Drippings from the Honeycomb
More to be desired are [the rules of the Lord] than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. (Psalm 19:10)
Christianity: Simple but not simplistic
Simple but not simplistic is a mantra I developed many years ago to describe what Christianity is (or ought to be).
[It is similar to the illustration Jerome painted of the Bible, “shallow enough for a babe to come and drink without fear of drowning and deep enough for a theologian to swim in without ever touching bottom.” Christianity isn’t a kiddy pool, nor is it an raging ocean; it is like a real graduating pool, the same water, but different depths, with room for maturity but ever with mysterious humility.]
On the one hand it is simple vs. complex. One shouldn’t add to the Faith. This can happen in legalistic or nominal or ritualistic or highly intellectual settings, etc.
On the other hand, it is simple vs. simplistic. One shouldn’t take away from the Faith or make it less than it is. This can happen in popular or folk Christianity, nominalism, emotionalism, etc.
Like “Goldilocks and the Three Bears,” Christianity should not be too hot or too cold but just right, as God intended.
Part of this mantra is informed by my own journey. Growing up in an evangelite denomination, exposed to theological liberalism, etc, gave me a desire for a more “robust” Faith; or one that richly accorded with Scripture.
The rest of the mantra comes from an acknowledgement that Scripture says as much (2 Pet 2:2; Heb 6:1–3), we should live (and hunger) for “every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Mt 4:4).
Consider how the Gospel is simple but not simplistic (Acts 2:38):
“Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
The Gospel isn’t do all of this to be saved, or understand the depths of Christology to be saved. Nor is the Gospel just believe or any such pithy saying. It is a simple robust call to belief in who Jesus is, repentant of one’s sin, trust in Jesus for forgiveness, baptism and the promised Holy Spirit.
Consider how Discipleship is simple but not simplistic:
While some portions of God’s Word is difficult to understand (2 Pet 3:16) we trust that with the Spirit’s help, all Scripture is for our good (Dt 6:24), even the hard passages. This clarity of Scripture (2 Ti 3:16–17) encourages us to study God’s Word and not settle for over simplifications nor feel trapped as if it is all impossible to understand.
Consider how the study of Doctrine is simple but not simplistic
From the Gospel all Christian theology can be built, one brick at a time.
The Bible is God’s revelation of Himself and His will. This is good. God calls doctrine, if it is biblical vs. manmade, good, “If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed.” (1 Ti 4:6; c.f. Tit 1:9, 2:1). He wants us to know more about Him and His ways and this does require training (effort). We might not all become elite athletes but we should all be healthy and fit.
Christianity is not trivial nor is it impossible, it is like an exciting adventure that is possible with the Spirit’s help. It turns out Christianity is simple but not simplistic after all.
Why We Practice Church Discipline
As a church we believe in and practice church discipline (henceforth CD) (Handbook 10.0). This is because we are a believers’ church comprised of members who have made and continue to make a credible profession of faith (Statement of Faith-The Church; Church Covenant; Handbook 7.0). We not only believe in the Gospel but a Gospel order, which includes CD. These are flip sides of the same coin.
[Corrective] Discipline, in a worldly sense, may simply be defined as “the practice of training people to obey rules or a code of behaviour, using punishment to correct disobedience” (Oxford). Biblically, the word discipline (paideia) means to train a child to reach maturity.
In Christian theology and ethics all precepts ultimately flow from principles and these from the person of God. A study of CD at the level of precept (especially in our culture) can lead to an emotional knee jerk reactions (intolerance, unaccepting, etc) but understanding the heart of what CD flows from reinforces our understanding and informs our practice.
Person: The Character of God
God is both a God of mercy and justice, grace/love and truth (e.g. Ex 34:6–7; Jn 1:17; 1 Jn 4:12).
It may be said that His discipline is directed against unbelievers in His wrath and wayward believers in His correction. Speaking of the latter Heb 12:7b–12 says:
“God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”
God is the perfect disciplinarian.
Principles from the Bible
A Believer’s Church- A Christian is one who has believed the Gospel and been added to the church through baptism. We can see the believing nature early in Acts, such as Acts 2:41. Unlike the Old Covenant people and many systems of Christianity today that uphold a mixed nature of God’s visible people (i.e. believers and unbelievers), the New Covenant people are a believing community. While it is true false professors creep in and that the Lord knows those who are His, we have an obligation to ensure membership is based upon a credible profession.
Perseverance of the Saints- The Bible teaches that those who are truly the Lord will ultimately not fail in the faith but persevere to the end. This means that the Church holds members accountable in the Lord. Only those who give a credible profession of faith and practice may be counted as part of it. If assurance is persistently and unrepentantly removed, the assurance of membership must likewise be withdrawn.
The church is a believing community that is given shape through regenerate membership (baptism and discipline).
Precepts: What the Bible says.
There are a number of related Bible verses/passages that speak to the subject of Church discipline. Some of the most noteworthy are:
I.The Correct Spirit: The Lost Sheep precedes Mt 18; Gal 6:1; Lk 17:3
II.As A General Command: 1 Cor 5:9–13; 2 Thes 3:6
III.A Typical Threefold Process: Mt 18:15–20; Tit 3:10
IV.The Authority to Bind (bring into membership) and Loose (exclude from membership): Mt 16:16; Mt 18:19
V.The Example of the Man Excluded and then Restored because of Incest, 1 Cor 5:1 ; 2 Cor 2:5–11
VI.The Example of the Judgement of Ananias and Sapphira: Acts 5:1–11
Those professing believers who persist in unrepentant sin, whether in faith or practice, must be excluded.
