IT IS LIKE NO OTHER BOOK!
The Bible was written over a period of 1,500 years, by 40+ authors, in 3 different languages (Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek), on 3 different continents, addressing hundreds of subjects; yet with complete unity! Imagine any 10 authors from a 10-year span, writing today on just one subject: do you think it likely that they would agree?
Another uniqueness is in the fact the Bible says that every man has broken the moral standard of God, and is a sinner before Him. If the Bible was merely written by men, why would they write such a story about their fallen condition? Books written today praise man’s potential, claim he has a “divine spark” within him, has unlimited potential, etc., etc. That’s how man writes about himself, but the Bible does not.
The reason: the apostle Paul gives the answer in 2 Timothy 3:16, “All Scripture is inspired by God…” The word “inspired” means “breathed out”, pointing us to the fact every word comes from the very “mouth” of God.
IT IS PROFITABLE FOR LIVING LIFE!
The apostle Paul adds that the Scripture is profitable and sufficient for all we need to live life to his glory, and our good! The writer to the Hebrews adds that the Word of God is “living and active”, that it “pierces” the soul, and is able to “discern the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
At Maple Street Community Church, the Word of God is central to all we do. We preach it and teach it, we are committed to obeying it, and to applying its every principle and precept in its context.
Not Taught by Human Wisdom
As believing Christians, those of us who gather at Maple Street Community Church know that we will never be accepted or understood by people of the world, people who have not been taught by the Holy Spirit. The learning of the world applies only to the world and cannot tell us anything about spiritual things.
In 1 Corinthians 2:12-13, we find these words: “Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.”
The phrasing of this passage makes it very clear that it is not possible to interpret spiritual truths to those who are not spiritual: they will never understand, and that’s why the truths of Scripture will always seem strange to the worldly.
“For They Are Folly to Him”
1 Corinthians 2:14 goes on to say, “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.”
The “natural person” is simply a normal human being, a human being as nature made him. Without being open to the Holy Spirit, a natural person will never be able to understand the words of Scripture, because those words can only make sense in the light of spiritual discernment. That spiritual discernment doesn’t come from nature; it isn’t simply available to every person. It comes from the Holy Spirit and is only available to those who are open to receive the Holy Spirit.
At Maple Street Community Church, we know why the worldly person can never accept the words of Scripture: without the Spirit, those words can only ever appear as “folly” to him.
Christianity is not a “system” of morality for the world to subscribe to. The principles of the Bible, and the teaching of Jesus are not intended to provide a “system” of religious/moral discipline apart from a relationship with God!
Some see the moral principles of Scripture as a divinely sent constraint within which man must live, in order to please God. But Jesus made clear that true spiritual life comes from a newly created life, a “born again” life that is created to interact directly with God, by His Spirit, through the gracious provision of life made available in Christ.
Jesus criticized the Pharisees, the religious leaders of his day, because they taught (enforced?) a system of moral adherence. Spirituality was reduced to an outward compliance, mostly to human traditions and ritual, rather than an inward life of the spirit. Jesus turned their approach upside down when he said he was the “vine”, and his followers were the “branches” who needed to “abide” in him in order to receive spiritual life. (John 15)
Christianity was begun as a movement of people living out the life of Christ in them, in community together, each person expressing the giftedness of the Spirit by the guidance of the apostle’s teaching, prayer and worship. But sadly, Christianity has become institutionalized as it ushers people into an organizational chart with church walls built around it, with the goal of training people to do the “right” things; e.g., go to church, tithe, “get involved”, etc. It becomes hard to discern the difference between those who truly live out the life of Christ, by the power of the Spirit, from those who simply change their habits.
An example of how this “plays out” is seen in the current tendency Christians have to address the political issues of the day, thinking their role is to inject “morality” into the culture. In fact, the Christian “calling” is to present the gospel, because only in it, is found the true liberation of the soul, and willingness to live by the high moral calling of God upon humanity. The church is losing it’s way because it promotes “morality” instead of the soul-transforming power of God. And so Christians feel the need to “speak out” when in fact they’re moralizing, as though that is the message of God to the world, when it isn’t at all.
What if the world did as the Christian church proclaims; it rejected homosexuality, confined marriage to a man and woman and rejected abortion? What if the world obeyed the precepts of Jesus? What we might have, is the world somewhat better morally “controlled”, but still not living the life of Christ in the power of the Spirit. And as a result, would not see true Christianity lived!
Everyone here at Maple Street Community Church needs help sometimes – just like everyone else in the world! The Bible assures us that help from God is always available. This is one of the most common themes in Scripture.
For example, Isaiah 41:10 reads, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Psalm 54:4 says, “Behold, God is my helper; the Lord is the upholder of my life.”
We’re all familiar with the idea of God as a protector and helper, but how do you actually get his help? Is there anything specific you need to do, any works you need to perform? We believe that there’s nothing you can do to earn the blessing of the Christian life. The relationship we have with God is a gift of Grace.
So, how do we get help from God?
As it says in Psalm 34:17, “When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles.” Ask God for help when you need it, and help will reach you. The same thought is echoed in John 14:14: “If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.” Once you’ve done that, there’s nothing else to do. According to Mark 11:24: “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”
Join us here at Maple Street Community Church and we’ll ask for help together.
People often talk about “attending” church. The truth is, people can “attend” but not truly be a part of the church at all. When attending an event, we go to a venue, a building. But a church isn’t a building. The Bible is clear: the people gathered is “the church”, not a building. Sitting in a pew doesn’t constitute being “in” church!
Matthew 18:20 says, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” In other words, when the people are gathered (wherever they are), they are the church, with Christ present among them. Church isn’t a place we attend; but rather a gathering of Christ-followers who are organically and spiritually connected to each other as brothers and sisters because of their common allegiance to Jesus.
When you “attend” a football game, you sit in the stands and watch the players play. When you “attend” a concert, you listen while the musicians perform. Church is not something we simply “attend”, to watch others perform.
In 1 Corinthians 12:12, the apostle Paul says, “…all the members of the body [the body of Christ, the church], though many, are one body…” In other words we are vitally connected to each other, not because we occupy the same pew on Sunday, but because we are placed into the gathering, the “church” with one another. And when we gather, we meet for ministry, for mutual edification and encouragement in the name of our Lord Jesus. Being a member of the “body”, the church, isn’t a passive process. We’re meant to be connected and involved with one another, not just members of an audience.