Membership

I remember how absolutely relieved and happy I was when I saw my name on the final roster sheet posted in the locker room. I “made the cut.” High school basketball tryouts were over, the team was set, and my name was on that life-changing list. I ran into the equipment room and was given my practice jersey, my locker assignment and key, and my uniform. I was a member of the Coopersville Bronco Basketball Team.

Now the real work was about to begin: grueling conditioning drills, weight room sessions, summer camps, travel, games, film study, scrimmages, practice, practice, and more practice. But all of this was part of my role—my responsibility as a team member. All of that was just what was expected of anyone who was a member of the Coopersville Bronco Basketball Team, and without accepting that, my place on the team would have been insignificant, actually, it would have been non-existent. And I’d have been a detriment to the team.

Now let’s consider just what should be expected of anyone who is a member of the Fellowship Reformed Church Ministry Team. Whoa, am I really going to go there? I know that the very notion that church members bear significant responsibilities comes as a surprise to far too many. But responsibility and church membership go hand in hand, you really can’t have one without the other. The Education/Discipleship Team is currently working along with Pastor Shawn and the Consistory on a “membership/discipleship covenant” that will help all of our members understand and carry out their roles as members of God’s team here at FRC. The outline for our plan comes primarily from a highly endorsed book written by Rev. Thomas Rainer entitled, “I Am a Church Member.” Rev. Rainer summarizes the Bible’s teaching on the responsibilities of membership through a series of pledges:

1. I will be a functioning church member.
2. I will be a unifying church member.
3. I will not let my church be about my preferences and desires.
4. I will pray for my church’s leaders.
5. I will lead my family to be healthy church members.
6. I will treasure church membership as a gift.

For our purposes today, let’s consider only pledge number one, “I will be a functioning church member.” In this pledge we’re reminded that: “Because we are members of the body of Christ, we must be functioning members, and as functioning members, we will give. We will serve. We will minister. We will evangelize. We will study. We will seek to be a blessing to others. We will remember that if one member suffers, all the members suffer together. And if one member is honored, all the members rejoice together. (1 Cor. 12:26) And that’s just what is expected of anyone who is a member of The Church—God’s Team.

I didn’t try out for the basketball team just so I could wear the uniform and get my name and picture in the yearbook. No athlete joins a team hoping to “sit the bench,” and none of us should be satisfied just to ”fill a pew.” God has gifted us all with unique personalities and abilities that are designed to work perfectly together with the other personalities and abilities that make up His church. And we’ve all been commissioned to be functioning members, because if we’re not, our place on the team is insignificant, non-existent, and actually detrimental to its success.

No athlete becomes a member of a team hoping to never play. Church membership is far more important than any sports team. But regrettably, many members of the church team, are content to do little more than wear the uniform.

As church members, Jesus has called us to get off the bench and get into the game

As members of Fellowship Reformed Church, we need to take seriously the reality that we are jointly responsible for whether or not the congregation continues to faithfully proclaim the Gospel. That means that we are jointly responsible for both what our church teaches, and how well we are actually carrying out our mandate. Let’s make sure that on that future day when we stand before God and give an account of how well we’ve fulfilled His Great Commission, our hearts will overflow with joy as the Lord praises us on a job “well done.”

Written by Jim De Horn

Imputation

I just finished reading a book written by Dr. Stephan J. Nichols entitled, “A Time for Confidence: Trusting God in a Post-Christian Society.” The basic premise of the book is that in our contemporary culture that’s quickly abandoning its Christian past, followers of Christ need not be discouraged or frightened because our almighty God is the source and anchor of our confidence. The cover notes say, “Though the whole world may shake around us, His kingdom is unshakable. This is not a time to cower, cave, or capitulate. It’s a time for confidence, and our confidence must be in God. All else will disappoint.” (I highly recommend this book. It’s only about 150 pages long, and Nichols has an interesting writing style.)

Nichols sees similarities between the dark age just prior to the Reformation and our current cultural epoch. Therefore, in chapter five, he references Martin Luther’s revolutionary doctrine of “justification by faith alone” (sola fide) and asserts that the doctrine hinges on one word. Actually, he goes so far as to say that the entire Reformation could be summed up with this one word: “imputation.”

Please don’t be insulted here if I take a second to make sure everyone has a working definition of “imputed.”

Imputed righteousness is a concept in Christian theology proposing that the "righteousness of Christ ... is imputed to [believers] — that is, treated as if it were theirs through faith." Thus, this doctrine is practically synonymous with justification by faith.

What Luther was actually declaring should be labeled “double imputation. Here’s what he said about what happens when a sinner is saved through faith in God’s redeeming grace.

In his own words:

"Is not this a beautiful, glorious exchange by which Christ, who is wholly innocent and holy, not only takes upon Himself another's sin, that is, my sin and guilt, but also clothes and adorns me, who am nothing but sin, with His own innocence and purity?...Through this blessed exchange, in which Christ changes places with us (something the heart can grasp only in faith), and through nothing else, are we freed from sin and death and given his righteousness and life as our own." (Luther's Works, Vol 51, Sermons)

Isn’t that an awesome thought? So often we think about Jesus death and resurrection as only paying the price for our sins. Wiping our “sin-slate” clean. But if Christ’s death only accomplished the forgiveness of our sins, we’d be right back where we were in the garden—momentarily without sin, but still vulnerable to Satan’s temptation.

