Out of Darkness, Light

Throughout history, it was always the darkest periods that served as birth pains to the greatest times of revival. In the mid 1700’s, there was a growing indifference to the things of the Lord. Secular rationalism was being emphasized, and passion for religion had grown stale. Praise God for men like Jonathan Edwards, George Whitfield, and many others who didn’t see the surrounding circumstances as defeat, but rather an opportunity to preach the Gospel. This resulted in what we now recall as the Great Awakening, wherein many were drawn to Christ.

The Catholic church had cast a luminous shadow across Europe in the 16th century due to it’s false teachings and legalistic rules. But God used men like Martin Luther and others, who saw opportunity in the midst of the trial. Their persistence to preach the Gospel led to the historic Protestant Reformation, which brought about a return to Biblical Christianity. The reformers coined the Latin phrase, “Post tenebras lux” which means “Light after Darkness”.

After the resurrection, before Christ ascended into Heaven, He addressed His disciples with some parting instructions.

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:8.

Consider the mission that Christ had given his followers. Not only were they to carry the Gospel throughout their hometown of Jerusalem, but they had now been commissioned to take this message throughout the entire world. However, the disciples were fallible men, just like us. And the biggest hinderance to radical obedience in Gospel proclamation is complacency. As Christians, it is very easy for us to grow comfortable in the world, praising Jesus with our mouths, but neglecting to proclaim Him to our neighbor. 

So how did Jesus accomplish His mission of getting these complacent men to wake from their comfortable slumber and actually start to evangelize to the ends of the earth? The answer; Jesus removed their comfort and allowed His people to be brutally persecuted beginning with the stoning of Stephen in Acts 7. And as a result of this dark period, believers dispersed from their home of Jerusalem and scattered throughout the world, taking with them the message of the Gospel.

In our current dark period of uncertainty, could God be using pandemic as a means to rouse His church from a comfortable slumber and move believers towards mission? A believe that a close look at church history as well as the scriptures themselves give us a clear answer. Absolutely. 

When some believers in Luke 13 were asking Jesus the meaning of certain tragedies that were happening near their hometown, Jesus pointed them away from dwelling on the circumstances and to considering their own spiritual state before God.

“Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices.  Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way?  I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.  Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem?  I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.” Luke 13:1-5

This way of viewing clarity in our world always leads to repentance in the heart of any true believer. And true repentance results in a joyful heart of gratitude that overflows in Gospel proclamation. 

Has this recent Coronavirus pandemic caused you to accuse and question God? Or has it caused you to repent and proclaim? Although we are practicing social distancing, we are blessed to live in a day and age where technology has made Gospel proclamation more accessible than ever before. 

As your unbelieving neighbors and family members call you in fear of what the future holds, let them hear a firm calm and confidence in your voice. Let them sense a peace in your countenance in the midst of crisis. And when they inquire as to the different spirit their see in you, point them toward the Gospel of Jesus Christ. You see, for the Christian, Pandemic should result in proclamation. The world is looking for answers. Use this God given opportunity as an open door to given them hope in our Lord. Worldly catastrophes are glorious Gospel opportunities for those who have ears to hear. Take heart in this. Repent. Rejoice. And proclaim the peace of Christ to our culture that desperately needs hope.

“Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.” Philippians 1:27-30

Peace in the Midst of Pandemic


Currently we are facing unprecedented times in our world with fear over the Coronavirus and uncertainty over how our economy is going to be affected as a result of this global pandemic. Add to this our frustration as believers not being able to gather together to encourage one another in love.  

If our eyes are on our circumstances, it is quite easy for panic and anxiety to set in. But as we have been considering in our streaming sermons as of late, let the example of the Apostle Paul lift your eyes off of your circumstances and on to truth.

Recently I have referenced the book of Philippians in my sermons because I believe it speaks so clearly to how the Christian worldview must be shaped in perilous times such as these. Paul was imprisoned at the time of his writing the epistle. His future was uncertain. He did not know how the future turn out. And he was unable to gather corporately with his church family due to his circumstance. Paul’s circumstances closely mirrored our own. Notice some things that Paul did not do in the midst of this crisis.

  1. He Didn’t Blame Satan For His Predicament

To blame Satan when calamity comes upon us is actually to give Satan more credit than he is due. This is a default that we as believers can easily fall into when tribulations come our way. And I believe that with the best of intentions, we are quick to give Satan credit for life’s hardships because in a way, we are trying to protect God. It sounds wrong to us to say that God would ever allow or ordain trials and or persecution. However, in our attempts to “protect God” from accusation, we fall into sin by neglecting scripture and failing to see the beauty in God’s sovereign plan. Consider the words of the Lord in Isaiah and Amos wherein He addresses the origin of worldly tribulations;

Isaiah 45:7 “I create the light and make the darkness. I send good times and bad times. I, the LORD, am the one who does these things.”

