Wednesday, June 30, 2010

John Calvin on the necessity of God's Word

If we reflect how prone the human mind is to lapse into forgetfulness of God, how readily inclined to every kind of error, how bent every now and then on devising new and fictitious religions, it will be easy to understand how necessary it was to make such a depository of doctrine [the Bible] as would secure it from either perishing by the neglect, vanishing away amid the errors, or being corrupted by the presumptuous audacity of men. It being thus manifest that God, foreseeing the inefficiency of his image imprinted on the fair form of the universe, has given the assistance of his Word to all whom he has ever been pleased to instruct effectually, we, too, must pursue this straight path, if we aspire in earnest to a genuine contemplation of God;—we must go, I say, to the Word, where the character of God, drawn from his works is described accurately and to the life; these works being estimated, not by our depraved Judgment, but by the standard of eternal truth. —Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book I, Chapter 6

II Peter 3:7 A Promise of Judgment

To deny the coming judgment of God because it hasn’t happened yet is foolish. To profess that it never happened is to be completely ignorant or willfully blind. As we saw when we examined this chapter last time, we observed that the ones Peter says would come mocking the word of God do so by denying the return of Christ and a future judgment and base their claim on their assertion that judgment has never happened. Peter reminded us that, in fact, judgment had occurred and here he teaches us that there is a future judgment waiting to occur and that it will occur—in God’s perfect timing.

Peter tells us in verse 7 that the reason judgment hasn’t happened is that God has not yet given the order for it to happen. Peter tells us that judgment will come “By His word”. In other words, God is waiting, and we will see why as we examine the next few verses in the coming weeks. There is a plan, a predetermined order as to the execution of God’s judgment of sin. God hasn’t given the command. That is why we have not seen the final judgment of God—not because it’s not coming..

In fact, this judgment has been planned long ago, as Peter reminds us. We are told that “the present heavens and earth are being reserved”. In Greek, “being reserved” is a perfect tense verb. What that means is the act of the heavens and earth being stored up or reserved for judgment is a past completed action with ongoing effect. In other words, sometime in the past God set aside the earth and heavens that currently exist for a judgment and the effect of that decision is still in force. There is still a judgment coming, a judgment, Peter tells us, of “fire”.

Furthermore, one might say that the heavens, the earth, and all those who have not professed Christ are in a jail—a holding cell of sorts. They’re “kept for the day of judgment”. What Peter says here is that God has them under guard until the time He chooses to judge them. The setting aside (“being reserved”) and being held (“kept for”) is something, then, that He does to them. He is in control. It’s His court and He will tend to His business when it suits His purpose. Far from proving that a judgment is not coming, the fact that He is waiting to execute His wrath on unrepentant sinners is like the calm before the storm. Everything is still. Everything is quiet. Then suddenly, judgment comes unexpectedly.

However, for those of us who have professed faith in Christ and trusted Him to save us, we don’t have to fear that judgment. Our sins were charged to Christ and He was punished. However, what this verse should do is motivate us to share the gospel every chance we get. There is a judgment coming. We don’t want to see anyone suffer in the judgment. Let us be bold to preach the gospel and announce to everyone that God will forgive their sins if they trust Christ and repent.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Church Removes Cross

Christ Community Church in Michigan has changed its name to c3 Exchange and in an attempt to be more inclusive has removed the cross from its building. No, I'm not making this up. If you subscribe by email, you may have to click through to the blog to watch this video. Also, you can click here just in case the video didn't embed correctly.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Matthew 8:18-20 You Better Be Sure

One of my favorite TV shows growing up was “Fame”. In the opening credits, one of the main characters, a teacher at the school, gave a monologue to her students that sounded something like this:

You got big dreams? You want fame? Well, fame costs. And right here is where you start paying…in sweat.

There was probably something about that I found appealing because I was a budding young musician but the fact is there a good deal of truth to that statement. If you want something there are usually sacrifices you have to make to attain that thing. In our study of the book of Matthew, we find an instance where someone wants to follow Jesus but in doing so is challenged to be sure that is what he wants.

