Sunday, December 31, 2006

Celebrating the New Year


As you prepare for 2007 can I encourage you to make some meaningful resolutions? You know, one's that are practical and more likely to be kept. First, I would encourage you to read the Bible. Some talk about reading the Bible but never get around to it. Our church is starting on January 1, 2007 by reading the Old Testament. We just completed the New Testament today. If you would like to read along with us, click here for the schedule. Second, I would encourage you to memorize Scripture. The psalmist said that the best way to deter sin in your life is by hiding God's Word in your heart (see Psalm 119:11). Again, our church is also going to do this as well. The passages that we have chosen are taken from the MacArthur Scripture Memory System.

Now I have just shared with you two simple tasks but let me add a third and it is quite simple as well. Live what you learn! James 1:22 says it this way: " But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves." Don't just read for the pleasure of reading. Read in order to do. Also, as you memorize Scripture, mediate on it throughout the week. This will change your life.

So, as you celebrate the bringing in of the new year, make a commitment to God and His Word. Commit yourself to live what you learn and share it with others. If you would like to hear what I taught on today regarding new years, click here.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Savior and Messiah

In Mark 8:29 Jesus asked His disciples, "Who do you say that I am?" The answer and response to that question decides a person’s eternity. Many will say that Jesus was a prophet or a good teacher but not that He was God in the flesh. John 1:1, 14 says, "the Word was with God and the Word was God……And the Word became flesh." 1 Timothy 3:16 says, ""God was manifested in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen by angels, preached among the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up in glory." The Scripture have much to say of the identity of Jesus. Even the Hebrew and Greek definitions of His name reveal who He is. The name Jesus was a common name. Colossians 4:11 reveals that there was another man named Justice who was also known by the name Jesus. But the name itself as it is applied to the Christ or the Messiah means "Jehovah (Yahweh) saves."" It occurs "700 times in the Gospels, 100 times in the epistles and Revelation" (Francis Derk, the Names of Christ, p.26). It is the Greek equivalent of Jehua or Jehoshua. The title "Christ"" is christos in the Greek and is a form of the Hebrew Mashiah, which means, "anointed one" or Messiah. "It occurs 49 times in the Gospels, 235 times in the epistles and Revelation"" (Ibid., Derk). "Israel’s prophets, priests, and kings were anointed, and Jesus was anointed as all three. He was the anointed One, the Messiah, whom the Jews had long expected to come as their great deliverer and monarch" (John MacArthur, Matthew 1-7, pp.3-4).

So who do you say that Jesus is? He is the Savior who "will save His people from their sins" (Mat.1:21). He is the long awaited Messiah. He is the King!

Monday, December 25, 2006

God Made Flesh


Matthew 1:21 says, "And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins."

Lehman Strauss writes, "On that first Christmas day when Mary’s babe was born in Bethlehem, divinity was clothed upon with the garb of human flesh, the Infinite and the finite came into inseparable union in the Person of Jesus Christ, the God-man. Therefore Jesus is divine because He is God. Throughout the New Testament we find it repeatedly stated that Christ possessed the attributes of deity and these divine attributes ascribed to Him are applicable to God alone" (The Second Person, p.23).

We see this truth clearly throughout the Scriptures. Paul even says of Jesus that in "Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form" (Col.2:9). Let’s see the elements of deity in the Scriptures as it refers to God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

First we see that God is Savior. Isaiah 43:11 says, "I, even, I, am the Lord; and there is no savior besides Me." But in Luke 2:11 we read of Jesus, "For today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord." Either God is lying or Jesus is of the same essence as the Father (see John 10:30). Notice another attribute of God the Father. Malachi 3:6 says, "For I, the Lord, do not change." The writer of Hebrews says the same thing about Jesus when he writes, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today, yes and forever" (Heb.13:8). Exodus 9:16 says God is omnipotent when it says, "But, indeed, for this cause I have allowed you to remain, in order to show you My power, and in order to proclaim My name through all the earth." Hebrews 1:3 attributes omnipotence to Jesus when it says, "And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power." What about Genesis 6:5 which teaches that God the Father is omniscient? It says, "Then the Lord saw the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually." God knew the hearts of every man. This is also true of Jesus. Matthew 9:4 says, "And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, ‘Why are you thinking evil in your hearts?’"

Every characteristic of God can be found in the Lord Jesus Christ. He is Savior, immutable, omnipotent, and omniscient. Matthew 28:20 also says He is omnipresent. When speaking to His disciples and giving them the Great Commission to go into all the world and make disciples, He promises "I am with you always, even to the end of the age." If you read Psalm 139:7-8 you’ll find that God the Father is also omnipresent. But probably the greatest attribute of them all is the one you and I can receive only in Jesus and that is forgiveness. Isaiah 43:25 says of God the Father – "I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake; and I will not remember your sins." In Matthew 9:2 Jesus utters those similar words: "Take courage, My son, your sins are forgiven."

Who is Jesus? Jesus is God. No other conclusion can be reached. "Some say He was just a good teacher, but good teachers don’t claim to be God. Some say He was merely a good example, but good examples don’t mingle with prostitutes and sinners. Some say He was a madman, but madmen don’t speak the way He spoke. Some say He was a crazed fanatic, but crazed fanatics don’t draw children to themselves or attract men of intellect like Paul or Luke to be His followers. Some say He was a religious phony, but phonies don’t rise from the dead. Some say He was a Phantom, but phantom’s can’t give their flesh and blood to be crucified. Some say He was only a myth, but myths don’t set the calendar for history. Jesus has been called the ideal man, an example of love, the highest model of religion, the foremost pattern of virtue, the greatest of all men, and the finest teacher who ever lived. All of those descriptions capture elements of His character, but they all fall short of the full truth. The apostle Thomas expressed it perfectly when he saw Jesus after His resurrection, and exclaimed, ‘My Lord and My God!’ (John 20:28)" [John MacArthur, God with Us].

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Christmas and Greed


I know that you are well aware that Christmas time is also a time for selfishness and greed. Because the exchanging of gifts is so emphasized it's not hard to get caught up in the moment. But we must remember that this time is not about us, it's about Him (Jesus). This is a time to remember why Jesus Christ came into the world. He didn't come so that you could have nice gifts. He came to die for your sin. As you celebrate Christmas, begin by reading the Scripture together as a family. Talk to your children about the true meaning of Christmas. Don't lay as much attention on the gifts but the giver of the greatest gift. Pray as a family. Teach your children that you have to die to self daily and when they are only focused on "things" it breeds covetousness. Teach your kids to love Jesus and the things of God rather than the world. But also remember that the best teaching is your actions as opposed to your words, so be consistent. If you are saying one thing to your kids and doing something entirely different, they will see that immediately and ignore what you're saying.

Not interested in teaching your kids the right response? Then do nothing. They will manifest greed, selfishness, and covetousness all on their own because this is what naturally comes from their heart. It takes work but lazy parents are not interested in instructing their kids in doing what is right!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

God's Ultimate Purpose


I want to share with you one of the greatest passages in all the NT. This passage, as R.A. Torrey describes, is a “soft pillow for a tired heart.” He made that statement about this passage because of the much criticism he received during his ministry. Paul says in Romans 8:28, And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”

For God’s children, this verse contains perhaps the most glorious promise in Scripture. It is breathtaking in its magnitude, encompassing absolutely everything that pertains to a believer’s life. Before we look at verse 28, I would like to point out the underlying theme of this chapter. As you read it you it you can’t help but to notice that the Holy Spirit is mentioned 17 times. He is mentioned in verses 1, 2, 5, 9, 10, 11, 13, 14, 15, 16, 23, 26, 27. Paul begins in the chapter by saying in verse 1 that there is “now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” Throughout this chapter we hear references like this one indicating that the believer’s “walk” is now “according to the Spirit” and it begins in verse 1 with the phrase “to those who are in Christ Jesus.” This is a reference to salvation. Our “no condemnation” status and our new life in the Spirit is only possible because we are “in Christ Jesus.” Paul continues in verses 1-2 by defining further what it means to be “in Christ Jesus.” He says that “those who are in Christ Jesus...do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.” Because the law was powerless in setting us free “from the law of sin and death” (v.2), “God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh,” so that “the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit” (vv.3-4).

