Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Christ, the Gift of Christmas

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right
to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.

John 1:12

We celebrate Christmas by giving gifts in honor of the gift of His Son that the Lord gave to us.  But as with any giving, there must be receiving.  The gift must be taken; and in regards to the gift of Christ, He must be appropriated, taken into one's self and made a part of one's self.  For, after all, He is the gift of God. All of salvation is bound up in Christ. In Him are found salvation, justification, righteousness, sanctification, glorification, reconciliation, peace, hope, joy, security, spiritual life, and eternal life.

How do you know you have received the gift?

1. You cling to Him with a tenacity and a ferocity as you would cling for dear life to a rock, even when battered and bruised by the waves of the storm, but refusing to let go and be taken under. You know and understand He is your only hope.

2. Your trust is in Him and Him alone, and you refuse to trust in yourself, your ability to keep your own set of rules. You don’t trust in your self-made righteousness. You refuse to trust in a system, a decision, a prayer, an event, an action, but your only and total trust is in Him.

3.Jesus said, “My sheep know My voice.” So you know His voice and you listen for His voice above the cacophony of the competing voices of this world. It is  to His beat that you march, not the world’s or your own. It is His approval that you crave. It is His voice you long to hear, and it is His presence that is most dear.

4. He is your most precious treasure, the most precious gift you have ever been given. He is the pearl of great price by which all else pales in comparison. He is the One for whom you would forsake all others. He is most precious, most dear to you, more special than your family, your friends, than all comforts, than all your stuff. He is more precious and more dear then all the trinkets of this world; more precious, more dear than your pride, your reputation, yes, and even more precious than life itself.

Have you received Christ? Have you received the indescribable gift that God Himself has made available to all the world.  Receive Him today and take into yourself the full and true meaning of Christmas, and rejoice in the Christmas of God.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Great Grace of God

The richness of the doctrines put forth in Ephesians is truly amazing.  These doctrines are a plentiful provision for hours of meditation and enjoyment.  It is always hard for me to read through the first three chapters without stopping and contemplating on one of the great truths that are included therein.

One of the things that makes this book so rich is how the the doctrines presented are interwoven with one another and support one another.  One of the doctrinal strands that runs through this book is the grace of God.  I am currently preaching through Romans and I have just finished with Romans 3:18, and if you are familiar with verses 9-18 of Romans 3,  you know that this section is God's testimony on the sin's absolute dominion over man and its result.  Man's utter sinfulness, his utter desperation because of his sin, his utter inability and complete lack of desire to come to God, and his utter unworthiness before God has been on my mind for the last few weeks.  With this backdrop in mind, as I was reading through chapter one of Ephesians one this week, the grace of God presented in the first few verses literally jumped off of the page at me.

What does man need from God, the God whom man has spurned, the God whom man has sinned against, the God whose holiness we will all be measured against and found so so lacking?  Man needs grace, not an idle grace, not a passive grace, not a benign grace, not an impotent grace, but an active all-encompassing, super-abounding, God-given and God-directed grace.  So as Paul dives into the deep end of the pool in laying out the doctrines of salvation in the first 3 chapters of this letter, he lays as the foundation of our salvation, the marvelous grace of God, and he wastes no time as he weaves grace in at the very beginning of this epistle.

Here is a short outline of grace in the first eight verses:

The Declaration of Grace vs 2
"Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ."

This is a familiar greeting from Paul and he uses it or something similar in every letter.  In fact, it is so familiar that we tend to gloss over what is being said.  Have you ever wondered why this greeting is being used, and used every time?  What is God saying to His church, His people, those that He has purchased through the sacrifice of His Son?  He is declaring that grace has been given to us, mercy has been extended to us, His favor has been bestowed on us.  It is a potent reminder of the wonderful gratuitous benevolence of God to us.

Paul gives us an explanation of what this grace to you means with his statement in Ephesians 2:8, "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves it is the gift of God."  When we also consider this verse along with Romans 3:24 "being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus."  we comprehend more fully just how gracious God is in His provision of salvation.  It is a gift, and through Paul's epistles He has declared it is from Me to you.

The Definition of Grace vs 3
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ."

Through the years I have heard many definitions of grace, from what the word means int the Greek to man's attempt to define it.  I think this verse most completely sums up the essence of what grace is.  It is God's blessing us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.

Grace is God's blessing.  It is a spiritual blessing upon the heart and soul of man.  It has its origins and its climax in the heavenly places; and it is given and accomplished in and through Christ. There is an old song I learned in Sunday School and the chorus is, "Count your blessings, name them one by one, Count your blessings see what God has done."  The blessing of grace is a multitude of spiritual blessings too numerous to count, and they go on for all eternity as we see in Ephesians 2:7 "so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus."  The phrase "mind-blowing" does not even come close to describing the riches of the blessing of His grace.

The Beginning of Grace vs 4
"just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world"

The grace of God did not come about as a result of the fall.  No, the grace of God has been operative since before the foundation of the world.  Before time and creation, God's grace was already being bestowed upon us in His choosing of us.  Before we were born we were already the recipients of His marvelous saving grace as He placed us in His eternal redemptive plan.

The Purpose of Grace vs 4
"...that we would be holy and blameless before Him."

