Monday, June 26, 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 20 years. And in those 20 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 kaleoµ "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, June 23, 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].

Thursday, June 22, 2006

God's Calling for Husbands

The following is the introduction to "God's Calling for Husbands." You can read the entire sermon by clicking here.

This morning we are looking at God’s Calling for Husbands and Fathers. Last month, we looked at God’s Calling for Wives and Mothers, so today I want to spend our time addressing husbands and fathers. It is true that we’re living in a day where we’re watching the disintegration of marriage as we know it. With the rise of homosexuality and lesbianism, the traditional marriage of a man and a woman is almost becoming extinct in our society. On Thursday, June 8, 2006, the Senate voted to end debate on a federal amendment to the Constitution stating that marriage is between a man and a woman. The vote was 49-48 leaving it stalled in debate (,2933,198511,00.html). Years ago, such an amendment was not needed because everyone understood that marriage between and a man and a women was the cornerstone of society but not so today. Some years ago, there was an article published in the Saturday Evening Post entitled “The Seven Ages of the Married Cold. In this article was a not-so-funny look at the decline of marriage as seen through the common cold. It went like this:

The first year: “Sugar dumpling, I’m really worried about my baby girl. You’ve got a bad sniffle, and there’s no telling about these things with all this strep throat going around. I’m putting you in the hospital this afternoon for a general checkup and a good rest. I know the food’s lousy, but I’ll be bringing your meals in from Rossini’s. I’ve already got it all arranged with the floor superintendent.”

The second year: “Listen, darling, I don’t like the sound of that cough. I called Doc Miller and asked him to rush over here. Now go to bed like a good girl, please? Just for papa.”

The third year: “Maybe you’d better lie down, honey; nothing like a little rest when you feel lousy. I’ll bring you something to eat. Have got any canned soup?”

The fourth year: “Now look, dear, be sensible. After you’ve fed the kids, washed the dishes, and finished the floor, you’d better lie down.”

The fifth year: “Why don’t you take a couple of aspirin?”

The sixth year: “I wish you’d just gargle or something, instead of sitting around all evening barking like a seal!”

The seventh year: “For Pete’s sake, stop sneezing! Are you trying to give me pneumonia?”

Psychologist Carl Rogers in his book Becoming Partners: Marriage and Its Alternatives, said, “To me it seems that we are living in an important and uncertain age, the institution of marriage is most assuredly in an uncertain state. If 50 to 75 percent of Ford or General Motors' cars completely fell apart within the early part of their lifetimes as automobiles, drastic steps would be taken. We have no such well organized way of dealing with our social institutions, so people are groping, more or less blindly, to find alternatives to marriage (which is certainly less than 50 percent successful). Living together without marriage, living in communes, extensive child care centers, serial monogamy (with one divorce after another), the women's liberation movement to establish the woman as a person in her own right, new divorce laws which do away with the concept of guilt-these are all groping toward some new form of man-woman relationship for the future. It would take a bolder man than I to predict what will emerge” [New York: Delacorte, 1972], p. 11).

Carl Rogers admits that in trying those alternatives to marriage people are “groping” for a new definition of man-woman relationships. But we don't need to grope; all we need to do is to go back to the Creator to find out how these relationships ought to work. After all, God made us-He must know. Carl Rogers said it would take a bolder man that he to predict what will happen to marriage. The Bible itself predicts what will happen in 2 Timothy 3.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Stop Loving the World

In 1 John 2:15-17 the apostle John writes to the believers in Asia Minor regarding a problem that you and I must contend with -- worldliness. There were some in the fellowship who claimed "to have fellowship with Him" but were walking in darkness (see 1:6). John writes to correct this problem by telling them to "not love the world" or more literally to "stop loving the world or the things in the world" (v.15). The world with its lusts and passions will seek to lure you into its path of deception but you must overcome by remembering that this "is not of the Father but of the world" (v.16). Notice its source -- the world! But notice its end: "And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever" (v.17). Are you willing to trade loves? Are you willing to "love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind" (Mat.22:37)? If not you cannot belong to Him. "Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God" (Jas.4:4). And no enemy has any inheritance in the kingdom of God. Examine yourself today! "Prove yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? -- unless indeed you are disqualified" (2 Cor.15:5).

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Evangelism at Heart

What consumes you? What is your passion? Do you know that what consumes you will occupy your thoughts and time? Could it be said that you are consumed with seeing your friend, neighbor or family member come to know Jesus as you do? Or do you question your own confession of Christ? Jesus said to His disciples, "Go therefore and make disciples" (Mat.28:19). Are you obeying that command? Is the fulfillment of that command your purpose in life?

As you evaluate these questions, take inventory of what occupies your time? If it's not Jesus and obedience to His Word, I would question my allegiance. Think about it.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Living Life with a Purpose

Today we are looking at 1 Thessalonians 1, verses 8-10 in what I believe to be the purpose of every believer in Jesus Christ. Many times Christians fumble around misunderstanding their purpose but as we will see in this text — we have one purpose. Some Christians believe that our purpose is to "moralize the unconverted."

John MacArthur, in his book, Nothing But the Truth, says, "At the beginning of 1999, a major battle in the culture war took place. The Bill Clinton impeachment hearings, conducted by the highest level of leadership in our nation, were in reality a referendum on the culture war. But what began as outrage against immorality, deception, and abuse of power ended rather abruptly without any punishment or even censure. May I suggest that the culture war, at least as we know it, is now over. The impeachment process gave us a clear indication of where our culture stands—and we have discovered that it refuses to follow a biblical morality. The culture war is over—and we’ve lost. That was the inevitable end because this world is the domain of darkness, whether it’s portrayed as moral or immoral. Our responsibility has never been to moralize the unconverted; it’s to convert the immoral. Our responsibility is redemptive, not political. We do not have a moral agenda; we have a redemptive agenda...The single divine calling of the church is to bring sinful people to salvation through Christ. If we do not lead the lost to salvation, nothing else we do for them, no matter how beneficial at the time, is of any eternal consequence" (p.10).

