Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. ~2 Timothy 2:15

About Me

I am a young man who is following God's call into pastoral ministry. I have been so blessed with the privileges which the Lord has granted me. I am blessed to serve the Mt. Joy congregation in Mt. Pleasant, PA. I am constantly humbled and amazed at what the Lord is doing in my life.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

What I Appreciated About Dr. R. C. Sproul

I was first introduced to the ministry of Dr. R. C. Sproul while in college by my pastor/mentor. His book, "Chosen by God," was very helpful for me as I struggled to understand the Bible's teaching on the doctrine of election and figuring how it all fit together. Later I read his "The Holiness of God" and was so encouraged with the biblical picture of the greatness of God that often has been watered down so much today. It very well could be part of what the Lord has used to spark a passion in my own life and ministry for the proclamation of God's holiness. I have benefited from many of his other books, commentaries, teaching series, and sermons as well. He has been helpful in forming my theological understanding in various ways.

While there are many things that I appreciate about Dr. Sproul, the one thing that I would have to say that I appreciate the most was the fact that he never talked down to anyone in his teaching and preaching. What I mean by that is that he never shied away from using big theological terms or teaching difficult doctrines because they might be over people's heads. He labored instead to explain them in such a way that just about anyone could understand them. Like Martin Luther, he aimed at communicating in such a way that the simple maid in the congregation could understand as well as the learned scholar. He often would mention the Latin or Greek terms used in relation to a specific doctrine and explain the meaning of the word by the etymology of it. He appeared to delight in doing so. He certainly had a gift from God to make the complex comprehensible. This struck me in a day and age when pastors and teachers are even told not to use such theological language or go that deep in doctrine because the people in the pew won't be able to understand it. I hear many pastors claim that they themselves avoid ever using such theological terminology on account of the same reason. Then interestingly enough, have the same ones complain at how much their congregations don't understand of doctrine. (And then I think in my head, that kind of makes sense if you are not teaching them these things because you think that they can't handle it. But it appears that they never make such a connection themselves.)

Dr. Sproul thought that every Christian should have a foundational and growing understanding of doctrine, theology, and philosophy so he labored to bring seminary to the lay person. This is what led to his founding of the Ligonier Valley Ministry Center which would eventually become Ligonier Ministries. His Systematic Theology which he released a few years ago is entitled, "Everyone's a Theologian." He wanted to be sure that people's theology was right and that they correctly understood who God is as He has revealed Himself in His Word.

This is something that I strive to do as well though I have much work yet to do on it and am nowhere near as gifted as Dr. Sproul. I am thankful for his modeling of this and pray that more would not be afraid to go a little deeper in their teaching of theology but be sure to seek to communicate the deep truths of God in a way that people can understand. May God continue to use the teachings of R. C. Sproul beyond the grave. To borrow the words of the author of Hebrews in regards to Abel, "though dead, may he still speak."

In Christ,
Lee Smith

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Why A Church Should Practice Discipline

One thing that is missing in many congregations today is the practice of church discipline. Some wouldn't dare think of enacting discipline on a member in sin. The very suggestion makes them feel so uncomfortable. As if to do so would be unloving or judgmental. After all, aren't we all sinners? Is what they are doing my business? However, historically it was thought that a church could not rightly be considered a church if did not discipline its members. As I continue to reflect on it, I wonder if a lot of problems in the visible church today stem from a failure to practice godly discipline of its members. While I have previously unpacked Jesus' specific step-by-step instructions pertaining to discipline, I want to look with you this time at a few reasons why a church SHOULD practice discipline, especially since many currently do not.

Jesus Commands Us To
Perhaps the most basic and simplest reason that a church should practice discipline is because Jesus commands us to. This is not something that He says is optional. He doesn't say reprove the brother if you are comfortable with it, if you feel like it, or unless you as a congregation decide differently. But if your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private (Matthew 18:15). That's a command with the condition that your brother is continuing in a certain sin without any repentance.

Jesus serves as the head of the Church so that means His word is binding. If Jesus says to do something, the church that wants to be obedient to His teachings will seek to do it. Regardless of how countercultural it may be though we should never be surprised that much of what Jesus calls us to be and do goes against the culture. It certainly will not be in agreement with the world's way of thinking. A major problem today is that the visible church has allowed itself to be more influenced by the world rather than the Word. The neglect of the practice of discipline is just one of several examples of this.

It is Loving
We need to remember too that discipline is an act of love. This is true for parents with their children. If you did something wrong as a kid or disobeyed your parents, you were disciplined, weren't you? That wasn't because our parents hated us but because they loved us and wanted our well-being. In fact, the book of Proverbs teaches that the parents who refuse to discipline their children HATE their children. He who withholds his rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him diligently (Proverbs 13:24).

Practicing church discipline on someone who is in ongoing unrepentant sin as Jesus has prescribed is one of the most loving things that a church can do for its members. If we care about them walking rightly before the Lord and growing in holiness, we cannot keep quiet about their sin and the damage that it does for their witness. We would want to confront them and plead with them to repent for their own spiritual well-being.

Furthermore, we should desire to be disciplined ourselves as well in the case where we wind up in sin and need to repent. We all have our blindspots; areas in which we cannot see our sin. If we were aware of them, they would not be blindspots. At times, we each need someone to be as Nathan was to King David (2 Samuel 12). Yes, due to our sinful pride, we first may not be as accepting of a brother or sister's much needed confrontation and correction. We all have, as Paul David Tripp has called it, an inner lawyer that wants to try to justify us before God and others. But if we know the person loves and cares for us, then we should be more apt to listen to them, knowing that they have our best interests in mind. I for one am glad that God has given me brothers and sisters who will help me stay on track.

It Reflects God's Character
When the church practices discipline upon its members, it also reflects God's character. Proverbs 3:11-12 and Hebrews 12:3-11's commentary on it shows us that, as a loving Father, God Himself disciplines His children. The author of Hebrews goes so far as to say that if you are not experiencing God's discipline, than it indicates that you are not an actual child of His (v. 8). You are illegitimate. You don't belong to Him. And what is His purpose in such discipline? We find that in v. 10, that we may share in His holiness.

So if discipline is something that God does to His children, why should His church shy away from carrying it out as well? Do we not reflect God's character to a watching unbelieving world? What does it say about God's loving character displayed in discipline if the church fails to practice it? Or about God's holiness if the church doesn't confront any unholiness in its midst?

It is Protective
As we learn in 1 Corinthians 5, practicing discipline is protective of the church and her purity. That is one of the reasons why Paul gives such a harsh rebuke of that congregation for doing nothing about the man sleeping with his stepmother. He tells them to cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened (v. 7). A little leaven leavens the whole lump (v. 6). A member who is in ongoing unrepentant sin left unchecked is like a cancer to the body. If not dealt with, it will infect the whole. So, for the good of the holiness of the body, discipline must be practiced. And I have heard of cases where open continual sin was ignored and other members within the congregation also fell into gross heinous sins as well. Then the entire congregation could be described as anything but holy.

These are just a few of the reasons, gleaned from God's Word, why a church should practice discipline. I am sure that many more could be given and perhaps I will come back and add to this list at a later time. But for now, these should suffice. For a congregation to neglect disciplining her members is to be disobedient to Jesus' teachings, unloving, reflecting the world more than God, and dangerous for the spiritual good of the whole community. In keeping these reasons in mind, let's follow our Lord's wisdom and both be willing to practice such discipline as well as undergo such ourselves if necessary.

Love in Christ,
Soli Deo Gloria!!!