Larry's Notes
Biblical Convictions and Personal Preferences
Sunday, 22 April 2012 09:20

At PlanoBibleChapel we strive to find a balance between the biblical convictions that are essential to Christian faith, the biblical beliefs that we hold as a church but other godly people may view differently, and the personal convictions that we hold individually for a fruitful walk with Christ.

This desire for balance requires that we recognize the differences between biblical convictions and personal boundaries.  When we understand as a church family the importance of a particular belief, thought, or preference, we’ll be able to agree on the essentials of the Christian life and better prepared to disagree on less important ones.  In other words, when we recognize the differences between convictions and preferences, we’ll be able to celebrate our life in Christ and cooperate as the body of Christ in a way that leads to unity.

Where we are as Christians: We know the Truth—God and His Word!

God, the Supreme Being, exists.  He is Truth and the standard for absolute truth.  God has revealed Himself and His Will for us in a book that is absolutely true, the Bible.  We can know truth by knowing God and knowing Him personally through His Word.

Where we are as a culture: Absolutely no absolutes!

Our culture says, “There is no such thing as objective, absolute truth.  Something can be true for me, and its opposite true for you, and that's OK!  We create our own truth.”  Insisting that anything is absolutely true is considered intolerant and ignorant (except of course, the belief that there are absolutely no absolutes!).

Where we are as Christians in our culture: When worlds collide!

We must know the difference, not only between what is true and false, but also between what is objective and what is subjective and what is essential and what is non-essential.  That's not always easy because not only do unbelievers disagree with us – Christians often disagree in areas of personal convictions and biblical beliefs.

What are Biblical Convictions and Personal Preferences?

A conviction is a strong persuasion or belief about the truth. Biblical convictions are the doctrines held to be right or true by the church throughout the centuries. Personal convictions are based upon scriptural truth and applied to an individual believer’s life.  Personal convictions provide boundaries for an individual to live a godly life. Biblical beliefs are things that can be demonstrated in Scripture, but are non-essential providing room for differing theological positions. Personal preferences are things that relate to our convenience and comfort.

Spectrum of Truth

1. Biblical Convictions (Essential/ Objective) Without these biblical truths, Christianity and the ability to glorify God no longer exists.

2. Personal Convictions (Situational/Subjective) How does God want me to live in the gray areas of life that are not specifically spelled out in Scripture?

3. Biblical Beliefs (Non-essential/Objective) True believers in Christ may disagree on these theological beliefs or systems of belief.

4. Personal preferences (Autonomous/Subjective) What do I like, and want, and choose?

Two extremes to avoid in the area of convictions and preferences:

1. No convictions at all: No black and whites

a.  No absolutes.

b.  Give up knowing anything

c.  Leads to license (immorality, lawlessness)

d.  An excuse to sin by rejecting accountability

2. Convictions about everything: No gray areas

a.  Denies the spectrum of truth

b.  Must know everything (must be God)

c.  Leads to legalism (pharisaic, judgmental)

d.  A security blanket against living by faith

Application: 5 principles related to our convictions and preferences

  1. Don't judge other Christians according to your personal convictions or dogmatic about your biblical beliefs but show consideration for others. (Rom. 14:1-23)
  2. Give up your rights to certain freedoms for the sake of Christians who have personal convictions in those areas (1 Cor. 8:4-13). Our freedom in Christ must be used to glorify God and for the good of others (1 Cor 10:23-33).
  3. Keep man-made rules (personal convictions) that are not specifically spelled out in Scripture (biblical convictions and beliefs) to a minimum (Col. 2:16-23). Remember that your personal convictions may be essential for your walk with the Lord Jesus, but not necessarily wrong for someone else.
  4. God uses men and women who live by grace in holding their biblical convictions, biblical beliefs, and personal convictions. He is glorified by believers who are committed to living a sacrificial life of conviction rather than compromise in a godless world (1 Cor. 10:31).
  5. In areas of biblical convictions, don't subtract from or add to God's revealed truth in the Bible (Dt. 4:1-2; Rev. 18-19).

