Thursday, February 26, 2009

Exerpt-The Future of Expository Preaching Part II

I have decided to take some time this week to look at a message that has really blessed my heart. Dr. Bryan Chapel, president of Covenant Theological Seminary in Kentucky, gave a presentation in March of 2004 on what he saw as the future of expository preaching. I have been particularly encouraged by what he sees as the future of expository preaching. I pray that you will be encouraged as well.

The Voice of Jesus

Augustine wrote long ago that when the Bible speaks, God speaks. Thus, when we explain what the Bible says, we communicate God’s Word to his people. This is more than just a figure of speech. The Spirit that inspires Scripture only speaks what is given to him by the Son (Jn 16:13-15). Thus, when we are communicating what God says in his Word, we are communicating what the Son says through the Spirit. Expository preaching that says what God says is, thus, doing more than explaining what a passage of an ancient document means. Such preaching is yet presenting the voice of the Shepherd to his sheep. Luther said the church is God’s “mouth house.” The Second Helvetic Confession captures more, saying, “The preaching of the Word of God, is the Word of God.” And John Calvin most boldly proclaims the implications, saying that God has so chosen to anoint the lips and tongue of the faithful proclaimers of his Word that, when they speak, “the voice of Jesus” comes out. Preaching that is true to the Christ- centered purposes of the Spirit yet makes the voice of the Savior present among his people. The design of the Scripture is to perpetuate the voice of the Savior through the proclaimers of his Word. We are ambassadors for Christ, as though he were making his appeal through us (2 Cor 5:20). Such an understanding of the Christ-embodied nature of preaching does not deny the power of technological means of communication, but it cautions against trusting in any mechanism or media that distracts listeners from the ethos of the minister. When the truth of Christ is made incarnate by our teaching and our testimony, then the truth that is inscripturated in his Word becomes most audible to his people and most real to their hearts. However, when either teaching or testimony is void of a Christ- focus, then the voice of the Savior becomes distant. Expository preaching that unfolds the redemptive message of every passage maintains the voice of the Savior for the sake of both preacher and parishioner.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Free ESV Study Bible Contest.

David Porter over at A Boomer in the Pew is having a contest where you can win a Free ESV Study Bible in calfskin no less. Check it out! Register! You know you want to. Don't front. And while you're at it, don't back and don't side either.

200th post-Help a Child who needs shoes!!

I can't believe I've gotten to 200 posts on this blog. For that matter, I can't believe anyone actually reads this blog. I am honored and encouraged. I would now like to encourage you to help if you can.

Soles4Souls is a non-profit organization that provides needy children the world over with shoes. Take some time today to go over to their website and pray about how God could use you in this ministry.

Thanks. On to post number 300.


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Exerpt-The Future of Expository Preaching

I have decided to take some time this week to look at a message that has really blessed my heart. Dr. Bryan Chapel, president of Covenant Theological Seminary in Kentucky, gave a presentation in March of 2004 on what he saw as the future of expository preaching. I have been particularly encouraged by what he sees as the future of expository preaching. I pray that you will be encouraged as well.

The hope that I have for expository, Christ-centered preaching may, perhaps, best be discerned by considering the consequences of its absence. I do not mean to be exhaustive in this listing, but rather to hint at significant pressures that I believe will press us to keep preaching expositorily in the future. Expository, Christ-centered preaching will be important for our future because without it we deny God’s people Christ’s light, voice, bread, body and heart.

The Purpose of Scripture (The Light of Christ)

On the Mount of Transfiguration, Moses and Elijah appeared with Jesus. The Old Testament figures appear in order to indicate that Jesus is the culmination of their message and all that they represent. As Jesus tells his disciples elsewhere, “‘This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.’ Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures” (Lk 24:44-45). The expositor’s goal is to dianoigo and diermenuo (‘open” and “unfold”) the meaning of the Scriptures. Since their culminating and comprehensive purpose is to reveal the glory of Christ’s person and work, exposition cannot avoid him without abandoning Scripture’s aim. The intended purpose of all Scripture is further revealed by the simple reminder that all Scripture is God-breathed and given by inspiration of the Holy Spirit (1 Tm 3:16; 1 Pt 1:20-21). The Spirit’s mission, Jesus tells us, is to testify of him (Jn 14:26; 15:26). Thus, if we are to say what the Scriptures say—Scriptures inspired by that same Spirit whose mission is to testify of Jesus—then we must preach Christ in all the Scriptures. The Spirit intends for us to see how he is testifying of Christ in all the Scriptures. We do not fully understand or rightly interpret the Bible if we do not see Christ as the obedient Adam, the faithful Israel, the just Judge, the true King, the fulfilling Prophet, the church’s body and our ultimate Hope. With infinite wisdom the Spirit uses the Scriptures to show us many kinds of persons, events and revelations to illumine both dead-ends and bridges that will instruct us on our journey toward full understanding of the grace that is in Christ alone.

