Thursday, December 28, 2017

The Encouraging Mystery of the Gospel

And He was saying, "The kingdom of God
is like a man who casts seed upon the soil;
and he goes to bed at night and gets up by day, 
 and the seed sprouts and grows--how, he himself 
does not know. The soil produces crops by itself;
 first the blade, then the head, then the mature grain 
in the head. But when the crop permits, he immediately 
puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come."
Mark 4:26-29

As providence would have it, this section of Scripture comes on the heels of the parable of the four soils in Mark 4:1-20; and I believe it is placed here to be an encouragement for those who are sowing the seed of the gospel.  As you might know, the parable of the four soils deals with the sowing of the gospel, with the seeds that are sown being the word of God.  It is in only one type of soil that the work of God, the gospel, takes a firm root and bears fruit.  The questions that are not answered in this parable are when and how does the gospel actually take root and bear fruit.  Is it immediately?  Are there certain steps or procedures to be followed?  What kind of process is it?  How long does it take?

God answers those questions in verses 26-29, and His answer is...just as the process of the seed sprouting is unseen and unknown to the sower, so is the gospel that takes root and sprouts in the heart of man. The Scriptures don't tell us how and when the Gospel works, they just tell us that it does.  When we share the gospel we don't know what kind of heart soil our gospel seed is falling into, nor can we see or understand how it works; but work it does.

There is a parallel here with Jesus explanation to Nicodemus about being born again.  We see it in John 3:7-8 when Jesus tells him, "Do not marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born again.' The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of God."  The work of God's Spirit and His word is unseen and mysterious, but real and tangible, just like the plant sprouting from the seed and the blowing of the wind; and is completely out of our hands.

What the Lord is showing us is He is providing the seed for sowing and He is taking care of its results.  We can trust that in His good way and proper time the intended results will happen.  Just as God causes the physical seed of the grass to sprout in Psalm 104:7, He causes the spiritual seed to sprout as well.  He is author and giver of all life.

When reading this section in Mark I thought back to a time in Dallas several years ago.  My friend Don Conry and I were going to see people who had visited our church.  That evening we spent over an hour with one couple sharing the gospel and answering questions. Almost two years later, after a church service, I had a man call my name and run up to me with his wife.  It was that couple we had shared the gospel with.  He remembered my and Don's name and told me how after their initial visit they did not attend church for quite some time, but all during that time they kept thinking about what we had shared with them and explained to them, and finally they surrendered to its truth.  He then thanked me, shook my hand, and told me that he and his wife were being baptized that evening.

For those who share the gospel, be encouraged that when you sow the seed of the gospel that God is at work. In ways unseen and mysterious God germinates the seed of His word in the heart of man so that it takes root and bears fruit.  The Lord always honors His word and it does not return to Him empty or without accomplishing its purpose.

For those who have heard the gospel, follow the admonition, the call of James 1:21 and receive the word which has been sown in you which is able to save your soul.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Thank You R C Sproul

Election, how I hated that word.  I first heard it when a friend's brother (whose name I cannot remember as this was the only time I met with him) came over one night about a year after I began to teach Sunday School at our church in Dallas. He tried in vain to convince me that God elects those who will be saved, and not only that but that they were elect before the foundation of the world. What a horrible picture to paint of God!  How could the Lord be so unfair!

That began an almost weekly discussion each Wednesday after teacher's meeting with my teaching mentor and the teacher of teachers at my church.  I couldn't believe he took the side of my friend's brother.  He always used more Scripture than I did, but I always chalked that up to the fact that he knew the Bible way better than I did and was graduating from Seminary. He and I never settled our friendly disagreement as the following year we moved to Midland, Texas.

Fast forward to 1990, and I had been leading the teachers in a Sunday School Department and also leading a Precept Bible Study for the five years we had been in Midland, and I was still struggling with election. As I was studying one night I came across Psalm 103:19 The Lord has established His throne in the heavens, and His sovereignty rules over all. The power of the verse overwhelmed me and the thought came to me quickly and forcefully, "If His sovereignty rules over all then it rules over salvation as well." This verse was the rock that when grasped unleashed an avalanche of Scripture, Scripture that I had been wrestling with, Scripture from beginning to end in the Bible that showed God's sovereignty in calling men and women to Himself, Scripture that showed His sovereign Divine providence in guiding and orchestrating the path and affairs of their life, and how His sovereign purposes were carried out in spite of their sin and weakness. This went on for a couple of hours as Scripture after Scripture came to me and I bowed my knee to their overwhelming weight. Verses that had been troublesome for me suddenly took on a clarity and forcefulness and I saw the grace of our Lord like I had never seen it.  The Bible became more alive and had a depth that I had never seen before.  At that moment I knew election was true and right and real.