We know that the will of God for us is to be holy as He is holy in all our behavior (I Peter 1:14-16). We also know that in our flesh, in our own strength, by our own ability we cannot keep that command.  It is by the grace of God that we are made adequate to be holy before Him. Where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more (Romans 5:20).  There is always a greater supply of grace available than the sin that entangles us.  Paul shows us the reality of this in his prayers for the Ephesians in 1:18-21 and in 3:14-20.  There is abundant spiritual power and abundant spiritual resources through this grace in which we stand (Romans 5:2).

The Foundation of Grace vs 4b-5
"In love he predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself"

The foundation of grace is the love of God.  The love of God for those whom He would call as His own, those whom He would adopt into His family, those to whom He would give His name. Because God is love, He is a God of grace.  Grace operates and flows out of the great love of God.  Paul says this very distinctly in Ephesians 2:4-5 "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)"

The Graciousness of Grace vs 5
"according to the kind intention of His will"

The Greek word for "kind intention" carries with it the idea of a benevolent purpose.  God's grace for us has as its end a benevolent purpose.  It is for our good, and our blessing, and our benefit that God bestows His grace upon us.  His grace for us is purposeful and deliberate, not random or whimsical.

The Result of Grace vs 6
"to the praise of the glory of His grace"

God's grace is indeed glorious, and should be praised.  Inherent in praise is the idea of thanksgiving. In our praise of Him we should indeed thank Him for His grace to us.  In consideration of all that His grace is and all that we have because of it, we should open our eyes to its glory and respond in praise.

The Cost of Grace vs 6
"which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved"

Grace is the unmerited favor of God.  We have done nothing to earn it, and our actions and attitudes toward God in our pagan state would not warrant it, so He freely bestowed it on us in Christ. We have grace because of what Christ has done on our behalf.  As I have mentioned in a previous post, we stand before God with no merits of our own, but with all the merits of Christ.

The Power of Grace vs 7
"In Him we have redemption, through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses according to the riches of His grace"

Grace, grace, God's grace, grace that is greater than all our sin.  A line from a hymn that states well the power of grace.  Sin cannot overcome grace, grace is greater than all our sin.  Where sin abounds grace abounds all the more (Romans 5:20).  We are forgiven our sins, not because of anything we have done, but because of all that God has done; and it is all of grace. God extends His grace to us in His forgiveness of all of our sins, having nailed them to the cross.

The Measure of Grace vs 7b-8
"according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us"

The riches of His grace is immeasurable. When we stand in grace, there is grace as far and as wide as we can see.  We cannot outlive it, we cannot exceed its reach, we cannot use it up, we cannot diminish it in any capacity.  For whatever we need grace is available.  For whenever the need grace is available.  There is no limit to the grace of God, and He has lavished it upon us.  He has generously given us all the full measure of His grace, and it is inexhaustible.

We need grace from God, in all of its aspects, in all of our life.  Let us marvel together at the great grace of God that has been given to us through Christ.

Grace to you and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Standing Before God

It is not the adherence to a set of rules that secures
one's standing before God; but it is the position one
has in Christ that secures their standing before God.
As Christians we stand before God with no merits of our own,
but we stand before Him with all the merits of Christ.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

The Preaching Task

The preaching task may be the most daunting of all the tasks that God assigns in the church.  To be called to be mouthpiece of God to His people, to be charged with bringing His word (rightly,forthrightly, boldly, and without apology), to be held accountable for speaking the truth truthfully, to bear the responsibility of bringing the whole counsel of God (the popular and unpopular), to be commanded to preach in season and out of season, to be reminded that we are subject to a more severe judgment, and to bear the burden of this great and monumental task--are all beyond the strength of our merely mortal flesh and beyond the comprehension of our natural mind; and in those moments of honesty with ourselves and the Lord these responsibilities make us cry out as Paul, "Who is adequate for these things?"

Preaching is truly a supernatural task which is beyond the power and ability of the preacher.  In those moments of our sermon preparation each week, when our weakness is so apparent, there are some things to keep in the forefront of our mind.

1. Our gifting is from the Holy Spirit, our ministry is from the Lord, and effects are ordained by God. (I Corinthians 12:4-6) So our preaching is God given, God empowered, and God directed.

2. Our works are ordained beforehand that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:10).  Preaching is a God-called task and a God-given assignment. Our preaching ministry is not a separate call, but is part of the call of the Lord on our lives to follow Him; and in following Him we walk in the deeds He has ordained beforehand for us to do.

3.  Our gifts and calling are irrevocable (Romans 11:29). God has not changed His mind about His gifting and calling of those who are truly called to preach. We must all go through the rigors of the confirmation of His gifting and calling, just as Abraham went through the rigors of the proof of his faith. For those not weeded out, we stand in the knowledge of the veracity and legitimacy of our call.

4. Our adequacy, or sufficiency for you ESV people, for the task(s) of the ministry comes from God, not ourselves (II Corinthians 3:4-6). As Paul asks the question I quoted in the first paragraph. he answers it just a few verses later. No one in and of themselves is adequate for the task of preaching, but God makes those He has called and gifted adequate. We are not the source, but the means through whom God, the Source, works through; and it is God who makes us adequate for the deeds/ministry that He has prepared beforehand for us to do.