We must remember that the same Spirit that inspires the Scriptures resides in the believing heart. The regenerate are internally wired by the Spirit to receive the message of the Word he inspired. Expository preaching not only trusts this two-way circuitry, but also uses it to answer a world that says there can be no transcendent and transferable truth. Expository preachers have a future only because we depend upon this supernatural process that gives us and our people confidence that we can understand what the Bible communicates (1 Cor 2:9-14). At the same time, this circuitry that unites the mind of heaven and the heart of the believer warns us that a disconnect will occur if our message is not what the Spirit intends. He intends to communicate Christ; that is the Spirit’s mission. Thus, only messages with the Savior’s savor will have the taste of spiritual certitude for which our culture longs.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Broadway Baptist--Come on, Executive Committee!!

For those who don't know, Broadway Baptist is in Texas. The SBC Executive Committee met this week and one of the items on their agenda was to try to decide if the church promoted, endorsed, or affirmed homosexual behavior in order to decide if the church was in "friendly cooperation" with the SBC. You can read an article here. The church, according to church representatives,

has about five members who are homosexual, with two of them serving on committees. The five joined Broadway Baptist by letter from other churches, and it only later was discovered they were homosexual, committee members were told.

Um, I'm sorry but I guess I missed the part where a church wasn't expected to deal with sin among its members. I mean, if you found out they were gay and unrepentent doesn't Matthew 18:15-17 come into play. It seems to me the fact that they are allowed to remain members is proof positive to me that the church affirms homosexuality. Maybe I'm just weird that way.

I would just like to call on the Executive Committee to "man up". You shouldn't have to wait til the SBC meeting in June in Louisville to decide this, folks. Dancing around the issue isn't the right thing to do here. The fact that it has taken this long to start the process of disfellowshiping the church is bad enough. To put it off longer to "study" what should be an open and shut case is really sad. Grow a backbone. Stand up for what is right. It's not politically correct and it's not always easy but if it was easy everyone could do it.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

II Peter 1:15-16a Motivation to Write Scripture

Ok, the title of this post stinks. As even casual readers of this blog can attest, my post titles are pretty lame. However, as I studied through this section of scripture I couldn’t escape that this was the message Peter was giving these Christians-“I’m writing this because I know I’m not going to be here with you forever”. We can be thankful and rejoice that God inspired Peter and other men to write the words of scripture because we don’t have to use our intuition or our human brains to try to figure out how to relate to God. We can read and study His word and know the truth and that truth will set us free.

As we observed when we studied the previous two verses, Peter knew his time on earth was short. He was going to die and knew these people to whom he wrote needed a sure footing in the truth they had been taught to be able to reject the heresy that the false teachers who would come would surely teach. He says that “I will be diligent” in this endeavor. The word translated “diligent” means to have an intense motivation to do something and to follow that up with intense regular effort. It’s not just feeling like something is important but actually doing what you feel is important thereby putting feet to your faith. He is motivated to do this because he knows his “departure” to heaven is at hand. Because of this, he will not be around to personally remind them of the truth. By writing it down, he provided them with a reference they can use to check the message of someone who claims to be speaking for God. In this way, they could be good Beareans (Acts 17:11) and always have a plumb line of truth to measure a person’s teaching against. As an apostle, Peter was uniquely qualified to provide this repository of truth for them.

In fact, Peter goes on to remind these believers of why he was able to write these truths down for them authoritatively. First of all, Peter and the other writers of Scripture were either eyewitnesses of Jesus before or after the resurrection (Peter, Paul) or were penmen for eyewitnesses (Luke recorded accounts that he researched under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. He was a companion of Paul’s). The writers of the New Testament were not looking back a hundred or so years after the events that are recorded but rather they wrote about things that happened in their lifetimes and that, in many cases, they saw first hand. As such, they “did not follow” (exakoloutheo-1811) other people’s ideas or philosophies. They didn’t go to some school to learn what they wrote about but they wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit from their own first hand experience. When Peter in verse 17 talks about being on the Mount of Transfiguration, he is not referring to an event that he has heard about or researched. He was there himself. He was another man’s disciple who parroted what his teacher said was true. He was a disciple of Jesus who reported what he saw with his own eyes and heard with his own ears.

