Jon’s Latest Sermon Series: March 2019

We wanted to make a few of Jon’s recent sermons available. Please click on the link below to go to the local church site and the sermon.

All Saints Anglican Church, Morehead City, NC March 3, 2019 https://www.allsaintsanglicanchurch.net/sermons

 

Thank you and we hope you enjoy.

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Foundational Principles — External. (by Jon Shuler)

There are seven more principles that are external to any one individual, but which I believe are the necessary “bones” if the church is to live well for God’s glory. These must be put in place by those who have the authority in the local church to do so. Any leader, lay or ordained, must do their very best to see these principles in place in the local congregation where they serve, and in any ministry they lead.

6) The Principle of Lordship. The words and example of Jesus must be at the center of all ministries and structures. Abiding in Jesus means more than knowing the words of the Lord, it means obeying them structurally. This alone shows someone is “truly” his disciple, and the same is true for his church. Jesus is Lord.

7) The Principle of Biblical Authority. The Apostles Teaching and Fellowship (for us today, the New Testament interpreted through Jesus’ clear teaching and example recorded in the four gospels) must guide all right believing and all right living in the church of Christ Jesus. The biblical gospel is the only gospel. The Word of God is to be preached. This does not negate the Old Testament, but demands that it always be interpreted in the light of the New. To be devoted to this principle is a mark of the Church that submits to Christ.

8) The Principle of Worship. Holy Scripture makes clear that worship is not a Sunday matter only, but a way of life for true believers. The worship of the church has a purpose and an order given by the Lord of the church, but it is not to be an event. Sunday services, and other liturgical gatherings, must regularly be evaluated for their fidelity to the Father’s desire to find those who will “worship in Spirit and in Truth.”

9) The Principle of Discipleship. Living the cycle of discipleship, from being welcomed into the life of a believer to becoming a disciple-making disciple, is the pattern of life for all members of the church.

10) The Principle of Every Member Ministry. The Holy Spirit gives gifts to every believer, for the common good. Every disciple has a ministry to fulfill. A local church which does not understand this, and make it central, is a disobedient church. To call only ordained ministry “the ministry” is a grievous error.

11) The Principle of Recognition. The Leadership of the local church is meant to be recognized by the whole church, and therefore should be conformed to the patterns given by the Holy Spirit in the early days of the church.

12) The Principle of Reconciliation. Conflict resolution structures must exist under the Lordship of Jesus & his Word. Differences will always exist, but the clear commandment of the Lord Jesus that his followers “love one another” must be taken seriously. Clear guidance has been given to us through Jesus’ teaching, and it must be obeyed.

 

Next Week: Expounding The 12 Principles

Foundational Principles — Internal. (by Jon Shuler)

For the past few weeks I have shared several observations that have led me to think a whole new set of foundational principles are needed in much of the church that I know best. I have also long known that the only way the church will change is if leaders change, and it must begin with me. I have twelve “principles” that have become important to me, five that are internal and personal and seven that are external and relate to the church as I am able to influence her. Let me share them.

The first five principles I want to be inside my heart, mind, soul, and to guide my strength as I follow Jesus. No one else is responsible for these but me. I beg the Holy Spirit of God to make these five true in my life. I pray to learn to live them, not just talk about them. I ask God to make them my way till the end.

1) The Principle of Conformity. I ask God to conform me day by day to the gospel of truth as it is in Christ Jesus. [My whole self, not a part.]

2) The Principle of Work. I pray to do only the work God the Father has prepared for me to walk in. [My assignments.]

3) The Principle of Being Sent. I ask God to teach me to be a loving “sent one” to those who do not know the Lord Jesus, or who are only beginning to follow him. [My lifestyle.]

4) The Discipling Principle. I pray to be discipling other men until the day I die. [My obedience to the Final Command.]

5) The Serving Principle. I pray to take my God appointed place in the ministry and community of the church that submits to Christ. [My assignment in the body of Christ.]

None of these have generally been a part of how I was trained to live as a Christian, nor as a priest. What happened to me has happened to many. I became a servant of the institution rather than the Lord. Do not get me wrong, I believe the Lord needs and uses the institutional forms of his church, but they are not divine. They are to serve the spread of the kingdom of God, not thwart or impede it.

Some years ago I met a young Nigerian priest, serving in the United States, who said in my hearing: “We were baptized as babies, we were confirmed, we got confused and left, we got saved and came back, we were not wanted.” His experience of the institutional forms he encountered in Nigeria was very similar to mine in the United States.

May God prevent that, for future generations of his servants, in our day.

 

Next Week: Foundational Principles (External)

Thinking Through The Four Observations: Observation #4

Observation #4: The Church is organized to make disciples.

