Monday, December 31, 2012

Warfare Praying

Pray then in this way:
Our Father who is in heaven,
hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done, on earth
as it is in heaven.
Matthew 6:9-10

I always get amused when I hear the term "warfare praying," like it is some type of special praying, praying specifically designated for the spiritual battlefield.  When people use that term I think they are missing something, something noted in the verses above.  

When giving instructions on how to pray, Jesus states that we are to request that the Father's will be done on earth as it is being done each and every moment in heaven. Think about it, each and every prayer should include the request or should be prayed in light of the Father's will being carried out here on earth.  If that is how we are to pray, each and every prayer, and it is; then each and every prayer is a prayer of spiritual warfare.  

The minute we pray for God's will to be done we are praying against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places, as they are always all out against the will of the Father.  The minute you pray for the Lord's will to be carried out in your life, the life of the church, or the life of your friends and family, then you have entered into the spiritual fray.  If you pray for His will on the mission field, you are praying against the will of the enemy.

The Lord wants us to pray for His will to be done.  Our prayers for His will to reign supreme is a prayer against the evil one and all of his schemes, and are used by God as a means by which His will is carried out.  

If this is the case, and it is, then we must realize that each and every prayer that is prayed  for the will of God to be accomplished will have spiritual opposition, because our adversary and God's adversary does not want the will of God to be done....ever.  

So, with this in mind, let us pray in a more informed way, and with greater understanding of exactly what is taking place when we pray for His will to be done.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Pride and Humility

...God is opposed to the proud, 
but gives grace to the humble.
For though the Lord is exalted,
yet He regards the lowly, but 
the haughty He knows from afar.
James 4:6, Psalm 138:6

Here are ten things the Bible teaches us about pride and humility. 

  1. Pride ultimately exalts itself over God, and humility ultimately makes itself low before God.  
  2. Pride pushes God away, while humility draws near to God.  
  3. Pride depends on itself, while humility depends on God.  
  4. Pride boasts on itself, while humility boasts on God.  
  5. Pride credits itself, while humility credits God. 
  6. Pride follows its own path, while humility follows God's path.  
  7. Pride is self-seeking, while humility is God-seeking.  
  8. Pride always leads to disobedience, while humility always leads to obedience.  
  9. Pride is the opposite of godliness, while humility promotes godliness. 
10. The proud will be destroyed from the earth, while the humble will inherit the earth.

Friday, December 28, 2012

A Working Definition of Legalism

Legalism is a morality, a code of conduct,
which holds to a form of godliness, which 
smells of religion, which promises acceptance;
but ultimately is not grounded in Christ, in 
His person and His completed work.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Whitefield and Pastoral Leadership

In his biography of George Whitefield (Volume II page 155), Arnold Dallimore gives us some insight into George Whitefield as a leader.  

...Whitefield did exercise an effective leadership of this movement.  It was not, however, a leadership by domination and the giving of commands; rather it was one of affection and example.  Most of the exhorters had been converted under his ministry and looked on him, as many of them stated, as a spiritual father   In turn, holding him in such high esteem and seeing in him an embodiment of so much of their own Christian ideal, they delighted to be his co-laborers and to co-operate with his plans.  Whitefield was inflexible in matters of moral rectitude and expected the men to maintain a life of strong Christian discipline and tremendous activity, but in general his relationship with the people and exhorters throughout his movement was by his heart-felt concern, his unfailing encouragement, and his personal example. (Italics mine)

If you think about it, this is where pastoral leadership, spiritual leadership starts.  And these elements should never depart or be de-emphasized.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Christmas and the Incarnation

As we celebrate the incarnation, the appearing of God in the flesh, I thought this quote from Charles Spurgeon would be appropriate, both for its profundity, and its succinctness.  It is taken from Steve Lawson's book The Gospel Focus of Charles Spurgeon page 91.

"He is not humanity deified.
He is not Godhead humanized.
He is God. He is man. He is all
that God is, and all that man is
as God created Him."

And because Jesus Christ is both God and man, He then is solely and uniquely qualified to be the the Savior. The Word became flesh. He was the only begotten God, the Savior born for us in the city of David, Christ the Lord.  So along with the angels let us praise God by saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased." (Luke 2:14).  

Let us preach this Savior and His salvation.  Let us tell the world of the appearing of the grace, kindness, and the love of God for mankind in the birth of Christ.  For Christmas is the heart of the gospel message.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Collision of Wills

The following is a re-post.

Jonah, what an enlightening, delightful, powerful, compelling, and convicting book. Immediately in Jonah 1:2-3 we see a collision of wills between God and Jonah and we see this highlighted in the call of God to Jonah, "Arise, go to Nineveh the great city and cry against it." and Jonah's response...He rose flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. Jonah was not being reluctant, he was being rebellious. His disagreement with God (Jonah 4:1-2) turned into disobedience to God, and he fled just as far in the opposite direction of Nineveh as he knew to go.

Jonah's fleeing from God was his way of avoiding God because he did not want to do what God had called him to do. God's call to Jonah exposed an area of Jonah's life that needed to be brought into submission to the Lord, and the limits of his obedience were exposed. This is an object lesson for us. Why?.....There are many times when we have a collision of wills with God, and every collision of our will and His will reveals the limits of our obedience. The limits of our obedience are always being exposed and tested, just like Jonah.

In times like these when our will has collided with God, and we are wrestling with God and ourselves, there are some things we need to remember, things that we observe in the book of Jonah:

1. That God's will is always perfect and pure....ours is neither.

2. When our will is not lined up with God's will, it will always be selfish and self-seeking.

3. The imagined cost of obedience is always overshadowed by the real cost of disobedience.

4. Disobedience is always more costly and the consequences are more severe.

5. While obedience may cause some distress, disobedience leads to disaster.

6. Your disobedience does not happen in a vacum, but will always affect those around you, those whom you are connected to.

7. When you are being disobedient don't be beguiled by the "providential" escape provided by the circumstances.

8. Most often the means of escape our circumstances seem to supply is actually the means of God's discipline, God's chastening.

9. When we are being disobedient our paradise becomes purgatory and our pleasure becomes pain.

10. It is always better to trust the Word of God rather than to trust your own heart.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Reminding, a Pastoral Responsibility

In Titus 2:15-3:1a, Paul lays out for us several responsibilities for the Pastor in regards to his preaching.  All of the verbs here are present imperatives, which mean they are ongoing commands, not just for Titus but for everyone who occupies the pulpit.

If you have studied what are called the Pastoral epistles of Paul, and followed his ministry through the book of Acts, most of what is listed here should not come as a big surprise, in fact, the commands are the usual suspects when it comes to preaching the word of God.  We understand that we are to be continually speaking the word, and with the word to be continually exhorting and reproving.  We understand that when we speak the word we are speaking it under His authority, and therefore with His authority.  We also know of the importance of never letting anyone disregard or blow us off as we deliver His word.  However, have you ever thought about how a part of our responsibility as a pastor is to be continually reminding our people about what the word says?

