Ask Your Preacher
THE NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH
I am a christian and was attending services this past Sunday when the man leading the Lord's Supper referred to the cross as a "very ugly thing." I understand why it would be "ugly" to us; it represents our sin which separates us from God, but it also represents Christ's death which reunites us with God. So why then do Christians tend to refrain from wearing jewelry in the shape of crosses, etc? I understand that it would be wrong to worship a piece of jewelry (like Catholics with their rosaries), but wouldn't it be fine to wear a reminder of His sacrifice? Or even have a cross (not a crucifix) in the church building?
Sincerely, Cross About The Whole Subject
Dear Cross About The Whole Subject,
The problem with crosses as jewelry is that God tells us how He wants us to remember the death of Christ – through the weekly observance of the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor 11:25). Furthermore, christians are supposed to be known by their character, not their clothes (1 Pet 3:3-4). WWJD bracelets, crosses, religious bumper stickers, etc. are often used as a substitute for actually living a faithful life.
Having said all that, wearing a cross isn’t inherently wrong. The Scriptures don’t condemn that kind of clothing, but they strongly caution us against the attitudes that are often portrayed and involved with such outward adornment. Ultimately, the jewelry is unnecessary. The apostles and first century christians certainly didn’t need such ‘holy hardware’ to remember who they were. They found the cross a scary, inhuman, and terrifying way to die. I sometimes wonder… if Christ had died in an electric chair, would we all be wearing golden electric chair charms around our necks and putting giant electric chairs on top of our church buildings? For me, that analogy keeps the issue in proper perspective.
I have recently moved from one state to another. I am a member of Grace Baptist Church (which is an independent fundamental Bible-believing Baptist church). I am looking for a new church in my new area and want to ask the right questions of the pastor, so I am sure to find the right church. Any ideas?
Signed, Searching for God's church
Dear Searching for God’s church,
We answered a question similar to this one entitled Finding A Church, but let me add some more details that will be useful when talking to any preacher or elder. Here are some important questions to ask the church leadership:
- What do I need to do to be saved? The Bible teaches that you need to hear God’s Word (Rom 10:17), believe (Jhn 3:16), repent of your sins (Acts 3:19), confess Christ as Savior (Matt 10:32-33), and be baptized to have your sins forgiven (Acts 2:38, Mk 16:16, 1 Pet 3:21)… only then are you a christian. Any congregation you attend needs to teach these things.
- Do you believe there is only one church? Jesus taught that there was only one church He paid for with His blood (Acts 20:28). Paul taught the singularity of the church and the need for unity amongst God’s people (Eph 4:3-6). He also warned against denominationalism and people who would warp God’s Word (Gal 1:6-8).
- Where do you get the authority for your congregation’s practices? God’s church requires Bible authority for every decision they make. They shouldn’t add to God’s Word by doing things God doesn’t talk about or take away from God’s Word by ignoring any commandments He has made (Rev 22:18-19). Everything a congregation of God’s people does should have book, chapter, and verse behind it.
- Are you born in sin? The false teaching of ‘original sin’ is very common in today’s society. If a congregation teaches that you are born in sin, they are false teachers. Sin is a choice we make in life (Isa 7:15-16), and all humans are born upright and good (Eccl 7:29).
After answering those four questions, you will very quickly be able to see their attitude towards the Bible and whether they are a God's church or man's.
My pastor preaches that we are predestined (Eph 1:5). If this is true, then what is the point of serving God? For example, there is a Heaven and a Hell. God knows all of us; our goods, our bads, our evil intents, and our godly works. He knows our hearts, our minds, and our souls. The Bible says that God knows each hair on our head. So why try to win a race that God has chosen for us to win or lose, knowing that no matter how hard we try, we are not going to get the prize?
What do I mean? I have four kids, three girls and one boy. I have my kids run a foot race. My youngest daughter wins the race, but my son comes in last. I announce that the loser gets the prize. I have another race; my son comes in first. This time, I announce that the prize is given to the first place winner. I have a third race, and my son comes in third; I announce that the prize goes to the third place winner. After a while, the others catch on to the scheme that no matter what place they come in, it was predetermined and predestined for my son to win.
My wife is abusive, and my pastor tells me that I should "go through it for God" and that Jesus took it so "who am I to not go through it?”.
I am an inch away from giving up on religion all together. Am I missing something?