5. Our part in this is twofold:
    a. To abstain from wickedness and cleanse ourselves (confess our sins) so that we will be vessels of honor, sanctified, useful to our Master, and prepared for every good work (II Timothy 2:19-21).
    b. To be faithful stewards of the mysteries of God. We are to be trustworthy with the ministry which the Lord has entrusted to us, not just for the day or the month, but for the length of the race; and having put our hand to the plow of the gospel ministry, to not look back, but keep pressing on. (I Corinthians 4:1-2)

In the end we will be judged and rewarded according to what we have done with what He has given us.  Let us be mindful of our call, confident in His provisions, and faithful to the end.  And may the Lord find great delight in using us all.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

The Key to Our Spiritual Service of Worship

In Romans 12:3 Paul gives an instruction and admonition to all Christians, and it is, "I say to everyone of you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but think so as to have sound judgment."  The context of this verse is our spiritual service of worship and what is required of us to so that we can present our bodies as a living and holy sacrifice.

What Paul is saying here is that in order for us to present our bodies as a living and holy sacrifice we must not be conformed to this world, but be being continually transformed by the renewing of our mind; and in the renewing of our mind we should be at that point where we don't think too highly (and mistakenly) about ourselves; but should think soundly, truthfully, and forthrightly about ourselves.  In other words we should be brutally honest with ourselves about not just our strengths, but also about our weaknesses and inadequacies, and all of this primarily applies to our spiritual lives; and Paul says this because of the tendency in  us all to think too highly, maybe even unrealistically, about own own strengths and abilities.

The Bible is quite clear about our spiritual weakness.  In Romans 6:19 Paul talks about the weakness of our flesh.  In 7:14-25 he talks about his own spiritual struggles and inconsistencies.  In II Corinthians 2:17 he questions his adequacy for the gospel ministry.  In II Corinthians 1:8 he talks about being burdened beyond his strength and despairing of life. In II Corinthians 7:5-6 he talks about being fearful and depressed.   

In Hebrews 3:13 we are warned not to be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.  In Hebrews 5:12-14 we see that there are those who are still infants in the faith, and have to be taught the basics all over again. In Hebrews 12:1 we are told we have encumbrances to our faith and are easily entangled with sin.

In Philippians 3:15-16 Paul encourages us to not fall back in our faith, but to keep living by the same standard we have obtained.

In Galatians and Colossians Paul admonishes and warns those churches about the deception of the false teachers whom they have allowed to come into their midst.

In our flesh, we are no different than those who have gone before. So what should we do to think rightly, soundly and truthfully about ourselves.  What are the weaknesses in our flesh, that we need to be aware of, so that instead of depending on ourselves or not being honest with ourselves we can go to God for his grace and his strength to present our bodies a living sacrifice?  In our walk it would help us to be aware of these things about ourselves:

*The ceiling of our own understanding.
*The frailty of our own power.
*The lack of our own capabilities.
*The failing of our own strength.
*The emptiness of our own pride.
*The stumbling block of our own sin.
* The hindrance of our own fears.
*The stammering of our own tongue.
*The inconsistency of our resolve.
*The misplacing of our affections.
*The misdirection of our goals.
*The fickleness of our hearts.
*The blindness of our foresight.
*The limits of our endurance.
*The failings of our own strength.
*The paltriness of our influence.
*The distraction of our attention.
*The deceitfulness of our riches.
*The inadequacy of our abilities.
*The poverty of our spirituality.

Yes, we are weak in our flesh, and in our own strength are incapable of bearing fruit for Christ, which is what Christ was telling the disciples in John 15:4-5.  But the good news here is that God has not left us mired in the muck or our own inadequacy, but quite the opposite. When we acknowledge our own weaknesses, inadequacies, fears, and doubts, and go to Him for His strength; we will find grace sufficient for every task, wisdom for every situation, strength for every endeavor, and His equipping for every good work, all supplied through Christ. (Hebrews 4:16, Philippians 4:13, II Corinthians 3:4-6, II Corinthians 12:9-10, I Corinthians 1:24-31, Galatians 2:20, I Corinthians 15:10, II Timothy 1:7)

It is when we judge ourselves rightly that we have the proper perspective regarding ourselves in relation to the life that the Lord has called us to live, and the deeds that He has for us to do. It is then that we have the right view of ourselves, and can go to the Lord and ask for His provision.

There is a saying that gets thrown around a lot in Christian circles, and it is this: "God will not give you more than you can handle."  This is a false statement as God is always giving us more than we can handle, as He wants us to realize and acknowledge that apart from Him we can accomplish nothing of spiritual value, and are spiritually powerless; but that with Him all things are possible.  This is the precursor of coming to the point of maturity that we do not think more highly of ourselves than we ought.

So, my friends, let us think rightly, soundly, truthfully about ourselves, and in doing so make ourselves fit to present ourselves as a living and holy sacrifice to God in all of our endeavors.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

God's Greatest Joy

One of my favorite parables is found in Luke 15:1-7, as I believe it shows the true heart of God.  In fact, this parable is located right before the parable of the prodigal son.  The parable of the prodigal son is meant to illustrate the great truth shown in verses 1-7.  Here are those verses in their entirety:

Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming
near Him to listen to Him.  Both the Pharisees and the
scribes began to grumble, saying, "This man receives 
sinners and eats with them." So He told them this parable 
saying, "What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep
and has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine
in the open pasture and go after the one which is lost until
he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, 
rejoicing. Ans when he comes home, he calls together his 
friends and his neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, 
for I have found my sheep which was lost!' I tell you in the 
same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner 
who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who
need no repentance."