That's what Paul says right there in the very first word of verse one of chapter continually reminding them.  It is the last of the commands, and magnifies and reinforces all the others.  When you remind someone, what you are doing is bringing to their remembrance something that they already knew.  It is not giving them new knowledge, but is the re-giving them of something already taught.  It is the re-telling of Biblical truth.  It is the re-explaining of Biblical principles.  Reminding is for remembering and therefore reinforcing.  What are we to remind them of?  What the Scriptures say, and what they already know to do in light of what the Scriptures say.  We are commanded to remind, so it must be important.

The Lord is big on reminders, from Genesis all the way through the rest of the Bible.  We have memorials and altars.  We have covenant reminders.  We have feasts that were to be held every year, and rituals to be continually followed (Hebrews 10:1-3).  In the New Testament we have the Lord's Supper, which is to remind us of His death and our covenant with Him.  In baptism we are visibly reminded or our union with Christ and our new identity in Him.  So why is reminding so important, and why does He remind us so often?  So we won't forget or be neglectful.

There are three primary words in the New Testament that are translated remind:

The first is hupomimnesko, and it just simply means to remind, to bring to remembrance.  We see this word use in II Timothy 2:4-14, II Peter 1:12-13, and the purpose of being reminded here is to remind them about the things concerning salvation and sanctification.  In II Peter 3:1 it is so that they would be stirred up to remember the Scriptures.  In Jude 1:5 it is used so as to remind them about the judgment of God upon those who do not truly believe.  In Titus 3:1-2 it is used to remind them how they are to be behaving as Christians.

The second is anamimnesko, which means to remind again, to re-remind, if you will.  It is used in
I Corinthians 4:17 it is used to remind them of Paul's example, his teaching and its uniformity.  In II Timothy 1:6 it is used so as to strengthen and encourage Timothy.

The third is epanamimnesko, which means to strongly or greatly remind, so as to never forget.  Paul uses this word in Romans 15:15-16 to tell them that he has written this great epistle to them so that they will never forget the gospel.  In other words this epistle was written so that the gospel would be forever etched in their minds.

Additionally, in Philippians 3:1 we see Paul telling the Philippians that to write the same things again is a safeguard for them.  So we see that reminding is also for our protection.

So we see here in these verses some of what reminding is intended to accomplish.

You see, going to church, studying the Bible, and listening to sermons is not always about hearing or learning something new, but many times it is to be reminded of what we already know. We are never too old in Christ or too old in years to learn something new, and we will never reach a place where we have heard it all or know it all.  However, we will never reach a point or ever reach an age where we won't need to be reminded. You see, so much of our Christian life is about being reminded.  We, being the weak frail creatures that the Scriptures tell us that we are, need to be reminded. We need to be reminded so we won't forget.  We need to be reminded so our faith will be reinforced and strengthened.  We need to be reminded so as to be refreshed when we grow weary.  We need to be reminded to be reproved for not doing what we know to do.  We need to be reminded so as to be revitalized so we will fight the good fight and press on in our faith.  We need to be reminded so we can be restored when we have been wounded or brought low.  We need to be reminded so as to be renewed to a greater state of Christlikeness.  Sometimes we just simply need to be reminded that we need to be reminded; and, if you think about it, many times we are the most blessed by hearing a truth that we already hold dear.

So, fellow pastors, let us not forsake, neglect, or forget our responsibility to remind our people about what the Bible says.  Let us not be afraid to remind, for we are in the reminding business.  Those of us who preach should love to tell the story, again and again.  Indeed, that is our charge.

And how is the best way to do this, so that it doesn't grow stale from the repetition?  Preach through the Bible verse by verse, book by book.  This is one of the beauties and benefits of  sequential expository preaching.  This way you will present the same truths and cover the same themes, but in different contexts and from different angles; and, in doing so, the gospel will be kept fresh, both for you and for your people.


Monday, December 10, 2012

A Monday Morning Word of Encouragement to Pastors

There is a sense in which putting together a sermon is much like editing a movie.  Just like much of what is shot for the movie is left in the computer or cutting room floor, so it is for a sermon.  After prayer and study a preacher almost always has to leave out thoughts, insights, and information either because they do not fit the context of the sermon, or he just doesn't have room to fit them in.

There is also the preaching moment, which sometimes is editing on the fly, in which the preacher adds things he did not intend to say and had not thought about, or leaves out things he had intended to say, things that he considered important and necessary,  things that were even in his notes or preaching manuscript.

In either of the above scenarios the preacher can always second guess himself, and get into the, "Oh, I could have said this...Oh, if only I would have said that... Oh, I should have said with himself, and many of us do.  Now, I am not saying the preacher should never examine his sermons or think critically about them, or that we should not get upset in those rare occurrences (and they should be rare) when we preach that uninspired and unaccompanied by the Spirit clunker of a sermon; BUT I am saying that at some point we have to trust the Lord with His superintending of the process of preparing the sermon and His superintending our preaching of the sermon.  If we are working hard in the preparation and are praying for His illumination, His revelation, His guidance, His making His thoughts our thoughts and His words our words, then we must trust Him with what is left in the study and with what actually comes or doesn't come out of our mouth when we are delivering His word.

When we know that we have done the best we could, then we must trust the Lord that it was enough; and that just as the Lord took the fish and the loaves and fed the five thousand, He will take our meager thoughts and words and by His power multiply them to feed those to whom we preach.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Christ, Our Example

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

As Christians, we know that Christ is our model, our exemplar, and as such view Him as the example of how we are to live our Christian life.  While this is true and right, what we miss so often is that He is the model for how our relationship with our heavenly Father should look, as well.  

I don't know if you have ever thought about what your relationship with God should look like, but to know what it should look like you have to look no further than Christ.  In going through the Gospel of John, you will see Christ in a much more personal way than in the other gospels, and one of things you will notice about Him is His relationship with the Father; and how He fulfills all righteousness by first fulfilling the greatest commandment, which is to love the Father above all else.  

Loving the Father was His greatest desire and was the springboard for all that He did.  As you go through the Gospel of John you will come across verses that give you insight into His love of the Father and how that is manifested in His life here on earth.  Let's look at some of them:

John 4:34 Jesus said to them, "My food is to do the will of Him who sent me and to accomplish all His work.
John 5:19 Therefore Jesus answered and was saying to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son does in like manner.
John 5:30 I can do nothing on My own initiative....I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.
John 8:28b-29...and I do nothing on My own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father has taught Me.  And He who sent Me is with Me; He has not left Me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to Him.
John 12:49-50 For I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a commandment as to what to say and what to speak.  I know that His commandment is eternal life; therefore the things I speak, I speak just as the Father has told Me.  

So we see in these verses that the things Jesus did were what He saw the Father doing and the things He said were what the Father gave Him to say.  We also see that what sustained and nourished Him was doing the will of the Father, and that He always did what pleased the Father.  And what was His motivation, His foundation, if you will, for this great desire to please God and accomplish the Father's will in His life.  We see it expressed in John 14:31 above. Out of His great love for the Father came forth the desire to please the Father, and the desire to please the Father manifested itself in His obedience to the Father.

