Saturday, March 31, 2007

Saturday Sermon: Crisis Christianity

1 Kings 1-2

The second hurdle on the Highway to Holiness is Crisis Christianity; it is rebellion in that those who are in this mold only obey authority as long as it suits their standards and purposes. They have “emergency urgency”; only when confronted with disaster do they run to the altar in repentance to seek God. The only thing that drives them to Christ is a crisis. Trusting in your way not in Yahweh. Remember our first sermon in this series:

Careless Christianitylooking for an opportunity outside the will of God leads to idolatry while you think it is the favor of God – they get taken from, taken away, taken over, and taken out.

Now we will look at another OT type that shows us believers who may be saved but they aren’t sold out. They have a mediocre Christianity at best, and not much of a witness or any measure of victory. Whereas Careless Christians are not really walking in any fullness, Crisis Christians have achieved some things but they let other things rob them of God’s fullness in their lives.

Crisis Christianityrebellion against the authority of God leads to false repentance while you think it is loyalty to God – they lose their place and they die after the altar or even at the altar

There are two main characters we want to look at in these chapters, Adonijah, son of David and older brother of Solomon, and Joab, the general of David’s armies. These were both men of power and position, but they were presumptuous, self-willed, and rebellious. They represent false repentance. Both ran to the altar, but while their emotions were there, their hearts weren’t.

1 Kings 1:5-10 – King David is dying and his son Adonijah presumptuously tries to take the throne although David has said Solomon, Adonijah’s younger brother would be the next King. Adonijah convinces Joab, the general of David’s army, to join in this plot to usurp Solomon’s rightful claim to the throne. Trouble starts when we want what is not rightfully ours. Adonijah shows us what full blown Crisis Christianity looks like.

1 Kings 1:33-53 – David gets word and has his men hold a ceremony for Solomon, which gets the common people to rally behind Solomon, and when Adonijah finds out, all his people scatter. Those things you muster up that you think are helping you will flee from you when trouble comes. Now vulnerable, Adonijah in desperation runs to the tabernacle and grabs onto the horns of the altar, claiming refuge and seeking mercy from Solomon by the authority of God.

1 Kings 2:1-6 – Joab was a nephew of King David, the son of David's sister Zeruiah. He was, overall, a very loyal and successful battle commander for David. Joab was very good at winning wars. Joab's dedication did not extend to his cousin Solomon however; Joab favored David's other son, Adonijah, to succeed David – a failed, but understandable (because Adonijah was the elder brother of Solomon) choice that cost Joab not only his high position in the kingdom, but his life. He received mercy upon mercy but kept rebelling.

Joab is one of the most complex characters in the Bible, a seeming mixture of good and evil. He was fiercely loyal but not fully devoted. He was like many of us, obedient but only to a point, and that point was fluid not fixed because it was based on feelings. If your loyalties are not with God above all, your feelings will get the best of you, and they will lead you into crisis after crisis. Joab shows us that crisis Christianity is produced by complaining and arguing with God, carrying out orders halfway, and disobeying when it is beneficial to us.

Joab had a history of rebelling against authority and it cost him the loss of his high place (2 Samuel 8:15-16, 10:6-7, 13-14, 11:14-17, 1 Chronicles 11:6). Lets look at five examples.

1. Joab's slays Abner, despite Abner's defection to David (2 Samuel 2:22-23, 3:21, 27-29)

2. Joab's dealings in regard to Absalom – orchestrating his restoration to David (2 Samuel 14:21-23), and yet later slaying him, despite David's order to the contrary (2 Samuel 18:14), and even rebuking David in the end (2 Samuel 19:5-7).

3. Joab's slaying of Amasa (2 Samuel 20:8-13), despite David's order that Amasa would be commander of his army continually in place of Joab (2 Samuel 19:13).

4. Despite David's order to number the people, Joab resisted and in the end defied the order and did not number Benjamin and Levi (1 Chronicles 21)

5. Though David had promised the throne to his son Solomon, both Joab and Abiathar the priest supported Adonijah in his plans to become king (1 Kings 1:7)

1 Kings 2:12-25 – Adonijah tries to lay claim to the throne by subtlety, he seeks to dishonor David as Absalom did and show his rejection of Solomon’s reign by this request. He is killed, he got what was coming he broke terms (1:52). Adonijah received remarkable mercy although he was guilty but he abused it. We get what we deserve when we break our vows. Adonijah lived a hard life. He didn’t enjoy fellowship with the king, and his family. He missed out on what he did have and could have had.

1 Kings 2:28-34 – Joab is killed. Religion you don’t believe won’t save you (Exodus 21:14). One day you might find it is too late to be bailed out of your prison (Esau). Joab had what he wanted but he forfeited it by his own willful, continued rebellion. He did many great things, but he just never sold out. It eventually cost him his place and finally his life.

1 Kings 2:46 – Throne established by killing the arch rebels the predominant sins against our souls. If you only flee to the altar for safety when you are actually rebellious. When you are either setting yourself up as king or by continuing to do only part of what the king wants you are in for crisis Christianity and you may even die at the altar (trying to repent when it is too late).

Are you living like Adonijah in rebellion to God? You want to assume the throne when you know it isn’t yours to take, you are found out, you run to the altar, you are given mercy, but then you want to try and assert your “rightful place” to the throne again, even when you know it is the Lord who established the throne for someone else.

You think it isn’t right, and that is why you leave the altar and leave the will of God. You don’t think God is right or fair and you want mercy but wonder why you get justice when you leave from the altar. You didn’t really mean it you only were in fear, then when it settled down you started right back again, not as out in the open but in a more subtle way, but be sure your sin will find you out and you will have to face the music. It was always about you and not about God, and that is what leads you into crisis after crisis. In your rebellion you presume on God’s goodness but one day the boy who cries wolf will get eaten by his own devices.

Perhaps we are like Joab. We don’t like what God is doing or the way He is doing it, so we do a little bit our own way and it is a downward spiral. When we are all the way down we rush to the altar but our rebellious ways will cost us eventually. If you keep on rebelling and not giving true repentance when made to come to the altar then the crises will continue to get worse and eventually they may cost you, not just your place in life, but your very life itself.

Many Christians won’t be close to God unless they are forced to be by a crisis situation. Even when there many fool themselves by going through the motions of repentance and the emotions of getting right with God, but their motivation wasn’t right, and they aren’t right. Your heart is what God wants, not just actions but attitude and affections.

So many run for protection after running in rebellion. Now we should run to God, but we must realize that we cannot go back. We must come to God with righteous intentions, not rebellious ones. We run to the altar for protection and provision, not to live to the flesh, but to die to it.

These men knew where to run to, but they needed to be running there all along in repentance not rebellion. Indeed, the name of the Lord is a strong tower, but the righteous run in and they are safe (Proverbs 18:10). Are you running in real repentance or rebellious repentance?

Some Christians are trying to be loyal to God, perhaps even fiercely, until God violates their principles. That is what happened to these men. Are you placing your principles as to what is right and wrong above God’s? We need to decide the matter once and for all, before hand, or we will give in to our own way.

We need to trust in God’s intentions for our life. Proverbs 3:5-6 isn’t about some mystical guidance it is about God’s Word; it is about thinking God’s way versus thinking my way. That word for acknowledge doesn’t mean to give God a tip of the hat it means to give him the keys to the car! It means you agree His way is the right way, over and above your way and you will do it. In all your ways, not in some of your ways, or not in those ways you don’t want to, or those ways you think you know better. Are you hearing what God says and yet not doing it? Are you even listening to Him at all? It isn’t about what you really feel in your heart, it is about what God really says in His Word, even when, and especially when, it runs counter to your dreams, your goals, your knowledge, your ideas, and your intuition.

