Bridgeway Community Church

Summer Service Time: Sundays 9:30am (Prayer Time: 9:00am)

What is the Book of Life?

This post was written by: Pastor Gregg

I was recently asked about the use of the phrase “book of life” in Revelation 3:5, “In the same way, the victor will be dressed in white clothes, and I will never erase his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before My Father and before His angels” (HCSB).

The New Testament expression “book of life” (Rev 13:8; 17:8; 20:12; 21:27; without the article in Phil 4:3; Rev 3:5 and 20:15) is based on Old Testament references to God’s book in which were written the names of the righteous (Ps 69:28; Ex. 32:32). This, in turn, is related to the ancient custom of keeping genealogies and national registers in Israel (Neh. 7:5ff; 12:12; Ps 87:6; Jer. 22:30; Ezek. 13:9). Just as these latter records were carefully inscribed and preserved, so God knows His people.

Later Judaism developed the idea that God has two books, one for the righteous and one for the wicked.  In this view the deeds of men are tallied by the angels. This is not the teaching of the New Testament.

A more modern view is that the book of life not a roll of those who are saved, but rather a list of humanity.  As they come to maturity and are faced with the responsibility of accepting or rejecting Christ, their names are blotted out if they fail to receive Jesus Christ as Savior; whereas those who do accept Christ as Savior are confirmed in their position in the book of life, and their names are confessed before the Father and the heavenly angels. Again this is not the teaching of the New Testament and is contrary to the names being written by God from the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8).

I think it clearest to understand “the book of life” as an expression of the sovereign choice and guarantee of God in regards to the salvation of man.  Some have taken Christ’s statement in 3:5, “I will never erase his name from the book of life” as proof that one can lose his salvation. This is reading into the text something more than it says.

I think the simplest interpretation is as follows: Though Revelation 3:5 may imply that a believer’s name could be erased from the book of life, actually it only gives a positive affirmation that their names will not be erased. Jesus’ statement may thus be considered not a threat, but an assurance that saved peoples’ names will always be in the book of life.

I think this seems to be the gist of what other verses communicate as well about the “book of life.” Anchored in eternity, that salvation is certain for all those whose names are written in “the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Rev 13:8). Their salvation is “sure, having this seal: The Lord knows those who are his” (2 Tim 2:19). They may rejoice because their names are written in heaven (Luke 10:20).

SERMON ADDITION (3/20/2016):

Jesus extended three promises to the few who had remained loyal in the church at Sardis.

  1. The first promise Christ mentioned twice: “They will walk with Me in white” (3:4-5). In a later vision of the book of Revelation, John will see a large multitude of saints gathered in heaven who “have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (7:14). The white robes represent the cleansing from sin received by faith in Christ. The image of “walking in white” is a promise of eternal, unblemished righteousness.
  1. Christ’s second promise is stated in the negative: “I will not erase his name from the book of life” (3:5). If a person is clothed with eternal righteousness, make no mistake: he or she has an eternally secure future. Obviously, God has no need of a literal book to remind Him of our standing before Him. The “book of life,” is a symbol of permanent security. Our future blessings are certain, as if God has written our names in a great registry of the citizens of heaven.
  1. Finally, the third promise reveals the positive side of the second: “I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels” (3:5). This links two similar promises Christ made during His earthly ministry. Matthew 10:32 says, “Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven.” Similarly, Luke 12:8 says, “Everyone who confesses Me before men, the Son of Man will confess him also before the angels of God.” In other words, on the Day of Judgment, Christ will vouch for those who belong to Him.

LEAVING A CHURCH THE RIGHT WAY

This post was written by: Pastor Gregg

Everyone will leave their church at some point. Whether God calls us home to glory, move to another city, or decide to try a different local church, we are going to leave.

Leaving a local congregation should be one of the most difficult decisions we face. It should be filled with the recollection of our love for the saints, their love for us, our service together in the name of our Lord, and our sorrows and joys in the faith. A church is family and we ought never feel it easy to leave family–even an unhealthy family.

But we do sometimes find ourselves at that crossroads. When we’ve decided to leave, there are at least five things we want to do before we go.