And what kind of obedience was this? It was a loving obedience.  It is obedience that was born out of love and its accompanying desire to please the One who is the object of that love.  My friends, it is to be the same for us.  Our obedience to the Father should not be a legalistic obedience or the obedience of duty or the obedience of fear, but an obedience that springs forth from a heart full of love for our heavenly Father.  In fact, our obedience is directly connected to our love.  This is why Jesus told His disciples (and is meant for us, too), "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments."  Jesus could make this statement without the slightest twinge of the guilt of hypocrisy, because that is exactly what He did.

So let us love the Father and the Son by being obedient to them, and may our obedience to them be an obedience born out of love; and may our love and its obedience know no bounds.


Wednesday, December 05, 2012

The Surpassing Value

More than that, I count all things to be loss in view
of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus
my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of
all things, and count them but rubbish so that 
I may gain Christ.
Philippians 3:8

The other day I was thinking about my relationship with Christ, and how its value far surpasses anything else; and how He is worth the sacrifices I make for Him   And in the process of thinking about this, I had a scene come into my mind.  A scene that comes up occasionally when thinking on sacrificing for the Lord, and how He is worth sacrificing for.  It is a scene from my own imagination, that came about as a result of reading a missionary biography a few years back.  I wish I could remember the missionary's name, and where I read it, but here is the gist of it.  

There was a family that felt led of the Lord to go and witness to the natives of the New Hebrides, and were dropped off on the island to begin their ministry.  The inhabitants were cannibals, and were fierce warriors.  Over the next couple of years the children and the wife died and were buried, and the father/husband slept on their graves every night for fear that the cannibals would dig up their graves.  This man would later remarry and return to the island to continue to share the gospel with these people.  Of course, there is more to the story, but the scene that keeps coming to my mind is one where this man, having given up all his possessions, comforts, and security to come to this foreign and hostile land; and then losing his entire family, is alone in the darkness and stretched out over the graves of his wife and children.  And in my mind the man is proclaiming to the Lord, "You are worth it!  You are worth it!"

My friends, I don't know what you are giving up to serve the Savior.  I don't know what sacrifices you are making or have made; but I do know this, "He is worth it!  He is worth it!"  He is worth the work of our faith and the labor of our love.  He is worth the taking up of our cross. He is worth the suffering of shame for His name sake.  He is the pearl of great price who is worth all of what we have.  He is the One who paid it all, and so He is the one who is worth it all.  Let us take our lives and offer them up, so that along with Paul, we too may gain Christ and may be found in Him on that day. 

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Spiritual Insecurity

This is a repost from 2007, that I thought would be timely.

In 1964 Martin Lloyd-Jones preached a series of sermons over 21 consecutive Sundays on the topic of spiritual depression, its causes and its cure as he had noticed how many Christians seemed spiritually depressed, and even the great preacher himself had dealt with a season of spiritual depression. It seems to me that in our new century we are seeing another issue that is pervasive in Christianity in our country and that is spiritual insecurity. This spiritual insecurity is becoming a polluting, corrupting, and paralyzing force in the life and faith of the body of Christ. Sad to say many who are insecure spiritually are so because they do not have the Spirit, but there are also many others who are believers who are struggling with being insecure in their faith.

I do believe that one of the factors contributing to this is the postmodern age in which we are now living. With its emphasis on uncertainty, its elevation of personal experience as the arbiter of truth, and its deconstruction of all truth claims, it is easy to see why those who have succumbed to this way of thinking and viewing life would be insecure. The church has always been in danger of being influenced by the surrounding culture and its accompanying philosophy; and the more immature the church, the more immature the believer, and, therefore, the more susceptible they are to adopting the cultural mindset of the day. Take, for example, what we see addressed in the books of I Corinthians and James.

Another contributor to this spiritual insecurity is the lack of the knowledge of God. It is sad, yes tragic, that many Christians just do not know God very well. II Peter 1:2-3 tells us that grace and peace are not just given, but multiplied to us in the knowledge of God and His Son, Jesus Christ; and that we have been given everything pertaining to life and godliness through this true knowledge. In Hosea 4:6 God tells us "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge." Then in Hosea 6:3 He exhorts us, "So let us know, let us press on to know the Lord." Since the Scriptures are true, if Christians are insecure in their faith, their relationship with the living Lord, then they must not have much of the knowledge of God and His Son that multiplies grace and peace in their lives. The lack of the knowledge of God is destroying His people and His church in America today, and can be directly related to the preaching to felt needs and the therapeutic gospel that have been in the main for the last 20 years. It may seem odd that self help, feel good, Jesus loves you for who you are sermons would not make people feel more secure in their relationship with God, but the key to security in any relationship is an intimate knowledge of the other party in the relationship. When preaching and church life are all about you, and teaching about God and His salvation are absent,  then how can you ever know about God?

Finally, the third contributor to this spiritual uncertainty comes from the proliferation of Arminian and Semi-Pelagian (you can look these up at views of the role of man in his salvation and sanctification, from "getting himself saved" to "keeping himself saved." When man takes the responsibility for his salvation, and the working out of that salvation, upon his own shoulders he will never feel adequate for the task. For deep down in his soul he is all too aware of the sin that so easily entangles him, and his own lust that entices and carries him away. Without a solid foundation built on the doctrines of grace and the sovereignty of our great and merciful God in our salvation, from its beginning to its end, man is left to rely only on the strength of his own arm,the power of his own piety......and, for all of us, our faults and foibles are ever before us.

Where are you today, my friend? Are you struggling with being secure in your relationship with God and living the life of faith? Are you plagued with doubts and uncertainties? Confess this to God, cry out to Him for relief, for peace in your soul, and rest for your heart. In Jeremiah 33:3 He tells to call upon Him and He will show us great and mighty things which we do not know, which, I believe, are the things of God Himself. According to Jeremiah 9:23-24 God wants our only boast to be that we know and understand Him. If that is what He wants then He has provided the means for that to take place, and those means are the Word of God and the Spirit of God. In fact, in Jeremiah 1:12, He tells us that He personally watches over His word to make sure it is fulfilled, that it is carried out to the fullest. Start your journey to spiritual security by reading the Psalms and in each Psalm mark with a colored marker each verse that tells you something about God. Meditate on these things and ask God to reveal to you deeper insight about that aspect of His nature and character.  Read the first nine verses of I Peter, and Ephesians 2:1-9, and reflect on the great salvation that God Himself has provided for you.  In Jeremiah 29:12-14 He has promised to be found by us when we search for Him with all our heart. Take Him up on that promise today.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Thoughts on the Gospel

The gospel is not a sale to be made,
but a story to be told.

The gospel is not about man making his peace with God,
but about what God has done to reconcile man to Himself.

You don't tell the gospel at people,
but you share the gospel with people.