There are 2 simple truths that I want you to see in 1 Thessalonians 1:8-10 regarding your purpose.

Evangelism Starts With You (v.8a)

"For from you"

"You" is Referring to the "church" Paul is addressing "the church of the Thessalonians" (v.1a)

The church is God’s elect (v.4) They are "followers of...the Lord" (v.6) Evangelism is the churches responsibility and purpose. Jesus indicated that to the disciples in Mat.28:19-20. He also told them when the Holy Spirit "has come upon shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth" (Acts 1:8).

Erwin Lutzer said,"Christianity spread rapidly during the first century because all Christians saw themselves as responsible for disseminating the gospel" (Draper’s Quotations).

Evangelism is a Direct Response to Our Personal Reception of God’s Word (vv.6-7)

When the people at Thessalonica "received the word" they "became examples to all in Macedonia and Achaia who believe" (v.7) Notice first they "received the word" and then they became "examples." The Greek word for example (tupos) "was used to describe a seal that marked wax or a stamp that minted coins. Paul commended the Thessalonians for being model believers leaving their mark on others" (John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible). Their "example" to others was the supernatural response they had to God’s Word

When you become a follower of the Lord you will tell others about your faith — it will be a direct response. When Jesus healed people they immediately told others what happened. Mat.4:23-25 - And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people. 24 Then 4 His fame went throughout all Syria; and they brought to Him all sick people who were afflicted with various diseases and torments, and those who were demon-possessed, epileptics, and paralytics; and He healed them. 25 Great multitudes followed Him—from Galilee, and from 5 Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and beyond the Jordan.

After Paul was saved it says in Acts 9:20, "Immediately he preached the Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God."

John Wesley said, "I look upon all the world as my parish" (Draper’s).

Evangelism is a Lifestyle Not a Church Program (vv.8a-10)

Every Believer in the Thessalonian Church Preached the Gospel. It was not left up to Paul and his associates. Paul said their "faith toward God has gone out, so that we do not need to say anything" (v.8)

"If you live by the same values and priorities [Jesus] had, you will find evangelism happening naturally. It becomes a life-style and not a project" (REBECCA MANLEY PIPPERT, Draper’s).

The Gospel was Personally Tied to their Faith. Paul says "For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth...Your faith toward God has gone out." The "word of the Lord" and "Your faith toward God" is being used synonymously. The "word of the Lord" is their "faith toward God" — it is objective truth!

The Gospel They Had Received "Sounded Forth." It reverberated forth. "Sounded forth" Gr.execheomai, "to ring out" (UBS Grk Dic), "to proclaim" (Lou- Nida). It was heard everywhere — in "Macedonia and every place." "Wherever the Thessalonians went, the gospel given by the word of the Lord was heard. It resulted in a local outreach to Thessalonica, a national outreach to Macedonia and Achaia, and an international outreach to regions beyond" (MacArthur).

"Jesus . . . wants us to see that the neighbor next door or the people sitting next to us on a plane or in a classroom are not interruptions to our schedule. They are there by divine appointment. Jesus wants us to see their needs, their loneliness, their longings, and he wants to give us the courage to reach out to them" (REBECCA MANLEY PIPPERT, Draper’s).

Lifestyle Evangelism is Both Heard and Seen (vv.9-10). Lifestyle evangelism is not just living out the Gospel in my life. It is living and proclaiming the Gospel in my life. Those who heard the "word of the Lord" from the Thessalonian’s declared what kind of people the Thessalonian’s were (v.9). They declared they had "turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come" (vv.9-10). This was the testimony of the Thessalonians believers. Jesus said in Matthew 5:16 that we are to "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven."

God was glorified by the Thessalonians for the proclamation of their faith. He was glorified by those who heard the Gospel from the Thessalonians. He can be glorified by His church today!

We are to evangelize the world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ! It is to be every part of our living because it is connected to our faith! When people ask us to stop proclaiming the Gospel they are also asking us to stop believing because the two are closely related. Do you understand your purpose as the body of Christ?

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Husbands Love Your Wives

I met a man yesterday as he was browsing through the Valentine's Day cards who told me he has been married for 45 years. Isn't that wonderful? You don't hear that kind of statement too often. My parents recently celebrated their 52nd wedding. My wife and I have been married for 18 years and I cherish every moment! Someone also said to me recently that they had the weekend off without the kids. I told her that I wanted every time I had to be with my wife and kids. That's what matters most! We spin our wheels trying to make something of ourselves in this world but what really matters is the home.

In today's passage, the apostle Paul reminds the Ephesians about the home when he says, "Husbands love your wives" (Eph.5:25). If your relationship is to be everlasting it must be characterized by a sacrificial love. Colossians 3:19 states it essentially the same way but adds a bit more when Paul writes: "Husbands, love your wives and be not bitter against them." The husband is to be the lover and the initiator of that love in his relationship with his wife. Yes that means working on that honey-do list, right? Take it out. Do something for her. Show her your love. Don't just say it....though it needs to be said, not just once, but constantly. But you also need to demonstrate it. So as you enjoy this day with your wife, love her dearly and cherish every moment with her! She is God's gift to you in this life. And before I close and you think that there is nothing to say to the wives. Paul goes on to say in Ephesians 5:33, "let the wife see that she respects her husband." Mutual love and mutual respect -- both are aspects of submission that we are called to humbly demonstrate to one another (see Eph.5:21). Let's glorify God in this way today.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

God's Building Plan (Pt.2)

Yesterday, I talked about the first non-negotiable truth that the church must be committed to–a high view of God. I shared with you that it is essential that the church perceive itself as an institution for the glory of God. Today I want to give you the remaining four that proceeds from a high view of God.

The Absolute Authority of Scripture

It is clear that God’s Word is undermined. We see that by hearing the things that are taught today in the church. The church is being told by prominent evangelical leaders that the word day in Genesis chapter one really refers to millions of years instead of a literal 24 hour day. So Christians are buying into evolution. The church is also being taught that the doctrine of election means that God looks down through the corridors of time and sees whose going to choose Him and on that basis He chooses them. Even Now we’re hearing things in the church like the openness of God, the new perspective on Paul, and the emerging church. Paul told Titus that the men he was to “appoint” as elders were to be those who hold “fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict” (Tit.1:9). The church is not only undermined by these things but also by those who come along with their visions, revelations, and people saying “God said to me.”

