Tuesday, June 26, 2007

My Affirmation

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 're 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?

Friday, June 22, 2007

My Commitment to the Church

In my last blog, I shared with you what I am committed to. Today, I want to address this further by talking about my commitment to the church.

I am committed to the church from which Jesus is the head. Colossians 1:18 says that “He is the head of the body, the church, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.” As the head of His church He mediates His rule through godly men called elders. I have said on past occasions that the term elder and pastor are used interchangeably when referring to this office in the church. Acts 20:17 says, “From Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called for the elders of the church. Acts 20:28 says, “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.” In these two passages they are referred to as elders, overseers, and pastors. Elder emphasizes his maturity, overseeing and shepherding refers to his function. Because the Bible mentions elders in the church, I am committed to having them. That means I have to wait for God to raise men up, examine them, and then ordain them to ministry (1 Tim.3:1; Tit.1:5).

The Bible teaches that the elders of the church have the oversight of the church. That means they are “rule” the church (1 Tim.5:17) but not as “lords over those entrusted to [them], but being examples to the flock” (1 Pet.5:3). Their major emphasis is on teaching sound doctrine. 1 Tim.3:2 says they are to be “apt to teach. ” Titus 1:9 says they to hold fast “the faithful word as [they] has been taught, that [they] may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict.” They are called “pastor-teachers” in Ephesians 4:11 – as such they are to equip “the saints for the work of the ministry” (v.12).

The second group in the church are deacons. These serve the church by implementing what the elders teach. 1 Timothy 3:8-13 mentions the office of deacon and deaconness. When Paul addressed his letter to the Philippians he said in 1:1: “Paul and Timothy, servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the bishops and deacons.” When he wrote his letter to the Romans, he said in 16:1-2: “I commend to you Phoebe our sister, who is a servant of the church in Cenchrea, that you may receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints, and assist her in whatever business she has need of you; for indeed she has been a helper of many and of myself also.”

Where does the congregation fit in all of this. They model submission. When Paul wrote his first letter to the Thessalonians, he told them in 5:12 to “recognize those who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you.” In Hebrews 13:7 and 17 he said essentially the same thing and called for the people to submit to their leadership. Peter in his first epistle said the same thing in 5:5, “Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility.”

God has given a high calling to the church. We are to structure and behave ourselves according to His Word. I am committed to these truths and I pray you are too. In our next blog we will talk about accountability.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

What I Am Committed To

It has been about a week since I have shared anything in my blog. To be honest, I haven’t had any time to devote to writing in the past week. But today, I want to share a few things with you that are on my heart. I want to talk about I am committed to.

As a pastor of a local church, there are many things that grab my attention. Many times I have to guard myself from things and always reiterate in my heart what my priorities are.

I am committed to the true Gospel. I am not about bringing everyone together. I received an invitation in the mail recently from the YMCA which said, “With a desire for the Christian community to gather in an ecumenical group representing the rich diversity of our community, The YMCA of Florida’s First Coast request the pleasure of your company at the Inaugural ‘Celebration of Prayer’ Breakfast...In this spirit, and as a natural outgrowth of such gatherings, many residents throughout the First Coast are finding through the Spirit of Christ a fellowship that is helping to build true community.”

Guests to this “ecumenical” gathering make up Baptists, Episcopalians, and Charismatics.

I am not interested in an “Ecumenical” gathering where we all come together with different beliefs. I am interested in Jesus who is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life” (John 14:6) and the call of a narrow gospel. Paul warned the Galatians about another gospel when he said in Galatians 1:6-9: “I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.” To the Philippians he said in Philippians 1:15-18 that he could rejoice in a gospel preached out of impure motives as long as the true gospel is preached. He said: “Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from goodwill: The former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains; but the latter out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice.”

There is no rejoicing when the true gospel is perverted and another gospel is preached. I agree with Geneva not willing to lower their flags to half mast in honor of the Pope’s funeral. Someone on SermonAudio wrote, “Thank God there is still a protest.” I was reading the Pope’s last will and testament on the Internet and was reminded of where every Catholic’s trust lies. He writes: “Keep watch, because you do not know which day when the Lord will come" — These words remind me of the final call, which will come the moment that the Lord will choose. I desire to follow Him and desire that all that is part of my earthly life shall prepare me for this moment. I do not know when it will come, but, like all else, this moment too I place into the hands of the Mother of My Master” (Pope John Paul II).

In the 1994 Catechism of the Catholic Church, it says, “...all salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is his Body: Basing itself on Scripture and Tradition, the Council teaches that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation...” (p.224, #846). “The Second Vatican Council’s Decree on Ecumenism explains: ‘For it is through Christ’s Catholic Church alone, which is the universal help toward salvation, that the fullness of the means of salvation can be obtained’” (p.215, #816). In #969 of the Catechism, it says of Mary: “Taken up to heaven she did not lay aside this saving office but by her manifold intercession continues to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation...’ (p.252). In #494 it says, “Being obedient she became the cause of salvation for herself and for the whole human race” (p.125). In #292 of the Catechism it says “The Church affirms that for believers the sacraments of the New Covenant are necessary for salvation” (p.292). In #1113 it says “There are seven sacraments of the Church: Baptism, Confirmation or Chismation, Eucharist, Penance, Anointing of the Sick, Holy Orders, and Matrimony” (p.289).

