“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.”
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
When our son Lincoln was five years old, he loved to play catch with any ball he could get his hands on. So we did what any red-blooded American family would, we signed our son up for t-ball. This was actually the first time we had ever officially put Lincoln on an organized sports team, and as his father I was pretty excited.
I had grand visions of Lincoln stepping up to the plate and knocking the ball clear over the fence on his first swing. And I could just envision little Linc playing the outfield and catching a pop fly ball, which would leave all the other parents in awe of my sons athletic prowess. However, the reality of his first game didn’t quite play out how I had imagined.
Our team was first up to bat, and it was time for Lincoln to step up to the plate. Lincoln was so excited about playing baseball. The umpire placed the ball on the tee, and gave Linc his bat. Lincoln drew back the bat so far behind his shoulders that it looked like he was preparing to knock the ball into orbit. And then he swung the bat extremely low. So low in fact that he hit the dirt on the ground instead of the ball.
Lincoln hit the ground, the tee, and eventually he tapped the ball. And when I say tapped, I mean that I believe the ball decided to fall off of the tee because it felt sorry for him. My little man ran as hard as he could….toward second base. “Run to first base!” I yelled. But Lincoln wasn’t even familiar with the terms of the game, nor did he really care. He just wanted to have fun.
Next Lincoln took to the outfield to play center field. A little boy on the opposing team hit the ball and it was coming right towards Lincoln. I looked over to center field expecting to see Lincoln crouched and ready to grab the ball. But what I saw instead was Lincoln rolling around in the grass, paying no mind to the duties of his position.
Lincoln didn’t care about learning the rules of the game. Being just a little boy as he was, all he cared about was having the experience of playing ball, and telling people he was a baseball player. He just wanted to have fun. And believe me, he had a blast.
Now consider for a moment that Lincoln continued to play baseball as the years went by. And eventually he decides to try out for a professional baseball team. He walks on the field for try outs and jogs to center field to practice catching fly balls. The coach hits the ball to center field, but Lincoln is not prepared to catch it. Instead, he is rolling around in the grass on his back in a world of his own.
What would happen? Well I can assure you that aside from the coach being livid, Lincoln would not make the team. You see when he played t-ball, the kids were not playing to win. In fact, the coaches didn’t even keep score. It was fine (and expected) if the kids rolled in the dirt or miss the ball, because it was more about the kids having fun than actually winning.
However, pro sports teams are competitive. They have a goal and a mission. In professional sports, it’s not view as game as it is an imperative to win. And in pro sports, no one is allowed to play the game if they have not been rightly trained and prepared to contribute to the end goal of beating the opposing team. No one would be allowed to play just so they can have an experience. It is a privilege to play pro sports, and only those who have prepared reach that level.
With anything that we take seriously in life, be it sports, a career, military service or otherwise, only those who have been properly trained and are prepared to be effective are allowed to participate.
However, when it comes to missions within the church, it has become common place to let the unprepared go. Mission trips have become viewed not as a life or death objective to preach the Word to people who do not know Christ, but as quaint little Christian vacations. Mission trips are increasingly seen as a chance for people to have some kind of religious experience.
Unfortunately a great majority of missions that we see today center around going to an underprivileged part of the world, spending a few days feeding the natives, teaching them catchy songs and playing Christian games, and spending at least one day sight-seeing or touring the country side.
Many people who sign up to go on these mission trips are not trained in evangelism. They do not know how to explain the attributes of God. They cannot tell the natives about repentance or justification. And they’ve not been trained in using the Law of God to prick the hearts of men to expose their sin, which in turn should lead to telling them why they so desperately need a savior.
The serious, life and death implications of Christian missions is viewed by many churches as little more than a Christian experience. Mission is not a game, nor is it to be promoted as a fun little get away for the church.
I have heard it said that taking untrained people on mission trips can deepen their faith and even lead to their salvation. And I say in rebuttal that their faith may be deepened and they may indeed find salvation, but it would be in spite of them going on the mission trip, not because of it.
I suppose that if you placed a man on a professional baseball team that had never played the game before, he might deepen his knowledge of the game and even be given a jersey. But he would be useless in the game when it mattered. Or in like manner, if you sent an untrained man into war he may pick up a few maneuvers from the soldiers, but he will be little help in the battle.
