Counseling One Another

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Counseling One Another

September 9, 2015
by Paul Tautges
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Why Sexual Faithfulness Should Matter to the Church – Part 2

The public scandal of marital unfaithfulness in another high-profile pastor has brought the question of sexual purity to the forefront of our minds, and people are asking how much it really matters anyway. Some ask, what’s the big deal? While others rightly repeat the apostolic cry for purity in the church: But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints (Ephesians 5:3). Continuing from yesterday, let’s consider 1 Corinthians 6:15-20 and the high calling to sexual faithfulness.

Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.” But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

As the apostle called believers to display sexual faithfulness in the midst of an immoral culture, he gave four reasons why purity should matter in the church. We have already considered the first two: sexual sin defiles Christ’s body and it destroys the bodies of those who violate God’s standard of purity. Today, let’s look at the remaining two reasons.

Sexual sin desecrates God’s sanctuary (v. 19).

The apostle now asks, do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? The word temple refers to the dwelling place of God; the inner sanctuary. The believer’s physical flesh and bones are the sanctuary of God. The moment we are saved the Holy Spirit chooses to take up residence in our bodies. We become His apartment, so to speak. Therefore, when we sin we do not sin alone. We take the Holy Spirit with us into acts of immorality. We do not corrupt the Spirit, just as we do not defile Christ himself, but we sin in the presence of God nonetheless. This is why Paul wrote do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption (Eph. 4:30). As individual believers are sanctuaries of the Spirit, so the collective church is a corporate sanctuary of the Spirit. Therefore, sexual purity should be a big deal to believers; it should really matter to the church.

The foundation of the apostolic call to keep our temple pure is given: you are not your own. Redemption changes things for the believer. It’s just the way it is. The unbeliever may do anything he wishes with his body (this does not mean it is not sin), but the believer now belongs to God and, therefore, is to live under the constant awareness of His presence. The price Jesus paid to purchase us—His shed blood—cries out to us as a constant reminder of our call to holiness (1 Peter 1:19). As those who have been purchased from the slave market of sin, we are stewards of God’s possession—our bodies. Applying the truth of the indwelling presence of the Spirit calls us to live with the constant awareness that every time we choose to sin we do so in the very presence of God. It is as if we walk before His throne and boldly sin in His sight. Praise God for promises of forgiveness and restoration to God, like 1 John 1:9, if we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. But the promise of forgiveness is never a license for believers to keep on sinning (Romans 6:1).

Sexual sin detracts from God’s glory (v. 20).

Finally, a fourth reason sexual priority should matter to the church is given: For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body. The logical response to knowing we have been bought with such a great price is a life committed to God’s glory. To glorify means to cause someone else to have a good opinion of God. It means to magnify God, to take a wallet-sized photo and blow it up to an 11×17. In other words, what a believer does with his body should give other people a good opinion of God. The sexual ethics of the church present a certain picture of God to the unbelieving world. For sure, we want the world to know of the grace and forgiveness of God in Christ. However, we must never want this at the expense of lifting up His righteousness.

This is serious business. God’s glory is at stake when the church acts as though sexual sin is not a grievous matter. As a result, the world’s picture of God is distorted and His standard of holiness for His own redeemed people is lowered, thus weakening the church’s witness to both.

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September 8, 2015
by Paul Tautges
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Why Sexual Faithfulness Should Matter to the Church – Part 1

It is not uncommon for Christians to wrongly conclude that God cares only for our souls and not for our bodies. This false conclusion is not entirely without reason. We live in a world preoccupied by the physical (nothing new under the sun) and, since we are not to be “of this world” we often swing the pendulum too far in the other direction and conclude that, since our bodies will one-day die anyway, it makes no difference what we do with them. However, Scripture exhorts us to consider the importance of consecrating our bodies to God. Romans 12:1 exhorts, I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.