The gospel is not about what man must do
to come to God, but about what God has done
to bring man to Himself.

The true gospel will always point you
toward Christ and away from yourself.

The gospel presents salvation as the
need, and Christ as the answer.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Precision or Sincerity in Preaching?

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God
as a workman who does not need to be ashamed,
accurately handling the word of truth. 
II Timothy 2:15

Notice that Paul did not say, "sincerely handling the word of truth."  Sincerity is important, surely, but not at the expense of accuracy.  The first goal of the preacher/expositor in his study of the Scripture should be accuracy.  He should have the desire to be precise in his exegesis of the text, for precision in exegesis leads to clarity in understanding, clarity in understanding leads to accuracy in interpretation, accuracy in interpretation leads to proper application; and proper application leads to a life that bears rich fruit and is well pleasing to God because it properly aligns with His word.  Making the Scripture say less or more than it actually says ultimately leads us away from the truth, regardless of the sincerity of our intentions.  When we are led away from the truth because we have not been precise in handling the truth, then what we are preaching is not the word of truth, again, regardless of the sincerity of our intentions.  To paraphrase an old adage, "One can be sincere, and sincerely wrong at the same time."  

Fellow pastors, and fellow Christians, let us endeavor to be sincere in our quest for accuracy and precision in our study of the word of God.   Let us be sincerely right, so that we will never be ashamed of our handling of the word of truth.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Christ and Our Sin

...our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus
who gave Himself for us to redeem us
from every lawless deed.
Titus 2:13b-14a

Redeem, lutroo in the Greek.  It means to set one free by means of a ransom.  Every lawless deed (NASB)/all lawlessness (ESV), pas anomia in the Greek.  The phrase here means every type, every form , every kind of sin.

So this small section in Titus tells us that our great God and Savior Jesus Christ gave Himself for us, to ransom us and set us free from any and all sin.  This is not a broad brush of sins in a general sense, but sins in a particular sense.  Christ did not die for sins in general, but sins in particular.  He died for our particular sins, each and every one of them.  Therefore, it is not a universal salvation, but a particular salvation.  We have been freed from the penalty and power of every type and every form of sin.

The ransom has been paid and we have been set free from the bondage and power of each and every type of sin, every kind of sin.  Therefore there is absolutely no sin that can have dominion over us.  We are no longer slaves to sin, any sin, there is no longer any sin that can be master over us.  That means that we have been released from the power of pornography, immorality, homosexuality, bitterness, selfishness, gluttony, arrogance, lying, unforgiveness, and a host of other sins.  Christ has paid the price with His very own blood, and has effected our ransom so that we would be set free from the power and dominion of any sin. 

He has also redeemed us, set us free, from the penalty of each and every sin.  Each and every sin has a just recompense and each and every sin must be accounted for; and Christ has paid the penalty for each and every one of our sins for us.  Therefore we have been released from the damning effect of each and every sin, the eternal consequences of each and every sin, the eternal weight of judgment and the eternal wrath of God for each and every sin.

So, how dare we take sin lightly, any sin, so as to not even speak of sin at all.  There is no such thing as a little sin, or an innocuous sin.  There is no such thing as an inconsequential sin.  Each and every sin must be, and will be, accounted for.  Each and every sin has its just penalty and must be atoned for.  Each and every sin merits the eternal wrath of God, and no sin is overlooked or swept under the rug by God.  Christ redeemed us, each and every one of us, by paying the redemption price for each and every sin for us all.  So let us not take our sin(s) lightly, don't blow them off, don't shrug them off because they seem too small.  Confess your sin, be broken and contrite over your sin, each and every one of them; because Christ died for each and every one, to pays its penalty and to set you free from that sin.

This is the great salvation we are not to neglect.  Let us pay great attention, and give great praise to our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, for the greatness of His saving us.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Apart from His Word

The word of God is integral in living the Christian life.  In fact, it is the key to living the Christian life, and we can't live the Christian life apart from it. It is a necessary ingredient that must be included in our life.

So, the word of God is required...

To give us the wisdom that leads to salvation.
To live a holy life.
To live a life that pleases Him.
To live a spiritually fruitful life.
To live a meaningful life.
To live a life that produces eternal rewards.
To live a life that blesses others.
To live an exemplary life.
To live of life of integrity.
To live a life that has substance to it.
To live a life of joy.
To live a life that has eternal value.
To live a life that brings Him glory.
To live a life without regret.
To live a life that imitates Him.
To live a life that testifies of Him.
To live a life that proclaims I am a Christian.
To know His will for our life.
To grow in grace.
To grow in our knowledge of Him.
To increase our faith.
To enlarge our heart.
To grow in our love for God and for others.

Apart from His word, it is impossible to live the Christian life. It is truly the Christians's treasure.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Key to Pressing On

In Philippians 3:12-14 Paul talks about his pressing on and reaching forward.  For Paul, this life was about preparing for the next.  What a great perspective, and Paul shares that perspective with Titus in Titus 2:13, when he talks about looking forward to the blessed hope and the appearing of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus.  This attitude of looking forward to heaven, looking forward to the resurrection, looking forward to glory, keeps the present in perspective.  It lets us know that there is something greater, something better, something richer, something more beautiful, something everlasting, and therefore something much much more than all this present world has to offer, which awaits us in the life to come.

While this is the perspective we are to have, what is the key for us in living out life, daily living out life, in the here and now; the pressing on for the upward call of Christ Jesus?  Again, Paul gives us the answer, and the key to us pressing on in this life, in both waiting and preparing, is faithfulness.  Not too sexy is it? But it is the key.  Paul gives us insight into this in I Timothy 1:12 when he tells us that the Lord put him into service because He considered Paul faithful.  Paul also mentions the issue of faithfulness in I Corinthians 4:2 when he said that the requirement for stewardship is faithfulness/trustworthiness (which parallels with the parable of the talents).  He echoes this in II Timothy 2:3-6 when he uses the metaphors of the soldier, the athlete, and the farmer; and what ties them all together is that they are all faithful in their undertakings.  Paul finishes this line of thinking later with a personal example in II Timothy 4:5-8 when he tells Timothy to fully complete his ministry, and then tells Timothy that is exactly what he, himself, has done..."I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith."   In other words, Paul has been faithful to the Lord, faithful to his calling, faithful to fulfill to completion his ministry, faithful to the end of his life here on earth. 

Psalm 37:5 also speaks to the importance of faithfulness.  In this verse we get the picture that our faithfulness should both grow and flourish, and is part of our growing in the Lord.  In Hosea 4:1, what the Lord had against the inhabitants of Israel, is that they were not being faithful.

Christ, Himself,  talks about faithfulness in Luke 16:10 and 19:17, and the context is being faithful in the small things given now as a prelude to being entrusted with true riches in eternity.

Faithfulness can also be described and manifested in loyalty, fidelity,and trustworthiness, but it is not momentary loyalty, fidelity, and trustworthiness.  It is the loyalty, fidelity, and trustworthiness of a lifetime, not just when it is easy or convenient; but in season and out of season.  It is to put your hand to the plow and to not look back, and to continue until the plowing is finished.  It is faithfulness in pressing on, pressing on to the finish.