God has set us free by His Spirit through the death of His Son. Our status now is “no condemnation” (v.1) and we are characterized as those “who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit” (vv.1, 4 5). Paul contrasts our new life in the Spirit by talking about our life prior to Christ by saying in verses 5-9 that “those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritual minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” In the flesh, your mind is “set...on the things of the flesh.” You are “carnally minded,” “against God” (v.7) and without the Holy Spirit (v.9). But to “those who are in Christ Jesus” (v.1), they have been set “free from the law of sin and death” (v.2). They have their “minds” set on “the things of the Spirit” (v.5) and they have “life and peace” (v.6). So because we are now “in the Spirit,” we are indebted to “put to death the deeds of the body” by “the Spirit” (v.13). That’s who you are “if Christ is in you” (v.10). You “walk according to the Spirit” (v.1).

Now when we read verse 28, we see that the basics for our new life is because of all three persons of the Trinity. There is no longer any condemnation because God sent His Son to be “in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin [and] He condemned sin in the flesh” (v.3) through His death on the cross. The Holy Spirit gave us “life” (v.11). So verses 1-17 form the first unit and verses 18-39 form the second. In the second unit of thought Paul is continuing his thoughts about “the sufferings of this present time” (v.18). What can be said about these sufferings? Paul says in verse 18: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” There is no comparison. What else does Paul say regarding this? In verses 19-22 he says the whole “creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God” (v.19) and “groans and labors with birth pangs together until now” (v.22). But the groaning is not just with the creation but also with us in verse 23. Paul says, “Even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly awaiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.” Therefore “the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses” or infirmities. Because of this “we know that all things work together for good” (v.28).

Do you see all of life through Romans 8:28? Do you see even the bad in your life is something that God can use to bring about “good?” Remember this truth is for those who love God; those who have been called according to His purpose.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

A Life Saving Mission


On a dangerous seacoast where shipwrecks were frequent, a crude little life-saving station was built. The building was just a hut, and there was only one boat, but the few devoted crewmen kept a constant watch over the sea. With no thought for themselves, they went out day or night, tirelessly searching for any who might need help. Many lives were saved by their devoted efforts. After a while the station became famous. Some of those who were saved, as well as others in the surrounding area, wanted to become a part of the work. They gave time and money for its support. New boats were bought, additional crews were trained, and the station grew. Some of the members became unhappy that the building was so crude. They felt a larger, nicer place would be more appropriate as the first refuge of those saved from the sea. So they replaced the emergency cots with hospital beds and put better furniture in the enlarged building. Soon the station became a popular gathering place for its members to discuss the work and to visit with each other. They continued to remodel and decorate until the station more and more took on the look and character of a club. Fewer members were interested in going out on lifesaving missions, so they hired professional crews to do the work on their behalf. The lifesaving motif still prevailed on the club emblems and stationery, and there was a liturgical lifeboat in the room where the club held its initiations. One day a large ship was wrecked off the coast, and the hired crews brought in many boatloads of cold, wet, half-drowned people. They were dirty, bruised, and sick; and some had black or yellow skin. The beautiful new club was terribly messed up, and so the property committee immediately had a shower house built outside, where the shipwreck victims could be cleaned up before coming inside. At the next meeting there was a split in the club membership. Most of the members wanted to stop the club’s lifesaving activities altogether, as being unpleasant and a hindrance to the normal social life of the club. Some members insisted on keeping lifesaving as their primary purpose and pointed out that, after all, they were still called a lifesaving station. But those members were voted down and told that if they wanted to save lives they could begin their own station down the coast somewhere. As the years went by, the new station gradually faced the same problems the other one had experienced. It, too, became a club, and its lifesaving work became less and less of a priority. The few members who remained dedicated to lifesaving began another station. History continued to repeat itself; and if you visit that coast today you will find a number of exclusive clubs along the shore. Shipwrecks are still frequent in those waters, but most of the people drown.

What a striking illustration of the history of the church. Yet the work of evangelism, of spiritual lifesaving, is nonetheless the purest, truest, noblest, and most essential work the church will ever do. The work of fishing men and women out of the sea of sin, the work of rescuing people from the breakers of hell, is the greatest work the church is called by God to do” (MacArthur, J. (1989). Matthew. Chicago: Moody Press).

Are you rescuing people from the sea of sin? Are you looking at your job or school at the mission field? What impact are you having our your community for Jesus Christ? Are you involved in a social club or a life-saving ministry? Think about that today as you’re around those who do not know Jesus. If you want them to go to hell, then say nothing.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Stop Dating the Church


I am currently re-reading "Stop Dating the Church" by Joshua Harris. I first read it shortly after it was released. Our elders also read it. Since our reading, we decided we wanted potential members of our church to read it as well. There are so many in the church that do not see the church as "the only institution God promised to sustain forever" (15). Therefore they are not committed to it. As Harris describes his own life, he says, "I was perfectly happy to keep playing it with the church. I liked attending on weekends, and I enjoyed the social benefits of church, but I didn't want the responsibility that came with real commitment" (14). Most people who date the church tend to be "critical." They are "short on allegiance and quick to find fault in [the] church. [They] treat church with a consumer mentality---looking for the best product for the price of our Sunday morning. As a result, [they're] fickle and not invested for the long-term, like a lover with a wondering eye, aways on the hunt for something better" (17). Does this describe you? How can you turn from a "church-dater" to one committed for the "long-term?" First, recognize this has been your attitude and repent of it. Second, pick up a copy of "Stop Dating the Church" by Joshua Harris and READ it. Once you read it, start applying the principles found in this book. Third, if you haven't already established this, most likely you haven't, commit to time each day in God's Word. As you read the principles in "Stop Dating the Church," study what he explains about the church in God's Word. Changing from a "church-dater" to one who is in it for the "long-term" involves a commitment. Isn't that what this is all about? Isn't this what distinguishes one who dates the church from one who is committed to it?

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

What's on Your Christmas List?


Every year we are faced with all the commercialization of Christmas. What gift will I give, how much will I spend?, etc. The greatest question should be "What investment can I make in someone's life for eternity?" Let me suggest a few gift ideas that are investments in eternity: How about a good study Bible? I know a couple of family members that I would like to give them a good study Bible, so I am considering "The MacArthur Study Bible." Excellent resource now available in both the NJKV and the NASB with thousands of explanatory notes. Some other ideas are good books like "Stop Dating the Church" by Joshua Harris and "The Almost Christian Discovered" by Matthew Mead (1629-1699). Whatever gift you decide upon, consider one that will make an investment in someone's life for eternity. For more book ideas click here.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Be Watchful


"Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world" (1 Peter 5:8-9).

