Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Jesus is Coming!

It is sad that there is little talk about the return of Jesus especially when so much of the Bible mentions His return. Revelation 1:7 says, "Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, and they also who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen." We don't know when Jesus will return. All we know is He is coming as He promised (See John 14:1-3) and because His return is imminent we should be ready. The apostle Peter said, "Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness" (3:11). Fix your heart on Jesus' return! And remember that "everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure" (1 Jn.3:3).

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The Kingdom Among Your Enemies

"The Kingdom is to be in the midst of your enemies. And he who will not suffer this does not want to be of the Kingdom of Christ; he wants to be among friends, to sit among roses and lilies, not with the bad people but the devout people. O you blasphemers and betrayers of Christ! If Christ had done what you are doing, who would ever have been spared?" (Martin Luther).

These are strong words from a man who counted the cost to follow Jesus Christ. The Kingdom of God is to be in the midst of your enemies. This is daily. This is our calling. To coward in the face of our enemies makes us a coward for Christ. Jesus said, "Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven" (Mat.10:32-33).

Monday, January 29, 2007

What is Salvation?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, January 27, 2007

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, "Election...is 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, desiringgod.org). 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 lego┬Á "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, desiringGod.org).

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.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Entering God's Presence


A.W. Tozer states, "It is part of my belief that God wants to get us to a place where we would still be happy if we had only Him! We don't need God and something else. God does give us Himself and lets us have other things, too, but there is that inner loneliness until we reach the place where it is only God that we desire."

In Psalm 42:1-2, the Psalmist says, "As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?" Those words are the words of a child of God who is satisfied only with God. He finds all his joy in Him. Psalm 100:2 says we are to "Come before His presence," while verse 4 states that we are to "Enter into His gates." When was the last time you entered God's presence with that kind of purpose? As creatures of His creation we are never out of God's presence but if I could encourage you today, focus on how you are entering His presence. Are you coming to Him with unconfessed sin? Ponder that question today as you consider Him who has called you into His everlasting presence.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Meeting with God

What can prepare us for meeting with God? The Bible states that the only preparation we can make is to give our lives to Jesus Christ. At the moment of conversion we become new creatures in Christ (2 Cor.5:17). Upon becoming a child of God we are then given His righteousness (Romans 4-5). And now we are to walk as He walked. Charles Spurgeon said, "True godliness is such a thing as no saint dares to trifle with." If you are not living a holy life then you are a stranger to God. Hebrew 12:14 says, "Pursue peace with all men, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord."

To follow Christ we must lay down our pride and sinfulness. Are you paying the price to be holy as He is holy? Charles Spurgeon again says, "Sin will grow without sowing but holiness needs cultivation." A.W. Tozer adds, "The true Christian is not to be happy but to be holy...The more we learn of God and His ways and of man and his nature we are bound to reach the conclusion that we are all just about as holy as we want to be. We are all just about as full of the Spirit as we want to be. Thus when we tell ourselves we want to be more holy but we are really as holy as we care to be, it is a small wonder that the dark night of the soul takes so long."

Are you a child of God? Are you holy? If you are not, you are not prepared to meet with God! Turn to Him now (see 1 Thess.1:9).

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The Authority of Scripture

We are now, and have been for the past two decades, living in what has been accurately called a post-Christian, postmodern world. The modern era was defined by the belief in and search for the truth. The postmodern era leaves that belief behind and no longer recognizes absolute standards of morality or truth. Whatever feels right and does not "harm" others is considered acceptable behavior, and truth is what you feel it is. There are many reasons why we are where we are. One, I believe, is how the church has handled the Bible. Not only has the world attacked the sufficiency and authority of the Bible but so has "so called" Christians. There are many Christians who do not believe "every Word" of the Bible and that undermines its very authority.

I recently returned from a trip to West Harrison, Indiana where I attended a Creation Conference with Answers in Genesis. I was shocked to learn how many popular evangelical leaders do not believe God created the world in six 24 hour days but rather believe in evolution which says it took billions of years. James Dobson, of Focus on the Family, was asked if he supported the "Big Bang" Theory (the belief that the universe is the product of an immense explosion). He responds:

"Yes. And I see nothing in Scripture that indicates that God did not 'speak' the universe into existence by this method. Nor do I understand why it is so threatening to my fellow believers. The Big Bang, if it did in fact occur, was the 'creation event,' described in Genesis 1, 'In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.' For those who say such a notion contradicts Scripture, I hope they will point out the specific verses that concern them because I haven't seen them" (A response from Tessa Camp, Focus on the Family Correspondence Dept. Nov.11, 1997).