Observe that in verse 18, Jesus gave orders for his followers to head for the other side of the Sea of Galilee. The scripture does not indicate why He had given this order, although in God’s providence it could be that our Lord had a divine appointment to heal a tormented man (v 28). However, in calling for His disciples to leave with him, we see people following along for various reasons continuing to talk with the Lord. The first man mentioned is called “a scribe”. Now a scribe was a lawyer—a man of letters. They were educated and unlike most people could read and write. In Jewish society, they were considered experts in the Mosaic Law and were the primary interpreters of that law. The Old Testament book of Ezra tells the story of a faithful scribe who was totally devoted to God’s word. The scribes that lived in Jesus’ day were members of the sect of the Pharisees so they not only knew the law but they knew the official interpretations that had developed over the years since the Jews went into captivity. Most of the time when they are mentioned in the New Testament, it was in conjunction with the Pharisees and they were usually united with them in their opposition of Jesus.

Now, these were not guys that liked to work hard. They were scholars so sweating was not something they liked to do. Furthermore, they were respected in the community. These men were powerful, probably well off, and had comfortable lives. Now, with that as a backdrop, notice the promise the scribe makes in verse 19. He claimed he would follow Jesus “wherever You go”. Now, on this side of the cross, we know that was a pretty tall order. This man had absolutely no clue what he was talking about. Was he going to follow Christ to the cross? Was he going to follow him to the garden where the Lord prayed? No. In fact, ever His 12 disciples didn’t do that. But even ignoring the cross, this man wasn’t prepared for the three years of earthly ministry that Jesus was to perform.

Jesus was itinerant and traveled all over the area around Jerusalem and Samaria. He wasn’t about comfort or clean accommodations. The three years of ministry was most definitely going to involve “roughing it”. Further, there was no applause awaiting Jesus. No fame in His future. He and his grubby band of fishermen were not considered polite society and that wasn’t going to change any time soon. Therefore, Jesus makes a very clear statement that should cause all of us to think about the cost of following Christ as I’m sure it did this scribe.

Basically, in verse 20, He tells the scholar that where He’s going there are going to be no “creature comforts”. In fact, Christ says He doesn’t even have a place to lay His head. Following Him, therefore, means being willing to go where He goes and follow His commands in spite of whatever hardship or discomfort comes up. Following Christ may involve discomfort and hardship. However, if we really love Him, we’ll gladly follow Him as our Lord and Savior.

The cost of discipleship is high. In fact, when I read about missionaries who have faithfully followed Christ into countries where they live in very rough conditions while I, in contrast, have a roof, air conditioning, and food to eat everyday I realize how little my profession of faith has cost me. As we realize what some have sacrificed for the cause of Christ, I pray we are motivated to make sacrifices in our lives to tell people about the love of Jesus and faithfully proclaim the gospel wherever we are.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

II Peter 3:5-6 Denial Ain’t A River in Egypt Part III

My mother only allowed us to listen to country music until I was probably 11 or so. Therefore, I was in college before I ever heard a song by Meatloaf. It was called “I would do anything for love” and they chorus is quite amusing. He sings:

I would do anything for love
I would do anything for love
I would do anything for love….but I won’t do that

You can imagine that his lady was somewhat less than reassured by his promise. The false teachers and mockers in the verses we have examined in II Peter thus far are much like our man Meat, or is that Mr. Loaf? They assert that life goes on just as it has always gone on and that nothing will ever change (i.e. God will not judge the world) because nothing has ever changed. Peter points out the fact that in order to make this claim, they have to ignore or make an exception for the activity of God much as Mr. Loaf has to make an exception for his promise to do anything for love in his song.

First of all, notice with me the attitude these mockers have toward the truth. Peter says there are some important truths that escape their notice (v 5). Now this translation (NASB) didn’t choose the best word when they used “escapes” in this verse. The KJV renders the verb better when it says “they are willingly ignorant of”. This isn’t like they just missed the exit on the interstate because they weren’t paying attention. They are constantly, willfully ignorant of the truth—they deny it to their own doom. They have the word of God and disregard what it reveals. Any attack on orthodox bible teaching has to ignore, dismiss, or discount the word of God as the source of divine revelation. In this case, Peter tells the believers that these false teachers will ignore the truth in order to make their claims.