Are you trusting in yourself, do you know where your passions lie? These were passionate men but their passions were misplaced. What about yours? Are you too focused on your own goals and not God’s, are you too cautious, are you not a good listener, are you given to give in to depression instead of focusing on the goodness of God and His promises, is it always about what you don’t have instead of what you do have? Know what your own limitations are and know how to counter them with God’s Word. Don’t trust in your way trust in Yahweh.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Wake Up!

…the hour has come for you to wake from sleep…
(Romans 13:11 – ESV)

Martin Luther, in the first of the 95 theses, said, "The whole life of a believer is repentance". That makes us consider this question: what role does repentance have, if any, in the life of a believer, one who has already repented of their sins and been saved by Jesus Christ? If we have already been forgiven, then how or why would repentance be an ongoing thing? Does the Bible teach a repentant lifestyle?

The Apostle Paul, in a sense, said that repentance and faith are the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:20-27). In the verses following our text in Romans 13, Paul says to the believers that they need to cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light (vs.12), to walk properly as in the daytime (vs.13) and to put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh (vs.14). Friends these things are what a repentant lifestyle is all about.

Colossians 2:6 tells us that “as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him”. You received Him in repentance and faith, so you are to walk in that daily. Daily repentance is about fellowship with God, and this requires a humble admission of our dependence on God. When you woke up this morning, were you God? No? Then repent! Of what, you ask? Think of it this way, repentance is looking away from ourselves and toward God. We must do that every day.

The Apostle John tells us “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). This is about more than the initial salvation experience, it is about fellowship with God. When we sin, we are forgiven, that has already been accomplished. Our sin cannot negate the relationship. We may never speak to our earthly father, but we are still his offspring. However, if we aren’t talking to him, we may have a relationship, but it is soured, in that we have no fellowship.

In the same way we, as believers, can grieve the Holy Spirit with our disobedience (Ephesians 4:30), and in a sense, fall out of fellowship with the Father. Oh, He still loves us, and we will still make it to heaven. But we lack the assurance of a daily walk, that is, until we repent and receive the blessings of being able to look at our Father without having to hang or head, or turning away completely from Him. We draw near to Him, and we know He draws near to us (James 4:8). That is how we draw near, in repentance. Again, repentance is turning back to see God. David said it like this: “restore unto me the joy of thy salvation” (Psalm 51:12).

In Romans 12:2 Paul instructs us to be “transformed by the renewing of your mind.” If part of repentance (metanoia) is changing our mindset, then to change our mind is to renew our mind, and so therefore, to be transformed is by repentance. As we are transformed, as we grow in grace, we learn this repentance more perfectly.

Luther was right...

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

No It Isn’t Alright!

Put false ways far from me and graciously teach me your law!
(Psalm 119:29 – ESV)

The Bible speaks to all of life; you may say it, or even think it, but do you believe it, and by that I mean practice it? As Christians, we cannot place personal sanctification into the spiritual category, while categorizing other pursuits, such as a better marriage or relationships as separate from sanctification or spirituality. If we accept the need for other primary materials that do not draw primarily upon the Bible, as regards to sanctification, then we are tacitly or overtly complying with the notion that the Bible is not sufficient for all of life and practice. By doing this we are saying that it is not sufficient to equip us for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

Now we cannot deny the value of other material, and we are not saying that we should read only the Bible. God has graced us with many other sources of rich material that draw upon the Bible and expound its application for us today. We should not simply cry “the Bible alone” as our only reference, but whatever we rely on as a secondary source must be in accordance with and drawing primarily from the Bible. We do not need new concepts or psychologized humanism under the guile of Christian ethics, morals, principles, etc (Isaiah 8:20).

Those who would argue that people wouldn’t accept teaching in that sort of format are simply misguided. The answer is not to “do what it takes to get them to listen”. Does that make your method right? What you are doing is saying it is okay to deviate from biblical counsel, when what they need is to change, to renew their mind. However, you are saying that they do not need to, but that instead we need to renew the Bible.

“If you start with the Bible they won’t listen”. Well if they are Christians they must. True, it is much easier to listen and decide if you like the things being taught than be confronted by the proclamation of God Almighty and what He says and demands we do. Our role as teachers and communicators and evangelists in the Body of Christ isn’t about feelings it is about faithfulness. Are you starting from a man-centered point of view, or one that is focused on God?

You may say, “It is the same stuff”. No it isn’t, you are teaching them they don’t have to renew their mind by submitting themselves to the Scriptures themselves. To give them biblical principles without naming the source is to be ashamed of that source. If they are not believers then what are you doing anyway, you should NOT teach unbelievers about “a better life” without Christ and the guidance of the Scriptures.

We are unwittingly devaluing the Bible with other materials and their unbiblical and extra biblical suggestions and putting these on par with the Bible. The net effect is that the Bible becomes only suggestions, to be taken and used if and as the person sees fit. They become the arbiter of truth and of action. Just like you have.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Patriotic Pietism

…Art thou for us, or for our adversaries?
(Joshua 5:13)

Joshua found out that the right question isn’t “who’s side is God on”, but “who is on God’s side”. Unfortunately, many forget this when they equate Americanism with Christianity. Now patriotism is not an evil pursuit, especially when it is matched with Christian morals. It is definitely biblical to be loyal to the government. Certainly our government manifests more goodness and has more right things about it than some others, and for this we should be thankful.

However, we must not confuse the morality and civility engendered by God’s common grace with Christlikeness and regeneration, and we must not confuse family values with the faith once for all delivered to the saints. We need to spread common grace but also declare special grace, and not exclude the latter as an excuse to do the former. Our role as Christians supercedes and defines our role as Americans.

You know what shows that people are not thinking things through clearly on this matter? They say, "you can't take the Ten Commandments out of (wherever), they are in the Supreme Court building", or something like that. The answer to that isn't that they will put the Ten Commandments back in, but they will take them out of the Supreme Court. They either belong in the public square or they don’t. To try and bully our way is to invite questions we cannot answer.

By the way, do you know what putting the Ten Commandments back in school these days would do; it would create more chaos, not less. When our unregenerate flesh reads, “thou shalt not”, it says, “bless God I shall” right back. The Law shows us our sin, and gives us occasion to commit more. If we are unregenerate, the Law, without grace, will do nothing but cause trouble.

We have heard it said that God is not a democrat and that God is not a republican. True, but let me tell you something else. God is not an American, either. We should vote our biblically informed conscience and voice our biblically based opinions, but we need to realize that reformation of the heart comes before reformation of the nation. "Patriotic Pietism" is the kind of logic that is digging our own grave.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Saturday Sermon: Careless Christianity

Judges 17-18

The first hurdle on the Highway to Holiness – Careless Christianity, we think we can do things any old way we want to as long as we are sincere and God will be pleased. We are easy and breezy, but if we want to really move on with God, we have to get serious about our walk. It is not easy to walk with God, it is hard to keep step with the divine pace. We cannot do it our way.

The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever, but we put the cart before the horse. Romans 15:13 – yes there is joy and peace in believing, but the believing comes first. It isn’t that we believe if we have joy and peace. We must go from happiness to holiness as our prime mover, from self as Lord to God as Lord.

We search for the highest honor we can have for ourselves but in truth the highest honor we have is in serving and honoring God Almighty. This is what will truly satisfy us and give us the greatest honor. Then we can begin to understand what Paul meant in 1 Corinthians 10:31.

Vs.1-5 – Micah and his momma might have been sincere in their desire to honor God, but they acted outside the known will of God. Sincerity is no substitute for truth. Micah made a replica of the temple and set up his own system, modeling it after the real but mixing it with the false.

Vs.6 – This story illustrates the spiritual condition of the Israelites at the time. The Jews of the OT are representative of Christians. Looking for an opportunity outside the will of God. Three main players: Micah / Levite / Dan – These people were in the covenant community but they were acting outside of it, like Christians who are saved but not sold out. There is one other player, the people of Laish, who got plundered just as Micah did because they were living careless. This story is the story of the church today and many if not most of its members. They may be saved but they aren’t sold out, not to God, and so they sell out to self in the name of God.