God does not just want our souls; He wants our bodies and our lives. He wants every part of our being to glorify Him. One reason Christ died and rose again is to deliver us from living for ourselves (2 Corinthians 5:15). Additionally, we are called to approach God in worship with clean bodies; let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water (Hebrews 10:22). In no area is this call to purity more obvious than in the sexual. Let us consider, then, a key passage concerning the priority of purity and why it should matter to the church.

Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.” But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. – 1 Corinthians 6:15-20

The Greek culture of Corinth’s day was immersed in immorality. Some of the believers in the church had no doubt been saved out of the sex-worship surrounding the Temple of Aphrodite. Athenaeus, a second-century writer, quoted from a speech of Demosthenes, “We keep mistresses for pleasure, concubines for daily concubinage, but wives we have in order to produce children legitimately and to have a trustworthy guardian of our domestic property.” That was the mentality of the city of Corinth. Sex was for the body and the body was for sex. Sadly, however, this problem was not confined to the culture, but the church had adopted it to some degree as well. From the context it is apparent there were some church-going Corinthians who were visiting the prostitutes. They were still taking part in that which had been a regular part of their former lives (6:11). Therefore, the apostle called them to sexual purity and gave four reasons it should matter in the church.

Sexual sin defiles Christ’s body (vv. 15-17).

Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? In other words, “Do you not know that as believers you are united with Christ in body and soul?” Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? May it never be! Believers are united with Christ in the most intimate union possible. Consequently, for a believer to take his body away from Christ in order to give it to another person outside of the bonds of holy marriage is a violation of one’s union with Christ and defiles Christ’s body. This does not mean sexual sin defiles Christ himself; He is undefiled and always will be. But, sexual sin defiles Christ’s body in the sense that it corrupts the believer’s union with Him, and corrupts the church.

Physical adultery is also spiritual adultery since the body belongs to Christ. “The horrible thing about this sin is that the members of Christ are taken away from their proper use (the service of Christ) and made ‘members again of a prostitute.” (Leon Morris). Or do you not know that the one who joins himself to a harlot is one body with her? The word joins is used of close bonds of various kinds, literally meaning “to glue.” The believer who offers his body in sexual immorality corrupts the bond with Christ because there is a unifying power in sexual relations; the two become one flesh. When a man and a woman come together there is a union at the deepest possible level, earthly speaking. But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him. Just as man and wife are united in body, Christ and the believer are in union with each other. We are in Christ and Christ is in us! Paul’s conclusion is that it is unthinkable for a believer to tear himself away from Christ in order to offer himself to someone else in sexual immorality.

Sexual sin destroys the sinner’s body and life (v. 18).

The biblical command to flee immorality is the call to continual, habitual action. King Solomon urged men to avoid seductive women. Proverbs 5:8-9 warns, keep your way far from her, and do not go near the door of her house, lest you give your vigor to others, and your years to the cruel one. Christian men and women must continually run from the seduction so prevalent in our world. The battle for purity of mind for the Christian is at an all-time high and we are called to take whatever steps are necessary to avoid pollution. Thoughts and desires long to be fulfilled. That is why pornography is so devastating to the mind and relationships. Therefore, don’t flirt with danger. Make yourself accountable to another person in your church and keep each other in check. The danger is so great, the devil is so sly, and our flesh is so deceitful. Our sinful flesh enjoys getting as close to the boundary as possible, wrongly thinking it will never cross over the line. Stop fooling yourself! We are weak, defiled, and sinful and the battle will become more intense as time goes by. We must do whatever it takes to protect the purity of our hearts and our marriages. When temptation to sexual sin crouches at our door we must run for our lives like Joseph who left his garment in her hand and fled, and went outside (Genesis 39:12).

Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body. Sexual sin originates in the heart, but is deeply connected to the body and, therefore, causes its harm at the very depths of our being. Jesus taught, out of the heart come…adulteries, fornications (Matthew 15:19). Sexual sin is unique in its origin and in its damage. John Calvin wrote, “fornication leaves a stain impressed upon the body, such as is not impressed upon in from other sins.” Because it originates within, it harms within. It leaves scars that last for years to come and the battle for purity may remain strong for life because of the damage caused.

