Congregationalism, Elder Leadership & You

Community Bible Church is said to be congregationally ruled and elder led, but what does that mean for the church family – those who are covenant members of the body?

As we ponder this question, I think it is helpful to begin by briefly examining the three main structures of church government (polity): the episcopal, the presbyterian, and the congregational.

The episcopal model is one that is hierarchical where the chief local authorities are called bishops, practicing their authorities in the dioceses and conferences or synods. The bishop supervises the clergy within a local jurisdiction and is the representative both to secular structures and within the hierarchy of the church. Bishops are considered to derive their authority from an unbroken, personal apostolic succession from the Twelve Apostles of Jesus. This is the structure used by many major Christian Churches and denominations, such as Catholic, Eastern (e.g. Eastern Orthodox), Anglican and Lutheran churches or denominations, and other churches founded independently from these lineages. I grew up around the United Methodist Church, which is one example of a non-Catholic denomination that practices episcopal polity.

The presbyterian model is one that is elder-run (presbyter-run).  Typically, original authority – that is the authority that the church believes Christ gave to it – is said to reside at the local elder level in this model of polity. Thus the “highest” authority in a presbyterian or reformed church (after Christ) is said to be the Elders of the church. Those who are elected to office are called the session or consistory (though other terms such as “church board” may apply) and serve their terms as the spiritual/theological/moral/visionary leaders of the congregation. Various Presbyterian denominations in our area exercise this polity, including the PCA, the PCUSA, and the EPC.

The third polity that we will consider is the congregational model of government, which is the model that CBC practices. Congregational polity draws its name from the independence of local congregations from the authority and control of other religious bodies. As one man summarized,  congregational polity is as follows:

“The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church defines ‘congregationalism’ as ‘that form of Church polity which rests on the independence and autonomy of each local church.’ According to this source, the principles of democracy in church government rest on the belief that Christ is the sole head of his church, the members are all priests unto God, and these units are regarded each as an outcrop and representative of the church universal.”[i]

Churches organized with a congregational polity may be involved in conventions, districts or associations which allow them to share common beliefs, cooperate in joint ministry efforts and regulate clergy with other congregations. In the case of the CBC, we are part of the Evangelical Free Church of America, which, though it is often thought to be a denomination, is an association of autonomous churches united in our theological convictions (see www.efca.org for more).

CBC was planted in 1985 as a congregational church having this included in the church constitution:

CBC is committed to a congregational form of government. Jesus Christ is Lord and Head of the Church. CBC has the right, under Christ, to decide and govern its own affairs. The New Testament emphasizes the importance of the Body of Christ ministering through the spiritual gifts that have been given to each believer. “Congregational in government” means that CBC is Member ruled and Elder led.

 

Member ruled and Elder led. That begs the questions, “what is a member?” and “what is the difference between ruling and leading?” Let’s start by exploring membership.

At CBC we believe that the local church exists because of Jesus Christ. As we discuss in the Membership Matters class that is part of the membership process at CBC, “the Bible says that God’s redeemed people make up the body of Christ (1 Cor 12:12; Eph 3:6; 4:12). Jesus Christ died for the ‘church’ (Eph 5:25). Not only did Jesus die for the church, but he is the head of the church, which is to say, he has authority over the church (Eph 1:22; Col 1:18), and Jesus has granted authority to the local church in the world (Matthew 18:18-20). The local church is the highest kingdom authority on earth, and as such, every follower of Jesus should identify themselves with Jesus as He works through the local church. Jonathan Leeman provides a helpful definition of the local church in his book titled Church Membership,

‘The local church is the authority on earth that Jesus has instituted to officially affirm and give shape to my Christian life and yours. Just as the Bible establishes the government of your nations as your highest authority on earth when it comes to your citizenship in that nations, so the Bible establishes the local church as your highest authority on earth when it comes to your discipleship to Christ and your citizenship in Christ’s present and promised nation.’[1]

Members are those who covenant together, sharing the same theological position (on “essential” doctrines, at least), mission, and core convictions. Members (by majority) have the final voice on all church decisions, including (but not limited to) the election of elders, election of deacons, call of senior pastor, annual budget approval, acceptance of new members & release of members, and the like. Those are some pretty significant decisions that the members make, so how do elders lead within that?