The purpose of the local church is to preach the Word of God, raising up disciples of Christ and equipping them for mission. The proper use of the mission field is not to evangelize people in the church or get church members saved. Missionaries are soldiers sent into a foreign land with one purpose; to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Christian missions are not primarily doing humanitarian deeds or playing games with children. These may accompany mission, but these are not mission. The main purpose of Christian mission is to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ in its entirety. The church is given by God to equip the saints and prepare them to live life on mission, be it nationally or internationally.
If a person has not first been utterly floored by a high view of God’s Holiness, as well as devastatingly broken by a right view of the sinful depravity of their own sins, they have no business even contemplating missions. More than that, if they do not have a right view of God and a correct biblical view of man, then it is impossible for them to have the proper motivations to go and be a useful servant on mission.
Serving on Christian mission must be preceded by three things. A right view of God. A right view of man. And a regenerated soul. Isaiah chapter 6 exemplifies this blueprint for us.
“In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;the whole earth is full of his glory!” Isaiah 6:1-3.
Isaiah was a prophet of the Lord. In his lifetime he had the great honor of serving as an advisor to four earthly kings. No doubt Isaiah was known as a religious man, and was seen as one who was respectable. In the year that king Uzziah died, the nation was cast into despair due to his passing. The nation of Judah had prospered tremendously under Uzziah during his reign. King Uzziah died of an extreme case of leprosy. And although Uzziah was not a moral man, he was well liked among the people and was loved by many.
In this same year, Isaiah was given a vision of the Lord. The prophet wrote of his vision that the train of His robe filled the temple. This is a reference to the full Sovereignty of God which permeates all areas of life. Isaiah saw the angelic seraphim, who themselves could not bear to look upon the glory of God lest they be consumed by it. And around the throne they cried ‘Holy, Holy, Holy.’
No other attribute of God is thrice emphasised in scripture. No where in the Bible is it written that God is love, love, love. Or that the Lord is merciful, merciful, merciful. Rather, the emphasis is placed on His great Holiness. Holy means to be separate from. In a world that loves to worship common image of God that is their “homeboy” or their best pal, the scriptures give quite a different description. God is not at all like us. He is ‘separate, separate, separate‘ from all that is under creation. God is Holy. And we are not.
Isaiah caught a glimpse of God. And immediately His Holiness was undeniable. R.C. Sproul once said that if Holiness was not the first attribute that popped into our minds when we think of God, then we are committing idolatry.
After gazing upon the Holiness of God, what was the reaction of Isaiah? Did he begin to sing a chorus of ‘Jesus is a Friend of Mine’? Did he throw on a trite t-shirt with Jesus winking an eye and giving a thumbs up? When a man has truly seen God as being Holy, it is impossible, even nauseating to even consider thinking of the Lord in such trivial ways. No, Isaiah’s reaction to seeing God as Holy was quite different from much of what is seen in contemporary pop culture when it comes to Christ.
“And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” Isaiah 6:4-5.
John Calvin said that man cannot truly know himself unless he first knows who God is. Without a right view of God, man is prone to compare himself to the measuring stick of other sinful men around him. And in doing this, he will falsely begin to think himself to be righteous and good. He will see himself as deserving of Heaven. But when we measure ourselves by the standard of a perfect and Holy God, even the most self-righteous of us will experience fear and trembling. This was the case with Isaiah.
Again, Isaiah was a prophet. Isaiah was most likely known as the church guy around town. He was seen as a very moral person. He may have even considered himself to be a righteous man when compared to others. But when Isaiah was placed up against the measure of the perfect Holiness of God, he was shattered.
‘Woe is me’, cried Isaiah. He considered himself lost and unclean. Why? Because he had gained a right view of the Lord. And in contrast, his right view of God led to a right view of man. He saw himself for what he truly was. A desperately depraved and sinful man who did not deserve to stand in the presence of God.
Notice in Isaiah’s vision, he was not holding hands with Jesus and skipping down the streets of Heaven as many writers of popular Christian books have written false accounts. Nor was he filled with a sense of peace in being close to God as others have written. In the presence of God and in light of his Holiness, Isaiah was terrified.
We see this same terror exemplified from the disciples of Christ in the Gospel of Mark.
“A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” Mark 4:37-41.
