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.    

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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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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Dads, Who Is Discipling Our Children?

The question in the title of this post assumes that somebody will disciple our children. Our kids are being discipled every day. Discipleship is about teaching, influencing, and showing someone else how to live as a particular kind of person. As my children get older, they have an increasing number of influences on their lives. Friends, classmates, songs, books, music, media, teachers, relatives, movies, all have a platform in one form or another with my children. Some of these influencers are better than others, but none of them is as vital or persuasive as me. That may sound arrogant, but I think it’s biblical. God has designed and commissioned fathers to lead their households (Eph 5:22–23; 6:1–4). God has entrusted us with the authority to lead our families and disciple our children in the truth. Children look to dad (and mom) for answers to life’s questions, and they typically trust us more than anyone else on earth. What I say to my children as their father carries more weight than what they hear from anyone else outside of the home. God has designed it this way. The cry of “Daddy!” is the deepest instinct of our hearts. Continue reading “Dads, Who Is Discipling Our Children?”

Thanksgiving: An Antidote to Sexual Sin

One of the simplest ways to fight lust is often the most overlooked. In Ephesians 5:3–5 Paul gives us a strategy to combat sexual sin:

Ephesians 5:3–5 (ESV) — 3 But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. 4 Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. 5 For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.

What is the weapon Paul gives us here in the war against lust? Thankfulness. Paul balances his two negative commands prohibiting sexual immorality and obscene speech with a positive exhortation: “Let there be thanksgiving” (Eph 5:4). Thanksgiving is not only the opposite of dirty, foolish, obscene talk; it is a weapon we can employ in the fight for purity. How does this work? Continue reading “Thanksgiving: An Antidote to Sexual Sin”

Stricken, Smitten, and Afflicted

One of the good things about being sick for a week was that it gave me extra time to listen to great Christian songs. How have I missed this one my whole life? Stricken, Smitten, and Afflicted makes me shudder and rejoice at the same time. Or in the words of Psalm 2:11, I “rejoice with trembling” as I listen. Here is the song from the T4G conference. The lyrics are below. I encourage you to sing along.

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