Archive for the ‘life’ Category

“Worldly men imagine, that there is true excellency and true happiness in those things which they are pursuing. They think that if they could but obtain them, they should be happy; and when they obtain them, and cannot find happiness, they look for happiness in something else, and are still upon the pursuit.

“But Christ Jesus has true excellency, and so great excellency, that when they come to see it they look no further, but the mind rests there. It sees a transcendent glory and an ineffable sweetness in him; it sees that till now it has been pursuing shadows, but that now it has found the substance; that before it had been seeking happiness in the stream, but that now it has found the ocean”

Saw this at http://www.radical.net/blog/2012/04/finding-the-ocean/

Couldn’t have said it better myself…

“I love the doctrines of grace and don’t shy away from the label “Calvinist.” I believe in the sovereignty of God. I’m convinced Scripture teaches that God is completely sovereign not only in salvation (effectually calling and granting faith to those whom He chooses); but also in every detail of the outworking of Providence. “Whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified” (Romans 8:30). And He makes “all things work together for good to those who love God, [i.e.,] to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). Quite simply, He “works all things according to the counsel of His will” (Ephesians 1:11).

That’s what people commonly mean when they speak of “Calvinism.” When I accept that label, I am not pledging allegiance to the man John Calvin. I am not affirming everything he taught, and I’m not condoning everything he did. I’m convinced Calvin was a godly man and one of the finest biblical expositors and theological minds ever, but he wasn’t always right. As a matter of fact, my own convictions are baptistic, so I am by no means one of Calvin’s devoted followers. In other words, when I accept the label “Calvinist,” it’s only for convenience’s sake. I’m not saying “I am of Calvin” in the Corinthian sense.

Furthermore, I’m not one of those who wears Calvinism like a big chip on his shoulder, daring people to fight with me about it. It’s true that I can get feisty about certain points of doctrine—especially when someone attacks a principle that goes to the heart of the gospel, like substitutionary atonement, or original sin, or justification by faith and the principle of imputed righteousness. When one of those principles is challenged, I’m ready to fight. (And I also don’t mind beating up on whatever happens to be the latest evangelical fad.)

But Calvinism isn’t one of those issues I get worked up and angry about. I’ll discuss it with you, but if you are spoiling for a fight about it, you are likely to find me hard to provoke. I spent too many years as an Arminian myself to pretend that the truth on these issues is easy and obvious.

Now, don’t get the wrong idea. I do think the truth of God’s sovereignty is clear and ultimately inescapable in Scripture. But it is a difficult truth to come to grips with, so I am sympathetic with those who struggle with it. I’m Calvinistic enough to believe that God has ordained (at least for the time being) that some of my brethren should hold Arminian opinions.

Over the years I have probably written at least twice as much material trying to tone down angry hyper Calvinists as I have arguing with Arminians. That’s not because I think hyper Calvinism is a more serious error than Arminianism. As a matter of fact, I would say the two errors are strikingly similar. But I don’t hear very many voices of caution being raised against the dangers of hyper Calvinism, and there are armies of Calvinists out there already challenging the Arminians, so I’ve tried to speak out as much as possible against the tendencies of the hypers.

That’s why I’m probably a whole lot less militant than you might expect when it comes to attacking the errors of Arminianism. Besides, I have gotten much further answering Arminian objections with patient teaching and dispassionate, reasonable, biblical instruction—instead of angry arguments and instant anathemas.

Why not take a more passive, lenient, brotherly, approach to all theological disagreements? Because I firmly believe there are some theological errors that do deserve a firm and decisive anathema. That’s Paul’s point in Galatians 1:8-9; and it’s the same point the apostle John makes in 2 John, verses 7-11. When someone is teaching an error that fatally corrupts the truth of the gospel, “let him be anathema.”

But let me be plain here: Simple Arminianism doesn’t fall in that category. It’s not fair to pin the label of rank heresy on Arminianism, the way some of my more zealous Calvinist brethren seem prone to do. I’m talking about historic, evangelical Arminianism, of the classic and Wesleyan varieties — Arminianism, not Pelagianism, or open theism, or whatever heresy Clark Pinnock has invented this week — but true evangelical Arminianism. Arminianism is certainly wrong; and I would argue that it’s inconsistent with itself. But in my judgment, standard, garden variety Arminianism is not so fatally wrong that we need to consign our Arminian brethren to the eternal flames or even automatically refuse them fellowship in our pastors’ fraternals.