Take the one of the examples above, for instance. In the election of new elders, the current elders receive congregational nominations for elder candidates, organize candidate questionnaires and information-gathering, perform candidate interviews, and prayerfully discern the top candidates in a given cycle. The elders then publish contact information for the finalists (an invitation for the membership to complete their own process of decision-making) and present these top candidates to the membership for approval. In this case the elders are doing much of the leg work that would be difficult for an entire membership to accomplish (at CBC we’re talking 360 members) and then presenting the candidates for the all-important member approval. The elders are leading through the process, but the process culminates with the approval of the membership (which we often refer to as the “congregation”). In this way the elders lead, and the congregation rules. The same holds true for other examples in the church.

So the question remains, “what does that mean for the church family?” In short, it means that healthy membership is essential to a healthy church. If we were to enter a season where people did not value membership and covenant to membership, the very fabric of the church would fail. And if our covenant members don’t involve themselves in the functional decisions of the church, the church is failing to operate as a congregational body.

So the first point of application is pursue membership. If you consider yourself to be part of the CBC family, take the step to pursue covenant membership. While we value the opinions of the CBC regular attenders, it is only the voice of the membership that is authoritative. If you have questions about why membership is valuable, I would encourage you to attend our next Membership Matters class on October 21st, or contact me to grab coffee and discuss this more.

The second point of application is for our membership: take seriously your responsibility. Practically speaking, if you are a member, please make every effort to attend our quarterly Members Meetings. The next one is November 18th. In addition to being able to celebrate what the Lord is doing through His body, we regularly discuss items that aren’t appropriate for our Sunday morning gatherings. In the Members Meetings we vote to accept/release members, have financial updates/votes, discuss future plans, etc. As the Jesus-instituted Spirit-empowered authority that the church is, we need you to engage in the life of the church beyond attending and serving. We need the insight that you bring to discussions!

 

 

[1] Jonathan Leeman, Church Membership, p. 24-25.

[i] Who Runs the Church?: 4 Views on Church Government, Steven B. Cowan, gen. ed., p. 135, Zondervan 2004

Just a Child of the King

Recently I had the great privilege of speaking at a memorial service after the passing of a family friend. I saw this man come to begin a relationship with Jesus just a couple months before his passing and it was important to me to be there, even though I knew almost none of his family. He and his wife retired about 10 years ago and had lived in various places up and down the east coast in their RV since retiring. At the memorial I was introduced to one of their good friends that they had met during their campground travels. His name was Wayne. Wayne had extended stays in a few of the same campgrounds as my late friend, and they had developed a good relationship over the years.

After welcoming everyone to the memorial service and saying an opening prayer, I invited Wayne to come up and eulogize our late friend. Wayne started by explaining that he wasn’t a preacher, but that he was “just a child of the King”. Wayne then went on to describe in his distinctive southern voice how they met and had become good friends, sharing humorous anecdotes along the way. But after a few minutes Wayne began sharing about how he spoke to our friend many times over the past few years about Jesus. He explained the gospel in simple terms, just as he had with our friend in recent years. As he spoke, I kept thanking God for the encouragement that I was receiving through Wayne. This man was speaking with boldness, clarity, conviction, and an honest legitimacy that often isn’t available for clergy. It’s not that vocational pastors can’t speak to this legitimacy to the ears of a listening audience, but sometimes it is easier to establish this legitimacy in the minds of an audience when it is a lay person delivering the message. You see, when I have gospel conversations with unbelievers, most of them are thinking “yeah, but it’s your job to say that… you’re a pastor.”

Wayne’s words encouraged me, and they fell gently on the ears of everyone listening. Partly because of his clarity, but partly because he wasn’t seen as one who had to share because it was his vocation. He wasn’t sharing a scripted line, but a heartfelt and personal testimony of God’s grace. What Wayne lacked in the way of formal seminary education, he leveraged by speaking candidly about his own faith. Wayne had obviously been a faithful student of the Bible over the years, and his words of grace seemed to flow effortlessly from his heart.

I’ve thought a lot about Wayne since that memorial service, and I’ve thought a lot about how everyone of us who follow Christ have the same responsibility to testify to God’s grace through Jesus.

The Bible speaks to this clearly. Consider 1 Peter 2:9 where all who have been redeemed by Christ are called a “royal priesthood”. The priesthood is not just the clergy – the vocational pastors. The priesthood is all the redeemed. And all the redeemed are called to be ministers of the gospel in our unique contexts. Some priests are called to serve as doctors, some as waitresses, same as retail workers, some as truck drivers… and some are called to serve on a church staff. But we’re all called to serve as priests.