The immoral man somehow sins against his own body. Romans 1:27 hints at this concept as well when it speaks of the internal damage done by homosexuality, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error. There is a stain, a corruption, and a damage that is done to the inner person by immoral acts. I am not talking about forgiveness and restoration to fellowship with God; God clearly forgives (6:9-11). However, forgiveness does not mean we always escape the consequences of our sin. We are forgiven of sin, but some believers will live the rest of their lives with the damaging consequences of sexual sin. This is merely the law of the harvest; we reap what we sow. Thankfully, God’s grace is not only sufficient for forgiveness, but is also enough to carry us through the consequences, thus enabling us to glorify Him in the here and now.

King David is an illustration of the lingering consequences of sexual sin. In a moment of laziness and lust he committed adultery with Bathsheba. To cover up his sin he killed her husband. God sent Nathan, the prophet, to confront David and he repented. Nathan said, the Lord also has taken away your sin, but the child also that is born to you shall surely die (2 Sam. 12:13-14). That was only one of the consequences David lived with until he went to the grave. That is the subtle power of sexual sin! By teaching that the immoral man sins against his own body, Paul’s basic point is this: body and spirit are so intimately connected that sexual sin affects not just the body, but the spirit as well. Sin promises great pleasure, but it always carries a very high price tag. Proverbs 6:20-29 is a strong warning of what awaits the one who commits adultery.

There are great consequences to sexual sin. There is the destruction of the body, of the spirit, and, to a degree, the earthly lives of those affected by it. Sexual faithfulness, therefore, should matter to the church.

In tomorrow’s post, we will consider two more reasons sexual purity matters in the church.

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September 5, 2015
by Paul Tautges
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A Culture of Discipleship and Growth

Discipleship takes place most naturally and with greatest fruitfulness when the members of a local church understand biblical, mutual ministry. The cultivation of this culture of growth is the responsibility of the church’s shepherds, by means of the faithful preaching of God’s Word; and the church’s members, by means of caring for each other and nurturing one another’s growth . Mark Dever presents this biblical mindset, and reinforces the concept in the following paragraph from The Church: The Gospel Made Visible.

[T]he soundness of a church is greatly improved when the congregation cultivates a culture of discipleship and growth in the which individual Christian growth is normal, not exceptional. One indicator of growth, moreover, is an increasing level of concern for the spiritual state of others. A concern for others should include non-Christians around the world (thus an emphasis on missions), in the congregation’s own local area (thus an emphasis on evangelism), and especially for other members of the congregation (thus an emphasis on discipline one another). A culture of discipling, evangelism, and missions best encourages the church to be what God has made it to be—a reflection of his own character.

As you prepare to gather with your local family of God on the Lord’s Day, ask yourself what you need to do to help cultivate a culture for healthy growth. What particular one-another ministry can you carry out? What care and encouragement can you bring to your spiritual family, your brothers and sisters who need you?

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September 4, 2015
by Paul Tautges
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Lord of the New Creation

Earlier this week, we meditated on the massive truth that Jesus Christ is Lord of Creation. He is the eternal Son of God who created all things. Today, let’s think about another realm of His lordship, that is, His authority over His disciples. He is head of the church. Colossians 1:18 states, And he is the head of the body, the church. Robert Gromacki, professor of Bible and Greek at Cedarville University for more than 40 years, writes in his commentary on Colossians 1:18, “The focus on Christ’s preeminence now changes from the old natural creation to the new spiritual creation. The creator now becomes the redeemer.”

The Lordship of Christ extends beyond the created world. His sovereignty also reigns over the church. Literally, it reads, “He Himself is the Head” (only Christ qualifies to be the Head of His body). Paul calls the church the body of Christ. That is, the church is a living organism. As the head, Jesus Christ is the One who gives the body its direction and its life.

The word head (kefalh) refers to functional authority. For example, we read in 1 Corinthians 11:3, But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God. Ephesians 5:23 also teaches functional headship: For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. So, head refers to the functional authority which is part of God’s design. How does Christ carry out His functional authority over the church? It is by means of the authority of the Scriptures. The living Word, Christ, rules His church by the scepter of the written word, the Bible.