What these verses tell us is that God's greatest joy is when someone turns from their sin and turns to Him.  This great and wonderful truth is illustrated in the story of the prodigal son (vs 11-24) by the father who, from a distance, sees his lost son coming to him and runs to him in joy, embracing and kissing him, and holding a celebration for him.  

In a sense, this great joy of God should not surprise us, for because of His great love for us He gave His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, as a sacrifice on the cross for our sins.  However, so many of us labor under a couple of popular misconceptions of God that veil our eyes from this truth. 

Misconception #1.
God is a God of wrath, who is eager and waiting to punish you, strike you down, and send you to hell because of your sin. We always hear the line about not standing to close to someone in case God zaps them for doing something wrong. You see, even using that line, which almost all of us have used, shows that we do have a sense that punishment for wrongdoing is right, and must be carried out for there to be true justice.  Yes, if God is holy and righteous there must be and will be ultimate justice for any and all wrongdoing, but that doesn't mean that God just can't wait to get even or that He delights in some kind of barbaric punishment or that He chortles over the eternal damnation of anyone.

What the Bible tells us about God's heart and attitude toward men, all men, is just the opposite, not only do the parables mentioned above illustrate this truth, but here is what else the Bible (God speaking) reveals to us about it:

Ezekiel 18:23 "Do I have any pleasure in the death of the wicked," declares the Lord God, "rather than that he should turn from his ways and live."
Ezekiel 18:32 "For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies," declares the Lord God. "Therefore, repent and live."
Ezekiel 33:11 "Say to them, 'As I live!' declares the Lord God, 'I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn back, turn back from your evil ways! Why then will you die?"
I Timothy 2:3b-4...God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
II Peter 3:9 The Lord is slow about His promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing any to perish, but for all to come to repentance.

So what we see here in these verses is that it gives God pleasure, it brings God joy when someone, anyone, turns from their sinful ways and comes to Him for forgiveness.  

Misconception #2.
God is a benign God who is somewhat detached from this world, but loves us as we are, let's us set our own moral code and use our own guidelines for entering heaven (whatever our version of that may happen to be).  This misconception totally misconstrues what the real love of God is.  Let's see what the Bible tells us about this:

John 3:16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.
Ephesians 2:1-8 And you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you formerly walked 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.  Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.  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 toward us in Christ Jesus.  For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no man may boast.

The real love of God is the love that moved God to have mercy and compassion on us by providing the means of forgiveness of our sins (the sacrifice of His Son Jesus Christ on the cross), and salvation (our acceptance by faith and its corresponding trust in the work that God has done on our behalf through Jesus Christ). If God loves us like we are then there would have been no need to send Christ as the sacrifice for our sins. 

The common thread that binds both of these misconceptions together is a faulty view of sin, not just sin in general, but our own sin in particular.  Both views really downplay the heinous nature of all sin and how egregious is sin, all sin, any sin, to God.  We all know what sin is, and we all know that we have sinned.  However, have we grasped how serious even one sin is? Again, let's take a look at what the Bible says.

Leviticus 11:44 "For I am the Lord your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy.
Romans 3:23 For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.
Ezekiel 18:4 Behold, all souls are Mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is Mine. The soul who sins will die.
Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Because God is holy, any sin and all sin, is an affront to His holiness and is worthy of death.  Because He is just, no sin can be overlooked.  Because He is righteous all sin(s) will receive a just judgment, a right recompense, and a proper punishment.

Because of His great love He has placed all the sins upon Christ of those who will come to Him in faith, and Christ has born the punishment for those sins in our stead.

So, at the cross we see both the justice of God and the love of God on full display.

Because of God's understanding of the justice that awaits all who sin, because of God's love providing a way for the payment of the penalty due for every sin, God therefore takes great pleasure and has unbounding joy in the salvation of those who turn to Him.

Have you heard His voice calling you to come home to Him?  Will you answer that call and turn to Him?  Will you forsake all else for His salvation?  Will you trust in what He has done to save you from the right and just consequences of a life that is lived apart from Him?  Will you call your sin as that which it is and call out to the Lord for His forgiveness?  For when you do there will be great joy in heaven among all its hosts for the salvation of your soul; and the Father Himself, the God and Creator of all that is, will run to meet you.

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Stop It, Enough Already, Man Up and Fess UP

I almost always keep quiet regarding Christian personalities and issues (unless it is false teaching), as it is too easy for it to turn into self-righteous character assassination or internet gossip.  However, I am out of patience with those who supported and promoted Mark Driscoll remaining silent, unrepentant, and unapologetic.

Too many pastors, young and older, were influenced by him.  Too many people were damaged and savaged by him.  The cause of Christ was wounded because of him, all while the warning signs were there and were not hidden; and those who supported him and promoted him have remained silent.

Unfortunately, we are now subjected to this puff piece interview of John Piper.  Yes, what John says in this interview is true, but it makes him look like the wise sage now that the carnage is over, while ignoring his association and promotion of Mark Driscoll.  This piece provides cover for him by letting him address, from a distance of time, what happened without calling him to take responsibility for his part in the victory against the church he says Satan has had in this situation.  It allows him to take the the "high, noble, and wise ground" as if he had nothing to do with it.  John Piper is one of the main reasons Mark Driscoll had a national following, and for John to continue avoiding the responsibility for his fomenting of Mark Driscoll's reputation is unconscionable.  For The Gospel Coalition to do the interview and air this piece is just as unconscionable.