The last words of Jesus are a call-to-action for all his disciples. In his Great Commission Jesus says for his disciples to go and make other disciples (Matt. 28:18-20). Did you know that’s why the mission of CBC is what it is? We are called to magnify Jesus Christ by making disciples who advance the mission of God among all people. What is the mission of God? I just referred to it in the Great Commission. It is to make disciples. So, in other words, we are called to make disciples who make disciples. That’s what we’re called to as the collective priesthood.

What kind of steward are being of God’s grace?

We are all stewards of the grace of God. The only question is how we are stewarding this gift. We have the message of redemption, but are we sharing it for the sake of God’s glory and the eternal security of the people we do life with? Consider Wayne. Wayne took seriously his stewardship and he took advantage of the opportunities God appointed for him to speak to our friend. And you know what, God used Wayne’s faithful witness to till the soil of our friend’s heart.

This reminds me of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians where he writes:

“I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So, neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow workers.” (1 Cor. 3:6-9a).

God was at work in our friend’s life. First through Wayne and then through me. First in Florida and then in North Carolina. The Lord used Wayne and he used me, but it was the Lord that was at work all along. The Lord’s sovereignty is on display in situations like this. Wayne planted, I watered, but our sovereign Lord of salvation was giving the growth.

I want to exhort you, dear brother or sister, to make yourself available to the Lord today, for His name’s sake. Engage the Word of God today and regularly that you may be armed with the “sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Eph. 6:17) and “as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace” (6:15). We have the tools to be equipped for ministry… the Word of God (2 Tim. 3:16), the church (Eph. 4:11-12), and the Spirit of God (Matt. 28:20; Acts 1:8). We must choose to arm outfit ourselves with all that the Lord has provided for this work, and then we must choose to engage in His work.

You’ll never feel like you’re adequately equipped for all the possible scenarios that you play out in your mind, but we’re still called to be good stewards of the grace of the gospel wherever we’re at. But take it from me, one who was “just a child of the King” doing lay ministry for years before becoming a vocational pastor just 5 years ago: the Lord is faithful and able to work through your feeble attempts to serve Him. His power is made perfect in our weakness. He is the sovereign Lord. He is looking for us to suit up, to make ourselves available for His work, and He’s faithful to provide the grace we need.

Wayne identified himself as “just a child of the King”. The faithful witness of that one “child” has been an encouragement to me and a blessing to others he has ministered to. I hope it serves as an encouragement for you today as well.

Proclaim and Rest in God

And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.
1 Corinthians 2:1-5

How often do we come face-to-face with an opportunity to minister to others by sharing the transformational truth of the gospel, yet stop shy of doing so because we’re afraid of not having the right things to say?

Maybe it’s an unmarried coworker that regularly provides updates about their dating life and the cycle of excitement when meeting someone new and the disappointment of heartbreak after hooking up and getting ditched. Maybe it’s a family member who you see work diligently for their employer, only to get passed by for numerous promotions and compensation increases. Or maybe it’s a friend that makes references about spirituality but seems unwilling to concede to the exclusivity of Christianity because they don’t believe any religion can be the only way to peace or eternal life.

You’ve heard people make claims like this and, as a Jesus-bought believer, you feel compelled to make a defense for Christianity because of how you’ve personally come to experience the love of God through Jesus. You see these loved ones hurting and you want to minister to their broken hearts. But you play out the hypothetical conversation in your mind and you anticipate an objection from the other person about two sentences into your internal monologue and you quickly abandon the notion of verbalizing any of what you were just thinking about. And you feel crummy the rest of the day like you’ve just let down yourself and your Savior.

We’ve all been there. But Paul’s words provide encouragement for the believer.

This passage provides encouragement for all of us who have experienced this scenario. Here Paul is writing to the church in Corinth and he says that it is actually good sometimes to speak without lofty speech, and without having all the answers, resting in the power of God.

Consider the source here. Paul is one of the most recognizable voices of the early church who wrote about half of the New Testament using theological language that has given generations of scholars plenty to chew on. And this man is telling us here that he actually made the conscious decision to not rest in his linguistic prowess or theological acumen when proclaiming the gospel, but he kept it basic and rested in the Spirit of God.

I think this is instructive for us. There is an underlying theological conviction here that is important for us to understand. That is, only the Spirit of God can change the heart of man. We are called to do the work of proclamation – to make the gospel known among all people – but it is God that causes that gospel message to penetrate the heart of the hearer, that it may take root and provide fruit.

