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Thursday, December 8, 2011

Idiot vs. Atheist

Is there a God?  It is Christmas time here in America and there are always people who seem to get offended.   There is a group trying to have a Nativity scene taken down because it is offensive.  There are debates about whether people who work at certain stores can say "Merry Christmas" or whether they must say "Happy Holidays". Christmas seems to bring out some level of tension over religious matters in our country.  The atheist are the ones that seem to be so offended by the emphasis upon religious things.

I would hope to think that the people who call themselves Atheist would consider themselves rational, logical, and a thinking people.  Surely they examine facts and data to come to conclusions about things.  They read the science books and examine the theories of evolution.  The Atheist desires to believe the cold hard facts and refuses to believe in an invisible, unprovable, irrational theory about God.  The Atheist would not call himself an 'Idiot'.

What is an idiot?  Webster says that an idiot is "showing complete lack of thought or common sense, foolish".  An idiot is a person who totally ignores the facts and is unwilling to think through the truth of the data.  An idiot just blindly goes through life and commits the most mind-boggling actions.  He is an idiot who jumps out of an airplane without a parachute.  He is an idiot who takes a nap in the middle of the train tracts.  He is an idiot who would claim that there was never a man named Jesus who walked upon planet earth.

The Atheist surely is not dumb enough to make a claim that Jesus Christ never existed.  The religious and the non-religious all recognize that there was a man name Jesus who was born in Bethlehem to Joseph and Mary.  It is impossible to prove that Jesus did not exist.  Jesus was seen by thousands of people, taught thousands of people, healed numerous people, preached public sermons, was tried in human courts, and ultimately was crucified on a hillside in front of multitudes.  The facts of Jesus' life are so enormous that only an idiot would deny the existence of Jesus Christ.  Only an idiot would deny abundantly clear evidence that is placed before him.  The existence of Jesus could be proved from secular sources, pagan sources, Christian sources, and even could be proved from people who hated him.  After all, in order to truly hate someone, they have to exist.

Instead of declaring the Atheist an Idiot I will assume that he is intelligent enough to acknowledge the existence of Jesus Christ.  Assuming that the Atheist will agree that Jesus Christ did exist upon this earth there is a large problem now presented.  Jesus Christ is called "Immanuel" (which means, God with us).  The Atheist claims that there is no God, but holds the position that Jesus Christ did exist.  That is just simply not intelligent.  If Jesus Christ exists then God exists, because Jesus Christ is God with us.  The Atheist could claim that Jesus only said He was God.  The Atheist must then deal with the historical facts that Jesus walked on water, gave sight to the blind, healed the leper, raised the dead, caused the lame to walk, fed 5,000 plus with a couple of fish and five loaves of bread, and rose from the dead on the third day.  All of these events were witnessed by numerous people, including enemies.  No mere man can accomplish these things.  It would take God in human flesh to do what Jesus did.

Call it what you will, but only an Idiot would deny the historical facts of the life of Christ.  Only a complete fool would say that there is no God (Psalm 14:1; 53:1).  It would be my prayer today that some professing Atheist would humble himself and see the beauty of Jesus Christ and repent of his sin of idolatry and believe upon Jesus Christ for his salvation.  Isaiah the prophet says, "Look to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth!  For I am God, and there is no other" (Isaiah 45:22).

Friday, December 2, 2011

Open-Air Preaching #2

When it comes to preaching outside the church there seems to be an underlying belief that it is simply not acceptable in our culture.  This implies that at one time it was acceptable, but that it is not anymore.  In biblical times they did not have a church on every corner, no public announcement system, and no TV screens.  Thus, it must have been acceptable for people to preach outdoors.  It seems that the modern mind simply imagines that everyone in biblical times was accepting of the open-air preachers.  However, a quick examination of the best sermons ever preached outdoors (Matt. 5-7; John 1:19-34; Acts 3:11-26; 10:34-43; 17:22-34; and etc.)  will reveal that they were met with division, hostility, outrage, and even with prison and death threats.  There were those who repented and believed and there were those who wanted nothing more than to kill the preacher.