Amos 3:6 “When the ram’s horn blows a warning, shouldn’t the people be alarmed? Does disaster come to a city unless the LORD has planned it?”

Knowing that it was God who ordained that Paul would be imprisoned gave the Apostle the greatest of comfort in the midst of his persecution. Because to believe the alternative, that Satan had escaped his leash and was frustrating the plans of God is more terrifying. Also, Paul knew that the Lord used trials and persecution in the world for the ultimate good of those who love the Lord and are called according to His purposes.

Romans 8:28 “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

The Coronavirus is not the result of Satan frustrating the plans of God. Rather, this pandemic was sent by God. You may ask, “Why would God send a virus such as this?” The answer; For the glory of Christ and the good of those that love Him. The question is not, “Is this true?” The question we must ask is, “Do we believe this?” That the Lord is so powerful that He uses evil to bring about good that could not be had without it. If anyone would doubt that God can use evil as a tool to create beauty, let them be reminded of the cross. 

Acts 2:23-24 “But God knew what would happen, and his prearranged plan was carried out when Jesus was betrayed. With the help of lawless Gentiles, you nailed him to a cross and killed him. But God released him from the horrors of death and raised him back to life, for death could not keep him in its grip.”

Genesis 50:20 “You planned evil against me; God planned it for good to bring about the present result–the survival of many people.”

This reality should radically shape how we as believer view tragedies, wars, and pandemics in our world today. If we are not rooted and grounded in a Biblical worldview, then we will default to speculation and myth when hard times come. And this knowledge of God allowed Paul to endure suffering without grumbling or complaining. Paul knew that his present suffering was bringing about a greater manifestation of God’s glory and a future good for His people. And it is the same in the circumstances we face today.

2. Paul Didn’t Complain, He Rejoiced!

Philippians 4:4-7 “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

When someone in the first century wanted to put an emphasis on something, they would repeat it. In the face of horrible circumstances, Paul was adamant in reminding the church to REJOICE in the Lord! Why? Because again, Paul knew his hardships were producing a greater good for those that love the Lord! 

In hard times, it is common for people and especially believers to feel that the Lord is somehow distant. Paul knew how easy it is for people to feel this way. Notice in the verse above that Paul tells the church to rejoice, and he follows that up by reminding them that THE LORD IS AT HAND! He is not distant and far off! God is not apathetic to His children. Rather, through the suffering believers are bearing witness to God using the evil as a chisel to create beauty!

Therefore, building on what Paul knew of God’s sovereignty over evil, he could confidentially tell the church that they should not be panicking. Nor should they be fearful or anxious! The reason for their trepidation was because their eyes were not on God, but were on the trial in front of them. 

Let me as Paul emphasize my point by repeating myself. It is crucial that we let our worldview be shaped by scripture and not by current events. I will go farther and say this; We cannot rightly interpret the events we see played out in our world without filtering everything through the scriptures.

What is the result of having our eyes on Christ rather than circumstance? Peace in the midst of tribulation. And this peace is a witness to the outside world. Consider this; When your unbelieving neighbor or family member calls you to express their fear over this pandemic that we currently face, and they hear a clam in your voice, it wont be the reaction that they expected. When the outside world sees a smile on your face in the midst of crisis, it will cause them to wonder where your peace comes from. They may even be prompted to ask you, “How is it that you are so calm and peaceful in this great time of uncertainty?”

If this happens, the door has swung open wide for you to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with them. You see, if we view this pandemic through the lens of God’s Word and then let it be our comfort, even a situation such as this can turn into an opportunity to present the Gospel that may never have so naturally come about without our current crisis.

Rejoice brothers and sister! And again I say REJOICE! The Lord is at hand! He is not only in the midst of this pandemic, He is using it to create a greater good that couldn’t have been had without it. 

The Sufficiency of Scripture

A.W. Tozer once said that Christians don’t tell lies, they just sing them in church. This statement is more accurate than most of us realize. Strangely, there seems to be a glaring disconnect at times between the truths that we profess as believers and how we live as a result of our profession. 

At the very core of this problem lies question of the sufficiency of the scripture. Do we believe the sufficiency claims of scripture to be true? By sufficient, we mean that the Word of God is not only all that we need for teaching and training in righteousness (2 Tim 3:16), but also that it is the final governing authority in matters of Christian conduct and church polity. 

Christians fall prey to sins of omission almost without knowing. We cling tightly to some commands in the scriptures while omitting or turning a blind eye to others. We claim belief in a sufficient canon but betray our words with a lack of obedience. I often use the example of pregnancy to press my point. Either a woman is pregnant or she is not. There is no half way or in between. And in turn, the scriptures are either fully sufficient or all together unreliable. They are either the final authority or man has the last word. There is no in between.

Jesus gave testimony to the power, authority, and sufficiency of scripture after his resurrection and before his assertion. 

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-19.

