Friday, April 30, 2010
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Learn your doctrine from texts. It stands up better that way, and feeds the soul. For example, learn irresistible grace from texts. In this way you will see it does not mean grace cannot be resisted; it means that when God chooses he can and will overcome that resistance.
In Isaiah 57:17-19, for instance. God chastises his rebellious people by striking them and hiding his face: “Because of the iniquity of his unjust gain I was angry, I struck him; I hid my face and was angry” (v. 17).
But they did not respond with repentance. Rather, they kept backsliding. They resisted: “But he went on backsliding in the way of his own heart” (v. 17). So grace can be resisted. In fact, Stephen said to the Jewish leaders, “You always resist the Holy Spirit” (Acts 7:51).
What then does God do? Is he powerless to bring those who resist to repentance and wholeness? No. The next verse says, “I have seen his ways, but I will heal him; I will lead him and restore comfort to him and his mourners” (v. 18).
So, in the face of recalcitrant, grace-resisting backsliding, God says, “I will heal him.” He will “restore”—the word is “make whole or complete”. It is related to the word shalom, peace. That wholeness and peace is mentioned in the next verse which explains how God turns around a grace-resisting backslider.
He does it by “creating the fruit of the lips. ‘Peace, peace (shalom, shalom), to the far and to the near,’ says the LORD, and I will heal him” (v. 19). God creates what is not there. This is how we are saved. And this is how we are brought back from backsliding. The grace of God triumphs over our resistance by creating praise where it did not exist.
He brings shalom, shalom to the near and the far. Wholeness, wholeness to the near and the far. He does it by “restoring,” that is, replacing the disease of resistance with the soundness of submission.
The point of irresistible grace is not that we can’t resist. We can and we do. The point is that when God chooses, he overcomes our resistance and restores a submissive spirit. He creates. He says, “Let there be light!” He heals. He leads. He restores. He comforts.
Therefore we never boast that we have returned from backsliding. We fall on our faces before the Lord and with trembling joy thank him for his irresistible grace.
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
The Cure for Worry.
May I get very personal?
The pressures of our times have many of us pastors caught in the web of the most acceptable yet energy-draining sin in the Christian family: worry. Hey . . . don’t look so pious! Chances are good you awoke this morning, stepped out of bed, and before doing anything strapped on your well-worn backpack of anxiety. You started the day, not with a prayer on your mind but loaded down by worry. What a dreadful habit! (It happens to me far too often.)
The stress from worry drains our energy and preoccupies our minds, stripping us of much-needed peace. Few in the pastorate are exempt. We fret over big things and little things. Some of us have a laundry list of concerns that feed our addiction to worry. Anxiety has become a favorite pastime that we love to hate. And worse, we’re passing it on to our children (and in my case, grandchildren). As they see the worry on our faces and as they hear it from our lips, we’re mentoring them in the art of anxiety. Let’s not go there.
As always, Scripture has the answer. Paul wrote this while under house-arrest:
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4–7)
His prescription for anxiety can be boiled down to this six-word principle:
Worry about nothing. Pray about everything.
Before moving on, read those six words again slowly, several times. Notice that the remedy to worry involves a choice. He’s not asking you to exist in a state of denial. “Don’t worry; be happy” fails to appreciate the seriousness of your concerns. You worry because the problems you face are difficult to solve. Furthermore they have ongoing consequences if you don’t find a resolution. God doesn’t expect you to suddenly stop caring. Instead, He offers an alternative to the pointless and exhausting habit of worry.
Before this day is done, you will have another occasion to choose between worry and prayer.
Determine now what you will do. Decide now that when the crisis arises, you will transform worry into prayer.
Monday, April 26, 2010
3. The wrath of God will be deserved—totally just and right.
Paul labored to show this in the first part of this letter to the Romans. Let me remind you of how he said it: “The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth” (Romans 1:18). Wrath does not come without warrant. It is deserved. The truth of God is known (Romans 1:19-20). And the truth is suppressed. And the fruit is ungodliness and unrighteousness. And on that comes wrath (Ephesians 5:6; Colossians 3:6).
He says it even more explicitly in Romans 2:5, “Because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.” We are responsible. We are storing up wrath with every act of indifference to Christ. With every preference for anything over God. With every quiver of our affection for sin and every second of our dull affections for God.
Then he says it once more in Romans 3:5-6, “If our unrighteousness serves to show the righteousness of God, what shall we say? That God is unrighteous to inflict wrath on us? (I speak in a human way.) 6 By no means! For then how could God judge the world?” Nothing was clearer for the inspired apostle than that God is just and God will judge the world in terrible wrath.
And lest you think that your sins do not deserve this kind of wrath, ponder these four things:
1.It was one sin alone that brought the entire world under the judgment of God, and brought death upon all people (Genesis 2:17; Romans 5:12). And you have not committed one sin, but tens of thousands of sins.
2.Consider James 2:10, “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.” Not only have you sinned tens of thousands of times, but each one had in it the breaking of the entire law of God.
3.Consider Galatians 3:10, “For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, ‘Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.’” The wrath of God’s curse falls on us for not obeying all that is commanded. One failure and the curse falls.
4.Consider that any offense and any dishonor to an infinitely honorable and infinitely worthy God, is an infinite offense and an infinite dishonor. Therefore, an infinite punishment is deserved.