It took both the “active and passive obedience of Christ” to make us righteous and worthy of eternity in His presence. “Active obedience” refers to Christ’s life of sinless perfection. Everything He did was perfect. “Passive obedience” refers to Christ’s submission to the crucifixion. He went willingly to the cross and allowed Himself to be crucified without resisting. His passive obedience pays our sin debt before God, but it’s His active obedience that gives us the perfection God requires.

Through our faith in Christ, our sin is imputed to Jesus. That’s how Christ paid our sin debt to God. He had no sin in Himself, but our sin was imputed to Him, so when, on the cross, He paid the price for our sins, those sins became His because they’d been imputed from us to him.

Likewise, the moment that we’re saved, Jesus’ righteousness is imputed to us. When we place our faith in Christ, God imputes Jesus’ perfect righteousness to us so that we become perfect in His sight.

We need both aspects of this imputation—the redemption from our sins, and the perfect righteousness of Christ before we’re ready to dwell eternally in the presence of a righteous “Holy” God. Thank you, Lord for “the blessed exchange” of imputation.

Written by Jim De Horn

A Place Called Heaven

• Is heaven a real place, or is it a state of mind?
• Do Christians go immediately to heaven when they die
• Who will be in heaven?
• Have some people already visited heaven?
• Do people in heaven know what is happening on earth?
• What will we do in heaven?
• Will we know one another in heaven?
• What difference does a future in heaven make in my life today?

When we begin the Fall Education Season in September, the primary Family Night class will be a video/discussion study with Dr. Robert Jeffress, entitled “A Place Called Heaven.” This course has the potential of being one of the most fascinating and “fun” Bible studies that we’ve offered in quite some time. It’s designed to be a true “participation” class with open-ended discussion questions and encouragement to share different perspectives. Jeffress himself promises to pose an interesting challenge to many of us. When it comes to eschatology, I find myself pretty firmly in the “Reformed Historical,” “Amillennial” camp, but Dr. Jeffress (a Dallas Theological Seminary grad) is a Dispensational Pre-Tribulationalist. So this summer, as I was preparing lesson plans for the class, I found myself disagreeing with Jeffress out loud. “NO WAY; NUH-UH; THAT’S WRONG!” So we’ll certainly have different points of view to discuss throughout the study. It’ gonna be fun.

However, since the primary focus “A Place Called Heaven” is on our eternal home, your eschatological position will only be challenged a few times, because once we begin eternity in “heaven” (wherever that may be), all the apocalyptic events will have already occurred.

I hope this little taste of the course content and format has whet your appetite. Plan now to join us in this fascinating study when we begin Family Night this fall. Class starts on September 25th.

Written by Jim De Horn

Distinguishing Marks of a Quarrelsome Person

Kevin De Young is one of my favorite guys. I’m assuming that all of you know Kevin, but just in case you don’t; he’s the pastor of Christ Covenant Church in North Carolina; he’s Assistant Professor of Systematic Theology at Reformed Theological Seminary; he’s the author of more than a dozen books; he’s a Council Member for the Gospel Coalition; and he grew up in Jenison, is a Hope College grad, and was my son’s counselor at Camp Geneva.

As if that wasn’t enough, he also writes a daily blog entitled “DeYoung, Restless, and Reformed.” What follows is a recent posting that I thought you might enjoy.

Quarrels don’t just happen. People make them happen.

Of course, there are honest disagreements and agree-to-disagree propositions, but that’s not what the Bible means by quarreling. Quarrels, at least in Proverbs, are unnecessary arguments, the kind that honorable men stay away from (Prov. 17:14; 20:3). And elders, too (1 Tim. 3). These fights aren’t the product of a loving rebuke or a principled conviction. These quarrels arise because people are quarrelsome.

So what does a quarrelsome person look like? What are his (or her) distinguishing marks? Here are twelve possibilities.

You might be a quarrelsome person if . . .

1. You defend every conviction with the same degree of intensity. There are no secondary or tertiary issues. Everything is primary. You’ve never met a hill you wouldn’t die on.

2. You are quick to speak and slow to listen. You rarely ask questions, and when you do, it is to accuse or to continue prosecuting your case. You are not looking to learn; you are looking to defend, dominate, and destroy.

3. Your only model for ministry and faithfulness is the showdown with the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. Or the only Jesus you like is the Jesus who cleared the money changers from the temple. Those are real examples in Scripture. But the Bible is a book, and sarcasm and whips are not the normal method of personal engagement.

4. You are incapable of seeing nuances, and you do not believe in qualifying statements. Everything in life is black and white without any gray.

5. You never give the benefit of the doubt. You do not try to read arguments in context. You put the worst possible construct on other’s motives, and when there is a less flattering interpretation, you go for that one.