Further, the message Peter and the other apostles brought was not born out of human wisdom. They were threatened, harassed, imprisoned, killed, and exiled for their testimony. Through that all, they consistently maintained the same story. Clearly, their motivation was to speak the truth not to change people’s minds with “cleverly devised tales”. The phrase “cleverly devised” translates a Greek word “sophizo” (4679) which refers to cunning wisdom. Some men in the culture of the day were called “sophists”. Sophist came to denote a class of itinerant intellectuals who taught courses in "excellence" or "virtue," speculated about the nature of language and culture and employed rhetoric to achieve their purposes, generally to persuade or convince others. Sophists claimed that they could find the answers to all questions. Peter and the other apostles were not trying to sell anything or convince people of their intellectual prowess. In fact, their motivation was to share the truth with men and women everywhere, proclaiming the good news and calling them to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. What they spoke and wrote were not “tales” or myths but rather they gave their lives to preach the truth.

In short, they couldn’t and didn’t make this stuff up. They were the messengers and they spoke and wrote the message God gave them faithfully. You and I can be thankful for these men and follow their example by faithfully proclaiming the truths in scripture.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Matthew 6:1-18 Introductory Thoughts

The Sermon on the Mount is a complex section of Scripture. As I’ve been studying it, I recalled something a friend of mine, Alan Knox, said on his blog a few years ago. As one reads this text (chs 5-7) it’s pretty easy not to see the forest for all the trees. While I was preparing to begin chapter 6, I thought it might be helpful if we took at look at this first section from a “bird’s eye view” to give us a bit of perspective on the territory we’re about to enter in this marvelous section of God’s word.

I think one theme that is clear in these verses is motivation. I have often said that people do things for a reason. I get up and got to work because I want to get paid. I eat because I’m hungry. I read God’s word because I am able to draw closer to Him as I come to understand Him better through scripture. As actors often ask “What’s my motivation” we should keep the question of motivation in mind as we study these verses.

For instance, Jesus says three times in the text “They (the religious hypocrites) have their reward in full”. Those people against whom Jesus was preaching, it would appear, were motivated by the reward of being recognized by people as being religious. They loved the spotlight. Honestly, that’s a temptation for everyone from time to time. Who doesn’t love to be the center of attention at some point or another? While there is nothing wrong with wanting to excel at an activity or to pursue excellence the roar of the crowd should not be the motivation that causes us to serve God. In fact, such a motivation sounds suspiciously like Lucifer’s proclamation in Isaiah 14:13-14.

Rather, our motivation should not be to attract the attention of men but to attract the attention of God. In fact, those two mindsets are diametrically opposed—mutually exclusive even. Just as Matthew records Jesus repeating His statement about their reward three times, our Lord also says three times by obeying Him and not following their example our Father will reward us. He sees what is done “in secret”. Some people may not notice our lives when we live for the Lord and try to do what He wants but God sees everything. Just as we can’t hide the bad things we do and the sins we commit the honor and glory we give Him by living out our faith is evident as well.

Those who want to play church do just that—they put on an act and hope people will notice them. In these verses, Jesus seems to be contrasting that kind of life with an authentic Christian life where we live as we are called because we love the One who bought us with His precious blood. That is why we serve. That, my friends, is our motivation.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Article-Can Christians Be Pro-Choice?

The actual title of the article is "Can Evangelicals Be Part of a Pro-Choice Consensus?" You can read the liberal drivel and draw your own conclusions. For my part, I think the below video is the perfect solution for dealing with "christians" who take such unbiblical stances.

I got dibs on the blue one.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy Valentine's Day, Patricia

I love you so much, honey.

Happy Valentine's Day!!!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Revelation 1:5-Our Encouragement in Christ

Living as a child of God has never been an easy thing to do in this world. However, it seems now it is more difficult than ever before. After the recent election, the rights of the unborn are under attach as never before while acceptance of sexual perversion appears to be commonplace. The society in which we live is more anti-God than I can remember. As a Christian, it is easy to feel discouraged and want to give up contending for the faith (Jude 1:3). However, you and I can find encouragement in the word of God to stand strong as we strive to live as salt and light in this sin filled world.

