Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A Preacher's Aim

This is a partial repost.

God's vision for us from eternity past is for us is to be like His Son, the first born of many brethren. So as pastors/preachers should that not be our vision as well; and are we casting a compelling vision of Christ before our people so that they will aspire to be like Him? Do we present an all encompassing picture of Christ to our people as our ultimate example of what God expects us to be? Do we model Christ in our own lives? Is He our example to the extent that we are an example of Him to our people? Do they understand that this is where God is taking them through the sanctification process, and the ultimate answer to their question, "Why?"

This vision of Christ that we present to our people is to be all encompassing, affecting every area of our lives; so that, in becoming complete in Christ, what is true about Him becomes true about us.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Grace Defined, Explained, and Applied

Just as Paul has given us the most concise presentation of the gospel in I Corinthians 15:1-8, he gives us the most concise definiton of grace in Ephesians 1:3 "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ." (italics mine)  Paul then spends the rest of the first three chapters of Ephesians explaining what this means, and tells us how God wants us to apply it in chapters four through six.

Monday, June 27, 2011

What is Grace

What is grace?  In the New Testament, grace means God's love in action toward people who merited the opposite of love.  Grace means God moving heaven and earth to save sinners who could not lift a finger to save themselves.  Grace means God sending his only Son to the cross to descend into hell so that we guilty ones might be reconciled to God and received into heaven.  "God made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God" (II Corinthians 5:21).
J. I. Packer
Knowing God
Page 249

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Preaching to True Needs

This is a repost that I thought would be timely.

There has been much discussion, both pro and con, concerning preaching to felt needs.  As real as the felt needs are, both in the mind of the hearer and in the mind of the preacher, I believe that they are but the symptom(s) of a greater, deeper, ultimate true need; and that is a right relationship with the Living God.  If this is the case, and I believe it is, then man's truest need is that of salvation; and what all men need, both saved and unsaved, is to hear the gospel preached.  And what needs to be preached is a robust and full orbed gospel, telling everyone all that is contained in the gospel, all that God has provided to meet man's greatest, deepest, ultimate need, which is Himself; and it is in the meeting of that ultimate need that all other needs are met.

Man needs salvation and all that salvation brings in all of its aspects.  Underneath the umbrella of salvation there are many needs that are met that tie directly into salvation and what it provides.  Let's look at the different aspects of salvation to see what all is provided by God to meet man's true needs. 

Man needs the guilt of his sin removed from him.  God has provided that through expiation.

Man needs the the wrath of God towards his sin to be satisfied.  God has provided that through propiation.

Man needs the enmity between him and God, that has caused his alienation from God, to be done away with.  God has provided that through reconciliation.

Man needs to be free from his bondage to sin and be out from under the dominion of Satan.  God has provided that through redemption.

Man needs acceptance and a family to which to belong.  God has provided that through adoption.

Man needs to be cleansed and have a fresh start.  God has provided that through regeneration.

Man needs to be righteous as God is righteous.  God has provided that through imputation.

Man needs to be innocent before God.  God has provided that in justification.

Man needs a new heart towards God.  God has provided that through circumcision.

Man needs to be able to live a life pleasing to God by overcoming sin.  God has provided that in sanctification.

Man needs an advocate before God.  God has provided that through Christ's intercession.

Man needs a hope for the future.  God has provided that through glorification.

The felt needs of man really relate back to his greatest needs, his truest needs, which are spiritual.  Man, at his core, is a spiritual being.  If we as preachers would preach to his greatest needs, which are spiritual, then we would see his felt needs being taken care of and resolved.  Preaching a robust and  full orbed gospel does just this, because the gospel includes all of the above.  The gospel speaks both to the unsaved and the saved. To the unsaved it reveals his greatest and truest need, and to the saved it reveals all that God has done to meet that need.  Understanding all that is provided in salvation is important and it is revealed in the proper preaching of the gospel.

Friends, our ultimate need is God Himself, a real and right relationship with Him.  He has provided in His Son for that need.  Look to Christ today as the only true satisfaction, the ultimate satisfaction for your greatest need, for all that you need is found in Him.  Study and learn the gospel, for it truly is good news.

Being Grasped by the Truth

If the truth of the passage that he is preaching
has not grasped the preacher, he has nothing
of substance to convey to his people.  In fact,
he can little expect it to grasp them.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Milestone IV

Well, the water of another year has passed under the bridge as we have finished year number four in the life of Grace Covenant Church.  I don't know how church years compare to dog years, or such, but this has been a pretty quick year; but time does that, as it has its own ebbs and flows like the tide.  Of course, the main reason it has passed so quickly is that we have been pretty busy.

One of the good things to happen was our move to a better facility last August.  We are now meeting at Midland Classical Academy, a private Christian school that has already housed two other churches.  When the last church moved we jumped on the chance to meet there, and now have consistent heating and cooling and a nicer all around facility to meet in, and room for growth.  We were able to also get the lease at a rate that was affordable, and are appreciative of MCA working with us as we are paying less than our predecessors.

One of the highlights again this year was the baptism of two men last fall.  One was saved during our Easter service and the other had come to the conviction that his salvation had occured only a few years ago.  It was a joy to baptize these men and hear their testimonies of God's faithful work in their hearts.  Both are active and committed, which is a double blessing.

Our other elder, Bill Lawless, and I led a leadership development group on Saturday mornings.  Our desire is for this to be the foundation of training men in our church.  We limited it to the leadership team, but will open it up this next year to more of the men in our church.  It is my belief that the church will go no farther than the strength of its men will carry it, and we want to train up the men in our church to be strong in the faith.  In that vein, we once again took seven men to the Shepherd's conference; and each year it leaves its mark on us.