In the next chapter of this letter to the Corinthians, Paul unpacks this for us. After using the gardening theme that Jesus shared in his parable of the sower (Luke 8:4-15), Paul writes, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So, neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth” (1 Cor. 3:6-7). We should be faithful to plant and water, but ultimately it is God who provides the real change offered through the gospel.

After reading that we can skirt away from our responsibility to be gospel sowers and claim that it doesn’t matter what we do because God is going to provide growth where He deems appropriate in His sovereignty. But that’s to ignore the fact that God has called us to be sowers (Luke 8). And being unfaithful sowers is to the detriment of the coworker, family member, or friend that I mentioned earlier. If we are going to love well in the name of Jesus, we need to be willing to sow.

This takes us back to the top of this post. If we realize that it’s not so much about having all the answers to all their objections, and more about being faithful to engage in a loving conversation about the gospel, we are more likely to begin the conversation with them.

Here are a few practical tips to consider when stepping into one of these conversations:

  • Pray. If we really believe that God is the one providing the increase, will we not want to petition God himself to move in the heart of the hearer? We can also pray that God would give us the necessary boldness, sensitivity, and grace to proclaim.
  • Testify. Share how you have personally come to grow in the gospel and how that has affected the way that you approach life (proactively and reactively). Personal testimony is always a strong apologetic… especially if you’ve got a gospel-centered life to verify your words.
  • Explain. Unpack the gospel for them. Take the message out of churchy insider speak and explain how we all need a savior, and that Jesus is the only person qualified to be that savior.
  • Pray. Again, who is providing the increase? Petition the growth Giver!
  • Love. Follow up with the person to help them process gospel truth. Also make yourself available to research and respond to questions they have. Love them in a way that shows them that you value them for who they are… not who you want them to be.

Keep in mind that you will likely never lose the feeling of being intimidated to make gospel proclamations. Paul said himself that he was trembling with fear in weakness when he proclaimed Jesus to the Corinthians (v. 3). But as we have been redeemed and empowered by the One who overcame our greatest enemy, raising Christ from the dead, we can overcome our fear, weakness, and limited ability to communicate as we minister to the world.

Brother and sister, proclaim and rest in God. Trust not in your wisdom or ability, but rest in the power of God as you advance the mission.

Ancestors and Ever-Afters

Throughout my childhood I was exposed to the imaginative work of Walt Disney through fairytales that chronicled the budding love between a man and woman and the magical moments that took place as they grew in their love for one another. Have you ever read the story of Snow White, or Cinderella? Or perhaps you watched movies like Sleeping Beauty or The Little Mermaid? Each of these stories introduce us to characters who struggle with discontentment in their singleness and eventually experience a fuller happiness when they find their “Prince Charming” and a life happily ever after.

One of the most beautiful things that the church gets to participate in is the wedding of two believers, created in God’s own image, justified by Christ, becoming one new entity. Those wedding days are great times of celebration where all who are in attendance reflect on the love of God and on the love that the bride and groom have for one another. There is often good food and dancing to be enjoyed, and generally a good time had by all. There are months of planning that normally precede these events and lots of money invested to make this a beautiful and memorable occasion.

And then, in a flash, the sun sets, the festivities wrap up, and everyone goes home. Just like that, its all over. And the bride and groom may be left to ask, “now what?”

In those Disney fairytales that I experienced as a child, the stories focused on everything leading up to the wedding, but the author or producer would summarize all that took place in the years to follow by saying (or suggesting) “and they lived happily ever after.” But our own life experience and a large pool of consistently disappointing statistics point to the fact that life and marriage aren’t always happy after the wedding.

I find that many times couples still take a similar approach; they invest in the wedding more than they are prepared to invest in their marriage.

The wedding day is just one day that passes you by in a blur. The marriage to follow is designed by God to be a lifelong commitment to gospel oneness, for so long as you both shall live.

At the Art of Marriage weekender that we recently hosted, I was struck by the final session titled “Love Always: Leaving a Lasting Legacy”. Though I had been through the entire weekend event once before and had listened to several of the segments additional times, I was given some powerful reminders for what a statement my marriage makes about the gospel and for generations to come.

