Dear John MacArthur: Thank you

Against the governor of California’s orders, Pastor John MacArthur and Grace Community Church are assembling for worship every Lord’s day. Their decision has led to many responses and criticisms within the evangelical world. Many who take a different stance than MacArthur still acknowledge that he might be right to practice civil disobedience at this moment. Personally, I am thankful for the stand John MacArthur is taking, and I hope all Christians will pray for him and the elders and members of Grace Community Church. I agree with MacArthur that churches should be open, even if, in his words, “how we do that might vary based on geographical and legal circumstances.”  

Below is an email I sent to Grace to You. It expresses my appreciation, admiration, and support of Pastor John MacArthur as he faces fines and potential arrest. 

Dear John MacArthur,

Thank you for your courage and boldness during this unprecedented time. I want to thank you that in the twilight of your ministry you have not chosen to push the coast button and drive safely into the sunset. Instead, you have demonstrated the courage of conviction by staying true to your biblically shaped conscience even at the cost of your own safety and reputation. Your leadership at this moment is an encouragement to young pastors like myself. 

I think some Christians believe that your position unnecessarily binds the consciences of those who disagree with you. I want you to know that I do not think my conscience is any more bound by your recent statements about civil disobedience than when you argue passionately for premillennialism or elder-rule polity (I am an amillennialist and congregationalist). I view your exhortations to other pastors not as conscience binding, but as fatherly encouragement and fatherly chastisement. Even if some pastors disagree with you, it would be good for them to carefully weigh your exhortations. Your 50 plus years of faithful gospel ministry have earned you a hearing from all of us. 

I believe that yours is the voice that needs to be heard during this hour. Since the pandemic began, we have heard many good discussions about the relationship between the church and the state. Most of what I have heard over the last five months is that we need to submit to the government. While obeying the government is biblical and right, every pastor recognizes that there comes a time when the church needs to practice civil disobedience. You have weighed the evidence carefully and have acted consistently with your evaluation of the evidence. You believe now is the time for the church (especially in California) to stand up to the beast. 

The evangelical world needs someone of your status, longevity, position, and reputation to remind the magistrates of the limitations of their jurisdiction. We need someone of your stature to tell the governing officials that they are God’s servants appointed to reward good and punish evil (Romans 13:6). Woe to them if they reward evil and punish good. I fear for a state government that picks a fight with the bride of Christ. May God use your pushback at this moment to prevent greater threats to our religious freedom in the future. 

Your stance against the magistrates is a compelling witness to the watching world. The testimony our world needs right now and in every generation is the testimony that Jesus is Lord. Perhaps more than ever you are showing American citizens that when Christians say, “Jesus is Lord,” they really mean it, even if it costs them everything. I see your testimony to the watching world as a great act of love for God and love for neighbor. Your courage at this moment has given you a platform on multiple venues to preach the gospel to millions. 

Thank you, Pastor MacArthur, for reminding secular officials that the church of the Lord Jesus Christ is and always will be essential. Some American judges seem to think that casinos are more essential than churches. But every casino could vanish from planet earth and the world would be a better place. Take away the pillar of truth, which is the church, and the whole world would plunge back into the dark ages. 

Thank you, Pastor MacArthur, for reminding all of us how important is the biblical command to assemble. In the present circumstance, the governing authorities are asking you to refrain from doing something that the Bible commands. With the rest of us, you have been forced to evaluate if the threat of COVID-19 should keep churches from assembling. With many pastors and Christians, you do not find an overwhelmingly clear reason to refrain from doing what the Bible requires, or to adjust the way in which you gather. You have led your church to start gathering again and to do it in a way that retains their liberty of conscience on how and when as individuals they will gather for worship. I think your approach is the best way to preserve unity in the body of Christ. 

I am praying for you, Pastor MacArthur, and the members and elders of Grace Community Church. Whatever happens, I rejoice with you knowing that Jesus is on the throne, the gospel will advance, and even the gates of hell will not prevail against the church. 

Sincerely,

Matthew Emadi

An Encouragement Towards Christian Unity

If there ever was a time for Christians to strive for unity, now is that time. The coronavirus pandemic and the government’s response to it has raised many questions about how Christians and churches should respond. Christians will have different opinions based on biblical reasoning. During these unique times, we should remember Paul’s words to the Romans:

Romans 14:1–3 (ESV) — 1 As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. 2 One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. 3 Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. 

Romans 14:5–7 (ESV) — 5 One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. 7 For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. 