This is where R C Sproul comes in.  As providence would have it, about this time I ran across a Tabletalk magazine and after reading it I subscribed to it.  R C's articles were always lucid and meaty and usually caused me to think more deeply about the topic he was addressing.  Along with my own study, it was a rich time for me spiritually and I came to an understanding of the doctrines of grace, although I did not know that is what they were called.  In the spring of 1992 Tabletalk had an ad for a Ligonier conference in San Diego, and in addition to R C being there, another pastor whom I admired would be speaking as well, so I was off to the conference.  It was at this conference that I found my spiritual home, as I listened to the speakers...James Boice, Ed Clowney, John Gerstner, Sinclair Ferguson, John MacArthur, and R C I realized that I was among people who thought and believed like I did, although with much more depth and wisdom.  It was here that I realized that I was reformed, not in the classic or Presbyterian sense (as a Southern Baptist I hold to believer's baptism, local church autonomy, along with some other doctrinal differences), but as regards the doctrines of grace, the inerrancy of Scripture, and the Five Solas. 

In the intervening years I have attended several Ligonier conferences, read books by R C, listened to his teaching and the teaching of others whom he has introduced me too.  All of this has aided my understanding and appreciation of the wonderful Word of God.  He has been one of the greater influences on my spiritual life and its growth, and there is so much that I have appreciated about him.  In each age God has raised up pillars in the church, and R C was truly one for our age.

Now he has gone on to be present with the Lord, and will take his place with others who are waiting to receive their glorified bodies at the resurrection to become complete in the completeness of Christ. There has been such an outpouring of tributes and approbations for R C from so many of the well known and those who knew him well, dealing with so much that I have not mentioned here.  I just want to say, as an unknown and unknown to R C, thank you R C Sproul, thank you for all you have meant to me in my spiritual life and journey in growing in the grace and knowledge of my beloved Savior.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

God Made Visible and Knowable

In Psalm 77, Asaph the Psalmist says, "The sound of Your thunder was in the whirlwind; lightning lit up the world. The earth quakes and shook.  Your way went through the sea, and Your path through the great waters, yet Your footprints were unseen."

The power of the invisible God is displayed all around us, and cannot escape our notice; but God has not remained unseen as He has become flesh and has lived and walked among us in the person of Jesus Christ. This is why when Philip said to Christ, "Show us the Father."  Jesus replied "If you have seen Me You have seen the Father." 

In Christ we have the fullness of God in bodily form.  To see Christ was to see God, and to know Christ is to know God.

This is what is behind Christ's statement in John 17:3, "This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent." We come to the invisible God through the visible Son, and we come to know God, through that same Son.

May we all come to know Jesus Christ and know Him well, so that we can experience the fullness and abundance of eternal life.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

We are a Letter of Christ

 You are our letter, written in our hearts,
known and read by all men; being manifested
that your are a letter of Christ, cared for by us, 
written not with ink but with the Spirit of the
living God, not on tablets of stone but on
tablets of human hearts.
II Corinthians 3:2-3

When we sin it is not just about our sin and how it affects our relationship with God, but is also about our being His letter that men know and read.  Are we living in a way that, when read, the letter of our life is bringing Him glory among men, the glory due His marvelous and matchless name?

Monday, September 11, 2017

Holy Love

"So the God who is love is first and foremost light, and sentimental ideas of his love as an indulgent, benevolent softness, divorced from moral standards and concerns, must therefore be ruled out from the start.  God's love is holy love.  The God whom Jesus made known is not a God who is indifferent to moral distinctions, but a God who loves righteousness and hates iniquity, a God whose ideal for his children is that they should 'be your heavenly father is perfect' (Mt 5:48). He will not take into his company any person, however orthodox in mind, who will not follow after holiness of life.

...God's love is stern, for it expresses holiness in the lover and seeks holiness for the beloved.  Scripture does not allow us to suppose that because God is love we may look to him to confer happiness on people who will not seek holiness, or to shield his loved ones from trouble when he knows that they need trouble to further their sanctification."

J I Packer
Knowing God
Page 122

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

The Pastoral Desire

The following is an excerpt I ran across from the book Pastoral Ministry, written by members of the Master's Seminary.

"Paul introduced the qualification of the pastor by extolling the ambitions to pursue the office and the function of an elder.  In fact, he spoke of pursuing that office with intense desire (I Tim. 3:1 epithumeo).  It is true that ambition, when selfishly motivated, is dangerous.  At this time restraint and caution should prevail.  However, ambition not motivated by eagerness for the prestige of power but rather by a passion to serve the Master is right.  Desire for positional prestige corrupts because it originates from impure motives (see Jer. 45:5). Yet desire for service purifies, because it seeks only the service of the one who has been called to service (Rom. 12:1; Mark 10:42-44). The true spiritual leader is concerned infinitely more with the service he can render God and his fellowmen..."

Friday, September 01, 2017

A Daily Prayer

Lord, guide me with the wisdom from Your Word.
Protect me from the weakness and blindness of my pride.
Strengthen me to stand for You and speak Your truth.
Prepare my mouth and other's hearts for gospel opportunities.
May I be mindful of bringing glory to You.