When whole towns and villages are changed, when the social and economic patterns
begin to be altered, when the governing structures begin to be rethought, the gospel of
Jesus Christ has come in reformation. The gospel spreads like a wild fire, and it is
unstoppable for a season of God’s choosing. So it was in the 6th, 12th, and 16th
century in Europe. So it was during the Great Awakening of the 18th century. And
always ordinary believers learn to live so that the gospel spreads easily. They learn to
be disciple-making disciples.
In all such eras believing people meet regularly in small enough groups that the true
nature of the church is experienced day by day. This is the hidden reality whenever the
church of the Lord Jesus is experiencing spontaneous expansion. Large worship
gatherings reveal something of this true nature, but it is in the small villages and homes
of believers, that the truth is daily confirmed and lives transformed. Not because of
these small gatherings, but because the very nature of the kingdom of God is
relationally transmitted. Mothers disciple their daughters. Fathers disciple their sons.
Brother disciples brother. Friends disciple friends. The life of the church is not the work
of a clerical and professional few, but the work of the whole body.
For the church of Christ Jesus in the West to see this occur again, by the grace of God,
reformation must come. The church and its leaders must be willing to rethink how she is
organized. Do her current structures assist the effective spread of the kingdom of God
or do they inhibit it? What must be reformed?
Of all that must undergo rethinking and reforming, nothing is so evident as this: the
social architecture of the local church must be redesigned so that every believer learns
to be a disciple-making disciple. Church structures that do not assist this, in a
reasonably effective and timely way, must be rethought. The current patterns that have
evolved over centuries in the West must be radically revisited. What do they achieve?
Are they producing what the Lord of the church desires?
The Final Command of the Risen Christ Jesus to his church was to “make disciples of
all nations.” This was a command that was about the way his people lived for him. It
was something that would occur as they lived ordinary lives, transformed by his grace.
How was it to be possible? It was possible because it was natural and simple.
The historian Glenn Hinson, after surveying the rise of the church in the first centuries
concluded that “the church of Jesus Christ out organized the Roman Empire, one
household at a time.” Small familial units of disciple-making disciples were the hidden
reality behind the spread of Christianity, and where this truth re-emerges and becomes
a normal way of life for Christians, another season of reformation begins.

Next Week: Foundational Principles (Internal).

Thinking Through The Four Observations — Observation #3. (by Jon Shuler)

Believing that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is for all people.

It is natural for men and women who first encounter the love of God in Christ Jesus, who repent and welcome him into their lives, to want to convey this Good News to their immediate friends and neighbors. It was this desire that led Andrew to go and find Peter, and Philip to go and find Nathaniel. This first instinct is inspired by the Holy Spirit, but the fulness of God’s intention for the spread of the gospel is greater. He cares for all the peoples of the earth, and he desires that they know and walk in the liberty of the children of God. Whenever reformation comes this truth comes to the fore.

Today in the West many see all cultures and religious traditions as equally valuable and good. They should be left alone. But the love of God, as it has been revealed in Christ Jesus, is meant to be taken to every corner of the globe. This amazing news, manifest in the life and death of Christ, is Good News for every people and nation. No one is to be excepted.

The first outflowing of this grace will touch those near at hand, but it will soon spread to others from the nations. Strangers and sojourners who live in the lands of the new anointing will hear the truth, and the Spirit of God will awaken in some of them a desire to go back to their own people, to share the joyful news they have heard. New communities of faith will be formed in those places that have never before heard of Jesus the crucified Redeemer. And the faithful church, if there, will re-awaken to the unending command of the Lord Jesus to “go and make disciples of all nations.”

Some will then be called to leave their own lands to take the blessing to others. To find men and women with receptive hearts and share with them a love that will never let them go, and never forsake them.The kingdom of God will break in among them.

Reformation can never come, however, to a church that will not embrace the Father’s heart for the lost. Failure to mobilize to carry that love beyond the walls of their own hearts, their own families and friends, or beyond their own buildings is a sin. When those to whom the gospel has come close their hearts to those who have not yet heard, it is only a matter of time before the forbearance of the Lord is exhausted. He will seek those who will worship and serve him in Spirit and in Truth.

Yet most of God’s people need not go far. The eyes of their hearts will be opened by God’s Spirit to see those they are called to serve right where they live. Their mission field is very near. But they must learn to see as God sees. There are people everywhere waiting to hear the Good News from someone who will share it in love. Someone who will be faithful to reach outside the boundaries of their community of faith. Someone who will not rest while any have not heard in their town or city. When this change occurs in a faithful few, and then a few more, reformation begins.

 

Next Week: Observation #4: The Church is organized to make disciples.

Thinking Through The Four Observations— Observation #2. (by Jon Shuler)

Believing that the Word of God is true.