Writing to churches that were under persecution, John the apostle penned the book of Revelation. To encourage these believers, he writes that this letter was not only from him but also from Christ. In chapter 1 verse 5 of this book, John writes that the letter is from “Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth” (NASB). John was inspired by the Holy Spirit to describe Christ with these titles because he was writing to men and women who were facing government sponsored persecution. Reminding them of who Christ was and what He faced on this earth was a way for John to encourage these believers.

First of all, notice that he calls Christ “the faithful witness”. The Lord came and declared boldly the message of God everywhere He went and proclaimed the good news of the Gospel. He never backed down from the task in spite of being threatened, rejected, and ignored. He did exactly what God the Father sent Him to do and did it exactly the way God directed Him to do it. He was our example by being completely faithful (Hebrews 3:2). When we face persecutions and difficulties in this world, we can encourage ourselves and one another by remembering that our Lord completed His mission. Because He was a faithful witness, we should seek to follow His example.

Furthermore, we see the extent to which He was faithful. Not only was He a faithful witness but he was also “the firstborn of the dead”. Now, in some parts of the world being a witness for our Lord may be a matter of life or death. There are brothers and sisters in other countries who have died and will die proclaiming the good news of Christ and living out their faith. The situation in the day that John lived was very similar. People were killed for professing faith in Jesus. That is not the case in this country today. However, people might choose to not associate with us at school or work. If we take a bold stand for Jesus, family or friends might very well shun us or label us “Bible thumpers”. However, we know that just as Jesus Christ was raised from the dead, we also will live forever in heaven. His resurrection from the dead proves that God is also going to resurrect us (Romans 8:11). Therefore, whatever happens to us in this world, we can be encouraged that we have a home waiting for us in heaven.

Lastly, John reminded these believers that governments of this earth do not have the final say. These believers were suffering from officially sanctioned, legal government persecution. John reminds them, then, that the king does not have the final say but in fact Jesus Himself is “the ruler of the kings of the earth”. They may have power and authority over us for a time, but in the end they, like everyone else, will answer to our Lord. We may see people in authority on this earth make decisions that are sinful according to the word of God but we can be encouraged that God is ultimately in control of them. He does not cause anyone to sin but, in some mysterious way, He is able to use sinful men and women to accomplish His purposes in spite of their rebellion. As we see laws made and policies enacted that we know are wrong, let us remember that God is still the Lord over the entire universe.

We face a time in our nation that is similar in many ways to the situations that the early Christians faced. We can be encouraged by these words just as those early Christians were.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Shack-Heresy At Its Finest

Below is a reprint of a book review I did of The Shack a few months ago. I am reposting here today because I've noticed several folks finding my blog by a Google search using the search terms "Review of the Shack". If this review causes one person to decide NOT to read the book, I will feel that I have done my job.

One time, while watching an NFL preview show on HBO, I saw a comedian named Wanda Sykes do a short monologue on one of the games for the upcoming weekend. She said, “I have never been to Cincinnati, and I don’t ever plan on going, so I can say this with complete boldness—the Bengal’s stink”. I suppose that I would have to say the same thing about the pile of tripe that is The Shack. I am never going to meet the author and I am never going to read the book. However, I feel totally comfortable saying that I regret calling The Shack garbage in my previous post where I reprinted a review of the book. That was not the right thing to call it. I was wrong to call it that.

Calling it garbage was being far too generous. If I have garbage in my house, I can wait until the next day or so to take it to the dump (we have no city trash collection service, go fig). If my children walked into the room where we keep the trash till we’re ready to take it to the dump I’d be like “Come on, now. Get out of there.” If I found a copy of The Shack in my home I would probably burn the place down. If my children got their hands on the wretched thing I’d get industrial strength hand cleaner to wash their hands with. You know, the kind mechanics use after they’ve worked in grease. I mean, the things this man writes in this book go so far beyond heresy that it’s hard to believe that he actually wrote them. I’m not saying he’s not a Christian, or that he’s a bad husband or father. Heck, as far as I know he may be the Michael Jordan of the bar-b-que grill and give 10 hours a day volunteering at the local charity. But his book makes the Purpose Drivel Life (that was not a misspelling, I meant for it to look like that) look like Matthew Henry’s Commentary. I am going to take just a few quotes from the book and give page numbers. If you can in good conscience read the book after you see what’s in it, well, just make sure you don’t leave your copy on my doorstep when you’re done. I’d rather not have to take a jackhammer to my front porch because it had been polluted with that filth.