Which leaves one last point to make. And Oh, how crucial it is! How precious it is. How infinitely beautiful it is.
4. At the end of the age, when the full and final wrath of God is poured out, it will have been escapable.
That means it is escapable now. You do not have to spend eternity under the wrath of God if you will receive God’s Son as your Savior and Lord and Treasure. Why is that? How can that be? Because God so loved the world that he sent his own infinitely valuable Son to absorb the infinite wrath of God against all who take refuge in him. Listen with trembling wonder and gratitude and faith to this precious statement from Galatians 3:13, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, 'Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.'"
Christ bore the curse of God’s wrath for all who come to him and believe in him and glory in the shelter of his blood and righteousness. Come. Come. He is infinitely worthy.
Friday, April 23, 2010
The wrath of God like this: the wrath of God is God’s settled anger toward sin expressed in the repayment of suitable vengeance on the guilty sinner.
Four Characteristics of the Final Wrath of God
1. The final wrath of God is eternal—having no end.In Daniel 12:2 God promises that the day is coming when “many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.”
Jesus spoke of the eternity of God’s wrath in numerous ways. Consider three. In Mark 9:43-48, he said,
And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. 45 And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. 47 And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, 48 where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.
So twice he calls the fires of hell “unquenchable” that is, they will never go out. The point of that is to say soberly and terribly, that if you go there, there will be no relief for ever and ever.
Second, in Mark 3:29 Jesus says, “Whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin.” This is a startling statement. It rules out all those thoughts of universalism that say, even if there is a hell, one day it will be emptied after people have suffered long enough. No. That is not what Jesus said. He said that there is sin for which there will never be forgiveness. There are people who will never be saved. They are eternally lost.
Third, in Matthew 25 he told the parable of the sheep and the goats to illustrate the way it will be when Jesus comes back to save his people and punish the unbelievers. In verse 41 he says, “Then [the king] will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.’” And to make crystal clear that eternal means everlasting he says again in verse 46, “These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” So the punishment is eternal in the same way that life is eternal. Both mean: never-ending. Everlasting. It is an almost incomprehensible thought. O, let it have its full effect on you. Jesus did not intend to speak this way in vain.
After the teaching of Jesus, the apostle Paul put the eternity of God’s wrath this way in 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9:
The Lord Jesus [will be] revealed from heaven with his mighty angels 8 in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might.
Destruction does not mean obliteration or annihilation, any more than the destruction of the enemy army means the defeated soldiers do not exist any more. It means they are undone. They are defeated. They and stripped of all that makes life pleasant. They are made miserable forever.
Finally, the great apostle of love, the apostle John, who gives us the sweet words of John 3:16, used the strongest language for the eternal duration of the wrath of God: “And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night” (Revelation 14:11). And Revelation 19:3, “The smoke from her goes up forever and ever.” These are the strongest phrases for eternity that Biblical writers could use.
So the first thing we must say about the wrath of God at the end of the age that comes upon those who do not embrace Christ as Savior and Lord, is that it is eternal—it will never end.
2. The final wrath of God will be terrible—indescribable pain.
Consider some of the word pictures of God’s wrath in the New Testament. And as you consider them remember the folly of saying, “But aren’t those just symbols? Isn’t fire and brimstone just a symbol?” I say beware of that, because it does not serve your purpose. Suppose fire is a symbol. Do people use symbols of horror because the reality is less horrible or more horrible than the symbols? I don’t know of anyone who uses symbolic language for horrible realities when literal language would make it sound more horrible.
People grasp for symbols of horror (or beauty) because the reality they are trying to describe is worse (or better) than they can put into words. If I say, “My wife is the diamond of my life,” I don’t want you to say, “Oh, he used a symbol of something valuable; it’s only a symbol. So his wife must not be as valuable as a diamond.” No. I used the symbol of the most valuable jewel I could think of because my wife is far more precious than jewels. Honest symbols are not used because they go beyond reality, but because reality goes beyond words.
So when the Bible speaks of hell-fire, woe to us if we say, “It’s only a symbol.” If it is a symbol at all, it means the reality is worse than fire, not better. The word “fire” is used not to make the easy sound terrible, but to make the exceedingly terrible sound something like what it really is.
So Jesus says in Matthew 13:41-42, “The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, 42 and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (see verse 49). Then he adds at least three more terrible images of God’s wrath besides fire.
1.He pictures it as a master returning and finding his servant disobeying his commands, and he “will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 24:51). The wrath of God is like cutting someone in pieces.
2.Then he pictures it as darkness: “The sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 8:12). The wrath of God is like being totally blind forever.
3.Finally he quotes Isaiah 66:24 and says “Their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:48). In Isaiah 66:24 God says, “And they shall go out and look on the dead bodies of the men who have rebelled against me. For their worm shall not die, their fire shall not be quenched, and they shall be an abhorrence to all flesh.”
In Revelation 6:15-16, the apostle John adds that the wrath of God—indeed the wrath of Jesus himself—will be so terrible that every class of human beings will cry out for rocks to crush them rather than face the wrath:
Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, 16 calling to the mountains and rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb."
The last picture of horror that I will mention is the final one of the Bible, namely, the lake of fire. It is called the “second death” in Revelation 20:14, “Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire.” Revelation 2:11 says that those who conquer—that is, believers in Jesus—“will not be hurt by the second death,” implying that those who do not believe will be. Revelation 20:15 makes that explicit: “If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” Then verse 10 adds, “They will be tormented day and night forever and ever.”