Without faithfulness, not only can there be no pressing on, there can really be no Christian life.  This is the true perseverance of the saints, the perseverance in faithfulness.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Take a Look at Your Life

Take a step back and look at your life, but look at it with spiritual eyes with this verse in mind, Philippians 2:13 for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to do for His good pleasure.  

The at work in this verse is in the present tense, which means His work in us, in our inner man, is an ongoing activity.  The active voice in this verb means that it is God who initiates the action, who is responsible for the activity.  So we see that God has initiated an ongoing activity in our life in order to accomplish His good pleasure in our life.

So, can you see where God is working in you, or has been working in you over a period of time?  Can you see where He is developing godly character, and where He is polishing a facet of the diamond of Christlikeness in you so that it will shine more brightly?  Can you see where He is busy rooting out and destroying entrenched sin?  Can you see where He is transforming your mind to think more like Him and think of Him more; and replacing the false with the true?  Can you see where He is changing the way you view life, others, and yourself?  Can you see where He is weaving the thread of godliness more and more into the the fabric of your character?

The great work of salvation never stops.  The gospel constantly bears its fruit in us, reproducing the life of Christ in us.  So take a step back and look at what God is busy doing in you, and offer up a prayer of gratitude that He is busy working His good pleasure in you so that you will be able to please Him all the more.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

A Christian Response to the Election

I am hoping that the elections this week will be the final stroke that causes the Christians in America to turn and place their hope on the Lord, and stop placing their hope on politicians and elections to stem the tide of immorality and depravity that has been sweeping through our nation like a giant tsunami over the last few decades.  The people of this country have elected someone with the same morality as theirs, and have kept a party in power that has as its professed agenda, the murder of the innocent and defenseless unborn and the legitimizing of depraved sexual behavior.  As I said in a previous post, who we elect is a clear barometer of where this country is morally; and the moral wreckage of our country is a greater calamity and more disastrous than the wreckage from Hurricane Sandy.  Even if the other candidate had won, he would have no power to combat the rampant evil and its carnage in our land, he would not be the deliverer or the healer...even if he was an evangelical Christian instead of a Mormon.

Politicians cannot deliver, only the Lord can. Politicians cannot heal, only the Lord can.  A good case study is reading through the books of Kings and Chronicles; for even when a good, God-fearing and righteous king was reigning in Israel, the people were not changed.  So when an evil king took over the throne, the people were back to being worse than ever.  Why?  As Peter tells us, "The dog returns to its vomit, and the pig to its mud."  When the demon is swept out of the house, and then returns, he brings seven times as many demons back with him.  So let's don't be naive and think, that if someone else would have gotten elected things would get any better spiritually.

So how do we respond, as Christians?  By turning to the Lord, and if this election doesn't highlight the necessity of  the people of God turning to God for deliverance, I don't know what would.  How then do we turn to the Lord?

1. Pray and confess, or should I say confess and pray.  First for our own sins, then for the sins of the Church in America, and then for the sins of our country.  Follow the model of Daniel as he prayed and confessed his and his countrymen's sins to the Lord, and asked for deliverance from the God-imposed captivity for their decades of sinfulness (which is nothing more than rebellion against God).  Next, pray for gospel opportunities and gospel receptiveness.  It is the gospel that will change this person at a time, as the gospel is the only known antidote for sin; and the sin of a country is the total of the sin of its people.  

2. Act...act godly.  Be godly everyday as you follow the instructions of Paul in Titus 2:12 by renouncing and rejecting ungodliness and worldly desires, and at the same time living wisely, righteously, and godly in this present time.  This is how you go about being salt (a preservative that stops corruption when it encounters it) and light (that exposes sin and does not let it hide, while at the same time showing what godliness looks like).  This draws the line, a distinct line, between what is godly and what is not, and who is godly and who is not; so that the unbeliever can see his sin clearly, and clearly know which side of the line he is on.  As Paul quotes the OT in I Corinthians, "Come out from their midst and be separate."  It is not being relevant to the culture that attracts, but being distinct from the culture.

3. Speak...the truth; but don't speak it in a condemning manner, but speak it in love. Speak so that others will be reconciled to Christ and always be ready to share your confident expectation of heaven.  Point out their sin, and then point them to the Savior.  Again, not in a condemning way, but as someone who is genuinely concerned for their soul and its eternal state.

4. Seek...the Lord and His righteousness.  Seek to please Him above pleasing men.  In the final analysis, He is the only One whose approval is necessary.  We can be God-seekers or pleasure-seekers, God-seekers or self-seeking.  Seeking the Lord above all else guarantees that our treasures are being laid up in heaven.

5. Understand...that if the world hated the Lord it will hate you.  Expect...persecution and ridicule, censure and ostracization, slander and malice.  If they persecuted the Lord they will persecute you.  Being distinct from the culture means you stand out as being different, and therefore you will be readily targeted.  But remember when you are being reviled and mistreated for His sake, His glory rests upon you and you are storing up for yourself an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison.

Friends and fellow Christians, now is the time for Christ to shine more brightly in us than ever before.  Now is the time for us to seek Him more than ever before.  Now is the time for us to take our faith and its accompanying commitment more seriously than ever before.  Now is the time for us to be a better witness, and to witness more than ever before.  Yes, it is only the Lord who can turn this country around, but He has always used means to accomplish His purpose; and we as His body are His chief means.  So let us follow the admonition of Paul in II Timothy 2:21 and cleanse ourselves from all the stains of this world so that we can be holy, useful to the Master, and fit for every good work.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Saying "NO"

We are surrounded by a world that says "no" to nothing.  When we are surrounded by this sort of mentality...then suddenly to be told that in the Christian life there is to be this strong negative aspect of saying "no" to things and "no" to self, it must seem hard.  And if it does not feel hard to us, we are not really letting it speak to us...

We have a society that holds itself back from nothing...Any concept of a real "no" is avoided as much as possible...Absolutes of any kind, ethical principles, everything must give in to affluence and selfish personal peace...

Of course, this environment of--not saying "no"--fits exactly into our natural disposition, because, since the fall of man, we do not want to deny ourselves...And this natural disposition fits in exactly with the environment which surrounds us the the twentieth century.

Francis Schaeffer as quoted in
To Guard the Deposit
Commentary on I & II Timothy and Titus
Bryan Chappell and Kent Hughes
Page 345

Saturday, November 03, 2012

A Credible Gospel

Does the way we live our lives proclaim
that the gospel makes a difference?  Does
the way we live our lives give credibility
to the gospel?  Does the way we live our
lives give credibility to our confession that
we belong to Jesus Christ?