John and The Gospel Coalition, for the sake of the church you say you love and its unity, come out boldly and admit your part in the Mark Driscoll debacle.  It would go a long way toward healing and the restoration of trust in your ministries and motives.

See the interview below by following the link below.


Saturday, August 01, 2015

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Truth and Right Thinking

For as he thinks within himself, so he is...
Proverbs 23:7

The Bible tells man what to think, how to think, and why to think.  It tells us of the benefits of right thinking and the consequences of wrong thinking.  It presents the foundation of right thinking, which is the knowledge of God Himself, and the corresponding knowledge of man himself.  

The Bible is the foundation for right thinking because it presents to us the truth about God, and the truth about God becomes the mirror and backdrop from which we learn the truth about man, which is the truth about ourselves.  We will never know the full truth about ourselves until we know the truth about God; and an important facet of knowing the truth about God is the belief and its consequential acceptance of what the Bible says about Him.  

Truth is reality, what is real, as compared to what is imagined, desired, or fantasized.  The Bible presents life and existence (now and eternally) as it really is, not as we want it to be.  The Bible presents God as He really is, not as we want Him to be or imagine Him to be.  The Bible presents man (all of us) as he really is, not as we want him to be or imagine ourselves to be.

For a man to be right before God and to right with God, he must first think rightly about God and rightly about himself.  Only the truth of God, found in the pages of the Bible can lead a man to the path and down the path to be right with God.  God has given us the Bible for just that purpose, as He wants us to be right with Him.

Do you want to be right with God?  Do you want to think rightly about God and about yourself? Then turn to the Bible, for it is there that you will find the foundation for right thinking, the truth.  

Thursday, July 02, 2015

A Powerful Truth

Those who are meek before God, 
Will have the strength to be 
Unyielding before men.
II Corinthians 12:10

Monday, June 29, 2015

When Preaching on Hell and the Wrath of God

When preaching on hell and the wrath of God,
which you must if you are going to preach a complete gospel,
you must bring your hearers close enough to hell to feel its heat,
 and keep them there long enough to make them sweat.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Be a Soldier of the Cross

Am I a Soldier of the Cross

Am I a soldier of the cross,
a follower of the Lamb, and
shall I fear to own his cause,
or blush to speak His name?

Must I be carried to the skies
on flow'ry beds of ease, while
others fought to win the prize,
and sailed through bloody seas?

Are there no foes to for me to face?
Must I not stem the flood?
Is this vile world a friend of grace,
to help me on to God?

Sure I must fight if I would reign;
increase my courage, Lord;  I'll
bear the toil, endure the pain,
supported  by Thy Word.

Thy saints, in all this glorious war, 
shall conquer though they die;
they view the triumph from afar,
and seize it with their eye.

When that illustrious day shall rise,
and all Thine armies shine in robes
of vict'ry through the skies,
the glory shall be Thine.

Isaac Watts

This hymn was written circa 1721-24 while Watts was preaching on I Corinthians 16:13, and was appended to Watts sermons published during this period , "Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong." is the admonition in this verse.  In the time when the persecution of Christians is global and increasing, the timelessness of this hymn is a vital reminder to us all of the challenge and cost and glory of taking up our cross and fighting the good fight of faith.  

Since Genesis 3 those who follow the Lord have been embroiled in a long war against the truth, and this war is also against those who love the truth, speak the truth, and live the truth. So, in a very real sense all who name the name of Christ enter into the battle in some way.  May this hymn encourage and strengthen us all to be strong and be soldiers of the cross.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Working the Work of God

In John 6, after Jesus had fed the multitudes, the next day the crowd came after Him on foot and in boats, all the way across the sea of Galilee. Jesus rebuked them for following after Him only to have their stomachs filled. Picking up in verse 27 and starting with Jesus, let's look at the interchange that took place at that point. "Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father has set His seal." Therefore they said to Him, "What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?" Jesus answered and said to them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him who He has sent."

The question posed to Jesus was legitimate for the religious environment at that time. Israel was under the influence of the Pharisees who had reduced the Law to a system of works. They had their religious works honed finer than a gnat's eyelash, and were very zealous in the protection and promotion of their system of works righteousness. The whole system was based on works, many of which were mutations of the Law, which led them to a state of spiritual bankruptcy where they were like white washed tombs, clean and pristine on the outside, but full of death and decay on the inside. This is why Christ told the crowd in the Sermon on the Mount that their righteousness must exceed that of the Pharisees, as it is not the external accomplishment of a set of religious duties, but doing the will of God from the heart that constitutes the work of God. This is what Christ expressed when he told them that the work of God was to believe in the One whom God had sent, Christ Himself.  

What then does it mean to believe in the One whom God has sent? Saving faith has two components, and both are centered in Christ. First there is the belief in the person of Christ, that He is all that the Bible says that He is; and the Bible tells us that He is fully both God and man, the Savior, and the only way to God (in fact, these were things that Christ actually said about Himself).  

The other component or element of saving faith is to believe on the finished work of Christ. This entails believing (accepting and not rejecting) that Christ lived a perfect and sinless life in our stead before God by always doing the will of God, not in a perfunctory way, but from the heart. Read through the gospel of John and see how this is laid out for us to see, and is culminated in John 14:31. This pure sinless life qualified Christ to be the sacrifice for our sins in our stead, a sinless man suffering the eternal wrath of God for all the sins of those who would place their faith in Him as the Savior, and believe in the completeness of His sacrifice for those sins. This means that we trust Christ's work and not our own.