When we truly realize the extent of the Holiness of God, it leads us to see that if He is good, then we are not. We have broken every law and standard of this Holy being, and as a result all of mankind deserves separation from God eternally. In fact, if God were to show mercy to no one and send the whole human race to Hell, He would still be Just, loving, Holy and Righteous. Because He is Holy and He sets the standard, not us.
Isaiah was devastated when he saw a vision of the Lord. A right view of God’s Holy nature led to a right view of man’s utter depravity and divine sentence of eternal destruction. Isaiah was experiencing a state of hopelessness in the presence of such a majestic being such as God. He professed to be undone, which is to be as one who is literally coming apart at the seams.
But after the Lord had given Isaiah a right view of Himself, and a right view of mankind, He cleansed Isaiah of his hopeless state, and gave him reason to lift his head.
“Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.” Isaiah 6:6-7.
It’s been said many times that in order to understand the good news of the Gospel, it is pertinent that we first understand the bad news our own depravity. If man cannot look upon himself and see that he is tragically separated from God by way of His sins, and experience a hopeless fear as a result, then he will never be able to appreciate the atonement that Christ provides to those who will repent and believe upon Him.
In Isaiah’s vision, one of the seraphim flew to him with a burning coal from the altar of God. And with it he touched Isaiah’s mouth and said, “Your guilt has been taken away and your sins atoned for.” This symbolism of this portion of the vision needs little explanation as it is self-evident in what it is saying.
This is a picture of regeneration. This is a glimpse of God atoning for the sins of the penitent sinner. For the man who will come before the Lord, humbly and broken over his sins and in awe of God, he will be lifted high and cleansed of all former transgressions. In the new covenant, it is the blood of Christ that covers our ugly past and atones for our sins, justifying us in the presence of our Holy God.
“But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him. Surely our griefs He Himself bore, And our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted.” Isaiah 53:4-6.
What sort of love is this, that God would substitute Himself and die for the sins of man and imput to His righteousness to cosmic criminals like us? It is a love that humbles man. And it is a love that spawns joyful devotion to such a King that would save us from His wrath. Such was the reaction of Isaiah after his sins had been atoned for in the vision.
“And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.” Isaiah 6:8.
After Isaiah was given a right view of God, he saw the depravity of his own soul, and had his sins atoned for, then and only then was he able to gaze upon the Lord with joy! And a heart for mission was the result of these right views. When the Lord rhetorically asked, “Whom shall I send”, Isaiah was not reluctant in volunteering. Nor was his motivation for mission to have a nice Christian experience.
Isaiah had seen the glory of God. Isaiah had now known the fear of the Lord. And Isaiah saw the desperate plight of sinful man without the atonement of God. Isaiah’s idea of mission centered around proclamation. He had seen the true God, and now Isaiah wanted others to see Him too. Isaiah responded without hesitation, “Here I am, send me!”
Missions is not an easy excuse for a Christian vacation or an opportunity to have an experience. Nor is a mission trip a place to take someone who is immature in their faith or altogether lost. Christian missions are serious ventures for believers who are mature in their faith. They have, as Isaiah, come to know God as Holy. They have been broken over their sins. And they have come to faith in Christ through believing in Him for salvation and repenting of sins. And as a result, they have a burden to preach the Gospel to the lost.
In my early thirties I stumbled upon a sermon on Matthew 7 via the internet. The Lord used that sermon to radically bring me to a broken realization of my sins and in time bring me to salvation. The preacher of that sermon is an evangelist named Paul Washer, and I would later come to find that his sermon had been titled by many, “The Shocking Youth Sermon.” To this day it is one of the most powerful and convicting sermons that I’ve had the great privilege of hearing. In the video below, Paul Washer looks back on this sermon and recalls its impact and the controversy that surrounded it.
What Made Paul Washer’s Message So Shocking? –The Lord uses sermons to save, stir, and edify his people–and that sometimes he does this through unexpected messages and messengers. Tim Challies takes a closer look at Paul Washer’s “Shocking Message.”
What Is Definite Atonement? — “The atonement is limited in its efficacy to all who believe. I think we can agree on that. But it’s also limited in its eternal design for God’s elect—that Christ laid down His life for His sheep and all for whom Christ died come to Christ, experience His redemption, and are redeemed forever.”
The Remedy For Our Idolatry — ““Little children, keep yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:21). If the heart of man is, as John Calvin described it, “an idol-making factory,” then the way in which those idols are destroyed should be of utmost importance to us.”