The Word of God was the authority that Christ declared to the disciples. And with this authority they were charged to teach the church to observe and obey the commands lain out in the scriptures. Notice that Jesus did not say that the disciples had some authority apart from the Word of God. All authority had come from God was given Christ’s followers with the expectation that they would neither add to or take away from them.

Peter proclaimed that the Word of God was fully sufficient for all things pertaining to life and Godliness.

“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence,” 2 Peter 1:3.

Again, we see that Peter was mimicking the words of Christ given in Matthew 28:18-19 when he said “His divine power has grated us all things…” We have no authority of our own that is separate from God’s Word. Everything else falls into the category of either speculation or opinion. All authority comes from the Word of God. 

The Apostle Paul acknowledged in his letter to the Corinthians that we have no sufficiency within ourselves, but only in and through Jesus Christ our Lord. We are ministers according to His precepts, not our own.

“Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” 2 Corinthians 3:4-6.

The question is not if we profess the scriptures to be sufficient, because to say otherwise is a denial of what is blatantly obvious. Rather, the question is do we humbly bow to this authority or do we try to add in our own preferences? 

When our traditions override scriptural authority, then we are denying the sufficiency of the Bible. When our man made rules ignore God given commands, then we are denying the sufficiency of scripture. And when our personal preferences take precedence over the Word of the Lord, then we are denying and defying the sufficiency of scripture and the authority of Christ Himself.

When it comes to things such as discipleship, how we worship, the church’s ecclesiastical structure, evangelism practices, and all other things pertaining to life and Godliness, God’s Word must be the final authority in our faith and practice. Because our concept of authority is self biased and critically flawed, but His words are fully sufficient in every way.

Mission Blueprint

Currently I am preaching through the book of Titus with our Foothills Community Church family on Sunday mornings. As I began to study this great epistle, I was immediately struck by Paul’s instructions to Titus in verse 5. And Ive not been able to get past the implications of the words of the Apostle in this one verse.

This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you” Titus 1:5.

This is the Biblical blue print for missions. But more than that, this is the Biblical mandate for discipleship in general. As Christians, we so often over look this cookie cutter approach to making disciples to our great detriment.

Titus was a disciple of the Apostle Paul. He was mentioned by Paul in 2 Corinthians a total of 9 times. Titus was also present with Paul at the Jerusalem Council in Acts chapter 15. Titus was not only discipled by Paul, but he was trained by the Apostle in doctrine and how to refute error. After being raised up by Paul, Titus was sent on mission to the island of Crete.

Paul immediately gave his protegé two orders. First, Paul ordered Titus to “Put what remained into order.” Paul was speaking of teaching the natives proper doctrine. It is easy to infer by the words of Paul that the Gospel had reached the people of Crete. And quite possibly there had been believers trying to establish a church. However, what remained on the island was confusion over Biblical doctrine.

Titus wasn’t ordered to go to Crete and play games with their children. Titus wasn’t ordered to go to Crete to do Boy Scout, good deed, missions. Titus was sent there to first teach them Biblical doctrine and set straight where they were believing in error.

Paul first ordered Titus to straighten what remained, that being the doctrine, as a means to an end. What Paul really sent Titus to Crete to do is to establish churches in the area. And you cannot establish churches without first raising up men who are equipped with a Christ centered doctrine. This is why secondly, Titus was commanded to raise up Elders.

So many missionaries passionately claim they want to go to the ends of the earth to give their life to the people of the world. But people don’t need our life. They need men who are capable of proclaiming the Gospel and refuting error.

It’s not enough to send simply send any warm blooded man or woman with a church membership into the mission field. Missions is not a Christian vacation. In missions, we are sending people into the Spiritual war for the souls of men. We must strive to send people who are able to teach Biblical doctrine and raise up new leaders.

I fear that the church in America has for the most part lost it’s focus. In our great zeal to reach the lost, we have forgotten the blue print given through Titus and at times, resorted to man centered tactics. We’ve become more concerned with drawing lost men who are outside of the church instead of focusing on raising up the saints inside it’s walls with intentions of sending them out to preach the Gospel to those in their lives.

Paul’s blue print for evangelism was never to say to Titus, “I sent you to Crete for two  reasons; to create churches that are more like the world so the world will come to you, and to get people into the church building by any means possible so they will hear the preacher.”

The blue print was never to get people to merely come hear the preacher on Sunday mornings. The goal was never to put our hope in being as culturally relevant to the world in hopes the world would come to us. Because if our hope is in the power of relevance, then it’s not in the power of the spoken Word of God.

The goal of the church is replication. It is to disciple men, creating many preachers that would then go forth in making disciples.

The church is not a vacuum, attempting to suck as many people in the doors as possible. The church is to be a dispenser, churning out trained disciples able to rightly handle the word of truth as they go forth as the Royal Priesthood of Christ.

One of the great flaws in modern day evangelism is neglecting to pray fervently that God would raise up men from within who are doctrinal sound and equipped to speak the truth in love. We pray for the lost and right we should. But how often do we corporately pray that God would raise up leaders from within?