It is clear from Scripture that our enemy, the devil, seeks to "devour" all of God's children. One of the ways he does that is through "suffering" in this world. The example of Job is tremendous when seeing the extent the devil will go to in accusing us before our heavenly Father. But one thing we must remember in the fight -- God is victorious! There is NOTHING that can happen in our life that first hasn't passed through the hands of our Father. But even with that confidence we must "be sober" and "vigilant." Puritan George Downame wrote, " The Christian soldier must avoid two evils—he must not faint or yield in the time of fight, and after a victory he must not wax insolent and secure. When he has overcome, he is so to behave himself as though he were presently again to be assaulted. For Satan's temptations, like the waves of the sea, do follow one in the neck of the other." If for no other reason we need to "be sober, be vigilant." The devil does not sleep or slumber nor should we. Paul said "lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices" (2 Cor.2:11). So resist the devil today, "be steadfast in the faith" and remember "Satan's temptations...do follow one in the neck of the other."

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Banished Because of the Word


By the close of the first century, Christianity had become a hated and despised religious sect in the Roman Empire . Pliny, who was the Roman Governor of Bithynia , wrote to Emperor Trajan early in the second century, scorning Christianity as a ‘depraved and extravagant superstition.' He further said that ‘the contagion of this superstition has spread not only in the cities, but in the villages and rural districts as well' (cited in Hebry Bettenson, ed., Documents of the Christian Church, p.4).

The Roman historian Tacitus, who was a contemporary of Pliny, described Christians as ‘a class hated for their abominations, while Suetonius, another contemporary of Pliny, dismissed them as ‘a set of men adhering to a novel and mischievous superstitution.' The hate toward Christians grew and for several reasons.

The first was political. The Romans viewed Christians as disloyal because they refused to acknowledge Caesar as lord. Not only did they refuse to acknowledge Caesar as Lord, they also refused to offer the sacrifices to Caesar. This therefore confirmed in the eyes of the Roman officials the disloyalty of Christians to Rome . Because Christians held many of their meetings at night, they were also accused of anti-governmental plots. Needless-to-say this brought about a hatred from Rome that would continue to grow through time.

The second reason Christians were hated was religious. They were denounced as atheists because they rejected the polytheistic worship of the Romans and because they worshiped the invisible God, not an idol. Because their beliefs and practices were misunderstood, wild rumors, falsely accusing them of cannibalism, incest, as well as other sexual perversions existed. But it didn't stop here. They were also affected socially. Because many Christians were from the lower classes of society, they were despised by the Roman upper class. And because they taught that all people are equal, this threatened Rome 's hierarchical structure and the elite from their privileged status. It also heightened a fear of a slave rebellion.

Lastly they were persecuted economically. The Roman priests, craftsmen and merchants were suffered a loss of profit from their idol worship because of Christians. Since they would not worship idols, this made an impact on Roman society. Acts 19:23ff records the resulting hostility, first seen in the riot at Ephesus . This only deepened as Christianity became more widespread. In his letter to Emperior Trajan, Pliny complained that the pagan temples had been deserted, and that those who sold sacrificial animals found few buyers.

During these first few decades after the death of Christ, the Roman government considered Christianity merely a sect of Judaism (cf. Acts 18:12-16). But because of the hostility the Jews displayed against the Christians that led the Romans to recognize Christianity as a religion distinct from Judaism. And that identified Christians as worshipers of an illegal religion. Yet in spite of all of this there was no official persecution by the Roman authorities until the time of Nero. On July 19 A. D. 64, Nero set Rome on fire and to divert public suspicion, he blamed the Christians for it. As a result, many Christians were executed at Rome (including, according to tradition, both Peter and Paul), but still there was yet no empire-wide persecution.

Three decades later, Emperor Domitian instigated an official persecution of Christians. Little is known of the details, but it extended to the province of Asia, which is modern Turkey . The apostle John had been banished to the island of Patmos , and at least one person, a pastor, had already been martyred according to Revelation 2:13.

"The persecuted, beleaguered, discouraged believers in Asia Minor to whom John addressed the book of Revelation desperately needed encouragement. It had been years since Jesus ascended. Jerusalem had been destroyed and Israel ravaged. The church was losing its first love, compromising, tolerating sin, becoming powerless, and distasteful to the Lord Himself. The other apostles were dead, and John had been exiled. The whole picture looked very bleak. That is why the first vision John received is of Christ's present ministry in the church. John's readers took comfort in the knowledge that one day Jesus will return in glory to defeat His enemies. The descriptions of those events take up most of the book of Revelation. But the vision of Jesus Christ that begins the book does not describe Him in His future glory but in the present as the glorified Lord of the church. In spite of all the disappointments, the Lord had not abandoned His church or His promises" (John MacArthur, Revelation 1-11, pp.38-39).

No matter what you suffer in this life, Jesus will always be with you. Listen to His words in Matthew 5:11-12: "Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you" (NKJV).

Monday, November 27, 2006

As You Are Going


"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matthew 28:19-20).

The greatest challenge you and I have as children of God is to reproduce ourselves. Jesus said we are to make disciples . This commission stated in continuous terms is to be a daily part of our lives. Whether it's in the work place, school, home, among neighbors and friends, we are to make disciples . How are you doing with this command? Have you forgotten that this is God's will for your life? He didn't leave you here to build a nice house, drive a fancy car, or to move up the corporate ladder. I am not saying these things are necessarily wrong but if they replace or distract you from your real calling, then it is sin. You have been called to make disciples of all the nations . You have been commissioned to teach them to observe all things that Jesus has taught you. I trust you're fulfilling your commission today and remembering "as you are going," Jesus is "with you always, even to the end of the age."

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Are You Thankful?


We're not very good at saying "Thank you," are we? We're like a little boy I heard about. On his return from a birthday party, his mother queried, "Bobby, did you thank the lady for the party?" "Well, I was going to. But a girl ahead of me said, "Thank you," and the lady told her not to mention it. So I didn't." We live in a very thankless society! Our life slogan is "we want a break today" or "no rules just right!" Our worship is even the same way. We come to church to see what we can get out of it rather than what we can give to God. The Bible is filled with passages directed at the believer giving thanks to God.

"Sing praise to the LORD, you saints of His, and give thanks at the remembrance of His holy name" (Ps.30:4).

"I will give You thanks in the great assembly; I will praise You among many people" (Ps.35:18).

"It is good to give thanks to the LORD, and to sing praises to Your name, O Most High; to declare Your lovingkindness in the morning, and Your faithfulness every night" (Ps.92:1-2).

The English word thanks occurs 75 times in the Bible while the word thanksgiving occurs 31 times. The Hebrew word for thanksgiving is towdah and it means "an extension of the hand by implying adoration specifically by a choir of worshippers." The word for thanks (Heb. yadah) means "to revere or worship with extended hands."

This should be the offering and sacrifice that we are to give to God. It should continually come from our lips but not just our lips but our heart also and be seen in our attitude. Do you have a heart of thanksgiving? Are you extending your hands towards heaven to reverence and worship to the Lord Jesus Christ? Worship Him today. Do that with a heart of thanksgiving.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Worshiping God's Way


"A few years ago the Chicago Tribune reported the story of a New Mexico woman who was frying tortillas when she noticed that the skillet burns on one of her tortillas resembled the face of Jesus. Excited, she showed it to her husband and neighbors, and they all agreed that there was a face etched on the tortilla and that it truly bore a resemblance to Jesus. So the woman went to her priest to have the tortilla blessed. She testified that the tortilla had changed her life, and her husband agreed that she had been a more peaceful, happy, submissive wife since the tortilla had arrived. The priest, not accustomed to blessing tortillas, was somewhat reluctant but agreed to do it. The woman took the tortilla home, put it in a glass case with piles of cotton to make it look like it was floating on clouds, built a special altar for it, and opened the little shrine to visitors. Within a few months, more than eight thousand people came to the shrine of the Jesus of the Tortilla, and all of them agreed that the face in the burn marks on the tortilla was the face of Jesus (except for one reporter who said he thought it looked like former heavy-weight boxing champion Leon Spinks)" (John MacArthur, The Ultimate Priority , p.1).

