Most of us have heard about the latest shooting in America at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. Forty-nine people have lost their lives at the hand of a lone, crazed, gunman, claiming some affiliation with the terror network, ISIS, and with many others seriously wounded. What does one say when these acts of evil are perpetrated against ‘law-abiding’ citizens?
Well let me suggest what we shouldn’t be doing or saying first. The last thing anyone should be doing is standing on their ‘soap-box’ claiming the higher moral ground, whether they be Christians or otherwise. Rather, let us weep with those who are weeping. Sure, we don’t condone the lifestyles of many who were killed, yet, they like us, are made in the image of God, and hence we share their grief and bitter loss.
The second thing we shouldn’t do is to say this is part of God’s will and judgment on those who blatantly live a lifestyle that is in direct contradiction of God’s will for our lives. Since when, is God the author of evil? Scripture clearly states He isn’t (James 1:13ff cf 1 John 1:5; 1 Cor 14:33, Gen 1:31). Furthermore, God’s word clearly says, “You shall not murder!” (Exo 20:13). Hence to suggest that this act of evil is God’s will is incorrect and would do an injustice to our loving God, who Scripture reminds us, is love (1 John 4:8). Granted, this event did not happen outside of God’s power and sovereignty, for in Him, all people live and move and have their being, but we may not say it is part of God’s will and immediate judgment against these people for their sin, whether it be their lifestyle or something else. If that were the case, we should all have been dead and buried a long time ago.
A third thing we must try to understand is that God willed to triumph over evil in Christ in such a way that he ordained that evil should exist, even though He is not the author of it. God ordains everything, from beginning to end in His infinite power and wisdom, which includes evil. Evil exists, therefore, primarily in order that God’s glory may be demonstrated in His ultimate victory over it in Christ.
A fourth thing we need to do is to pray that the Lord may use this tragic event to turn people back to Himself. There were forty-nine people who had an unexpected meeting with the Judge of the universe last Sunday evening. Hence we should be praying and doing things in such a way, that people everywhere would come to know Christ as their Saviour (Mat 5:16ff, 1 Pet 2:12).
A fifth thing we can do is be thankful that many Christians are praying for the families of the victims and victim, seeking to find ways to support them during this time of grief. May that be a great witness to all people, not just to people who have hearts of full hate, but also to the ‘good’ person who remains indifferent to Christ.
Finally, let’s remember to give thanks that we have been spared, and that the Lord will continue to protect us and allow us to continue to enjoy the peace we have in this land, to His glory. JZ.
Making disciples & baptism
In light of the baptism of Grace C.R. Jobse this Sunday, it made me think about infant baptism again, but this time in light of the Great Commission. Recently someone was suggesting to me that their particular fellowship was being more obedient to the Great Commission found at the end of Matthew’s gospel (Mat 28:18-20) than many other churches. My ears immediately pricked up when he went on to say that their members were going to various public places where the “normal run of Christians” would probably not go. It included various nightclubs, sporting events, and even places generally regarded as definite ‘no-go’ for Christians.
In some ways I could appreciate this person’s zeal for missions, but I did wonder why he thought it was so good to go to places where the vast majority of Christians would fear to tread. I am not suggesting for a moment that we should become isolationists. We make like to say as Christians that we are ‘not of the world’ but it is quite another thing to say that we are not in it either. Furthermore, we may not need to tremble at the devil anymore due to Christ’s victory, but let us not underestimate his power for a moment. He is still a formidable foe not to be messed with. It would also be a sign of immense arrogance and foolishness to think we are beyond the devil’s reach by ‘going’ to some places where angels fear to tread. It may indeed prove to be detrimental for our soul.
Furthermore, the Great Commission is not so much about “going” but “making disciples.” A more literal reading could be, “As you go, make disciples…” In other words, speak about your Christian faith when you are at home, when you walk along the way, when you lie down or get up, but also when you travel to work, sit in a class or lunchroom. Let’s not allow opportunities to speak about Jesus Christ to just slip idly by.
So what’s this have to do with infant baptism? Within our circles there is more and more discussion about infant baptism versus adult baptism. Some suggest that someone should be able to make a credible profession of faith before one is baptised. Considering this again, it made me wonder about whom Jesus had in mind when He issued the Great Commission? Was He only thinking about parents and excluding their children? Highly unlikely I would suggest.
Jesus knew the pattern that was established in the Old Testament (after all He established it). Since the children of the Old Testament believers were part of God’s covenant people and not regarded as outsiders, why would He change that when issuing the Great Commission? If that were the case, then perhaps we should we should be focussing all our efforts on the adults, after all, according to some, they are the only ones who can give a credible profession of faith.