“One Another” Commands from the New Testament
Sunday, 19 February 2012 11:00

Accept one another
Therefore accept one another, just as the Messiah also accepted you, to the glory of God. (Romans 15:7) 
Therefore, God’s chosen ones, holy and loved, put on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, accepting one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a complaint against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive. (Colossians 3:12–13)

Admonish one another
Let the message about the Messiah dwell richly among you, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, and singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, with gratitude in your hearts to God.
(Colossians 3:16)

Agree with one another
Be in agreement with one another. Do not be proud; instead, associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own estimation. (Romans 12:16)

Bear with one another
Walk worthy of the calling you have received, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love. (Ephesians 4:2)

Build up one another
So then, we must pursue what promotes peace and what builds up one another. (Romans 14:19)

Care for one another
God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the less honorable, so that there would be no division in the body, but that the members would have the same concern for each other. (1 Corinthians 12:25)

Carry one another’s burdens
Carry one another’s burdens; in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2)

Comfort one another
Therefore encourage (comfort) one another with these words. (1 Thessalonians 4:18)

Be Compassionate to one another
And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ. (Ephesians 4:32)

Confess sins to one another
Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The urgent request of a righteous person is very powerful in its effect. (James 5:16)

Be Devoted to one another
Show family affection to one another with brotherly love. (Romans 12:10a)

Encourage one another
Encourage each other daily, while it is still called today, so that none of you is hardened by sin’s deception. (Hebrews 3:13)

Forgive one another
And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ. (Ephesians 4:32)
Therefore, God’s chosen ones, holy and loved, put on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, accepting one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a complaint against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive. (Colossians 3:12–13)

Get along with one another
Now may the God who gives endurance and encouragement allow you to live in harmony with one another, according to the command of Christ Jesus. (Romans 15:5)

Be Honest with one another
Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old self with its practices (Colossians 3:9)

Honor one another
Outdo one another in showing honor. (Romans 12:10b)

Be Hospitable to one another
Be hospitable to one another without complaining. (1 Peter. 4:9)
Share with the saints in their needs; pursue hospitality. (Romans 12:13)

Be Kind to one another
And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ. (Ephesians 4:32)

Love one another
“I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must also love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)
Do not owe anyone anything, except to love one another, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. . .
(Romans 13:8)

Members one of another
We who are many are one body in Christ and individually members of one another. (Romans 12:5)

Motivate one another
And let us inspire one another in order to promote love and good works. (Hebrews 10:24)

Pray for one another
Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The urgent request of a righteous person is very powerful in its effect. (James 5:16)

Serve one another
For you were called to be free, brothers; only don’t use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but serve one another through love. (Galatians 5:13)

Share with one another
Share with the saints in their needs; pursue hospitality. (Romans 12:13)

Submit to one another
Give thanks always for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of Christ. (Ephesians 5:21)

Welcome one another
Greet one another with a holy kiss. (Romans 16:16; 1 Corinthians 16:20; 2 Cor. 13:12; 1 Thessalonians 5:26)

How Can I Discover My Spiritual Gifts?
Sunday, 05 February 2012 06:42

God created you for a specific, significant purpose in the Body of Christ, so it's important to consider what your spiritual gift or gifts may be so that you can use them by faith (Romans 12:4-8).

What is a spiritual gift? A spiritual gift is the God-given capacity of every Christian to carry out his function in the body of Christ.

How can you discover your spiritual gift or gifts? By sharing your life with other fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ. You discover your spiritual gifts by serving with other Christians in the local church. Discovering your spiritual gifts is not the great mystery we often make it out to be. God has given you a gift or better yet, He has given you an individual combination of gifts. He intends for you to know your gift mix, to develop it and to use it for His glory. Gifts are not classified or top secret material intended only for the spiritual elite. Neither does the Bible provide an exhaustive list of spiritual gifts or combination of them. The Bible gives examples of gifts to be used for His glory and for the benefit of His body.