It seems incredible that so many people would worship a tortilla, but such a distorted concept of worship is not really unusual in contemporary society. Tragically, although the Bible is clear about how and whom and when we are to worship, little genuine worship takes place today. In fact, worship is one of the most misunderstood doctrines in all the Scriptures. The concept of worship dominates the Bible. In Genesis, we discover that the Fall came when man failed to worship God. In Revelation we learn that all of history culminates in an eternal worshiping community in the presence of a loving God. From the beginning of Genesis all the way through to the consummation in Revelation, the doctrine of worship into the biblical text. Jesus quoted Deut.6:4-6 and called it the greatest commandment: "Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength" (Mk.12:29-30). This is a call to worship, and it affirms worship as the universal priority.

Exodus 20 records the giving of the Ten Commandments. The very first of those commandments calls for and regulates worship: "I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt , out of the house of bondage. 3 "You shall have no other gods before Me. 4 "You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; 5 you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me" (vv.2-5).

In the OT, worship covered all of life. It was the focus of the people of God. For example, the Tabernacle was designed and laid out to emphasize the priority of worship. The description of its details requires seven chapters — 243 verses — in Leviticus, yet only 31 verses in Genesis are devoted to the creation of the world. The Tabernacle was designed only for worship. It was the place where God met His people, and to use it for anything but worship would have been considered the grossest blasphemy. In the Tabernacle there were no seats — the Israelites didn't go there to attend a service, and they didn't go there for entertainment. They went there to worship God. No wonder A.W. Tozer says, "The greatest tragedy in the world today is that God has made man in His image and made him to worship Him, made him to play the harp of worship before the face of God day and night, but he has failed God and dropped the harp. It lies voiceless at his feet" ( The Quotable Tozer , p.198). "The person who uses his life for any purpose other than worship — no matter how noble that purpose may seem — is guilty of a grave sin. It is the same sin as that of an Israelite who misused the holy incense — a sin so serious that under the law it was punishable by death" (John MacArthur, The Ultimate Priority , p.4).

Since you were created to worship Jesus, are you worshiping Him? Is He the focus of your life in all you do? Worship Him right now and fulfill the reason you were created.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Who is Your Master?


What hinders us from coming to Christ? It's a pride that disguises itself by materialism and selfishness. Jesus said, "Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses" (Lk.12:15). "No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon" (Mat.6:24).

Ask God to strip away all your pride and then draw to him with "a broken heart" (Ps.34:18).

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Which God Are You Serving?


"I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. "You shall have no other gods before me. "You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousandgenerations of those who love me and keep my commandments (Ex.20:1-6).

Israel was to worship the God of the exodus. They were to serve Him only. There were not to fashion themselves as the other nations. But were to worship the One true God. In Deuteronomy 6:4 God told them, "Hear O Israel, the LORD our God is One." There is only one God and He must be worshiped in a prescribed manner. But not everyone believes in the monotheism of God. Some believe in a polytheistic God (multiple gods) while others do not believe that God exists at all. But for those who do believe that He exists they see Him in six ways:

An Eager Bellhop

Some see God as an eager bellop whose always there when you need him. He carries your baggage. He never argues with you because you're in charge. His only responsibility is to make you happy. What he gets from you is: a smile, a thank you, and, if he's lucky, a tip.

A Stern School Teacher

Others see God as a stern school teacher whose destiny it seems is to ruin a year of your life. He's the ultimate record keeper who monitors all your activities and gives hard tests to see if his students suffer. He has wants and demands but seemingly never gives or encourages.

An Impersonal Scientist

If it's not an eager bellhop or a stern school teacher then it's an impersonal scientist. He's intellectual but not emotional. He spends all his time locked away in his heavenly labortory working on unknowable wonders.

A Clever Magician

A fourth way people see God is as a clever magician who must always work through signs, miracles and wonders. If there is no manifestation of power, they conclude God really isn't involved. Jesus said to the Pharisees, "A wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign"(Mat.16:4).

A Heavenly Grandfather

Yet there are those who see God as a heavenly grandfather whose presence is acknowledged. He's invited occasionally and smiles and tells them he loves them when they misbehave.

Mr. Fix-It

Last but not least, some view God as Mr. Fix-it. To view God merely as Mr. Fix-it makes Him worthless for anything else. He's great when were in a fix; but unnecessary when everything is going well.

How do you perceive God? Do you view Him in any of the ways listed above. The best place to see God is in the Bible. It is there where He is revealed. Let me encourage you today to read the Bible and make sure you see God as He is revealed in His Word.

(Points extracted from Masterpiece Magazine by Gregg Cantelmo, pp.6-7).

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

What Kind of People Does God Use?


In Matthew 10:2-4 we are given the names of the twelve Apostles. They are: "first, Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him." We are told by Matthew that it was "these Jesus sent out and commanded" (v.5) But before they could be sent out as Apostles, they had to learn as disciples. Matthew 10:1 says, "And when He had called His twelve disciples." Verse 2 says, "Now the names of the twelve apostles." Notice first they were disciples and later became apostles. They were first learners in the personal instruction of our Lord, then they became sent ones (apostles) that were ready to reach the world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is how it is with us. We receive the Lord Jesus into our life and become disciples and are trained and then sent out to reach others for Christ. Are you following that pattern in your life or are you idle at reaching others for Christ? The kind of people God uses are those who are willing to go from disciples to sent ones. Realize your calling today. Obey Jesus' command to make disciples (Mat.28:18-20).

Monday, November 20, 2006

What is Your View of God?


"On January 7, 1855, the minister of New Park Street Chapel, Southwark , England , opened his morning sermon as follows:

‘It has been said by someone that "the proper study of mankind is man." I will not oppose the idea, but I believe it is equally true that the proper study of God's elect is God; the proper study of a Christian is the Godhead. The highest science, the loftiest speculation, the mightiest philosophy, which can ever engage the attention of a child of God, is the name, the nature, the person, the work, the doings, and the existence of the great God whom he calls his Father.

There is something exceedingly improving to the mind in a contemplation of the Divinity. It is a subject so vast, that all our thoughts are lost in its immensity; so deep, that our pride is drowned in its infinity. Other subjects we can compass and grapple with; in them we feel a kind of self-content, and go our way with the thought, "Behold I am wise." But when we come to this master science, finding that our plumb line cannot sound its depth, and that our eagle eye cannot see its height, we turn away with the thought that vain man would be wise, but he is like a wild ass's colt; and with solemn exclamation, "I am but of yesterday, and know nothing." No subject of contemplation will tend more to humble the mind, than thoughts of God. . .

But while the subject humbles the mind, it also expands it. He who often thinks of God, will have a larger mind than the man who simply plods around this narrow globe. . . . The most excellent study for expanding the soul, is the science of Christ, and Him crucified, and the knowledge of the Godhead in the glorious Trinity. Nothing will so enlarge the intellect, nothing so magnify the whole soul of man, as a devout, earnest, continued investigation of the great subject of the Deity.

