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.