Opinions informed by Scripture are good and right. Quarreling over opinions is not. Some issues are worth fighting for, dividing over, and even dying for. Other issues are worth our serious reflection, but not at the expense of unity. Wisdom and humility are what we all need.    

“I Believe; Help My Unbelief”

Legalism tempts us to rely on our own strength as the source of our salvation, even if it is the strength of our faith. As Christians, we know that we are justified by faith alone. But that does not mean that faith is what justifies us. Instead, God justifies us through faith in Christ. This is an important distinction. Even as we champion faith, we might easily start to rely on the intensity of our faith instead of the object of our faith. If we trust in the intensity of our faith, we are really trusting in ourselves. But saving faith looks away from self to Christ, and he alone has the power to save us.

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Kobe and Corona

One was a world-famous basketball player. The other is a world-famous virus. Kobe took the world by storm with high-flying dunks, incredible fadeaways, and game-winning jump shots. Corona captured our attention by making hundreds of thousands sick, killing others, and shutting down entire economic systems.

What does Kobe have to do with Corona? Nothing. Except they both awakened the world to the reality of death in recent months. Last month, we watched the world mourn the death of Kobe Bryant. His sudden and unexpected death made us feel death’s sting. Kobe’s tragic end reminded us that death is not natural. We don’t mourn natural processes. We don’t mourn the setting of the sun, the digestion of food, or rain falling from the sky. We mourn death. We mourned Kobe’s death because death is terrible, and people weren’t made to die. Yet we all do. Our lives are short, and Kobe reminded us of that. No one is guaranteed tomorrow. 

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Our Church May Shrink in 2020 and I Am Excited

No pastor wants his church to get smaller, especially a pastor of a small church. Then why am I excited that our small church might get smaller in 2020? Because we would be shrinking for the sake of the gospel. Our desire is to send out two gifted and qualified leaders, and their families, to plant a church in Syracuse, Utah. We will be losing two servant-hearted families in the process, but I could not be more excited about the possibility. Here are a few reasons for my excitement.

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Why I Never Say, “We’re Not a Sunday Only Church”

I’ve heard it said often, “We’re not a Sunday only church.” I know what they mean. They mean the people of their church get together, fellowship, do ministry, and pray throughout the week as well. Of course, these are important aspects of a faithful church. Pastors should want their people to connect and serve outside of the Sunday gathering. If church members gather together on Sundays, but never show hospitality, pray together, do evangelism, or disciple others throughout the week, then the whole church will suffer. Life in the local church should not be confined to Sundays alone.

Then what’s my problem with the statement, “We’re not a Sunday only church”? Why do I never say it if I agree with it in principle? Because I don’t like statements that have the potential to undermine the significance of the Sunday gathering. Some people speak about “Sunday only” because they don’t think the Sunday gathering is that significant. What really matters to them are small groups or missional communities or more “organic fellowship.” In their mind, “We’re not Sunday only,” really means the Sunday gathering is less important than other ways of being the church.

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Is Hell Eternal Conscious Torment?

The doctrine of hell is a serious, sobering, and terrifying doctrine. For some, the thought of hell as eternal conscious torment is too difficult to accept. They would rather believe that hell is temporary. People who die outside of Christ will suffer punishment for a period of time, but eventually, God will cast them into the lake of fire and they will cease to exist. This view is known as annihilationism. But is it biblical?

We cannot allow our emotions to drive our theology. Scripture is our final authority. We must submit to the Bible’s teachings on difficult doctrines trusting that God is God and not us. He is good, righteous, and holy and he always does what is right.

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Kobe Bryant’s Death and a Lesson from Jesus

Even though roughly 150,000 people die every day in our world, we are still shocked when someone dies unexpectedly. I certainly was when I heard that Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash. Eight others died with him including his daughter. All nine people were gone in an instant.

The world focuses on Kobe not because the others were less important but because Kobe was a celebrity. Kobe was a household name for over two decades. We feel like we knew him even if we never met him. We watched him enter the NBA straight out of high school; we saw him win the NBA dunk contest as a rookie; we witnessed him battle against my beloved Utah Jazz in the NBA playoffs early in his career; we watched him win championships and become one of the greatest basketball players of all-time.

I have watched many interviews with different people paying tribute to Kobe and the people who lost their lives in the accident. Each time my eyes well up with tears because the pain of death is real. Many people are left with questions in the wake of a tragedy. I wonder what kind of response is appropriate when the world turns its attention to the brevity of life and the reality of death. I try to imagine what Jesus would say if the news reporters stuck a microphone in his face and asked him to comment on the nine lives that perished in the helicopter crash. What would Jesus say?

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