For Zwingli, the Christian can have assurance that Jesus offers rest for weary souls because of “the clarity and certainty of the Word of God.” Without this sure foundation, the faithful are subject to a life of uncertainty and toil, constantly re-plowing the ground that God has already prepared in their own lives.
Everyone knows that teenagers in highschool struggle with an intense desire to be part of the popular crowd. Yet, few realize that this doesn’t always end after graduation, it just looks different. As an introvert, I am always instinctively observing the people around me, and sometimes this can take a prideful turn. Have you ever been talking to someone at church and suddenly get a sneaking feeling of superiority as you realize you are the more impressive person in terms of style, speech, or interests? Do you notice when the cool people walk in on Sunday morning and try to get their attention?
The sermon is over. The lights dim. As music begins to play, the pastor issues an invitation, “The tables are now open. No matter who you are or where you’ve come from, if you’ve responded to Jesus, then you can come. As the band plays our last song, feel free to make your way up to one of the tables. This is between you and Jesus.” Here in the 21st century, this has become a standard part of evangelical liturgy – an individualized view of the Lord’s Supper, with minimal accountability.
This practice can be traced back to a debate which began in the 17th century and reached a turning point in the 19th century.
Baptist churches have always understood that though every local church is complete in itself, each church may pursue voluntary associations in order to promote their health and the work of the gospel. But with cooperation comes new challenges. How big can an association get? How broad or narrow should doctrinal standards be? How do you balance denominational influence with congregational authority?
“And now that we have passed through the shadow-land of allegories, it is time to explore the great plains of mortal truths. Our faith has been strengthened, let our lives reveal its influence; our intellects have been enlightened, let them prescribe the right behavior. For they have sound sense who do this, if they direct their actions and understanding toward the praise and glory of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is blessed forever.”
As we prepare our reading lists for 2019, let us take this opportunity to remind ourselves of perhaps the most significant book that Christians—all the way from the casual reader to the master’s level seminary student—have almost completely forgotten.
The church has always been a counter-cultural witness to the world. We normally think of the church’s witness in her preaching and good works, and rightly so. But sometimes, it’s her very structure and polity which bear witness to God’s kingdom here in this world.
We see this in the story of the Mill Yard Seventh Day Baptist Church in the 19th century. Founded in the 1600s this church had dwindled just to seven women by the 1820s, and they were without a minister.
Sometimes in an attempt to counter messages about self-esteem and body-shaming that ignore God we forget to acknowledge the beauty and goodness of the human body altogether. This kind of accidental Gnosticism can be especially harming for teenage girls who are constantly thinking about their bodies but are only taught two responses: one that makes them obsess even more about beauty by telling them to find meaning in themselves, and the other that makes them feel silly or sinful for struggling with body image in the first place but with no way to move forward other than trying to ignore their bad feelings and hope they go away.
If our search for God is unsettled, there is a cure. As we watch biblical figures faithfully await the premiere advent, we learn how to better find our own peace in our faithful anticipation of the sequel. As Matthew 25:6 says: “at midnight there was a cry,” someone will shout ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’”