“Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment” (James 3:1).
The Distinct Church of the New Testament is not a theological reference book. Simply stated, theology is largely a human construct, the study of God from a human perspective.
Further, the Distinct Church of the New Testament is not intended to replace personal Bible study. Instead, it was designed to supplement the ultimate privilege of personal time spent with the Lord in His word.
There simply is no other book that compares to the Bible. While some are worthy of reading, they cannot replace the word of God.
Like many believers, my personal introduction to God was dramatic in nature. Afterwards, without much exposure to the Bible in my childhood, I was desperate for spiritual teaching. More than once I remember commenting that I looked forward to knowing the Lord longer as I would be much more familiar with His word at that point.
For the first 18 years after my introduction to God I pursued the study of God from a human perspective. I didn’t yet know there was a different manner in which to pursue growth in the knowledge and faith of my Savior. As a consequence, I often read as many as five Christian books about the Bible per week, listened to many sermons about the Bible on radio and tape daily and regularly attended a variety of church services each week. I was present whenever church building doors were open and sometimes even when they were closed.
Eventually I was privileged to attend a seminary that valued the word of God. Although I had only known God personally for 4.5 years when I began my first year it was a blessed privilege.
About 18 years after meeting the Lord I woke up one day and realized that I was no longer reading or studying books about Him. There were a number of books on my night stand that had been left unread for quite some time. It was disconcerting. Initially I blamed it on declining health and the resultant inability to concentrate. However, God quickly emphasized that it wasn’t about me or my physical health. It was about Him. He plainly stated, “Why do you want to read about My word when you can read my word?” It was at that point that I began to learn the difference between doing things for God and with God.
I was taught that God does not need finite human beings to do things for Him. For example, He doesn’t ask man to write, preach, teach, volunteer, evangelize or anything else for Him. Instead, the elect were predestined before the foundation of the world for the utmost privilege of walking with God and allowing Him to satisfy His will within and without. Therefore, I learned that the height of human existence is not attained by satisfying the divine will for God, but with God. There is no greater privilege.
Reading and studying the word of God under the personal tutelage of its author is an amazing privilege. It is an endeavor characterized by grace through prayerful, dependent, active faith alone.
Reading and studying the Bible dependently requires faith and patience. Rather than turning immediately to the thoughts and ideas given by God to others within the church body (Bible commentaries, etc.), I learned to wait on the indwelling Spirit of God and yield to His counsel. In fact, I refused to move to the next passage of Scripture until the Spirit provided illumination. As a result, the contextual foundation was laid for understanding the passages that followed. The illumination of the Spirit was a privileged blessing that was sometimes received immediately. More often than not, however, it took days, weeks or even months. Yet, when received by faith alone, the illumination of God was unmistakable and, therefore, accompanied by much rejoicing.
For the last 18 years I have attempted to pursue God in His word from His perspective. Rather than detracting, my health concerns accomplished what they were designed to do; move me to dependence on the Spirit of God. As a consequence, I chose to read and study my Bible prayerfully with God and gradually learned to cultivate sensitivity to His indwelling Spirit.
Although often overlooked, teaching by the indwelling Spirit of God is a fundamental aspect of Christianity. “As for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him” (1 John 2:27; cf. John 14:26; Acts 10:38; 1 Corinthians 2:12; 1 Thessalonians 4:9). From my perspective, the writing of Distinct Church was a cooperative act of prayerful, dependent, active faith.
Learning to understand the church solely from a New Testament perspective has been a life-long process. Writing about it in the form of a book required faithful dependence on God and thousands of hours over a span of 20 years. In order to ensure that the writing was congruent with divine truth, there were literally hundreds of prayerful edits and final edits involved.
It was my sincere intent that God’s influence on the Distinct Church of the New Testament was maximal and mine minimal. Therefore, my consistent, daily prayer in the writing of the Distinct Church of the New Testament was essentially, “Lord I cannot write this book. You alone can. I trust you for every word, sentence and paragraph. Thank you for the privilege of not writing for You, but with You. Not my will, but Yours be done”. In the 20 years it took to write this book I never believed that I was capable of writing in a manner that could adequately communicate the reality of a subject so lofty.
There was no personal agenda involved in the research and writing of “The Distinct Church of the New Testament”. Instead, it was the fruit of consistently recognizing the inability of self and fervently pursuing God regarding His will for His heavenly body on earth. It is my belief that the result provides a perspective of the church that is largely unadulterated by religious tradition, organizational strategy and cultural influence.
Relative to the dependent, faithful manner in which the Distinct Church of the New Testament was written, it is my belief that it provides solid answers to questions often left unanswered by traditional theological systems. Thus, God was gracious to fill in some significant gaps in existing human theology.
The Distinct Church of the New Testament is a continual work in progress. If and when the Spirit of God provides illumination I will continue to edit. However, I believe the book in its present form is what was intended by the Lord.
“The Distinct Church of the New Testament” was written prayerfully and dependently. Please read it in the same manner. As a consequence, I believe that you will be as blessed as I have been by “The Distinct Church of the New Testament”.