Monday, June 18, 2012

O Church, Whom are You Pleasing?

O, church, whom are you pleasing?  A good question, and a question that every church leader and every church member should ask themselves.  Healthy and honest introspection is good.  It is good to ask yourself hard questions about yourself.  It is good to have a season of self-examination.  This is true also for the church, and it should be done by its leaders and its members.

There is a slogan/saying/catch phrase that I have heard and read over the last few years, and it is in context of "doing church."  It is, "It is not about me."  Now this is used to mean that the church service is not for church members, but for those whom the church is trying to reach...the seekers, the unconverted, the non-christian..  It is used as a reason or excuse for the church doing what it feels is necessary to reach the unchurched.  It is the undergirding of the philosophy that drives how the church conducts itself, and in particular how it conducts its Sunday services.

Even though it is true that church is "not about me," the application of this truth has been misplaced.  It has become "it is all about them," which refers to the unconverted and unchurched.  What has been missed here?  It is simply this:  it is not about me, nor about us, nor even about is about God and His Son, Jesus Christ, and His Holy Spirit.

We have taken the focus in our churches off of God, and placed it onto those who are ungodly.  We have ceased focusing on pleasing God, and are now striving in every way imaginable (and there is great imagination used) to please those who are enemies of God.  When God gives the command in Hebrews to not forsake the assembling of yourselves together, He did not mean for the church to come together so as to focus on those outside of its self, to focus on anyone other than Him.  The minute that the church starts trying to entice the unbeliever, it must start seeking to please the unbeliever in order to draw him or her in; and must conduct its service so as to please them in order to bring them back.

The hard question the church (its leaders and members) must ask its self is this, "In the way we conduct our services have we placed pleasing the ungodly over pleasing God; in our attempts to not offend the ungodly are we offending God; in our attempts to attract the ungodly have we made ourselves unattractive to God?"  Has the church placed its affection and adoration on the ungodly and taken it off of the Lord?  This is a question that I am afraid is not getting asked.  

Here are a smattering of Scriptures that speak to this.  Notice how unimportant man is in these references.

Isaiah 2:22 Stop regarding man, whose breath of life in in his nostrils; for why should he be esteemed. (O church, why regard man if there is no area, no arena, in which he can be esteemed in God's eyes?)
Isaiah 40:17 All the nations are as nothing before Him, they are regarded by Him as less than nothing and meaningless. (O church, even the nations are nothing compared against the great and mighty God who has given us life, breath, and all things!)
Psalm 144:3-4 O Lord, what is man, that you take knowledge of him?  Or the son of man, that You think of him?  Man is like a mere breath; his days are like a fleeting shadow. (O church, have you elevated man above where God has him?  Have you elevated man above God?)
I Corinthians 7:3 You were bought with a price; do not become the slaves of men. (O church, whom do you cater to?)
I Corinthians 8:6a yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things and we exist through Him.
( O church, for whom are you existing?)
II Corinthians 5:9 Therefore, we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him. (O church, is your highest ambition to please Him?)
I Thessalonians 2:4 But just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who examines our hearts. (Church leaders and members, if God examines your heart to see whom you are seeking to please, what would He find?)
Galatians 1:10 For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? or am I striving to please men?  If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ. (O church, have you become the bond-servant/slave of the ungodly by trying to please them?  And in trying to do so have you left your first love and fallen to a lesser spiritual state?)
Leviticus 10:1-3 Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took their respective firepans, and after putting fire in them, placed incense on  it and offered strange fire before the Lord, which He had not commanded them.  And fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord. Then Moses said to Aaron, "It is what the Lord spoke, saying, 'By those who come near Me I will be treated as holy, and before all the people I will be honored.'" (O church, by seeking to please the ungodly have you neglected to treat the Lord as holy before them?  In seeking to be attractive to men have you substituted honoring men over honoring the Lord?) 