But that isn’t what we see in the Old Testament at all. In the Old Testament, the adults (parents) and children were part of God’s covenant people. That doesn’t mean they or their parents were not covenant breakers on occasions. Yet, the parents were not to treat their children as outsiders but to instruct them in God’s laws at every opportunity (Deut 6:1-9), reminding them of God’s great acts of deliverance from slavery and hence salvation as they were about to enter the Promised Land.
In that regard, nothing has changed. Christian parent(s) today present their children for baptism, not because there is some mystical power in the sacrament, but because we know that God is faithful to His promises. In fact, there is a ‘more-so,’ for we know about the wonderful salvation we have in Christ. We know that all God’s promises as fulfilled in Jesus Christ are also for our little children when they come to embrace Jesus Christ as their Saviour. Again, that doesn’t mean they or their parents are not covenant breakers on occasions, they are. However, when that occurs, we lovingly, winsomely, and prayerfully remind them of God’s promises in Jesus Christ all over again, desperately hoping they will repent, seek forgiveness and return to be under God’s covenant love once more.
So as we go, let’s make disciples, not neglecting those dearest and closest to us. May our covenant faithful God bless our efforts. JZ.
Minimalists versus Maximalists
One thing that concerns me is what I call the “minimalist” approach in regard to the way we live our Christian lives. Allow me to begin at home, for that is where it all begins and from there it filters through to other areas in our Christian living, including the church.
The “minimalist approach” to family and personal devotions is a disturbing trend and detrimental to their families spiritual development. Sometimes I have dared to ask busy parents whether they read the Bible and pray together. Occasionally the answer is affirmative (praise God) and at other times their answers leave a lot to be desired.
Now it’s not my intention that we start pointing fingers at each other, for I know we can all do better, yours truly included. I also understand that life is busy. Mums and dads have work commitments and meetings to attend and not least, the ‘news’ is on at six. Our children have school, exams, homework and piano lessons or some other training session to attend. As a result, a ‘minimalist approach’ takes over personal and family devotional time. I am sure we have heard or perhaps even said it ourselves on occasions, “Let’s just quickly read and pray so that we can…”
Sadly, there is often a flow-on effect to our churches at two levels. One level is Christian education in the doctrinal truths of Scripture. On the one hand, we can be pleased and encouraged that many of our churches still have a beginner’s class, teach the Catechism and have profession of faith classes and also weekly or fortnightly Bible studies.
Yet, on the other hand I wonder whether a ‘minimalist approach’ is being taken when it comes to church education and the resulting membership. When one looks at the statistics of people who have left the wider church, one must ask whether they were indeed genuine professing Christians. Perhaps the slogan, “Give me Christ and not doctrine” has become part of the ‘minimalist’ approach. With the increased emphasis on Church growth programs and Church plants (neither necessarily bad), people are occasionally embraced as Christians who have little or no understanding about the Christian faith.
So instead of taking a ‘minimalist’ approach, let us take a ‘maximalist’ approach and be certain that new Christians possess the faith they are about to profess. A ‘minimalist’ approach rather than a ‘maximalist’ approach in this area of our Christian faith commitment does very little, if anything, for the Church at large. More than that, it is extremely unloving for those wishing to join a Christian fellowship for it may give them a wrong sense of security when there is none.
A second flow-on effect with which our churches need to come to grips with is worship. Recently we attended a Classis ministers and wives get together and were surprised to hear that many churches just have one worship service on the Lord’s Day. Initially some of these churches exchanged the evening worship service for what they called a ‘prayer and praise’ evening, but that has also fallen by the way for some.
Now we acknowledge that frailty and sickness prevents some from attending a second service. Nor do we wish to become legalistic, for we know we are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. However, what can be good about spending only half the time in worship with God’s people? Why would we not want to just corporately praise our God and adore and honour Him for all His provision, not least the wonderful salvation He has provided in is Son?
Well surprisingly, social media (Facebook in particular) has given us some answers. From the postings we see, many Christians are just too busy for all sorts of reasons to give the worship of God a ‘second’ time slot on the Lord’s Day. And so we are left wondering. Have we become guilty of taking an increasingly ‘minimalist’ approach to all the above? Perhaps there is a need for genuine repentance so that we can take steps not to remain ‘minimalists,’ but with the Spirit’s help, become ‘maximalists’ to the praise and glory of our Saviour God. JZ.