Friday, November 02, 2012

Being Ambassadors for Christ

Now all these things are from God, who reconciled
us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry
of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ
reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their 
trespasses against them, and He has committed to 
us the word of reconciliation.  Therefore, we are 
ambassadors for Christ, as though God were 
making an appeal through us; we beg you on
behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
II Corinthians 5:18-20

To be an ambassador of Christ we must speak
for Christ by speaking as Christ would speak,
and act for Christ by acting as Christ would act.
Which really means, that we live for Christ by
living as Christ would live.

Monday, October 29, 2012

For Those of Us Who Preach

For those of us who preach, we would do well 
to remember that we are nothing special, but His 
word is.  It is not our words that save, and heal,
and bless, and restore; but His.  It is not our
words that have power and cut to the heart, 
but His.  It is not our gospel, but His. It is not 
our eloquence, but His unction that moves 
the heart. We are earthen vessels who 
preach the unfathomable riches of Christ.  
We are not the attraction, but merely the messenger.

Friday, October 26, 2012

A Prayer for Sunday...A Prayer for Worship

In the congregations I shall bless the Lord.
I will tell of Your name to my brethren;
In the midst of the assembly I will praise You.
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that
is within me, bless His holy name.
Psalms 26:12b, 22:22, 103:1

Lord, cause us to ever be mindful of
why we are gathered here today.  May
You be blessed in our praying, in our 
praises, and in the preaching; and may
all of these bring blessing to Your holy name.
To You and You alone, as Father, Son,
and Holy Spirit belong blessing, honor, 
and glory.  May blessing and glory be
given to You through us this day.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Source of Sin

Battling sin and its accompanying temptations is an internal battle.  As much as the temptation might come from the outside of us, it is the inside of us where the battle takes place.  Sin always occurs in the heart, before it manifests itself in our actions or behaviors.  James 1:14 tells us this, "Each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust."  Notice here that is is not someone else's lusts that we are battling against, but our own; it is not someone else's lusts that we are dealing with, but our own. This was Paul's point in Romans 7 as he talked about indwelling sin.

Unlike the old comedy skit by Flip Wilson, where he cried out, "The devil made me do it!"; we are complicit in our sin, because it starts and ends with us.  The source of sin is within, within each one of us; and although we have been washed and made clean through regeneration, we still live in a body where sin lurks, and where it is all too ready to respond to temptation, all too ready to indulge its desires in both our flesh and our mind (Ephesians 2:3).  James paints a graphic picture for us in 1:21 where he tells us that filthiness and wickedness still remain with us, as part of us.

What's the point?  Be aware, be very aware of the ease with which we are tempted.  Be aware, of how easy it is to sin.  Be aware that we, as Christians, are still in a body of unredeemed flesh, in which filthiness and wickedness still remain.  This is why Christ was chiding His apostles when they could not even fight their flesh to stay awake; and told them to watch and pray that they might not enter into temptation, because even though their spirit was willing, their flesh was weak.  This is also why we are told in the Lord's prayer to  pray to be led away from temptation and to pray that evil would not have its way with us.

So let us not be lulled to sleep, let us not be deceived, as sin is still crouching at the door desiring to master us; just as it has done from the beginning (Genesis 4:7).  But let us be strong in the Lord, and the strength of his might, let us be watchful and praying, let us be ever diligent in awareness of our own weakness.  Let us who stand, take heed lest we fall.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Humor and Perspective

Not only do Atheists have no song, they also have no hope.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Eternal Life

Eternal life is not only everlasting
but also shares the qualities of
the life of God Himself,  its
indestructibility and its joy.

I. H. Marshall
The Pastoral Epistles
Page 125

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Keeping Elections in Their Proper Perspective

One of the great blessings and freedoms we have in our land is the ability to vote and have a voice in those who occupy the places of decision and determination in the governmental system that rules over us.  We have that privilege from city to county to state to the federal level.  It is a freedom and blessing that we should not take for granted; and it is a responsibility that we should not take lightly.  As Christians, in considering elections, politics, and the state and future of our governing entity we should also keep in mind that in all of this the Lord is still sovereign over the affairs of man, including those who govern and what form the governing system takes,  from despots and dictators, to military juntas, to kings, and to elected officials.

So let’s start with understanding the sovereignty and providence of God as it regards governing authorities and countries.  First, Romans 13:1-7 tells us all governing authorities that exist have been established by God, and they have a God ordained purpose.  So governments are no accident, but necessary and purposeful.  Another good place to gain insight is in the book of Daniel, as he was held captive in the most powerful empire in the world at that time. 

Daniel 2:20-21 Daniel said, “Let the name of God be blessed forever and ever, for wisdom and power belong to Him.  It is He who changes the times and the epochs; He removes kings and establishes kings.  Here Daniel understands that the Lord is in charge of this kingdom, its king, and its time on the earth.

Daniel 4:24-25…this is the decree of the Most High, which has come upon my lord the king: that you be driven away from mankind and your swelling place be with the beasts of the field, and you be given grass to eat like cattle and be drenched with the dew of heaven; and seven periods of time will pass over you, until you recognize that the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind and bestows it on whomever He wishes.  This was Daniel’s pronouncement of God’s judgment on the king of Babylon, the most powerful king on the planet. 

God determines who rules, whether it is a king or an elected official or a military takeover.  Yes, we vote and campaign, but in the end it is the Lord who works in and through the process and determines the outcome.

What about the nations, their time and place in history, and their rise to power and fall from power.  Let’s look to Acts for this:

Acts 17:24 and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation.

Yes, just as the Lord removes kings and establishes kings, He also establishes nations and removes nations; having already determined the length of time of their existence and their physical boundaries. 

So let us keep the elections in perspective.  God is ultimately in charge and works all things after the counsel of His will in accordance with His eternal purpose, the one purpose which runs through the millennia of the ages and the one purpose to which everything works together to accomplish. 

Also, we need to keep the end in mind, the end toward which all things are working together.  The end in which our Lord Jesus Christ shall come back to earth to set up His physical kingdom.  This is pictured for us in Daniel chapter two, especially verses 44-45; and also in Daniel chapter seven  (Also, Revelation 17:12-18).  God is at work even now in bringing all this to pass, and our country has its own part to play in all of this. 

In praying about an election we should always ask the Lord for His mercy and compassion upon us in not giving us as a city, state, or country what we deserve in the way of leadership.  There is no such thing as a Christian city or state or country, as these entities are made up of the people that inhabit them.  As those people go morally, so goes their government.  We have seen this over the last couple of decades here in our country as sin and an anti-God attitude has taken the driver’s seat in our culture.  And as the church has less and less influence upon our culture, we see the exacerbation of immorality of every kind, and the loss of a Christian consensus in our culture.  Therefore, we see God’s judgment on the people of a nation as the outcome of their voting highlights the extent of their degradation and depravity.  God gives them the desires of their heart by giving them over to a deeper level of depravity.  So, in essence, they elect the person they both desire and deserve.  You can see this pattern in Romans 1:18-32.

With all of this, what should we keep in mind regarding the current election?