Church leader and pastor Thabiti Anyabwile wrote the following for The Gospel Coalition.

5 THINGS TO DO BEFORE LEAVING YOUR CHURCH

  1. Share Your Thinking/Reasons with the Leaders

You’ve no doubt been thinking of leaving for some time. In all likelihood you did not wake up with the sudden new thought, I think I’m going to find another church. The thought has been building for some time. You’ve been piling up observations, minor disappointments, major hurts and persistent longings. You’ve likely done that quietly, without talking to anyone. And you’ve likely kept your silence for good reasons. First, you thought perhaps the situation would change. If you kept quiet things would get better and you wouldn’t have caused a “stir” by saying anything. Then you kept quiet because you didn’t want to spread your concern to others or hurt anyone’s feelings. Finally, you kept quiet because you stopped believing any change was possible or forthcoming. Now, after all those silent months of stockpiling critiques, you’ve decided to leave.

But if you leave this way, you’re going to leave a ghost in the congregation. People will be haunted by your absence and wonder, What happened to them? Why did they leave? Then people feel abandoned and hurt.

There’s a better way to leave. Share your thinking with your leaders before you make the final decision. Let them shepherd you through your thoughts and reasons even i that means shepherding you to the next church. Two things will happen. You will benefit from their spiritual care (and perhaps even be surprised by their agreement or receptivity). And the church’s leader and congregation will benefit from your insight. There’s a way to leave a church that amounts to win-win rather than abandonment.

  1. Resolve Any Outstanding Conflicts

I suspect I experience what a lot of pastors experience: persons coming to the church disgruntled with persons in their previous church without having done anything to resolve the conflict. They’re running from something rather than facing it. The something could be personal conflict, church discipline or theological strife. In either case, don’t leave your church before you’ve addressed the conflict. Obey our Lord’s instructions in Matthew 5:23-24 and 18:15. Go and be reconciled to the best of your ability.

If you obey the Lord in this before moving on then everybody wins. Lord willing, you win your brother over and the relationship is mended. You may find you don’t have to leave at all and experience renewed joy in the church family you’ve already invested years of life with. Even if you still need or want to leave, you’ll experience freedom from guilt because you’ve “made every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3). And your new church family will be able to receive you without the baggage associated with the previous church.

At FBC we refuse to take into membership anyone we know has some outstanding issue with their previous church. We insist they return to work things out before coming to us, and we very often follow-up with leaders of the church to confirm that appropriate efforts have been made. We find this leads to peace between churches, grace in reconciliation, and freshness in any new starts that are made.

  1. Express Your Appreciation for the Church’s Ministry in Your Life

When people leave suddenly and without conversation with the leaders of the church they very often fall prey to ingratitude. Having convinced themselves of all the problems in the church, they usually minimize the strengths and virtues of the church. Sadly, this is the way many of us work ourselves up to making major decisions–emphasize the negative and downplay the positives.

But truthfully, no true church is without significant positive qualities. Even the church at Corinth, with all their problems, could be commended for the “grace given you in Christ Jesus” (1:4), for having been “enriched in every way” (1:5), “not lack[ing] any spiritual gift as they eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed” (1:7), and being “the seal of [Paul’s] apostleship in the Lord” (9:2). They had significant problems, but also much to commend. Though Paul heard things that he as an apostle should put in order, he nevertheless confirmed their testimony in Christ (1:6) and gave praise wherever appropriate.

We should celebrate God’s grace in a church long before we decide and actually leave. We should note the positive ways the church has impacted and blessed us spiritually. We should communicate that to our leaders and, where appropriate, to the body as a whole. I love those resignation letters that actually strengthen and edify the body because the brother/sister resigning “builds an Ebenezer” to God’s grace as they leave.

Please don’t make this a matter of soothing your conscience once you’ve decided to leave in an unhealthy way. Make this a matter of constant discipline in grace. Communicate appreciation before you decide to leave, as you’re thinking about leaving, and once you do leave. Our churches would be far healthier and more joyful if they were communities of gracious affirmation and appreciation.