Therefore, I consider it a gentle understatement to say, “The final wrath of God will be terrible—indescribable pain.” And putting the first and second truths together: This terrible, indescribably painful wrath will last for ever. There will be no escape. Now is the day of salvation. Now is the day of God’s patience. After you die, there will be no offer of salvation and no way to obtain it.
Thursday, April 22, 2010
(continued from yesterday's thought about the Wrath of God by Tony Reinke)
4. God’s wrath kills self-righteousness.
If ever there was a truth that would break a self-righteous sinner like me, it’s the truth that God’s wrath rests upon me eternally if I am uncovered by the righteousness of Christ. My church attendance and good works and kindness and charity are a flick of water into a raging furnace. What can I do to cool the wrath of God? In light of His blazing holiness, what efforts, what works, will extinguish His wrath towards each of my sins? The popular wax gospel of human invention — that God will be pleased with me because I am not as bad as others – melts near the furnace of God’s wrath. Even a great and righteous prophet must pronounce condemnation upon himself in the presence of a holy God (Isa. 6:1-7).
5. God’s wrath exalts the work of Christ.
How easily we forget that the searing pain and scorching suffering of Christ can never be pictured by His lacerated back and the holes in His hands, feet and side. These physical pains are only a surface-level visual to the horrors of the Son drinking down the cup of God’s wrath (Mark 14:32-36 with Jer. 25:15-38). “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21). Or to put it another way, “But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed” (Isa. 53:5). The Gospel is centered around God’s wrath. For in His anger towards sinners He transferred the wrath from His children onto His only Son and then crushed that only Son. Until we catch a glimpse of the horrors of God’s wrath, we will never begin to see the horror and the beauty of the Cross.
6. God’s wrath motivates evangelism.
How can we be quiet? “Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others” (2 Cor. 5:11). The thought that sinners would rest content in self-righteousness was appalling to the Apostle Paul. All self-righteous sinners, and especially the religious, need to hear the gospel to be saved from the wrath of God. This gospel travels on the wings of preachers sent out with the self-righteous killing Gospel (Rom. 10:1-21). What loosens the mouth to speak the Gospel is a heart that has seen a glimpse of the eternal wrath awaiting sinners (Acts 17:30-31).
7. God’s wrath reveals the beauty of our adoption.
We are all by nature sinners and this makes us naturally “children of wrath” (Eph. 2:3). But now the enemies of God can be reconciled to God (Rom. 5:10). We are more than justified and declared righteous, we are taken into the family of God! Through Christ, our relationship to God radically changes! By faith alone, we come back to our Father in all our filthy sinfulness and He runs to us, grabs us, kisses us, celebrates over us, and calls us His children (Luke 15:11-32). If you are justified, God has taken His judgments away from you and now sings over you with loud singing (Zeph. 3:14-17)! The wrath of God was paid in Christ and through this beautiful Gospel I am now accepted. It’s not because I am good enough or ever will be obedient enough, rather because of His graciousness alone. Every day I can wake up knowing I am a child of God and that will never depend upon my own appeasement of God. Jesus, Thank you!
"He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” John 3:36
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
The importance of God’s wrath
It’s to our benefit, humility, and joy to be reminded of Scripture’s emphasis upon the wrath of God poured out towards sinners. This is what Christians have been saved from. The wrath of God is absorbed in the substitutionary work of Jesus Christ as our judicious and forensic Savior, and we are never beyond need of reminding.
So why is the doctrine of God’s wrath so important? For starters, the gospel – that the wrath of God resting upon the heads of all sinners, is, in Christ, absorbed when He drank the cup of our condemnation and substitutes Himself for the redeemed – is always in a process of erosion. This is especially true today.
Here is a (short) list of some reasons why the theme of God’s wrath is important:
1. God’s wrath is biblical.
The Scriptures are saturated with the wrath of God. Look for yourself. Talking about God’s wrath is nothing but letting the priorities of Scripture become our own priorities. We should be humbled and sobered by God’s wrath, but never silent. God has promised that sinners – all who are sexually impure, covetous, idolatrous, or otherwise impure and unrighteous – will face the wrath of God (Jam. 2:10; Eph. 5:3-6). Those who say otherwise are speaking empty and deceptive words.
2. God’s wrath reveals God.
The wrath of God reveals His holiness, envy, perfections, an intense hatred of rebellion, His righteousness, His justice, His power. “I will make myself known among them, when I judge you” (Ezek. 35:11). Soberly, God reveals Himself in the damnation of the wicked. “What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory” (Rom. 9:22-23). The beauty of the Cross and the redeemed shines with greater luster when compared to the coming condemnation coming upon the wicked. Until we understand God’s holiness and wrath, we will only have wrong conceptions of Him.
3. God’s wrath reveals who we are.
We are sinners. We exchange the glory of God for created things. We happily replace the joy of God for collecting Hallmark figurines, antiques and Beanie Babies (Rom. 1:18-23). We would rather treasure the fleeting things of the world and forfeit our souls (Mark 8:36). We are His subjects, but we do everything in our power to reject Him. We will abandon the natural biological creation to invent our own unnatural means of rebellion (Rom. 1:27). Every act of rebellion stokes the wrath of God (Rom. 1:18). If we have become honest with ourselves, we know that we are wrath-deserving, glory-exchanging, sin-pursuing sinners that (apart from Christ) can only expect the eternal wrath of God’s holiness. This is who we are. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, one of the great preachers of the 20th century, writes: “The way to appreciate your own sinfulness is not to look at your actions, nor your life, but to come into the presence of God” (Great Doctrines, 1:72). Step close enough to feel the heat of God’s holiness.
9Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. Romans 5
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Michael Horton in his landmark Book :Christless Christianity says this about moralism:
"What would things look like if Satan really took control of a city? Over half a century ago, Presbyterian minister Donald Grey Barnhouse offered his own scenario in his weekly sermon that was also broadcast nationwide on CBS radio. Barnhouse speculated that if Satan took over Philadelphia (the city where Barnhouse pastored), all of the bars would be closed, pornography banished, and pristine streets would be filled with tidy pedestrians who smiled at each other. There would be no swearing. The children would say, “Yes, sir” and “No ma’am,” and the churches would be full every Sunday . . . where Christ is not preached.
There is a great difference between “being good” and the gospel. Some call it moralism. Moralism, in fact, blinds us from the gospel by giving us something of “the real thing” ensuring that we miss out on the true gospel all together. We must remember that Christ came first not to make bad people good but to make dead people live. If we forget that, our Christianity will turn out to be Christless."
Monday, April 19, 2010
The church today is suffering from a rash of amateurism. Any untrained, unprepared, unspiritual, empty rattletrap of a fellow who is a bit ambitious can start himself something religious. Then we all listen to him, pay him for it, promote him and work to try to help this fellow who never heard from God in the first place. Amateurism has gone mad, gone wild. That’s because we are not worshipers. Nobody who worships God is likely to do anything off beat or out of place. Nobody who is a true worshiper indeed is likely to give himself up to carnal and worldly religious projects. (“The Chief End of Man,” Sermon #4, Toronto, 1962)
Because we are not worshipers we are wasting other people’s money tremendously. We’re marking time, we’re spinning our wheels with the axles up on blocks, burning the gasoline and making a noise and getting no place. God calls us to worship and I find this missing in the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ in this day. Instead of worship, we are now second in entertainment to the theaters. I want to tell you something. If I want to see a show I know where I can see a good one put on by top flight geniuses who know what they are doing. If I want a show I’ll duck out and go down to a theater and see a show hot out of Hollywood or London by men and women who are artists in their field. I will not go to a church and see a lot of ham actors putting on a home talent show. And yet, that’s where we are in evangelical circles. We’ve got more show in evangelical circles than anywhere else. (“The Chief End of Man,” Sermon #4, Toronto, 1962)
When I say we are suffering from a rash of amateurism, I mean that we like to have just everybody, anything, anyway worship. It can’t be. You must prepare yourself to worship God. That preparation is not always a pleasant thing. There must be some revolutionary changes in your life. There must be some things destroyed in your life. (“The Chief End of Man,” Sermon #6, Toronto, 1962)
We are not a religious theater to provide a place for amateur entertainers to display their talents. (“The Chief End of Man,” Sermon #10, Toronto, 1962)
Sunday, April 18, 2010
Some modern church leaders fancy themselves businessmen, media figures, entertainers, psychologists, philosophers, or lawyers. Those notions contrast sharply with the way Scripture portrays spiritual leaders.
In 2 Timothy 2, for example, Paul uses seven different metaphors to describe the rigors of leadership. He pictures the minister as a teacher (v. 2), a soldier (v. 3), an athlete (v. 5), a farmer (v. 6), a workman (v. 15), a vessel (vv. 20 21), and a slave (v. 24). All those images evoke ideas of sacrifice, labor, service, and hardship. They speak eloquently of the complex and varied responsibilities of spiritual leadership. Not one of them makes leadership out to be glamorous.
That's because it is not supposed to be glamorous. Leadership in the church--and I'm speaking of every facet of spiritual leadership, not just the pastor's role--is not a mantle of status to be conferred on the church's aristocracy. It isn't earned by seniority, purchased with money, or inherited through family ties. It doesn't necessarily fall to those who are successful in business or finance. It isn't doled out on the basis of intelligence or talent. Its requirements are blameless character, spiritual maturity, and above all, a willingness to serve humbly.
Our Lord's favorite metaphor for spiritual leadership, a figure He often used to describe Himself, was that of a shepherd--one who tends God's flock. Every church leader is a shepherd. The word pastor itself means "shepherd." It is appropriate imagery. A shepherd leads, feeds, nurtures, comforts, corrects, and protects. Those are responsibilities of every churchman.
Shepherds are without status. In most cultures, shepherds occupy the lower rungs of society's ladder. That is fitting, for our Lord said, "Let him who is the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as the servant" (Luke 22:26).
Under the plan God has ordained for the church, leadership is a position of humble, loving service. Church leadership is ministry, not management. Those whom God designates as leaders are called not to be governing monarchs, but humble slaves; not slick celebrities, but laboring servants. Those who would lead God's people must above all exemplify sacrifice, devotion, submission, and lowliness.
Jesus Himself gave us the pattern when He stooped to wash His disciples' feet, a task that was customarily done by the lowest of slaves (John 13). If the Lord of the universe would do that, no church leader has a right to think of himself as a bigwig.