Vs.7-8 – Looking for a place outside of God’s grace. He was looking for a place that would give him security (silver), significance (suit), and sufficiency (sustenance), a place where he could have what was most important to him. He was looking for an opportunity outside the will of God. If you go looking outside the will of God, you’ll find a way out and a place to stay out.

Vs.9-11 – people are looking for some religious person or institution to legitimatize their personal paganism, thinking it baptizes their idolatry into sanctity. The Levite was a perfect example of a hireling, someone who served God (or an idol) for what it could give him, instead of serving to glorify the Lord. Micah was looking for legitimacy; the Levite was looking for loot. People play the harlot to other gods, or for a twisted conception of what they think is the real God. Not just for money, there are also emotional harlots who get into the ministry of the church because of their insecurities and need for approval. Idolatry is always looking for an opportunity.

Vs.12-13 – This was a false sense of worship and seeking God only for your own good not for His glory. All he was doing was carving his own concept of God he just wanted enough of God so that God would do him right but he was doing God wrong. If you aren’t content with what God provides you won’t be content until you make your own god and have your own worship. Both Micah and the Levite thought that they had found God’s favor. Is this familiar to you?

18:1-2 – The tribe of Dan hadn’t done their duty, and now they were looking for another opportunity (Judges 1:34). Looking for an opportunity outside the will of God.

18:3-6 – This shows what a spiritually confused time this was in Israel. Danites on a sinful mission met with a sinful Levite, and wanted to know from a righteous God if their mission would be successful. Then the sinful Levite sent the sinning men on their way with God's blessing. The Danites hadn’t conquered what they were supposed to so they took an easier road and the Levite hadn’t been contented with his lot so he looked for greener pastures.

Often immature Christians will find the going rough and will look elsewhere all the while maintaining the supposed allegiance to God and His ways, as long as those ways aren’t rough going. They also look for others who they think are spiritual to give license to their foolishness.

18:7-12 – the go looking for a place outside God’s grace and found other careless people

18:13-17 – they find what they think is God’s favor but they are looking in the wrong place

18:18-21 – His heart was glad because he was filled with ungodly ambition. He didn’t care about Micah, only for the opportunity he might get by being the priest for a tribe instead of a family.

18:22-29 – they go and take what God hasn’t given them. Just because you conquer doesn’t mean you’re not careless. Success isn’t spirituality. You need to think real hard about that.

18:30-31 – Idolatry creeps from one family to a whole tribe, it is always looking for the immature and discontented and backslidden. One flame of desire set a whole tribe on fire.

People are doing this all the time we see and read and know the ways of the Lord but we are looking for something else, we are looking for satisfaction outside the will of God. We see “do not be unequally yoked” but we see an opportunity outside the will of God. We see it because we are looking for it. We want it although it isn’t what God wants for us, but we think we can make it right. Just like this Micah created a temple replica and the Levite became a replica priest we think we can baptize an ungodly thing into sanctity by our own godliness and our own sanctity, as if being in our presence made something like that holy. No it doesn’t, you don’t sanctify that thing; it defiles you.

What you are doing is placing a value on yourself; in doing that you are saying that you will sell yourself for whatever it is you are looking for outside the will of God. Don’t fool yourself; you are selling yourself for silver and a suit! When you put a price less than Jesus Christ on your own head, you will travel farther down the road than you ever imagined because now anyone who provides more than what you originally bargained for will have your service, and although you might actually protest on the account of conscience, and perhaps some will have to force you at first, you will learn to like it. That is what hirelings and harlots do, they accommodate and justify. You used God as a means to an end and in the end; you’ll get what you deserve. You won’t move on with God in this life, and you’ll lose rewards in the next.

And so we’ve got to ask ourselves before we can move on with God, "Are we going to be one of those, like the Levite, who serves God for silver, suits and sustenance?" Will we serve ourselves? Or will we serve men, perhaps in the name of God, rather than God Himself? If you are not sold out to God you will sell out to the world.

God didn’t tell Micah to build another temple in his house, and God didn’t send that Levite out looking for another place to be a priest, and God didn’t tell the tribe of Dan to go looking for another place to conquer.

God doesn’t tell you that you can worship at home without ever going to church, God doesn’t tell you to find a mate outside the church, God isn’t the one who’s telling you that you need to watch Oprah or Dr. Phil for your spiritual food, God isn’t the one telling you that you can live with your boyfriend, God isn’t the one who tells you that conquering your career is more important than conquering yourself, God isn’t the one telling you to find your life outside of Him, God isn’t the one telling you that your happiness is more important than your holiness.

When we are looking to give God glory inside God’s will, we exalt the holiness of God.
But when we look for opportunities outside God’s will, we assault the holiness of God!

If you are a careless Christian, when the going gets tough and you cannot get what you know God wants for you, or you aren’t satisfied with what you think God is granting you, then you will find yourself seeking things outside the revealed will of God. Or perhaps you will be looking for ways to supposedly be in the will of God but out as far on the fringe as you can possible let yourself imagine. I don’t have to go to church, I can be my own priest, I can serve in some other way, these people can’t get to God without me anyway, they need me, and so on and so forth, we will make all sorts of accommodations in our minds as to why we are doing the right thing.

Careless Christians think they aren’t careless. They want to feel safe and significant and be satisfied before they’re willing to commit themselves to Christ fully, and that is why they don’t walk in fullness. They haven’t really decided if God is worthy, they base their feelings of worth upon God’s helping them, and they aren’t serving God, they are still serving the god of self.

You won’t know the fullness of God if you want to use God for your own ends. You can’t be filled with the Spirit and filled with the self at the same time. If all you want is power, position and prosperity you’ll go looking for a place where you can get it, and you’ll constantly see opportunities because you are looking for them. Looking for an opportunity outside the will of God. That is the first hurdle on the Highway to Holiness.

Think about it, and think about how many places this applies in your life. You sell out. You trade God’s best for much much less. That’s why so many people don’t enter into the fullness of Christ because they’re like the Levite. They’ve been serving Micah, and they think if they had the power of the Holy Ghost they could serve the tribe of Dan. All they are really doing is serving themselves, moving on up the wrong street, not the Highway of Holiness, but the street of self, and perhaps even calling it God’s favor. Are you viewing God as an end or a means? It is not about what you can get out of God, but what God can get out of you. Let’s be careful to remain in the will of God, and give God glory. Don’t go looking for a place outside God’s grace.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Principles For Christian Prudence

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom,
(Colossians 3:16 – ESV)

The church looks like it has lost the power to stand apart from the crowd. We cannot ignore the problem (as some do), just acting superior won’t help, and finger pointing is simply hypocritical. We’re living with sin, rather than looking at Him. Our families are crumbling, our children are crushed, and our churches are confused. We continue to slide into a mindset that thinks more like the world than Christ.

The problem is what we are doing with our freedom in Christ. Certainly we are free in Christ (Galatians 5:1), and where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty (2 Corinthians 3:17), but many have been caught up in a false gospel that sees grace as a license to sin with impunity (Galatians 5:13 / 1 Peter 2:16). As a supposed answer to this, we have many churches and teachers who believe that it’s a sin to wear pants, cut your hair, or go to the bowling alley.

Now no one needs to ask if it is okay to commit adultery, steal, cheat, or lie, but what about those things that the Bible seems to be silent about? What is the right balance? What kind of music should I listen to? Can I go see a movie? Can I go to a “sports bar” to watch the game with friends? What can or should I wear? What can I do on Sunday? Things can in themselves be indifferent, or neutral, but for the Christian it is a matter of the right use of matters indifferent.

1 Corinthians gives us seven principles that will help us to allow our freedom in Christ to glorify God. This isn’t about new laws; it is about principles that will keep us from falling into trouble, and helping others not to stumble at our liberty. These aren’t universal rules for you to impose on others; they are guidelines for you to regulate your decision-making. Prudence is about making mature decisions, the wise exercise of our freedom in Christ. This is all about renewing your mind (Romans 12:1-2 / Ephesians 4:22-24).