First, study and examine at the examples of spiritual gifts recorded in the Scriptures (Romans 12:6-8; 1 Corinthians 12:8–11; 1 Cor. 12: 28–31; Ephesians 4:11; 1 Peter 4:10-11). For example, the gift of faith is the supernatural ability to trust God. Faith is both active and passive. The housewife, for example, may demonstrate active faith by trusting God to establish a coffee-type Bible study for the gals in the neighborhood. The husband may exercise active faith in stepping out into a new type of business venture that will bring additional opportunities for ministry. Passive faith is faith which hangs on for dear life. A wife with the gift of faith may demonstrate her passive faith when all the obstacles point to her husband throwing in the towel and quitting a job or continued education, but she keeps encouraging him to trust. These kinds of faith benefit the body by encouraging others to trust the Lord both actively and passively.

Whatever you do, do not define the gifts in terms of the spectacular. Rather, define the gifts as they relate to you and the needs of others. Consider how the gift of faith would manifest itself in your situation, on the job, at home, in your responsibilities in the church and your community. Use your combination of gifts for the benefit of others. As Christians, we are not to live in isolation, for after all, we are members of the same body to serve the needs of the body.

Second, and most important, obey the Scriptures. Corresponding to every spiritual gift is an imperative or instruction to every Christian to carry out that function. The reason why most Christians don’t know what their spiritual gift is, is that they have never tried to do it yet. A great place to start is in the context of a PBC Care Group where you will see the real needs of others and have an opportunity to take initiative to lovingly meet that need in the way that seems best to you as you ask God for His direction.

If you were to ask me what I thought your natural abilities were, the first thing I would do is to ask what you have tried. Have you ever tried to play baseball, to water ski, to bowl, to sew? If you haven’t you will never know. You may study sewing, baseball, bowling or whatever, but you will never know if you are good at it until you have made a genuine effort to do it. The general imperatives of the Scriptures have made it easy for us. They command us to do everything which corresponds to some spiritual gift.

In your obedience to the Scriptures, do the things that you see need to be done. I believe it is almost impossible for one with the gift of teaching not to show his hand at a discussion-type Bible study. There is virtually no way you can keep a gifted teacher quiet. He senses a need to teach, and, if given the chance, he meets that need by sharing what he knows to be God’s answer. The one with the gift of giving is the one who is most sensitive to financial needs. He senses needs that go over every one else’s heads. The same is true of the administrator. He will sense the lack of organization and immediately move in to meet that need. It is my contention that with every spiritual gift comes the complimentary ability to discern the need as well as the ability to meet it.

As you use your spiritual gifts, you will react to given situations in the light of your gifts. If a waitress spills someone’s meal all over the restaurant floor and a group of Christians are sitting nearby, each individual will react in accordance with this spiritual gift. The gift of mercy may respond by concentrating on cleaning up the mess, the gift of giving might offer to pay for another meal, the gift of exhortation may seek to encourage the waitress. The gift of administration may organize the whole matter to avoid confusion. The gift of teaching may suggest some ways to avoid a recurrence of the problem. Your mix of spiritual gifts makes you sensitive to certain needs that others may not perceive. Do what you see needs to be done. As you use your gifts, whatever they may be, remember that the greatest gift is love (1 Cor. 13:1-3, 13).

Third, devote yourself to the Lord Jesus and His church by doing what you do best. When you begin to meet the needs of others, you will quickly discover that you do some things better than others. You'll also see things that others aren't doing that needs to be done by you. The fact that you do not do some things very well is no indication that you are to stop altogether in that area. But this will be a clue as to where you should concentrate your efforts. On the basis of your own evaluation and the feedback of those you respect, begin to devote more time and energy to the things you do best. This leads to the development of the gifts which you possess. Whatever opportunities come up which will aid you in enhancing your spiritual gifts, make the most of them. You may learn that a job change will help you develop your gift. For example, if your gift is teaching, you may well consider a teaching occupation that will enhance your abilities in teaching. If you are particularly skillful in counseling, you may be able to find a job that gives you additional opportunities to develop this ability.