On page 120, the character who is written to represent God, a woman called Papa, says “I don’t need to punish people for sin. Sin is its own punishment, devouring from the inside. It’s not my purpose to punish it; it’s my joy to cure it.” Huh? Do what? God doesn’t need to punish people for their sin? Ok, I must really need new glasses because the Bible I read says in Psalm 1 that the wicked will not be able to stand in the judgment of Almighty God but instead will be blown around like chaff. In Matthew 7, Jesus says that some people who thought they were all religious will be told to depart from Him because He never knew them. Time and time again He mentions that those folks will be in eternal punishment “where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth”. The book of Revelation spells it out even clearer. In chapter 20 verse 15, it says anyone who is not found with their names written in the Book of Life will be cast into the lake of fire. This fire, it says in that chapter, brings torment forever and ever. While it is true that God provided the perfect cure for sin on Calvary in the vicarious substitutionary death of our Lord Jesus Christ, it is also true that God punishes sin. Therefore, what is written in The Shack contradicts clear biblical teaching. Regardless of any good anyone might find in there, reading the book is not worth it. I mean, who would look in a pile of cow manure to find a diamond. Boy, if I was going to do that, it would have to be a really big diamond.

Oh, but wait—there’s more. On page 182, the character meant to represent Jesus says “Those who love me come from every stream that exists. They were Buddhists or Mormons, Baptists or Muslims, Democrats, Republicans and many who don't vote or are not part of any Sunday morning or religious institutions”. Mack asks for clarification. “Does that mean...that all roads will lead to you?” “'Not at all,' smiled Jesus...'Most roads don't lead anywhere. What it does mean is that I will travel any road to find you'”. Jesus then goes on to say “I am the best way any human can relate to Papa or Sarayu (the character who plays the Holy Spirit).” Here is the problem with these two quotes. The first might not be something that would make you go “Eek” upon first reading. I believe God can save anyone anywhere. You don’t have to be a part of the right group to be saved. Could God save a Mormon? No doubt if that Mormon confessed with their mouth that Jesus is Lord and believed in their heart God raised Him from the dead (Romans 10:9). I mean, they’d need to get out of their LDS cult and all because you can’t be a Christian and stay there. That’s a rabbit trail for another sunny day. However, what the character doesn’t do is say that there is only one way to heaven. In fact, the next quote from the character playing Jesus says “I am the BEST way any human can relate” (emphasis mine) to God. “Best” isn’t exclusive folks. When I’m at work, I have quite a bit of control over how I do my work. There are times where, when I have finished an assignment, that my supervisor will review it and say “Let’s do this”. Sometimes I find that what I did was good but their way was better. There may be a way to do the task even better than what my supervisor had suggested and that way might be best. So, if Jesus is the BEST way that suggests by the very way that it was worded that there are other ways that are not as good but would still do the job. Saying Jesus is the BEST way is a far cry from saying He is the ONLY way, which is what the Bible teaches.

Oh, but lest you think I’m finished, check out this little nugget from the author. On page 99, the character who is supposed to be God says “When we three spoke ourself into human existence as the Son of God, we became fully human. We also chose to embrace all the limitations that this entailed. Even though we have always been present in this created universe, we now became flesh and blood”. Dear reader, God the Father did not take on flesh and dwell among us. That was God the Son-the Word of God (John 1:14). Nor did the third person of the Trinity take on flesh—I mean, He’s called the Holy Spirit, right? Further, Jesus says in John 4:24 that God is a Spirit. Again, what we see is the clear distinction between the heresy written in The Shack and the truth written in God’s word.

In the end, you and I have to make a choice. Where do we stand? Do we stand with what Scripture plainly teaches or do we allow ourselves to entertain thoughts that obviously contradict scripture. My prayer is that you will decide to fill your mind with things that edify you and build you up as a believer. The garbage that is between the covers of the Shack will do neither.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

II Peter 1:13-14 The Heart of a Pastor Part II

Being a pastor is hard work. However, for those called to serve the church in that capacity there is nothing more rewarding than tending sheep for the Lord as an under-shepherd. As we read in the previous verse, a pastor is concerned for the spiritual growth of those under his care. Likewise, we read in these verses other reasons why a pastor is motivated to tend the flock of God.