I pray that our churches would consider heavily the command of Titus 1:5.

I pray that our greatest focus as pastors and church leaders would be to preach and teach Biblical doctrine. I pray that our people would become disciples, not attenders. That we would raise up missionaries, not members. And that God would bring forth preachers, not partitioners. 

The focus of the church should be to glorify God, to edify the saints, and to raise up pastors, elders, and missionaries from within. And when spiritual maturity has been achieved, we send them out. The goal of mission and discipleship must be focused first on reaching and discipling the church. Because when the church is made strong, the lost will be reached.

Biblical Evangelism

Christians are Biblically and historically know as a called people. However, I fear that with each passing year, believers are forgetting what they have been called to do. Cultural Christianity is rapidly taking the place of Biblical Christianity. Catchy clichés are quipped more quickly than Bible verses. And an ever changing array of the latest fads in outreach methodologies are being utilized by churches instead of looking to the scriptures for our evangelism blueprint. In our evangelistic zeal, I fear that this 21st century Christian culture is neglecting to examine the Biblical pattern of evangelism that was given through the prophets, the Apostles, and Christ Himself, and instead attempting to use worldly tactics to draw sinners to the Savior.

I mentioned yesterday on social media that I was greatly bothered by a post I saw by someone attempting to promote their church so that others would come. The post read, “Come to our church. We’re the church for people who don’t do church.” Others have also spoken of this church, boasting of its amazing performances, its entertaining speakers, and its vast fun filled programs for the family. Not once was the Gospel presented. Not once was the aim of Christ’s glory mentioned. They desired to be known as, “The church for people who don’t do church.”

The justification for this statement is always something like this; “Well we have to get them into the church somehow.”  What is actually being said is, “The Gospel is powerless and not attractive, so we need to disguise it by appealing to their flesh.” Let me say that I am not anti church programs nor am I against outreach strategies. But the question must be asked, “What is our main objective in evangelism?” Is it to get people on a membership role? Or is it to glorify God?” Even more to the point, “Are we sharing the Gospel and presenting Christ as Savior in our evangelism?”

I fear that we have forgotten the 1 Peter 2:9 mandate that says that all believers are a Royal Priesthood;

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” 1 Peter 2:9.

The mindset of today’s evangelism is to get people into the church by any means except confronting them with their need for a Savior. The mindset is, “Lets get them in the church and THEN, once we’ve enticed them with appealing to their desires the Pastor can preach to them.” But if we are truly to be a Royal Priesthood, shouldn’t that mean that it’s not only the Pastor’s job to present the Gospel, but the duty of every believer and the purpose of evangelism?

How you draw men to the church then becomes the measure as to how you must keep them in.

If people are drawn to the church by the tag line, “We’re the church for people who don’t do church”, then you cannot do “Church” in any way that will come across as being contrary to their expectations. If you draw people with cotton candy and balloons, then you will have to keep with the same methods.

In John chapter 6, Jesus fed 5000 people by miraculously multiplying five barley loaves and two fish. The people were so amazed by this feat that they followed Him, even wanting to make Jesus their King. They followed Jesus across the sea to Capernaum. When they finally caught up to Jesus, the crowds were eager to see another miracle from Christ. And Jesus spoke directly to them.

“Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.” John 6:26.

Jesus then proceeded to begin teaching them doctrine. He began teaching them about Himself being the bread of life. No more miracles. No more entertainment. And the multitudes of people turned and walked away from Christ until he was left with only the original twelve.

“After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.” John 6:66.

What we draw men with is how we must then keep them.

So how do we properly evangelize? Recognizing the role we have as Royal Priest, how do we witness to others around us? The most effective pattern that I’ve ever seen has been recorded in the scriptures and it is seen time and time again.

Reluctantly, Jonah went to the wicked city of Nineveh to evangelize the people as God had commanded. He confronted the people with their need for a Savior. He spoke of the wrath of God against sinners, and the Salvation that the Lord offered to those who would repent of their ways. And the people saw their transgressions and repented before Holy God.

Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s journey. And he called out, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” And the people of Nineveh believed God. They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them.” Jonah 3:4-5.

In Nehemiah chapter 8 the prophet Ezra began to preach from the Word of God in the town square, reading from the law and exposing to the people how they had all transgressed against the Lord and we’re in need of saving. The response from the hearers was weeping and heartfelt conviction of their sins.

“And Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the LORD your God; do not mourn or weep.” For all the people wept as they heard the words of the Law.” Nehemiah 8:9.

One of the most notable examples of evangelism is seen after the resurrection at Pentecost. Peter preached to thousands of people and many Jews who had been instrumental in condemning Christ to death. Peter, like the prophets before him, preached the Gospel. He exposed the people to their own sins by pointing them to Christ. And the result was mass repentance and true conversions.

“Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”  Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”  And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”  And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.”  So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.” Acts 2:36-41.

