Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Ten Questions to Start the Year


If I haven’t already said it to you personally, I wish you a Happy New Year. As we begin a New Year with fresh opportunities to bring God’s light and truth where deception has darkened people’s minds it seems good to start with the fundamentals. You will know that, even within the Christian Church, there are troubling challenges to the long-established truth of the Gospel. Add to this the claims of the cults and the increasing marginalisation of the church in an intolerant liberal society it has never been more imperative to ensure we stand on solid ground in our faith and witnessing.

Even after all these years we at Reachout will get asked about groups we haven't heard about, ideas we are not familiar with. Where do you start, what do you ask, how do you asses truth claims in light of God's Word? Here are ten questions to help lay some solid foundations on which to build a reliable picture.

  1. What do they say about God? Is he the one, true God of the Bible? Is he infinite and eternal in his nature, perfectly holy, good, and wise in his character? Is he personal and all-powerful in his relationship with his creation? Is he the triune God revealed in Scripture, before whom no God was made, and after whom no God will be? (Isaiah 43:10-11)

  1. How do they define man's fundamental problem? Are we lost, slaves to our own sinful nature, sinners before a holy and righteous God? (Romans 2:10-18)

  1. What is the answer to man's problem? Is it found wholly in the initiative of God sending his son to die for our sins, to redeem us from our slavery to sin, to reconcile us to God by his atoning sacrifice at Calvary? (Ephesians 2:1-10) Are they working out their salvation, or working for their salvation? (Philippians 2:12-13)

  1. What do they say about Jesus? Is he the 'one and only Son' of God, 'only begotten'? Did he die for our sins, was he buried, and did he physically rise from the tomb on the third day, 'according to the Scriptures'? (1 Corinthians 15:3-4) Is he 'the way, the truth, and the life' through whom, alone, we have access to the Father? Is he the plan, or just a part of the plan? Are they bringing people to a Saviour, or to a system? (John 14:6)

  1. How do we learn these truths about God, man, and salvation? Are they available to anyone who would read the Bible, or is it exclusive to the group? Is God's Word sufficient, or is it added to by the pronouncements of the group's leaders, by 'further revelation'? (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

  1. Are questions welcomed? Is honest inquiry respected, is rational thinking encouraged, or is blind trust and obedience expected of every member of the group? (1 Thessalonians 5:21)

  1. Is the group accountable? Does it answer to and fellowship with the wider body of the church in your town or city? Are there connections with Christians of other traditions, or are such connections discouraged? (Acts 15)

  1. Are they accepting of other Christians? When you say you are a Christian do they celebrate that, or do they try and proselytise, recruit you? (Acts 11:17)

  1. What is their history? Is it founded on the faith, 'once for all entrusted to the saints?' (Jude:3) Or is it founded on the exclusive claims of one individual?

  1. What is the relationship between leadership and church? Does the leadership serve the church? Or is the church 'obedient' to the leadership? Is their ministry characterised by servanthood, or sovereignty? (Matthew 20:25-28)

I would add only one piece of advice and that is to find a good Bible fellowship where you can hear the Word of God regularly and faithfully read and preached, and where you can grow in your own faith, be encouraged in your own pilgrimage. Remember the picture painted for us of those first believers who, “…devoted themselves to the apostle’s teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” (Acts 2:42) Here is our foundation, here is the Bible’s description of church – The people of God, gathered around the Word of God, ready to do the will of God.

God bless you and, again, a very Happy New Year.

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