And, whilst humbling and expanding, this subject is eminently consolatory. Oh, there is, in contemplating Christ, a balm for every wound; in musing on the Father, there is a quietus for every grief; and in the influence of the Holy Ghost, there is a balsam for every sore. Would you lose your sorrow? Would you drown your cares? Then go, plunge yourself in the Godhead's deepest sea; be lost in his immensity; and you shall come forth as from a couch of rest, refreshed and invigorated. I know nothing which can so comfort the soul; so calm the swelling billows of sorrow and grief; so speak peace to the winds of trial, as a devout musing upon the subject of the Godhead. It is to that subject that I invite you this morning.

These words, spoken over a century ago by C. H. Spurgeon (at that time, incredibly, only twenty years old) were true then, and they are true now. Many people have various views of God. Erwin Lutzer, in his book, "Ten Lies About God," writes: "‘I believe in God' is perhaps one of the most meaningless statements we can make today. The word God has become a canvas on which each is free to paint his own portrait of the divine; like the boy scribbling at his desk, we can draw God according to whatever specifications we please. For some He is ‘psychic energy"; for others He is ‘whatever is stronger than I am' or ‘an inner power to lead us to deeper consciousness.' To say, ‘I believe in God' might simply mean that we are seeing ourselves in a full-length mirror" (pp.2-3). Donald McCullough adds: "When the true story gets told, whether in the partial light of historical perspective or in the perfect light of eternity, it may well be revealed that the worst sin of the church at the end of the twentieth century has been the trivialization of God...We prefer the illusion of a safer deity, and so we have pared God down to more manageable proportions" (Quoted in Ten Lies About God by Erwin Lutzer).

How do you see God? Do you see Him as "a safer deity" or a "God of more manageable proportions?" The best place to get a safe view of God is from the Bible. For it is there where God is revealed. Begin reading His Word today as Jesus taught the disciples to pray. He said, "Hallowed by Your Name" (Mat.6:9).

Friday, November 17, 2006

Trusting in the Midst of Adversity


Jerry Bridges writes:"God in His infinite wisdom knows exactly what adversity we need to grow more and more into the likeness of His Son. He not only knows what we need but when we need it and how best to bring it to pass in our lives. He is the perfect teacher or coach. His discipline is always exactly suited for our needs. He never over trains us by allowing too much adversity in our lives" (Trusting God, p.122). How many times have you viewed your trials in this manner? Many fail to see their purpose and therefore crumble in their midst. But as 1 Corinthians 10:13 states God will not "allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able." He is the "perfect teacher or coach. His discipline is always exactly suited for our needs." As you experience the troubles of this life, remember your heavenly Father "knows exactly what adversity we need to grow...into the likeness of His Son.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Trust in the Lord


"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths" (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Solomon gives us the best advise in this verse. We are to trust in the Lord. This is not to be done with half your heart but with all your heart. How is this accomplished? He says by leaning not on your own understanding. He is not talking about a blind trust because he is talking about trusting in the Lord. Charles Spurgeon, who was noted for his ability with words, illustrates this beautify. He says, "let me commend to you a life of trust in God in temporal things. Walk in your path of integrity with steadfast steps, and show that you are invincibly strong in the strength which confidence in God alone can confer. Thus, you will be delivered from burdensome care; you will not be troubled with evil tidings. Your heart will be fixed, trusting in the Lord. How pleasant to float along the stream of providence! There is no more blessed way of living than a life of dependence upon a covenant-keeping God. We have no care, for He cares for us; we have no troubles because we cast our burdens upon the Lord"( Spurgeon, R. C. H.(2000).Daily Help (electronic ed.). Escondito , California : Ephesians Four Group.).

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

True Sanctification


Charles Spurgeon said, " Christ will be master of the heart, and sin must be mortified. If your life is unholy, then your heart is unchanged, and you are an unsaved person. The Savior will sanctify His people, renew them, give them a hatred of sin, and a love of holiness. The grace that does not make a man better than others is a worthless counterfeit. Christ saves His people, not IN their sins, but FROM their sins. Without holiness, no man shall see the Lord."

The Apostle Paul said to the Thessalonians, "For this is the will of God, your sanctification : that you should abstain from sexual immorality" (4:3). Sanctification means "to be set apart." It is a setting apart from sin to Christ. The Thessalonians had already "turned to God from idols" (1:9) but now they needed to "know how to possess (their) own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God" (4:4-5). As Spurgeon has well noted "If your life is unholy, then your heart is unchanged, and you are an unsaved person." Are you living your life "set apart" to Christ? Are you abstaining from porneia (sexual immorality)? Are you pleasing God in your walk with Him? "For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness" (4:7).

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

True Conversion


There are many today who profess to have a relationship with Christ. But when you examine their lives you see no evidence of such claim. What marks a true believer? To answer that question we must understand what conversion is. Jonathan Edwards writes:

"Scripture describes conversion in terms which imply or signify a change of nature; being born again, becoming new creatures, rising from the dead, being renewed in the spirit of the mind, dying to sin and living to righteousness, putting off the old man and putting on the new, becoming partakers of the divine nature, and so on.

It follows that if there is no real and lasting change in people who think they are converted, their religion is worthless, whatever their experiences may be. Conversion is the turning of the whole man from sin to God. God can restrain unconverted people from sin, of course, but in conversion he turns the very heart and nature from sin to holiness. The converted person becomes the enemy of sin.

What, then, shall we make of a person who says he has experienced conversion, but whose religious emotions soon die away, leaving him much the same person as he was before? He seems as selfish, worldly, foolish, perverse and un-Christian as ever. This speaks against him louder than any religious experiences can speak for him.

In Christ Jesus, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision, neither a dramatic experience nor a quiet one, neither a wonderful testimony nor a dull one, counts for anything. The only thing that counts is a new creation" ( The Experience That Counts! p.99).

Does this mark your life? Examine yourself today as see if you match up to the biblical definition of conversion.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The Passion to Produce


As a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, it is my passion to invest in the lives of "faithful men who will be able to teach others also" (2 Tim.2:2). In spite of disappointments, the passion always remains the same. Maybe that is because my passion is to see God grow and mature His people in the deeps truths of Scripture. Is this passion just of the preacher or is every child of God to have this perspective? If Matthew 28:19-20 was given to the first disciples of our Lord who in turn were to invest into others, the call is no different today. John Piper gives us this perspective of the pastor-preacher. As you read this don't limit it to your pastor, but apply it to your life as you help "people" to lose "everything this would can give."

"Preachers must have a passion to produce people whose satisfaction in God is so solid, so deep, and so unshakable that suffering and death - losing everything this world can give - will not make people murmur or curse God, but rest in the promise, "In His presence is fullness of joy, at His right hand are pleasures forevermore" (Psalm 16:11). But how shall men preach like that? The answer is that the preacher must suffer and the preacher must rejoice. The preacher himself must be hurt in the ministry, and the preacher must be happy in God" (John Piper, "Preaching to Suffering People," in Feed My Sheep: A Passionate Plea for Preaching, edited by Don Kistler [Soli Deo Gloria, 2002], p. 247-248).

Sunday, November 05, 2006

The Letter to Titus


The Letter to Titus was written around the same time as 1 Timothy. Both of which are written by Paul to his "sons" in the faith. It says in Titus 1:1-4: "Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God's elect and the acknowledgment of the truth which is according to godliness, in hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began, but has in due time manifested His word through preaching, which was committed to me according to the commandment of God our Savior; to Titus, my true son in our common faith: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ our Savior."

Titus, who had ministered with Paul for a period of time on the island of Crete , was left there to continue and strengthen the work that Paul had begun. The city itself had a reputation of being "liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons...Therefore [he was to] rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith" (1:12-13). According to chapter 3 and verse 12 Artemas or Tychicus were to relieve him and he was to join Paul at Nicopolis.