As my kids get older I become more aware of what an impact my marriage to Erin has on them. I realize that one day they will start their ever-after and raise their own families, Lord willing. And I realize that their children will have children and that pretty soon there will be generations of grandkids that I’ll never know because I’m dead and gone. The Art of Marriage reminded me of the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his Letters and Papers from Prison:

“Marriage…has a higher dignity and power, for it is God’s holy institution through which God wishes to preserve humanity until the end of time. In…marriage you are a link in the chain of generations that God, for the sake of [his] glory, allows to rise and fade away, and calls into [his] kingdom.”

You see, we are ancestors to generations yet to be born. Albert Mohler submits, “You are an ancestor to someone yet to come. If you live your life knowing you are an ancestor, that will change the way you make your decisions, the way you live your life, the way you love your wife.”

Wow, that is powerful stuff. I was forced to stop and consider again, “how differently would I invest into my marriage if I were able to keep that multi-generational perspective?” If I were able to keep this ancestry perspective then I would likely make a stronger statement about the gospel in my marriage, in my parenting, and in my investment at home. And by God’s grace, if my kids kept that perspective and a gospel-centered commitment in their marriages based on what I’ve taught them and what they’ve “caught” by watching and listening in our home, there are tens, hundreds, or thousands of people that could be impacted in the way they understand marriage and in their gospel commitment…all from future generations in my family tree. With every decision I should consider not what makes my wife and kids happy today (because the right decision isn’t always the popular decision), but what makes them happy in 20 years from now when they reflect on the gospel impact each of those decisions made in the long run.

Dave Harvey said, “Marriage is embedded in the culture as a gospel testimony that is always making statement. The only question is whether it’s a good statement or a bad one.”

If you are engaged or one day hope to be married, please invest in your marriage more than you invest in your wedding. Engage in biblical premarital counseling well ahead of your wedding day and learn from those in the church that seem to have gospel-centered marriages. (side note: this ancestry perspective would likely change our commitment to celibacy as well)

If you are married, commit to invest in your marriage now. It is never too late to make this commitment, even if you look back on many years of your marriage and shake your head in disappointment because of your short-sighted self-absorbed perspective. Seek marriage counseling. Read some of the great resources available from evangelical authors (I’ve provided a list of recommended reads at the end of this entry). Pray that God would resurrect your marriage and your commitment to a strong gospel statement through your marriage relationship. God specializes in that kind of thing you know…resurrection is one of his trademarks. And just as the fall in Genesis 3 dealt a fatal blow to God’s perfect design for marriage, the gospel resurrects that perfect design and gives your marriage hope. It is never too late to commit yourself to leaving a gospel legacy through your marriage.

And if you are divorced I want you to know there is no shame for your failed marriage(s). Even if you were the primary reason it (they) failed. There is forgiveness available through the cross of Christ and victory in his resurrection. If you are in Christ, you are no longer a slave to sin and the powers of this world, but you are a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17; Gal. 2:20). Your sin is forgiven if you are in Christ because “for our sake [God] made [Jesus] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in [Jesus] we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21). You are a billboard for the power of the gospel and the reconciliation of God can be on display through your life. In fact, God often gets the most glory when we bring our broken stuff to him and allow him to make it new.

With regards to marriage, let’s concern ourselves more with our ancestry than the fairytale ever-afters. Let’s maximize the opportunity that we have to impact generations for the gospel through our marriages.

Dear Heavenly Father, I pray for the marriages at CBC and that we would be a people committed to a long view of gospel impact on display in our homes. I pray that you would embolden husbands to make a stand for the gospel in their family leadership. I pray that these husbands would completely reprioritize their schedules and commitments based on this ancestry perspective and that they would be servant leaders as Christ is of the church. I pray for the wives in these homes, that you would give them joy in submitting to the leadership of their husbands, just as the church should to Christ. I pray that you would be gracious to impact the hearts of future generations as they see gospel-centered marriage examples so that they, too, would be key influencers within our lineage, for your glory. Thank you for the sure hope of the gospel in our lives and our marriages. Amen.

 

Recommended marriage & family resources:

Parenting, Paul David Tripp

Sex, Romance, and the Glory of God, C.J. Mahaney

The Meaning of Marriage, Timothy Keller with Kathy Keller

What Did you Expect? – Paul David Tripp

Gospel-Powered Parenting, William Farley

The Complete Husband, Lou Priolo

When Sinners Say “I Do”, Dave Harvey

God, Marriage, and Family, Andreas Kostenberger with David Jones

The Exemplary Husband, Stuart Scott

Women of the Word, Jen Wilkin

The Disciple-Making Parent, Chap Bettis

 

Believe.Seek.Slay.

