom. 2:6). Paul wrote of his bitter opponent Alexander the coppersmith, “The Lord will repay him according to his deeds” (2 Tim. 4:14).

Works have always been the basis for divine judgment. That does not mean, however, that salvation is by works (cf. Eph. 2:8–9; 2 Tim. 1:9; Titus 3:5). People’s deeds reveal their spiritual condition. That is what James meant when he said, “I will show you my faith by my works” (James 2:18).

Saving faith will inevitably express itself in good works, causing James to declare that “faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself” (James 2:17, cf. v. 26). Christians are new creatures (2 Cor. 5:17), “created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them” (Eph. 2:10). Works cannot save, but they do damn.

Judgment must begin with the household of God (1 Pet. 4:17). But Christ’s judgment will fairly reflect each person’s deeds—a reality that should bring fear to those who teach and practice false doctrine, but comfort and hope to those whose faith is genuine.”

-John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, Revelation 1-11, 103.

MacArthur: Buy Salvation

“I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see…” (Revelation 3:18-30)

“Lost people have no way to buy salvation (Isaiah 64:5–6). The buying here is the same as the invitation in Isiah 51:1: “Ho! Every one who thirsts, come to the waters; and you who have no money come, buy and eat. Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.” All sinners have to offer is their hopelessly lost condition. In exchange, Christ offers His righteousness to those who truly repent.”

-John MacArthur, Because the Time Is Near, 101.

God Almighty Strong Secure

God Almighty, strong, secure
Who will hold with sovereign hand
There’s no reason death to fear
Satan, hell or devil band
I do not ask strength of my own
But in my weakness Thy strength shown

God All-wise, eternal
Source of knowledge for the darkened mind
Lighter of the heart’s true course
Sight for those in sin born blind
I do not ask to know for pride
But in Thy perfect will reside

Lord, who faced death unafraid
Won forgiveness, sought no fee
By whose love the price was paid
And the grace gift offered me
I do not ask no pain to bear
But only, always Thine to share

Loving Father, kind and caring
Giver of my needs and more
Heavenly glory now preparing
‘Til I receive my treasure store
I do not ask this world to flee
But serve ‘til Thou dost send for me

-Words: John MacArthur Jr. Music: C.T. Lambert.

The Apparent Paradox of Sanctification

by John MacArthur

How do you overcome sin and live the Christian life?  Is defeating sin something God does in you, or do you defeat it by obeying the commands of Scripture? In other words, is the Christian life an exercise in passive trust or active obedience? Is it all God’s doing, all the believer’s doing, or a combination of both? Those questions are as old as the church, and the varied answers have spawned movements and denominations.

This is not an unusual issue when dealing with spiritual truth. Many doctrines involve seeming paradoxes. For example, Jesus Christ is both fully God and fully man; and while Scripture was written by human authors, God wrote every word. The gospel is offered to the whole world, yet applied only to the elect. God eternally secures believers’ salvation, yet they are commanded to persevere.

Christians who try to reconcile every doctrine in a humanly rational way are inevitably drawn to extremes. Seeking to remove all mystery and paradox, they emphasize one truth or aspect of God’s Word at the expense of another which seems to contradict it. This is precisely how many Christians have handled the doctrine of sanctification. One view of sanctification emphasizes God’s role to the virtual exclusion of the believer’s effort. This is often referred to as quietism. The opposite extreme is called pietism.

The quietist sees believers as passive in sanctification. A common maxim is, “Let go and let God.” Another is, “I can’t; God can.” Quietism tends to be mystical and subjective, focusing on personal feelings and experiences. A person who is utterly submitted to and dependent on God, they say, will be divinely protected from sin and led into faithful living. Trying to strive against sin or discipline oneself to produce good works is considered not only futile but unspiritual and counterproductive.

One champion of this view was the devout Quaker Hannah Whitall Smith, whose book The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life has been read by millions. In it she writes,

What can be said about man’s part in this great work but that he must continually surrender himself and continually trust? But when we come to God’s side of the question, what is there that may not be said as to the manifold ways, in which He accomplishes the work entrusted to Him? It is here that the growing comes in. The lump of clay could never grow into a beautiful vessel if it stayed in the clay pit for thousands of years; but when it is put into the hands of a skilful potter it grows rapidly, under his fashioning, into the vessel he intends it to be. And in the same way the soul, abandoned to the working of the Heavenly Potter, is made into a vessel unto honor, sanctified, and meet for the Master’s use. (Westwood, N.J.: Revell, 1952, 32. Italics in original.)

How a Christian can fall into sin is a difficult question for the quietist to answer. They are forced to argue that such a person obviously misunderstands the matter of complete surrender, and has taken himself out of the hands of the heavenly Potter. But that flawed answer brings God’s sovereignty into question—if the Lord is completely in control, how can a believer take himself out of God’s hands?

Pietists, on the other hand, are typically aggressive in their pursuit of doctrinal and moral purity. Historically, this movement originated in seventeenth-century Germany as a reaction to the dead orthodoxy of many Protestant churches. To their credit, most pietists place strong emphasis on Bible study, holy living, self-discipline, and practical Christianity. They emphasize such passages as “Let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Corinthians 7:1) and “Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself” (James 2:17).

Unfortunately, this unbalanced view often leads to an overemphasis on self-effort to the virtual exclusion of dependence on divine power. As you might expect, pietism frequently leads to legalism, moralism, self-righteousness, a judgmental spirit, pride, and hypocrisy.

The quietist says, “Do nothing.”