The world is not a good way to judge the things of God.  When the church stays inside and does not live out their faith, the world calls the church people hypocrites.  When the church goes outside and begins to live out its faith by proclaiming its message, the world cries out that the church has gone mad and they need to go back to their church buildings.  The world cannot be made happy by people living out truth.  The world tells the preacher to stop 'yelling'.  The world claims the street preacher is to judgmental.  The world claims that you cannot push religion down peoples throats.  The world claims that the preacher is self-righteous.  The world that crams all of their philosophies down the throat of the church is now offended when preachers stand and boldly proclaim the gospel in the open-air.

The religious people of the day are not a good barometer to judge the things of God.  The religious people are worse than the world on many occasions.  The religious people always claim that there is a better way, but fail to communicate what it is.  The religious people would rather be friendly, be relational, and pass out free hot dogs and water bottles (nothing wrong with that) than to actually verbally proclaim the gospel to dying sinners.  As a good friend once said, "A hot dog without the gospel is just a hot dog".  The religious people have found that the world will love them if they give them stuff, but if they actually confront the world with truth it will cause a stir.  The religious would rather have the world to thank them for all of their humanitarian deeds than to have the world offended by the truth that they proclaim.

The question of questions that the open-air preacher hears from the world and from the religious people,  "Is what your doing effective"?  In order to answer such a question one must ask another question, "How is effective to be defined"?  The Christian defines effective in the following way.  Effective - "Doing that which is pleasing to God for the glory of God because he loves God and doing it in a way that reveals his love for humanity".  This definition takes into account the two greatest commandments.  This definition has nothing to do with numbers, popularity, or denominational approval.

Now back to our 21st century context.  Is open-air preaching still a valid ministry?  The answer is yes and the answer is no.  Genesis to Revelation will reveal that the church has been birthed, built, and battle-proven through the public proclamation of the gospel message.  The greatest revival in recorded history was in a place called Nineveh.  A street preacher named Jonah came to a pagan city and publicly proclaimed, "Yet forty days and Nineveh shall be over-thrown".  The entire city was brought to repentance through the open-air preaching of Jonah.  The king all the way to the bottom of the social standing was brought to repentance.  The whole of the book of Acts was the birth of the early church and the key catalyst was public proclamation.  So the answer is yes.  However, do not miss the word that was said earlier, "church".  It is the "church" that as birthed, built, and battle-proven.  Open-air preaching apart from the local church has little credibility before the truth of Scripture.  God's will and work is always tied to the local church.  Open-air preaching that does not move men and women to a local church, discipleship, and accountability is weak at best and destructive at worse.  So, open-air preaching that is not tied to the local church is not a valid ministry.  Certainly there may be good that can come out of preaching any time it is done, but why aim low when one can aim high.  Preach for the glory of God in the midst of a dying world and build a church that will bring Him greater glory both now and in the years to come.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Open-Air Preaching

Once upon a time there was a man walking close to his hometown.  There was a large gathering of people just up in front of him.  Perhaps the crowd was gathered for a marathon, bicycle race, football game, sales event, parade, or something else that typically draws a crowd.  As the man made his way closer to the crowd and took in the scenery of all the people socializing and demonstrating their personal agendas.  He noticed that people freely talked about all types of worldliness.  They talked about abortion, politics, material possessions, sports teams, and some even seem to have their own self-made religion.  There seems to be little to no problem with this cacophony of voices bouncing around the crowd of some 12,000 or more people.  People are wearing clothes that advertise their own bodies, make statements about their favorite team, cliche's that may not be acceptable in the public school, and some shirts that state direct opposite views to what others hold dear.  People are drinking water, coke, beer, and wine.  Some of them smoke and blow their smoke across the crowd and others spit their tobacco on the ground for people to step in.  The man notices that all of these things go on at the same time and no one seems to have a problem with it.