You cannot work your way to God, no matter how sincere you are nor how hard you try. The only acceptable work before God is what Christ accomplished by living the life he lived and by the death that He died. We must accept who He is and trust in what He has done. This is what is behind the exclusivity of the Christian faith. There is only One who lived the sinless life, there is only One who qualified to be the one time for all time sacrifice for sins, and that is the God-man Jesus Christ. Christ is the One whom God sent to be the Savior for all mankind, for all of those who would turn to Him and Him alone to be their Savior.

This is the work of God, my friends, to believe in the One whom God has sent, for on Him God has set His seal of approval for the works He accomplished on behalf of all that will come to Him in repentance and faith. Don't delay any longer, cease from trying to work your own way into heaven and accept the work that Christ has done on your behalf.

Monday, May 04, 2015

A Prayer for the Day

Lord, cause me to walk blamelessly before You,
by the power of Your Spirit and the knowledge of Your Word.

Saturday, May 02, 2015

Ignorance of the Scriptures

Ignorance of the Scriptures has given rise to thousands of evils.
From this seed the great corruption of heresies has blossomed;
from this spring have flowed careless living and wasted labors.
Just as anyone deprived of the light of this world cannot walk 
straight, so those who do not see the rays of the divine Scriptures
walk in thick darkness. They regularly and inevitably fall into many sins.

John Chrysostom 
Early Church Father

As it was then, so it is now. 

Thursday, April 30, 2015

A Daily Perspective

It matters not, the praise of men.
It matters only, the pleasing of Him.
(Galatians 1:10)

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Monday, April 20, 2015

A Thought for the Day

You cannot be guided by circumstances when
you are refusing to be guided by God's word.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

How to Keep Life's Circumstances in Perspective

First, realize that God is absolutely Sovereign over all of your life’s circumstances…both good and bad.  Psalm 103:19 says “The Lord has established His throne in the heavens, and His sovereignty rules over all.” (NASB)  The theological term for His sovereignty over our life’s affairs is Divine Providence.  This means that whatever life throws at us has to come through the omnipotent knowledge and permission of God; and the course and direction of our life is ultimately determined by the Lord.

This is practically illustrated in the following verses:

 Proverbs 16:9 The mind of man plans His way, but the Lord directs his steps.  This verse shows us that we are part of the process, but that in the midst of our thinking, planning, strategizing and praying, God is the ultimate determiner.

Proverbs 20:24 Man’s steps are ordained by the Lord, how then can man understand his way.  We never know nor understand where our steps will lead because the Lord has ordained (planned and purposed) them, and they are beyond our foreknowledge; but not His.

Jeremiah 10:23 I know, O Lord, that a man’s way is not in himself, nor is it in a man who walks to direct his steps.  This verse show us the futility of thinking that we are ever in total control of our life and its destiny.  The unseen providence of God is taking us where we would never have imagined or chosen had we known all that was before us.

Psalm 37:23 The steps of a man are established by the Lord, and He delights in His way.  Here we see that the Lord delights (takes pleasure) in the way He has established (planned, purposed, and carried out) for us.  His ultimate goal for us is to be completely conformed to the image of His Son in preparation for eternity.  His plan for us is not a plan for this world only, but, actually uses this world to prepare us for the eternal world to come, and our final and complete conformity to the likeness of Christ, who, as the God-man, is the complete man.  (Philippians 1:6, 2:13, Colossians 1:28, Ephesians 4:11-15, I John 3:2, Romans 8:29)

Romans 8:28 For we know that God cause all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.  This is because God’s plan for us is for our eternal good.  Our time here is short, and even though we are preoccupied with it, God is preoccupied with our place in eternity.

Secondly, what should our response be?

Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your path.  In our circumstances we must have confidence in the Lord, His leading and its outcome, and not lean on (depend fully) on our own understanding.  In each and every situation of our life we are to have a reverential regard and respect for God as being God, so that we acquiesce to His leading, so that we let Him lead us and are not seeking our own way. 

Psalm 37:3-5 Trust in the Lord and do good, dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness.  Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him and He will do it.  This section begins and ends with trusting the Lord; and this trusting is accompanied by doing good (being godly in our circumstances), dwelling in the land (staying where He has brought us and not trying to seek our own way of escape), cultivating faithfulness (building our faithfulness to Him by being obedient to Him in our circumstances), delighting ourselves in Him (this is a by-product of the joy that comes from our faithfulness and trusting), committing our way to Him (in all our way acknowledging Him…Lord I am going to follow you no matter what).

Finally, a biblical example.

Read Genesis 12 and consider the call of God to Abraham.  God called, Abraham followed, and God led him right into the middle of a famine.  Was the Lord surprised?…NO!  He knew where He was leading and what would be there, but God had a purpose, a greater and eternal purpose for Abraham; and through all of this He taught Abraham to trust Him, to be faithful to Him; and as a result, Abraham became the father of faith for all who would come to Christ thereafter.

Remember, in God's economy there are no accidents or happenstances.  Whatever comes your way has been Divinely ordained for your good, your ultimate and eternal good, and for the glory of the One who has called you to Himself and blessed you with an eternal salvation that transcends your short time here on this earth. All that transpires is part of His eternal plan for you…even to your children. Thank Him for His eternal plan and its working out in both good and hard providence.  For His eye is on you, His thoughts toward you are as numerous as His wonders, and what He began in You He will complete for all eternity.  Bless His holy name!