Shepherding animals is semi skilled labor. There are no colleges that offer graduate degrees in shepherding. It isn't that difficult a job. Even a dog can be trained to guard a flock of sheep. In biblical times, young boys--David, for example--herded sheep while the older men did tasks that required more skill and maturity.
Shepherding a spiritual flock is not so simple. It takes more than an unskilled laborer to be a spiritual shepherd. The standards are high, the requirements hard to satisfy (1 Timothy 3:1 7). Not everyone can meet the qualifications, and of those who do, few seem to excel at the task. Spiritual shepherdology demands a godly, gifted, multi skilled man of integrity. Yet he must maintain the humble perspective and demeanor of a boy shepherd.
Saturday, April 17, 2010
The Bible never sugarcoats the painful realities of living in a fallen world. Sin is portrayed in all of its dark hues, and the best of men are acknowledged to be at best, mere men. Similarly, the church is portrayed as in a constant state of conflict until the Lord Jesus returns.
The church in the world is the church militant—always engaged in warfare, under attack and advancing doggedly onward through enemy territory. As is true with any army, the church is not immune to the loss of some of her members. In fact, the skill and tenacity of our enemies are intent on destroying as many as they can.
Paul warns Timothy of such loss in the opening verses of 1 Timothy 4. “Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons” (v. 1). Those “later times” are here. They have been present since Christ’s first coming and will continue until his return.
Paul intends to encourage Timothy by informing him of the inevitability that some will apostatize. Timothy is pastoring the church in Ephesus—a church that Paul himself planted. Yet, among the members of that church, among those who professed to be followers of Jesus, some would depart from the faith.
From Judas onward the church has been confronted with the painful reality of apostasy. When those who have once been bright, shining lights among the people of God later turn away from the paths of discipleship and abandon the teachings of God’s Word, it is brings great sorrow to fellow church members. Perhaps none feel such sorrows as deeply as those pastors whose responsibility it is to shepherd the flock.
How are we to understand those who fall away? Are our Armininian friends right in their teaching that genuine Christians can lose their salvation? No. Salvation conveys eternal life and Jesus promised that His people are secure because “no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand” (John 10:29). Paul assures us that the One who began a good work in us “will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).
John gives us insight into what is going on in the lives of those who profess to follow Jesus but then turn away from him, depart from his Word and reject his people. “They went out from us,” the apostle writes, “but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us” (1 John 2:19).
When someone departs from the faith never to be recovered it is not that he has lost the salvation that was once possessed. Rather, such a person demonstrates by his departure that, no matter how loudly he professed to belong to the Lord’s redeemed, he did not genuinely possess the salvation that comes through faith in Christ. Though such people might be among us, they are not “of us.”
Paul explains how this happens. How a person lives is determined by what he believes. Those who fall away do so because they become devoted to the “teachings of demons.” This does not mean that they get caught up in the occult. Rather, they come to believe notions that originate in hell and are consequently led away from the faith.
This is what causes people to make up rules that God’s Word does not teach (“Do not get married” or “Do not eat”) and to become convinced that by following them they are spiritually safe. In reality, they have fallen prey to “deceitful spirits” who use liars with seared consciences to spread their spiritual poison (1 Timothy 4:2).
Apostates are people who have been deceived. They have been duped into believing lies rather than the truth and, as a result, are not standing firm but are falling away.
The antidote to apostasy, then, is a rigorous devotion to the truth of God’s Word. It is in the Word that the gospel of God’s grace in Jesus Christ is revealed. Becoming increasingly grounded in the gospel is what gives stability to a believer. As Psalm 1 says, the blessed and stable man is the one who delights in the law of the Lord and meditates in it day and night (vv. 2-3).
Pastors must be radically committed to teaching the Word of God in all of its fullness and simplicity. This is why Paul repeatedly emphasizes the importance of sound doctrine in his letters to Timothy and Titus on pastoral ministry (1 Timothy 1:3, 10, 4:6, 16, 6:3; 2 Timothy 3:16, 4:3; Titus 1:9, 2:1). This is also why no Christian should settle for anything less.
There is a battle going on in the minds of all those who know the Lord. It is a battle between truth and falsehood—between the teaching of God’s Word and the teachings of demons. What you believe will inevitability determine how you live.
Make sure that the ideas and convictions to which you become devoted are derived from Scripture alone. There is no other way to stand firm the faith.
Friday, April 16, 2010
Getting the Gospel Right
from Tom Ascol
Sometimes, what is not said speaks more loudly than actual words. The silence, as we say, is deafening. In the opening verses of his letter to the churches of Galatia, the apostle Paul employs this communication technique to underscore the seriousness of the subject at hand. As he does in all of his letters, Paul begins by identifying himself as the author, naming the intended recipients, and pronouncing a blessing on them (1:1–5).
It is what comes next that is so uncharacteristic for him. Immediately after his introductory comments, and before launching into the body of the letter, Paul writes…nothing. He offers no expression of gratitude to God for them or words of encouragement about their spiritual vitality.
When compared to his other warm greetings (for example, Rom. 1:8; 1 Cor. 1:1–5; Eph. 1:15–23; Phil. 1:3–11), what Paul does not say to the Galatians speaks volumes.
He leaves no doubt about the seriousness and urgency of the topic of his letter. His burden is to explain and defend the true gospel of God’s grace. He launches into the subject early and writes with a fiery tone, employing sarcasm, threats, warnings, and rebukes to get his points across.