Peter specifically says that they ignore two facts: God created the world and God destroyed the ancient world with a flood during the time of Noah. Now, do you want to be branded a “fundamentalist” and sneered at by fellow Christians? Tell them you believe the first 11 chapters of Genesis are historically and scientifically accurate. Some people will look at you like you’re at least a few bricks shy of a load for making such an assertion. And I don't mean unsaved folks, I mean some people in the church. To top it all off, Peter predicted this would happen 2,000 years ago. Of course, the heresy of denying the truth of scripture happened during the lifetime of those to whom Peter wrote but listening to pastors and theologians in the church you could apply the exact same text today and find it just as true.

Genesis tells us that God created the world (“the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed”). Further, beginning in Genesis 6 we read about the worldwide, cataclysmic flood that killed everyone except Noah and those in the ark (“the world at the time was destroyed, being flooded with water”). Therefore, for these false teachers to maintain that “Nothing ever changes. God’s not going to judge us because He’s never judged us” demonstrates they are completely self deluded. They have to disregard the record of biblical revelation to make their claim. If Meat Loaf were to sing a song about their philosophy, the lyrics might be

Nothing ever changes and there’s never been a judgment
Well, except for that time when God destroyed the earth with a flood and killed everybody except Noah and his family, but let’s not talk about that.

I don’t know about you, but it doesn’t have a good beat, and I don’t think I can dance to it.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Perry Noble is an idiot

Oh, by the way, the title of this post is not just some sensationalist attempt to attract readers nor is it a personal observation. Rather, it is my professional opinion.

For those of you that don't know, Perry Noble is the CEO, not pastor, of New Spring Church. The church is one of those seeker sensitive type churches that preaches easy believism and "cheap grace". Frankly, the man couldn't preach his way out of a wet paper sack but his "sermons" are light on truth and non-confrontational so that makes him attractive to people who don't want the truth.

Anyway, on his recent blog post, he opines:

I know SO many people who really don’t have a problem with Jesus…but they have major problems with the church, and so because of that they simply refuse to receive “the product” (Jesus) because of who/what is associated with Him (the church.).

First of all, that is one of the single, most pedantic statements I've ever heard. Jesus, the Lord and Savior, the Lamb of God, the Second Person of the Godhead, is here reduced to a "product"? Are you kidding me? Secondly, we are reduced from being ambassadors for the gospel proclaiming salvation through the name of Christ for those who repent of their sins to the position of wearing little paper hats and plastic name tags saying "Would you like fries with that?" If this man is even saved he obviously has no clue whatsoever about the gospel.

People don't reject Christ because of Christians. They reject Christ because they "suppress the truth in unrighteousness" (Romans 1:8) and "those who perish...did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved" (II Thess 2:10). Further, Jesus is not a Big Mac or McDLT with His hot side staying hot and His cool side staying cool and you can either get Him or run down the road to Burger Bar and get something else. Jesus is the Lord of hosts, the King of kings, and you will either repent of your sins and confess Him as your Savior or you will burn in hell for all eternity. Period.

We can't afford to water down the gospel as this man obviously would like us to do. There are people who need to hear about Jesus. Have you told anyone today?

Monday, June 21, 2010

Heaven's Holy City--Revelation 21:9-22:5

Pastor David Harrell of Calvary Bible Church in Joelton has been preaching through the book of Revelation for some time now. His most recent sermon can be heard on mp3 by clicking here. I would encourage you to check the sermon archives out if you get a chance.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Book Review: One Rock at a Time-Building a Spiritual Legacy for God in Japan

A few months ago at a meeting of our Home Fellowship Group from church, one of the ladies gave a testimony about having gone back to visit the area in Japan where she and her husband served as missionaries for over 30 years. She was telling about some of the people that came to Christ during that time and mentioned one man whose wife had come to faith and wanted to be baptised. However, she would not do so until her husband was OK with it. He finally agreed and decided he wanted to do something special for his wife. He decided to write the bible out by hand in the Japanese language using his skills in calligraphy. While writing a copy of the scripture for his wife, he was moved, came under conviction and trusted in Christ as his Savior and Lord. As she told this story, I was moved to tears.

I mentioned how touched I was during our next meeting and she said she would give me a book that her daughter had written about their experiences as missionaries in Japan called One Rock at a Time-Building a Spiritual Legacy for God in Japan. Let me tell you the honest truth--you have to get this book and read it. If you have never read a book about a missionary and want to know the unvarnished truth of what their lives are like, this book without a doubt tells it like it is. You will be blessed, challenged, encouraged, and moved to weep at the experiences of this missionary family.