What Scale Will God Use on Judgement Day? — “The scale Jesus presents has God’s perfection on one side. That’s the standard that it takes to get to Heaven.”
Can a Person’s Family Become an Idol? — “Some people do not have a biblical worldview on the family. For them, the family is always number one regardless. The Bible teaches a different perspective.”
Attending Corporate Worship — “Here are four important—yet underrated—reasons Christians ought to attend the Lord’s Day gathering.”
The Acropolis of the Word of Faith Movement — “The Word of Faith Movement is nothing other than works-based righteousness.”
Everyone has a story to tell. One that is passed down from generation to generation. One that is told numerous times by the story teller, at times to the exhaustion of his hearers. But when the story is life altering, the story teller could care less. He loves, I dare say, lives to tell his story. This is my story. My testimony of the grace of God upon my life. It is a brief account of how God called me by His Word from darkness into newness of life. And by God’s grace, it may be your story as well.
I grew up very involved in church from a very early age. From the time I was an infant, my parents were instrumental in modeling how the church should be priority in our lives. I was surrounded by people like my parents and church family who loved the Lord. And our family was usually among the first people to enter the church building and one of the last to leave.
I was morally a good kid. And when it came to the youth group, I was present every Wednesday night for Bible Study as well as in attendance for each yearly youth related camp. I memorized weekly Bible verses, was baptized at age thirteen, and professed to be a follower of Jesus Christ.
But it wasn’t until I was in my early thirties that I realized I wasn’t saved, and that if I had died I would have spent an eternity in Hell, separated from God. I had religion. I had morality. I had church attendance. I had walked the aisle, said the prayer, and had been baptized. But I was no more saved than if I’d been an atheist.
Truth be told, my religious check list was pristine. In fact, if you would have asked me how I knew that I was saved, I would have pointed to my morality, my baptism, and my involvement in the church. I would have told you that I knew I was saved because when I was thirteen years old I said a sinners prayer asking Jesus into my heart, and I was baptized.
In my mind I was saved. There was no love for the Word of God within my soul. I had no true repentance in my heart. And my knowledge of God was not much deeper than the watered down Bible stories we read our children. I had no understanding of divine atonement or propitiation. I had no understanding of the attributes of God such as His Sovereignty, His Holiness, His Immutability, or His providential governing.
In short, I was a modern day, living picture of the man that Jesus spoke of in Matthew chapter 7.
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.” Matthew 7:21-23.
I heard a sermon preached on this passage of scripture in my mid thirties. And the preacher’s exposition of this text haunted me for weeks after hearing. The man in the text of Matthew 7 that Jesus spoke of was one who would have boasted of his religious checklist as his justification to why he thought he was saved. He was a man who would have emphatically professed Jesus Christ as his Lord.
In a more modern day context, this man in Matthew 7 was one who would have been seen regularly in church, he would have been know around town as a very moral person, and he would have had the date of his baptism written in the back of his Bible.
On his death bed, he would have been self assured that he would enter the Kingdom of Heaven based on how stellar track record. However, upon breathing his last breath, he enters into the presence of God. Even standing before the Lord, he confidently begins to recount the many religious things he did during his life.
But the response from Jesus was shocking. The Lord responded to this self righteous man, “I never knew you. Depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.”
Reading the description of this man was as if I was looking at my own reflection in a mirror. All of my years of church activity and attempts at morality were as the prophet Isaiah said, “Filthy rags before God.” Isaiah 64:6.
I became broken over my sins. But this time, my brokenness was heartfelt. For the first time, I was disgusted by my past self righteousness and desired more than anything to live my life chasing the knowledge of Christ, and to serve Him on mission.
Something was different. My desires had changed. I wanted to know Him. My salvation resulted in an insatiable craving for the knowledge of God. And the more that I saw of His beauty through scriptures, the more this hunger grew.
“Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.” 1 Peter 2:2-3.
This is but a glimpse of my testimony. I often look at the salvation that the Lord has given and marvel at His grace towards such an undeserving person as myself. The Lord used many factors in His great providence to lead me out of spiritual darkness and into His light.
First and foremost, it was the preaching of the Word of God that led me to the knowledge of the truth. It was the faithful exposition of Matthew chapter 7 that the Lord used to awaken my dead soul. It was not the eloquence of the preacher nor the charisma of a man, but strictly the reading of the Word of God.