Like a soldier rushing into battle with guns blazing, Paul immediately begins contending for the truth of the gospel. His purpose is not simply to win a theological argument. Rather, he is determined to fight for the spiritual lives of the Galatian believers.
Getting the gospel right is crucial. It is a matter of spiritual life and death. If you miss this, it does not matter what you get because you will miss God.
Paul understands this and therefore strongly refutes the false teaching of those who have begun to undermine the Galatians’ confidence in the simple gospel that he had preached to them.
That message is all about the finished work of Jesus Christ “who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father” (Gal. 1:4). The gospel that Paul preached to them proclaimed salvation by grace alone received through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone.
This message is great news for sinners because it reveals that salvation, from first to last, is God’s work and not dependent on anything in us. It eliminates any basis for pride as well as any cause to despair. Those whom God saves are made right with Him not because of anything they have done or not done, but because they have been “called…in the grace of Christ” (v. 6).
On the one hand, the worst of people are genuine candidates for salvation because the only way that God saves is by grace. On the other hand, if the most respectable people are to be saved, it will not be because of any goodness in them but, again, only by the grace of God.
No wonder Paul was “astonished” to learn that the Galatians were so quickly and easily being led away from the gospel of God’s grace (v. 6). The false teachers insisted that trusting Christ was not enough — to be right with God, a person must also keep certain Old Testament ceremonies. But adding to the gospel is just as disastrous as subtracting from it. Both “distort the gospel of Christ” (v. 7).
Any change in the message of Jesus Christ turns it into “a different gospel” (v. 6) that keeps people from knowing God. This is why Paul writes with such passion, warning the Galatians never to tolerate anyone — not even an apostle or an angel — who would dare to preach as the gospel any other message than salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone, plus nothing.
Twice Paul says that any creature who distorts the gospel should be “accursed.” He literally pronounces “anathema” on such a person (v. 9). Those who spread false gospels are worthy of God’s damnation.
Paul intends that his use of such strong language should have a sobering affect on us. Misrepresenting the gospel is serious business. Those who believe false gospels will wind up in hell. Those who teach false gospels deserve nothing less.
The churches of Galatia were very young when Paul sent them this letter. Yet, he expected that they — all of the members and not just the leaders — would be doctrinally alert enough to discern the true gospel from counterfeits.
This is the responsibility of every Christian. Like sheep who will follow only the voice of their shepherd, we must learn to recognize the simplicity and fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ and refuse to tolerate any teaching that deviates from it.
Our very lives depend on it.
6 I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, 7 which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.
10 For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ. Galatians 1:6-10
Thursday, April 15, 2010
In a statement that many people will try to read between the lines on, John Piper has announced that he will be taking 6 months away from nearly all public life as a result of what he calls "several species of pride" in his soul...
According to a post on his DesiringGod blog:
I asked the elders to consider this leave because of a growing sense that my soul, my marriage, my family, and my ministry-pattern need a reality check from the Holy Spirit. On the one hand, I love my Lord, my wife, my five children and their families first and foremost; and I love my work of preaching and writing and leading Bethlehem. I hope the Lord gives me at least five more years as the pastor for preaching and vision at Bethlehem.
But on the other hand, I see several species of pride in my soul that, while they may not rise to the level of disqualifying me for ministry, grieve me, and have taken a toll on my relationship with Noël and others who are dear to me. How do I apologize to you, not for a specific deed, but for ongoing character flaws, and their effects on everybody? I’ll say it now, and no doubt will say it again, I’m sorry. Since I don’t have just one deed to point to, I simply ask for a spirit of forgiveness; and I give you as much assurance as I can that I am not making peace, but war, with my own sins.
Noël and I are rock solid in our commitment to each other, and there is no whiff of unfaithfulness on either side. But, as I told the elders, “rock solid” is not always an emotionally satisfying metaphor, especially to a woman. A rock is not the best image of a woman’s tender companion. In other words, the precious garden of my home needs tending. I want to say to Noël that she is precious to me in a way that, at this point in our 41-year pilgrimage, can be said best by stepping back for a season from virtually all public commitments.
Monday, April 12, 2010
Baptizo is an intensified form of bapto. The Greeks had ways of sticking in a few extra letters and intensifying a word. Baptizo is used many, many times in the New Testament; many, many times. It means "to dip completely" and it's the Greek word for drowning; that shows you how complete the dipping is, potentially. It's the word "to submerse" or "immerse". In fact, the Latin equivalent is immersio or submersio. The noun baptism, baptismas, is used always in the book of Acts to refer to a Christian being immersed in water. It's always used to refer to a Christian being immersed in water. So, that is what baptism is: it's a ceremony by which a person believes the gospel and is then immersed into water.
In fact, the terms bapto and baptizo, the verb, and baptismas, the noun, could have been translated immerse; and probably would have solved a lot of problems, but the translators chose to transliterate the Greek baptizo into baptise. They transliterated it rather than translate it because it had become such a technical term for immersion. So, they just transliterated it across, but that doesn't change the meaning. It means, to immerse.