If one was to analyze the conversations it would be readily obvious that they are in opposition to one another.  If one was to take a pole of the crowd and vote there would be a variety of opinions upon what is acceptable to wear in public.  The man is convinced that some in the crowd would be against the public consumption of alcohol and that certain drink companies would rather the crowd would only drink what their company produces.  The man notices a woman turning her nose up in disgust when her 5 year old catches a whiff of cigarette smoke in his face.  It is obvious that some are opposed to the smoke that is floating around the crowd.  Just then the man notices that a child has dropped his pacifier on the ground and it has rolled into a fresh spot of tobacco juice.  The man takes all of these things into account and wonders why there is not more of an outrage.  Then just as all this diversity seems to be existing in unity he hears a loud voice crying out a different message.

The man walks along the valley floor just below the mountain's edge on the outskirts of the crowd and begins to push his way through the noise to find out what this loud voice is saying.  As he pushes through he sees a man elevated over the crowd speaking in an extremely loud voice in order that as many as possible can hear.  The man notices that not all are in agreement.  Some do not believe the man has any right to speak this way.  Others have great interest in the things that are being said.  The man's voice is piercing and the crowd seems to be divided now.  Just a few minutes ago it seemed that everyone was entitled to his own opinion and now it is obvious that all opinions are acceptable except for what this man believes.

It seems to be the religious people who are the most upset.  The religious people are saying that he does not have a right to speak in public like this.  He will offend the people.  This man is crazy.  He will run the people off.  He is being too condemning.  He needs to have more compassion.  He might could preach in the church like that, but it is not right to preach out in the public like this.  He is too judgmental.  He is too narrow.  He is claiming things that are very narrow and saying that those who truly believe the gospel will be recognizable.

The man is now gripped by the intensity of the message and the anger of the crowd.  He begins to look into his own heart and examine his heart before God.  No one sees what is going on with the man and the only one who really cares about the man's heart is the one who is speaking these truths so very loud over the opposition of the crowd.  The man breaks and his heart is softened and he believes for the very first time the truths that he has just heard and his life is changed forever.  He departs from the unknowing crowd and returns home to tell his family what has happened.

The man tells his family that a great crowd had gathered from Galilee, Decapolis, Jersalem, Judea, and the Jordan and that he went to see what was going on.  He tells his family that there was man there elevated over the people on the hillside with a very mighty voice proclaiming a message of truth.  He tells his family that the truth that was proclaimed by that man changed his life forever and that he will never be the same.  He tells them that the open-air preacher that day was a man named Jesus Christ and that Jesus was bold, compassionate, and zealous for the truth.

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Glorious Word of the Gospel

"I Am the good Shepherd.  The good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep" (John 10:11; cf. 10:15)
In the Greek text the Word is υπέρ.  The word υπέρ means, "in place of", "in ones stead", or "on the behalf of".  This word is clearly brought out by the apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:21 where he says, "He made Him who knew no sin to be sin υπέρ (on our behalf)".  Jesus stood in our place as suffered the wrath of God as if He had lived our life.  The other half of this glorious truth is that He not only took our place, but that he imputed His righteousness into our account.  Jesus was treated as we deserve to be treated and we are treated as if we lived His life.  The theologians call this double imputation.  It is here that believing humanity finds all its hope for this life and the life to come.

Now back to John 10:11.  This great verse tells us four important things in regards to the gospel.  First, Jesus tells us who He is.  He says, εγώ ειμί (I AM) the good shepherd.  Second, Jesus tells us what He does.  He τίθημι (to take off or give up) His life.  Psalm 49:7 says, "Truly no man can ransom another, or give to God the price of his life, for the ransom of their life is costly and can never suffice, that he should live on forever and never see the pit".  This is why we need a God/man to redeem us.  Humanity by itself would not be enough.  Third, Jesus reveals the glorious truth of the gospel when He says, "υπέρ of the sheep" (on behalf of the sheep).  Lastly, we are confronted with the doctrine of election.  The good Shepherd knows His sheep.  His sheep hear His voice and they follow Him.  Notice that the good Shepherd does not lay down his life for the goats, but only for the sheep.  He is omniscient and knows perfectly who belongs to Him.