I didn’t walk down an aisle nor did I repeat a canned “sinners prayer.” I didn’t sign a card and neither did I respond to an altar call. It wasn’t the emotional music played at the end of the sermon nor the passionate plea of the pastor that drew me to God. And I didn’t invite Jesus into my heart as if He needed an invitation from a former enemy of God such as myself. I followed none of these man centered tactics that are so very popular today.
It was God and God alone through the speaking of His Word that breathed new life into my soul. It was the preaching of the Word that led to salvation.
“Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.” Romans 10:17.
Some may ask why do I share this portion of my testimony? My reason is two fold. First, as the old hymn goes, I love to tell the story. I believe that is one of the telling marks of someone who has truly encountered Christ. Once you have truly tasted the grace of God, you never get over it. You can’t stop talking about it.
You own salvation is the most amazing thing to you. Consider the disciples of Christ. They had their flaws for sure. But once they saw the risen Christ, they spent the rest of their earthly lives telling others about it.
After the conversion of the Apostle Paul, he retold his own testimony more than once throughout the scriptures. Paul pointed to his own fallacy of believing in His own religious works and morality.
“I was circumcised when I was eight days old. I am a pure-blooded citizen of Israel and a member of the tribe of Benjamin—a real Hebrew if there ever was one! I was a member of the Pharisees, who demand the strictest obedience to the Jewish law. I was so zealous that I harshly persecuted the church. And as for righteousness, I obeyed the law without fault I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ.” Philippians 3:5-9.
In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, he did not hold back from sharing the most shameful of his sins with them. He considered himself to be the worst of sinners, undeserving of the grace that had been given to him.
“For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.” 1 Corinthians 15:9.
But Paul was not ashamed of His past, because his former weaknesses only served to magnify the power of the saving grace of God to bring the spiritually dead back to life.
“So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9.
It is the same with us today. When God turns a heart of stone to flesh, it is all the more reason for the person who is a new creation in Christ to have a deep desire to testify to the greatness of God, boasting only of their weakness and bringing full glory to God.
And secondly, the reason for sharing this testimony is so that God may use it to lead others to the knowledge of Himself. As I began to grow in sanctification and listen to many sermons, I began to notice a difference between preachers.
There were many popular preachers that I heard that were very captivating and even entertaining to listen to. But there was little to no depth. And there were other preachers who seem to have a seriousness to their message. There was an urgency in their voice. As if they were preaching fervently to men who were teetering on the edge of eternity. I was immediately drawn to such preaching.
Their message was not jovial nor did they employ cute Christian games in order to try and keep the attention of their audiences. It was apparent that the message they spoke was delivered as being life or death. It was no laughing matter. The demeanor of preachers who hold a high view of God and approached their exegesis with a serious tone exemplify the reality of the Gospel.
As one preacher rightly said, Jesus must be everything, or He is nothing. The supernatural salvation of the Lord produces in the new man an urgency and a seriousness when it comes to matters of God. It is not a Christianity molded by the opinions of men nor one that is cautious of withholding certain Biblical truths for fear of hurting someones feelings. Spurgeon once said that the person who loves you the most is the one who will tell you the truth, even if it is offensive. This is the Gospel.
Have you truly been saved? Or are you as I once was, lost in a sea of your own self professed morality and religiosity? Do you have a untamed passion for the Gospel of Jesus Christ and a seriousness to the message that you proclaim? Are you growing in Holiness and the knowledge of Christ? Or does you quest to know Him consist only of Sunday morning in the pew?
Do you know Jesus? Better yet, does Jesus know you? According to Matthew Chapter 7, that will be the question to be answered when you stand before the Lord. The lost man will passionately proclaim “Lord, Lord, I know you!” And Christ will respond to many, “But I didn’t know you.”
Seek Him, while He may be found. And know that if you sincerely do begin to seek the Lord, you did not do this in and through your own power. There is only one seeker, and that is God. Because in our flesh and sins we want nothing to do with God (Romans 3). That is until He breathes new life into us. You see even in the seeking of Christ we deserve no credit for that. Because the only reason man seeks God is because God has first regenerated His heart and given Him new desires.
“We love because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:9.