In fact, the Greeks had a different word for sprinkling and that word rhantisanti is used of sprinkling or splattering with water. It's a different word altogether. We're not talking about sprinkling. There's no such thing as a ceremony of sprinkling in the Bible, or pouring or any application of water to the individual. Whenever you find baptism in the Bible, it is the word immerse; or submerse and it means, putting the person under the water. Every New Testament use these terms, requires or permits the idea of immersion. This is so obvious that even John Calvin, who basically came down on the side of infant sprinkling or infant baptism, says this, he writes, "The word `baptize' means `to immerse.'" No linguist can come up with anything else. Calvin says, "The word `baptize' means `to immerse'; it is certain that immersion was the practice of the early church." There really is no argument, there's no debate at that point.
The verbs bapto, baptizo, are never used in the passive. That is to say, water is never said to be baptized on someone such as sprinkling or pouring or touching with water which is done in a great, great portion of the church today. They sprinkle, they pour, or they dip and just touch the water to the forehead or to some other part of the head. Never are those verbs used in the passive sense of water being placed on someone. They're always used in the sense of someone being placed in water. Whenever you read in the New Testament about a baptism, an actual occasion of baptism, immersion is the only possible meaning.
Friday, April 9, 2010
Probably the largest Independent Fundamental Baptist Church in America, First Baptist Hammond is having a youth conference. Look at what they are doing to draw teen agers. This is from their brochure:
Join us this year for our Bus Demolition Race after lunch Thursday afternoon of Youth Conference! This event will take place at a speedway just a few minutes away from Hyles-Anderson College. Cheer for your favorite bus as it gets smashed, squashed, and battered!
Don’t miss the Holy Roller as he crushes cars with his monster truck!
Also they are having a 3 on 3 contest, dodge ball contest, paintball, and singing competition. This is from the largest Independent Fundamental Baptist Church in America, First Baptist Hammond in Indiana.
I applaud their efforts. Jack Schaap is a great preacher and many students will come to Christ because of this youth conference.
The question I have for all the people who were against the Bonfire Crusade our county just recently had is:
Is This Worldly?
Is this Church doing something un-Biblical or un-Godly?
Is this preacher a "spiritual pied piper" to have a church this large?
I would love to hear your comments!
(actual photo of game at this Christian School)
This is a story on a school that requires it's boys basketball teams to wear long pants in the name of modesty. I found it very interesting that when the reporter asked if there was a verse in Scripture that addresses wearing long pants, this was the principals response:
There is, but I'd have to look it up -- I don't have it handy, but it's definitely in Scripture. And I don't know if you know this, but our girls' basketball team dresses in skirts. [And the school's cheerleading squad wears long skirts.]
Seems like if you were the principal you would be prepared to answer a question like that. But, I am guessing that the real problem is that this prohibition is found in the Bible right next to the laws of riding a unicorn and how to evangelize a leprechaun.
You have to read this post, I just don't get it.
We all know basketball pants have gotten longer and longer in recent years. But you probably have never seen them as long as this.
The team in the long pants is Gate City Christian, a tiny Pentecostal high school in southwestern Virginia. No, the players didn't forget their game shorts, and they aren't wearing their warm-up pants -- the Warriors, as the team is called, always wear long pants, due to the school's religious tenets.
The boy's basketball team has to wear pants and the girl's team has to wear skirts!
Where is this in the Bible? It is ok if it is the school's conviction but where is it in the Bible?
Thursday, April 8, 2010
Here is some really really good advice from Chuck Swidoll on dealing with legalist:
In interview with Howard Hendricks, Chuck Swindoll defined the legalism problem as:
...when we get into areas that are not set forth in Scripture, either in precept or even in principle. These may be such things as length of hair, tattoos and other body piercings, skirts or pants for women, makeup or no makeup. Those are not scriptural issues. Sometimes these issues are cultural, and you do have to address them when you are in that particular culture. But I think legalism begins when you do or refrain from doing what I want you to do or not do because it's on my list and it's something that I am uncomfortable with.
Then, Chuck gives his blunt advice:
The problem with legalists is that not enough people have confronted them and told them to get lost. Those are strong words, but I don't mess with legalism anymore. I'm 72 years old; what have I got to lose? Seriously, I used to kowtow to legalists, but they're dangerous. They are grace-killers. They'll drive off every new Christian you bring to church. They are enemies of the faith. Other than that, I don't have any opinion!
So, if I am trying to force my personal list of no-no's on you and make you feel guilty if you don't join me, then I'm out of line and I need to be told that.
And everybody said: AMEN!
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
Tuesday, April 6, 2010
How to Become a Legalist:
From Luke 6: 1-11
1One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and his disciples began to pick some heads of grain, rub them in their hands and eat the kernels. 2Some of the Pharisees asked, "Why are you doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?"
3Jesus answered them, "Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? 4He entered the house of God, and taking the consecrated bread, he ate what is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions." 5Then Jesus said to them, "The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath."
6On another Sabbath he went into the synagogue and was teaching, and a man was there whose right hand was shriveled. 7The Pharisees and the teachers of the law were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal on the Sabbath. 8But Jesus knew what they were thinking and said to the man with the shriveled hand, "Get up and stand in front of everyone." So he got up and stood there.
9Then Jesus said to them, "I ask you, which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy it?"
10He looked around at them all, and then said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." He did so, and his hand was completely restored. 11But they were furious and began to discuss with one another what they might do to Jesus.
1.Make rules outside the Bible.
2.Push yourself to try and keep your rules.
3.Castigate yourself when you don't keep your rules.
4.Become proud when you do keep your rules.