First of all, the book is written primarily from the point of view of Dale Oxley who served with his wife as a missionary to Japan for 30 years. In reading this book, I saw not just the ups and downs of a missionary serving in what I would call difficult conditions (but then again, I'm a wimp) but I also was able to get a sense of the man's heart. Dale had a love for the Japanese people and a desire to reach them with the gospel. In my opinion, it was this love for these people who were so different than he was that unified the whole book. It was this love that enabled him, and his family, to sacrifice so much to bring the gospel to people that were lost in complete spiritual darkness. Seeing a story like this told from the perspective of the man who lived it makes for a truly gripping read.

Secondly, I would recommend the book because there was no attempt to sugar coat the story. Their kids were kids and got in trouble sometimes like all kids do. They didn't see fruit from some of their labors for years. The living conditions were difficult. This is not some pie in the sky in the sweet by and by rose colored glasses picture as if to say "God's people never have problems". The family and the ministry experienced ups and downs but through it all you can see the hand of God at work as you read. It makes it hard for me to complain about my life and things that happen when I see the faith this family displayed as they endured struggles to bring the gospel to the Japanese people.

Finally, I would recommend this book because I know Ms. Betty, Dale's wife, personally. The love and faithfulness she shows her husband, who now suffers with Alzheimer's, is a testimony of the love that Christ has for His church. The gospel she, Dale, and her family shared with the Japanese people is a gospel they still live. I've been blessed to know Ms. Betty and to get to know her family through this book.

In Hebrews, we're told to spur one another on to good works. Reading books such as this is one way to do that. When we see the faithfulness of men and women who have served God, we are challenged to follow their example. I believe you will be blessed by this family's story. I know I was.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Centrality of the Cross Part II-I Corinthians 1:17-25

Byron Yawn, pastor of Community Bible Church, is preaching through the book of I Corinthians. You can listen to part two of his sermon "The Centrality of the Cross" by clicking here.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

II Peter 3:4 Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt Part II

One of my favorite movie scenes of all time is in the film A Few Good Men where Tom Cruise is interrogating Jack Nicholson. I love Nicholson’s retort to Tom’s very loud demands for the truth—“You can’t handle the truth”. Apparently, there are a lot of people in this world who can’t handle the truth. People spend money on cosmetic surgery to deny the truth that a 50 year old is never going to look like a 20 year old. They spend money on therapy because they can’t handle the truth that most of the time what their problem is has nothing to do with stress or not getting their way enough when they were kids but their problem is rooted in their sinfulness. In fact it is for this reason that during these last these last days we see the prophesy fulfilled that Peter made in verse 3 that “mockers will come with their mocking”. In verse 4, Peter goes on to explain what their mocking consists of and in doing so reveals the attitudes of their hearts.

First of all, as we’ve seen today, God’s word is mocked. Those who mock the loudest are the false teachers (chapter 2) who teach false doctrine and lead others astray. Peter identifies their first argument against the truth of scripture as a denial of the “promise of His coming”. Now, scripture is crystal clear about this fact—there is coming a day of judgment when God will execute justice and punish sin. It is prophesied in the Old and New Testament. There will be no appeals and there will be no hiding. God will judge sinners for their sin and their rejection of Christ. Therefore, what these people are really saying in their first mockery is “Judgment has not happened so it’s not going to happen”. It follows then that the Bible, in their opinion, is just a mythical collection of fairy tales meant to scare children and weak minded individuals into behaving themselves. Modern, educated people know better.

Their first statement, then, is a mockery of the truth of God’s word. Their second statement presents their evidence. They assert that “all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation”. If, they reason, there was going to be a judgment, it would have already come. In their minds, nothing ever changes. I would say our national economy would be one example of the total lunacy of their position. We are never, and I do repeat never, going to go back to the kind of economy we had before the Great Recession. The job market is forever changed. In the area of technology we see their position of “Nothing ever changes” falls completely apart. From the internet to digital video recorders to cell phones this is a completely different world that it was even 10 years ago. In fact, you would have to have your head buried in the sand to not recognize how much things change and, especially today, how quickly they change. Therefore, their idea that things are stable and therefore there is not judgment coming simply doesn’t make sense.