  1. Say “Goodbye” to Friends and Family

Unless we’ve been unusually isolated in our church families, chances are we have some significant family and friends who will remain in the church. They mean a great deal to us and they’re likely to be affected by our leaving. These are people you want to say your “goodbyes” to in person. You don’t want them to hear you’re leaving or have left on the floor of a members’ meeting. You don’t want to inadvertently suggest their friendship doesn’t or hasn’t meant much to you. You don’t want them wondering whether you actually loved them. You don’t want things to be awkward when you see them out and about in the community.

Instead, you want them to be affirmed in and by your love. You want them to know you will carry them in your affections though you’re going to settle into a new communion. You want them to know, circumstances permitting, that the friendship will continue and you’ll always be brothers and sisters in Christ.

So, include some personal time with friends and family before you actually leave the church. Invite them to your home or to coffee. Share with them your appreciation and your hopes as you move forward. Most will understand and be happy for you, even if they’re sad for themselves and their church. Such mourning and rejoicing are part of what it means to be the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:27).

  1. Be Honest with Yourself about Your Own Efforts, Motives and Failings

Leaving a church ought to be cause for self-examination. We ought to get the log out of our own eyes before focusing on the speck in the church’s eye (Matt. 7:3-4). This is hard, slow work–and most people skip it. It’s so easy to assume the purity of our own motives, to view ourselves as victims or martyrs, and to trivialize our many failings.

But integrity requires we be honest with the man in the mirror. Why are we thinking of leaving? What really motivates our assessment and desires? How have we contributed to the problems and feelings we’re finding so dissatisfying or hurtful? Have we taken full responsibility in confession, repentance and action?

We’re not honestly ready to leave and our churches are not ready for us to leave until we’ve gotten before the Lord with transparency, humility and ruthlessness with our own sin and flesh. But, if we muster such honesty, it will lead to our increased sanctification and joy.

CONCLUSION

Leaving a church can be a means of grace rather than a source of pain for everyone involved. But for grace to be multiplied we’ll have to do some things before we decide to leave and actually exit. Receiving this grace will require putting to death the fear of man and believing that God exists and He rewards those who earnestly seek Him (Heb. 11:6). If you are thinking of leaving, think of how you will leave. It could make a positive difference for you, your friends, your current and your future churches.

Also from churchleaders.com see “5 Tips on Leaving a Church the Right Way

http://www.churchleaders.com/pastors/pastor-articles/148839-how-to-leave-a-church-well.html

What Should We Think about the book (and movie) “Heaven Is For Real”?

This post was written by: Pastor Gregg

The scriptures are clear on the subject of death and possible visits to and from heaven.  Hebrews 9:27 says, “It has been appointed for people to die once–and after this, judgment.” In John 3:13 Jesus says, “No one has ascended into heaven except the One who descended from heaven–the Son of Man.” That should settle it.

Here is an excellent blog by David Platt on the subject: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justintaylor/2014/04/16/david-platt-on-why-you-should-not-believe-heaven-is-for-real/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+between2worlds+%28Between+Two+Worlds%29

Sunday and Keeping the Sabbath

This post was written by: Pastor Gregg

THE NEW TESTAMENT AND THE FIRST DAY OF THE WEEK IN RELATION TO KEEPING THE SABBATH

What we need to do is look at what transpired on the first day of the week and then look at the scriptural evidence for the assembly on the first day in the New Testament.

1. Jesus rose from the dead on the first day of the week after the Sabbath (John 20:1). The resurrection is the capstone of our faith and the proving of the new covenant. He was raised for our justification.

2. Jesus appeared to ten of His disciples on that first day of the week (John 20:19).

3. Jesus waited one week, and on the next first day of the week appeared to the eleven disciples (John 20:26).

4. The promised coming of the Holy Spirit was fulfilled on the first day of the week, the day of Pentecost (Pentecost by law came on the first day of the week – Lev. 23:16).

5. On the first day of the week the first gospel sermon was preached by Peter on the death and resurrection of Jesus (Acts 2:14).

6. On that first day of the week three thousand converts were united into the New Testament covenant separating them from Judaism (Acts 2:41).