In the final analysis, there is only One to please.  As His body the church is to be a God-pleaser not a man-pleaser (Ephesians 6:6)  Instead of trying to be pleasing to the ungodly the church should be teaching them what is required to please the Lord (Ephesians 5:10).  O church, remember that it is the Lord Christ whom you serve, not man (Colossians 3:24)  O church, examine yourself honestly and rigorously, and make sure you are living to please Him, for it is Him for whom you exist.

Friday, June 15, 2012

When Salvation Comes...Psalm 119:41-48

Psalm 119:41-48
When Salvation Comes

When Salvation Comes…God’s lovingkindnesses come to us
Vs 41
 Lovingkindness…hesed in the Hebrew, is one of my favorite words in the Scriptures.  It is part of the Lord’s self-revelatory declaration in Exodus 34:6…The Lord, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness and truth…The Lord here not only declares that He possess lovingkindness, but that He abounds in it.  It is a vastly rich and nuanced word and has a depth of meaning and a breadth of application as you can see through its use throughout the OT. 

What makes it this way, though, is pretty simple when we boil it down to its essence.  Lovingkindness is God’s love in action.  It is His love exhibited in and through His actions towards His own.  It is His strength, mercy, compassion, grace, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, steadfastness, commitment, gentleness, benevolence, truthfulness, and favor towards His children, those with whom He is in covenant. 

Of note here is the lovingkindnesses of salvation….plural….there are many that are part of salvation, included in our salvation, without which our salvation would not be complete….including salvation itself.  His lovingkindness for us starts with our salvation and continues on in a myriad of ways throughout this life and then on into eternity.  God’s lovingkindnesses toward us are part and parcel of our salvation.  They are for us and us only; they are not for those who have not come to Him through faith in Christ.

We see this very richly and wonderfully expressed in Ephesians 2:4-7 (all one sentence) But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

When Salvation comes…it comes according to His Word.
Vs 41
It is His salvation to give….salvation belongs to the Lord.
Psalm 3:8 Salvation belongs to the Lord; Your blessing be upon Your people.
Psalm 13:5 But I have trusted in Your lovingkindness; My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.
Psalm 18:35 You have given me the shield of Your salvation, and Your right hand upholds me; and Your gentleness makes me great.

The Lord gives salvation in accordance with His word.  He brings it through His word.  We must depend on His word for the knowledge of salvation.  We must believe, and therefore trust His word for salvation.  His word is the basis of our faith His word is the means of salvation.

Romans 3:20…for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.
Galatians 3:24 Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ….

Romans 10:13 So faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.
James 1:18 In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth…
James 1:21…in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls.
II Timothy 3:15 and that from childhood you have know the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation.

Ephesians 1:13…you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation---having also believed

When Salvation comes….we have an answer when scorned or ridiculed for our faith
Vs 42
I Peter 3:15-16 But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence. And keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame.
Colossians 4:6 Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.
Our ready response is our testimony, the reality of our personal experience with the lovingkindnesses of God, His mercy, goodness, faithfulness, kindness, forgiveness, gentleness, wisdom, compassion, power, grace, protection, and provision…His love in action that comes with salvation….His promises made real to you…for you…in your life. 

Your answer is your personal experience of the realities of salvation and how they have proven His word.  Your personal testimony of God’s truth made true in your life is the ready defense of your faith.

When salvation comes….so does our trust in His Word
Vs 42
We cannot separate our trust in the Lord, from our trust in His word.  To trust Him, is to trust His Word.  To trust His Word is to trust Him.  We understand implicitly, that man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.   In fact, our trust in His word becomes part of our testimony.

Titus 1:2…we have a God who cannot lie
Numbers 23:19 God is not a man that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent; has he said and will He not do it?  Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?
Jeremiah 1:12 Then the Lord said to me, "You have seen well, for I am standing over My word to perform it.
Proverbs 16:20 He who gives attention to the word will find good, and blessed is he who trusts in the Lord.