Sincerely, Deciding My Own Destiny
Dear Deciding My Own Destiny,
Yes, you are missing something – the Truth. Your pastor is wrong. The doctrine of ‘specific predestination’ is a man-made idea. If God specifically chooses certain people to be saved, then Jesus didn’t really die for everyone… but the Bible says He did (Jhn 3:16-17). It also means that God punishes people for things they have no control over… but the Bible says you have a choice (Josh 24:15). It also would mean that God doesn’t want everyone to be saved… but the Bible says He does (Ezek 18:23).
It is true that God predestined something before He created the universe. He predestined how people would be saved – in Christ (Eph 1:5). God planned, before He made anything, that all of mankind would be saved in Christ (Jhn 14:6). God chose how you would be saved; you must choose whether you will accept His salvation. The doctrine of predestination is a man-made lie that robs people of their hope, their freewill service to God, and the truth. If God decided specifically who was going to be saved before He ever created the world, then what is the point of Him commanding us to follow His Word (Jhn 15:14)? He commands us to follow because He wants us to choose to follow.
I’m very sorry to hear of your marital problems. Without knowing the specifics, I cannot give you any particular advice, but I can say that I wouldn’t trust advice from a religious leader who teaches false doctrine. Don’t give up on religion; give up on false religion. For an overview of what to look for in a faithful church, see this previous post.
Feel free to e-mail us at email@example.com if you would like help finding a faithful congregation in your area.
When I was going to a youth conference on the weekend, I was reading the Bible in the book of Acts. I found Acts 2:17-21.
I knew this verse had something to do with the weekend. When we stopped at a coffee shop, I told my friend about the verse, and she thought it was amazing. When we were at the main session of the youth conference, the preacher used this verse… does this have any spiritual meaning?
Sincerely, Acting on Acts
Dear Acting on Acts,
The coincidence of the preacher using this verse aside, every Bible verse has a spiritual meaning and significance. Acts 2:17-21 is an excerpt from Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost, the very first sermon preached after Christ ascended into heaven. Peter is quoting the book of Joel (Joel 2:28-32) and stating that what Joel wrote about was happening now. The verses have nothing to do with our behavior today or the end of time. If someone uses those verses to talk about speaking in tongues, modern day prophecy, visions, or the end of the world – they are misusing the Bible. Those verses refer to that particular day and the time period surrounding Christ’s life and death. Let me explain the context.
For 400 years, the Jews had received no word from God - no prophets, no visions, no dreams, nothing. Then, after all that silence came:
- Zacharias and the angel (Lk 1:13)
- Elizabeth’s prophecy (Lk 1:41)
- Simeon’s prophecy (Lk 2:26)
- Anna’s prophecy (Lk 2:36)
- The vision of the shepherds (Lk 2:8-9)
- John the Baptist’s preaching (Matt 3:1)
- Jesus’ miracles (Jhn 2:11)
- The miracles of Jesus’ seventy disciples (Lk 10:17)
There was a veritable explosion of supernatural events. Peter is explaining how this influx of miracles, visions, and prophecy were a fulfillment of what Joel had said would happen in the last days of Israel. ‘In the last days’ doesn’t mean the end of the world in this circumstance; it means the end (or last days) of the Old Covenant. Peter is using these verses from the book of Joel to illustrate that Jesus really is the Messiah that the Jews had been waiting for. Jesus fulfilled Joel’s prophecy, and today we reap the benefits of it.
I was reading a question to a priest, and I asked him why we call him ‘father’ when it specifically says not to in the Bible (Matt 23:8). His response was that it is for the same reason a child calls their parent ‘father’; they are the natural father and the priest is the spiritual father. While I believe calling a priest ‘father’ is wrong, why is it okay to call our birth parent ‘father’?
Sincerely, Paternal Nomenclature
Dear Paternal Nomenclature,
Calling a priest ‘father’ is wrong because, as the priest said, it is referring to ‘father’ in a spiritual sense. That is what Christ is condemning in Matt 23:8-10. Christ is rebuking people who elevate themselves above others within the church. Catholic priests place themselves in a position of spiritual superiority and authority above others. That is wrong and exactly what Christ told His disciples never to do.
On the other hand, the term ‘father’ is perfectly fine when used to refer to a physical parent. The Bible itself uses the word ‘father’ almost 1,000 times, and the vast majority of those times refer to fleshly parents. Gen 2:24, Gen 9:22, Lev 20:9, Pr 17:25, Mk 10:29, Lk 11:11 are just a few examples. Our fathers are a blessing from God given to us for a time to guide and discipline us (Heb 12:9-10). They are worthy of honor and the title ‘father’ (Eph 6:2).