God’s Word must be upheld. It must be your highest priority (Mat.4:4) as well as seen as the only means for growth in your life (2 Tim.3:16-17; 1 Pet.2:2). The puritan Joseph Alleine said, “O ye saints, how you should love the Word, for by this you have been converted...Tie it about your neck, write it upon your hand, lay it in your bosom. When you go let it lead you, when you sleep let it keep you, when you wake let it talk with you. You that are unconverted, read the Word with diligence; flock to where it is powerfully preached. Pray for the coming of the Spirit in the Word. Come from your knees to the sermon, and come from the sermon to your knees. (The Golden Treasury of Puritan Quotations).

A high view of God, the absolute authority of Scripture. Notice a third nonnegotiable:

Sound Doctrine

“If you have a high view of God and are committed to Him, then you must go along with what His Word teaches. The teachings of God’s Word make up sound doctrine” (MacArthur, 13).

The word “sound” (hugiaino) means, “healthy” (Strong). “Paul uses this word 9 times in the pastoral epistles (5 times in Titus), always in the sense that the truth produces spiritual well-being” (MacArthur Study Bible). The word “doctrine” (didaskalia) means, “teaching” (Strong).

We must teach truths that people can hold on to. “Very few explain the truths about God, life, death, heaven, hell, man, sin, Christ, angels, the Holy Spirit, the position of the believer, the flesh, or the world” (MacArthur, 13). But we must teach these truths or what we’re teaching is not sound or healthy. People think that the teaching of hell does not promote spiritual well-being. If that is true then why did Paul call for a spiritual examination in 2 Cor.13:5? “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?--unless indeed you are disqualified.” The doctrine of hell causes you to examine yourself so that you’re not self-deceived! Paul told Timothy to “speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine” in Titus 2:1. Then in verses 2-10 he talks about 5 groups in the church and what they are to commit themselves to.

You must commit yourself to go beyond the superficial in your study of God’s Word. You must be diligent to accurately interpret it (2 Tim.2:15). The church today does not study or accurately handle the Word. They listen to whatever is blowing in the wind and adopt that as their interpretation of God’s Word. Paul told Timothy to devote himself to three things in 1 Timothy 4:13: He said, “Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.” The phrase “give attention” (prosecho) means to “pay attention. As a nautical term, it means to hold a ship in a direction, to sail towards. It means to hold one’s course toward a place” (Zodhiates). In other words, it is to “pay attention to, give heed to, follow” (BAGD). What is he to “pay attention to” or “give heed to?” “Reading” (anagnosis) refers to “the act of reading” (Strong), i.e., “the public reading of the Scriptures (Zodhiates). “Exhortation” (paraklesis), refers “to the act of exhortation, encouragement for the purpose of strengthening and establishing the believer in faith” (Zodhiates) and “doctrine” (didaskalia), refers to “teaching” (Strong).If we commit ourselves to these three things then we will have gone beyond the superficial.

The fourth nonnegotiable is:

Personal Holiness

There is a goal in mind here. It is that you be holy. You are called to live a pure life. Peter reminds us of this in 1 Peter 1:14-16 when he says, “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, "YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY” (NASB). The word “holy” Gr.hagios, means “morally blameless” (Strong). In this context—free from sin, referring to moral behavior. Paul speaks of this in 1 Thess.4:1-7 in showing us how we are to handle our bodies. You need to be careful what you expose yourself to. “It’s impossible to watch some of the films in the theaters and to read trash without paying a price” (MacArthur, 13). Paul says in 2 Corinthians 7:1 to “cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, prefecting holiness in the fear of God.” The phrase “let us cleanse ourselves” in that verse indicates by “the form of the verb...that this is something each Christian must do in his own life” (MacArthur Study Bible). The apostle John says it this way in 1 John 3:3, “And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.”

A high view of God, the absolute authority of Scripture, sound doctrine, personal holiness, and finally:

Spiritual Authority

A church must understand that Christ is the head of the church and that He mediates His rule through godly men called elders. Colossians 1:18 says, that Jesus is “the head of the body, the church.” In 1 Timothy 5:17, Paul says that the “elders rule” in the church. He told the elders at Ephesus in Acts 20:28, “Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.” Elders are pastors who rule and oversee all the affairs of the church. 1 Thess.5:12 says that they “labor among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you.” Heb.13:7 says they “rule over you, who have spoken the word of God to you.” Heb.13:17 says, they “rule over you” and “watch out for your souls, as those who must give account.” 1 Peter 5:1-4 gives us the attitude by which they are to govern the church: They are to “Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; 3 nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; 4 and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.”

The church must understand that this is God’s design for the church to function properly. Christ is the head of the church. He mediates His rule through godly men called elders. Deacons come alongside and implement what the elders teach and the congregation submits.

If the church is going to be the Body of Christ, it has to have the right framework. It has to have a high view of God—the pursuit of the church should be to know God. In seeking to know God, the authority of Scripture must be recognized, for it is through the Bible that we can know God. A church should have a high view of Scripture and a commitment to teaching sound doctrine. The people of a church should also seek personal holiness and submit their souls to the care of those the Lord has placed over them as spiritual authorities.

Friday, June 16, 2006

God's Building Plan (Pt.1)

I do not want to build a church. Does that sound surprising to you coming from a pastor of 17 years? I can make a statement like that because of what Jesus said in Matthew 16:18. He said, "I will build My church" (emphasis added). If He is going to build His church, I don't want to assume a responsibility that is not mine. But do I just sit back and watch Him build His church or is there anything that I am to do? I don't ask that question as a pastor but as a member of God's family.

To answer that question we will look at five non-negotiable features that should be at the heart of every church. If these principles are true of your church, then you will have what is needed for Christ to use you for His glory.