Dr. Dobson does not see that his view of the creation account actually attacks the Bible because it says evolution had something to do with it. Other leaders, like Dr. James Montgomery Boice, wrote in his commentary on Genesis:

"We have to admit here that the exegetical basis of the creationists is strong...In spite of the careful biblical and scientific research that has accumulated in support of the creationists’ view, there are problems that make the theory wrong to most (including many evangelical) scientists...Data from various disciplines point to a very old earth and an even older universe" (Genesis, An Expositional Commentary, Vol.1, pp.57-62).

I decided to write Boice’s ministry about this and they responded by saying:

"The Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals does not take a position on matters of creation, nor on many other important and controversial topics of discussion. We try to limit the positions we take as an organization to those things which directly relate to the five ‘solas’ of the Reformation. Among our Council members there is a wide array of opinion on exactly how God created the earth. For exegetical reasons, some of the men on our Council do not believe that Genesis 1 and 2 were given to God’s people to explain the ‘how’ of creation, but rather the ‘why’ of creation. Other men on our Council do believe that Genesis 1 and 2 is meant to teach BOTH the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of creation. Both camps hold to the infallibility and inerrancy of Scripture, but they have different interpretations of Genesis 1 and 2 and other passages in Scripture which talk about the creation. Each of our Council members has a ministry or job that is unrelated to the Alliance. Things they do and say there are their own to defend. Dr. Boice was no exception. His commentaries and other books represented his personal views, which are not necessarily the views of the Alliance. The only views of any of our Council members that can be called the position of the Alliance are those documents that we draw up which relate to some aspect of the five solas" (Eric Landry, Managing Editor, Modern Reformation Magazine).

I replied to his letter by stating that taking a position on what Genesis teaches about the creation is in harmony with "sola scriptura." I also wrote RC Sproul’s ministry and am happy to hear that "RC currently holds to the literal 6 day, 24 hour understanding of the creation account." Ken Ham had made reference to RC holding to an old earth view but his ministry says he was "probably quoting from an old source." Well as you can see there is a battle for the truth. To say that the creation took billions of years is an attack on what Genesis 1 says that God created the world in six 24 hour days. John MacArthur make a very important point when referring to the creation account by saying: "Everything Scripture says about our salvation through Jesus Christ hinges on the literal truth of what Genesis 1-3 teaches about Adam’s creation and fall. There is no more pivotal passage of Scripture" (The Battle for the Beginning, inside cover). He further writes: "Many in the church are too intimidated or too embarrassed to affirm the literal truth of the biblical account of creation...They insist they believe the Bible is inerrant and authoritative. But they are willing to reinterpret Genesis to accommodate evolutionary theory" (Ibid., inside cover).

I want to affirm to you today and for the rest of my life here on this earth that the Bible is the Word of God! And we are fallible men and woman who must submit to its authority. We don’t turn to scientist to explain the virgin birth, the deity of Christ or the resurrection of Jesus but we do when it comes to matters such as the creation? Romans 3:4 says, "...Let God be true but every man a liar." I choose to believe what God has written. Charles Spurgeon said, "This volume is the writing of the Living God: each letter was penned with an Almighty finger; each word in it dropped from the everlasting lips; each sentence was dictated by the Holy Spirit" (Spurgeon’s Sermons, Vol.1, p.26). This is the Word of God and each writer of Scripture affirmed it as such:


  • Paul verifies Luke - 1 Tim.5:18 (taken from Lk.10:7 and Deut.25:4)
  • Peter verifies Paul - 2 Pet.3:14-16
  • Jude verifies Peter - Jude 1:17-19 (cf. 2 Pet.2)

D. James Kennedy says: "We know the Bible is God’s Word because God Himself says so. Beginning with Moses and the Ten commandments, He spoke to all the Old Testament prophets and commanded them to write down His words. ‘Thus saith the Lord’ or ‘God spake these words’ appears over two thousand times in the Old Testament. In the book of Exodus, with forty chapters, ‘God spake all these words’ appears 160 times" (What If the Bible Had Never Been Written, p.211). If we’re going to point people to Jesus Christ then we must believe that every word in the Bible is God’s. If we’re going to see people’s lives changed for the glory of God, it’s going to happen because we believe that the Bible is God’s Word! My prayer for you today is that you will affirm in your life "The Authority of Scripture" by affirming "every word."