If you think I’m beginning to sound like an apologist for Arminianism, I’m definitely not that. I do think Arminianism is a profound error. Its tendencies can be truly sinister, and when it is allowed to go to seed, it does lead people into rank heresy. But what I’m saying here is that mere Arminianism itself isn’t damnable heresy. It’s just grossly inconsistent with the core gospel doctrines that Arminians themselves believe and affirm.

But as long as I’m sounding like a defender of Arminianism, let me also say this: There are plenty of ignorant and inconsistent Calvinists out there, too. With the rise of the Internet it’s easier than ever for self taught lay people to engage in theological dialogue and debate through internet forums. I think that’s mostly good, and I encourage it. But the Internet makes it easy for like minded but ignorant people to clump together and endlessly reinforce one another’s ignorance. And I fear that happens a lot.

Hyper Calvinists seem especially susceptible to that tendency, and there are nests of them here and there—especially on the Internet. And more and more frequently these days I encounter people, who have been influenced by extremism on the Internet, touting hyper Calvinist ideas and insisting that if someone is an Arminian, that person is not really a Christian at all. They equate Arminianism with sheer works salvation. They suggest that Arminianism implicitly denies the atonement. Or they insist that the God worshiped by Arminians is a totally different God from the God of Scripture.

That’s really over-the-top rhetoric—totally unnecessary—and rooted in historical ignorance. A couple of years ago, when I started my weblog, I mentioned that tendency in the first entry I posted, which was titled “Quick and Dirty Calvinism.” At the end of that post, I said this: My advice to young Calvinists is to learn theology from the historic mainstream Calvinist authors, not from blogs and discussion forums on the Internet. Some of the forums may be helpful because they direct you to more important resources. But if you think of the Internet as a surrogate for seminary, you run a very high risk of becoming unbalanced.

Read mainstream Calvinist authors, however, and you’ll have trouble finding even one who regarded Arminianism per se as damnable heresy. There’s a reason for that: It’s because while Arminianism is bafflingly inconsistent, it is not necessarily damnably erroneous. Most Arminians themselves—and I’m still speaking here of the classic and Wesleyan varieties, not Pelagianism masquerading as Arminianism—most Arminians themselves emphatically affirm gospel truth that is actually rooted in Calvinistic presuppositions.

This post is adapted from a transcript of a seminar from the 2007 Shepherds’ Conference, titled “Closet Calvinists.”

© 2008 by Phil Johnson
Executive Director
Grace to You

From the book “Night of Weeping and Morning of Joy” (Found at monergism.com)

They live by faith. Thus they began and thus they are to end. “We walk by faith and not by sight.” Their whole life is a life of faith. Their daily actions are all of faith. This forms one of the main elements of their character. It marks them out as a peculiar people. None live as they do.

Their faith is to them “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” It is a sort of substitute for sight and possession. It so brings them into contact with the unseen world that they feel as if they were already conversant with, and living among, the things unseen. It makes the future, the distant, the impalpable, appear as the present, the near, the real. It removes all intervening time; it annihilates all interposing space; it transplants the soul at once into the world above. That which we know is to be hereafter is felt as if already in being. Hence, the coming of the Lord is always spoken of as at hand. Nay, more than this, the saints are represented as “having their conversation in heaven,” as being already “seated with Christ in heavenly places,”(Eph 2:16 ) as having “come to Mount Zion , and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem , and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the first-born. which are written in heaven, and to God the judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect” (Heb 12:22 ). The things amid which they are to move hereafter are so realized by faith as to appear the things amid which they are at present moving. They sit in “heavenly places” and look down upon the earth, with all its clouds and storms, as lying immeasurably far beneath their feet. And what is a “present evil world” to those who are already above all its vicissitudes and breathing a purer atmosphere?