There were many things that Titus was to give his attention to while ministering on the island of Crete . He was to "appoint elders in every city" (1:5). He was to stop the mouths of the "insubordinate," the "idol talkers and deceiving, especially those of the circumcision" because they were subverting "whole households, teaching things which they ought not, for the sake of dishonest gain" (1:10-11). He was to "speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine" (2:1) to "the older men," "the older women," "young women," and "young men." He was to "exhort servants to be obedient to their own masters, to be well pleasing in all things, not answering back, not pilfering, but showing good fidelity, that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things" (2:9-10). He was to "Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men" (3:1-2). All of these things he was to "affirm constantly, that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works" (3:8). He was to "avoid foolish disputes, genealogies, contentions, and strivings about the law" (3:9) as well as "Reject" those who were "divisive...after the first and second admonition" (3:10). This he was to "speak...with all authority" and let no one "despise his youth" (2:15).

All believers have a purpose in this life. We are to confront our world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Just as Titus was to "guard" and "set in order the things that were lacking" in the church, we all have a task. Ephesians 4:11-12 teaches that God gave gifted men to the church for "the equpping of the saints for the work of the ministry." Are you doing the ministry? Are you fulfilling your purpose? You might think that the task is too great but consider all the things that Titus had to do then realize everything else is an excuse.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

What Kind of People Does God Use?


In Matthew 10:2-4 we are given the names of the twelve Apostles. They are: "first, Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him." We are told by Matthew that it was "these Jesus sent out and commanded" (v.5) But before they could be sent out as Apostles, they had to learn as disciples. Matthew 10:1 says, "And when He had called His twelve disciples." Verse 2 says, "Now the names of the twelve apostles." Notice first they were disciples and later became apostles. They were first learners in the personal instruction of our Lord, then they became sent ones (apostles) that were ready to reach the world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is how it is with us. We receive the Lord Jesus into our life and become disciples and are trained and then sent out to reach others for Christ. Are you following that pattern in your life or are you idle at reaching others for Christ? The kind of people God uses are those who are willing to go from disciples to sent ones. Realize your calling today. Obey Jesus' command to make disciples (Mat.28:18-20).

Monday, October 30, 2006

What is Your View of God?


"On January 7, 1855, the minister of New Park Street Chapel, Southwark , England , opened his morning sermon as follows:

‘It has been said by someone that "the proper study of mankind is man." I will not oppose the idea, but I believe it is equally true that the proper study of God's elect is God; the proper study of a Christian is the Godhead. The highest science, the loftiest speculation, the mightiest philosophy, which can ever engage the attention of a child of God, is the name, the nature, the person, the work, the doings, and the existence of the great God whom he calls his Father.

There is something exceedingly improving to the mind in a contemplation of the Divinity. It is a subject so vast, that all our thoughts are lost in its immensity; so deep, that our pride is drowned in its infinity. Other subjects we can compass and grapple with; in them we feel a kind of self-content, and go our way with the thought, "Behold I am wise." But when we come to this master science, finding that our plumb line cannot sound its depth, and that our eagle eye cannot see its height, we turn away with the thought that vain man would be wise, but he is like a wild ass's colt; and with solemn exclamation, "I am but of yesterday, and know nothing." No subject of contemplation will tend more to humble the mind, than thoughts of God. . .

But while the subject humbles the mind, it also expands it. He who often thinks of God, will have a larger mind than the man who simply plods around this narrow globe. . . . The most excellent study for expanding the soul, is the science of Christ, and Him crucified, and the knowledge of the Godhead in the glorious Trinity. Nothing will so enlarge the intellect, nothing so magnify the whole soul of man, as a devout, earnest, continued investigation of the great subject of the Deity.

And, whilst humbling and expanding, this subject is eminently consolatory. Oh, there is, in contemplating Christ, a balm for every wound; in musing on the Father, there is a quietus for every grief; and in the influence of the Holy Ghost, there is a balsam for every sore. Would you lose your sorrow? Would you drown your cares? Then go, plunge yourself in the Godhead's deepest sea; be lost in his immensity; and you shall come forth as from a couch of rest, refreshed and invigorated. I know nothing which can so comfort the soul; so calm the swelling billows of sorrow and grief; so speak peace to the winds of trial, as a devout musing upon the subject of the Godhead. It is to that subject that I invite you this morning.

These words, spoken over a century ago by C. H. Spurgeon (at that time, incredibly, only twenty years old) were true then, and they are true now. Many people have various views of God. Erwin Lutzer, in his book, "Ten Lies About God," writes: "‘I believe in God' is perhaps one of the most meaningless statements we can make today. The word God has become a canvas on which each is free to paint his own portrait of the divine; like the boy scribbling at his desk, we can draw God according to whatever specifications we please. For some He is ‘psychic energy"; for others He is ‘whatever is stronger than I am' or ‘an inner power to lead us to deeper consciousness.' To say, ‘I believe in God' might simply mean that we are seeing ourselves in a full-length mirror" (pp.2-3). Donald McCullough adds: "When the true story gets told, whether in the partial light of historical perspective or in the perfect light of eternity, it may well be revealed that the worst sin of the church at the end of the twentieth century has been the trivialization of God...We prefer the illusion of a safer deity, and so we have pared God down to more manageable proportions" (Quoted in Ten Lies About God by Erwin Lutzer).

How do you see God? Do you see Him as "a safer deity" or a "God of more manageable proportions?" The best place to get a safe view of God is from the Bible. For it is there where God is revealed. Begin reading His Word today as Jesus taught the disciples to pray. He said, "Hallowed by Your Name" (Mat.6:9).

Sunday, October 29, 2006

What is Joy?


Do you know what joy is? You certainly do when you experience it. We sing about it. You remember the song. "I've got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart. Where?" Joy is a response of the heart, soul, and mind of a person to his relationship to Jesus Christ. It is outward exuberance. It is a deep knowledge in our souls that all is well and that, ultimately, everything will be glorious. Galatians 5:22-23 reveals that it is the fruit the Holy Spirit produces in our lives when we are obedient to Jesus. It says, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law." Luke notes this truth when he writes in Acts 13:52, "And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit." Paul says it as well in Romans 14:17: "For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit."

Is joy being manifested in your life today? Do you have that deep knowledge in your soul that all is well and that, ultimately, everything will be glorious because of your relationship to Jesus Christ?

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Understanding Christ's Church