Monday, January 22, 2007

Why We Preach God's Word (Pt.2)

In our last study together, I shared with you two reasons why we preach God’s Word. I said, “Preaching is our Mandate,” and “Preaching is our Need.” Both of those points were from Paul’s second letter to Timothy. He said to Timothy in 2 Tim.4:1-4, “I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: 2 Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; 4 and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.”

Here Paul gives Timothy a serious and specific charge. It is serious because of who it is before: “the Lord Jesus Christ.” It is also serious because of what He is going to do: “judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom.” This charge is also specific. He tells him in verse 2 to “Preach the Word.” Timothy is to proclaim the Word of God as an official spokesman for the King. Since that is what he is to do, he is not to choose what to proclaim. The command is specific. He is to “preach” all “the Word.” To do that he must be ready at all times. He must preach it when there is opportunity and when there’s not because the climate is going to change. That’s why preaching is our greatest need. A day is coming when churches will accumulate the kind of teachers that preach what the people want to hear. They will no longer tolerate sound doctrine so Timothy is to preach it regardless. As we continue our reasons for why we preach God’s Word, let me share with you one more. We preach God’s Word because preaching is our mandate and it is our need but we also preach because preaching is the method God uses to call sinners to repentance.

Jesus said to His disciples in Matthew 9:37-38, “‘The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. 38 Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.’” Throughout the Word of God we see God sending out His “laborers into His harvest.” He did that first with Noah. Hebrews 11:7 says, “By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.” Since the preaching of Noah, there has followed a long-line of faithful preachers of God’s Word.

Jonah preached to the people of Ninevah repentance. Jesus said in Luke 11:32, “The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here.”

Throughout the Old Testament we hear “Thus says the Lord” or “the Word of the Lord came to me saying,” giving a message of repentance and destruction to the people of Israel and abroad. God said to Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem in Jer.35:15, “I have also sent to you all My servants the prophets, rising up early and sending them, saying, 'Turn now everyone from his evil way, amend your doings, and do not go after other gods to serve them; then you will dwell in the land which I have given you and your fathers.' But you have not inclined your ear, nor obeyed Me.”

John the Baptist was a prophet who preached repentance. Matthew 3:1-2 says, “In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, 2 and saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!’”

Jesus Preached repentance. His ministry began with preaching. Mat.4:17 says, “From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’”

From this we see His disciples doing the same. They were sent out in Matthew 10:7 to “preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’”

The gospel is to be preached to the whole world. Jesus preached to the poor (Mat.11:1), the rich (Mat.19:16-22), the religious (Jn.3) and the powerful (Mat.26:64). We are to preach to the whole world as well. Mk.13:10 says, “And the gospel must first be preached to all the nations.”

As you survey the methods you use to evangelize unbelievers, remember it must include the preaching of repentance and the coming of God's wrath. To leave these out, is not the full gospel.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Why We Preach God's Word (Pt.1)

Preaching is the greatest calling of God. It is the means by which He calls sinners to Himself and the means by which He equips those He calls for service. Preaching has been downplayed in the church. In some churches it’s not only downplayed but has been replaced. Listen to how some churches view preaching. One church advertising their church wrote this: “There is no fire and brimstone here. No Bible-thumping. Just practical, witty message.” Another church in their advertisement wrote: “Services at [the church featured in the article] have an informal feeling. You won’t hear people threatened with hell or referred to as sinners. The goal is to make them feel welcome, not drive them away.” Another one wrote: “The sermons are relevant, upbeat, and best of all, short. You won’t hear a lot of preaching about sin and damnation and hell fire. Preaching here doesn’t sound like preaching. It is sophisticated, urbane, and friendly talk. It breaks all the stereotypes.”

Preaching today has been replaced with being “clever, informal, positive, brief, and friendly” (John MacArthur, Ashamed of the Gospel, 47). The reason why preaching is being downplayed in so many churches is “to make it more appealing to unbelievers” (MacArthur, 45). “The experts are now telling us that pastors and church leaders who want to be successful must concentrate their energies in this new direction. Provide non-Christians with an agreeable, inoffensive environment. Give them freedom, tolerance, and anonymity. Always be positive and benevolent. If you must have a sermon, keep it brief and amusing. Don’t be preachy or authoritative. Above all, keep everyone entertained. Churches following this pattern will see numerical growth, we’re assured; those that ignore it are doomed to decline” (MacArthur, 45). This kind of thinking is at the heart of “the market-driven, user-friendly church.” It’s goal is to give people what they want. George Barna says, “This is what marketing the church is all about: providing our product (relationships) as a solution to people’s felt need” (Marketing the Church, 51). The problem with this kind of thinking is “‘felt needs’...determine the road map for the modern church marketing plan” (MacArthur, 49) instead of the Bible.