Such is the power of faith. It throws back into the far distance the things of earth, the things that men call near and real; and it brings forward into vital contact with the soul the things which men call invisible and distant. It discloses to us the heavenly mansions, their passing splendor, their glorious purity, their blessed peace. It shows us the happy courts, the harmonious company, the adoring multitudes. It opens our ears also, so that when beholding these great sights we seem to hear the heavenly melody and to catch the very words of the new song they sing, “Thou art worthy . . . for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; and hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth” (Rev 5:9).

It, moreover, points our eye forward to what is yet to come: the coming of the Lord, the judgment of the great day, the restitution of all things, the kingdom that cannot be moved, the city which hath foundations whose builder and maker is God. While thus it gives to things invisible a body and a form which before they possessed not in our eyes, on the other hand, it divests things visible of that semblance of excellence and reality with which they were formerly clothed. It strips the world of its false but bewildering glow, and enables us to penetrate the thin disguise that hides its poverty and mean-ness. It not only sweeps away the cloud which hung above us, obstructing our view of heavenly excellence, but it places that cloud beneath us to counteract the fallacious brightness and unreal beauty which the world has thrown over itself to mask its inward deformity.

Thus it is that faith enables us to realize our true position of pilgrims and strangers upon earth, looking for the city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God. It is into this that we are introduced by faith at our conversion. For what is our conversion but a turning of our back upon the world and bidding farewell to all that the heart had hitherto been entwined around? It is then that like Abraham we forsake all and go out not knowing whither. Old ties are broken, although sometimes hard to sever. New ones are formed, although not of earth. We begin to look around us and find all things new. We feel that we are strangers—strangers in that very spot where we have been so long at home. But this is our joy. We have left our father’s house, but we are hastening on to a more enduring home. We have taken leave of the world—but we have become heirs of the eternal kingdom, sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty. We have left Egypt , but Canaan is in view. We are in the wilderness, but we are free. Ours is a pathless waste, but we move forward under the shadow of the guardian cloud. Sorrowful, we yet rejoice; poor, we make many rich; having nothing, yet we possess all things. We have a rich inheritance in reversion and a long eternity in which to enjoy it without fear of loss, or change, or end.

Walking thus by faith and not by sight, what should mar our joy? Does it not come from that which is within the veils? And what storm of the desert can find entrance there? Our rejoicing is in the Lord, and He is without variableness or shadow of turning. We know that this is not our rest; neither do we wish it were so, for it is polluted; but our joy is this, that Jehovah is our God, and His promised glory is our inheritance forever. Our morning and our evening song is this “The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup: thou maintainest my lot. The lines have fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage” (Psa 16:5).

Why should we, then, into whose hands the cup of gladness shall ere long be put, shrink from the vinegar and the gall? Why should we, who have dearer friends above better bonds that cannot be dissolved, be disconsolate at the severance of an earthly tie? Our homes may be empty, our firesides may be thinned, and our hearts may bleed: but these are not enduring things; and why should we feel desolate as if all gladness had departed? Why should we, who shall wear a crown and inherit all things, sigh or fret because of a few years’ poverty and shame? Earth’s dream will soon be done; and then comes the day of “songs and everlasting joy”—the long reality of bliss! Jesus will soon be here; and “when he who is our life shall appear, then shall we also appear with him in glory.”

Shall trial shake us? Nay, in all this we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us. Shall sorrow move us? Faith tells us of a land where sorrow is unknown. Shall the death of saints move us? Faith tells us not to sorrow as those who have no hope, for if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, them also that sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him. Shall the pains and weariness of this frail body move us? Faith tells us of a time at hand when this corruptible shall put on incorruption, and death shall be swallowed up in victory. Shall privation move us? Faith tells us of a day when the poverty of our exile shall be forgotten in the abundance of our peaceful, plenteous home, where we shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more.

Shall the disquieting bustle of this restless life annoy us? Faith tells us of the rest that remaineth for the people of God—the sea of glass like unto crystal on which the ransomed saints shall stand—no tempest, no tumult, no shipwreck there. Shall the lack of this world’s honors move us? Faith tells us of the exceeding and eternal weight of glory in reserve. Have we no place to lay our head? Faith tells us that we have a home, though not in Caesar’s house, a dwelling, though not in any city of earth. Are we fearful as we look around upon the disorder and wretchedness of this misgoverned earth? Faith tells us that the coming of the Lord draweth nigh. Do thoughts of death alarm us? Faith tells us that “to die is gain,” and whispers to us, “What, are you afraid of becoming immortal, afraid of passing from this state of death, which men call life, to that which alone truly deserves the name!”