Do you have a new passion for Him? If there has been no evident change wherein you begin to hate the sins you once loved and love the righteousness of Christ you once despised, then there has been no salvation. Church attendance cannot save, nor can Baptism. You must be born again, where you believe the Gospel and spend the rest of your life repenting of you sins and proclaiming the glorious Gospel.
My story began with brokenness. There was nothing in my deeds nor my past track record of religious activities that merited favor with God. I was, and still consider myself to be as Paul said, the least deserving of grace. My story begins with a resurrection. The moment my eyes did open and I couldn’t look upon myself for worth of any kind, but only to Christ. And my story is one that is only beginning, and will go on into eternity never ceasing to be amazed by the majesty of Christ our Lord.
Truth be told, this is God’s story. One of many stories about His grace and saving power. I just happen to be mentioned in this account as a means to magnify His glory through the telling of His redemption of sinners such as I. Every story is either a story of His mercy or His justice. But all stories, in some way, serve to point to Jesus. Even yours.
I pray that Jesus is that treasure in your field this day, and that like Paul, all external efforts at salvation are as garbage to you. This day, if you do know Him, take a moment to stand in awe of the miraculous work that is your own salvation. And let that reality spur you on towards living radically for Christ. Salvation is by faith and faith alone in Jesus Christ. Repent and believe the Gospel. For it is the power of God unto salvation.
In this brief video clip, Dr. John MacArthur and Dr. R.C. Sproul discuss the true purpose of the church. The church is not primarily for unbelievers, but for the edification and building up of the saints so that they may be equipped to go out into the world and reach those who do not believe. The church is for the sanctification of the body, not for the entertaining of the world.
When Ball Becomes Baal — ” Have you considered that you may be teaching your kids to worship sports?”
In My Place Condemned He Stood –“If on the cross as Jesus died, the wrath of God was not satisfied, how was it then appeased?”
Your God is Too Small — “Unbelief is a withering sickness that ultimately destroys faith. And what is the remedy? Waiting on the Lord.”
Is the Bible Enough For Us? — “The sufficiency of Scripture means that the words of Scripture are, and have been throughout salvation history, ample revelation from God for people to know him savingly, answer life’s most important questions, and carry out his will in their lives.”
How The Church Gets Justice Wrong — “Although God’s Word is not a manual for cultural transformation, good theology creates a horizon for reimagining our relationships with one another as well as with God.”
Predestination Destroys Legalism — “If salvation is by Christ ALONE, it leaves no room for boasting or trusting in ourselves, even a little. It strips us bare and forces us to abandon all hope in our own wisdom, will-power, efforts or rules.”
Weekdays around five PM at the Parish household are quite hectic. This is the time when I usually roll in from the office, and the kids are all home from school. I am asked very often how we juggle raising five children. I tell people its no different than when we had one child. The difference is that the daily routine changes. And our daily routine is a well oiled machine. Let me paint a brief snapshot.
When I come in from work, I drop my briefcase, kiss my lovely wife, tussle the hair of our four boys who are usually doing homework, and I grab my two year old daughter Haven. While Lacy is cooking and answering homework questions, I bathe Haven and put her in her PJ’s.
Once bath time is over, I place Haven in the midst of her baby dolls near Lacy (who by now is finishing dinner) and usher all four boys upstairs for their showers. When the boys are squeaky clean and in their pajama’s I herd them back downstairs towards the kitchen where Lacy has supper on the table.
We grab Haven and all sit down to have dinner. Ok, let me rephrase that. The kids sit down to enjoy dinner while Lacy and I take turns refilling drinks, getting ketchup, cleaning spills, and dishing out second helpings. Once dinner is over and the dishes are clean, we begin to reach the home stretch of the evening.
At this point, the kids will brush their teeth and get in bed. This portion of the night takes a considerable amount of time. Trying to get four boys into separate beds without one getting up is like playing a game of wack a mole.
Once the boys are securely in bed, I travel from room to room to talk to the boys about their day and doing a night time family devotion with each of them. And then, I make my way back down stairs, exhausted from the day and our routine and ready for bed. By this time it’s in the 8 PM hour. Not a perfect routine, but it works for us.
Last week my seven year old son Luke tried to ask me a question in the midst of our nightly routine. “Daddy, can I ask you a question?” said Luke. “Sure buddy”, I responded. “Right after I give your sister her bath.” Luke approached me again after bath time. “Daddy, now can I ask you a question?” Just as I was about to answer, my phone rang and I had to take the call.