Monday, February 09, 2015

The Issue is not Homosexuality---

No, the issue is not homosexuality, it is sexual immorality, of which homosexuality is but one of its iterations.  Granted, homosexuality is a lower, more degraded form of sexual immorality (Romans 1:24-27); but the root issue here is one of sexual immoraltiy.  And what is sexual immorality?  It is the sexual activity outside of the marriage bond of a man and a woman.

What then would be included in sexual immorality?  Let's make a short list:

1. Fornication:  This includes casual sex, recreational sex, hooking up, one night stands, and even friends with benefits. Yes, even if you are serious about one another, in love, faithful or engaged to the one you are having sex with, all sex outside of the marriage union is immoral.  Whether you are 15 or 45, single, divorced, or never married, sex outside of marriage is a sin. The Bible calls this sin.

2. Adultery:  This sexual sin is well known, and unfortunately very common.  It is having sex with anyone other than your spouse after you have been married, or someone who is single having sexual relations with someone who is married, and it also includes those who have more than one spouse. Our culture has euphemized this term down to extra-marital sex or pre-marital sex.  It is never condoned in the Scriptures.

3. Pornography:  The root for this word is from the Greek word porneia, which means illegitimate sexual activity.  This sexual sin is a blight upon our society, and has spawned a huge internet industry.  Unfortunately, because sin can never be corralled, pornography has also extended its reach to children, and to the point of international child pornography rings.  I have heard some people say, well its just pictures, so what.  Well, that "so what" is still a sin.  Why?  Because you cannot look at pornorgraphic pictures and not be affected, and in all cases, isn't that why the pictures are viewed in the first place.  In Matthew 5:28 Jesus says, "but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart."  And yes, this applies to women as well, in the narrative pornography they read.  Most R rated movies contain pornography, and many of the PG-13 movies range from sexually suggestive to soft porn.

4. Incest:  This is sexual relations between immediate family members. I should not even have to mention this, but there is a push afoot to normalize this here in our country.  I remember on a trip to Paris back in the eighties seeing a music video on public television entitled "Incest is Good," and it showed an older man with a young girl. It was not graphic, but it made its point.

5. Homosexuality:  This sexual sin is between members of the same sex, and even though its proponents have tried to reword the Bible concerning this, it is always protrayed as a sin in the Scriptures.  So, even if the same sex couple is "married" it is still a sin.  Romans 1:24-27 lists two specific judgments of God on those who commit this sin, and the sex act is called shamless/indecent. 

These are the sexual sins that are common place in our country; and they all have their genesis in sexual immorality, the abandoning of a sexual morality that prescribed that sex was to be kept and to only take place within the bounds of a marriage relationship between a man and a woman.

Homosexuality is gaining a greater place at the table of normalcy because our soceity has become accepting and condoning of sex outside of marriage.  No thought or shame occurs any more because couples live together.  No thought or shame occurs anymore because someone becomes pregnant outside of marriage.  No thought or shame occurs anymore when unmarried people talk candidly about their sex lives in any media outlet. Once the barrier of shame has been taken away concerning sex outside of marriage, then it is only a short distance to the removal of all sexual shame.

Every magazine at the cashier's stand will have some article dealing with sex, and it is almost never about sex between marriage partners.  Our culture has becomed consumed by sex, and thereby have become consumers of sex.  There is such a preoccupation with sex in our society, that many pastors have sermon series on sex so they can be considered relevant with the times.

Heterosexual sex outside of marriage has been normalized in our culture, and the logical next step of the normalization of sex outside of marriage is the acceptance and promotion of homosexuality.  In light of this, the stand that the church should take is not against homosexuality per se, but should be against any and all sexual immorality, all that the Bible lists as sexual immorality.  In a very real sense, the church has waited too long to speak out.  Because the church has been silent all these years regarding the proliferation of the acceptance of sex outside of marriage, speaking out against homosexuality now makes it appear that the church is singling out the homosexuals.

Let us as the church, as individual Christians, speak up and out against all sexual immorality.  Let us speak up and out for a biblical sexual morality.  Let us call all sexual immorality what it is, sin before a Holy God.

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Prosperity Theology and Christ

The Prosperity Gospel wing of the Charismatic camp is its dominant, most popular, therefore its most visible wing.  Prosperity theology never considers God Himself in the person of His Son the Lord Jesus Christ worth knowing.  Therefore Prosperity preaching never presents God Himself, never presents Christ, as someone who is worth knowing. They never present the Lord as the pearl of great value, as the One who surpasses all else in value, as the One who surpasses all that is in this world.  Their emphasis is not on Him, but is solely on the things of the world that you can get from Him, as His only value is in what you can get from Him. 

What does the Bible tell us?  "What does it avail a man to have the whole world, yet lose His own soul?" Friends, don't forsake the Lord, don't ignore the Lord, for the mess of pottage that this world and its Prosperity preachers offer.  For the world and all that is in it is passing away, and one day will be destroyed.  We entered this world with nothing and will leave it with nothing.  All the things of this world will pass, and it is only a relationship with Christ that will last.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Being a Gay Christian (?) and Our Identity in Christ

We, as the church, must understand what has truly happened by being "in Christ."  Our identity, how we define ourselves, must be based on what God has done for us through salvation in Jesus Christ, not on who we used to be.