I am not about bringing everyone together. I am about everyone repenting and submitting to Jesus Christ alone for salvation. It is clear in the teachings of Scripture on the subject of salvation that the Gospel is about self-denial not self-fulfillment.

The Bible states that every person is a sinner. Galatians 3:22 says, “The Scripture has confined all under sin.” Ecclesiastes 7:20 says, “There is not a just man on earth who does good and does not sin.” Galatians 3:10 says, “For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.” In an examination of the 10 commandments, we see clearly why we are “cursed.” We do not “do them!” And because of this, we are “cursed.”

Because we are sinners we deserve judgment. Romans 6:23 says, “The wages of sin is death.” Ezekiel18:4 says, “The soul who sins shall die.” There are many who have problems with these first two points of the Gospel message but the third they cannot swallow—we cannot save ourselves from our sin. The reason is because we are “dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph.2:1) and because our good works are nothing but filthy rags before a holy God (Isa.64:6). But praise God we don’t have to perform some kind of works for salvation. He sent Jesus to die in our place (Jn.3:16; Rom.10:9-10).

What are you committed to? Is it the true gospel? Do you see evangelism as your highest priority?

In my next blog, I want to share with you my commitment to the church.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

A Proper Contemplation

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

‘It has been said by someone that “the proper study of mankind is man.” I will not oppose the idea, but I believe it is equally true that the proper study of God’s elect is God; the proper study of a Christian is the Godhead. The highest science, the loftiest speculation, the mightiest philosophy, which can ever engage the attention of a child of God, is the name, the nature, the person, the work, the doings, and the existence of the great God whom he calls his Father. There is something exceedingly improving to the mind in a contemplation of the Divinity. It is a subject so vast, that all our thoughts are lost in its immensity; so deep, that our pride is drowned in its infinity. Other subjects we can compass and grapple with; in them we feel a kind of self-content, and go our way with the thought, “Behold I am wise.” But when we come to this master science, finding that our plumb line cannot sound its depth, and that our eagle eye cannot see its height, we turn away with the thought that vain man would be wise, but he is like a wild ass’s colt; and with solemn exclamation, “I am but of yesterday, and know nothing.” No subject of contemplation will tend more to humble the mind, than thoughts of God...But while the subject humbles the mind, it also expands it. He who often thinks of God, will have a larger mind than the man who simply plods around this narrow globe...The most excellent study for expanding the soul, is the science of Christ, and Him crucified, and the knowledge of the Godhead in the glorious Trinity. Nothing will so enlarge the intellect, nothing so magnify the whole soul of man, as a devout, earnest, continued investigation of the great subject of the Deity. And, whilst humbling and expanding, this subject is eminently consolatory. Oh, there is, in contemplating Christ, a balm for every wound; in musing on the Father, there is a quietus for every grief; and in the influence of the Holy Ghost, there is a balsam for every sore. Would you lose your sorrow? Would you drown your cares? Then go, plunge yourself in the Godhead’s deepest sea; be lost in his immensity; and you shall come forth as from a couch of rest, refreshed and invigorated. I know nothing which can so comfort the soul; so calm the swelling billows of sorrow and grief; so speak peace to the winds of trial, as a devout musing upon the subject of the Godhead. It is to that subject that I invite you this morning.”

These words, spoken over a century ago by C. H. Spurgeon (at that time, incredibly, only twenty years old) were true then, and they are true now.

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

How do you see God? Do you see Him as “a safer deity” or a “God of more manageable proportions?” How you view Him will determine your worship. Worship that is free of the truth about God is not worship as the Bible prescribes, it’s idolatry. As you contemplate God today in your thought, make sure that what you’re meditating on comes from a clear literal interpretation of Scripture.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

What Kind of People Does God Bless?

When you read Psalm 1, it is very clear that David is revealing to us the way of the righteous and the way of the ungodly (v.6). In verse 1 we learn that the way of the righteous is "blessed." Generally speaking God blesses the righteous. Psalm 5:12 says, "For surely, O LORD, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield" (NIV). Psalm 29:11 says, "The LORD gives strength to his people; the LORD blesses his people with peace" (NIV). No wonder David could write, "Blessed is the man." God blesses those who fear Him. Are you experiencing the blessing of God -- a life that is filled with a deep-seated joy and contentment in God? Are you one who lives for the purpose for which you were created? If so, then you are truly one of the righteous that is blessed.