A High View of God

"It is absolutely essential that a church perceive itself as an institution for the glory of God" writes John MacArthur. I agree. God must be glorified in all that we do. In the little things of our life as well as the big. 1 Corinthians 10:31 says, "Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." In other words, we are to "do it all with a habitual aim to the glory of God; by considering His precepts, and the propriety, expediency, appearance, and tendency of their actions" (R.A. Torrey, The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge). 1 Corinthians 6:20 says that we "were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's." What is your habitual aim? Is it to glorify God? In everything? It seems that twentieth century thinking in the church is not how can God be glorified in this situation but more how can I benefit from this? We gravitate toward what makes us feel good or what brings us profit. But as we have already seen from 1 Corinthians 6:20, we are not our own. We now belong to another. Our desire should be to glorify Him and not ourselves.

A second contributor to a high view of God is "the fear of the Lord." When we have a healthy "fear" of God, it illustrates that we take God seriously at His Word. In Proverbs 8:13 it says, "The fear of the Lord is to hate evil; pride and arrogance and the evil way and the perverse mouth I hate." Notice what the fear of the Lord is. It is to "hate evil, pride, arrogance, the evil way, and the perverse mouth." It is hating what God hates and turning from it in our lives. Proverbs 16:6 says, " the fear of the Lord one departs from evil." Having a healthy fear of the Lord enables us to "depart from evil." Therefore, glorifying God in all we do then and taking Him seriously at His Word are the steps to having a high view of God. They are steps we must take daily. But the final step that we must not omit is one that hits us where we live. It's moving from a man-centeredness to a God-centeredness. That means we need to get our attention off ourselves and think on Him. We need to have the perspective that John the Baptist had when he said, "He must increase and I must decrease." To do that we must think biblically (Rom.12:1-2), talk biblically (Col.4:6), and act biblically (Rom.13:12-14). This does not just happen. It can only happen when we yield our mind, will, and emotions to the control of the Holy Spirit (see Eph.5:18 and Col.3:16).

What are you doing to develop a high view of God? Are you turning from evil? Are you seeking to develop a life that is focused on glorifying God in all things? Is the Spirit of God controlling you?

Thursday, June 15, 2006

An Open Diary

If someone was to read your diary, what would they read? Would they feel your passion, hear your cry, and learn of your greatest desires? Jim Elliot, who was martyred by the Auca Indians wrote in his diary before his death:

"God, I pray Thee, light these idle sticks of my life, that I may burn for Thee. Consume my life, my God, for it is Thine. I seek not a long life, but a full one, like You, Lord Jesus."

Do you have the same kind of passion as Jim Elliot for Jesus? Check your diary today and ask God to "light these idle sticks of [your] life."

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Run with Endurance

"Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us"
Hebrews 12:1

The Christian life is described as a race. In this passage the writer of Hebrews uses the imagery of a runner. Just as a runner will refrain from those things that would hinder him, we are to do the same. He says lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us. The weight and sin that entraps is unbelief. The Jews that were being addressed here had not come completely to Christ. Verse 4 says they had "not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin." They were carrying the weight of their unbelief and therefore ensnared by it.

If we are going to run with endurance we must always deal with our sin and always keep our eyes on Jesus who is the author and finisher of our faith (v.2). Are you running with endurance in the race? Have you cast off the sin of unbelief and come completely to Him? Are you looking unto Jesus? Examine your heart today and ask God to show you if you truly are His? If so, ask Him to open your eyes to those things that ensnare and hinder you in the race.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Satan's Temptations

Satan is a master at tempting us to sin. In fact his temptations are old, finding their way with the first woman - Eve (Gen.3). So it is wise for you and I to heed the words of the apostles regarding this enemy of the soul. Peter said, "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour" (1 Pet.5:8). James adds "Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you" (Jas.4:7). Don't be fooled by his temptations. Jesus said that he is "a liar and the father of it" (Jn.8:44). As Thomas Manton wrote, "If you yield to Satan in the least, he will carry you further and further, till he has left you under a stupefied or terrified conscience: stupefied, till thou hast lost all thy tenderness. A stone at the top of a hill, when it begins to roll down, ceases not till it comes to the bottom. Thou thinkest it is but yielding a little, and so by degrees are carried on, till thou hast sinned away all thy profession, and all principles of conscience, by the secret witchery of his temptations." Yielding to Satan won't cost you your salvation but you will sure feel you have lost it. Another lie that he is good at. Heed God's Word by being "sober" and "vigiliant." That is the key to resisting him.

Monday, June 12, 2006

The Face of Repentance

Recently a friend of mine sent me a quote from Oswald Smith which says, "When a man is convicted of his lost condition he will cry out in bitter anguish of his heart: 'What must I do to be saved?' He will need no urging, no coaxing; it is a matter of life or death to him, and he will do anything to be saved." Are those familiar words in your ears when speaking about your conversion? When the Spirit of God regenerates the heart, no other response will be but "What must I do to be saved?"

Think about that today as you live among the lost. They need to hear what Christ has done in your life. Share it with them today.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

The Carnal Christian

There are many today who divide humanity into three categories: One is called the "natural man" (1 Cor.2:14) who is unsaved; the next is the "spiritual man" (1 Cor.2:15-16) who is a Christian; and the last is the "carnal man" (1 Cor.3:1-4) who say's he's a Christian but is not obedient to God. The problem with that interpretation is that it is not biblical. In fact it is out of harmony with the balance of Scripture. God commands every true believer to be obedient to His commands and be controlled by His Spirit (John 14:15; Eph.5:18; Col.3:16).

In Scripture, the words carnal and fleshly most often refer to unsaved people and not Christians. The carnal mind directly defies God (Rom.8:5-8), which is not characteristic of a true believer. Therefore to use the terms "carnal Christian" to refer to a true believer is a contradiction in terms.

There may be Christians who fall into sin and act carnally, but carnality is predominantly characterized by unbelievers, because they are total unable to place God (See Heb.11:6).

"If a person's life is not charactized by righteousness, the entire book of 1 John declares that he is not truly saved" (Grace to You, Winter, 1988, Vol.11, No.1). A person who has a disobedient nature is one who is not walking by the Spirit's control and therefore may not even possess the Spirit.