Such is the family life—a life of faith. We live upon things unseen. Our life is hid with Christ in God that when He who is our life shall appear, we may appear with Him in glory. This mode of life is not that of the world at all but the very opposite. Nevertheless, it has been that of the saints from the beginning. This is the way in which they have walked, going up through the wilderness leaning on their Beloved. And such is to be the walk of the saints till the Lord comes. Oh, how much is there in these thoughts concerning it, not only to reconcile us to it, but to make us rejoice in it, and to say, I reckon that the sufferings of this present life, are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us! For all things are ours, whether life or death, things present or things to come, all are ours; for we are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s. Yea, we are heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Jesus Christ. “This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is of me, saith the Lord” (Isa 54:17).

We know not a better type or specimen of the family life than Abraham or Israel in their desert wanderings. Look at Abraham. He quits all at the command of the God of glory. This begins his life of faith. Then he journeys onward not knowing whither. Then he sojourns as a stranger in the land which God had given him. Then he offers up Isaac. Then he buys for himself a tomb where he may lay his dust till the day of resurrection. All is faith. He lives and acts as a stranger. He has no home. He has his altar and his tent, but that is all—the one he builds wherever he goes, in the peaceful consciousness of sin forgiven and acceptance found; the other he pitches from day to day in token of his being a pilgrim and a stranger upon earth. And what more does any member of the family need below, but his altar and his tent—a Saviour for a sinful soul, and a shelter for a frail body until journeying days are done?

Or look at Israel . They quit Egypt . There the life of faith begins. Then they cross the Red Sea . Then they take up their abode in the desert. They have no city to dwell in now. They have no fleshpots now—nothing but the daily manna for food. They have no river of Egypt now— nothing but a rock to yield them water. All is waste around. All is to be of faith, not of sight. They are alone with God, and the whole world is afar off. They rear their altar, they pitch their tents, as did Abraham, with this only difference: above their heads there floats a wondrous cloud, which, like a heavenly canopy, stretches itself out over their dwellings when they rest, or like an angel-guide, it takes wing before them when God summons them to strike their tents that it may lead them in the way. Nay, and as if to mark more vividly the pilgrim condition of the family, God Himself, when coming down into the midst of them, chooses a tent to dwell in. It is called “the tabernacle of the Lord,” or more literally “Jehovah’s tent.” Jehovah pitches His tent side by side with Israel ’s tents, as if He were a stranger too, a wanderer like themselves!

This is our life. We are to be strangers with God as all our fathers were. It is the life of the desert, not of the city. But what of that? All is well. Jehovah is our God, and we shall soon be in His “many mansions.” Meanwhile, we have the tent, the altar, and the cloud. We need no more below. The rest is secured for us in Heaven, “ready to be revealed in the last time.”

As you look on the church landscape, youth are leaving the faith in droves. The modern church, overall, is struggling to reach the next generation with the gospel. What has happened? Whether for good or bad, men, for many years, have been inventing solutions or brainstorming ideas without fully relying upon the foundation of God’s Word. God, however, is greater than man, and as the heavens are above the earth, so are His ways higher than ours and His thoughts than our thoughts (Is. 55:8-9). We have substituted the greater for the lesser – God’s wisdom for man’s ideas. Jesus said that he who hears His Word and does it, is like a man that built his house upon a rock, and when the storm came, it stood firm. On the other hand, he who rejects His Word, is like a man who built on the sand and when the storm came, the house fell (Matt. 7:24-25). Shouldn’t the church, as a whole, abandon the sandy ideas of man and shamelessly return to the firm rock of the Word of God? God’s Word sufficiently identifies how youth are to be reached. For more information on this issue, please see the film Divided, which is a documentary on age-segregated youth ministry in America. Watch it for free (for a limited time) at http://www.dividedthemovie.com. For an in-depth study, the book A Weed in the Church delves into the topic and more thoroughly handles the Scripture passages that address ministry to young people. For other details or to help spread the message, visit ‎http://alt.dividedthemovie.com/

Here are a couple of responses to the Harold Camping rapture debacle from 2 people I highly respect. I share these sentiments …..