Principle #1 –
MasteryWill This Bring Me Into Bondage? 1 Corinthians 6:12
Ephesians 4:27 / Romans 13:14 / 2 Peter 2:19 / Titus 1:15-16, 2:11-12

Principle #2 –
MoralityWill This Defile God’s Temple? 1 Corinthians 6:19-20
Psalm 101:3 / 2 Corinthians 7:1 / 2 Corinthians 10:12

Compare yourself to God, not yourself, or others. Not about smoking or drinking, per se, but about getting drunk, altered states, gluttony, looking at pornography, etc. It’s about morals here.

Principle #3 –
MaturityWill This Cause Anyone To Stumble? 1 Corinthians 8:8-9
Romans 14:20-21 / Philippians 2:3-4 / Romans 12:10

Principle #4 –
MinistryWill This Edify Me And/Or Others? 1 Corinthians 10:23
Galatians 5:22-23 / Ephesians 4:29 / 1 Peter 4:10-11 – Don’t be pugnacious with our liberty

Principle #5 –
Mind Will This Violate My Conscience? 1 Corinthians 10:25-29
Romans 14:23 – Some things that will tempt me will not tempt others / James 4:17

Principle #6 –
MagnifyWill This Bring Glory To God? 1 Corinthians 10:31
Ephesians 5:15-20 / Colossians 3:17,23 / 1 Timothy 4:4-5

Principle #7 –
MissionWill This Hurt My Witness? 1 Corinthians 10:32-33
Matthew 5:16 / 1 Thessalonians 5:22 / Ephesians 5:3-8 / Philippians 2:15 / Colossians 4:5

Some things are not all bad, but they aren’t any good either. Don’t be looking to “help out” the witness by succumbing to the culture. Christianity is the solution to culture. Yes you can have a tattoo and go to heaven, but we don’t need to get a tattoo to show others the way to heaven.

Not isolated but insulated. Avoiding a bad witness by going to secret hideouts to do bad things is not fooling God. Your life is a witness everywhere, whether you want it to be or not. In a sense, God is more interested in those you don’t know because His power burns brighter in your witness (lifestyle – 1 John 3:18) there because you don’t have the power of your other relationships.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Invulnerable Ingestion?

There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.
(Mark 7:15 – ESV)

Is Jesus saying that those things that we think are bad are not actually bad, and that it doesn’t matter what we put into our bodies and our minds? No, what He is saying is that it is the heart that makes us want bad things in the first place. The sin within, the heart is the start. Some of that stuff is bad, but it isn’t as bad as the heart, it is already corrupt, wanting that stuff only shows what is on the inside already.

Jesus is talking about our heart, our spiritual health, not our physical wellness. He is saying not to worry so much about the customs and traditions and all that but to be concerned instead about what is going on inside you. Food and drink are not what spiritually defiles you (Romans 14:17). Yes bad food can defile your health but that isn’t what Jesus is talking about here, He is saying that those physical things have no power to defile you spiritually.

Now Jesus isn’t telling you that you can play with fire and not be burned. Can a man take fire in his bosom, and his clothes not be burned? Can one go upon hot coals, and his feet not be burned (Proverbs 6:27-28)? Do not be deceived: "Bad company ruins good morals" (1 Corinthians 15:33 – ESV). It matters very much what we put into our bodies, and into our spirits. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God (1 Corinthians 6:19 – ESV)?

Watch what you eat, physically and most important, spiritually. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life (Galatians 6:8 – ESV). What He is telling you is to work on your inside first. First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean (Matthew 23:26 – ESV).

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Here Comes the Judge

…you have no excuse… For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself…
(Romans 2:1 – ESV)

Paul is not telling people that they are not supposed to judge actions and behavior. He is not saying that we should all just “go with the flow” and let everything and anything go. He is talking about hypocrisy. He is saying that one cannot escape judgment by judging others, by appealing to how much worse their behavior is to your own. Such judgment leads one away from the necessary self-examination and repentance for one’s own sin, and leads to your own inevitable judgment (Hebrews 9:27). He is not condemning judging others, or using discernment, but judging others without first judging yourself.

The most quoted verse or passages from the Bible today do not come from Psalm 23 or even John 3:16, but Matthew 7:1 (NIV), “Do not judge, or you too will be judged”. This is why context is so important because you could just take this part of our verse from Romans 2, “anyone who judges”, marry it with Matthew 7:1, “judge not”, and come out with some liberal doctrine just like we see today. The cry of the unrepentant is “who are you to say”, but this is what the authority of the Word of God answers when we use it properly (Titus 1:9-11).

Paul speaks of discerning, or judging those who are following Christ in truth and says to follow them (Philippians 3:17). He speaks of putting away some and staying away from others (Romans 16:17-19 / 1 Timothy 6:5 / 2 Timothy 3:5 / Titus 3:8-11). We are supposed to judge (1 Corinthians 11:31 / 1 Peter 4:17 / John 7:24 / Matthew 16,18), we are supposed to discern (Philippians 1:9), but we are supposed to look at ourselves first (1 Corinthians 11:31), looking at discipline as a means of restoration not condemnation (Galatians 6:1).

We are to judge, and we are to realize that we have given ourselves to the Savior instead of giving ourselves over to sin: the good works that follow do not save us but they are a sign that we are saved; they are not the root but the fruit of our relationship with God (1 Corinthians 6:8-11). We may still commit acts of unrighteousness, but our lives are not characterized by an unbroken pattern of unrighteousness. Believers get convicted and then they commit themselves to change. We know we are bad to the bone, and that we need a Savior, it is those who think they are righteous and do not need a Savior and those who judge based on their own worth rather than Christ’s worth who will be in trouble. Jesus takes you as you are, but He doesn’t leave you there.

Think of the situation regarding the Corinthian church, which had a man that had slept with his father’s wife. He had continued in this sin defiantly, and the church thought it no big deal, but Paul instructed them to put him out of the fellowship (1 Corinthians 5:9-13).

Church discipline is a forgotten practice today. However, we must not be ignorant of Satan’s schemes (2 Corinthians 2:11). In our desire to do things rightly, we must be careful not to let the pendulum swing too far, from overly casual to overly critical. Paul had put the Corinthian church to the test, and they applied the punishment. Now, apparently the man repented, and Paul told them to comfort him in reconciliation and restoration (2 Corinthians 2:5-10).

It boils down to whether someone has a repentant attitude or not. We cannot judge a person’s soul, but we can keep them from peddling rotten fruit in our assemblies (Matthew 7:15-20).

Monday, March 19, 2007

The Reason

But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible
(Ephesians 5:13 – ESV)

There is a reason you aren’t seeing the fruit of the Spirit more manifest in your life. There is a reason you aren’t going deeper with God. There is a reason your ministry isn’t what you think it ought to be. You know the reason; it is because you won’t let go of that thing, you know what “thing” I am talking about, don’t you? You have asked God time and again to remove the desire for that thing, and yet you still want it. You can’t shake it, and because of that you can’t make it to where you want to go. You have that secret sin, and its no secret that it is keeping you from greater things. Even after much prayer, God has not delivered you. Why?

The reason God allows you to continue in that secret sin or so called “nasty habit” is because of the greater problem of pride. That is the real “thing” you need to let go of, not the other thing you only want rid of. In other words, if you were to be free from that secret or habitual thing you would be proud about it, and not have holiness with humility. You feel like or know indeed that you cannot move forward because you have this secret sin, and that is why you want rid of it. You know if people found out they wouldn’t let you get ahead or would put you down from where you already are. But the truth is that God isn’t going to let you get ahead as long as you have your pride, which is why you are saddled with this sin.