What then is carnality? Can a true believer be carnal? As we have already noted, Christians can fall into sin and act carnally. But to say that this is a permanent state for a Christian is not true. Think of it in these terms -- you are either filled with the Spirit or you're not. When you're not, then you are carnal. If carnality is a habit of your life rather than Christ's righteousness, then that gives evidence you were never saved (see 1 John 3). "A person who has no desire for obedience has no legitimate claim on salvation" (Ibid., Grace to You).

Saturday, June 10, 2006

The Spiritual State of All Believers

We said in our last time together that all unbelievers are in a state of spiritual deadness; dead in trespasses and sins. As we looked at this truth in Ephesians chapter 2 we saw in the first three verses what we were before Christ. Remember we said that chapter 2 is still a running thought that Paul had begun in chapter 1, verse 15. Paul is praying that the Ephesian believers would know “what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in heavenly places” (vv.19-20). Paul says this “mighty power which...raised [Christ] from the dead” (v.20), is the same power that raises believers from spiritual death.

In verses 1-3 of chapter 2 Paul paints a graphic picture of what we were before God raised us up from spiritual death. He says we “were dead in trespasses and sins” (v.1), living according to the world and Satan (v.2), and living according to the flesh (v.3). In other words, as Charles Spurgeon says, “We were full of vigour towards everything which was contrary to the law or the holiness of God, we walked according the course of this world; but as for anything spiritual, we were not only somewhat incapable, and somewhat weakened; but we were actually and absolutely dead. We had no sense with which to comprehend spiritual things. We had neither the eye that could see, nor the ear that could hear, nor the power that could feel” (From the sermon, “Life from the Dead” preach on March 13, 1890). We were dead! But something happened in verse 4. It says, “But God.” Those words...form one of the most significant, eloquent, and inspiring transitions in all literature. They indicate that a stupendous change has taken place. It is a change from the doom and despair of the valley of death to the unspeakable delights of the kingdom of the Son of God’s love” (Believer’s Bible Commentary). “These two words, in and of themselves, in a sense contain the whole of the gospel. The gospel tells of what God has done, God’s intervention; it is something that comes entirely from outside us and displays to us that wondrous and amazing and astonishing work of God” (D. Martyn-Lloyd Jones, God’s Way of Reconciliation: Ephesians 2, p.59). John Calvin describes that work as “God [delivering] the Ephesians from the destruction to which they were formerly liable” (Calvin’s Commentaries: Ephesians). Notice in verses 4-10 what God did in spiritually raising us from the dead. First, He made us alive. That phrase comes from the Greek word suzoopoieo, which means, “to cause to live, to give life.” Colossians 2:13 says “And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses.” This is what He did first. Second Paul says God “raised us up together” (Eph.2:6). This means that just as Christ was raised physically from the dead, we were raised spiritually. Third, He seated us together with Christ in the heavens (vv.6b-7) as exalted sons and daughters with Christ. All this He did by His grace (vv.9-10) because we are His workmanship (v.10).

Have you praised God for His marvelous work of salvation? He made you alive, by raising you from the dead and made you to sit together with Christ in the heavenlies “that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Eph.2:7). Let’s praise Him today for what He has done!

Friday, June 09, 2006

The Spiritual State of All Unbelievers

In this study, I would like to paint a picture of the human dilemma and what God alone can do about it. In Ephesians 2:1-10, Paul has just completed his discussion in chapter 1 of the blessings believers have received as well as his prayer for them to realize what they have. He continues his thoughts that began in verse 19 of the resurrection of the believer. He not only prayed that their “understanding” be “enlightened” and that they “may know what is the hope of His calling...the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints”, but he also prayed that they would know “what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe.” This same power that “raised” Jesus “from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places” (vv.18-20) is the same power that raises the believer from spiritual death to spiritual life. John 5:21 says, “the Father raises the dead and gives life to them.” That verse is realized throughout the Bible. Whether its God raising the son of the Shunammite woman through Elisha (2 Kings 4:30-36) or Jesus raising the dead during His earthly ministry (Mat.9:25), John 5:21 says, “For as the Father raises the dead and gives life to them, even so the Son gives life to whom He will.” When Jesus died on the cross, Matthew 27:50-53 says at that very moment “the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split, and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many.” God raised these saints from the dead and He raised Jesus as well. Notice what Peter says in Acts chapter two.

In Acts 2:24 Peter said to the crowd who was gathered at Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost that God raised up Jesus “having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it.” Peter states it again in Acts 3:15 by telling the crowd that gathered to see lame man that was healed that they “killed the Prince of life, whom God raised from the dead, of which we are witnesses.” In verse 26 he concludes by saying, “To you first, God, having raised up His servant Jesus, sent Him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from your iniquities.” As they spoke to the people, chapter 4, verses 1-3 says that “the priests, the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees came upon them being greatly disturbed that they taught the people and preached in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. And they laid hands on them and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening. When they were brought before them the next day they asked the apostles “By what power or by what name have you done this? (v.7). Peter filled with the Holy Spirit responds: “Rulers of the people and elders of Israel: ‘If we this day are judged for a good deed done to a helpless man, by what means he has been made well, let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole.’” Later in chapter 5 the high and all those who were with him, from the Sadducees, “laid their hands on the apostles and put them in the common prison. But at night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out, and said, ‘Go, stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this life” (vv.18-20). Verse 21 continues: “And when they heard that, they entered the temple early in the morning and taught. But the high priest and those with him came and called the council together, with all the elders of the children of Israel, and sent to the prison to have them brought. But when the officers came and did not find them in the prison, they returned and reported, saying, “Indeed we found the prison shut securely, and the guards standing outside before the doors; but when we opened them, we found no one inside!” Now when the high priest, the captain of the temple, and the chief priests heard these things, they wondered what the outcome would be. So one came and told them, saying, “Look, the men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple and teaching the people!” Then the captain went with the officers and brought them without violence, for they feared the people, lest they should be stoned. And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest asked them, saying, “Did we not strictly command you not to teach in this name? And look, you have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this Man’s blood on us!” But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: “We ought to obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised up Jesus whom you murdered by hanging on a tree. Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him.” When they heard this, they were furious and plotted to kill them.”