Changed By Grace Community Church began a little over four years ago. And during that time we have been involved in laying the foundation for our ministry. I shared two weeks ago those features that need to be at our foundation: a high view of God, the absolute authority of Scripture, sound doctrine, personal holiness, and spiritual authority. With the recent changes and additions to our ministry, I feel that it is important to share what the Bible teaches about "Christ's Church." I have been a believer for the past 22 years. And in those 22 years I have seen some drastic things occur in the church. I have seen the respect for leaders decline. I have seen the membership become complacent and apathetic. I have even seen the rise of the "seeker-sensitive church." Therefore my mediation this week has been on the church. Right now I am meeting with a group of men who are studying with me what the Bible teaches about the church, its leaders and its members. This is Christ's Church. It does not belong to any particular individual or denomination, it belongs to Christ. In Colossians 1:18 Paul said, "He (Christ) is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence." John MacArthur writes, "There are many metaphors used in Scripture to describe the church. It is called a family, a kingdom, a vineyard, a flock, a building, and a bride. But the most profound metaphor, one having no Old Testament equivalent, is that of a Body. The church is a Body, and Christ is the head of the Body. This concept is not used in the sense of the head of a company, but rather looks at the church as a living organism, inseparably tied together by the living Christ. He controls every part of it and gives it life and direction. His life lived out through all the members provides the unity of the Body (cf. 1 Cor. 12:12–20). He energizes and coordinates the diversity within the Body, a diversity of spiritual gifts and ministries (1 Cor. 12:4–13). He also directs the Body's mutuality, as the individual members serve and support each other (1 Cor. 12:15–27). Christ is not an angel who serves the church (cf. Heb. 1:14). He is the head of His church" ( The MacArthur NT Commentary: Colossians ). The Greek word for "church" is ekklesia which comes from kaleo┬Á "to call," and ek "out from." The compound verb means "to call out from." In classical Greek ekklesia referred to an assembly of the citizens summoned by the town crier. It is used in Acts 19:32–41 in its purely classical meaning. The town clerk dismissed the citizens who had been gathered together by the craftsmen of Ephesus . In its every other occurrence, it is translated "church," the church being looked upon as a called-out body of people, called out of the world of unsaved humanity to become the people of God" (Kenneth Wuest, Wuest's Word Studies in the Greek NT ). So the church is a called-out assembly of believers for the glory of Jesus Christ. When talking about the church then, I am referring to believers.

The Formation of the Church

The church was formed in eternity past by God. Ephesians 1:3-6 says, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved" (KJV). God decreed before the foundation of the world those whom He would save and He gave them to Jesus Christ. This is the church invisible. The church visible to the world is the local ekklesia. It was formed by the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost (see Acts 2:1-4, 22-41).

The Purpose of the Church

There are three purposes given in the New Testament for the churches existence. The first is to glorify God. Ephesians 3:20 says, "Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen." The church must perceive itself as an institution for the glory of God. Everything we do whether we "speak...minister, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ" (1 Pet.4:11). God is glorified when His children are equipped for ministry. Ephesians 4:11-15 tells us that God gave gifted men to the church "to equip the saints for the work of ministry" (v.12). That will happen as the Word is preached and taught faithfully and systematically. The third purpose of the church is to evangelize the lost. Mark 16:15 says, "And He said to them, 'Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.'" This is what Matthew 28:19 refers to as making disciples.

God has birthed His church before eternity past to glorify His name by equipping His saints and evangelizing a lost world. Are you fulfilling this call on your life? My prayer for you today is that you will seek to glorify God by serving Him with the gifts He has given you to minister in the Body.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Trusting in the Midst of Adversity


Jerry Bridges writes:"God in His infinite wisdom knows exactly what adversity we need to grow more and more into the likeness of His Son. He not only knows what we need but when we need it and how best to bring it to pass in our lives. He is the perfect teacher or coach. His discipline is always exactly suited for our needs. He never over trains us by allowing too much adversity in our lives" (Trusting God, p.122). How many times have you viewed your trials in this manner? Many fail to see their purpose and therefore crumble in their midst. But as 1 Corinthians 10:13 states God will not "allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able." He is the "perfect teacher or coach. His discipline is always exactly suited for our needs." As you experience the troubles of this life, remember your heavenly Father "knows exactly what adversity we need to grow...into the likeness of His Son.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

True Sanctification


Charles Spurgeon said, " Christ will be master of the heart, and sin must be mortified. If your life is unholy, then your heart is unchanged, and you are an unsaved person. The Savior will sanctify His people, renew them, give them a hatred of sin, and a love of holiness. The grace that does not make a man better than others is a worthless counterfeit. Christ saves His people, not IN their sins, but FROM their sins. Without holiness, no man shall see the Lord."

The Apostle Paul said to the Thessalonians, "For this is the will of God, your sanctification : that you should abstain from sexual immorality" (4:3). Sanctification means "to be set apart." It is a setting apart from sin to Christ. The Thessalonians had already "turned to God from idols" (1:9) but now they needed to "know how to possess (their) own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God" (4:4-5). As Spurgeon has well noted "If your life is unholy, then your heart is unchanged, and you are an unsaved person." Are you living your life "set apart" to Christ? Are you abstaining from porneia (sexual immorality)? Are you pleasing God in your walk with Him? "For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness" (4:7).

Saturday, October 21, 2006

The Responsibility of Elders


We have completed our look at what elders are to be and now we're looking at what elders are to do. In doing that, I would like to define the term that is found in 1 Timothy 3:1. It is the term translated "bishop." The term "bishop" is not a good translation because "it carries modern ecclesiastical implications that are not consistent with its biblical meaning" (John MacArthur, Church Leadership, p.20). The word is episkopos and according to Greek culture was "a city administrator or finance manager. Some scholars believe that the New Testament usage of episkopos is based on that usage" (Ibid., MacArthur, p.20). But also existing during that time was the Qumran Community or the Essenes. The men who "preached, taught, and exercised care and authority were called episkopoi" (Ibid., MacArthur, p.20). Alexander Strauch says, "Episkopos denotes over-seer, inspector or protector. At the root of the word is the idea of one who supervises, protects, guards, and keeps watch" (Biblical Eldership, p.90). Applying this understanding to the episkopos in the church and you see that it referred to elders who had the responsibility of "leading, instructing, and shepherding the people." (Ibid., MacArthur, p.20). The episkopos also "heard and verified accusations against believers, and administered church discipline where appropriate" (Ibid., MacArthur, p.20). Each pastor and elder still has those responsibilities, and he is directly accountable to God for the quality of his leadership (Heb.13:17). James 3:1 says, "Let not many of you become teachers...knowing that as such we shall incur a stricter judgment" (NASB). There are 6 areas elders are responsible for and the first is Leading the Church.

Elders Lead the Church (1 Timothy 5:17)

1 Timothy 5:17 says, "Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine."

The word "Rule" is the Greek word proistemi which means "to be ranked first" or "to stand first" (MacArthur) or "to be at the head (of), rule, lead" (BAG). It means to "lead, direct, or guide" (Strauch), "superintend, to preside over" (Wuest). The word is translated "over you in the Lord" in 1 Thess.5:12. According to Romans 12:8 this is a spiritual gift given by the Holy Spirit. 1 Timothy 3:5 says elders or literally "overseers" "take care of the church of God ."

Elders Lead the Church in Humility

Alexander Strauch says, "Christ's teaching on humility and servanthood governs how we are to lead in God's household" (Ibid., p.239). They do not "lord over the people" (1 Pet.5:2-3). They lead by "example." (1 Pet.5:3). 1 Tim.4:12 says, Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity. 1 Tim.4:16 adds, Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.

"Christ gives elders the authority to rule on His behalf using His Word. The church is not to be ruled by its congregation, but by those whom God calls for that task" (Ibid., MacArthur, Church Leadership, p.21).

Friday, October 20, 2006

The Proper Foundation


In his book, Why One Way , John MacArthur asks the following question:

"Why do evangelicals try so desperately to court the world's favor? Churches plan their worship services to cater to the 'unchurched.' Christian performers ape every worldly fad in music and entertainment. Preachers are terrified that the offense of the gospel might turn someone against them; so they deliberately omit the parts of the message the world might not like" (p.1).

If Jesus is going to build His church, it will not happen by omitting the parts of His gospel that are offensive. Nor will it happen if His people cater to the unchurched. The gospel is not addition to one's life. It is, as Jesus said, to "deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me" (Mat.16:24). It is losing your life for His sake and finding it (v.25). Or giving your life in exchange for His (v.26). The apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 1:18 that our message would be perceived as "foolishness." He said, "For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God." If this is true, then how can we, as representatives of Jesus Christ, soften or omit parts of His message? Our efforts to reach the lost must never include catering to them. For the church to be salt and light it must submit to what the Bible says is God's building plan.

