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 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.