When salvation comes….so does hope and encouragement through His word
Vs 43
Romans 15:4-5 For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.  Now may the God who gives perseverance and encrouagement…..
Hebrews 12:5 and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons, My Son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor faint when you are reproved by Him.
Hebrews 13:22 But I urge you, brethren, bear with this word of exhortation, for I have written to you briefly.
Paul speaks of his preaching of the gospel as encouragement…I Thessalonians 2:3 for our exhortation does not come from error or impurity or by way of deceit;
Psalm 119:9-12….33-40
Psalm 94:19 When my anxious thoughts multiply within me, Your consolations delight my soul.
To exhort someone is to speak to the need of the moment, and the dynamic of the living Word of the living God is that Scripture always speaks to the need of the moment.

When salvation comes…….so does perseverance in the word
Vs 44
II Thessalonians 2:15 So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us.
Titus 1:9 holding fast to the faithful word which is accordance with the teaching…..
I Corinthians 11:1-2 Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ Now I praise you because you remember me in everything and hold firmly to the traditions, just as I delivered them to you
We hold fast to the Lord, by holding fast to His word.  When we abandon His word, we abandon Him.
Psalm 119:11a Your word I have treasured in my heart...
We persevere in the Word because it is not just in the mind as part of our intellect, but is in the heart as part of our will. 

When salvation comes…….so does freedom that the word brings
Vs 45-46
Galatians 5:1 It was for freedom that Christ set us free….
John 8:32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.
James 1:25 But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.
James 2:12 So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty.
I Peter 2:16 Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God.
II Corinthians 3:17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty

When salvation comes… does a love for His word….which causes you to
            Delight in His Word
Revere His Word
Meditate on His word
Vs 47-48
Delight…to take joy or enjoyment….to take pleasure in…to receive pleasure from….
Psalm 119:140 Your word is very pure, therefore your servant loves it. 
Psalm 119:167 My soul keeps your testimonies, and I love them exceedingly.
Job 23:11-12 My foot has held fast to His path; I have kept His way and not turned aside I have not departed from the command of His lips; I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food.
Jeremiah 15:16 Your words were found and I ate them, and Your words became for me a joy and the delight of my heart...
Ezekiel 3:3 He said to me, "Son of man, feed your stomach and fill your body with this scroll which I am giving you."  Then I ate it, and it was sweet as honey in my mouth.

Lift up my give honor to, to revere  
Psalm 138:2 I will bow down toward Your holy temple and give thanks to Your name for Your lovingkindness and your truth; for You have magnified Your word according to all Your name.
Psalm 56:4, 10 In God, whose word I praise, in God I have put my trust…In God, whose word I praise, in the Lord whose word I praise.
Isaiah 42:21 The Lord was pleased for His righteousness sake to make the law great and glorious. ponder, to consider, to apply, to think long and deeply on
Psalm 119:15 I will meditate on Your precepts and regard Your ways
Psalm 1:1-2 How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night.
When you meditate on His word, you are approaching Scripture to learn from it, and you receive its counsel, you let it counsel you.

When salvation comes, your relationship with God changes, and your relationship with His word changes.  The Word is no longer foreign and unknown, but becomes cherished and an integral part of your life.  In fact, this new relationship with His word is one of the many lovingkindnesses of our salvation.  It is one of the many blessings of God.

All Scripture references are from the NASB.

Feeding to Heal

...Pastors are the conduit through which God often brings his healing salve to people's spiritual and emotional wounds (Eph 4:11-16). To do this, we must "feed the sheep"; that is, we must constantly communicate the truth of God in a manner that addresses and brings healing to the spiritual struggles that people face. We bring this healing not through programs but through the proclamation of God's word.