After the phone call was over, it occurred to me that we were running behind on the Parish family routine due to the extended conversation. I totally forgot about Luke’s question until the next morning.
“Morning buddy”, I said as Luke was eating breakfast. “What was your question you wanted to ask last night?” Luke responded, “I wanted to ask if you would take me to play in the park this weekend.” I told Luke “Absolutely, but why didn’t you ask me last night before bed?” His response broke my heart. Luke said “Because I didn’t think you would answer me.”
In all the business of trying to stay on top of our nightly routine, I had failed to listen to my son. Luke didn’t continue to ask me because he did not believe I would hear him, much less answer his request. I told Luke that I need to apologize to him and repent, because I want him to know that daddy had let things get in the way of actually taking time to listen to the cries of my his heart.
When it comes to prayer and communing with God, a great majority of Christians struggle in this discipline. And a big reason for our lack of prayer is due to unrecognized unbelief. It is not that we don’t believe in God but rather, much like my son Luke, we don’t believe that God hears or that He will answer.
God is not an absentee father. He never grows to busy or exhausted. And He never forgets His children. There is not a prayer or request uttered from a child of God that is not heard or left unanswered. If we love our children yet in our fallenness can at times neglect them, how much more attentive is our good and perfect Heavenly Father to His children?
“What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” Luke 11:11-13.
We don’t petition God with prayer like we should, and one reason is because we don’t think God is attentive to our requests. Why do so many feel this way? Why is it that believers neglect to cry out to God in their times of need? And furthermore, why is it that many who do cry out in times of need doubt if the Lord actually hears their requests?
It is because sometimes, our prayers are not answered in the way we want. And when our prayers are not answered in the way we want or if we are not immediately rescued from the trial of which we are praying to be saved from, then unbelief sets in.
Have you ever prayed for God to rescue you from a trial or hardship, only to be left with no visible relief in sight? After continuing to pray day after day for a solution and waking each morning to see that we are still knee deep in the trenches, we can wrongly begin to feel like my son and just stop praying. Because we have not received the rescue we had prayed for, the assumed conclusion for many is that God isn’t hearing us.
But nothing could be further from the truth. Consider Jesus prayer the night before He was put on trial and crucified. Jesus prayed to God the Father that the cup to which He was to endure might pass if there was any other way.
“And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” Luke 22:41-42.
On a side note, Jesus was not praying that God the Father would spare Him from the horrendous beatings or the agonizing pain of the crucifixion as some insultingly preach. Jesus was by no means fearing the whip or the nails. Christ was about to endure the full cup of God the Father’s wrath being poured out fully upon Him.
Jesus prayed that if there was any other way than having to endure the wrath of God and separation from the Father, then let it be so. But God didn’t take the cup of suffering away. Jesus prayer was not answered in the way that He’d hoped.
God the Father answered the prayer of His Son, only not in a way that would spare His suffering. The Lord answered, but His answer was no. The Lord did not spare His son from the trial, but rather strengthened Him to endure it. The most bleak hour of human history was when the Son of God was crucified at the hands of sinful men and God’s wrath was poured out upon Him.
But as hopeless as this may have seemed to onlookers in this day, it turned out to be the most glorious event ever. God the Father predestined that His Son would suffer and die, incurring the full wrath of God and providing the necessary atonement for the sins of His people. Through the cup of wrath that was not spared, Jesus defeated death and sin for all of His children, past, present, and future.
“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.” Acts 2:23.
For all who are children of God, all things in life work for our good and His great glory (Romans 8:28). This however does not mean that we will be spared from suffering. In fact, we know that it is our calling to endure suffering as our Lord did.
When times are good, petition God with prayers of thanksgiving for His common graces upon your life. And in the midst of trials and tribulations, make your requests known to God. It may be His will to spare you from the trial. But as was the case with Jesus, it may be His will for you to endure the hardship set before you.
When we do not get the answer from God that we were praying for, it doesn’t mean that He didn’t hear. It just means His answer was NO. And although we may not understand at the moment, we can rest assured that His no is much better for us than had we received an affirmative yes. We can rest assured that as followers of Christ, God hears and answers all prayers. May we never doubt His goodness or cease to call upon His name.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Philippians 4:6.