“The Bible, not a marketing plan, is supposed to be the sole blueprint and final authority for all church ministry. Ministry should meet people’s real needs, not salve their selfishness. And the Lord of the church is Christ, not some couch potato with the remote control in his hand” (MacArthur, 51). “The real problem—the root of all such troubles—is human depravity, an issue that is carefully skirted (though seldom overtly denied) in the teaching of the typical user-friendly church. No longer are pastors trained to declare to people what God demands of them. Instead, they are counseled to find out what the people’s demands are, then do whatever is necessary to meet them...The effects of such a philosophy is apparent; more and more people-pleasers fill the pulpits of our churches. Moreover, Scripture is overruled by the marketing plan as the authoritative guide for ministry” (MacArthur, 49).

Charles Spurgeon, commenting on Jesus’ ministry says, “I did not hear Him say ‘Run after these people Peter and tell them we will have a different style of service tomorrow, something short and attractive with little preaching. We will have a pleasant evening for the people. Tell them they will be sure to enjoy it. Be quick Peter, we must get the people somehow." Jesus pitied sinners, sighed and wept over them, but never sought to amuse them. After Peter and John were locked up for preaching, the church had a prayer meeting but they did not pray, "Lord grant unto thy servants that by a wise and discriminating use of innocent recreation we may show these people how happy we are." If they ceased not from preaching Christ, they had not time for arranging entertainments. Scattered by persecution, they went everywhere preaching the gospel. They turned the world upside down (Acts 17:6). That is the only difference! Lord, clear the church of all the rot and rubbish the devil has imposed on her, and bring us back to apostolic methods” (Feeding Sheep or Amusing Goats).

When Paul wrote to the Galatians and confronted their turning away from God who called them in the grace of Christ “to a different gospel” (1:6). He said in Galatians 1:10-12, “For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ. 11 But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. 12 For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

What does God have to say about His church? Is it to be a “seeker-sensitive” and “user-friendly?” Its it to tailor itself to the felt-needs of its people? Is preaching to be replaced with being “clever, informal, positive, brief, and friendly?” (John MacArthur, Ashamed of the Gospel, 47).

2 Timothy 4:1-5 specifically answers this question. Listen to what it says: I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: 2 Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; 4 and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. 5 But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry."

Paul tells Timothy that the time is going to change. People will want to have their ears tickled but he must preach the Word when he has opportunity and when he doesn't. How about you? Are you preaching the gospel today? Are you preaching it even when there is not any opportunity?

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Holiness


But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: "Be holy, because I am holy." (1 Pet.1:15-16 - NIV).

Has Christ changed your heart? If so, then it will be marked by holiness. God imparts that element of His nature to every one of His children. To be without is to be without Christ. "Christ will be master of the heart, and sin must be mortified. If your life is unholy, then your heart is unchanged, and you are an unsaved person. The Savior will sanctify His people, renew them, give them a hatred of sin, and a love of holiness. The grace that does not make a man better than others is a worthless counterfeit. Christ saves His people, not IN their sins, but FROM their sins. Without holiness, no man shall see the Lord" (Charles Spurgeon).

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Holy, Holy, Holy

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.

Monday, January 15, 2007

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.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Biblical Accountability

In his book, Not Even A Hint, Joshua Harris makes some insightful statements about why it is important that we keep ourselves accountable to one another. He says, "The Christian life is something we do together. In Ephesians 4:29, God tells us to build each other up with our words, and later He instructs us to ‘speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs’ (5:19). We need other Christians to speak, sing, and sometimes shout the truths of God’s Word to us. We need others to pray for us when we’re in the midst of temptation. We need friends who will hold on to us when we’re ready to give up. We need friends who will challenge and even rebuke us when we’re indulging in sin" (p.134).

He’s right! All of us need to be accountable. That is the purpose of the "one another’s" in the New Testament. We are to have peace with one another (Mk.9:50); be kindly affectionate to one another (Rom.12:10); give preference to one another (Rom.12:10); be of the same mind toward one another (Rom.12:16); receive one another (Rom.15:7); admonish one another (Rom.15:14; Col.3:16); greet one another (Rom.16:16); have the same care for one another (1 Cor.12:25); serve one another (Gal.5:13); bear with one another (Eph.4:2); be kind to one another (Eph.4:32); forgive one another (Col.3:13); comfort one another (1 Thess.4:18); edify one another (1 Thess.5:11); exhort one another (Heb.3:13); consider one another (Heb.10:24) and love one another. You cannot do any of these "one another's" out without being accountable with one other. I believe that's the Holy Spirit's point with the "one another's."

