MY HEART ATTACK AND THE CHURCH OF CHRIST!
Since my heart attack on February 3, 2018 I have even greater appreciation for members of the Church of Christ. The prayers, cards, calls and concern from members of the CoC were simply great! (This is not to say that members of other Churches did not pray, send cards, and show concern, because there were many, many, many of those as well. I have many Bible believing family members and friends in other Churches and I really appreciate their prayers and I hope they continue to pray for me throughout my recovery.)
Of course, the Ohatchee CoC was best of all for obvious reasons. But there were also many other members of the CoC, some of whom I have never met personally, who sent cards and offered up prayers on my behalf from numerous places–especially the Westwood CoC in McMinnville, TN. And I am so thankful for all the prayers prayed by all members of the Church on my behalf and I hope you continue praying.
I was baptized on June 14th, 1970 and have been associated with the Ohatchee Church of Christ—serving as minister and/or elder–for most of that time. We baptize believers into Christ, partake of the Lord’s supper every Sunday, sing acapella, etc. as many other Churches in our brotherhood/fellowship do. We still do basically the same things in our assemblies today at Ohatchee as we did back in 1970 even though God has changed our emphasis and attitudes tremendously– especially concerning His grace and mercy toward us and other sinful believers who still do things we shouldn’t do and leave undone things we should do. But I like our commitment in the CoC of seeking to go back to the Bible for our faith and practice without others telling us what to believe– even though I know we don’t always conform to all we know, nor do we think we understand everything. In my judgment most of those in CoC are some of the very best, most loving, and most dedicated people on the planet and I am thankful to be associated with them and always have since 1970.
But one thing that most people outside the Church (and some in our group) should know about the CoC is that we are all autonomous or self-governing. In other words, each individual congregation follows the Bible as we understand it at any given time regardless of what other Churches of Christ do or think. This, we believe, was/is the Lord’s idea and the result is freedom and independence from the opinions and dominance of a religious hierarchy or group of individuals and/or Churches. As a matter of fact, there are all kinds of differing views and opinions on any number of important issues taught in the CoC. There are many views taught by some Churches of Christ that neither I, nor the leaders at Ohatchee CoC, share at all. For example, I will mention only five of the most serious ones that are, in my judgment, most important for others to understand that I do not hold or teach in the CoC where I am, nor are they taught by any number of other Churches of Christ in our brotherhood/fellowship, nationwide.
1. Some believe that our group is the only one going to heaven. They believe that only those associated/identified as members of the group known as “Churches of Christ” or “churches of Christ” (Non-instrumental) are going to heaven. All others, including other divisions of the Church of Christ (no Bible classes, One cup, etc.), Christian Church, and all others in other Bible believing groups are all lost. This is a judgment that I do not make and a view that I certainly do not believe.
My View: I believe that we should be Christians only, but I do not believe that we are the only Christians. I believe that all of those born again (Jn. 3:3-5) who are seeking to follow Jesus as they understand His will for their lives at any given time are among the saved and are members of the universal church that belongs to Christ. It is my conviction that the same blood of Jesus that keeps me clean from my sins, honest misunderstandings, and ignorance will do the same for all true believers (1 Jn. 1:7-9). I want to receive other Christians who truly believe despite what I consider to be their errors, ignorance, and misunderstanding, as I expect God to accept me despite my errors, ignorance, and misunderstandings. As Paul wrote, “Therefore receive one another, just as Christ also received us, to the glory of God.” (Romans 15:7). You can count me out when it comes to condemning/judging other believers as lost who obviously love the Lord Jesus, but who, in my opinion, may be honestly mistaken about any number of things. I wrote a book about what I believe about who is going to heaven called, “Heaven, Where Few are Many! It is available on Amazon.
2. Some in the CoC deny that Christians have a personal relationship with Jesus and that the very idea is a “hoax.” This too is a very serious error, evidently taught by some sincere folks, that I do not believe and certainly do not share. Personally, I would be afraid of making such a statement and I have never doubted that believers have a personal relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ.
My View: I believe that a “personal relationship” with Jesus is basically all that really matters. Since Christ lives in us and we live in Him, I don’t know how much more personal it can get than that (Gal. 2:20). In my judgment, if we do not have a personal relationship with Jesus then we likely have no relationship with Him at all in the Christian age.
3. Some say Jesus came back in A.D. 70 for the final time. Some in the CoC believe and teach that the second coming of Christ, the resurrection of the dead, and the final judgment all occurred in A. D. 70 when Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans. I believe that this is a very serious error and one that I do not share at all and never have. This, in my judgment, basically destroys the Christian’s hope as I understand it (Acts 24:15; Rom. 8:19-24). I know there are some very sincere members who hold this view, but I am not one of them.
My View: I believe in the personal visible coming of Jesus at which time there will be a resurrection of our physical bodies from the grave (1 Cor. 15:35ff), the eternal judgment of all men (Acts 17:31), and the entrance into the “new heavens and new earth” for those who are saved (2 Pet. 3:13; Rev. 21:1ff). I believe that it is a very serious matter to deny the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. I believe that “the Lord, Himself shall descend from heaven” at some point in the future (1 Thessalonians 4:16ff).