In Psalm 1:1 it says, "Blessed is the man." The word "Blessed" comes from the Hebrew word 'ashrey. Here, in its plural form, it describes the fullness of the blessings that come to those who love God.  God blesses the righteous (Ps.5:12; 29:11). Today I want us to see that He specifically blesses those who walk with Him. In Genesis 6 after you read that the Lord was sorry He had made man and was ready to destroy him along with all that He created, it says in verse 8, "But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord." Why did Noah find favor with God? It says in the next verse that he was "a just man, perfect in his generation. Noah walked with God" (v.9) Noah's favor with God came because of the kind of man he was. He was "just" and "blameless." This is the way of the righteous. But notice also he "walked with God." To be blessed by God we must "walk with God." Genesis 6:8 says that he "found grace in the eyes of the Lord."

Notice a second person that we could refer to as a "blessed man." His name is Abraham. Genesis 12:1-2 says, "Now the Lord had said to Abram: 'Get out of your country, from your kindred and from your father's house, to a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing." The Lord chooses who He will bless. It is clear in His choosing of Abraham. In this story we read about the choice He made to bless Abraham. What caused God to bless him? Was it because of his life and character? Was it because he "walked with God" like Noah? We do not have any information about Abraham prior to this chapter other than his genealogy (Gen.11:26).

Later in Genesis 15 God brought Abraham "outside and said, 'Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them.' And He said to him, 'So shall your descendants be.' And he believed in the LORD, and He accounted it to him for righteousness" (vv.5-6). We are not sure why God chose to bless Abraham. God, in His sovereignty, decided before the foundations of the worlds that Abraham would be a recipient of His blessings. But as you learn about the kind of man Abraham was, he was one who "believed in the LORD." Can your life be described in this way? Do you trust God with every detail of your life? Abraham was tested (see Genesis 22) just like we are but he kept believing in Him.

A third person who also falls into the category of a "blessed man" is Joseph. In the story of Joseph we learn that there were many things against him. He was called names and hated by his brothers who eventually allowed their jealousy to cause them to sell him as a slave in Egypt. Genesis 38:1-5 says, "Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt. Potiphar, an Egyptian who was one of Pharaoh's officials, the captain of the guard, bought him from the Ishmaelites who had taken him there. The LORD was with Joseph and he prospered, and he lived in the house of his Egyptian master. When his master saw that the LORD was with him and that the LORD gave him success in everything he did, Joseph found favor in his eyes and became his attendant. Potiphar put him in charge of his household, and he entrusted to his care everything he owned. From the time he put him in charge of his household and of all that he owned, the LORD blessed the household of the Egyptian because of Joseph. The blessing of the LORD was on everything Potiphar had, both in the house and in the field. Notice in the story that "the LORD blessed the household of the Egyptian because of Joseph." In spite of all that Joseph experienced the Lord was with him. That was evident by the blessings that surrounded his life and the lives of those he came in contact with.

Are you a reflection of God's blessings? Are others blessed because of you? Joseph's life impacted others and with it brought God's blessing. How about you? Remember "Blessed is the man" (Ps.1:1).

Monday, June 04, 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).

Friday, June 01, 2007

What About Grey Areas?

For the past week or so we have looked at the will of God. I have been sharing from John MacArthur’s book, “Found God’s Will”, that God’s will is for you to be saved, Spirit-filled, sanctified, submissive, suffering, and saying thanks. Each of those major points have given us many things to think about concerning God’s will. Today, I want to conclude with talking about grey areas. What are grey areas? These are areas that the Bible is silent on. If the Bible is silent then how can I know what is God’s will? First, you must be doing what we have already mentioned. Second, you can ask the following 10 questions to determine God’s Will.

The first question is, “Will it be spiritually profitable?” 1 Corinthians 6:12 says, “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.” Some things can be wrong if they keep you from doing things that enhance your spiritual life.

The second question, “Will if edify?” Will it put you on the path to greater spiritual maturity? 1 Corinthians 10:23 says, “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify.”

The third question, “Will if lead to excess?” Hebrews 12:1 says, “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.” Will it hinder you as you run the Christian race? Being out late Saturday night is not a sin, but it may not be the best choice if it leave you too tired to concentrate at church Sunday morning.

The fourth question, “Will it bring me under its control?” 1 Corinthians 6:12 again says, “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.” We all know it’s wrong to be controlled by drink or drugs (I consider cigarettes a form of a drug because of the nicotine and it’s control). But it is also wrong to be controlled by music, sports or tv?

A fifth question is “Will it cause me to use my freedom in Christ as a cover for catering to evil, sinful desires?” 1 Peter 2:16 says, “As free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God.”

A sixth question is, “Will it violate the lordship of Christ in my life?” (See Romans 14:2-8). Don’t let others talk you into doing what you don’t think the Lord would have you to do.

A seventh question is, “Will doing this set a good or a bad example for others to follow?” 1 Corinthians 8:9 says, “But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak.”

An eighth question is, “Will it cause non-believers to see a difference in my life?”

A ninth question is, “Would Jesus do it?”

Finally, “Will it glorify God?”

If you apply all these principles then it will reveal who is controlling your desires. Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself also in the Lord, And He shall give you the desires of your heart.” Are you saved, Spirit-filled, sanctified, submissive, suffering, and saying thanks?