You want rid of it for the wrong reason, and that is the reason you aren’t rid of it. You are to put off the old man, which is what you think you want and are trying to do by wanting and trying to be rid of this sin. However, in truth you only want to put off part of the old man, and the part that gives life to that secret sin, the pride, it is the thing you don’t want to put off. You cannot put the secret sin off without putting off the pride, which is also a sin, a secret sin, but not to God. Don’t try and reason your way out of it, it is the reason you stay stuck in the mud of mediocrity.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Man on a Mission

…that the works of God should be made manifest in him
(John 9:3)

Thinking of this particular passage in the book of John, lets imagine for a moment. What if God were to ask this man to go back after being in heaven, if He gave him a mission to glorify God so that people could see a person who exalted God in spite of seemingly bad circumstances?

Of course this man would agree fervently to go; he would be delighted to go on such a mission. He would know what is going on and why he was sent, and know that this temporal situation was giving glory to the One he knew so well, and loved so much. We have an example: remember the two witnesses sent back from heaven in the book of Revelation?

Well now, imagine this: What if, after you died and went to heaven, God sent you back to be a witness and He sent you back blind, wanting you to rejoice to His glory despite your circumstance? You would gladly do it, knowing where you came from, why you were sent, the eternal reward, and where you were going to return!

Friends, in a very real way, God has done that. We are on a mission. You see we are already in the heavenlies positionally (Ephesians 2:6) and we have been sent to testify to the glory of God (Ephesians 1:11-14). In John 9:5 Christ said that while He was in the world He was its light. He still is in this world, manifesting God’s glory, through Christ in you the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27). Jesus was and is the light and now we are to manifest that light, we are to be lights in this world (Matthew 5:16 / Philippians 2:15). Christ says that we are already salt and light we do not become them. The mission is to let your light shine.

Do you want to let the glory of Christ shine through you? Well look at what 1 Peter 4:12-16 says. Paul said he glories in infirmities (2 Corinthians 12:9). He says that although our outward man is dying our inward man is flourishing (2 Corinthians 4:16-18). We cannot “see” the power but others can experience it; it is the eternal power being made manifest in His saints. We don’t exert power against things that come against us we withstand (Matthew 7:24-25). This is what it is to know him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings (Philippians 3:10); it is life from death. We can say with Paul that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13). It’s to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man (Ephesians 3:16). It’s rejoicing in knowing that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared to the glory which shall be revealed in us (Romans 8:18). You can let the glory shine now by understanding that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28).

We are on a mission, and we will not, indeed we cannot fail. Look with me at 2 Corinthians 2:14 – He causes us always to triumph! Jesus said that He had overcome the world (John 16:33), and that He is in us (John 14:21), and that greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world (1 John 4:4). Well, is it showing, do you complain as much as the other guy when things are looking bad? Or do you show forth the fact that you are God’s child, and that though he slay me yet will I trust in him (Job 13:15)? You have got to know it and believe it; this is the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith (1 John 5:4). We are on a mission of faith just like Abraham, the father of faith (Romans 4:11-16).

The Bible is full of men sent on a mission, men who weren’t ready to do what it took, or so they thought. Think about Noah, Abraham, Moses, Gideon, and Paul. God has a mission for you and He will see you through. Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:6). Faithful is he who calls, who will also do it (1 Thessalonians 5:24).

You may say that for me it is mission: impossible, but my bible says, For with God nothing shall be impossible (Luke 1:37) and all things are possible to him that believeth (Mark 9:33). You might think that you haven’t got what it takes, but it isn’t you that is responsible for the results! Let’s say it like this; if you get placed you’ll get graced, God doesn’t call the gifted He gifts the called. He will say to you mission: accomplished! Mission impossible for the unsaved but mission unstoppable for the child of God!

Friday, March 16, 2007

Averse to Avowed

For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions.
(Romans 1:26 – ESV)

The point of our text today is that God has given, is giving, and will give mankind over to unnatural desires. Paul mentions homosexuality as an example, but this is just the obvious manifestation of it. All sin is on the same road. God gives men over to rule themselves, and men do more than sexual perversion, they give themselves to all sorts of unnatural things.

When we don’t find our passion in the glory of God, we will be consumed with our own natural passions, and then, being jaded, we will turn ourselves over to unnatural passions. We become so bored with ourselves that we have to invent new forms of evil (1:30). A man cannot be delivered up to a greater slavery than to be given up to his own lusts.

Young man, young woman, all men, all women, make no mistake, there is a diminishing return on the evil you do and the evil you look at. Even the secular world knows of this, it is called the law of diminishing returns. This law says that we grow less sensitive to the same level of stimuli over time, and thus require ever-increasing stimuli to elicit the same response. An alcoholic may require twelve beers to match the effects that one beer has on someone who does not drink regularly. Just as we can build up a tolerance to alcohol with regular use over time, we can build up numbness to any sin with regular use over time. For that reason, when we continually give in to sin we will require more over time to arrive at the same level of satisfaction and fantasy.

You will become a slave to that thing you don’t want anyone else in authority to know about, you will become bored with it, and will need an ever increasing stimulus to feed your appetite. To everyone I say; if you are not getting better and better you are getting worse and worse. To those of you young ones, and everyone who is ensnared in their own self: You are not wiser than those before you, your friends aren’t going to be wise enough to help you, you will not be able to turn off the switch when you want to, you will not be able to stop yourself, you will go from one bad thing to another, or you will trade one bad thing for another, and think you have escaped yourself and your sin, but you will not escape the coming judgment, you are not escaping it now, you won’t be able to turn back then, you must turn back NOW!

Verse 27 in the KJV says they burned in their passions. You can think you’re smarter than me, that I am just a fool, that this is all a show. You can think in your heart that this isn’t you because you aren’t turning into a homosexual. Well let me tell you, Paul was telling them, and he is telling you, that you may not become a homosexual, but that isn’t the bigger point, the point is that you are going to get worse and worse, fall further and further away from God, if you do not give up the idolatry of yourself. You may not burn for another man, but you burn for your own plan. Now is the time to be saved, turn or burn!

This world shows you how it is, and where it is headed. Homosexuality, just like all sin eventually, has gone from being averse to being allowed, and now it is going from allowed to avowed. Isn’t this what we see in television and movies, they are becoming more promiscuous and more perverse every year. What has changed, are these things less evil, or are we more evil? What do we think this is, liberation? No, it is slavery. We are so bound we think we’re becoming free. Indeed we are, free to be ourselves, the morally depraved, sexually confused, socially chaotic children of disobedience that we are at heart, unless God gives us a new heart.

Think about it; is this you? Things you once said you would never do, now you do, you look for ways to do them, and you burn with passion for them. We think we can sin, and still be in our right minds, but we don’t see sin as sinful as it is. Every sin you commit affects your mindset towards sin itself; every little bit ruins a little bit of your mind. Look again at verses 21-22, when we sin willingly, we go against the knowledge of God, we don’t glorify Him, we are not thankful, we become a little more hard hearted, and we start down the road to being or remaining a fool. That’s why Paul says that we are to work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12), because sin is exceedingly sinful. On your own you won’t win against sin.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Judgment Day Delay?

God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie
(Romans 1:24-25 – ESV)

Often we hear that if people are not repentant then God is going to visit America with judgment, or the church with judgment, or many other variations on this theme. The truth is, judgment is already here, and that is why we see what we do.

In this text those who dishonored God were given up to dishonor themselves. The impurity Paul is speaking of in this text is mainly sexual, sensual disorder. This type of disorder is a prime example of spiritual disorder. In many lives this is the starting place for the downward slide. However, all the disorder we see in the world, in the social chaos, sexual confusion, and sinful carrying on are a judgment of God because we exchanged the value of God for other things; we turned our knowledge of God into images.

Now let’s get the order of this disorder right in our minds. People believe that we do these vile things we see, and so God is displeased, and He is, but the process is vice versa. God is displeased and we do these vile things as a result.