4. Some say there is no personal indwelling Holy Spirit. Some in CoC do not believe that the Holy Spirit dwells in us at all. They believe that the “gift of the Holy Spirit” was a miraculous gift given by the laying on of the apostles’ hands and when the word was revealed and/or the last apostle died, then the Holy Spirit ceased dwelling in believers. Others believe He dwells in us only through the words of the Bible. This last view is known as the “word only” view. I know and have known some serious Bible students among us who believe this. But denying the Holy Spirit’s personal presence in our hearts is a serious matter indeed to me and one that I do not share in any way, shape or form.
My View: I believe in the personal indwelling of the Holy Spirit who leads us (Rom. 8:14), strengthens us (Eph. 3:16), makes intercession for us (Rom. 8:26), and produces fruit in us (Gal. 5:22-23). I believe that the Spirit personally dwells in the body of the believer (1 Cor. 6:19-20) and that He is our Helper (Jn. 14:26-27). I believe that it is a very dangerous doctrine to deny the Spirit’s presence and work in the life of the Christian. Paul’s statement to the Romans has always made this very clear to me when he wrote, “Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His…But if the Spirit of Him, who raised up Jesus from the dead dwells in you…” (Romans 8:9-11). I have always believed in the presence and work of the Holy Spirit in the heart of the believer (Gal. 4:6). The gospel comes not in “word only” but also in power and “in the Holy Spirit” (1 Thess. 1:5) whom God has given us (1 Thess. 4:8).
5. Some say that divorced people who have remarried must divorce again in most cases. Some members in Churches of Christ believe that there is absolutely no reason for divorce and remarriage. They believe that all of those who have divorced and remarried for any reason are in adulterous sinful relationships and must divorce again and live single or go back to their former mate. Others believe and teach that those who have divorced and remarried– unless the reason for the divorce was “fornication” on the part of the mate–must divorce again and remain single to be saved. In other words, those who have divorced their mates because of abuse, physical violence, harming their children, desertion, or were unjustly divorced by a mate, etc. and have since remarried, must divorce again and live single in order to go to heaven. Some even refuse to baptize most of those who are divorced and remarried unless they divorce (or agree to divorce) first. This, in my judgment, is among the most damaging, hurtful and seemingly heartless things taught by some Churches of Christ–both for our society and the Church. We already have enough divorces and broken homes in our country without some demanding more. Teaching a loving married couple, who have been married for years and in some cases have children, that they must divorce is serious, serious business indeed. Others can do as they wish as far as seeking to break up loving families, but not me. Furthermore, there are many other Churches of Christ who refuse to have a part in breaking up loving established families and these numbers seem to be steadily increasing as various Churches study for themselves.
My View: I do not believe in refusing to baptize MDR couples or breaking up established families by demanding that divorced and remarried people must divorce again and live single to be saved. I believe that the Bible clearly teaches that those married need to stay married whether first, second, or subsequent marriage (1 Cor. 7:17, 20, 24, 27-28). I believe that those who demand divorce of married couples are totally wrong. I believe that it is a very serious matter to demand something of others that God says He hates—which is putting away faithful mates (See Malachi 2:16). I have written a book on this very issue titled, “Just As I Am: Married, Divorced and Remarried”. You can find it on Amazon.
Special Note: There are numerous other ongoing disagreements and discussions among us in the CoC on such things as worship, music, role of women, etc. But the five that are listed are the most serious to me and things I want others to know that I, personally, do not believe and they are not taught where I am.
Also, believe it or not, we even have some in Churches of Christ who teach that it is wrong to eat food in a Church building, applaud at a baptism as a means of approval, have Bible classes, use more than one container (cup) for communion, have youth ministers, have praise teams, help non-Christians (including orphans) from the Church treasury, have a regular (located) preacher, support such organizations as Churches of Christ Disaster Relief, Inc, and a host of other things that many of us might find silly and/or senseless. But this is what makes the Church of Christ unique! We are all autonomous and are governed only by the Bible as we understand it at any given point in our spiritual journey, regardless of what other Churches of Christ believe, teach or practice. We have people-who obviously believe they are right–all over the spectrum of beliefs from the radical conservative right to the extreme liberal left (whatever those terms may mean) and all in between. Most seem to be good people who love the Lord and want to do and teach the right thing. (Of course, the Baptists have their “Westboro Baptist” and, quite obviously, we have our extremists, but most members I know in the CoC are simply teaching and practicing what they believe the Bible to teach just as I am.) I am thankful to be part of the group known as Churches of Christ and believe that it is the best way for me (and those who believe like me) to practice Christianity as God intended for His people. Obviously, those in other groups or Churches do not agree with this assessment and I can appreciate and understand that. We all need to rest our hope fully (not mostly, partly, or somewhat, but fully) on the grace of Jesus (1 Peter 1:13). Hopefully, He saves all who are born again and have committed our lives to Him in seeking to do His will.
Finally, after having the heart attack, I just wanted to clear the air, so to speak, because there are many misunderstandings concerning Churches of Christ and especially about our autonomy and what I personally believe. I have many Christian friends and brethren who do not understand the nature or the real way the Churches of Christ operate. Sometimes a very vocal minority want to tell us all what to believe on almost every issue. This, of course, will never happen. People can only know us at the Ohatchee CoC by what we believe and teach–not by what they have heard from other Churches of Christ or it’s ministers. We study the Bible for ourselves and seek to base our lives on what God says and not on what others believe, say, or do. This is just one of the many things I like about the CoC and most of our members who recognize and respect local autonomy. Thanks again to all in the Churches of Christ for the prayers and please continue to pray for me as I recover. Blessings!
Thank God for Jesus who saves us all…if we are saved at all.
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