Tuesday, May 17, 2011

For you have need of endurance ...

This posting could have been about sexual sin, about abortion or even the PC(U.S.A)’s connection to organizations which lie and hate Jews. (That was what I first started to write about.) But I am watching in many areas the sickening downward spiral of the denomination. Unable to hold on to biblical ethics which include biblical sexual standards and respect for God’s gift of life, the denomination cares little about its connections to radical anti-Semitic groups who push multiple conspiracy theories. This is just one more rung on the downward fall. It is useless to write about it. God has allowed the demonic to trouble our waters.

This Sunday I taught the Hebrews class for one of our pastors. I was struck by Hebrews 10: 30. From verse 26 to 31 the author is writing about God’s judgment on apostates, those who reject Christ, count him as worth nothing, see the blood of Christ as unclean and refuse the grace of the Holy Spirit so that they can keep on in their habitual sin.

For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of fire which will consume the adversaries. (26-27)

Verse thirty combines some verses from the Song of Moses which he sang before his death. “Vengeance is mine” and “The Lord will Judge his people.” The first part is about the enemies of the Church, but the second part is about God’s judgment within the Church. (Still enemies I am afraid.)

Judgment within the Church is God’s, not ours. It is not pleasant and yet it is reassuring. It happens when the church tolerates everything and brings about a separation that is out of everyone’s control. It is God’s work alone. Because God is always involved, he does not leave us alone. God redeems us, forgives us, transforms us, but he does judge those who misuse his gift and reject the eternal Son.

The scripture text from verse 26 to the end of the chapter was a startling text to be handed for study after the painful arrogant decision by a majority of the members of the PCUSA. The text not only covers God’s reactions to apostates [1], but the author also reminds the readers that there was a time when they stood firm in the midst of abuse, loss of property and even prison. He commends them because they were faithful to Christ and faithful to each other.

And he reminds the readers of the promise of Christ’s return and the faith God has given. The readers are reminded of their earlier love of Christ, they endured because of him. They are reminded of a better possession-Jesus.

[1]I am not suggesting that all of those who voted for 10-A are apostate. I am suggesting that a small group are rejecting the Lordship of Jesus Christ, are stomping on his grace which transforms and are led by some who have rejected everything. But God knows who and I do not. I just have confidence that it is in His hands.


will spotts said...

Viola - I find this interesting. You are certainly right on several levels. God is allowing this; God is our judge - judgment of that kind is not our responsibility; God does judge within the church as well as outside.

I also concur that what you describe is happening on so many fronts that a person can't keep up. I would point out that this is transcending any one denomination - no matter how personally we might take events in one particular denomination.

But I have to ask a question. Do you think 10A - or any of the items you mention in passing - are really the choice of majorities of members? I mean is this really what a majority want?

I understand (and have argued before) that the toleration of these things by majorities of members indicate that they are, if not on board, unwilling to do anything about it. Essentially, the members OWN these decisions. And the old excuses of member ignorance, focus on local congregation, etc. don't hold water any more.

Yet, I'm still not persuaded these decisions reflect the beliefs of the majority of PC(USA) members.

Will Spotts
North East, MD

Viola Larson said...

You are right to ask that question. I just realized that in writing what I did I was thinking of the majority in the Presbytery and GA meetings. And there are several problems with that.

One of the problems is that congregations are not finding anyplace to give voice to their concerns. And of course another problem is that all of us just want to be left alone to lead our lives. (I could and can spend hours in the garden, or reading books for pleasure, I would even rather spend time cleaning than be at some presbytery meetings.)So our voices are not heard.

So I'm not sure, but at least the majority of leaders wanted 10-A to pass, do not care about our advocacy of abortion and care even less about IPMN's connection to radical hate groups.

The other thing that undoubtedly caused me to think in terms of majority congregations is our loss of so many evangelical churches in Sacramento. That is certainly why 10-A won in our presbytery.

popsnjj said...

Viola--I have often wondered if each person sitting in the pew were allowed to vote--what would be the result? Even with all the churches that have left, I believe that result would be different. However in my church not one word has come from Session--they are talking but only among themselves.