In our evangelism, there is nothing wrong with highlighting the great things about our churches. There is nothing wrong with noting the great fellowship they will find within, the Christ centered programs that are at their disposal, and the wonderful people they will meet. My concern is this; are we seeking opportunities to have the hard conversations with people? Are we proclaiming the Gospel and trusting in its power to save or are we ashamed of it and fearful that it needs our help?

I heard a pastor once tell of one of his members trying to explain why he didn’t share the Gospel with his friends. This member told his pastor, “I don’t share the Gospel and speak of sin because I don’t want to run them off from church!” The Pastor replied, “Where are you going to run them to, Hell number two?”

When we take time to present people with the Gospel, and let them see how Christ has saved and transformed us, then He will be seen as a Savior and not self help guru. He will be cherished as a treasure and not a means to their fleshly desires. Those that only are coming for the entertainment will leave just as quickly when the fish and loaves are replaced with doctrinal preaching.

There are numerous approaches to putting ourselves in front of people to evangelize. But there is only one method that has been ordained to draw men for the right reasons, and that is the sharing (preaching) of the Gospel, not just from the pulpit on Sunday mornings, but in the context of everyday life, engaging with those whom God has placed in the path of each of His children.

Let us never become so consumed with attempting to get people in the church that we forget the reason for our outreach to begin with. Let us never become “The church for People who don’t do church.” Pragmatism is always easier than sharing the Gospel. When we neglect to share the Gospel in our evangelism, we show that we are trusting in our own strength and not the strength contained in speaking the Word of God.

“Thus says the LORD: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the LORD.” Jeremiah 17:5.

The Gospel is the only way that men will ever be saved. The evangelistic methods of the prophets, the Apostles, and Christ Himself will prove no less effective today than it was in their day. May we always trust in the power of the Word to change and transform.

“How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?” Romans 10:14

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” Romans 1:16

Weekend Roundup (5/11/18)

 

“It takes two ingredients to deliver a message that really sticks. It takes the right message and it takes the right time. Matt Chandler’s 2012 sermon “God is For God” is an example of this kind of timely message. Tim Challies revisits Chandler’s sermon and the controversy and Christ-centeredness that made it so memorable.”

The Intersection of the Natural & Supernatural in Preaching — “How do the supernatural and the natural intersect in the act of preaching? The emphasis will be on the fact that God intends for preachers to make the fullest use of their natural powers in preaching, even though the aim is to waken and sustain worship that is possible only in the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit.”

How Does God’s Sovereignty Not Violate Our Decision Making? — “How does God’s sovereignty over every life not make each of us robots? Where is the place for human willpower and decision-making? And how does God govern over it all?”

4 Reminders From Galatians That Every Pastor Needs Today — “One of the central blessings of pastoral ministry is saturating your mind with the Word of God. Pastors have the privilege of devoting ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the Word.”

A Great List of Book Recommendations — “I friend made the request. He’s looking for books to read and to recommend to others. “Give me a list of 50 or 60 authors you’ve read and a representative book by each of them.” His wish is my command. Here are 50 or 60 contemporary authors I’ve read and a book by each of them you may enjoy.”

Isaiah’s Sixfold Depiction of God’s Glory — “What kind of God does the prophet proclaim in Isaiah 42:18– 43:21? What must God be like if He promises to restore and renew despite the abject failure of His people? What kind of God is our covenant Lord? The answer is that He is like no other!”

How We’ve Misunderstood, “Do This in Remembrance of Me” — “Often today we call it communion or the Lord’s Supper. Although churches differ on how frequently we should take communion, the universal consensus among Christians is that this meal is an important part of our faith.”

6 Cracks in The Secular Worldview — “Don’t get me wrong. We Christians aren’t good people either: We’re a bunch of immoral hypocrites clinging for dear life to a beautiful Savior. But something about that clinging seems to help.”

Respectable Sins

Recently I overheard a conversation between two men. One of the men was  telling the other about a lady who worked in his office that he found very attractive. As he described the lady to his friend, he included a scattering of curse words to add emphasis to his story. Did I forget to mention this man wore a wedding ring?

After he had concluded colorfully describing his lust for a woman who was not his wife, he said in a laughing manner, “The Lord knows I’m not a perfect man, so he’ll just have to forgive my wandering eye and slips of the tongue. Besides Im just a man.” It was as if the man was attempting to cap off his story with justification of his continued actions. It was as if he were saying, “We’re all sinners, so God just needs to accept how I am.”

This post is an extension of last weeks blog entitled “Are You a Good or a Bad Person?” One of the reasons our Christian culture has such a low view of God is because it has a shallow understanding of sin. And in turn, our culture has a shallow view of sin because it also has a low view of God. The lost world is not impacted by the church because a great majority of the modern-day church has no true understanding of the Holiness of God nor the depravity of man.