Warren Wiersbie says, "Gifts are not toys to play with. They are tools to build with. And if they are not used in love, they become weapons to fight with, which is what happened in the Corinthian church (1 Cor. 12–14)."

The most important thing, whatever your gift or gifts may be, is to pray for opportunities to be used by the Lord Jesus to meet the needs of others, and then use your gifts in love by faith to meet those needs (1 Peter 4:10) for God's glory and the benefit of the church.

What's the Big Deal about the Bible?
Thursday, 19 May 2011 00:00

Every day people purchase a staggering number of Bibles. In fact, more Bibles are sold in a day – up to 250,000 copies – than the typical best-selling novel sells in a whole year!

Why is that? Because no other book even remotely approaches the Bible's power to satisfy the deepest longings of our hearts. We pick up the Bible when life doesn't seem to make any sense. We pick it up when we feel lonely. Or empty. We pick it up when we just need to know Someone cares about us, personally, without having to perform. That’s why the Bible is prominent in the name of our church body – PlanoBibleChapel.

One way to increase our confidence about the trustworthiness of the Bible is to know how it came into existence. No committee sat down and said, "Let's write a Bible." Instead, the Bible was organically assembled as inspired human authors each spoke to the unique needs of their own generations. Hebrews 1:1 puts it like this: "Long ago God spoke to the fathers by the prophets at different times and in different ways." That would be Moses, Samuel, David, Solomon, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and a bunch more.

Those men wrote down what God told them to write--which means they had to be literate--usually on a scroll made from animal hide. Sometimes they jotted direct quotes: "I am the LORD your God. I will be your God and you will be my people." Other times, they wrote what they experienced (Nehemiah rebuilding the wall), what they felt (David in Psalms), or what happened in a previous age (Moses writing Genesis).

In any case, God inspired them to write. By the first century Peter was teaching, "First of all, you should know this: no prophecy of Scripture comes from one's own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by the will of man; instead, moved by the Holy Spirit, men spoke from God" (2 Peter 1:20-21).

Neither did anyone have the idea of a "canon." Canon is just a technical term for Bible - it means "rule" or "standard." It's a set list of books that religious scholars consider Scripture, "the inspired word of God" (2 Tim. 3:16-17). Theologians like to say the church didn't create the canon; they just recognized the canon already in use.

Where Did the Old Testament Come From?

How did the particular books in our Old Testament make it into the canon? That was pretty much based on common usage and widespread authority. "For since ancient times, Moses has had in every city those who proclaim im, and he is read aloud in the synagogues every Sabbath day." (Acts 15:21). Also of interest was how much effort had been put into preserving and copying the scrolls. Of course, it meant a lot if the book in question claimed to be the word of God, especially if from a revered prophet, like a Moses or David.

No one knows for sure, but at some point the idea for a "closed canon" (which means "That's all, folks!") reached a tipping point. Some scholars think that may have happened as early as 300 BC.

The Septuagint

That pretty much had to be the case, since the Hebrew Bible was translated into Greek by 200 BC. The Jews had started speaking Greek and many lost their ability to read Hebrew. For us, that would be like Americans trying to read a Latin Bible. The story goes that the twelve tribes of Israel each sent six scholars to Alexandria, Egypt, seventy in all, who translated the Hebrew to Greek in seventy days. We call it the Septuagint (Latin for "seventy"). That's quite remarkable, because all 39 of our Old Testament books are included in the Septuagint! (Along with several apocryphal books included in Catholic and Orthodox Bibles).

So our Old Testament has been a fixed list of books since at least 200 BC - more than two thousand years ago.