However, as we thinking about their mockery of the truth it’s pretty easy to see what motivates them. If they acknowledge that God is who He says He is and His word as being authoritative then they have to submit to it. That is why they mock the truth. They shake their fist at heaven and yell at the God of the universe “You ain’t the boss of me”. They reject the truth to their own doom. Therefore, it is paramount that we proclaim and teach the truth. As Psalm 119 says, God’s word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. It is our responsibility to ensure that we share the light with all those around us.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Matthew 8:14-17 The Purpose Driven Healing

I know people who believe that divine supernatural healing is the spiritual birthright of every Christian. They believe that if you have enough faith that you’ll never suffer from any sort of sickness. This view is regularly espoused by the fruit loops who appear on many religious broadcasts on TV—particularly TBN. Of course, I mean “fruit loops” in the most positive manner possible. Anyway, they base their “theology” that physical healing is part of the sacrifice on the cross on a misinterpretation of Isaiah 53, particularly verse 4 where we are told that Christ bore our grief and carried our sorrows and in verse 5 of course they have to trot out that “By His stripes we are healed”. However, that interpretation is simplistic at best and fails to take into account what Isaiah actually said in chapter 53. Further, as we’ll see in these verses, the New Testament shows us the fulfillment of Isaiah 53:4 and tells us what the purpose was of the miracles of healing that Christ performed.

We see two mentions here of the healing miracles that Christ did in verses 14-16. First of all, the text mentions a specific individual that he healed As He came into Capernaum, He and His disciples entered Peter’s house. Upon arriving, they found Peter’s mother in law to be sick. He healed her with a simple touch on her hand and she got up and waited on him probably out of gratitude. Next, Matthew mentions in verse 16 that as evening approached crowds of people came bringing those who were sick or demon possessed and the Lord healed them. When coupled with the previous accounts of healing that have been mentioned in this chapter, we see Matthew has painted a picture a compassionate Savior who graciously heals those who are sick. The fruit loops mentioned above point to these verses and say “See, Jesus heals people. That proves that all Christians are never supposed to be sick.”

However, Matthew tells us in verse 17 why Jesus healed people. The healing ministry of Christ was not an attempt to draw crowds or to impress people. Christ didn’t heal people because none of his followers were ever supposed to be sick. Christ healed people to “fulfill what was spoken by Isaiah the prophet:” In other words, Christ was being obedient to God—God had said “This will happen” and Christ fulfilled that prophesy. The verse quoted here in Matthew 8:17 is from Isaiah 53:4. Therefore, what Matthew, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, is telling us in this verse is that Christ’s healing ministry on this earth fulfilled the physical healing ministry promised in Isaiah.

They say in real estate, the three most important things are “location, location, location”. In bible study, the three most important things are “context, context, context”. This does not apply just to the immediate context of a passage of scripture but also, as we see here, to the broader context of biblical revelation. It is important for Christians to understand and accurately proclaim what the Bible says about healing. There have been to many people misled by shuck and jive artists looking to peddle the word of God for a quick buck for Christians not to take this sort of thing seriously. While God can and does heal miraculously sometimes, as we can see from this passage, it is not something all Christians can or should expect. However, we can trust Christ to be with us no matter what we go through in our lives.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Martin Luther on the Word of God

John Piper, in his book The Legacy of Soverign Joy (to read it click here) examines the attitude the great Reformed theologian Martin Luther had towards scipture. Since I'm committed to verse by verse exposition of scripture, I found the following exerpt to be particularly encouraging. I trust you will be encouraged as well.

One of the great rediscoveries of the Reformation -especially of Martin Luther- was that the Word of God comes to us in a form of a Book. In other words Luther grasped this powerful fact: God preserves the experience of salvation and holiness from generation to generation by means of a Book of revelation.

In 1539, commenting on Psalm 119, Luther wrote, "In this psalm David always says that he will speak, think, talk, hear, read, day and night constantly—but about nothing else than God's Word and Commandments. For God wants to give you His Spirit only through the external Word". This phrase is extremely important. The "external Word" is the Book. And the saving, sanctifying, illuminating Spirit of God, he says, comes to us through this "external Word."