What is a man to do with a verse like this?  He should readily and with humility confess that Jesus is the good Shepherd, that He believes Jesus has died in his place, and that he desires to follow the Shepherd for the rest of his life.  After all, that is the response of sheep.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

My 'Hagarian' Concern

In Genesis 16 we have the account of Abram, Sarai, and Hagar.  The plan of God is rejected by Sarai and in her fleshly desire she seeks a way of offspring by her servant Hagar.  Sarai believed the only way to obtain offspring was for her husband Abram to go into her servant Hagar and conceive a child.  The result of this ungodly direction was extreme tension within the home.  When Hagar knew that she had conceived she looked with contempt upon Sarai.  Sarai did not take to kindly to this scenario and began to express her displeasure.  Sarai vents her anger upon Abram and Abram turns Hagar over to the will of Sarai.  Sarai explodes upon Hagar and treats her harshly.  Sarai was mean enough to cause Hagar to run away and seek to go back home.

Hagar was willing to take off across the wilderness towards Egypt to get out of the presence of Sarai.  The wilderness that she was to cross is described by Moses as, "the great and terrifying wilderness, with its fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty ground where there was no water, who brought you water out of the flinty rock"(Deut. 8:15).  Jeremiah says, "And now what do you gain by going to Egypt to drink the waters of the Nile" (Jer. 2:18)?  It can be justly argued that Sarai's actions are wrong and deserving of justice.  A person can understand why Hagar would want out of this situation.  The tension in Abram's tent surely increased daily and there existed anamosity between the two women and surely there was some bad feelings toward Abram from each of the women.

What is the counsel of the angel of the Lord?  First, it is the angel of the Lord who found her.  Second, the angel of the Lord addresses her as servant/slave of Sarai.  Humility answers to a true identity and pride rebels against that which goes against the flesh.  Hagar could have responded by saying, "I am no servant/slave of Sarai.  That woman did me wrong and ruined my life and I will never serve her and I will never go back".  Hagar did not respond in that way, but rather by listening to the voice of the angel of the Lord.  Third, the angel rebukes her departure (cf. Ecc. 10:4).  This is an astounding scenario.  It seems that Hagar is justified in her departure, but yet the Lord rebukes her for departing.  The angle of the Lord tells her not only to 'return/repent', but also to submit.  This phrase would be the number one phrase that the flesh would hate.  Return and submit goes against the flesh and causes anger to rise to the top.

The Lord is the one who called Abram and put him in the position that he is in.  Out of all the thousands upon the earth, Abram is chosen of God and the covenant is with him.  Abram is not perfect nor is his wife, as this story and many others would confirm.  The covenant is based upon God's calling rather than the work of man.  If Hagar flees from the tent of Abram, where will she go?  What can possibly be gained by leaving the place that God has established and returning to the world which is opposed to God?  Countless are the souls of men who have run from the local church that God has established to return to the world which is opposed to God.

I have heard countless stories of why people leave the local church and they all sound like justifiable reasons to leave.  The pastor is an idiot.  The people were unfriendly.  The church was not going in the direction that I believe they ought to be going in.  The deacons run the church.  Mrs. so-and-so is in charge of everything.  The money is being used for things that I do not approve of.  The list can go on for quite some time and these statements are usually made by those who have left churches many times before.  The one common denominator is that it is never their fault.  The fault of their departing the local church is always the fault of someone else.  One wonders why people who always know a better way to do things do not start their own church where they can show everyone else how to do it.  No, most generally they either depart to never return to any local church or they join another church and stay until they find the faults with that one.