One of the marvels of salvation is that believers possess the indwelling Holy Spirit, who is the Author of the Bible. The Spirit of God has revealed the will of God to us in the Scriptures. Therefore, we have the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:16). We are not left to ourselves, to decide which church trend is the next one worth following. No, we already have a blueprint for the church; it is the Scriptures. If we align ourselves with the Bible then we live in obedience to Christ, our head. If we stray from the Scriptures then we are disobedient to Christ who is our head. What does it mean that Christ is the head of the church? What are the implications?

There are 5 truths concerning Christ and His position as head of the church.

He is the Originator.

He is the beginning, that is, He is the originating power. Jesus promised in Matthew 16:18, I will build My church. He also made it clear that establishing the church would require His death. He said to them, Have you not read this Scripture: “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone” (Mark 12:10). The foundation of the church could not have been laid without the cornerstone. And Christ could not have become the Cornerstone without first being rejected and ultimately crucified. But He did not remain in the grave! Three days later, the Father raised the Son from the dead.

He is the Life (Sustainer).

As the firstborn from the dead, He is the supreme ruler of the dead ones. He who created the natural world out of nothing is the same one to bring spiritual life to sinners and gather them into His body, the church. He has accomplished this through His sin-atoning death and victorious resurrection. In Revelation 1:17-18, John writes of the Lord Jesus, When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.”

Jesus was also the first to experience full resurrection. Others in the Bible had been raised from the dead, only to die again. But Jesus was raised from the dead unto a glorified state. As the ruler of death and life, Christ will one-day raise all unbelievers to stand before Him for judgment (Revelation 20). He will also call all believers to eternal life (John 6:40). He will do this because He is the living sustainer of the church. As the ascended head, He continues to fulfill His purposes through His body.

He is the Preeminent One.

The Father raised His Son from the dead so that He might occupy the chief place in everything, that in everything he might be preeminent. But there is no resurrection without death. We need to remember that future glory comes through humiliation. The reason the Son of God will one-day receive all the glory He deserves is because He was willing to humble Himself to death—even death on the cross. Without death there is no resurrection. And without humiliation there is no glorification (Philippians 2:9-11).

He is the Fullness of God.

For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell (v. 19). “Fullness” refers to completeness, the totality of deity. This was a word used by the Gnostics to refer to the sum total of divine powers; powers that they believed were shared among lesser gods and angels, supernatural beings who stood between God and man. Paul’s point is to correct that heresy by making it clear that Christ is fully God; the totality of deity dwells in Him. He does not share His glory with angelic beings. Indeed He is the same God who said in Isaiah 42:8, I am the LORD; that is my name; my glory I give to no other.

This “dwelling” of the fullness of the godhead is permanent, not temporary as the Gnostics believed, or the Christian Science religion of our day teaches. At the incarnation, all the fullness of deity took up permanent residence in the humanity of Jesus Christ, the God-man (Colossians 2:9). To accomplish His divine plan, God the Father subordinated His Son. The Son obeyed by taking upon Himself human flesh—to make His exact representation of deity visible to mankind. As a result, He is the one mediator between God and man (1 Timothy 2:5).

He is the Reconciler.

As Lord of the New Creation, through Him to reconcile to himself all things. Reconciliation refers to a complete change in relationship; to exchange hostility for friendship; a restitution to the state from which we have fallen. It constitutes the removal of the barrier between God and man. When enemies are brought back together it is said they have been reconciled. This is what God accomplished through His Son (see 2 Corinthians 5:17-21). Christ is the one who satisfied God’s righteous demands so that we could be brought back into a peaceful relationship with God. He is the one and only way to return to God, to be at peace with our Creator. The entire creation will one-day feel the effects of redemption. Until then everything lives under the weight of the curse (Romans 8:19-21). Exempt from the possibility of reconciliation are Satan, his demons, and all those who reject Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