From Kim Riddlebarger:

“Frankly, this whole Harold Camping mess ticks me off. Since I write and teach in the field of eschatology, people expect me to say something. Yet, I’m not sure many of you will appreciate my take on this. I’m not a happy “camper.”

I see this tragic episode as one gigantic mess, which God’s people will be cleaning up for years. I, for one, am not very sympathetic to Mr. Camping, or to those who follow him. Here’s why:

1). He’s done this before. 1994? anyone??? If Camping lives much longer (he’s 89), he’ll likely do this again. As one of my favorite philosophers, Dirty Harry, once put it when his police superior questioned whether the serial killer (so wonderfully played by Andy Robinson) would continue to kill, Harry replied, “Of course he will. He likes it.” You cannot tell me that however Camping came to this particular date for the Lord’s return, and however sincere he might he be in his calculations, that the man does not love the media attention. Why else spend all that money on an “in your face” ad campaign with buses and billboards across the country? Camping likes the hubbub way too much. Since someone’s past behavior is the best predictor of their future behavior, if given the chance, Camping will do it again.

2). Camping was disciplined by his church, and never once demonstrated the slightest hint of repentance. When Camping was removed from his office for his unbiblical speculations, Camping’s response was to declare that the church age was over, and that people should leave their churches! (see Bob Godfrey’s account of this–Godfrey on Harold Camping). Harold Camping is not some grandfatherly old man who has weird views on things (every church has a few of these). This is a man, who, when he did not get his way, sought to create widescale schism and division in the church. How can we not conclude that many among his followers are schismatics who have followed their master in his sin?

3). Camping is not a theological conservative defending the faith, he’s a theological radical, and has a dangerous hermeneutic. Camping gained a following among Reformed cultural conservatives by defending the view that only men should hold the office of minister, elder and deacon, that evolutionary thought had no place in Christian colleges, and that the rampant immorality of our age cannot go unchallenged nor be accepted by Christians. Meanwhile, the “conservative” Camping was using some outlandish and distorted hermeneutical method to calculate the day of Christ’s return and telling everyone who would listen that he was right and that anyone who challenged him had no authority to do so. Since when did theological conservatives attack the perspicuity of Scripture? Or champion “private interpretation” while mocking the teaching office and disciplinary authority of the church?

4). Someone has to say it — the man is a false teacher and a kook. My sense is that Camping falls within the exhortation given by Paul in Romans 16:17 (and elsewhere) — such people are to be avoided. Camping is a false teacher, plain and simple. Anyone who repeatedly pulls the kinds of shenanigans he has should have no credibility. Non-Christians see him for what he is. Yet, Christians feel ashamed about calling him out on the same grounds–when Scripture requires that we do so! Yes, we need to pray for his repentance, and yes, we need to be merciful to those whom he has deceived. But given the way the man handles God’s word, he is self-edvidently a kook. He has no business being labeled a “teacher.” And it is tragic that he has used his vast radio empire to deceive so many.

5). The only prophecy which will be fulfilled in association with Harold Camping is 2 Peter 3:3! Scoffers will come, and sadly, Camping has given the scoffers a whole bunch of ammunition. This is why is is so vital that Christians be clear to everyone who will listen, that despite this man’s false prophecy, the blessed hope awaits all those who are Christ’s, and the day of judgment will come upon those who are not. This is a serious matter, and Christ will not be mocked.

This, then, is why it is so important to expose this man for who and what he is–a false prophet, a schismatic and a kook, lest anyone think that Jesus will not return when we least expect it, to judge the world, raise the dead, and make all things new.

And frankly, it is sad that so many Christians expect non-Christians to do our job for us.”