The greatest demonstration of mercy for people who run from the local church would be for them to be stopped by the living God and told to repent/return to their local church and submit.  Certainly there are valid justifiable positions for leaving a local church, but on the whole most people need to repent and submit.  Countless people will never experience genuine renewal, revival, and reconciliation until they return to their local church and submit.  Abram and Sarai made no effort to retrieve Hagar, but it was the Lord who told her to return and submit.  Oh, that the Lord of glory would press upon a souls heart today that they must "return to their local church and submit to her". 

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Marriage and the Local Church

This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.
(Eph 5:32 ESV)
I recently spent some time with Jono Sims and Barry King and our conversations kept returning to the subject of the local church.  Jono preached upon this subject while we were in Illinois at the Encouraged to Endure Conference and Barry King is a man that God is using to start churches in London, England.  As I have reflected upon the sermon by Jono and the conversations that I had with both of these men I simply cannot get away from the text in Ephesians 5:32.

Paul uses the analogy of marriage from 5:22-33 to teach an unmistakable truth about the gospel and about the local church.  In brief bullet statements we should recount the marriage analogy and then apply it to the local church.  Wives, submit to your own husbands as to the Lord.  Husbands, love you wives as Christ loved the church.  After explaining how Christ loved the church the husband is told again to love his wife even as he loves his own body.  The man is to καταλείπω (separate/leave behind) his father and mother and προσκολλάω (to adhere to closely, be faithfully devoted to [BDAG]) to his wife.  This union is of such closeness that Paul would say that they are to become  μια (one/ a single person) flesh.  Lastly, Paul again says that the husband is to love his wife as himself and the wife is to respect/fear her husband. 

Now we can apply this to Christ and the local church.  A believer is to love Christ and his church.  A believer is to separate/leave his old alliances (world, devil, sin, unhealthy relationships, etc.) and he is to be devoted to Christ and His church.  As a husband loves his own wife so a believer is to love Christ and his own local church.  As a husband cares for his wife (sacrifice, sanctifying her, cleansing her) so a believer is to care for his local church.  A believer has not only come into a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, but he has also come into relationship with a local church.  The church has spots, blemishes, and wrinkles, but this does not justify a man to hop from church to church.  A husbands responsibility is to be the spiritual leader.  A spiritual leader does not lead a wife of perfection, but a wife who is imperfect.  It is simply a matter of reality that a marriage has difficulty and those who work through the difficulties experience the joy of a more beautiful relationship.  A husband cannot simply hop from one wife to another when things get difficult.  A true husband lays down his life on the behalf of his wife, because he loves her.  The true believer lays down his life for the local church, because he loves Christ.  As sinful as it is for a man to always be looking for a better wife, it is just as sinful for a believer to always be looking for another church. 

There are a few permissible grounds for a marriage to end.  One reason for a marriage to end is for an unbeliever to depart (1 Cor. 7:15), but in that case the person should remain single.  A second reason for a marriage to end is that one of the partners dies (1 Cor. 7:39).  Lastly, a marriage may end upon the account of sexual immorality (Matt. 19:9).  If you terminate your relationship with your local church you will need some clear grounds to do so.  First, you have have to be able to substantiate clear grounds that your church is a group of unbelievers (thus, not a church) who have gone after the world.  Second, you would have to have clear evidence that your church died (Word is not faithfully preached, ordinances are not upheld, and a fellowship of accountability is not a reality).   Lastly, you would need clear proof that your church has gotten into bed with worldliness and refuses to repent out of it. 

I pray that you will evaluate your relationship with Christ and your local church.  Do you value your church as a man who loves his wife or do you simply view the church as something you use for your own selfish benefit?  Do you leave the local church every time things do not go your way?  Do you find yourself looking around the community in hopes of finding greener grass on the other side?  I pray that you will be a person of resolve and say, "come hell or high water I am committed to Christ and the local church where Christ has placed me".  