“The Father raises the dead and gives life to them” (John 5:21). The dead do not raise themselves. When we read Ephesians 1:20 that is what we’re seeing. God “raise Him [Christ] from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all” (vv.20-23). Then chapter two says, “And you....” Chapter breaks many times interrupt a passage as is the case here. Verse 1 is still part of the content of Paul’s prayer. Only now in verse 1 does he turn his attention to the resurrection of the believer. He says that the same power which raised Jesus from the dead raised you from spiritual death. Notice how Paul paints this graphic picture of what we were before our spiritual resurrection in verses 1-3. He says we were dead in sin, living according to the world and Satan and according to the flesh.

Have you thought lately where you were when God showered His mercy and grace on you? You were dead in trespasses and sins; powerless and helpless. That is the spiritual state of all unbelievers. Don’t ever forget it. Just as God raised Jesus from the dead, He must do the same for believers or they will never be saved.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Worshipping 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.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

God's Authoritative Word

In Psalm 119 there are eight titles for Scripture. It's called law, testimonies, precepts, statutes, commandments, Word, and ordinances. All eight titles tell us about the authority of God's Word. When applied to one's life, there is great blessing from the Giver of His Word. Do you recognize the authority of God's Word in your life? Do you understand that God has magnified His Word above all His name (see Ps.138:2)? Ask God to search your heart and to give you a heart of obedience to Him.

Click here to listen to more on this subject.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

How to Study the Bible

Bible study is very important for all believers. It is the very means by which you are equipped for God’s work. It is not just for those called to vocational ministry but for all believers. 2 Timothy 2:15 says, "Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth."

How does one go about "rightly dividing the word of truth?" Let’s find out as we learn where Bible study begins and how to study the Bible.

Where Bible Study Begins

It begins with a preparation and a proper perspective. When we come to God’s Word we must see it as it is — God’s holy, infallible, inerrant, inspired Word. It’s God’s Word!

How to Study the Bible

Once you have adequately prepared yourself for study by prayer and confession of sin, you must begin now with the basics.

You Must Read the Bible ("What does the Bible say?")

Jerry Vines said, "An unread Bible is like food uneaten, a love letter never read, a buried sword, a road map unstudied, gold never mined" (A Practical Guide to Sermon Preparation, p.69).

Richard Moulton said, "We have done almost everything that is possible with these Hebrew and Greek writings. We have overlaid them, clause by clause, with exhaustive commentaries; we have translated them, revised the translations, and quarreled over the revisions...There is yet one thing left to do with the Bible: simply read it" (Cited by Vines, p.69).

Now that you have established a priority of reading the Bible, you must now:

Interpret the Bible ("What does the Bible Mean?")

The ultimate task in interpretation is to "discover why the author wrote what he wrote."

In doing that you must discover "the original meaning intended by the author" (Han Finzel, Unlocking the Scriptures, p.65).

To help with finding the original meaning intended by the author, you must:

Understand the problems. There are gaps that must be bridged like language, history, culture, and geography.

To help you bridge these gaps you need to be familiar with a few important principles:

1. Remember that context rules
2. Always seek the full counsel of the Word of God
3. Remember that Scripture will never contradict Scripture
4. Do not base your doctrine on an obscure passage of Scripture
5. Interpret Scripture literally
6. Check your conclusions by using reliable commentaries

Now that you are familiar with the principles you need to follow a particular procedure:

1. Ask specific questions (who, what, where, when, why) Who? (the characters), The writer, The recipients, The characters involved in the action, The characters not directly involved in the action,
Special people addressed in the passage. What? (the key truths or events), Key ideas, Theological terms, Key events, Important words, Figures of speech, Atmosphere. Where? (the geography and location), Places mentioned, Buildings, Cities, Nations, Landmarks. When? (the time factors), Date of authorship, Duration of the action, When in the church age, When in the life of Israel, Past, present, or future? Why? (the purpose of the passage or book)

"The answers to who, what, where, when, and why can be found by looking in these four places, in the order stated: content of the passage/book; context of the passage; comparison; with other Scriptures; consultation with resource books" (Finzel, p.69).

The final step in interpretation is the formulation of a conclusion, based on your research.

2. Summarizing the steps by stating an initial proposal based on the content.

"You cannot adequately do this until you have went through the observation principles." This can be the theme of the passage or it could be a principle that the passage is teaching. Next you need to search the context. What can the surrounding context of the passage add to your understanding of it? The teaching of a single passage must be viewed within the setting of the entire book from which it is lifted. The third step is to seek comparison (cross-reference). The Bible itself sheds light on its own meaning. Cross- reference and using other Bible translations can be helpful. The fourth step is to survey the secondary resources (commentaries, atlases, dictionaries). This is only after you have done the other work yourself. When you use these secondary resources use them discerningly. And the final step is to state your conclusions. When you do this try to state it in one sentence or less with cross-references in accordance to the context. Don’t forget to include any application principles that may come directly from your study.

Now that you have read the Bible and applied the principles of interpretation, you must:

Apply the Bible (This answers the question, "How does it apply to my life?")

Application always follows interpretation. J. Robertson McQuilkin said, "The goal of all Bible study is to apply the truth of Scripture to life. If that application is not made, all the work put into making sure of the author’s intended meaning will have gone for naught. In fact, to know and not do, doubles the offense of disobedience" (Understanding and Applying the Bible, p.255).

Ps.119:34 - "Give me understanding and I shall keep your law; indeed, I shall observe it with my whole heart." [James 1:22 (doers not hearers)]

Application must be kept simple, practical, and personal. Ask the right questions: "How does this relate to my life?" Some other questions you can ask are: Is there a principle to apply, Is there a command to obey, Is there an attitude to adjust or Is there a sin to repent of?