From Dr. James White:
On Open Letter to Harold Camping of Family Radio

Dear Mr. Camping:

In July of 2009 you and I engaged in a debate on the Iron Sharpens Iron radio program concerning your teaching that the church age had ended and that Christ would return on May 21, 2011. I trust you recall our exchange. I am also aware that you have at least seen my book, Dangerous Airwaves: Harold Camping Refuted and Christ’s Church Defended. I have been seeking to warn people about your teachings, sir, for about a decade. I know others have been warning the church about you longer than I.

Mr. Camping I am writing to seek your repentance and the most God-glorifying outcome of the debacle of your failed May 21, 2011 prophecy/teaching. I am not writing to engage in debate with you. The time for debate ended on May 22, 2011. It is now time for you to repent and seek to undo the massive damage you have done, first and foremost, to the cause of Christ.

Let me first list the items you need to repent of, openly and publicly (for you are a public person, and your teachings were disseminated all around the world).

You need to repent of your abuse of the Bible, based upon claims of latter-day opening of understandings no one else has, allegedly, ever had, based upon the horrific misreading of the books of Revelation and Daniel. The Bible is not a code book, Mr. Camping, and it never has been. You have attacked the grammatical/historical means of honoring the intention and meaning of the original authors, and in so doing, have turned the Bible into your own private playground where you, and you alone, set the rules. You decided that certain numbers have certain meanings, and you alone decided which numbers could be added to others. You told your audiences that you were simply teaching the Bible, when you were doing nothing of the sort. Unless you honor the intention of the original authors, which means doing difficult exegetical work, studying languages and backgrounds, you have no business saying you are representing the Bible. This has been your primary error for decades on end, and I know I am not the first minister of the gospel to seek to correct you about this. Your utterly fallacious means of interpretation of the Bible has led to the mockery of the Christian faith all around the world, and you alone must repent for your willful rejection of the correction offered by many to you over the years.

You need to repent of your repeated date-setting, and your twisting of those Scriptures that plainly state that we do not now know, and will never know, the date of the coming of Christ, until it happens. You have been proven wrong multiple times now, and it is time for you to admit that you have been in error every single time you have argued that we can, in fact, know.

You must repent of your many unbiblical teachings, teachings which have grown out of your rebellion against Christ’s Church. First and foremost, you must repent of your attack upon the church. You must return to the church (I would suggest the local Christian Reformed Church from which you made your original defection) in repentance and seek to place yourself under their care, repenting for your schism. You must openly and publicly abjure your teaching that Satan rules in the churches, and that all ministers of the gospel since 1988 are, in fact, servants of Satan. You must call all listeners of Family Radio to return to their churches with repentant hearts. You must instruct them to seek to learn to read the Bible aright, to seek to interpret the Bible in light of its original meanings and intention, not as a secret, gnostic code-book.

You must likewise abjure and repent of the other false teachings you have been promulgating, including, but not limited to, such teachings as Jesus having died twice, your new annihilationism teaching, etc. You once held to mainly orthodox views, but, when you refused godly counsel and went out on your own, you planted the seeds of your own destruction, which have now sprouted, over night it seems, into the crop of condemnation you now rightly face.

You must likewise repent of the perversion of the gospel you have been teaching, wherein you have not only removed repentance and faith under the guise of “works” (neither are works, both are the gifts of God to His elect by His Spirit, but remain part and parcel of the gospel call), but you clearly, in these last days, added belief in your own May 21, 2011 teaching to the gospel itself, saying that those who did not believe this teaching would experience eternal torment. You have been preaching a false gospel, Mr. Camping, and you must repent for this.

The time for haggling and debating has passed, Mr. Camping. Your teaching has been disproven, and your only hope is to be found in complete repentance from your false teachings. I fear if you seek to rescue your reputation, you will end your life under the wrath of God. Your unwillingness to listen to counsel has already caused great damage to the cause of Christ. You have one final chance for redemption, sir. Do not remain stiff-necked. Repent and turn from your ways.

James White
Alpha and Omega Ministries

challies.com Is where I read this a few weeks ago. Little did I know I would be referring back to it for my own situation.

Occasionally I attempt to think back to all of the questions I receive from readers of this site. I try to think of things I have been asked many times but have never written about. One that came to mind recently is rather a simple question: Under what circumstances may I leave my church? Quite often I receive emails from readers who are concerned that their church no longer preaches sound doctrine or perhaps no longer offers skillful teaching. And they want to know if the Bible allows them or even compels them to move on.