People have little conscience when it comes to what Jerry Bridges has called respectable sins. A little white lie, the slip of a lustful glance, or the occasional curse word are considered to be every man sins. We pat ourselves on the back for steering clear of what we would consider the big sins such as murder and adultery, and laugh at our affinity for these respectable sins.

As I briefly mentioned in a previous blog, many professing Christians treat certain sins in a tongue in cheek manner because they measure themselves by other people and not by the measuring stick of our perfect God. We look at the man who beats his wife on the five o’clock news or the murderer we read about in the newspaper and we consider ourselves to be good people. But this is a great fallacy.

“But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding.” 2 Corinthians 10:12.

It’s easy to laugh at sin when we have no understanding of the depths of its offense. It’s easy to justify sins such as lying, cursing, or lusting when we close our eyes to what the Bible says about these things. Truth be told, if a person can flippantly speak of their sin with the proverbial wink of the eye, then they deceive themselves if they claimed to be a Christian.

Am I saying that a person must be without sin to be a Christian? By no means. Unfortunately we all sin, we all fall short. But some will use this statement as an excuse to continue in sin. What I am suggesting is that a person’s attitude towards sin speaks volumes to if they are truly saved. Consider what the scriptures say about our attitudes towards sin.

“No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.” 1 John 3:9-10.

John is writing to Christians. And in this context, he says that no one who professes Jesus Christ as Lord makes a practice of sinning. Notice John did not say, “No Christian sins.” He specifically mentioned that no Christian practices sin.

What is a practice of sin? I think of my son’s football practice. We know that Andy is going to have practice each week. He anticipates it before it happens. And we do nothing to avoid driving him to the football field. It is part of our regular weekly routine.  Going to the football field each week is our practice.

In the same way, a practice of sin is one that we do not avoid. It is to say, “I know that I curse, that I lust, or that I tell little lies, but it’s just who I am.” When we begin to justify what we would consider to be even the smallest of sins, and have no sorrow over them, we have entered into a practice of sin.

The frightening part about this is that John stated in the verse above that no Christian practices sin. No professing believer who truly has the Holy Spirit of God dwelling within them can laugh at their sin. Rather, the true believer mourns over their sinful nature.

“Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.” James 4:9-10.

There are far too many professing Christians who take joy in and laugh over their sins. Yet James writes that when it comes to our sins, our attitude should be one of mourning and humility before the Lord. Three of the most popular respectable sins predominantly overlooked by professing believer are lying, lusting, and cursing. And I can already hear some of the objections.

Objection # 1; It’s just a little white lie!

“But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars-they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.” Revelation 21:8.

The verse above didn’t say, “Only the big liars will have their part in the lake of fire.” Rather, the text states that ALL LIARS will spend their eternity in Hell. All of those who have not repented of lying. All of those who continue to practice the sin of lying because they think it to be innocent. All of those who do not seek to put this sin to death will be cast into the lake of fire.

The question is not have you ever told a lie, because all of us have. The question we must ask of ourselves is, “Does telling lies…even little white lies…bother me?  And do I desire stop this practice of sin?” In short, are you seeking to repent of even the smallest of transgressions in your life?

Objection # 2; It’s only a lustful glance!

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Matthew 5:27-28.

Pretty harsh words from our Lord. The act of adultery is not merely a physical act, but it begins with just a lustful glance. Adultery occurs when the heart begins to lust after someone else other than their spouse. So if just a mere lustful glance can make a person guilty of adultery, then what does God say about adulterers?

“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality,” 1 Corinthians 6:9.

Again, this list of sins doesn’t mean that anyone who has ever committed these sins is damned. Rather, it speaks to those who will not repent of such sins. They will not turn from these sins. They are entertained by them. They justify these sins. And they practice them.

Objection # 3; It’s just a curse word!

“If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless.” James 1:26.

Again, it all goes back to repentance. In Mark 1:15 Jesus says that in order for one to be saved they must do two things; Believe and repent. We have no problem with the believe part of that command. However, many neglect to pay heed to adopting the practice of repentance into their lives.  Repentance is a command, but it is also a description of the true Christian.
When salvation occurs, the Holy Spirit comes to dwell within a person giving them new desires. Notably, they begin to hate the sins they once loved and love the righteousness that they once hated. Can a Christian fall into sin? Unfortunately, yes. Can a Christian continue in a practice of sin? Absolutely not. Because their new heart will not allow them too. The Christian mourns over their sin and is ashamed of even what the world would consider to be the most insignificant of sins. The Christian is broken over their sins.
“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” Psalm 51:17.
Repentance is not only a change of mind, it’s a change of heart. And it is not a one time thing, but rather repentance is now a daily practice of the person who has been made a new creation in Christ. We would do well to do as the apostle Paul had said and to consistantly examine ourselves in light of God’s Word.
“Examine yourselves to see if your faith is genuine. Test yourselves. Surely you know that Jesus Christ is among you; if not, you have failed the test of genuine faith.” 2 Corinthians 13:5.
One sure sign that genuine repentance has and is taking place in the life of a believer is that sanctification will follow. Sanctification, simply defined, is the consistant pattern of growing in Holiness. Sanctification includes the deepening of a persons knowledge of God as well as a knowledge and distain over their sins.
To view any of our sins as small and inconsequential is to belittle the great price the Christ paid for the sins of His people on the cross. It is to make light of the blood of Jesus that was spilled, which was the price that God required for all the white lies, the lustful glances, and the curses that man will flippantly speak. These sins that many deem respectable are so heinous in their offensive to our Holy God, that the penalty for their offense was death.  Christ died in our place, and for our sins. All of our sins. Even the respectable ones.
“For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins,” Hebrews 10:26.