The Bible of Jesus

It's pretty clear that Jesus and the disciples had a Bible - the Old Testament. In fact, some of Jesus' quotations of the Old Testament match the Septuagint version, which means that Jesus felt comfortable using a translation. Jesus believed the Old Testament was the word of God. He would often say, "It is written...." Or ask, "Have you not read...?"

He also believed the Old Testament was factually true. He referred to Adam, Eve, Abel, Noah, Moses, Lot, Elijah, and Jonah as historical figures. And He said the Scriptures cannot be altered, abolished, broken, nor can they pass away.

Jesus also had the distinct impression the Old Testament was all about Him! After the resurrection He told His disciples, "These are My words that I spoke to you while I was still with you; that everything written about Me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms must be fulfilled." (Luke 24:44).

In all, the New Testament quotes all but five Old Testament books in more than 300 passages.

Where Did the New Testament Come From?

After the death of Jesus, His disciples transmitted information about Him orally for about 30 years -"oral tradition." However, Christianity was growing into a powerful force. By 70 AD they couldn't keep up. So they started to write about His life and teachings, and also about the early church. Luke, who penned a gospel and also Acts, put it this way:

Many have undertaken to compile a narrative about the events that have been fulfilled among us,  just as the original eyewitnesses and servants of the word handed them down to us.  It also seemed good to me, since I have carefully investigated everything from the very first, to write to you in orderly sequence, most honorable Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things about which you have been instructed. (Luke 1:1-4)

Toward the end of the first century, a collection of Christian writings took shape and circulated among the churches. Not all, however, were canonical. For example, during the Roman persecution, when their oppressors demanded that Christians hand over their Scriptures, some surrendered the Shepherd of Hermas (not "quite" canonical) but hid their "real" Bibles.

The four gospels as we know them - Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John - emerged winners. They received wide circulation, along with Acts as did the writings of Paul, which were collected into a single body of work. Churches also began to archive copies of Paul's epistles. So a fixed list was starting to be recognized.

A heretic, Marcion, who died around 150 AD, proposed a "purified" version of Luke and ten of Paul's thirteen epistles as his New Testament. He appeared to be revising a list of books already in use. That presented a challenge to the orthodox church, which answered by affirming the four gospels, Acts, and all of Paul.

A list of canonical books dating to about 180 AD was found in a monastery in the 18th century. I mention that because some of the coolest discoveries take place in monasteries. Seriously, every monastery should be required to clean out their attics and tell us what they've got. In any event, this list, a fragment really, called the Muratorian Canon, was an authoritative list of canonical books made at Rome. It's important because it's a pretty close approximation to our canon - Bible.

"Hey, Why Don't We Make a New Testament!"

Also around 180 AD, Irenaeus first mentioned the idea of a "New Testament" to go with the "old" canon. That was important because Irenaeus was a disciple of Polycarp who was a disciple of John - the original "eyewitness" John. And Irenaeus was very well respected, so the idea started to catch on.

But it was finally Athanasius, the bishop of Alexandria, who once and for all nailed down the official New Testament. There was a tradition. Every Easter, the bishop of Alexandria would send a letter and, among other things, give his take on the "authoritative" books. In his 367 AD Easter letter, Athanasius acknowledged all 27 of our books. And they were books already in wide use. So the official sync date for the Bible we use today is 367 AD.

That list was affirmed at synods ("official" religious meetings) at Hippo in 393 AD and Carthage in 397 AD, both of which were attended by Augustine. The canon was closed. No serious challenges since. That's a pretty good Bible.

No other book even remotely approaches the Bible's power to satisfy the deepest longings of our hearts. We pick up the Bible when life doesn't seem to make any sense. We pick it up when we feel lonely. Or empty. We pick it up when we just need to know Someone cares about us, personally, without having to perform.

The Bible we have is the Bible God wanted us to have. The Bible we have is God’s Word to us. The Bible we have is God’s Word for us.