*We are electing a government official, not a pastor or a spiritual leader.
*The elections do not determine the spiritual course of our country, but are an indicator of the spiritual    condition of our country.
*As Christians, part of the way we are salt and light in this culture is through our vote.
*There is never a perfect person to vote for.
*However, decisions are never made in a moral vacuum.
*All officials bring their morality into the office with them.
*As such, we should vote for the person that would bring a greater level of morality to the position.
*We should remember that that elected officials also appoint officials of like mind and morality.
*As citizens, voting is part of our civic responsibility.
*As Christians, we should be a citizen of this country as unto the Lord, and therefore be the best citizen we can be.
*We must not pin our hopes upon man, any man, but on the Lord.  Regardless of who gets elected the Lord is in charge, and in His good providence this elected official is part of God's plan for the culmination of all earthly kingdoms into the kingdom of His Son.

Remember, that we are instructed in I Timothy 2:1-2 to include those who rule over us in our prayers; and should do this keeping in mind Proverbs 21:1 "The king's heart is like channels of water in the hand of the Lord; He turns it wherever He wishes."

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Real Aliens

If I were to ask you today, “Where do you live?”  Some might respond with their street address, some might respond with the city and state, some might even respond with the country.  And while all of these answers, would be true, would be obvious, they still would not be complete.  We also live in a place the Bible calls the world.  This term, world, does include the physical world, but it also includes the motives, behavior, values, and attitudes of men.  This term includes all that makes up the course of this world, the way things are done, the reason things are done, the ways of thinking and living of the people who inhabit this world; for it is the way that man is that determines the course of this entire earth, for it is man that governs the earth.

But there is another dimension to this world, an unseen dimension that is just as real as the physical dimension, and it is the spiritual dimension; and it is this dimension that governs man.  Even though man inhabits the physical dimension of this world, man is governed by the spiritual dimension of his life, and there is a ruler of that spiritual dimension, who is not a man.  His name is Satan, and he is known as the devil, or the evil one.  It is he that governs man, and therefore governs the world.

In several places the Bible speaks to the governing of man by the devil.
I Timothy 2:26…men are held captive by Satan to do his will……
In Acts 26 we are told that men are under the dominion of Satan
I John 5:19…the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.
Three times in John 12:31, 14:30, 16:11… he is called the ruler of this world.
In John 8:44 Jesus tells the Pharisees that they are of their father (meaning spiritual father) the devil. 
In Ephesians 2:2 we learn that people walk (the way they live their life) according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience
Ephesians 6:12 tells us that there are rulers and powers, world forces of darkness, that there are spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. 
II Corinthians 4:4 tells us that the god of this world (Satan) has blinded the minds of the unbelieving…

So why is the world the way it is?  Because it is governed by someone who is opposed to God in every way.

However, Jesus makes a very poignant declaration to His disciples in John 15:19..."You are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world."  Jesus was telling His disciples that since He had chosen them they no longer belonged to this world.  Then in Jesus high priestly prayer to His Father in John 17 we learn the following:
*We were given to Christ out of the world.
*Although Christ is no longer in the world, yet we remain in the world.
*Even though we are in the world, yet we are not of the world, even as Christ was not of the world.
*Christ did not ask the Father to take us out of the world, but to keep us from the evil of the world.

So, if we are still living in this world, but no longer belong to this world and are not of this world, what does this make us?  According to the Scripture, we are now citizens of another spiritual realm, another kingdom.  This is what John the Baptist preached and also what our Lord preached as He began His earthly ministry as we see in Matthew 4:17 "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."  Christ tells us in John 18:36 that His kingdom is not of this world.  Paul talks about our citizenship in this kingdom in Philippians 3:20 "For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; and in Ephesians 2:19 he tells us who all are citizens of heaven, "For you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God's household."

A question that might be asked is, "How did we/do we become citizens of Christ's kingdom, the kingdom of heaven?"  Let's see what the Bible shows us.  Colossians 1:13 tells us, "For He (God) rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son."  In John 3:5 Christ tells Nicodemus this, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.  I John 5:1 tells us, "Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God."  So we see there must be a spiritual birth to be a citizen of God's kingdom, and that as a result of the spiritual birth God, transfers us into His kingdom.

So, if we are citizens of another kingdom, a kingdom that is not of this world, but is a heavenly kingdom, what then is our relationship to this world in which we still live but are no longer a part of? According to the Bible we are aliens, strangers, and exiles.  Listen to Peter in his opening statement in his first epistle, "Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who reside as aliens , scattered throughout Pontus, Galtia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia....."  Here we see that although they live in a physical location, yet they reside there as aliens.  This is not because they were of a different nationality physically, but a different nationality spirituality.  Again Peter talks about our alienship in II Peter 2:11 "Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul..." Why would he give the admonishment to them as aliens and strangers? Because in I John 2:16 we see that fleshly lusts are part of the things of this world, are things that those that belong to this world participate in,  and we are no longer of this world, and therefore should no longer be a participant in fleshly lusts.  In the hall of faith in Hebrews 11 we see the following statement in verse 13 "All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth."  (See also Psalm 119:19)  

As such, being aliens in this world:

* We speak a foreign language.
I Corinthians 2:6-16

*We dress differently
Galatians 3:27, Romans 13:14

*We behave differently.
I Peter 4:2, Ephesians 4:17-19

*We have a different odor
II Corinthians 2:14-16b, Philippians 2:17, 4:18, Romans 12:1, Ephesians 5:1-2

*We are misunderstood, we are an enigma to this world.
I Peter 4:4, Jude 1:10

This alien motif (R C Sproul loves the word motif) runs all the way through the Bible, starting with Abraham, then the Jewish nation, then Christ, and then the church, Christ's body.  That is why it is so out of place, so alien, if you will,  for the church to try so hard to be like the world so as to attract the world.  We are to be strangers to this world, we are to be in the world but not of the world, we are to stay away from the evil of this world (I Corinthians 6:17), we are to look differently, behave differently, smell differently, and speak differently.  We are to expect to be misunderstood, maligned, or made fun of because we don't fit it; even by our own families.  We should know that this world and all it contains is only temporary, and is already in the process of passing away (I John 2:15-17).  We are to store up treasures in heaven, which will be our eternal abode, instead of here on earth which is our temporary abode (Matthew 6:19-21).  Our desires are to be heavenly desires not earthly desires (Philippians 3:12-14).  We are to have eternal priorities not temporal priorities (Colossians 3:1-4).   

So, fellow aliens, when we are enticed by all this world seemingly has to offer, let us remember that we have a better possession and a lasting one, and remind ourselves that we are strangers in this world who are just passing through on the way to our true home.  

