I got some pretty interesting responses to my last blog: THEY DON’T TEACH THE BIBLE THERE. This is a follow-up; same song – different verse – and just as tragic.
One of my friends told me he had a conversation with a man from a church in Wise County recently. Somehow the conversation moved toward Grace Fellowship and this man was definitely not a fan. He told my friend in no uncertain terms that every person who attends Grace Fellowship is GOING TO HELL. His reason: because we have a bookstore on our campus.
I understand his concern which arises from John 2:13-17 where Jesus drove the moneychangers and those who sold animals out of the temple. I know that everyone will not agree with me, but I think this man is mistaken about the teaching of this text. Originally, the people providing animals and monetary exchange had provided a needed service for people who traveled long distances to come to Jerusalem for Passover. However, it became corrupt and shameful. As John MacArthur states: “What had begun as a service to the worshipers had, under the corrupt rule of the chief priests, degenerated into exploitation and usary. Religion has become external, crass, and materialistic; the temple of God had become a ‘robbers den’ (Matt. 21:13).”
Most church bookstores that I’m aware of do not exist to exploit people, but rather – they are there to provide a service by offering Bibles and other spiritual helps to people. I’m not saying things can’t get out of hand because anything can be corrupted. However, that’s not the purpose of most church bookstores, and our bookstore doesn’t even make a profit. I think this man would be surprised to find that the majority of well-known churches in his denomination as well as some of the the most conservative evangelical churches in the U.S. all have bookstores on their campuses. Here’s just a small sampling: First Baptist Dallas, First Baptist Houston, First Baptist Atlanta, Second Baptist Houston, First Baptist Jacksonville FL, First Baptist Orlando Fl, Geyer Springs First Baptist – Little Rock ARK, Bellevue Baptist Memphis TN, Prestonwood Baptist – Plano, First Baptist Hammond Indiana, Thomas Road Baptist – Lynchburg VA, Salem Baptist – Chicago IL , Grace Community Church with John MacArthur, John Piper with Bethlehem Baptist Church. Granted, I don’t know their hours of operation – but if we’re going to hell for having a bookstore – then a whole lot of people who have made decisions to follow Christ are in deep trouble. However, the only reason I can find in scripture for someone going to hell is because they refused to repent of their sin and rejected Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior.
I’m hoping to use this as a teaching opportunity to all of us at GFC. We must always be aware that there’s an unseen war going on for the souls of men & women, and the way we treat or talk about other believers impacts that war negatively or positively.
Paul Billheimer writes in his classic book LOVE COVERS: The most important, momentous, crucial, but the most ignored, neglected, and unsolved problem that has faced the Church from its infancy to the present throbbing moment is the problem of disunity. It has been Satan’s master strategy. The sin of disunity probably has caused more souls to be lost than all other sins combined. Possibly more than anything else, it is the one thing that binds the hands of the Holy Spirit and thwarts His work.
Jesus even prayed for us to be unified SO THE WORLD WOULD KNOW GOD SENT HIM & LOVES THEM: 20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: 23 I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. John 17:20-23 NIV Jesus prayed for us to be “one” so the world could be “won”.
These are evil times and we have to be very wise if we’re to reach our world for Christ. One reason non-Christians don’t want what we have is because they see and hear things like this in our communities. I suggest to you – that’s not God’s Will. Eph 5:15-17 NIV says: 15 Be very careful, then, how you live — not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.
When those who claim to follow Christ spend their time criticizing other churches & ministries instead of sharing Christ & building others up, they grieve the Holy Spirit. The Will of the Lord in Eph 4:29-32 says: 29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
Don’t get me wrong; none of us are perfect. I’ve been guilty of being critical at times, but over the past few years I’ve tried to practice praying for the blessing of other churches & Christians instead of criticizing them. When I drive by another church, I pray for God to move in that church and change lives. I challenge you to start doing the same!
We better be very careful of the words we speak and take careful inventory of our heart because Jesus said: 33 “Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. 34 You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. 35 The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. 36 But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. 37 For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” Matt 12:33-37 NIV