Weekend Roundup (5/4/18)

 

Todd Friel of Wretched Radio give us Ten Tests For Biblical Decision Making.

How To Get Wisdom; Become a Fool — “Divine wisdom is the perfect factual knowledge and the perfect situational insight and the omnipotent resolve that together will succeed in achieving his intended, righteous goals.”

Can We Really Trust the Bible if the Manuscripts Have Mistakes? — “The New Testament has been sufficiently preserved for us to be confident that we can recover the meaning that God intended and inspired in the original text.”

Are You Addicted to Your Phone? — “Take this short quiz provided by Tim Challies and find out.

How To Pray — “Lord, teach us to pray,” Jesus’s disciples asked. This simple prayer, which Jesus taught his disciples, can also show us how to talk with God in prayer.”

The Reality of Disappointment — “Blessed is the man who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.” To live is to be disappointed.”

Reflections on Singing with 12,000 People — “Last week, the night before Together for the Gospel began, someone asked Ligon Duncan what advice he’d give the first–time attender. He replied, “I come here to sing.”

Call Upon Me in the Day of Trouble — “A true incident in ‘the Battle of the Java Sea’ (27th February to 1st March 1942) in the experiences of Victor Hannaford, of Plymouth, England.”

Are You a Good or a Bad Person?

Do you consider yourself to be a good person? A person’s understanding of the Gospel of Jesus Christ hinges upon how they answer that question. Many people think themselves to be good because their standard of measure is other sinful human beings. We consider ourselves to be good because we are not as bad as the criminals on the five o’clock news. Or maybe because we don’t cheat on our spouse like the neighbor down the street.

But what if the standard of measure to determine our goodness was not other people, but a Holy and sinless God? What if the measure of which to answer this question was not man’s laws, but God’s? Do you personally consider yourself to be a good person? Well take this short 5 question test and find out!

Question 1: Have You Ever Told a Lie, Even a Little White Lie?

If your answer was yes, what do you call someone who lies?

ANSWER: A Liar.

Question 2: Have You Ever Stolen Anything, Even a Pen?

If your answer was yes, what do you call someone who steals?

ANSWER: A Thief

Question 3: Have You Ever Used God’s Name in Vain, Even Saying OMG?

If your answer was yes, that is the sin of blasphemy. A very serious offense in the sight of God.

What do you call someone who blasphemies?

ANSWER: A Blasphemer

Question 4: Have You Ever Committed Adultery?

Jesus said in Matthew 5:27-32 that if you even so much as look upon a person with lust, then you have already committed adultery in your heart. What do you call someone who commits this act?

ANSWER: An Adulterer

Question 5: Have You Ever Committed Murder?

Jesus said in Matthew 5 that if you have hatred for someone, then you have committed the act of murder in your heart. What do you call someone who commits murder?

ANSWER: A Murderer

So how did you do?

If you answered yes to each question, then by your own admission you are a lying, thieving, blaspheming, Murderer and an adulterer at heart…..just like the rest of us. Just so you know, these were only 5 of the Ten Commandments, proving that we have broken every one of God’s laws.

Now, if you were to stand before God on judgement day with this failed test in hand, proving that you are a cosmic law-breaker, would God declare you innocent or guilty? Would you go to Heaven or Hell?

Many will immediately answer this question by saying that they are guilty, but God will simply forgive them because that is what He does. But there is a problem with that. God cannot merely forgive all of the times we have broken His laws, because that would make Him an evil and unjust judge.

Consider an earthly judge for a moment. Imagine that someone had come into your home and murdered your whole family. The police catch this man and you sit in the courtroom as he is to be sentenced. All of the sudden, the judge says, “I am a merciful judge, and I see that this man has done more good things in his life than bad, so I’m going to forgive his trespasses and let him go.” 

Would you consider this judge to be a good man? Of course not. A horrible crime was committed, and justice must be served.

God is not a bad judge. Therefore He cannot let our sins and transgressions of His Holy Law go unpunished. Justice must be served. This answers the ultimate question. God is a good God. And we are not good people. According to His Law, we are guilty of multiply crimes and we deserve to be cast into Hell. Our good works do not have the ability to outweigh even one of our sins.