As you present the Gospel in your daily living, don't refuse to share the parts that might be uncomfortable. If you do, then you may be making a following of you instead of a follower of Christ. For a person to appreciate the good news he must first understand the bad. Share the full gospel today and leave the results to God.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

The Priority of God's Word


All of us order our days by priorities -- things that are of most importance. But do we include God's Word in those priorities. The average church goer spends little to no time in God's Word on a daily basis. What a task we parents have in raising the next generation. If they are going to be "doers of the Word" (Jas.1:22), then we must do it as well.

In Psalm 119:9-16 the psalmist gives us seven principles to help us keep God's Word our first priority.

We Are to Give Heed to It (vv.9-10)

In vv.2-8, 17, and 21 he says to "keep" the Word. In order for us to place God's Word at the top of our priority list we must set a determined course to "keep" or obey it.

We Are to Treasure It in Our Hearts( v.11)

We all have quoted this verse but are we doing what it says? When you truly treasure it in your hearts you will give heed to it. Colossians 3:16 says, "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord." Proverbs 2:1 adds, "My son, if you receive my words, and treasure my commands within you" (emphasis added). Allowing God's Word to dwell in you and treasuring His commands are necessary to keeping His Word at the top of your priority list. A third principle is found in verses 12-13:

We Are to Declare It (vv.12-13)

It has been actually reported when we declare what we have read or learned we retain it better. Try that the next time to read a passage of Scripture. See if you retain it better by declaring it. Giving heed and treasuring God's Word will cause you to declare it . But once you do this you will want to rejoice in it.

We Are to Rejoice in It (v.14)

There are so many things we have joy in but do we rejoice in God's Word? The psalmist says in verse162, "I rejoice at Your word as one who finds great treasure." Do you do that? What about mediation? That's what he mentions in verse 15.

We Are to Meditate on It (v.15)

This too is an activity we're not familiar with. Psalm 1:2 says that this is the activity of a righteous man. "But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he mediates day and night."

We Are to Delight in It (v.16)

This would be the inward element of verse 14. While rejoicing may be seen by others God sees where our delight is. He wants us to delight in Him and find all our sufficiency in His Word. When we have given heed to His Word, treasured it in our hearts, declared it, rejoiced in it, mediated on it and delighted in it, then we will not forget it.

We Are Not to Forget It (v.16)

This is the reason why we don't treat God's Word as the first of our priorities. We forget it! The psalmist says that there is an active role in not forgetting God's Word. It's obeying it, treasuring it, declaring it, rejoicing in it, meditating on it and delighting in it. I mentioned that again so we would not forget it.

If you want to let God's Word have first place in your life you must consider what Psalm 119:9-16 says and put it into action. Ask God to help you to put His Word at the top of your priorities. Begin today. Don't put off to tomorrow what you can do today or as Chuck Swindoll says, "It's never too late to start doing what is right!" Go do that today!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The Power of God's Word


There is power in God's Word. In Psalm 119:9-10 it says, "How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word. With my whole heart I have sought You; Oh, let me not wander from Your commandments!"

In these two verses are the answers to whether a person can experience God's cleansing. Also here is the process by which cleansing is possible. He asks the question, "How can a young man cleanse His way?" The only possible answer is "By taking heed according to Your Word."

Do you heed the Word of God? If you don't, you are far from having your way cleansed. Instead you are walking in the filth of disobedience. Obey God's Word today and have your way cleansed.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The Passion to Produce


As a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, it is my passion to invest in the lives of "faithful men who will be able to teach others also" (2 Tim.2:2). In spite of disappointments, the passion always remains the same. Maybe that is because my passion is to see God grow and mature His people in the deeps truths of Scripture. Is this passion just of the preacher or is every child of God to have this perspective? If Matthew 28:19-20 was given to the first disciples of our Lord who in turn were to invest into others, the call is no different today. John Piper gives us this perspective of the pastor-preacher. As you read this don't limit it to your pastor, but apply it to your life as you help "people" to lose "everything this would can give."

"Preachers must have a passion to produce people whose satisfaction in God is so solid, so deep, and so unshakable that suffering and death - losing everything this world can give - will not make people murmur or curse God, but rest in the promise, "In His presence is fullness of joy, at His right hand are pleasures forevermore" (Psalm 16:11). But how shall men preach like that? The answer is that the preacher must suffer and the preacher must rejoice. The preacher himself must be hurt in the ministry, and the preacher must be happy in God" (John Piper, "Preaching to Suffering People," in Feed My Sheep: A Passionate Plea for Preaching, edited by Don Kistler [Soli Deo Gloria, 2002], p. 247-248).

Monday, October 16, 2006

The Love of God


All of us are at a crossroads with The Love of God . A.W. Tozer said, "The gravest question any of us face is whether we do or do not love the Lord" (That Incredible Christian, p.132). Spurgeon assesses our situation by saying, "We cannot love whom we do not know or esteem" (Sermons, Vol.60, p.134). "Oh cold hearts! Oh slabs of marble! Oh blocks of granite! Oh icebergs! If we melt not now, when will we melt?" (Charles Spurgeon, Vol.60, p.141). The greatest tragedy in the church today is there are people who say they love God but don't know Him! How do we address such enmity? James addressed it head on. He said: "Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God" (Jas.4:4). You cannot love the world and love God at the same time. You must repent of your love to the world and come to Christ!

The Bible says God loved us first! Spurgeon said, "If this is not a good reason for loving Him, where could such a reason be found" (Vol.60, p.141). The answer is no where! God sent Jesus to you because He loves you! Meditate on that for a moment. God, the Creator of the universe, sent His only Son, to demonstrate His love for you.

Listen to what He said to the Israelites in Deuteronomy 7:7-8: "The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples; but because the LORD loves you, and because He would keep the oath which He swore to your fathers, the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of bondage, from the hand of Pharaoh, king of Egypt." God chose His people on the basis of His love for them. What reason do you choose Jesus today?

When we talk about The Love of God , we see that the Scriptures describe it as being part of God's character. He is called "the God of love" in 2 Cor.13:11. The Apostle John tells us: "He who does not love does not know God, for God is love" (1 Jn.4:8). The expression "God is love" "is not meant to depersonalize God or portray Him as a force, a sensation, a principle, or some sort of cosmic energy. He is a personal Being, with all the attributes of personality — volition, feeling, and intellect. In fact, what the apostle is saying is that God's love is the highest expression of His person" (John MacArthur, The God Who Loves, p.27). We could further say that "...this verse by no means identifies God with everything our society labels love. Gordon Clark wrote, ‘John is not saying that all sorts of emotions called love are from God. The romanticism of Goethe, and much more the present sexual debauchery, are not from God.' In fact, those who cite this verse to attempt to legitimize illicit forms of ‘love' are about as far from the apostle's intent as it is possible to get. The love of which he speaks is a pure and holy love, consistent with all the divine attributes" (Ibid., MacArthur, p.28). Obviously, this "does not convey everything that can be known about God. We know from Scripture that He is also holy and righteous and true to His Word. God's love does not contradict His holiness; instead, it complements and magnifies it and gives it its deepest meaning. So we cannot isolate this one phrase from the rest of Scripture and attempt to make love represent the sum of what we know about God" (Ibid., MacArthur, p.28). So we have to take Scripture as a whole to understand the character of God.

As you mediate on The Love of God today, thank Him for His sovereign love for you. Thank Him for pouring out that love on you "before the foundation of the world" (See Eph.1:4-5).