Next you want to principlize what you learn. Take the Scripture you are studying and write a brief sentence of what it is teaching. What is James 1:2-12 teaching? "Trials are a part of my Christian experience. I am to count it all joy because of what they are teaching me in my life."

Second, model before others what you learn. Paul was a model to the church. He said in Phil.4:9 - "The things which you have learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you." Just as Paul, we are to equally model righteousness before others. 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 Pet.5:3 says, "Nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock."

Last, teach what you learn to others (Mat.28:19-20). Paul told Timothy in 2 Tim.2:1-2 - You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.2 And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.


Read the Bible
Interpret the Bible
Apply the Bible

Remember the goal of all Bible study is to know God and make Him known!

Monday, June 05, 2006


Jesus said in Luke 9:23 "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me."

These words clearly state the cost of following Jesus. This invitation to the crowd held a supreme price -- death of self. "It's the end of you -- your dreams, hopes, ambitions, goals. The gospel is not about self-fulfillment; it's about self-denial" (John MacArthur, The MacArthur Daily Bible, p.ix).

To deny yourself means "to refuse to associate with." Coming to Christ means that you refuse to associate with the person that you are. You are sick of yourself and your sin and in desperation you willingly surrender that empty life that you no longer desire to associate with.

How extreme is this commitment? It involves taking up your cross daily. "In the ancient world, the cross only meant one thing -- a painful, horrible, shameful death" (Ibid., MacArthur, p.ix).

Is this the price that you have paid to follow Jesus? Remember Jesus said, "If you want to follow Me, it's the death of you."

Sunday, June 04, 2006

God Still Hates Sin

God’s Word reveals to us the history of God’s dealing with man’s sin. From the beginning when God told Adam, "Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die" (Gen.2:16-17), we see in chapter 3, verses 14-19, God’s judgment on them for violating His command. And not only with the first man but with every man and woman God has set in motion in His Word principles and commands, that if violated, would bring about swift consequences. The children of Israel challenged that repeatedly. Whether it was during the plagues that God was pouring out on Egypt or during their journey to the promised land. Israel sinned and suffered the judgment of God.

In Joshua 24:14-28, Joshua challenges the Israelites to serve the Lord. He also tells them what the consequences are if they don’t.

He says, "Now therefore, fear the Lord, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt. Serve the Lord! 15 And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." 16 So the people answered and said: "Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods; 17 for the Lord our God is He who brought us and our fathers up out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage, who did those great signs in our sight, and preserved us in all the way that we went and among all the people through whom we passed. 18 And the Lord drove out from before us all the people, including the Amorites who dwelt in the land. We also will serve the Lord, for He is our God." 19 But Joshua said to the people, "You cannot serve the Lord, for He is a holy God. He is a jealous God; He will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins. 20 If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, then He will turn and do you harm and consume you, after He has done you good." 21 And the people said to Joshua, "No, but we will serve the Lord!" 22 So Joshua said to the people, "You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen the Lord for yourselves, to serve Him." And they said, "We are witnesses!" 23 "Now therefore," he said, "put away the foreign gods which are among you, and incline your heart to the Lord God of Israel." 24 And the people said to Joshua, "The Lord our God we will serve, and His voice we will obey!" 25 So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and made for them a statute and an ordinance in Shechem. 26 Then Joshua wrote these words in the Book of the Law of God. And he took a large stone, and set it up there under the oak that was by the sanctuary of the Lord. 27 And Joshua said to all the people, "Behold, this stone shall be a witness to us, for it has heard all the words of the Lord which He spoke to us. It shall therefore be a witness to you, lest you deny your God." 28 So Joshua let the people depart, each to his own inheritance.

God feels the same today as He did then about sin and about sinners. The Bible tells us that if a man does not repent he will spend eternity in a place where there will be "weeping and the gnashing of teeth." As Jude unfolds his subject of apostates in the church — it’s no different. Jude reveals to us from history examples of how God responded to apostates. And if there is one principle that we can learn — it is simply that "God judged apostates in the past; He will judge them in the future." There is no escape for our sin outside of Jesus Christ.

Whether you are an apostate, that is, one who has defected from the true biblical faith or an unbeliever who have never heard the gospel, God will judge sinners in that Day. As in the words of Joshua, "Choose for yourself this day whom you will serve" (Jos.24:15), the same is true now. Read Jude's letter and be reminded that God still hates sin.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Our Holy God

Holiness is a very important word to a Christian because it speaks of God and of the relationship that we have with Him. From the very first book of the Bible we learn that holiness is an essential element in our relationship with God. Adam, in the garden, was told he could eat of any tree in the Garden except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. But according to Genesis 3 Adam and Eve disregarded God's command, therefore God set in motion death as the penalty for their sin.

Throughout the Bible we are reminded of God's holiness and its standard. Exodus 15:11 says, "Who is like You, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like You, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?" (Emphasis added). 1 Samuel 2:2 answers, "There is none holy like the Lord, for there is none besides You, nor is there any rock like our God." (Emphasis added).

A.W. Tozer says, "Holy is the way God is. To be holy He does not conform to a standard. He is that standard. He is absolutely holy with an infinite, incomprehensible fullness of purity that is incapable of being other than it is. Because He is holy, His attributes are holy; that is, whatever we think of as belonging to God must be thought of as holy." Charles Spurgeon concurs by stating that God's holiness "is the crown of His honor and the honor of His crown. His power is not His choicest jewel, nor His sovereignty, but His holiness." Holiness then is important for us to understand if we are going to understand God.

When was the last time you meditated on the holiness of God? Start your day today thanking Him for His holiness and ask Him to help you to cooperate with the process of holiness in your life.

Friday, June 02, 2006

God's Loving Choice: Election

When we consider the love of God we see it manifested in many ways but one that is not too often considered is in the doctrine of election. Throughout the ages this teaching has been debated and considered a doctrine of hate rather than a doctrine of love but the Scriptures say otherwise. Consider Ephesians 2:4-5 which says, "But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ *(by grace you have been saved)." According to Paul's words to the Ephesians, God's choice of salvation is based on His love not on some injustice of God. 1 John 4:19 says, "We love Him because He first loved us." Everyone born into this world are heading for an eternal punishment in hell unless a loving God chooses to rescue them from this fate. To begin we can conclude from Ephesians 2:4-5 that God made us alive together with Christ because of His great love with which He loved us. That is a doctrine of love. When he destroyed the world with a universal flood and saved eight persons that was a doctrine of electing love.