The pietist says, “Do everything.”

In Philippians 2:12–13, Paul presents the appropriate resolution between the two. He makes no effort to rationally harmonize the believer’s part and God’s part in sanctification. He is content with the paradox and simply states both truths, saying on the one hand, sanctification is of believers (Philippians 2:12), and on the other hand, it is of God (Philippians 2:13).

The truth is that sanctification is God’s work, but He performs it through the diligent self-discipline and righteous pursuits of His people, not in spite of them. God’s sovereign work does not absolve believers from the need for obedience; it means their obedience is itself a Spirit-empowered work of God.

Today there is an intense debate within the church about this vital issue. The stakes are high—your view of sanctification informs and directs how you understand your new nature in Christ, how you evangelize others, pursue godliness, govern your heart and mind, how you raise and discipline your children, and how you understand and follow God’s commands in Scripture. For pastors and church leaders, your position on this issue will determine how you preach and teach, how you give counsel to troubled hearts, and how you engage in church discipline.

Neither quietism nor pietism represents the biblical path of sanctification. Both are spiritual ditches to steer clear of—they will impede your spiritual progress, and potentially obstruct it altogether.

-John MacArthur, http://www.gty.org/blog/B140702

Wrong Judgment: An Erroneous View of Ourselves

 by John MacArthur

Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, “Let me take the speck out of your eye,”and behold, the log is in your eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your eye. – Matthew 7:3–5

“When we judge critically we also manifest an erroneous view of ourselves. The “speck” Jesus refers to is not something insignificant—it was likely a twig or splinter. Though small in comparison to a log, it was not a good thing to have in your eye. Jesus’ comparison is not between a very small sin or fault and one that is large, but between one that is large and one that is gigantic. His primary point is that the sin of the critic is much greater than the sin of the person he is criticizing.

The wretched and gross sin that is always blind to its own sinfulness is self-righteousness. It looks directly at its own sin and still imagines it sees only righteousness.

The very nature of self-righteousness is to justify self and condemn others. Self-righteousness is the worst of all sins because it trusts in self rather than God. It trusts in self to determine what is right and wrong and to determine who does what is right or wrong.

Too, the term “notice” conveys serious, continual meditation. Until you have thought long and hard about your own sin, how can you confront another with his shortcomings?

Ask Yourself

Again, the thought conveyed here is not that we are forbidden from ever pointing out the sins of another, aiding him toward repentance and a desire for God’s forgiveness. But our hearts are so suspect, we must regularly keep our sins confessed and to the surface. How do you practice this discipline in your own life?

-John MacArthur, From Daily Readings from the Life of Christ, Vol. 1, John MacArthur. Copyright © 2008. Moody Publishers, Chicago, IL 60610, www.moodypublishers.com.

http://www.gty.org/resources/devotionals/daily-readings

 

From John MacArthur’s Desk

From Tavis Bohlinger

Reading Isaiah in bed just a few nights ago a piece of folded paper fell out into my lap. It was a photocopy of the same text that has been sitting on Pastor John MacArthur’s desk for many years now. I received this while attending The Master’s Seminary, and it has stuck with me every since. It is a timely reminder for me at the end of what has turned out to be a very difficult and challenging, though at times rewarding, first year of PhD studies. John prefaces this quote from an anonymous author with the following words: ‘To regularly remind myself of … self-sacrificing love, I have on my desk the following words from an unknown source:’

“When you are forgotten or neglected or purposely set at naught, and you sting and hurt with the insult of the oversight, but your heart is happy, being counted worthy to suffer for Christ—that is dying to self.

When your good is evil spoken of, when your wishes are crossed, your advice disregarded, your opinions ridiculed and you refuse to let anger rise in your heart, or even defend yourself, but take it all in patient loving silence—that is dying to self.

When you lovingly and patiently bear any disorder, and irregularity, or any annoyance, when you can stand face to face with waste, folly, extravagance, spiritual insensibility, and endure it as Jesus endured it—that is dying to self.

When you are content with any food, any offering, any raiment, any climate, any society, any attitude, any interruption by the will of God—that is dying to self.

When you never care to refer to yourself in conversation, or to record your own good works, or itch after commendation, when you can truly love to be unknown—that is dying to self.

When you see your brother prosper and have his needs met and can honestly rejoice with him in spirit and feel no envy nor question God, while your own needs are far greater and in desperate circumstances—that is dying to self.

When you can receive correction and reproof from one of less stature than yourself, can humbly submit inwardly as well as outwardly, finding no rebellion or resentment rising up within your heart—that is dying to self.”

http://tavisbohlinger.wordpress.com/2014/04/04/from-the-desk-of-john-macarthur/

Worship in Three Dimensions: Part 3

The Upward Dimension.

This third category, which marvelously suns up worship, is described in Hebrews 13:15-16. Verse 15 says, “Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name.” As we look at worship in its Godward focus, we discover that its distilled essence is simply thanksgiving and praise. With verse 16, the passage brings together all three categories of worship: “And do not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.”

Praising God, doing good, and sharing with others—all legitimate, scriptural acts of worship. That draws into the concept of worship every activity and relationship of human living. The implication is that just as the Scriptures are dedicated to the subject of worship from cover to cover, so the believer should be dedicated to the activity of worship, consumed with a desire to use every moment of his life to devote himself to doing good to all, sharing our blessings with our neighbors, and praising God, who is the source of all goodness and every blessing.

-John MacArthur, Worship: The Ultimate Priority, 46.