Astute readers will know why this second observation is directly related to the first. Since the period of history known as the Enlightenment, educated men have undermined faith in the Word of God as true. This began in the 18th century, with non believers, but by the late 19th century it had deeply penetrated most of the institutions that trained Christian leaders in the West. By the late 20th century, many in the older historic families of the church were being led by men who no longer believed the Word of God could be trusted. “Modern” thought had shown its (so they said) many errors. At least by 1950 in the West, if not sooner, men and women who did not believe in and follow the clear teaching of Jesus and his apostles, as revealed in Holy Scripture, were leading and training the next generation of church leaders. The Enemy of all that is good and true was having a field day. The church entered into precipitous decline.

It is in times like these that a few dear saints of God cry out to heaven for mercy. Please God renew in our day what our Fathers have told us you did in days gone by. Faithful witnesses call down the consuming fire of heaven to burn away what has become corrupt, and purify what is called to be holy. And in the fulness of time God acts.

When God begins to move in power, and Holy Spirit reformation of the church begins, it is always in the places where God’s clear Word is being trusted, and the preaching and teaching of “Jesus Christ and him crucified” is coming back to the center. When the truth of the gospel “as it is in Jesus” is restored to the heart of the church’s life, the church begins to grow. And that growth is seen in the lives of humble folk who kneel before their Lord in repentant faith and are born again of the Spirit of God. Obeying the Word of God begins to be their desire, because they love him who is the Word of God incarnate. A new day of reformation dawns when leaders begin to be moved to that repentance, and submit afresh to Jesus as he is revealed in the Word of God.

Of course such men are usually accused of breaking the rules, or not being faithful to the traditions of their denomination, or of being enemies of God. But they know something has happened in their hearts that has called them back to their first love. Or they have at last become truly converted men. In either case, they are brought under the sovereignty of the Word of God written, and they begin to be used for the spread of the kingdom of God. That kingdom and his righteousness becomes what they seek first. They are no longer in thrall to the traditions of men.

The darkness begins to be penetrated, when those days come, and the light of Christ Jesus begins to shine in heart after heart, congregation after congregation, and community after community. The gospel of Christ Jesus begins to change the culture of those places where it is preached and lived. A reformation from God has begun. Times of refreshing have come.

 

Next Week: Observation #3 – Believing that the gospel of Jesus Christ is for all people.

Thinking Through The Four Observations (by Jon Shuler)

Observation #1 – Leaders Are Rarely Seminary Trained.

When true reformation comes to the church of Jesus Christ, it always disrupts the ordinary way things have recently been done. It is part of the very nature of reformation that it only comes because many things have gone wrong. God is intervening because many of his people, and their leaders, have grown cold in the face of these errors. God intervenes to put things right. But in times like these God always has to raise up leaders who will turn their face toward him, and obey what he asks of them – whatever the consequences. This pattern has been seen in all of Church History.

Understanding this reality, goes a long way to helping us to understand the first observation from last week’s post. Reformation almost always begins through the leadership of men not sharing the currently accepted and “normal” way of being trained to lead. They are often outsiders, not thinking the way the majority think. They do not see the current situation the way those in authority see it.

This phenomena may manifest itself in one of two ways. The first of these, and most common, is God raises up leaders trained on a different path than those currently leading. An example from ancient history is the bishop of Rome known as Gregory the Great. Gregory was a Benedictine Monk, and a part of an order founded by St Benedict of Nursia, who died in AD 547. Benedict had established (we would say planted) thirteen small monasteries before he died, all of which were outside of the Catholic authority and leadership structures of their day. Yet in AD 590 one of his followers, Gregory, was made bishop of Rome, and inaugurated a season of lasting reform whose influence is still felt in 2019. He was trained outside the ordinary structures.

The second way this phenomena manifests itself is through a leader trained in the way common in his day, but who has experienced what he believes to be a direct intervention of God in his life. God has shown him a different way for the church to be guided and shaped. When truly God inspired, this leads him, and those who follow him, back to revealed truth already given to the church but neglected or obscured in his own lifetime. He leads in a way outside the “accepted norms,” but consistent with the Word of God. He is a reformer. Thomas Cranmer was such a man. So was John Wesley.

For at least the last 200 years, if not longer, the Western Seminary system has taught men to be men of the mind. To be scholars. It has neglected the formation of the whole man: heart, mind, soul, and strength, putting the Lord Jesus second after knowledge. This has separated many leaders from their people, and has communicated (often unintentionally) to the flock of God that they “do not know enough” to follow Jesus wholeheartedly. They must read more. They must study more. They must have more classes, more programs, more guidance. They must have “expert” instruction to be good Christians. It does not put obeying the Lord Jesus first. It screens out reformation.

 

Next Week: Observation #2 – Believing that the Word of God is True.