How do we define election? One writer says, "Election is...that decree of God which He eternally makes, by which, with sovereign freedom, He chooses to Himself a people, upon whom He determines to set His love, whom He rescues from sin and death through Jesus Christ, unto Himself in everlasting glory" (Herman Hanko, The Five Points of Calvinism). John Piper adds, " unconditional in that there is no condition man must meet before God chooses to save him. Man is dead in trespasses and sins. So there is no condition he can meet before God chooses to save him from his deadness. We are not saying that final salvation is unconditional. It is not. We must meet the condition of faith in Christ in order to inherit eternal life. But faith is not a condition for election. Just the reverse. Election is a condition for faith. It is because God chose us before the foundation of the world that he purchases our redemption at the cross and quickens us with irresistible grace and brings us to faith" (Sermon manuscript What We Believe About the Five Points of Calvinism, John MacArthur, in his book, The God Who Loves, also writes, "We are redeemed not because of anything good in us, but because God chose us unto salvation. He chose certain individuals and passed over others, and He made that choice in eternity past, before the foundation of the world (Eph.1:4). Moreover, He chose without regard to anything He foresaw in the elect; simply ‘according to the good pleasure of His will [and] to the praise of the glory of His grace’ (vv.4-6, KJV). Election arises from the love of God. Those whom He chose, He ‘loved...with an everlasting love [and drew them to Himself] with lovingkindness’ (Jer.31:3) [p.12].

The doctrine of election is God choosing some individuals for salvation "before the foundation of the world. Ephesians1:4-5 says, "Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will." The word "chose" Gr.eklego (verb - middle voice) means, "to pick out, select. To choose for one’s own self" (W.E. Vine, Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words). The word "Choose" is from eklegomai which is made up of legoµ "to choose" and ek "out from." Thus, the compound word means "to pick, single out, to choose out." The genius of the word has in it the idea of not merely choosing, but that of choosing out from a number. The adjective eklektos comes from eklegomai and is translated by the words "chosen" and "elect." The elect are "the chosen-out ones." Divine election refers therefore to the act of God in which He chooses out certain from among mankind for salvation" (Kenneth Wuest, Word Studies in the Greek NT). Paul uses another word. He said God "predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will" (v.5). The word "predestined" (Gr.proorizo) means, "to determine before hand, forordain" (Ibid., Vine). God determined beforehand whom He would adopt "as sons by Jesus Christ." He did this "according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace" (vv.5-6).

There is another aspect of election that we need to consider and that is where God the Father give individuals to Jesus Christ for salvation. Jesus said in John 6:37: "All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out." In John 10:1-4, 14, 16, and 27 we see God giving those whom He chose to Jesus who is the great Shepherd. He calls His sheep by name and they hear His voice because they follow Him. In Romans 9 Paul goes into great detail on the subject of election to explain that Israel, "to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises" (v.4) "are not all Israel who are of Israel, nor are they all children because they are the seed of Abraham; but 'In Isaac your seed shall be called.' That is, those who are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted as the seed" (vv.7-8). All of this, he says is "that the purpose of God according to election might stand" (v.11).

A final aspect of election I want to consider is how the elect come to Christ. Jesus said, "No one can come to Me unless the Father who send Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day" (Jn.6:44). The word "Draw" (Gr.helkuo) (first aor.act.subj) means "to drag" (Strongs). It is used of the dragging of a net (Jn.21:6), of Paul and Silas being dragged into the marketplace (Acts 16:19) and of Jesus "being lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself" (Jn.12:32). It "carries the idea of an irresistible force and was used in ancient Greek literature of a desperately hungry man being drawn to food and of demonic forces being drawn to animals when they were not able to possess men" (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Ephesians). John Calvin said, "To come to Christ being here used metaphorically for believing, the Evangelist, in order to carry out the metaphor in the apposite clause, says that those persons are drawn whose understandings God enlightens, and whose hearts he bends and forms to the obedience of Christ. The statement amounts to this, that we ought not to wonder if many refuse to embrace the Gospel; because no man will ever of himself be able to come to Christ, but God must first approach him by his Spirit; and hence it follows that all are not drawn, but that God bestows this grace on those whom he has elected" (Calvin’s Commentaries: John). John Piper adds, "Jesus' answer to the spiritual blindness of the human mind and the spiritual hardness of the human heart is that the Father draws them. He takes away the blindness of the mind and replaces the heart of stone. He grants us to see the truth of Christ's self-evidencing glory and he gives us a taste for the all-satisfying beauty of the Lord" (Sermon manuscript The Duty: Faith,

Election is the work of God on behalf of sinners whereby He draws those whom He has chosen before the foundation of the world for salvation. I conclude with Paul's words in Romans 8:28-30. He says, "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 whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified, and whom He justified, these He also glorified." The doctrine of election is one of love from a loving God who has mercy on those He has chosen.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

The Faithfulness of God

We live in a day of unfaithfulness. Man cannot be trusted--he doesn't keep his promises. That's true of both individuals and nations. Only God is always faithful and keeps every promise in full. That fact is vital because everything we believe stands on the faithfulness of God. Our eternal destiny is at stake. In contrast to the unfaithfulness around us, it is refreshing to lift our eyes to our beloved God, who is always faithful. Scripture is filled with verses that declare God's faithfulness.

Deut.7:9 - "Therefore know that the LORD your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments.

Isa.11:5 - Righteousness shall be the belt of His loins, And faithfulness the belt of His waist.

Psalm 36:5 - Your mercy, O LORD, is in the heavens; Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.

Lamentations 3:23 - Great is Your faithfulness.

Hebrews 10:23 - Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.

As you go through your day today, remember that you serve a God who is faithful. Praise Him for His faithfulness!