7. On that same first day of the week the rite of Christian baptism into the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit was administered for the first time (Acts 2:41).

8. At Troas Paul preached to the assembled Christians on the first day of the week. The Lord’s Supper (breaking bread) was practiced on Sunday as the church met (Acts 20:7).

9. Paul instructed the Christians at Corinth to make contributions on the first day of the week (1 Cor. 16:2). Offerings are a part of worship and since offerings took place on the first day of the week, it makes sense that worship also took place on the same day of the week.

No one ever changed the Sabbath day to Sunday. The Sabbath commemorated a finished creation with rest. The first day commemorates a finished redemption and a new work. The Sabbath commemorates Israel’s deliverance from Egyptian slavery and God resting on the 7th day. The first day commemorates Christ’s resurrection, victory over death and eternal punishment. It gives hope that all who believe will also be resurrected from the dead.

The Sabbath is a day of rest and quiet. The first day is a day of worship and praise. Sabbath means rest, not Saturday! There were other Sabbaths given to Israel on other days.

The New Testament principle is given in Heb. 10:24-25, “and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” The day of the week to assemble is of the church’s choice, whether it be Monday, Wednesday, Saturday or Sunday. The New Testament has no legislation for which day we are to assemble. History shows that the early church chose Sunday because of its significance, not because they rejected the Sabbath.

1 Cor. 16:1-2, “Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also: On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come.”

To give has always been a means of worship. Paul sets the rule telling them as they gather together to take up an offering. This is not a tithe as in the OT, but a principle, as the Lord has prospered you (giving cheerfully not out of obligation). There is an absence of legalism that one would find under the law. Notice he says that he has instructed the churches in Galatia the same as the Corinthians. This certainly indicates this was not an isolated command but a common practice during even the apostles’ time to gather on Sunday.

Acts 20:7, “Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight.” When to come together was an option of choice not obligation. Obviously this was decided upon and they were already carrying it out. To break bread consisted of what is called a love feast, eating a meal and taking communion, which is to be done in an assembly. Paul was speaking til midnight. The Jewish first day began on sundown Saturday so this took place Saturday night through the first day, after the Sabbath.

There is not one mention in the New Testament to keep the Sabbath day, yet the other nine commandments are stressed several times. Not once in the New Testament is breaking the Sabbath called a sin nor do we find anyone punished for it. It’s ceremonial, not moral, because the very things forbidden for that day are allowed on all others.  This would not be so if it were a moral law.

Acts 13:38-39: “Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through Him forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and through Him everyone who believes is freed from all things, from which you could not be freed through the Law of Moses.” The Sabbath was part of the law of Moses.

Gal.4:10-11, “You observe days and months, and times, and years. I am afraid for you, lest I have bestowed upon you labor in vain.” To observe days, the months, years and the holy days is a sign of weakness and immaturity. The days are the Sabbaths and holy days. Months are the new moon festival, seasons are the festivals of Lev. 23, years are the sabbatical years and the year of jubilee. Paul did not want the New Testament believers to become entangled in bondage again. We are free to live toward Him every day.  We don’t rest on one day or another but rest spiritually in Him (Hebrews 4).  Also see Colossians 2:16-23.

The New Testament Church clearly saw Sunday not as the substitute and replacement for the Jewish Sabbath. Sunday was not seen as a modification or as a new Sabbath, but as a day that stood on its own merits having its own meaning. The church was given the resurrection and used this day to proclaim the very capstone of our faith.

An excellent article titled, “Is the Sabbath Required for Christians Today?” can be found at http://www.gci.org/law/sabbath (a very interesting history surrounds their position, but it was born out of thorough biblical study).

This Year – 2013

This post was written by: Pastor Gregg

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This year

Might be one of uncertainty

But God will supply all your needs

This year

may begin in sorrow

But joy will come in the morning

This year

Could hold many trials

But faith will be built upon perseverance

This year

May bring a season of pain

But seasons change

This year

May bring many things

But there is One who never changes

Through trial or triumph

Joy or sorrow

God is always there

This year is His year!