We live in an age of consumerism and this leaves us accustomed to prioritizing our needs and, even more so, our desires, above all else. We march out of stores that do not carry the products we want at the prices we demand; we customize our lives, from the clothes we wear to the cell phones we carry. In all things we are sovereign, we are discerning consumers who demand that things be done our way.

But church is an area where consumerism ought to be the furthest thing from our minds. At church we are part of an involuntary community which is pieced together by God. We are placed under spiritual authorities and are to be subject to them. We need to be very careful, then, to examine our hearts and examine our motives before withdrawing membership from a church. Sadly, though, there are certain situations in which this becomes a necessity.

There are good reasons to leave a church and there are bad reasons to leave a church. I dare say that there are far more bad reasons than good reasons. There are times where you must leave and times when you may leave. In this brief article I want to point to a few of those good reasons. Perhaps another time I can focus more on the really bad ones.

You Must Leave
Most of the reasons you must leave relate to leadership. If the leaders of a church show contempt and disregard for the Bible and for sound doctrine, you are called to separate yourself from them. And it may well be that the only way to do this is to leave your church (though in some circumstances you may be able to have the leaders removed).

Here are four situations in which the Bible tells you that you must leave a church.

If the teaching is heretical (Galatians 1:7-9). If the leaders of a church are teaching what is outright heresy, you must separate yourself from that church. Staying to fight the battle is likely to make less of a statement than separating yourself from the church and its leaders, declaring them the heretics they are. The Bible declares that they are accursed, that they are anathema. Of course before you do this, be sure that what they are teaching truly is heresy and not merely something you disagree with.

If the leaders tolerate error from those who teach (Romans 16:17). We are called to separate ourselves from leaders who tolerate unbiblical alternatives to the doctrines that are most fundamental to the faith. These people, in allowing such teaching to stand, cause division. God demands that you remove yourself from such a church.

If there is utter disregard for biblical church discipline (1 Corinthians 5 and 2 Thessalonians 3:6,14). If a church refuses to call its people to the Bible’s standard of holy living and if it refuses to exercise church discipline, you must remove yourself from that church. A church that tolerates blatant sin is no true church at all. My wife and I once had to leave a church for this very reason—the church refused to discipline a man and woman who were living together as husband and wife even though they were not married.

If the church is marked by utter hypocrisy (2 Timothy 3:5). This passage refers to a particular kind of hypocrisy in which the church has the appearance of being marked by godliness and yet denies that the Holy Spirit is the true sources of this godliness. It is happy to look like it is Spirit-led and Spirit-empowered and yet it is actually a mockery of God in that the leaders deny his power and presence.

Reformed churches have typically spoken of three marks of a true church: the faithful preaching of the Word of God, the proper administration of the sacraments and church discipline. We can find each of these represented above. If these marks are missing, if there is gross hypocrisy or heresy, if there is no demand for holiness among the leaders or membership, if there is error being tolerated by those who preach, the Bible tells you to separate yourself from that church.

You May Leave
There are also reasons for which we may choose to leave. Though they are not the kinds of reasons that will force you to leave a church, they may well still be reasons that are good and wise. In all cases, a decision will require great care and much prayer.

If you desire better teaching. The Bible does not forbid you from leaving one church to go to another one that offers better teaching. In general this should be done not merely because a particular pastor is a better teacher but because another church has a more sound understanding of what comprises good teaching.

If you desire to use your gifts. If you have sought to use your God-given gifts and talents within your current church and have found no place to use them, you may wish to find a church where those gifts will be useful and where they will be appreciated.

If you desire a more convenient location. A decision may simply come down to convenience, where attending one church may save you a lot of time or allow you to serve in a local community instead of a distant one.

If it better serves your family. It may be that your children are the only ones within a church. Moving to another church may give open up many opportunities for them to grow in the faith or to serve within the church.

And we could go on all day. There are few reasons for which you must leave a church and many for which you may. As a general rule of thumb, be very slow to withdraw your membership and leave a church only with the greatest of care and the utmost humility.

(Some of the first section was drawn from a Q&A session with John MacArthur)