When God speaks of judgment, often it is not that God will lay His hand on us, but take it off us. He will leave us to our own depraved devices. The restraining power of God's grace is being lifted and man is being left to himself (a temporal and an ongoing fulfillment, a parallel of what we see in Romans 1:18-32). Judgment is here, the wrath of God is being incrementally revealed against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who hold down, or suppress, the truth with their unrighteousness. It is not that these vile things bring God's wrath, but that these vile things are signs of God's wrath. The Hand is coming off but some will be saved out of the midst of this corruption even as the whole is being damned.

When Paul wrote this it had happened before, but he says it was happening then, and it is happening now, the question is, is it happening to you? We make an image of God even as Christians and we serve and worship it instead of God as He has revealed Himself in the Bible, and we only see the Bible as we want to.

Get it right – It is idolatry first, immorality second. Everything sinful hinges upon this exchange in all its forms. We don’t like God as He chooses to reveal Himself, and/or we don’t like the restrictions God places upon us, and we create a god of our own image. Apply this to order your sanctification. Stop the idolatry first, and you’ll stop the sin. We want to stop the habitual sin first, so that we can please God, but we need to please God, and He will stop the habitual sin. Get the order right and you will be in order. We have habitual sin because of how we habitually see God. With God’s guidance you can judge yourself rightly, so don’t delay.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Make or Break

Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images
(Romans 1:22-23 – ESV)

Paul gives us a historical sketch of religion. He maintains that when man turned from God’s view of Himself in creation, he twisted and perverted pure religion into various forms of error and confusion. He is giving us the description, in just a few concise and convicting words, of the whole beginnings and beliefs of pagan mythology. They did not glorify God as God, and were not thankful to Him for what they did have, and so they lost discernment, and became darkened in their hearts and minds, and started to do all sorts of vain and vile things.

The world thinks that our religion is on the rise, but God tells us and history shows us that our religion is on the fall, not on the incline but on the decline. Religion will not ascend above that which it worships and man will never evolve beyond his sinful nature. Instead of man made in God’s image we have traded it for God made in man’s image. The religions of the world exchange God’s glory for less and they become less. You become like what you worship, and we as humans become more and more flawed, we are not God and God allows us to see what we are capable of. How vain in our imaginings and dark in our hearts we are.

This is what happened then, but it is also what happens now. This is what they did, and this is what we do. We think that we don’t do this today, exchange the glory of God for images, but yes we do, today it is simply more devious, more insidious, and more perverse. Young adults are taught this and adults model this behavior all the time. Commercials sell images, we say image is everything, we have self-help books and magazines, we all learn to project a certain image, and on and on and on it goes. We are more concerned about our image to others instead of God’s image for His glory. If you are more concerned about your image than you are about God’s glory then you are “making an image”, you are self-absorbed.

You are not God; you are called to glorify Him with what you do. It is not, look what I did or what I can do for God but look what God can do through me (Mathew 5:16). We must become consumed with the glory of God or we will become consumed with self and vain in our imaginations. As Christians, we can either die to self or we will die from self (Galatians 6:7-8). Which way are you headed? Everything we say or do can be put in "check" by asking the question of... “By thinking this thought, by giving in to this feeling, by doing this action, who am I glorifying, who am I pleasing?”

Give it up for God – what do you have that He isn’t worth, and what can you gain that He isn’t greater than? People think that they can hold on to themselves and have Jesus too, but they are only worshipping a Christ of their own imagination, they have an image of Him that isn’t true. Mark 8:34-37 – Instead of trading God for images, trade everything for God. Are you an image-maker or an image breaker?

Monday, March 12, 2007

Umbrella Policy

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.
(Romans 1:18 – ESV)

Do you ever wonder why someone gets back out into the world and then it goes worse for them than ever (2 Peter 2:20-22)? Doesn’t it always seem to be the case when someone was a professing Christian as a young person, but then they go off and live any old way, that they always seem to have car trouble, job trouble, money trouble, and every other kind of trouble? Wonder why? The truth will only set you free if you continue in it (John 8:31-32 / Mark 4:26-28), if you suppress it this will cause you to be in even worse bondage than before.

Of course, you can’t just see someone in trouble and conclude that they are out of God’s will, that would be being like Job’s so called friends, but we must be mature enough to know the difference, and its easy to tell sometimes. When someone won’t read the bible, won’t go to church, won’t commit to prayer, and wants to justify their lifestyle, its easy to see why they are in so much trouble. We need to tell them its going to stay that way if they are called by God to be a Christian, because once they get out of God’s system and back into the world’s system, then Satan can and does have a field day with them (Ephesians 4:27), and we need to tell them to wake up (Ephesians 5:14). What Satan wants to do to you as a Christian, as a called out person, is to destroy your joy, ruin your witness, and cast doubts on your assurance of salvation.

God is not mad at you. If you are a Christian, He is not against you for your sin; He is for you against your sin. He isn’t charging the sin to your account any more. So then why do bad things happen when you sin? Because sin has its own penalty here on this earth, it has consequences, the death that naturally occurs (Galatians 6:8 / Romans 8:13). He reminds you of what others are going to get. If you are indeed His, God will get your attention one way or another.

Going back into worldly habits is like stepping out from under the umbrella in the rain – sin has its own consequences. When you are called of God but then go back into the world, no wonder you get beat up worse than before. The whole world is indeed against you, you must realize that you are in a war and that is what work out your salvation with fear and trembling means. Don’t you realize nor wonder why new believers who go back get the tar beat out of them worse than ever, also why people that have been further into God have farther to fall when they stray? If they are out from under the umbrella they fall further; no wonder Paul says to work it out with fear and trembling. The farther you are up into God, the further you fall when you let go. Now God won’t let go, but He will let you drop. He will let you get spanked.

Why does He let you get spanked but others who don’t know God or who do but don’t want to follow God seem to have it oh so well? Those others don’t have it so well, anyway; they are without God, without hope, without heaven. They can gain the world but lose their soul. How many gain the world and are still miserable anyway? They can never be satisfied (Ecclesiastes 3:11), they just move from one thing to another. More, more, more, but its never enough; only God can truly satisfy your hungry soul. If He loves you He spanks you, if He doesn’t spank you He doesn’t love you (Hebrews 12:8,11). Some people just don’t learn, even when spanked, so God has to continue to use more drastic measures, by allowing sin to run its course, and the world and the devil to beat you up and/or keep you down. Some of these people will indeed make it to heaven, but they will never lead anyone else there.

If a child of God won't repent of some sin in their life that God has brought to their attention, then He will deal with them in their sin. When we say He spanks you, it isn’t that He puts His hand on you, it’s that He takes it off. First He speaks (through His Word, through the conviction of the Holy Spirit, through preaching, and through the witness of others and through circumstances), then He spanks (this would be light chastisement, such as a temporary sickness or trial to get their attention), then He scourges (this would be heavy chastising that is often permanent and scarring, such as loving a loved one, losing a limb, a heavy financial or material loss, etc.), and lastly if all this chastisement is not heeded, the Lord takes His final step, He separates (by death, this is referred to in 1 John as the sin unto death, and seen in Acts 5 and 1 Corinthians 11). The wrath of God is revealed when you step back into the world system; you are operating according to a different principle now. You have to live by it, and you can only live by it, and you will die by anything else. When we backslide we need to get back to the gospel.

It isn’t that God won’t let you suffer if you are a Christian (Philippians 1:29), but we should suffer for doing well not for doing wrong (1 Peter 2:19-20, 3:17). We are supposed to grow in the faith, and grow in grace. If not we backslide, and God lets us taste it. Is your life revealing the righteousness and glory of God, or the wrath of God?

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Saturday Sermon: The Righteousness of God

Romans 3:21-24

But now – here is where Paul makes his turn. Now that he has shown us all to be guilty of sin and in need of salvation, what he began back in 1:16-17 he begins to unpack, explain and apply more fully, this gospel of the righteousness of God.