6. You have no unarticulated opinions. Do people know what you think of everything? They shouldn’t. That’s why you have a journal or a prayer closet or a dog.

7. You are unable to sympathize with your opponents. You forget that sinners are also sufferers. You lose the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes.

8. Your first instinct is to criticize; your last instinct is to encourage. Quarrelsome people almost always see others in need of rebuke, rarely in need of refreshing.

9. You have a small grid, and everything fits in it. You view life through a tiny prism such that you already know what everything is about. Everything is a social justice issue. Everything is Obama’s fault. Everything is about Trump. It’s all about the feminists. Or the patriarchy. Or how my parents messed up my life. When all you have is a hammer, the rest of the world looks like a nail.

10. You derive a sense of satisfaction and spiritual safety in feeling constantly rejected. We don’t want to blame the victim, but some people are constitutionally unable to exist except as a remnant. They must be persecuted. They must be maligned. They do not know how to live in peacetime, only in war.

11. You are always in the trenches with hand grenades strapped to your chest, never in the cafeteria with ice cream and ping pong. I remember years ago talking to a returning serviceman in my church who told me sheepishly that his job in Iraq was to drive an armed convoy for the ice cream truck. It was extremely dangerous, escorting the vehicle through bomb infested territory. This was brave, honorable work. And important: Even soldiers need ice cream once in a while. The amp doesn’t have to be cranked to 11 all the time. Seriousness about God is not the same as pathological seriousness about everything.

12. You have never changed your mind. If you haven’t changed your mind on an important matter in several presidents, I wonder if you are a Christian or even alive. Of course, truth never changes, and neither should many of our convictions. But quarrelsome people stir up strife because, already knowing everything, they have no need to listen, learn, or ask questions.

Hit close to home? Look to Christ. He has the power to change us and has made provision to forgive. By the death of the Prince of Peace, we can be at peace with God and at peace with one another.

Submitted by Jim De Horn

Lemonade and a Cookie

Last Friday, as I was on my workout winding my way through the neighborhoods around where we live, I had to run up on the sidewalk of a house where they were having a garage sale. And at the head of the driveway sat two little kids behind a card table. The sign hanging on the front of the table read, “Kool-Aid 25 cents.” The little girl said, “Wanna buy some Kool-Aid?” Without even changing my pace, I responded, “Sorry, I don’t have any money with me,” and I showed her my open palms as if to prove I wasn’t lying.

As I continued down the street, I felt really bad about not being able to make the kids happy by buying some Kool-Aid. I even thought about going back and asking them to let me have a cup if I promised to return later with the money. But by then I had rounded the corner, and I guess I didn’t feel that bad about it because I didn’t go back.

That evening at supper, I told Karen about the kids’ Kool-Aid stand and about asking them to “trust me” to come back with some money. And as we talked, I felt even worse because I realized that I had blown an opportunity to share my faith with them.

Now fast forward to yesterday. Different neighborhood, but almost the same situation. This time it was three kids, and they were selling “Lemonade and a Cookie: Fifty Cents.” But this time I was ready. I crossed the street, walked up to their table, and said, “I wanna ask you if you’ll do something for me. I don’t have any money on me, but if you give me a glass of lemonade, I promise to come back when I’m done with my workout. My name is Jim.” By now, the kids’ mom had come out of the house and was standing just a few yards behind them on the driveway. I looked up at her and spoke loud enough for her to hear. “I want to see if you’ll trust me. If you give me a drink now, I promise—I promise to come back with the money.” All three of the kids turned around to look at Mom. She was great. She didn’t say a word but simply shrugged her shoulders and gave them a “that’s up to you” look. They decided to trust me and poured a glass “half-full” with lemonade. (Wonder if that meant that they really only “half-trusted” me.) I drank it down then said, “Now, how long are you going to be out here cuz it’s gonna seem like a long time before I come back? I still have a long ways to go before I get home and get my money.” They said, “til 6:00.” Mom nodded. So I asked them their names, reminded them of mine, and thanked them again for trusting me. Then I took off.

I actually cut my workout short because I didn’t want the kids to have to wait as long it usually takes me to complete a circuit. When I got home, I grabbed my billfold, made sure I had some money in it, (which is not always the case) then headed back to the “Lemonade and a Cookie” stand. It had been about a half-hour. When I got there, only Marty was at the table; Brandon and Emma had gone into the house. But when I got out of my truck and made my way over to the table, Mom and the other two came out to join us.

“Okay, here’s $5.00 for my lemonade.”

“It’s only fifty cents.”

“I know, but you had trust in me, and I want to reward you for your trust.”

“Thank you.”

“Now, another word for trust is “faith.” You showed faith in me, and I gave you some money. But when we have faith in Jesus, He gives us the gift of Heaven. I hope you kids all have faith in Jesus.”

All three of the kids chimed in at the same time with something like, “Sure, we love Jesus…” “I go to Hudsonville Christian.” “Are you a pastor?”

Mom thanked me and said they were members at Messiah CRC. Then just as I was turning to leave Emma said, “A man this morning gave us twenty dollars.”

Written by Jim De Horn