One thing that continues to bother me is the special status that is accorded to being gay. Now it’s gay Christian. See this article: http://www.worldmag.com/2014/12/wheaton_s_gay_celibate_christian
Why not prostitute Christian, or gluttoness Christian, or pornography Christian, or alcoholic Christian, or ex-con Christian, or wife-beating Christian? I think you get my drift.

If we as Christians are truly washed, then we are also made new; the old man has died, and the new man has arisen with Christ. We are not that old man any more as we have been made new in Christ, and as we continue to be conformed into His image we grow to be more like Christ and the person that we were is left further and further behind.

Does this mean that we have left behind particular temptations and their pull, such as gluttony, or pornography, or alcohol, or homosexuality, or immorality, or sensuality, or pride, or covetousness, or worldliness behind? No, but it does mean that we have victory over those temptations when they occur by the power of Christ in us.  We have been crucified with Christ (Galatians 2:20, Romans 6:6-7) and it is no longer we that live, but Christ who lives and reigns in us.

One of the problems in our current church culture is that we, many times, have adopted the philosophy of the 12-step therapeutic culture. Such as once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic; once a sex-addict, always a sex addict, so that we are always in a state of recovery, but never recovered. This tends to be applied to being gay as well…once gay, always gay. The result of this is that people become defined/identified by what they were/who they were, not by who they are now. Paul tells all of us this in I Corinthians 6:9-11 “ Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of God.”  Jeremiah 17:14 tells us this, “Heal me, O Lord, and I will be healed; save me and I will be saved, for You are my praise.” We are now in Christ, healed in Christ and saved in Christ. In Christ the old man is dead, long live our new man and our new identity.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

God's Grace for the Prodigal Son

The story of the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-32 is the most beautiful picture of the grace of God in the Bible.  Grace is the term the Bible uses to describe the unconditional favor that God bestows on any and all that come to Him.  It means that He is favorably disposed to those who come, He does not count their past against them (II Corinthians 5:21), He is eager to receive them and forgive them (Psalm 86:5), He will abundantly pardon them (Isaiah 55:7), and He will keep them and never let them go (Romans 8:35-39).  This grace is everyone's for the asking.

In the story of the prodigal son we see God's grace for those will repent and turn to Him. God's grace is exemplified in this story, a truly amazing story of an amazing God.  What makes the story so amazing and so compelling is that all of us fit into the role of the prodigal. Some of us have never considered having a relationshiop with God, others of us have been close to God, but for reasons much like the prodigal in the story, we have wandered away from God.  In either case we have found ourselves in a far country, far away from the love of the Father who created us in His likeness.

Despite our distance from Him, and despite the reason(s) for our distance from Him, He is eager and willing to take us to Himself if we would but lift up our eyes and heart toward Him.  The picture in this story of the father lifting up his robe to run to the son coming home, is a beautiful picture of the joyous response God has when we come to Him; and this joyous response is for whomever will come, no matter who they are.

And come we may, but we must come to the Father through the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ (John 14:6).  This is the way God has provided for us to come to Him, into His very presence. Christ lived a perfect life by being perfectly obedient to the will of the Father (John 14:31) for us, and then dying for the sins of all who would believe in Him and turn to Him as the Savior. So, because of His life and His sacrifice, He is the only way to come to God. It is the grace of our good God that has provided a way to come to Him and be with Him for all eternity, when we were totally impotent to make a way to Him on our own.

How about you my friend?  Are you in that far country, far away from God; or are you near, but yet so far away, as the other brother in the story.  In either case, turn to God and He will come running to meet you with arms wide open and joy in His heart.

Friday, January 09, 2015

Preaching to Inspire Worship?

In our preaching, does the way we present
God and His Son show their worth so as
to inspire the people to get out of bed on
Sunday to come and worship them?
Do we present God as God Most High,
and do we present Christ as Lord of all?

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Friday, January 02, 2015

The Gospel Wound

See now that I, I am He, and 
 there is no God besides Me; 
it is I who put to death and give life.
I have wounded and it is I who heal...
Deuteronomy 32:39

Heal me, O Lord, and I will be healed;
save me and I will be saved,
for You are my praise.
Jeremiah 17:14

For the word of God is living and active
and sharper than any two-edged sword,
and piercing as far as the division of
soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, 
and able to judge the thoughts and 
intentions of the heart.
Hebrews 4:12

There is the wound of the gospel.  The conviction of sin which breaks the heart and makes the soul contrite.  There must be the gospel wound before there can be the healing of the gospel.  It is the wound of the sharp two-edged sword of the gospel that cuts into the very heart and soul and mind of man.  

As such, it cannot be and will not be a superficial wound; but it is also never a mortal wound, no matter how deeply it penetrates.  Therefore it is a most unusual wound, in that it is the wound which heals. It is the wound which lays bare and then heals the sin sick soul. It is the deep cut which circumcises the heart and makes it new.  It is the wound which brings conviction of sin, and the wound which brings one to repentance. It is the wound that causes the blind to see and the deaf to hear. It is the wound which makes man cry out for salvation. It is the wound that renews the mind.

Yes, faithful are the wounds of our covenant friend. So our God, the faithful God, has designed the gospel so as to wound us, and he has also designed that very same gospel so as to heal us.  He wounds us, so as to save us.  He wounds us, so as to restore us. He wounds us for our good.  The same gospel whose blows beat us up is also the same gospel that picks us up.   Faithful are the wounds and blows of the gospel, for He has made it so.