Luther calls it the "external Word" to emphasize that it is objective, fixed, outside ourselves, and therefore unchanging. It is a Book. Neither ecclesiastical hierarchy nor fanatical ecstasy can replace it or shape it. It is "external," like God. You can take or leave it. But you can't make it other than what it is. It is a book with fixed letters and words and sentences.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Matthew 8:4-13 Testimonies of Faith and Faithlessness Part II

One of my favorite actors from when I was a kid died this past week. Gary Coleman, who played Arnold on Diff’rent Strokes, passed away. One of the recurring gags on the show was a catch phrase Arnold was known to say when someone, particularly his brother, would say something unexpected. He would cock his head forward and exclaim “What ‘chu talking ‘bout, Willis?” I still giggle when I think about it. I have to imagine, after they heard Jesus respond to the profession of faith by the centurion, that the Jewish people who heard Jesus might have said to Him “What ‘chu talkin’ ‘bout, Jesus?” What He said in response to the centurion’s assertion of trust in Christ reveals a truth that Paul would refer to in Ephesians chapter two as a mystery.

First of all, observe with me the response of Christ to this profession of belief on the part of the centurion. Jesus, it says in verse 10, “marveled”. Of course, we know that Jesus was God and was omnipotent so it can’t be that this response took him by surprise. The word translated “marveled” is the root word for the English word “enthusiastic”. This response of faith on the part of this Gentile leader brought the Lord joy. He was enthused by the response. We can hear the enthusiasm as we read on in the passage.

Jesus, it seems, had this response because the expression of genuine trust in Him was unique. He says that He had “not found such great faith with anyone in Israel”. Now, He was sent first to the nation of Israel as their Messiah. His primary ministry was to the Jewish people. God had promised a Redeemer and there He was in all His glorious humility. The nation of Israel, though, rejected Him—which was part of God’s plan. The faith of the centurion was unusual then because it came from the Gentiles and not the Jews and also in a qualitative sense. Jesus says the man has “great faith” which probably means an abundance. This man’s unusual faith was a launching point for Jesus to reveal something that no one would have ever guessed or expected.

Before He told the man that the miracle he requested for his servant would take place, Jesus shocked everyone by saying there would be Gentiles with faith like this man who would enter the kingdom of heaven. He identifies them as coming from “east and west” (in other words, from all over the world) and sitting “at the table” with the patriarchs (not serving them or outside of the feast). That was a pretty shocking statement to hear a Jewish teacher make. Gentiles were mongrel dogs and the Jews detested them. Now, they hear Jesus say that these filthy beasts are going to be in the “kingdom of heaven”. As the old saying goes “There goes the neighborhood”.

Oh, but wait, it gets even more shocking. Not only are these Gentiles going to be in heaven, and get there because of faith not because of their lineage, but there are going to be Jews who are left out. This was a jaw dropping statement. John MacArthur in his commentary on Romans mentions that Jewish rabbis taught that for a Jew to not enter heaven his circumcision would have to be undone. Further, they taught that Abraham himself stood at the door of hell to stop any Jew who accidentally wandered down there from going into hell. In contrast, Jesus says that there are going to be some Jews who will be “cast out into the outer darkness”. In other words, they would be eternally condemned. See, they thought they could rely on their momma, going to church, dressing right, or whatever else to get them to heaven. They were “good people” and though they had bought their ticket to heaven. Jesus says those folks who thought their religion would get them to heaven are going to be surprised but those with the faith to trust Christ like this Gentile soldier would be the ones to enter the promised rest.

Having shocked these people, Jesus gives the word to heal the servant as the centurion requested, thereby validating his faith in Christ. This man, considered a dog by the religious of the day, was just foolish enough to believe Jesus was who He said He was and would do what He said He would do and was blessed for it. Jesus says this kind of faith is the kind of faith that saves but pronounces doom on those who try to find a way to heaven through religion. Ask yourself today “Am I like the centurion or the Jewish leaders?” Don’t allow Satan to fool you with religion. Trust Christ to save you today.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Centrality of the Cross-I Corinthians 1:17

Byron Yawn, pastor of Community Bible Church in Nashville, is preaching through the book of I Corinthians. You can listen to his sermon "The Centrality of the Cross Part I" by clicking here.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Book Review--Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ by John Piper

People demonstrate how important something is to them by how they treat it. For instance, someone who says spending time with their family is important but they spend time doing anything but spending time with their family demonstrates where their priorities truly lie. In much the same way, Christians who profess that Christ is their Savior and Lord but live lives that are not in line with that profession exhibit a severe disconnect between what they say and what they mean. It is this problem that John Piper's book "Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ" was meant to address. In fact, the author writes that his intent is that the reader "see him [Christ] as solid truth and savor him with great joy".