The righteousness of GodIt has been manifested; the righteousness of God is revealed in the gospel, and Jesus Himself is the righteousness of God, He is the gospel (2 Corinthians 4:4 / Romans 1:1-4), and He shows the righteousness of God’s plan to bring a people to Himself by saving them. He was prophesied of old and now He has been revealed (Hebrews 1:1-3).

Is apart from the law, Jesus is the fulfillment of the law. Apart from the law – not a lift up, it doesn’t come by the law but the law actually witnesses to it, amazingly. It isn’t that the righteousness of God is revealed apart from the Old Testament, but that it is revealed apart from the principle of law. It is not given to supplement our own righteousness; it is given completely apart from our own attempted righteousness. It is about believing.

The law and prophets bear witness to it; Jesus Himself said as much, there is some continuity. As we saw in 1:1-2 – the gospel of God was promised in the OT – Genesis 3:15 / Deuteronomy 18:15, 18 / Acts 3:22 / Acts 13:32-33 / Acts 26:6 / Luke 24:24-27 / John 4:25-26 / John 5:39.

It can be obtained through faith in Jesus Christ – when we receive Him we receive the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21). Not easy believism, only believism. Trust in Truth.

That is the only way to get it – no other way is mentioned here or anywhere else in the Bible and Jesus and the Apostles declare that fact (John 14:6 / Acts 4:12 / 1 Timothy 2:5)

It is the same and enough for all who believe – whosoever believes will receive (John 3:16).

There is no distinction, it is not about being a Jew or Gentile, because all mankind is under the same guilt of sin, and all are saved the same way. Jesus has paid for all who believe (1 John 2:2).

It is needed because no one is as glorious as God (Galatians 3:22 – all people of all time are sinners / Romans 11:22 – both Jew and Gentile).

It is a gift, free to us (Ephesians 2:8-9)

It is a free gift to us because it was paid for by Christ, He bought it for us and bought us (1 Corinthians 6:20). Based on the gospel indicatives we can perform the gospel imperatives.

Jesus came down, as the OT bore witness to, and we can have His righteousness, we can have Him, whether we be Jew or Gentile, no matter who we are, and we must all come to Him because we cannot save ourselves, we cannot ascend the heights of God’s holiness, and this is the only way we can be justified by God, by receiving His own righteousness, which we can receive as a free gift, because of the life of Christ, and the payment Christ made on the Cross.

Having considered just how incredible God is to us for our justification, now we should look at our own growth in that grace, and see it from a perspective that keeps us grounded in the notion that we haven't yet arrived, but we are on the way.

The Majesty of the MasterEnter into the rock and hide in the dust from before the terror of the LORD, and from the splendor of his majesty (Isaiah 2:10 – ESV).

As human beings we stink, and in saying that it is not self loathing but realizing that the higher we get up into God the further we have to go. We don’t preach and teach the depravity of man so as to keep men down, but so as to show them the only way up. That way is Christ, but even when we have been redeemed, in our flesh we are still low down dirty rotten scoundrels compared to God. It is only that now He has condescended to us in the person of Jesus, and having come down to save us and to bring us to God we are positioned with Him in the heavenlies. In His grace we are already arrived at our destination, we simply await glorification.

Now then, in this life we can because of His grace become more and more sanctified, we can scale the heights of God holiness. On this side of eternity we can get a small glimpse of the reality of God, because we now climb up to God on the back of our beloved Savior. And this we do by God’s grace. We are still imperfect, and as Paul said we haven’t arrived in fullness, but we can be filled to fullness, we can press on toward the upward call, we don’t have to stay in our sin.

We are not just sinners saved by grace, but saints growing in grace. So realize that when we say we stink, we stink less than we did before, but the more we see of God the more we realize our stink. No I am not worse than I was before, by the grace of God I am more holy than I have ever been, and by the grace of God I am becoming more holy every second of every day, all praise to His name. But the more light that we have the more dust that we see. We do go up into the heights, but then we see just how much higher the Lord is than we had thought.

It is all about holiness with humility. The more holy I become, the more holy I realize He is, and how much further from Him I am than I ever could have imagined had He not graciously allowed me to ascend to the heights I now scale. The higher I get the more beautiful He appears, even as the more awful my sin appears.

I am sick of the false humility that says we cannot dare ascend higher up in the mountain of God’s majesty. Having said that, I want to go higher up into God, not so as to glory in my climb, or in its own heights, or to look down on others, but so as to revel in the majesty of my Master (Jeremiah 9:23-24). Oh, just how lofty are you, my Lord? Only heaven will begin to reveal it, and even then, it will take forever to explore it.

Friday, March 09, 2007

The Transcendent Measure

...he was in the form of God… but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant…
(Philippians 2:6-7 – ESV)

The twin truths of God in heaven and God with us, His transcendence and His immanence, respectively, are two facts that must be so if we are to be redeemed. God must be above and beyond mere human power in order to save us, and He must have come down to us in Christ in order to bring us home to heaven.

Having said that, and understanding that both truths are equally important to our redemption, we now must come to a crucial realization. We must focus first on God’s transcendence and then let it inform our understanding of His immanence. Only then can we more fully appreciate just exactly what the enormity of Christ coming down from heaven and taking on a human body means, and then we can also see just how far God in Christ is taking us up.

If we fail to do this, then that is why we see Jesus as being more our buddy or simply our needy friend instead of the Sovereign Lord of the Universe, and we develop our understanding of atonement along the lines of emphasizing His humanity over and above His divinity.

In this warped scheme the reality of Christ’s immanence takes precedence over the reality of His transcendence, but this is not the true order of things, for the Son of God was first and foremost transcendent. He was holy and wholly other than that of the creation before He entered into it. It wasn’t that we could draw near to Him because we are somewhat like Him; it is that He had to draw near to us because we were nothing like Him at all.

Now let us get the order right, the Son of God was the Son of God from all eternity, and before He was the Son of Man, He was indeed God of very God. Only in the fullness of time did He condescend and come to earth as the suffering servant of the glory of God. We must see Jesus Christ as the Son of God, as above and beyond any and all creation, in order to realize the eternal significance of His coming down below to save human beings.

If we fail to rightly understand the immanence of Christ through the transcendence of God, then we will make the mistake of thinking Jesus came to save us because we were worthy of saving. Instead we must realize that Christ Himself made us worthy to be saved, thereby displaying great glory in that He showed that God Almighty can take a poor speck of insignificant dust such as we rotten humans are and lift them up to the heights of heaven itself.

When we see the depths of our depravity set against the heights of His holiness, then and only then can we begin to understand the titanic transcendence of the glory of God and then and only then can we begin to see the true measure of God’s love toward us in Christ.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

The Gospel Of Affliction

…but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God
(2 Timothy 1:8)

The bottom line about Spiritual power is the faith to endure. Not only the persecutions that come about because of being a witness for Christ by sharing the Good News vocally, but also by just being a member of the household of faith. We will suffer not only persecution, but also afflictions.

Paul suffers because of the grace of God, the affliction of the Gospel! He is not ashamed. Many preachers are only telling fleshly people what they want to hear (2 Timothy 4:3), presenting a victorious life by applying so-called Christian principles rather than presenting Jesus Christ, life through death, and the way of repentance and faith, which Paul calls the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:20,27). Preachers who preach nothing but “all things are always going to be well”, saying peace, peace, where there is no peace, are giving false hopes to lost people, and leading saved people in the wrong direction. Yes, God desires to prosper us, to have us well and whole, but part of the process will involve pain, so that we may be conformed, before we are comforted, and so we may be able to comfort others who are also being conformed (2 Corinthians 1:3-9).

Notice that our text says afflictions, plural, not just persecution for witnessing, but also having to go through physical difficulty, mental anguish, crucifying the flesh, and other crises (Romans 8:14-18 / Philippians 1:29 / Colossians 1:24 / Galatians 5:24 / 1 Peter 4:1 / Acts 14:22 / 1 Thessalonians 3:3). Suffering aligns us with Christ, and keeps us humble (James 4:9-10). Partaking of suffering helps us learn God’s Word, Will, and Way; Martin Luther said that afflictions are the touchstone of biblical interpretation (Psalm 119:71).