How did Christ accomplish this reconciliation? He made peace by the blood of his cross. Through His death and victorious resurrection He has made it possible for us to be at peace with God (Isaiah 53:5; 1 Peter 3:18). This good news compels me to ask if you have been reconciled to God through repentant faith in His Son, Jesus Christ. Nothing is more important in this life than to know your sins have been forgiven and you belong to Christ. Hear and respond to the invitation of Jesus: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

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September 1, 2015
by Paul Tautges
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BCTC of Arizona Fall Conference with Heath Lambert

sufferingThe Christian Dilemma: Suffering and the Goodness of God is the theme for the annual conference for The Biblical Counseling Training Center of Arizona this October 23-24. Dr. Heath Lambert will speak three times, and 12 workshops will encourage and equip you for more effective one-another ministry in your local church. There is also a Women’s Day on Friday, October 23rd, with focused teaching on the Seasons of Life.

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September 1, 2015
by Paul Tautges
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John MacArthur Commends the LifeLine Mini-Books

LifeLine Logo in Color small web sizeThe LifeLine Mini-Book series from Shepherd Press is a treasure chest of practical, biblically-faithful resources for the personal growth of believers, home study groups, counseling relationships, and other local church ministries. As the general editor of the series, it’s such a pleasure to work with the folks at Shepherd Press. We are encouraged by the positive feedback we are receiving about the series. In fact, last week, Dr. John MacArthur passed on these words of commendation:

These little books are directly targeted to the issues that we all face and they hit the bulls-eye. They are faithful to Scripture and they demonstrate insight into its application. Churches need to make these available for their congregations.

Twenty-five titles are currently available in eBook and/or print format, and more titles are in the works. Tedd Tripp introduces these resources in this 1-minute video. For more information on special pricing for churches and ministries, please email Linda at Shepherd Press.

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August 31, 2015
by Paul Tautges
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Christ Is Lord of Creation

In Colossians 1:15, the apostle refers to Christ as “the firstborn of all creation.” The word “firstborn” is used in the common biblical sense of rank and sovereignty. In Near Eastern culture, the oldest son received the birthright, which entitled him to certain privileges, as well as the sovereign leadership of the family upon the death of the father (Robert Gromacki). “Firstborn” was more than an acknowledgement of birth order (the first baby to come out of the womb), but was a title of rank, of highest position. For example, in Exodus 4:22, God instructs Moses to tell the pharaoh “Israel is my firstborn son.” Israel stood in the highest position because God chose to elevate her above the other nations of the earth. Another example of this elevation of rank and position is found in Psalm 89:20-27 concerning the Messiah, the descendant of David who will sit on the throne forever.

It is unfortunate that the devil has distorted the meaning of the word “firstborn” in Colossians 1:15 to serve his diabolical purpose of blinding the hearts of unbelievers from seeing Christ and being saved (2 Corinthians 4:3-4). In the 4th century, a major doctrinal controversy occurred in the church. A teacher from Alexandria named Arius believed and taught that the three persons of the trinity were not equally God, and that the Son of God was a created being. This resulted in a major council of church leaders, which became known as the Council of Nicea. Here the doctrine of Christ was hashed out. The fruit of this council is the Nicene Creed, which clearly states that Christ is of the same substance of the Father; He is “very God of very God.”

Tragically, the heretical teaching of Arius did not die off after the council, but continues today. The most prominent false religion spreading the idea that Jesus Christ is a created being is the Jehovah’s Witnesses. But the context of the word “firstborn” could not be clearer. Christ is not a creature; He is the Creator. The powers that be in the Jehovah’s Witnesses know the context refutes their silly notion. So they added the word “other” in their New World Translation to read: “For by him all other things were created.” In other words, first the son was created and then he created all other things. But this is nothing less than a lie from the pit of hell. It is merely one of many ways Satan continues to blind unbelievers from seeing the reality of who Christ is. You see, the devil knows his future. He knows he is will one-day be cast into the Lake of Fire. His goal, therefore, is to take as many people to hell with him as he can. But Jesus Christ is not a creature. He is the Creator. He is the firstborn of creation; that is, He is lord of creation. He is superior over creation; He is the sovereign one.