First of all, observe with me why Peter wants to teach and exhort his fellow Christians. He says that “I consider it right”. While he does not serve under compulsion or as a hireling that doesn’t care about those under his spiritual care, Peter does recognize that he has a job to do. His obligation is to take care of these Christians, to encourage them, and to spur them on to spiritual maturity. Because he has been given this responsibility, he recognizes that he has a duty to perform. To fail in that duty would be to fail his Lord and Savior. I can only imagine that after his failure when Peter denied the Lord that he was particularly vigilant to make sure he was as faithful as he could be. He did not want to do the wrong thing and neglect his duty but rather he fulfilled his calling because he considered it “right”.

Secondly, we see Peter says not only why he serves as a pastor but what he does as a pastor. He says that he wishes to “stir you up”. Sometimes, as a Christian, it is easy to become complacent. In addition, we may be scared to enter the world and live the Christian life while being attacked for our faith. In either case, there may be times where we find ourselves tempted to be idle. Peter uses a word that is translated here “stir you up” that could also be translated “arouse from sleep”. The way it’s written in the Greek text it literally says that he intends to “continue stirring you up”. Sometimes we have to be told the same thing over and over again like children. However, a pastor who loves those whom he serves does not get tired of gently prodding the sheep in his care to spiritual maturity. In fact, Peter recognizes that is part of the job and indicates here that he is ready, willing, and able to do the job and encourage these believers to grow in their faith.

In addition, he writes in these verses how he intends to accomplish his task as a pastor. He says that he intends to stir them up “by way of reminder”. I read on a blog some time ago where a writer said that preaching the word of God was ineffective because “people have heard it all before”. In other words, his assertion was that the preaching of the truth was boring to people because they had heard all the truth of God that needed to be heard. Boy, am I glad Peter didn’t feel that way. We see here in verse 13 just as in verse 12 that Peter knows that he is going to have to remind his spiritual children about the truth. Brothers and sisters, you cannot over-learn the Bible. You and I could study for the rest of our lives and never exhaust all the wonderful nuggets of spiritual gold that God has given us in His word. We need to be reminded of the truth because as the hymn writer said:Prone to wander, Lord I feel it
Prone to leave the God I love
Here’s my heart, Lord, take and seal it
Seal it for thy courts above

Finally, we see Peter says when he intends to do this job of serving as pastor for these Christians-- Now. There is not a moment to lose because Peter realized his time on earth was short and growing shorter. He knew that he would not be able to always remind these dear people and exhort them to live faithfully because he could only do so as long as he was “in this earthly dwelling” (his physical body). I’m young enough that the thought of my mortality doesn’t really cross my mind too much. I do remember the first time I really considered it. The first time I held my sister’s oldest child I felt the sweep of history like I never had before. I realized for the first time that there was so much that went before me but more importantly that life would go on after me. Now that I have children of my own I’m even more acutely aware of the passage of time. Peter, at the time he wrote this epistle, was even more cognizant of the fact that there were fewer days ahead than there were behind. In fact, verse 14 seems to indicate that he had been given divine revelation from the Lord that he would die soon. Because of this, he wanted to remain faithful to his call to teach these Christians while he had the opportunity.

We should be thankful for godly men that serve as our pastors and who look out for our spiritual growth not out of compulsion or out of a motivation to make a quick buck but out of love for our Lord and for us. We can follow their example and Peter’s example even if we’re not pastors by being faithful to serve the body with our spiritual gifts as long as we are able.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Matthew 5:45-48 Be Distinctive Part II

As we observed the last time in Matthew, Christians are called to be distinctive and one of our distinctive should be in how we treat people. Being good to those who are good to us is pretty easy. Treating people kindly who have been unkind to us—that is not so easy. Jesus gives us clear reasons for doing just that as we examine these verses.

First of all, by loving our enemies as we are instructed in verse 44, we demonstrate the goodness and character of God. Ultimately, as we read in Psalm 1, the unrighteous will get what’s coming to them. Their judgment will be terrible, final, and they shall spend eternity separated from God in the fire of hell. Make no mistake about it, God may tolerate their sin and blasphemy now, but He will not suffer their disrespect forever. While the wheat and the tares grow in the field of this world, though, God provides good things that both enjoy. Therefore, since we are the children of God, when we are good to those who don’t deserve to be treated well we show ourselves to be “sons of your Father, who is in heaven”. Because He is our Father, some of His character should rub off on us and show people that we are truly His children. We should follow God’s example and show kindness to our enemies just as He sends the sun and the rain on both the righteous and the unrighteous.