Ultimately CD is for the glory of God (doing what God has said); the purity of the church (ensuring it remains a believers’ church); the good of the sinner (not allowing them to walk in false assurance) and the fear of the church (a renewed call for us to confirm our calling and election). (See Five Minute Moment, June 13, 2021, here).
“Today, many professing Christians see church discipline as unloving, and many church leaders are afraid to practice it for fear of appearing merciless. Yet refusing to apply church discipline in careful obedience to Scripture is the most unloving and merciless thing the church can do. When the church does not call out impenitent people, it gives them false assurance that they are in a state of salvation.” - Ligioner
A Short Survey of Church Discipline from Church History
The church has tended to oscillate in this area [CD] between extreme severity (disciplining members for the most trivial offences) and extreme laxity (exercising no discipline at all, even for serious offences). John Stott, "The Message of Acts," p. 112.
 There is also formative discipline (e.g. training in godliness) and restorative discipline (reconciliation).
We have begun a New Year. It is no longer 2022 but 2023. That is a boundary. The Bible says that boundaries are a God given gift to be respected. A classic verse on the subject is Proverbs 22:28:
Do not remove the ancient landmark that your fathers have set.
What is that about? It means that in ancient Israel farmers marked the boundaries of their lands (allotted by God through Moses) by large stones or piles of stones. A greedy neighbour could sneakily move those stones over time and enlarge his land at the expense of his neighbour.
The world is filled with myriads of boundaries at God’s design. Because God designed them they are good and not to be understood in a negative way as many might see words like ‘division.’ They are good and we’d do well to respect them. Some boundaries like those at Creation are fixed and immoveable: day and night, land and sea, etc. Other boundaries are moveable. Yet it is only in our pride that we seek to move what God has fixed. This is because in our desire to be as God (Gen 3:5) we don’t respect God or others but move those stones to our own advantage. (Even the Creator-creature distinction is a boundary, Ro 1:25. We can’t actually move it but we try!). How we respond to God’s boundaries can be appropriate and inappropriate, good and evil. All sins and troubles, particularly of the inter-personal kind, stem from, in pride, breaking God’s boundaries.
Considering just some of the good God-given boundaries that we find in the Bible:
Perhaps with this in mind you might now see more boundaries in Scripture and identify them in the world around us.
May we repent of boundary breaking, seek the boundary Maker for forgiveness, and find the Holy Spirit’s renewing power to respect the boundaries that God has established for our good.
Members' Meeting Devotional
Sept 28- A devotional on discipleship presented at our recent Members' Meeting.
The Unspoken Sin
No I’m not referring to some sexual sin, or any other matter Christians can sometimes be silent on, but the sin of spiritual laziness or slothfulness, historically known as acedia, a sin which is rampant and largely unaddressed in contemporary Church culture.
In Cover to Cover we’re in the period of the Kings, which is characterized by this roller coaster of spirituality, sometimes a nearness to the Lord and the associated blessings and sometimes a departure from him and the related consequences.
As a pastor, zealous for the honour of the Lord, desirous that His people would glorify and enjoy Him, and that others would be led to do the same, it pains and even deeply grieves my heart when I see the sin of acedia in the world, but especially when it creeps into the visible church.
A past sermon on the ant in Proverbs 6:6–11 (July 27) taught us the vital spiritual lesson of Christian industry. The ant is our teacher on industry, initiative, purpose, and ultimate satisfaction or reward in our work. Like our Creator we were created to create. Like our God who is Spirit, we too are designed to be spiritual. Are we busy about our souls and winning and nurturing the souls of others? Do we have to be told, prompted or reminded to seek the Lord? Is He the sole purpose of our life? Are we storing up treasure in heaven? If we are like the ant—spiritually speaking—we will answer a hearty, “Yes.”
Do we take advantage of the spiritual means of grace that He has provided His people and Church?
Acedia is quite possibly the greatest sin of our age, yet its unspokeness makes it all the more dangerous.
If the seeking or worship of the Lord is our great call then not to be zealous in that pursuit, to not love Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength is indeed criminal and injurious to our soul.
Oh the joy that Christ has in store for His people if they would but, in faith, be spiritually industrious! Acedia breaks my heart every time I see an instance of it; yet to the contrary, when I see spiritual industry my joy is made complete for the joy the other knows through their obedience to Christ's promises and commands.
If you are zealous for the Lord would you please join me in making the Psalmist’s prayer your prayer:
Will you not revive us again, that your people may delight in you? (Ps 85:6)
 From the Greek, an inert state without pain or care.
 A means of grace is a way that God has appointed through which, when trusted in faith, the believer derives His unmerited favour, or untold spiritual benefits.
How Regularly Should I Take Communion?
One of the undesirable consequences of Covid-19 for many churches and Christians has been the infrequency of which Communion, the Lord’s Supper or the Eucharist has been remembered, celebrated, observed or taken.
How regularly should I taken Communion and why?
Some Christians take it weekly, others monthly (like us—the first a.m. service and third p.m. service), some quarterly and some even yearly.
What was the practice of the early Church?
Sadly, both ordinances of Baptism and Communion can be undervalued, however, below are 9 reasons why we ought to observe the Lord’s Supper and do so regularly:
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