5.Appoint yourself as judge over other people.
6.Get angry with people who break your rules or have different rules.
7."Beat" the losers.
John MacArthur's Definition of legalism. “In many cases when you’re talking about legalism, you’re not talking really about works-salvation. You’re talking, I assume, about an approach to the Christian life that is needlessly restrictive and narrow and artificially constructed around certain behaviors that aren’t even biblical issues.”
Sunday, April 4, 2010
Strange things going on at ETBC
This past Sunday the Lord blessed in a tremendous way. I had the privilege of baptizing 8 people! All 8 publicly professed their faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior through believer’s baptism. That never gets old!
We also saw 20 people join our church. At ETBC, in order to join, you must go through CLASS 101. This class is a requirement. Someone can’t just walk down the aisle and join any time they want to at ETBC. As a matter of fact, no one can. This has worked great for ETBC. In this class we explain, in detail, our beliefs about Jesus, the Bible, salvation, worship, our goals and our expectations of members. At the end of the class we tell people how they can join. We never beg or proselyte other church members. We encourage families to attend for a while before joining to make sure God has called them to ETBC. So, I thank God for the families and individuals who joined this Sunday. Because of demand we will be having another CLASS 101 next Sunday April 11.
We also saw 502 people in Sunday School. I want to thank Associate Pastors Mark Marshall and Kevin White for doing such a great job in this area. ETBC has always had a strong Sunday School but never like this. God is really blessing in this area. We are in great need of Sunday School space.
910 people worshiped with us Sunday! The House was packed. I want to thank all of our members who think enough of their friends and family members to invite them to church. Studies show that at least 90% of people saved in America were the direct result of a close friend or family member.
God was exalted in worship. Gary Pierce is doing a great job at ETBC. I am thankful for his friendship and leadership in this area. I’m so glad our choir has practice and tries to sing with excellence. Also I am so thankful we sing more than Hymns from the red Hymn Book. Even though, we do sing from this great collection of songs every Sunday that is not all we do. There are some great God honoring songs in America today that some churches will never hear because they were written before 1950. Thanks Gary for obeying the Lord in this Area.
Strange things are happening at ETBC. To God be the Glory! And everyone said AMEN!
Saturday, April 3, 2010
I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! 2 Timothy 4
Watch out for Bad Hermeneutics.
Paul told Timothy to “Preach the Word”. Not his opinions or preferences. Boy, some preachers need to heed this warning from Paul. Paul was a man of the Word. He died for his faith and his commitment to God’s inspired inerrant Word. Paul preached the Word and never strayed from it. We preachers need to heed his advice.
Sadly many today search out scriptures to “prove a point” about a certain worship style or whether or not the pulpit should be removed out of the sanctuary. If this is their preference so be it. But to manipulate and obliterate God’s Word, to prove a point, is just wrong. To take a section of scripture and make it say what it was never intended to say is borderline blasphemy. Who gave you the right to do that? God doesn’t’ change and neither does His Word. Pastors just preach the Word.
John MacArthur said this:
“There are silly and foolish ways to approach the study of the Bible. Perhaps you've heard the familiar story of the man who wanted guidance about a major decision. Started to close his eyes and not knowing where to look, wanted God to answer him. In the dilemma, he opened his Bible, put his finger down to get guidance from whatever verse his finger happened to land on. His first try brought him to Matthew 27:5, "Judas went out and hanged himself." Thinking that verse was really not much help, he determined to try again. This time his finger landed on Luke 10:37, "Go thou and do likewise." Still undeterred and not ready to give up, he tried it a third time and his finger landed on John 13:27, "What thou doest, do quickly."
Now, I certainly don't want to vouch for the authenticity of that particular account, but it does make an important point. Looking for meaning in Scripture through some mystical process is a way to get an ill-gotten theology. Looking for meaning in Scripture beyond the historical, grammatical, logical understanding of the context is unwise and dangerous. It's possible, of course, to substantiate almost any idea or any teaching from Scripture if you take it out of its context and twist it around. I remember hearing about the preacher who didn't think women should have their hair up on their head because a woman's hair should be down, so he preached against what used to be called bobbed hair, women having their hair up on their heads. His text was top not come down, taken from Matthew 24 where it says, "Let those on the housetop not come down." So, if you just pull out, if you just pull out exactly what you want, you can probably get it. We laugh at that because it sounds so bizarre, but that is precisely the process that many are using to substantiate their experiences or to invent their theology.
Now the task of hermeneutics is to realize, first of all, that there is a God given meaning in Scripture, apart from you or me or anybody else. Scripture means something if means nothing to me, understood? It means something if it means nothing to you. It means something if it means nothing to anybody. It means something in itself, and that meaning is determined by God, the Author, not by one who is going through some kind of mystical experience. The interpreter's task then is to discern that meaning. To discover the meaning of the text in its proper setting, to draw the meaning out of the Scripture, rather than to read one's meaning into it.
Well, what good does it do to believe that the Bible is God's final and complete word if you misinterpret it? Either way you miss the truth, right? It is equally serious along with disbelieving the Bible to misinterpret it. Interpreting Scripture to make it say what it was never intended to say is a sure road to division, to error, to heresy and to apostasy.” END QUOTE
Did you get that? Hope so. Study the Word in context and preach it. We have too much “strange preaching” going on these days. God help us we are in a mess!
Would love to hear your comments!