Secondly, not only does loving our enemy’s demonstrate characteristics of our Father in heaven, but we also show ourselves to be distinct from the rest of the world. Jesus calls this audience to a sobering realization—if they only love their friends they are no different than “tax collectors” or “Gentiles”. Now, to a Jew, these were two of the most hated classes of people there were. The tax collectors (of whom the author Matthew was one) were considered to be the ultimate sellouts. They collected tax for the Roman government so they were seen as collaborators with the Roman’s. The Jewish people despised being under Roman authority or any foreign authority. Further, the tax collectors were allowed to collect more than the required tax and keep the excess for themselves kind of like a commission. When Jesus said “even the tax collectors do the same” that assessment stung. In like manner, when Jesus compared someone who greeted their friends as being no better than a Gentile that statement was also repugnant to His Jewish audience. The Jews referred to Gentiles as dogs. They held them in utter contempt. Therefore, for Jesus to make the comparison that Matthew records in verse 47 would have been particularly insulting to them.

There was a point to these comparisons Jesus made. In short, as we have seen in our study of chapter 5, we are unable to live a righteous life in our own power. There is no way, for instance, that I can show love to my enemies much less WANT to show love to my enemies apart from the power of God’s Holy Spirit living in me. I submit to you that truth is precisely the point that Jesus has been making for 48 verses. We are unable to produce the righteousness that God requires but God can produce that righteousness in us. While we are not yet mature and complete in Christ, Jesus says here that we “are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” One day, we will be able to live completely free from sin and we will be totally complete children of God. However, while we still live in this sinful world we must realize that we will have to make a choice daily, sometimes hourly, to live holy lives as God has called us.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

The Culture War-Defeat is Inevitable

Since about the middle of 2008 when the candidates for the fall presidential election were finalized, many evangelical leaders weighed in on the possibilities of having the various candidates elected. There were those who pronounced dire warnings and predicted doom and gloom depending on who was elected, particularly with regards to issues that are (or rather should be) of paramount importance to Christians-abortion and gay marriage. As I have read over the past few months, I have noticed many people expressing how disheartened they are after the results of the election. They talk about being discouraged, for instance, at the overturning of executive orders that banned federal money from being used for abortions overseas.

I share their grief. As I look at my children I am at a loss as to how anyone can say that a woman has the right to abort her child. I also am not looking forward to the attempt at expanding so-called “gay rights” by including homosexuals in civil rights legislation as a protected class along with race, gender, and religion. However, there is one thing that I have to constantly remind myself and ask my fellow Christians to consider:

You realize we’re going to lose this culture war, right?

I mean, we are seriously kidding ourselves if we think we’re going to have a victory party on this side of heaven. The New Testament tells us that there will be a falling away from the faith (II Thes 2:3). If that is the case, then why are we scratching our heads wondering why so many Christians voted for someone knowing that he was the most pro-abortion candidate they had seen in some time? When we see Christianity openly mocked and we are described as hateful and mean spirited because we call homosexuality a perversion we need to remember Jesus’ words in Matthew 24:9-14. He told us to expect this—it’s not like we weren’t given fair warning.

Now, I’m not saying we should just give up, lay down our arms, and quit proclaiming the truth of what the Bible says. What I am saying is we are not going to have victory over here on this side of glory. As much as it sickens me, homosexual marriage is probably going to be accepted by society. We should stand against it but that probably won’t make a ton of difference. I would give nearly anything to see Roe v. Wade overturned. However, from what I understand that alone would not make abortion illegal. Of course we should stand against abortion but I wouldn’t count on seeing that overturned in our lifetime. If anything, abortion rights are going to be expanded.

In short, we should recognize that we are not going to win this war. It’s a sobering thought. It’s reality. However, we should continue to faithfully proclaim God’s word both in word and in deed. Our victory celebration is not scheduled for this world, it’s scheduled for heaven. It is important to remember that as we face a world that is increasingly antagonistic to the Gospel and the truths in the Bible.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Blog Link-Series on Free Will

A friend of mine from Australia, Nathan W. Bingham, co-writes a blog titled No "dub dub's"--just Anyway, he has started a blog series that I highly recommend you check out called How Free is Free Will. Here is my favorite exerpt from the post:

The greatest desire in regards to God for the unregenerate man is one that is (1) hostile toward God, (2) does not subject itself to the law of God, and (3) is without the ability to to do so. This does not sound like the picture of a person who has free will, if by that one means that a person has the ability to freely chose God if he was so presented with that option.