Frank Norment
Rome, GA

will spotts said...

Viola -

I think there is a distinction between the two - e.g. majorities of members and a majority of governing bodies.

There are various reasons for this, but what I've seen historically were, for example, pastors of basically conservative congregations who tended to quietly vote at presbytery meetings in ways their congregations would have strongly disapproved ... if they were more straightforwar. Sessions tended to "protect" the congregation from controversies in the denomination. Elders often are intimidated at presbytery meetings to go against their pastors. And are, in fact, somewhat discouraged from speaking out if that entailed going against the sense of the 'leadership' or more outspoken pastors at meetings.

But there is, perhaps, another change in play. Historically, elders have been the most conservative population of Presbyterians - per Presbyterian Panel responses. That seems to me to be changing. They tend now to match up more with the pulpit pastors as a class.

(It used to rank - and was rather consistent over time - members were somewhat right of center. Pulpit pastors were somewhat left of center. Elders were more conservative than members. Specialized clergy tended to be far left. Do you sense this is changing?)

Sherry L. Kirton said...

I am in the conservatives as a member, who does not have a deaconship nor an eldership, but is a lay-youth minister.

I am watching our denomination (and other denominations) turn further and further away from God's word and more and more towards a 'compassion that ignores the cross' which is like saying, "I don't see anything/one needing to be saved or sanctified, transformed, or removed."

I too often want to walk away. I have faithfully served in baptist, pentecostal, and a non-denominational churches, and have watched our leaders here in the PC-USA act is so many ungodly ways with manipulation in politics and teaching from their own agendas while they lack recognition that God promised that He would judge teachers more harshly. I'm not sure they think He really exists or pays attention, otherwise they might search the Scriptures and their hearts and repent.

I know that they accept the controversies regarding the validity of Scripture without attending to the evidence that proves Scripture is His very word, over time, inspired, revealed, and illuminated as well as protected by the Holy Spirit.

I can only stay, as the Spirit says, and I pray that either we come to repentance as a denomination, or that God will make a new avenue illuminated to us.

God is not slow in keeping His promises, as some understand slowness, but He is patient, not wanting anyone to perish, but to come to repentance!

Viola Larson said...


Now that the question is being asked I wonder too. And I think it would be helpful if more Pastor's and elders let the congregation in on the problem. I think our church does a fairly good job of that.

Viola Larson said...

I'm not sure but none of that sounds right for my presbytery-I wonder if it is the difference between a presbytery or congregation on the East Coast versus the West Coast.

Viola Larson said...

I am in the same place as you. The Holy Spirit is not calling me away. So the Lord must have somekind of a future planned for us in the PCUSA, at least for this time.

Robert said...

I told the congregation about the changes 10-A would make and have been told that many congregational members didn't understand. Now I have written up a bulletin insert to make it clear.

I can't leave either. God called me to be in this covenant. I do not believe that God calls people out. Like Calvin and Luther I believe my only way out is to be kicked out.

Viola Larson said...

Robert, I do believe God calls people and churches out. After all it is the progressives who have moved away from the church-the universal church. But I believe God is keeping many in the denomination also. and I think God knows his own purposes.

Greg Scandlen said...


I agree that judgement belongs to the Lord, but it is also true that we have a duty to expose false teachings. The current issue of Modern Reformation includes this quote from Martin Luther --

“Every Christian has the right and the duty to teach, instruct, admonish, comfort, and rebuke his neighbor with the Word of God at every opportunity and whenever necessary For example, father and mother should do this for their children and household; a brother, neighbor, citizen, or peasant for the other. Certainly one Christian may instruct and admonish another ignorant or weak Christian concerning the Ten Commandments, the Creed, or the Lord’s Prayer. And he who receives such instruction is also under obligation to accept it as God’s Word and publicly to confess it.”

Now I don't think that is license to act superior and to scold our neighbors. Rather I take it as an invitation to stand for Scripture in a loving way.