That is not to rule out the role of women in the church, nor is it to say that the women should not be strong spiritually, as well.  We sent seven of our women to the True Woman conference in Dallas, and will send a group to the True Woman conference in San Antonio this year as well.  It was a spiritually rich conference that has born fruit in the lives of those who went.  We also had a women's mid-week bible study this year and hope that it will grow.

Additionally, we had a church wide bible study on Tuesday nights.  We used the Precept curriculum and studied Covenant last fall and Exodus in the spring.

Our music/worship has been blessed of the Lord this last year.  He indeed inhabits the praises of His people, and His presence during our worship time has been a joy and blessing.  We have two sax playing brothers  who provide the music on most Sundays as our keyboard player has had job assignments that have taken him away many Sundays.  But, it is required of a steward to be faithful, and that is what our worship team has been, and God has honored that and shown us His goodness.

I am still preaching through John's gospel, and will finish up chapter fourteen this week.  Not just because we are in John, but out of personal conviction, we have really focused on being more gospel centered and gospel proclaiming.  We want our people to go deeper and deeper into Christ, to more fully understand and more deeply appreciate grace.  But to do this you must have a grasp on the gospel, in all its fullness, in all its aspects, in all of its application; in other words, the better you grasp the gospel the richer will God's grace be to you.  As such, we believe the gospel is important for the believer as well as for the unbeliever.

Speaking of the unbeliever, we pray corporately each Sunday for the lost that God has placed in our individual paths.  We also have identified one thousand households in north Midland that we will target with the gospel every three to four months.  We are going to start out by sending them Grace for You, an evanglestic booklet written by John MacArthur, that is the telling of the story of the prodigal son. We are going to send them something each mailing that is gospel centered and gospel proclaiming.  What will God do with this?  We are not sure, but we are sure that He stands over His word to perform it, that the gospel is the power of salvation, and beautiful are the feet that bring the gospel.  In addtion to these, as a church we are also praying for the Hispanics in our area, as they make up close to 40% of the population.

Speaking of the gospel.  My wife, Angie, has made it a focus in her teaching the children to present the gospel in as many lessons as possible.  I am grateful that our children are hearing the gospel, hearing of their need for a Savior, hearing of God's great salvation in Christ.  Planting gospel seeds is an important, really the most important function, of a children's ministry.  We all are to receive the word implanted which is able to save our souls, so why not plant it early and often?

I gave the covenant charge in two weddings this year.  It was a blessing to me to be involved in them, and to see the seriousness with which the couples took their vows.  May God's protection and blessing be upon them.

Yes, we have had some numeric growth this last year, and the number of our visitors has increased; but the real story is the continued growth of the people.  God's word does not return to Him void, and it is Him that is building His church.  I am so blessed to be the pastor of this group of people that have committed themselves to the Lord through Grace Covenant Church; and blessed to be able to serve the Lord in this way.  My prayer for myself is for my own faithfulness and obedience to Him who has given Me this sacred responsibility and trust.  May He be glorified in and through this gracious work of His called Grace Covenant church. 

Friday, June 17, 2011

For the Love of the Father

but, so that the world may know that I love the Father,
I do exactly as the Father has commanded Me.
John 14:31a

Christ's holiness was not a legal holiness,
but a loving holiness---as ours is to be.

If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.
John 14:15

Thursday, June 16, 2011

A Christian's Desire

As Christians, we are to be overcome
by the desire to please our Father,
rather than be overcome by the desire
to please ourselves.

(Isaiah 58:13-14a, John 8:29, Colossians 1:9-10,
Ephesians 5:8b-10, Romans 12:1-2)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Real Righteousness

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves 
that they were righteous and looked down on everyone else:
"Two men went up to the temple complex to pray, one a Pharisee
 and the other a tax collector.  the Pharisee took his stand and
 was praying like this: 'God, I thank You that I'm not like other
people--greedy, unrighteous, adulterers, or even like this tax
collector.  I fast twice a week, I give a tenth of everything I get.'
But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even raise
his eyes to heaven but kept striking his chest saying, 'God, turn
Your wrath from me--a sinner!'  I tell you, this one went down
to his house justified rather than the other; because everyone
who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles
himself will be exalted.
Luke 18:9-14

The startling contrast between the prayers of the Pharisee and the publican furnishes an indication of Christ's standards of value, as applied to the most important realm of men's lives--their approach to God.  For some men God can do nothing. Their attitude of heart toward Him, their self-sufficiency and self-complacency, ward off the beneficent intentions of His grace.  Their bodies may posture in His house, but their spirits
are an immeasurable distance from Him; and the only result of their miscalled worship is in the continued hardening and deadening of their moral sense.  As in nature the action of some streams tends to turn living objects into stone, so does the stream of unfelt and mechanical and self-seeking praying petrify the soul of its offerer.

How simple as to form and direct as to request is the prayer of the publican.  Standing "afar off" in the conciousness of the sin which separated him from God, he realized that the was yet alone with Him.  "" are the notes of his heart's cry.  But he has already come to know that the span of mercy bridges the sin-gulf, and is confident that even such a one as he is may safely venture across.  On its further side the Father awaits him with a welcome which is unmixed with any reproach.  Over that scene a veil is drawn, and the sacred intimacy is unrecorded.  But from its strengthening assurance the man goes down to his house to declare what God has done for him.  He has learned by an experience which nothing can modify, that sin confessed is sin covered, and that life humbled is life exalted, and this is sufficient inspiration for the long moral conflict that is yet before him.  Such prayer is the one gateway to the life victorious and beautiful, alike for him and for us.  It demands our stooping, but it ensures our salvation.

J. Stuart Holden
The Holy Gospels Opened
Pgs 103-104

Tuesday, June 07, 2011