Check the series and the blog out when you get a chance. You'll be glad you did.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Matthew 5:43-44 Be Distinctive Part I

It is sad to see people who name the name of Christ while living exactly the same as the rest of the world. As Jesus said earlier in this chapter, we are called to be salt in this world. I believe in saying that, He was saying that we should be distinctive. People should be able to tell a difference between a Christian and someone who isn’t a Christian. Sadly, that is often not the case. In these verses, Jesus continues to drive home this point by reminding us how we are supposed to treat people.

First of all, our Lord quotes from scribal teaching of the day when He says in verse 43 that the people had been told to “Love your neighbor and hate your enemy”. The first part of that sentence is from Leviticus 19:18. The second part of that sentence is not found in scripture. Instead, it is the interpretation of the Pharisees as they assumed it logically followed if you were called to love your neighbors, those who dwelt near you or that you considered friends, then you surely must be allowed to hate your enemy’s. It only makes sense, right?

Such was not the case. As our Lord has done in the previous verses, He again demonstrates how the teachers of the law had it all wrong. He tells the crowd that they should in fact “love [their] enemy’s and pray for those who persecute [them]”. Now, this is the exact opposite reaction that we would normally have. As I confessed in previous posts, I have a problem with anger and revenge. The last thing I want to do is be nice to someone who has been unkind to me. However, this is exactly what Jesus calls for Christians to do. He instructs the crowd to show their enemy’s “love” (agapao-25). Now, love in our language represents several different concepts. You could say “I love football, I love pizza, and I love my wife”. However, when you finish that sentence you would be wise to quickly explain what the difference between those three love’s is to avoid getting into trouble. Those living in Jesus’ day did have that problem with the Greek language. The kind of love Jesus calls for here is agape love. This love is selfless, sacrificing, and always seeks the best for the object of the love. In fact, it is a love that really has nothing to do with feeling but rather is a choice. It is a love that is willed by the lover and may actually be the opposite of what that person feels like doing. We are most like God when we display this kind of love and it’s not the kind of love that we normally show apart from the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. This love is distinctively Christian.

Further, we are called to “pray” for our enemies. The word translated “pray” means to intercede or make supplication to God. How can we ask God to bless someone who has wounded us or treated us badly? I submit to you we can do that by looking at the example of our Lord. When He was being murdered on the cross, charged with a crime when He was innocent, suffering insults and being mocked, He asked God to have mercy on those who treated Him like that. Now, I’ve been treated badly before and been insulted but never has anyone treated me like that. If He was able to forgive then I believe, since His Holy Spirit dwells in me, that He can enable me to forgive. I can forgive and pray for those who mistreat me and love them as God loves not because I want to or I feel like it but because I choose to. Our Lord set the example and it is up to us to choose to follow it.

Note: I should add that verse 44 reads differently in the NKJV and the KJV. The verse is harmonized with the parallel account in Luke’s gospel in the 6th chapter in the NKJV and KJV. The NASB and most modern bibles follow a reading from older Greek manuscripts. Some people make a big deal out of this variant. I think it’s important to remember two points. 1) The variant makes no doctrinal difference whatsoever. No one is going to be lead astray regardless of which reading was actually the one that Matthew wrote. 2) What we have in the gospels is not a verbatim transcript of everything Christ said exactly as He said it when He said it. We have the words that Matthew was inspired to write by God to communicate to us what He wanted us to know about what Christ said. Therefore, if there is a discrepancy between Matthew and Luke it is really not important because the meaning of what Christ said is preserved for us in the text of the New Testament. We can trust this faithful, inerrant, inspired witness to the truth of Jesus and His message.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Potty Emergency!!!

I cannot believe that this question actually has to be discussed. Perverts who think that God made a mistake and put them in the wrong gender's body want to be able to use any restroom regardless of how it is marked in Florida. You can read the AP story here. I'll only say this--if my wife or daughter goes into a restroom and someone with an Adam's apple tries to go into that same restroom, I'm going to bop someone on the top of their big ol' head and I don't care HOW much Aquanet they've put in their hair.

I'm just sayin'.....