Monday, January 08, 2007

The Proper Foundation

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

"Why do evangelicals try so desperately to court the world's favor? Churches plan their worship services to cater to the 'unchurch.' Christian performers ape every worldly fad in music and entertainment. Preachers are terrified that the offense of the gospel might turn someone against them; so they deliberately omit the parts of the message the world might not like" (p.1). If Jesus is going to build His church, it will not happen by omitting the parts of His gospel that are offensive. Nor will it happen if His people cater to the unchurched. The gospel is not addition to one's life. It is, as Jesus said, to "deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me" (Mat.16:24). It is losing your life for His sake and finding it (v.25). Or giving your life in exchange for His (v.26). The apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 1:18 that our message would be perceived as "foolishness." He said, "For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God." If this is true, then how can we, as representatives of Jesus Christ, soften or omit parts of His message? Our efforts to reach the lost must never include catering to them. For the church to be salt and light it must submit to what the Bible says is God's building plan.

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

Sunday, January 07, 2007

God's Blueprint for the Church

John MacDuff said, "The gods of the unregenerate soul are the world, self, and sin" (Grace Gems). He’s right! But in the seeker-sensitive church those three words have been ignored. We are told that the church today needs to be "light on doctrine" (quoted in an article on the Seeker-Sensitive church by John Armstrong), and deal more with the felt needs of the unchurched. John MacArthur, in his book Ashamed of the Gospel, writes, "Today we have the extraordinary spectacle of church programs designed explicitly to cater to fleshly desire, sensual appetites, and human pride...To achieve this worldly appeal, church activities often go beyond the merely frivolous. For several years a colleague of mine has been collecting a ‘horror file’ of clippings that report how churches are employing innovations to keep worship services from becoming dull. In the past half decade, some of America’s largest evangelical churches have employed worldly gimmicks like slapstick, vaudeville, wrestling exhibitions, and even mock striptease to spice up their Sunday meetings. No brand of horseplay, it seems, is too outrageous to be brought into the sanctuary" (preface, xvii-xviii). James gives a stern warning in chapter four of his letter, which says, "Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God" (v.4). John echoes similar words when he says "Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world — the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life — is not of the world" (1 Jn.2:15-16).

In the church today, pragmatism, which "is the notion that meaning or worth is determined by practical consequences" (John MacArthur, Not Ashamed of the Gospel, p.xii), is the guiding "philosophy of life, theology, and ministry" today. But "pragmatism as a guiding philosophy of ministry is inherently flawed" (Ibid., xiii). It is "nothing short of satanic" (Ibid., xiii).

In our last time together I asked the question, "Who is the church?" I responded by stating that the church is made up of believers only -- It began by conversions as the Lord added to the church. We also saw that the New Testament epistles are addressed to the church and refers to them as believers — 15 New Testament books begin their address by making some reference to the audience as the church. The church is for believers — we are not to cater to the lost to reach them — we are to preach the Gospel — the Word of God. Paul said to the elders at Ephesus in Acts 20:27, "For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God." The church today is selling the "whole counsel of God" for a theology that feels good. John MacArthur again writes, "The truth of God does not tickle our ears; it boxes them. It burns them. It first reproves, rebukes, convicts — then exhorts and encourages. Preachers of the Word must be careful to maintain that balance" (Ibid., p.37). Unfortunately, preachers with ear-tickling messages are all too abundantly available. Marvin Vincent said, "In periods of unsettled faith, scepticism, and mere curious speculation in matters of religion, teachers of all kinds swarm like the flies in Egypt. The demand creates the supply. The hearers invite and shape their own preachers. If the people desire a calf to worship, a ministerial calf-maker is readily found" (Word Studies in the New Testament, 4 vols, 4: p.321).

Since the church is for believers and not unbelievers, what then is the church to do? What is our purpose? We have talked about purpose on so many occasions but to suffice it in two statements: We are to preach the Gospel and we are to perfect the saints (Mat.28:19-20; Eph.4:11-12). That is your calling in life. In fact that is the calling of every child of God. We are to reach and teach. We are to make disciples. We are to perfect the saints. That calling is not just for the pastors and leaders in the church, that calling is for everyone.

Are you fulfilling your calling today? Are you preaching the gospel and perfecting the saints? "All the contention between the flesh and the Spirit lies in this, whether God shall have His will or we have ours" (Richard Sibbes).

Thursday, January 04, 2007

True Conversion

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

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

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

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

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

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