We need to stir up the gift of God, and the gift is the Spirit of power, love and a sound mind. Because of the gift (the Holy Ghost) we can partake of the afflictions, by the power of God to us (Ephesians 1:19 / Zechariah 4:6), not an earthly power. The testimony of the Lord is tribulation (Revelation 6:9), the willingness to suffer as Paul had, and he was not ashamed of the Gospel (Romans 1:16). Remember Paul desired to know the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings (Philippians 3:10).

He has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our big goings on, like mountain moving, but His own purpose. His purpose is to make us like Jesus (Romans 8:28-29), not just to fulfill the Great Commission. The great grace of God may seem more manifest when a mountain is moved by faith, but truly, it is the mundane, the everyday, the dear old saint who faithfully comes to church, and who prays for lost ones everyday without fail, and who suffers through ill health, yet still keeps a loving heart toward people, and an unyielding devotion to Christ that showcases the power of God most clearly for His glory. The calling is not just to “do stuff” it is to suffer, to take up our cross and follow Him. We are to do this, not with a stoic “grit your teeth and bear it” mentality, but with joy that we are partaking in the fellowship of Christ (James 1:2, 5:10-11). We are to show our world the power, the grace that brings steadfast faith, the power to endure no matter what life throws at us, to defeat the works of the Devil, this is the victory, even our (immovable) faith (1 John 5:4)!

We can only keep this steadfastness, this boldness, and this witness by the power of the Holy Ghost within us (Romans 8:9 / Colossians 1:27 / Galatians 2:20). Think about the book of Acts, whenever we see them receive power it is immediately met and tested with persecution; we must have faith no matter what (Job 13:15). The victory we have in Christ is not being able to avoid all affliction, it is having the power to persevere, the peace to be able to endure, to truly be Christlike (John 16:33). Yes, the Lord does bring us out of things, praise God (2 Timothy 3:11 / 4:17), but we must realize that to lose faith because of our afflictions is to deny God.

Just remember, when you see the whip in His hand, it was on His back first. This is the gospel of affliction, that He who allows us to feel the stripes of sanctification bore them all for our salvation.

Note: This is a repost from 12/1/06, but after hearing Pastor Steve Weaver talk of the gift of suffering Tuesday night, I though it good for us to consider again...

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Preachers Bloggers Brothers

Well, last night I had the privilege of attending a Bible conference at Pastor Garry Weaver's church in Titusville, Florida. That is about 125 miles across the state, to an area where I grew up and my folks still live (about 20 miles south). I also had the privilege of meeting his son, the esteemed Pastor Steve Weaver of Tennessee (no one is perfect!) and got to hear him preach on "The Gift of Suffering" from 1 Corinthians 12:1-10...riveting, to say the least....

The first picture is yours truly with Steve, and the second is with Garry. We were able to fellowship with these men and their families for another 2 hours or so afterwards, and truthfully, I didn't want to leave, but I think they were about to sick the dogs on me if I didn't head back home :-)

You know, it surely is a wonderful thing to meet people of like precious faith. Now having met Phil Johnson, Frank Turk, Matt Gumm, Chris Pixley, and these two men of God, it makes me want to do that "Canadian Blogger Tour" all the more...

Faith to Faith

For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith:
(Romans 1:17)

Paul is not ashamed of the gospel because the righteousness of God is revealed in it. This righteousness, as shown by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, is placed over and opposed to the depravity of man we see illustrated in the verses following this one. Here Paul is not talking primarily about the justice of God that rightly damns sinners, he is talking about the righteousness of God that grants sinners eternal life for those who put their trust in Jesus Christ. He is not ashamed because it is not a man-centered gospel; it reveals the righteousness of God, not the power of man. The gospel is that power which renders the righteousness of God operative. The gospel isn't a storehouse of religious information; it is how men and women are made right with God. He is talking about the gift of grace that is received by faith.

When God justifies a sinner, it does not mean that the man was actually good. It does not even mean, at that point, that He makes him good. It means that God treats the sinner as if he had not been a sinner at all. It is also the righteousness of Jesus Christ accredited to our account. It’s more than just the forgiveness of our sins. That would merely leave us with a blank slate. Innocence is not perfection, and so we need more than His death, we need His life. Just as our sin was imputed to Christ so that He could pay the full price of it for us; in exactly that same way, His perfect life counts as ours by imputation – 2 Corinthians 5:21 / Romans 3:21-22, 4:5-6 / Philippians 3:9 / Galatians 3:24-29 / Colossians 3:3 / Jeremiah 23:6. We are not justified by the righteousness Christ works in us, but by the righteousness Christ is for us.

The phrase “from faith to faith” means “by sheer faith” or “faith alone”, that is all it takes and all it can take. We see the necessity of a complete trust in Christ and the folly of placing any trust in our own good works – religious or otherwise – for salvation. It is not from faith to works (Galatians 3:3). The gospel is an outreach to others and it has an in-reach for us. The process and the progress of the gospel in our lives change us (2 Corinthians 3:18). We mustn’t treat the gospel as a common thing (Hebrews 10:29, 2:3), as if we need something else because it isn’t just for the future, the gospel is for your whole life. We need to be living in the faith, living for the faith, and living by the faith (Habakkuk 2:4 / Galatians 3:11 / Hebrews 10:38).

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Gospel Power

…for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one who believeth…
(Romans 1:16b)

Recall where Paul said he was not ashamed of the gospel. He was not ashamed of the way to the gospel (preaching), the truth of the gospel (the death and resurrection of Christ for the forgiveness of sins), or the life from the gospel (we die to self and live for Christ). We discussed the signs of being ashamed of the gospel, ashamed of Jesus Christ. It is when we don’t preach it – sugar coating the offense of the gospel – take off the hard edges and it won’t penetrate the heart. When we don’t believe it, we present the good news as self-improvement rather than self-denying. We change things or add a thing because we don’t believe what God did is enough for today. When we don’t live it – when we aren’t lights in the world, having the dimmer switch on.

Here Paul begins to say why he is not ashamed, and he begins by telling us that the gospel is God’s power revealed for the salvation of men. Now, every one is looking for salvation these days, in whatever way they define it, but Paul said he was not ashamed of the gospel because IT IS the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believes it to be so.

What is salvation? What are we saved from? People define salvation in temporal terms most often, but philosophers and thinkers have realized that we are in no way capable of actually delivering ourselves ultimately. Salvation is justification, sanctification, and glorification (Romans 8:28-30 / 1 Corinthians 1:30). We are saved from God’s wrath, and saved to Jesus Christ. We have been saved from the penalty of sin, and we are saved from the power of sin, and to the degree that we continue to believe it (John 8:31-32 / Mark 4:26-28) we will realize that, and in the eternal state in heaven we will be saved from the presence of sin, amen. What we should pray for now is to be saved from the pleasure of sin (Hebrews 11:25).

God is not mad at you. He is not against you for your sin; He is for you against your sin. He isn’t charging the sin to your account any more if you are a Christian. So then why do bad things happen when you sin? Because sin has its own penalty here on this earth, it has consequences, the death that naturally occurs (Galatians 6:8 / Romans 8:13).

Every one is looking for power – and Paul had seen it at work – if you are carrying the gospel you need not be ashamed at your lesser status, you have the most powerful message in history, and you have what everyone is truly looking for, salvation. The gospel isn’t a way for people to lift themselves up; it lifts them up. It doesn’t bring power; it is power, God’s power. God must do the work. He is the potter and we are the clay. We carry this power as jars of clay. He is the vine and we are the branches. We don’t grow the fruit we only show the fruit of the gospel. Rome had all the power in the world but the people were powerless to make themselves righteous before God. It is the same with the USA today, and all nations and peoples.

Every one is looking for something or someone to believe in – Who would be ashamed of the power of God, except those that don’t know it or believe it as such?