The point that Piper makes in the book is that the kind of seeing he wants us to do of Christ, seeing with spiritual eyes, will lead to savoring Christ as being supremely valuable. In the chapters of the book, he proceeds to outline some of the majestic biblical truths that should make Christ someone who, upon really seeing Him, we should also savor Him. In a world of 2 minute highlight reels and blazing fast 3G downloads, Piper calls us in this book to take a long, deep look into scripture to see what it says about Jesus Christ and then calls us to respond.

Each of the chapters invites the reader to meditate upon one facet of Christ's glory and then includes a prayer to pray as one reflects on the truth. The chapters are short enough that they could be read in one sitting and mentally "munched on" for the rest of the day. The reader is challenged with truths such as The Excellence of Jesus Christ (Chapter 3) or The Desecration of Jesus Christ (Chapter 7--my personal favorite. Each of these rich truths offers another insight into the marvelous character and majesty of our Lord.

I would highly recommend this book to any Christian who wants to grow in their love for the Lord. I believe you will be greatly blessed.

Monday, June 7, 2010

II Peter 3:3 Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt Part I

Some people want to ignore reality. I had an acquaintance in college that ran up a significant amount of credit card debt and would transfer the balance between cards in an attempt to mask how bad her debt load was. Her idea seemed to be that if she stuck her head in the sand and pretended like everything was ok, that it would be. That, friends, is not how things work of course. We can’t simply ignore the truth. Peter writes to these believers in the first two verses of chapter 3 telling them to remain grounded in the truth. He now goes on to explain way—because their will be people who will deny the truth and lead others astray.

Peter’s message in verses 3 and 4 to these believers is of upmost importance. In fact, he tells them “Knowing this first of all”. In other words, there is a reason they need to continue to study scripture. There is a purpose to their exegesis and it is not to puff themselves up with how smart they are but rather they are to be prepared. As we’ve seen in chapter two, false teachers are coming. They’re going to spread their theological filth among the church and are going to lead people astray. The life-giving truth of the gospel saves people. The message these false teachers will proclaim will damn people to hell. In order to stand against that, these people must be prepared. There’s a fight coming and they have to be ready to stand against the false doctrine.

That is why Peter tells them that in the “last days” false teachers will come. Peter doesn’t exactly identify what he means by “last days” but it’s safe to say that until we’re all home in glory at the end of the age we are living in the last days. Now, during this time, there are those that will come to teach false doctrine in the church. In order to do that, they must first deny true doctrine. Peter describes them as “mockers…with their mocking”. In the future (“will come”), these people will come making light of the word of God. Even if that had not happened in the early church (which it did--Gnosticism) we know it has happened today. While Peter gets specific about what these people mock regarding God’s word, we can certainly attest that mocking the word of God has become something of a national pastime. Turn on the T.V. and you won’t have to watch more than 30 minutes of programming before you see something that mocks the Bible—and that’s just on Cartoon Network. . The ideas that Jesus is the only way to heaven, that the Bible is inerrant, the creation happened in six 24 hour days are assumed to be nothing more than old wives tales that only weak minded simpletons believe. The saddest part is that it’s not just those outside the church, but as Peter predicted, these mockers come from inside the church.

What motivates these people to mock God’s word? Peter goes on to tell us—they are “following after their own lusts”. In contrast to Christians, who are lead by the Holy Spirit and exhibit the fruit thereof, these false teachers with their mockery of true doctrine follow their own base appetites. Their vile passions are their guides. Is it any wonder that they fall into sin—Genesis 6:5 tells us that our heart is totally wicked doesn’t it? If a person does what comes naturally I will guarantee you on the authority of God’s word that it will be sinful 99% of the time. Therefore, as these false teachers come mocking the word of God, they reject its guidance and eschew its truths to follow the god of their own bellies.

Peter wrote this about 2,000 years ago and as Charles Spurgeon noted this is “a prophecy which has been abundantly fulfilled. You need not go far to find them; they come in the form of living men, and they swarm in the form of their books. They are to be met with almost everywhere; like the locusts, they fill the air, and hide the light of the sun:” Because of their pervasiveness, it is paramount (“first of all”) that we continue to study and teach scripture as saying what it says and meaning what it means.