Glenn Daman
Leading the Small Church
The Purpose of Leadership
Page 116

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Self-abasement or Self-elevation

...The greatest deception of the evil one is that we are not in desperate need of God's infinite grace and forgiveness.  We believe that we are inherently good and acceptable before a righteous God.  We've been taught for so long about the importance of having a healthy self-image, we've forgotten that we must think rightly about God before we can think rightly about ourselves.  We have forgotten that self-abasement rather than self-elevation is the first step toward spirituality and spiritual wholeness (James 4:10; I Peter 5:6).

Glenn Daman
Leading the Small Church
The Purpose of Leadership
Page 115

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Obedience and Dependence

Obedience and dependence go hand in hand.
You cannot have one without the other!

The Way of Sacrifice

...To see Christ as having offered the perfect sacrifice that brings us salvation is not to enter a realm cheap grace.  It does not mean that we offer no sacrifice.  It means that our sacrifice is of a different order.  It is not atoning, but a costly response to a sacrifice that is atoning.

The way of salvation is a way of sacrifice.  That means basically that it is the sacrifice of Christ that takes away sins once and for all.  But it also means that those for whom the sacrifice was offered live sacrificially.  They offer their bodies 'as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God' (Rom 12:1).  Paul speaks of himself as being made a sacrifice in the service of other Christians (Phil 2:17) and he refers to the gifts the Philippian Christians sent him as 'a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God' (Phil 4:18).  The writer of Hebrews refers to a sacrifice of praise--the fruit of lips that confess his name' and he speaks of doing good and sharing with others as sacrifices with which God is well pleased (Heb 13:15-16).  Peter is another who sees Christians as offering 'spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ' (I Pet 2:5).  Clearly there is an important element of sacrifice in the service that Christians are expected to render to God.

Leon Morris
The Atonement
Page 65

Sunday, June 10, 2012

His Word and Our Life

To live for the Lord, is but to live by His Word.
To bring Him glory is accomplished by living by His Word.
Praying for His will is asking that His word be lived out in our lives..
Having perfect freedom is being a doer of His Word.
It is His Word that keeps us on the path to life.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

The Simplicity of Trusting in God

We cannot separate our trust in the Lord, from our trust in His word.  
To trust Him, is to trust His Word.  To trust His Word is to trust Him.  
We understand implicitly, that man does not live by bread alone, 
but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.  

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Spurgeon and the Gospel

...I do not believe that we preach the Gospel unless
we preach the sovereignty of God in His dispensation
of grace; nor unless we exalt the electing, unchangeable,
eternal, immutable, conquering love of Jehovah...

Charles Spurgeon
as quoted in 
The Gospel Focus of Charles Spurgeon
Steven Lawson
Page 38

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

What Preaching Reveals about the Preacher

I do have a concern with many who occupy the pulpit, who claim to believe that the word of God is inerrant and infallible, but preach from it...when they preach from they are a functional agnostic.  If we really believe that the Bible is the very truth of God and infallible in all it asserts, then why would we not preach from it in a way that shows we believe that very thing.  If it is the very word of God, therefore the very truth of God (who cannot tell a lie), then it carries all the authority of God; and we should preach it as authoritative and binding in all of its precepts.  

It is not enough for the preacher to stand up before his people and tell them he believes in the Scriptures, and tell his people to read and study their Bibles.  He must preach from the Bible and apply the Bible, and bring the authority of the Scriptures to bear on those to whom he preaches, so that they understand they are under its authority.  

If the Bible is inerrant and infallible, then it follows that it is authoritative.  If it is authoritative, then it is also sufficient, sufficient for faith and for the life lived by faith.  If it is authoritative then it also has all the attendant power to accomplish what God has designed it to accomplish; and is truly the power of God for salvation, and the power of God for sanctification. (Romans 1:16, Ephesians 5:26, I Peter 2:2); which creates for Him a people who are pleasing to Him and bring Him joy and glory.  If preachers truly believe this, then this belief will be evident in their preaching.