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Pastors and Discouragement

This is some interesting information regarding pastors being discouraged or lonely.  What I did find interesting is the correlation between age and being discouraged or lonely.  I wonder if it is purely an age issue or an age/length of time in the ministry issue.  Here is the link.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

When the Gospel is Banned from the Church

There are times you want to say things about things that have made an impression on you or affected you or stirred you up. This is one of those times, but it is also one of those times that I know that I won't be able to convey the entirety of what I was thinking and feeling, maybe because I had several thoughts and feelings about what happened.  In the big scheme of things, well, even in the little scheme of things, it probably isn't that big.  But, to me, it is a sign of where we are in our life in the church here in the U S; and it bothered me,
it made me a little sick at my stomach, it caused me to have an anti-smalzy reaction, made my hypocrite alarm go off, and left me with sense of disgust. And, I'll admit, it played right into my prejudice towards the types of churches I mentioned in this recent post

This was brought about when I was recently standing in line at Starbucks.  Our Starbucks is the number two grossing Starbucks in the state of Texas, so you usually have a bit of a wait to make your order.  So as I was waiting in line, a thirty-something year old man came in and queued up behind me.  As we were waiting he made a phone call, and being as close as we were, I could not help but hear some of the conversation.  His tone was fairly crass for most of the conversation, and he used a couple of inappropriate terms that were in step with the tone of the conversation.  I chalked it up to just another person in the world doing what people in the world do.  Well, after I received my order I was talking to a friend of mine, and up walks this same man who was having the conversation.  My friend introduced us, and lo and behold, this man was on staff at one of the local churches that were referenced above.  In fact, he was the staff person in charge of the elementary school age children.  After my friend told him that I was a pastor the tone of his voice changed and he was so sugary that my anti-smalzy alarm went off; I mean it was to the point of being insincere.  You would not have been able to reconcile the person in line behind me with the person I was introduced to.

I wondered if there was any conviction on his part about having two personas, or if he even sees the problem with having two different personas, or if he even is aware that he has two personas.  One, which is obviously the way he normally is, and the other, which is his church staff persona.  Two masks representing two different people.  But, I don't think that those who hold to a Moralistic Therapeutic Deism philosophy (see post referenced above) see any problem with hypocrisy such as this.  They don't make the connection between their profession and their life, in fact they don't see that there should be a connection to what you profess and how you live.  And just to add to this, another man told me of a conversation he recently had with a member of one of the churches I alluded to in the post above.  They were telling him about how they would follow their pastor no matter where he went, and then in the same conversation talked about getting drunk the last weekend and having a hang-over the next day.  Again, seeing no problem with talking about being a church member and drinking so much you feel bad the next day, all in the same conversation.

This bothers me for these people, and reminds me of Titus 1:15-16.  I am concerned for their spiritual state, that they can go to church, or be a staff member at a church, and not see the disconnect between what they say they are and how they live.  I am concerned not only for them, but for others in those churches, and also for the churches themselves.  But you see, when you are preaching messages designed to make people feel better about themselves, or improve their worldly lives, or preaching sermons designed to attract the worldly,  this is a logical result.  And I wish these were isolated incidents, but they are not.

You might say, Morris, we have always had hypocrites in the church and always will.  And I would agree with you, but at the same time, I don't think this type of compartmentalization of the Christian life, this type of disconnect between profession and lifestyle has ever been this rampant and this rife in our churches, nor has it ever been as accepted as normal to the point that most have become oblivious to it, as it is now.

If you never preach and teach on sin, never talk about man's sinfulness then there is never a need for a Savior.  If people do not see their sinfulness, then they won't see the disconnect between their profession and their lifestyle, much less see their need for a Savior.  The true Gospel tells man the truth about his sin, his  separation from God and his alienation from God on account of his sin.  The true Gospel tells man of God's remedy in Christ for his sin and the reconciliation with God that is provided through Christ.  The true Gospel tells man the truth about himself, not so he will feel good about himself, but so he will place his faith in what God has done for him in Christ.  And, actually, nothing should make you feel better than to know the mercy, grace, love, and compassion of God that He bestows upon you in salvation.

Unfortunately, this Gospel, the true Gospel, has been banned from so many churches and replaced with the false gospel of Moralistic Therapeutic Deism, the false gospel of self.  Friends, let us make sure the true Gospel is preached in our churches.  Hold fast to the faithful word, do not be ashamed of the Gospel, as it is God's power to save, to heal, to restore, to reconcile, to make holy.  If there will be hypocrites in our churches, let it not be because we have banned the true Gospel.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Pastor-Holistically Disciple Your People

We as pastors must disciple (train, educate, teach, counsel, and encourage) our people with the finished product in mind, which is our people being complete in Christ, and Christ being fully formed in our people.  We must design the ministries of our church with this in mind, and we must engage our staff as well.  A tall task, the task of a lifetime, both for our people and for us. 

This means that our goal cannot be making them Reformed, or Covenental, or Dispensational, or Denominational.  Our goal cannot only be for them to be a good tither, or someone who gets grace, or more loving, or more patient, or happier, or better adjusted, or forgiving, or more knowledgable, or more....I think you can get my drift here.  Our goal for them must be all of Christ, in all of His fullness.  This will take you, your staff, and your church all pulling in the same direction with the same goal in mind.  Paul was laboring so that Christ would be fully formed in those whom he taught, so must we. 

Don't be a one-dimensional discipler, don't be a hobby horse pastor, have it as your goal to teach and train the whole person; so that when you see them, you see Christ in them, and the longer they are under your care, the more of Christ you see in them.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Growing in Sanctification

Growing in sanctification is growing in personal holiness.  As such it is a practical, progressive, holiness.  It is a growth in holiness that, as Peter puts it in II Peter 1:8, leaves us neither useless nor unfruitful in our knowledge of Him.  So then, growing in holiness is also growing in our practical knowledge of Him.  Conversely, as our practical knowledge of Him grows, so does our holiness; and as our holiness grows, so does our sensitivity to sin.  As such, we will repent more readily and more deeply and more completely.

Additionally, as we grow in sanctification we also grow in our faith; and the heights of holiness we attain are matched by the depth of our faith.  Growth in faith gives us a greater ability to trust His Word, to trust in Him, to entrust ourselves over to Him regardless of the situation.  This depth of faith is really the bedrock of our sanctification and is the rich soil out of which our holiness grows.

Also, growing in sanctification is also growing in love.  It is the enlarging of the heart to love Him more, to love your neighbor more, and to fervently love your fellow Christians.  It becomes the great motivation in your living out your Christian life, the great motivation in growing in your faith, the great motivation in your desire for holiness...the great motivation behind the sacrifice and service of your faith.  It is this love that gives you the desire, indeed the increasing desire, to please the Lord in every respect.  Since all the Law and the prophets are fulfilled in the commands to love God with all our heart, mind, and strength and to love our neighbor as our self; then as we grow in our love for God and neighbor we will also be growing in holiness.

Growing in sanctification, therefore, is not an isolated event, but affects the whole of our spiritual life.  There is not an area or aspect of our spiritual life that is not touched.  We are set further and further apart from the person we used to be.  We become less like that old man, and become progressively more like the new man that is being conformed into the image of Christ; and in the daily renewing of our inner man we grow in all aspects into Him

Growing in sanctification, then, is the progressive reality of our salvation.  Friends, I hope this reality is yours.