This is demonstrated in the next two verses (Colossians 1:16-17), where we see 5 truths concerning Christ’s relationship to His creation:

He is the Architect (v. 16a).

For by him all things were created. “By him” can also be translated “in him.” Christ is the sphere in which creation took place. It refers to the domain in which all things were made. In other words, the Son of God is the mastermind behind the universe and everything in it. He is its designer; He is the architect. “All things” is all-encompassing. The master plan was His; He laid it out. And every detail within the master plan was His. This includes each and every one of us. Collectively, we were all created by Him and, individually, we were designed by Him according to His plan. Christ is the architect of creation.

He is the Builder (v. 16b).

All things were created through him… Christ is not only the designer, but He is also the builder. He created all things:

  • “both in heaven and on earth” = everything in every sphere of the universe
  • “visible and invisible” = the things that can be seen by human observation, and the things that man cannot see or will ever be able to see
  • “thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities” = all ranks of created beings, including angels. The church at Colossae was being affected by angel worship. Therefore, what Paul has written here was intended to correct the false teaching that was damaging the church. Paul made it clear that no angel is worthy of worship, but only Christ is worthy. Why? Because He created the angels!

Hebrews 11:3 explains how creation took place: By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible. The universe was created by the Word of God. Who is the Word of God? Christ is the eternal word of God (John 1:1-3).

He is the Goal (v. 16c).

All things were created by Him and for him [or “unto him”]. Creation was not only made by Jesus Christ, but it was made for Him. All of creation, all of earth history, is moving toward one final goal: the glory of Jesus Christ. Everything is moving toward His ultimate exaltation as Lord of all. Jewish rabbis taught that the world was created for the Messiah. And they were right. Everything is moving toward the consummation of the glory of Jesus Christ. Every time man observes the intricacies and complexities of creation, it should cause him to look to Christ and praise Him. When he gives glory to impersonal forces or credits the silly notion of Mother Nature, the glory of Jesus Christ is diminished and hidden from the sight of those who should fall down and worship.

Everything has been created for Him. That includes you and me. We were created by Him and for Him. Do you believe this? Do you believe you were created by God? Do you believe you were created for Him, His purposes, and His glory? Are you living for Him? Are you pursuing the purpose for which He made you? Christ is the goal. Is He your goal?

He is the Preexistent One (v. 17).

He is before all things… The Son of God eternally existed before all things were created. This is another affirmation of His deity. He is emphatic, meaning He Himself, He and no other. Jesus Christ is eternal God; He is the preexistent one. When Jesus made this known, it almost got Him stoned. Jesus said to the Jews, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple” (John 8:58-59). The post-resurrection, post-ascension Jesus said to John, “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” (Revelation 1:8). In Psalm 102, the songwriter praised God for His eternal nature (Psalm 102:25-27). Jesus Christ the Son of God is the preexistent one who is worthy of our worship.

He is the Sustainer (v. 17).

The text goes on…and in him all things hold together. That is, they cohere; they stick together. The universe continues to exist because of the sustaining power of Christ. Hebrews 1:3 says Christ upholds the universe by the word of his power. It’s been said that gravity holds everything together; it is gravity that keeps our world from exploding into pieces. Well, if gravity holds the world together then Jesus Christ holds gravity together. Christ will continue to preserve the created universe as we know it until it has served His purposes. The same person who created the world will one day destroy it and make a whole new heaven and earth (2 Peter 3:5-7).

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August 25, 2015
by Paul Tautges
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The Verse on My Door

[The following is adapted from a brief testimony that I shared at my installation service on August 16, 2015 at Cornerstone Community Church in Mayfield Heights, Ohio. I share it with you with the hope that it will encourage you to hang on to the promises of God by faith.]