As preachers, what we preach and what we do not preach, and how we handle the Word reflects what we truly believe about it, and also reveals our attitude toward it.  Don't be fooled by someone who merely gives lip-service to the inerrancy, infallibility, authority, sufficiency, and power of the Word of God.  Pay attention to what they preach about, how they use the Scriptures, and how they treat the Scriptures.  This will reveal their very heart toward the Scriptures, and in a sense their very heart toward God, Himself.   

Monday, June 04, 2012

The Other Prodigal...Luke 15:11-32

I think most are familiar with the story of the prodigal son, how he took his portion from his father and spent it foolishly on satisfying his own pleasures.  He wound up in a far country, far from his father, destitute and feeding swine, when he finally came to his senses and came home in repentance and faith; and upon arriving was greeted joyously by his father.

This great story is a powerful illustration of the love, forgiveness, and joyous acceptance of our heavenly Father for those who will come to Him, and perfectly illustrates what Christ was saying in Luke 15:7 (...there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance); which is why the story included two brothers.

The older brother, is the other prodigal.  He was religious and self-righteous, but a prodigal none the less.  Spiritually, he was in a far country and he was just as far away from the father as his younger brother, even though he physically remained near the father.  Even though he served the father he was just as dead and just as lost as the younger brother.  The difference is that the younger brother saw his moral bankruptcy and his unworthiness to come before his father, while the older brother saw himself as righteous and deserving because of his service, the performance of his duty.

The father's response to the older brother when the older brother confronted him about his deserving a party because of all the years he had served him is telling.  The father's response was, "Son, you have always been with me, and all that I have is yours."  What the father is telling the older is this, "All that I have is yours, you have but to ask to receive, but you have not."  You see, self-righteous and religious people never see the need to ask God for eternal life, never see the need for repentance, never see the need to ask for forgiveness or salvation,  because they think they have earned it on their own. Their self-righteousness has blinded them to their spiritual bankruptcy, and has led them to believe their spiritual coffers are full because of their own merits.

The tragedy in this story is that the older brother was so near, yet so far away.  Near enough to ask, but too far away to see his need.  So, yes, there is another prodigal in this story.  The prodigal who never left home, but was always far away.  This problem was not just for the religious Jews of the day, but is a problem for the religious in every age.  How about you, my friends, are you depending on your own merits, your religious service, or your religious performance?  Or are you depending on the merits of Christ, His performance, and His righteousness as your substitute before God?  Have you come to God in repentance, and faith in the person of Christ and His finished work on the cross as your only plea before Him?  Come to Him today, as the prodigal in this story...admit your unworthiness, and your moral bankruptcy.  Do as the prodigal did and throw yourself upon the mercy and compassion of the Father.  For if you do, He will run to greet you, as He is ready to forgive and will joyously receive you.

Luther's Insight into the Gospel

Luther's real insight was to realize
that the gospel was not about looking
inward to self in order to find a basis
for God's acceptance, but about looking
outwards to the great saving act of God
in Christ as the only way in which the 
sinner might come to the Father.

Carl Trueman
Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow
Page 103

Friday, June 01, 2012

Another Way to Look at "I will never forsake you."

...for He Himself has said,
"I will never desert you,
nor will I ever forsake you."
Hebrews 13:5b

This verse, and its parallels in Deuteronomy 31 and Joshua 1, is most visibly demonstrated in the incarnation.  God came to earth as man, Immanuel--God with us, God among us, God sharing our condition, God fully identifying with us in our humanity and its lowliness, our humanity and its loneliness, our humanity and its sorrows, our humanity and its temptations, our humanity and its limitations, our humanity and its weaknesses, our humanity and its sadness, our humanity and its pains, our humanity and its desires, our humanity and its death.  

In the incarnation, God deliberately and purposefully became one with us.  And if He intentionally became so identified with us, why would He ever leave us?  One of the benefits of the incarnation is that it is a ground of our assurance before God.