James said regarding the law of God, “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.” James 2:10.

The Apostle Paul said in Galatians that if a person ceases to keep every law of God, then he deserves damnation. “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.” Galatians 3:10.

Paul tells us that even if a person breaks only one of God’s laws one time, that in and of itself is enough to condemn us to Hell. That is how serious God’s laws are, and how wretched our sins. This seems harsh to many, but only because we cannot fathom the extreme Holiness of God and the heinous nature of our sins.

Do you feel the tension yet?

So what is a Holy God to do with cosmic, serial lawbreakers like us? Our fine committed against the Almighty must be paid. Our offenses cannot be dismissed. This should cause us to plead the question, “What must I do to be saved?”

The answer is the Gospel, which means good news. You see, it is impossible to fully grasp the good news of the Gospel unless we first understand the bad news of our plight and hopeless. We are not good people. We are the worst of sinners. But God made a way of salvation for His people.

Before the foundation of the world, God set forth a plan to satisfy His justice against us. Jesus Christ, who is God incarnate, stepped out of the Heavens and took on flesh. He lived the perfect life that was demanded by the law of God, and He died the death that was due us. And all of those who will believe upon Jesus and repent of their sins are covered by the blood of Christ and stand justified before God.

And in His death, Christ imputed His perfect record onto all of those who would believe upon Him and repent of their sins, and in exchange He took their guilty record and placed it upon Himself. Jesus endured the full wrath of God that was aimed at us. Therefore when God looks upon a sinner who has bowed the knee to Christ, He no longer sees them as a criminal, but because of the blood of Christ, they are seen as justified before the Lord.

Jesus satisfied the demands of the law of God that you and I could not.

For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh,  in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” Romans 8:3-4.

You are not a good person. Neither am I. This is why you and I need a Savior. The rich young ruler in Luke 18 did not believe Jesus to be God, but he considered Jesus to be a good person. Jesus, who is God incarnate, answered the ruler by saying, ““Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good-except God alone.” Luke 18:19. 

In essence, Christ was saying to the ruler, “If you don’t think I am God, then why do you call me good?” Because no man is good. Our good deeds don’t erase our transgressions against God nor do they cancel out our sins.

““There is no one righteous, not even one;” Romans 3:10.

No amount of good deeds or acts or morality can save us from the wrath of God. As Paul Washer once said, “God saved us for Himself, by Himself, and from Himself.” This is why it is so important for all believers to witness this way to others, using the test of the law of God to expose them to their desperate need for Christ.

People who do not believe in Christ are not under the love of God, but they remain under His wrath.

“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.” John 3:36.

If you have friends or family members who do not know the Lord, give them the good person test. Tell them of God’s Holy and righteous standards, and how desperate our situation is outside of knowing Christ. And tell them that the Lord commands them to repent of their sins, and believe the Gospel. Seeing ourselves rightly through God’s law leads us to fully realize the beauty of Christ and our dependence upon Him.

“Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith.” Galatians 3:24.

The video below is a great example of how to witness and share the Gospel with others by using the mirror of God’s law. If you are interested in learning how to witness to others using the law of God, Todd Friel and Ray Comfort do a Witness Wednesday broadcast on Wretched radio each Wednesday. Do not be ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the ONLY power of God unto salvation! And this is extremely good news for bad people like us.

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8.

Weekend Roundup (4/27/18)

 

Pastor Steve Lawson gives a very detailed and concise explanation of the Gospel. If you or someone you know has never heard the Gospel, or perhaps have never understood what Christ accomplished through His life, death, and resurrection, then do not neglect to watch and share this video.

Why Expositional Preaching is Particularly Glorifying to God — “Preaching is not conversation. Preaching is not discussion. Preaching is not casual talk about religious things. Preaching is not simply teaching. Preaching is the heralding of a message permeated by the sense of God’s greatness and majesty and holiness.”

Christian, Are You Growing in Wisdom and Maturity? — “There’s a call on every Christian to grow and keep growing in wisdom and maturity. Are you?

What is Pastoral Preaching? — “Faithful preaching is never disconnected from pastoring. That’s because a pastoral preacher is not merely concerned with the meaning and theology of the text, but also with the particular people to whom he’s preaching.”

The Holiness of God and the Sinfulness of Man — “Two things that every human being absolutely must come to understand are the holiness of God and the sinfulness of man. These topics are difficult for people to face. And they go together.”

The Biblical Importance of Catechizing — “Briefly, why should you catechize yourself and your family? A few reasons to get you thinking…”

Why You Can’t Understand the Bible Without Understanding the Covenants — “If we don’t understand the covenants, we will not and cannot understand the Bible because we wont understand how the story fits together.”

Four Ways Doctrine Impacts Every Day of My Life (And Why the Church Needs it) — “Sound doctrine is good for followers of Jesus. We need to know the truth, which means we must study the truth.”