For each believer, there are certain passages of Scripture that are particularly impactful as the Lord uses them to mature us in our sanctification. Depending on your context, maybe those passages are about hope, or faith, or how the gospel should shape our thoughts. For me, one of those top-of-the-list passages is in found in Paul’s epistle to the church at Colossae. After considering the preeminence of Christ, and penning from his own struggle to equip and encourage the church, Paul provides us a reminder that we are alive in Christ and free from the debt of sin. Then in chapter three Paul starts by writing,

“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” – Colossians 3:1-2

This is a passage that makes me shake my head every time I read it or hear it. Why would I shake my head? Because I know it to be true – I counsel others with this passage often – yet I regularly fail to keep it in view in my own life. I honestly believe that the rest of my life would look different if I would just dwell on this passage at some point each day. Reflecting on three truths in this passage should shape how I view myself, how I view God, what I invest in, and what I choose to ignore. Here are three truths for you to ponder:

1. BELIEVE. If you believe in your heart that Jesus is Lord and you believe he was resurrected on the third day, you have also been raised with Christ who sits at the right hand of the Father (Rom.10:9). In other words, if by faith you have been saved by the work of God in Christ, then your eternity has been secured. Because of that truth your identity is also set and you can rest in the grace of God. Church, that should make us all take a nice deep breath. We don’t have to carry the burden of a coming judgment that our sin had earned us; the debt is paid in full. Furthermore, we have the righteousness of Jesus as we stand before our just God. Our Mediator sits at the Father’s right hand, having defended our past, giving purpose to our present, and securing our future. We don’t have to work any longer for what we couldn’t earn in the first place.
2. SEEK. In light of our position in Christ, we should seek the things above. As redeemed sinners, we are called to deal in a holy economy. Holy means set apart, different, or separate. We play by a different set of rules. We believe in a different set of values. We submit to a different authority. We should seek to please God instead of our own desires. We should put on the new self “which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator” (Col.3:10). How do we learn what this economy looks like? What things we should value? What authority we should submit to? What pleases God? This one timeless, inerrant, infallible, God-inspired source of truth is Scripture of course (Jn.17:17, 2Tim.3:16). That is the tool that the Lord has given us that we may be renewed in the knowledge of all things Holy. Church, that is the value of regular, self-evaluating, Spirit-empowered study of Scripture. Without knowing the things that God deems as “things above”, how could we expect to seek those things?
3. SLAY. We should actively & consistently slay our fleshly pull toward earthly things. However, for some reason, we continue to pursue things with no eternal value. As my brother Pastor Dave Annan recently said in a sermon, when offered a delicious hearty meal chocked full of nutritional value we often still find ourselves pursuing cotton candy – “sweet colorful nothingness”. While the cotton candy is pretty to look at, interesting to touch, and temporarily gratifying, it leaves you with nothing but an appetite for more. The same is true of earthly things. As those who have been sealed by the Holy Spirit, we have the power of God at work within us so we definitely have the ability to denounce earthly things, but often we don’t have the discipline to submit to God’s ways instead.
To lure us away from eternal truth in lieu of temporal gain is also a favorite scheme of Satan. Satan even tried using that with Jesus himself. In Matthew 4 Satan offered Jesus much in the way of earthly things. Jesus answered each of the temptations by pointing to the eternal truth of God’s Word every one of the three times Satan tempted him. What a great lesson for us, church! By knowing and remembering God’s Word, we are equipped to battle Satan and remain steadfast in our pursuit of eternal things, not of things on earth.

Think about it this way; If you were looking to make an investment and your broker introduced you to an opportunity by saying “this is an absolute fail…there is a 100% chance that you’ll lose every dime that you invest here regardless of how much money you throw into it”, you would not consider that investment opportunity for another second. You would walk away and never look back. We should have the same approach toward earthly things since God has called us to the things above, where our future has already been secured by the finished work of God in Christ.

In what areas of life are you clutching desperately to earthly things? We all have them. Do you believe that the holy things of God’s eternal economy are of immeasurably more value? Do you believe that functionally? In other words, if someone were to look at your calendar, your wallet, and your smart phone, would they find evidence of an allegiance to God or the world? What changes do you need to make today to shift your pursuits from earthly things to the things of God?