Sunday, November 26, 2006

Biblical Priorities for a Healthy Church (4)

What in the world is so important about doctrine?
Biblical Priorities for the Life of Our Church (4) Biblical Doctrine
Titus 1:1-2 and 2 Timothy 1:13-14
Introduction (review):
1. On October 22, we began a new series of topical-expository messages on Biblical Priorities for the Life of Our Church.
2. In our first message in this series, "Where in the world in the Church?," we considered the context in which we live and minister, and we agreed that the Bible teaches us that it is important for us to be aware of our contemporary context, to understand our times (see, e.g. 1 Timothy 3:1-7, 1 Chronicles 12:32 and Matthew 16:3/ Luke 12:56). We also argued that there at least three huge factors impacting the church in our day: individualism, relativism, and consumerism. We also said that these cultural myths and assumptions have a massive influence on the church, and often unhelpfully impact the way we view what the church is, should be, does and believes, as well as the way we participate in the life of the church and the way we engage the culture.
3. So how do we compete with this? How do we resist the siren song of the culture? How do we keep from caving in and copying the world? The Bible’s answer is primarily that we do so by having our hearts and minds captured by the word of God. And this has to work it’s way out primarily in the faithful exposition of God’s word - biblical preaching. So that was the focus of our second message in this series.
4. As we studied 2 Timothy 4:1-4 and noted Paul’s emphasis on the importance of preaching, we also suggested five ways that we as hearers of the word can better profit from the message preached. 1. Listen as if your life depended on it (Matthew 4:4). 2. Recognize the seriousness of your life situation (Ephesians 6:12). 3. Realize that it is God’s word you need in such a circumstance (Psalm 119:105). 4. Understand that it is God’s help that you need (Psalm 40:17). 5. Appreciate that communion with God is your goal (Psalm 27:4; 42:1)
5. This last observation on how to benefit from the preaching of God’s word led us, naturally, to focus on the subject of worship. Having communion with God as our goal is closely connected with valuing God above all else as our end (and not simply viewing him as a means to an end). Thus, true believers all have a passion for worship.
6. We learned that worship takes place in two arenas, all-of-life and the gathered congregation, and flows from a heart that has received God’s grace and desires God.
7. We see a good, brief, biblical definition of worship in Psalm 29:2 - "giving to the Lord the glory due his name." We see an emphasis on all-of-life worship in the OT and NT in Jonah 1:9 and Romans 12:1-2. We see the emphasis on gathered or congregational praise in the OT and NT in Psalm 100:2 and Hebrews 10:25.
8. We said that: a healthy church is filled with believers who by God’s grace have a passion for biblical worship. They live to glorify God in all of life and they love to gather with the saints to meet with him. And we argued that this passion will manifest itself in at least four ways: I. Glorifying God (Worship in all of life); II. Desiring God (God as the object of our worship); III. Following the Bible (God-directed worship, in form and content); and IV. Loving the Lord’s Day (God-centered view of Sunday).
9. Tonight, we move to a fourth priority of a healthy, biblical church: a delight in biblical truth, teaching and doctrine.
10. The study of theology (call it what you will: doctrine, biblical teaching, biblical truth, etc.) is in fact that most practical study that a person could ever undertake. Because’s God’s truth is intended by God to serve the interests of his glory and the well-being of his people.
11. One mark of a healthy biblical church is that it will be filled with members who love the truth, know that it is important, and are being transformed in their discipleship by it.
So, those who just do not care about doctrine, are missing out on a blessing. They may consider doctrine extraneous to authentic Christian experience, irrelevant to their daily practice, and entirely too cold and speculative for their tastes, but every day of our lives, our choices, our attitudes, our words, our motives are based on our theology! We can't escape it. What we believe affects how we live. Bad theology leads to bad practice. Good doctrine aids us in our duty and helps us interpret our experience, and bad doctrine distracts us from our duty and confuses us about our experience. That’s why every Christian needs to be thoroughly grounded in Christian doctrine. We need to know biblical truth (doctrine) in order to live the Christian life (discipleship). God’s truth is for people! It is good for us and makes our lives better.
13. Paul explains to both Titus and Timothy the importance of doctrine in the Christian life when he says:
Titus 1:1-2 1 Paul, a bond-servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the faith of those chosen of God and the knowledge of the truth which is according to godliness, 2 in the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago, . . .
2 Timothy 1:13-14 13 Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. 14 Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you.
The well-formed Christian life consists of three parts: doctrine, devotion, duty (or you could call the three parts: theology, experience and practice - corresponding to the three functions of the soul, thinking/believing, desiring, willing.

Five problems in relation to these three components of the Christian life dog the church today: (1) nominalism, (2) doctrinal formalism, (3) doctrinal deviation, (4) non-doctrinal moralism, (5) doctrinal indifference.

PROBLEM ONE: Nominalism – "in name only" Christianity
PROBLEM TWO: Doctrinal formalism – "dead orthodoxy"
PROBLEM THREE: Doctrinal deviation -- "denying, undermining, perverting the truth"
PROBLEM FOUR: Non-doctrinal moralism – "duty disconnected from grace and the Gospel"
PROBLEM FIVE: Doctrinal indifference – "often rootless, individualistic experientialism"
How do we help make sure doctrine doesn't "go bad on us"? By turning our study of doctrine into prayer (of adoration, confession, thanksgiving and petition) and by engaging in self-examination in connection with all our doctrinal study (asking ourselves if we are growing in the graces that the truth we are studying is designed to promote).

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