A year and a half ago, when the Holy Spirit led me to take a break from pastoral ministry, we began to finish off a room in our basement that I could use as a place to think, pray, read, and write. As the room came close to completion, I found a picture that had been given to me as a gift when I received my master’s degree in 1998, and decided to hang it on the outside of my study door. I hung it there because I needed to see it every time I entered the room; I needed to consciously cling to a truth about my God. It contains the following verse from the book of Ephesians.Verse on my door

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us. (Ephesians 3:20)

This verse is a benediction I took hold of as a promise from God, which became an anchor for my weary soul. It is a key truth that my feeble faith gripped and would not let go of. Another promise that I clung to is found in Psalm 37:23, which had been displayed on of my bookshelves for 22 years: “The steps of a man are established by the Lord, when he delights in his way.”

During time away from pastoral ministry, I had met with our pastor several times. The first time he and I met for coffee, he encouraged me to write down the characteristics of the next church that I would want to pastor when the Lord’s timing was right. He firmly believed that if and when the Lord would lead us to a new ministry, both my wife and I would know it. As a result, I came up with 7 characteristics of a church that not only I would want to pastor, but, more importantly, a church that I believed would be good for my family. I jotted them down on a legal pad, which then got buried in one of the piles on my desk.

In January 2015, when my personal commitment to take a minimum of one-year to rest, evaluate, calibrate, and focus on specific needs in my family came to a close; I was not ready to intentionally search for a new ministry role. Many of my brothers in Christ encouraged me to get my resume out there, but I was not comfortable with that approach. There wouldn’t have been anything wrong with doing that, and many of my friends had been led by God through that means, but it was not how the Lord had led my wife and me in our past. Previously, He had gone before us each time and opened a wide door for ministry when we were not looking for it, when we did not expect it, and I believed He would do that again—in His time—if it was His will. And He did.

On January 21st of this year, Armand Tiffe (the founding pastor) and I both received the same email from a mutual friend at the Master’s College in California, Dr. Bob Somerville. Armand had contacted Bob concerning the senior pastor role that would be opening this summer at Cornerstone. Bob responded by introducing the two of us via email, affirming his belief that we would work well together.

Unbeknownst to Bob, I had just met Armand two months before, at a conference in Kansas City. Unbeknownst to Armand, Bob had become a friend and counselor to me over two years before. Bob was a brother who had suffered through long, deep valley of depression and was helping other men, like myself, who found themselves in the same valley. And unbeknownst to me, Armand Tiffe and his wife had talked on their way home from the conference about how they each had separately thought that I would be an ideal fit to be Armand’s successor at Cornerstone. That email from Bob got the discussion going, which led to a lengthy evaluation, interview, and candidate process with the elders and members at Cornerstone Community Church.

This past May, as I was packing up my library in our Wisconsin home, I found that legal pad with the traits of the church that I believed our family needed and that I would want to pastor. This is what I wrote: It would be a warm fellowship—a Bible-teaching, Christ-following, God-exalting, gospel-announcing, grace-dispensing, loving, and forgiving community of believers who desire to grow in Christ, together.

When I found that legal pad, I realized God had indeed kept His promises. Not only had He led our steps according to His good and sovereign plan, but He had also done exceedingly abundantly above all that we had asked for or thought possible.

I’m simply an unworthy slave of Christ who longs to one-day hear the Master say, “Well done.” I am a sinner who has been redeemed by the blood of Jesus, reclaimed by God for His purposes. My wife and I are so thankful for the faithfulness of the Lord in our lives and look forward to serving Him as part of the Cornerstone Community Church family.

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August 18, 2015
by Paul Tautges
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The Charge at My Installation Service

This past Lord’s Day, it was an honor to be installed as the new senior pastor of Cornerstone Community Church in Mayfield Heights, Ohio (an eastern suburb of Cleveland). One of the men who spoke at the service was Jeff Powell, the district superintendent of the Evangelical Free Church of America. Unbeknownst to Jeff, he selected the same passage of Scripture that I had chosen in the early 1990s to be my “life ministry verses.”

Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. (Colossians 1:24-29)

From this passage, Jeff charged me with four reminders:

Remember to Rejoice (v. 24).

Jeff charged me to never forget to rejoice in my sufferings because the ministry we have been called to, and the faith we walk in, will include sufferings. There will always be opposition to the gospel call to Christ. Maintaining my joy is one key area where I have failed in the past. So how do I keep my joy in ministry? Jeff charged me to keep my joy in the ministry by maintaining a deep, intimate relationship with Christ; not sacrificing ministry time to do ministry at the expense of my personal time with God. I must not allow ministry duties to disrupt my time with God.

Remember the Commission Is from God, not Man (v. 25a).

The apostle believed that since his call came from God, he could do nothing else. The call that Paul received was not to a position. The call was to serve Christ in a specific way through the gospel. It was not a call to a specific church or office. It was an assignment to serve his Master, the Lord Jesus. This commission was given and defined by God. Therefore, I must always guard my commission in a way that never allows me to place any earthly expression of the calling above the divine calling to the gospel itself. As a side note, Jeff charged the congregation to remember that their pastor is not their hired man. He is not sent by God for their purposes, but brought to fulfill God’s purposes, which includes caring for the flock.

Remember the Centrality of the Gospel (vv. 25b-27).

The gospel saved the apostle Paul and was the basis upon which his entire ministry was built. His call was to serve as a minister of the gospel. Today, a temptation in ministry is to get overly creative. Jeff charged me to never, never stray from the gospel; it is Christ whom I must proclaim. He is our only hope. The gospel ministry is a call to live out the hope of His glory. I must give my new flock the confidence of the gospel and the uncomfortableness of the gospel.

Remember to Make Disciple-makers for Christ (vv. 28-29).

A church is not called to make church attenders; we are called to make disciples. There is a big difference. Verse 28 gives a clear sense that the apostle was relentless in the task of moving believers toward maturity. We have too many churches filled with consumers and spectators. Jeff charged me to remember that my call is to proclaim the gospel and show believers how living out the gospel is how we are called to live. To do that, I must proclaim Christ. My job is to point people back to Christ, to instruct and admonish the flock, to direct them and to set their hearts in place.

These are important reminders from a cherished passage of Scripture. They serve as a high charge to me. I appreciate your prayers for me as I carry out the Lord’s calling in a new place. If you are ever visiting Cleveland, please come worship with us.

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August 10, 2015
by Paul Tautges
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Grace Covenant Church in Gilbert, Arizona

Last month, my wife and I and our four youngest children had the privilege of making a road trip to Arizona to serve at a family camp in beautiful Sedona, Arizona. The 3-day camp was the 29th family camp for Grace Covenant Church in a suburb of Phoenix. This was the second time I’ve had the opportunity to spend several days with this congregation, the first being at a biblical counseling training conference in September 2013. The fellowship that I’ve experienced on both visits was so encouraging and sweet that I want to take a moment to draw your attention to this local church that is faithfully upholding the sufficiency of Christ and His word (perhaps you know someone in the Phoenix area who may be helped by this church’s ministry). Here are a few bits of information about GCC.

Reformed Baptist

Grace Covenant Church is a member of the Association of Reformed Baptist Churches of America (ARBCA), which holds to the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith. Charles Spurgeon called this document “the most excellent epitome of the things most surely believed among us [Baptists churches in London].”

Regulative Principle of Worship

Grace Covenant Church follows the practice of the Reformers known as the regulative principle of worship, which states that the corporate worship of God is to be founded upon specific directions of Scripture, not man’s inventions (see and explanation from Derek Thomas published by Ligonier).

Biblical Counseling Training

In 1996, Grace Covenant Church established its biblical counseling ministry under the direction of associate pastor Darrell Gustafson. This later developed into the Biblical Counseling Training Center of Arizona, which is an ACBC certified training center. Since the center opened, over 225 men and women have gone through its training program. Their annual conference is coming up in October.

There is much more I could say about the ministry of Grace Covenant Church, which has been a blessing to my family and me. Find out more about this church at their website.

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