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Faithful Pastor

Our day is filled with the latest 'hip' person pretending to be a pastor.  As I look across the evangelical world of ministry I see a disturbing pattern of preachers digressing to the level of seeking worldly approval.  Pastor's are marketing themselves by the use of means that will attract the worlds attention.  Pastor's today are more prone to speak of drinking beer while they talk theology at the pub, advance the wearing of blue-jeans with holes in them or wearing Mickey Mouse T-shirts while they preach, using foul language in the pulpit, and there is the resounding emphasis upon sex; rather than the model that is exemplified by the apostle Paul.
Notice clearly what Paul emphasizes about his ministry in 2 Corinthians 6.  Paul says that he commends himself.  What are his commendations?  They are endurance, affliction, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger, purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, genuine love, and truthful speech.  Now here is a pastor worth sitting under.  There is no talk of drinking beer and using foul language in street-bum clothing to reach the world.  Here is a pastor who has died to self and is pouring out his all for the glory of Christ and the good of the local church.  This pastor has commendations that are worthy to be contemplated.  Here is a man who has walked a narrow road and knows the worth of the Savior that he follows.  Here is a pastor that a believing father would want his children to learn from.

The apostle Paul goes on to say that he is treated as an impostor, but he is true.  He is treated as one who is unknown, but he is known.  He is treated as one who is dying, but he is really living.  He is being punished, but he is not killed.   He is treated as sorrowful, but he is always rejoicing.  He is treated as poor, but he is really making people rich.  He is treated as one who has nothing, but yet he possesses everything.  Paul has opened his mouth and spoke to the church and he has held no love from them.  Here is a pastor who truly knows what it means to love the local church.  Paul loves them even when they do not show love in return.  Paul offers us a picture of the glorious gospel.
In verse 2 Corinthians 6:12 Paul explains that it is the heart of the people who are at fault for not having a relationship that is in unity.  Notice, Paul does not change to something else in order to make amends with them, but rather he proclaims the truth of what the problem is.  Paul reminds them that they are not  στεvοχωρεω  (confined, restrained, crushed) by him, but rather they are στενοχωρεω(confined, restrained, crushed) by their own σπλαγχνoν (bowels, heart, tender mercies, compassion).  The people of Corinth have affections for other things and as a result of their affections they have cut themselves off from the faithful pastor.  Paul speaks to them as little children and tells them that they must  πλατυνω (widen) their hearts.  The following text, 6:14-7:1 deals with ungodly alliances with the world. 

It looks obvious that Paul and his companions are pouring themselves out for the glory of God in the proclamation of the truth to a people who have affections for worldliness.  The result of biblical preaching in the midst of a group of people who are worldly is a division.  The remedy for the division is not in dress, trends, shock factors, nor any other scheme, but the remedy is found in the proclamation to repent.  The people must widen their hearts!  They have narrowed their hearts to truth by widening them to the world.  As John Calvin would say, "He means to say, that it is owing to their corrupt judgment, that the things that he utters are not relished by them". 

The world sorely needs a pastor like unto the apostle Paul who will love the unlovable, serve the ungrateful, care for the careless, and preach the truth to the hard of hearing.  It is God who will build His church and He does not need the latest marketing promotion to get it done. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Immutability of God

Immutability is defined as "God's freedom from all change, understood to emphasize God's changeless perfection and divine constancy".  The word that causes people difficulty in the Scripture is the word relent/repent.  When people get to a passage where it is said that God relents/repents they want to conclude that God changes his mind or he changes in some way or the other.  For example, in the book of Jonah God is said to relent/repent of the disaster that he was going to bring upon Nineveh (Jonah 3:10).  People will look at that passage and say that God changed His mind about what He said that He was going to do. 

One of the first rules of hermeneutics is that Scripture is to interpret Scripture.  In order to get a right understanding of Jonah 3:10 one would necessarily look to Jeremiah 18:7-8.  In Jeremiah it is explicitly clear that if God decrees to bring judgment upon a nation and that nation turns from its evil, then God will relent of the disaster that He intended to do.  Thus, in Jonah God is being perfectly consistent with His Word and there is absolutely no change in the mind of God.  Second, in the book of Malachi it is stated, "For I the LORD do not change" (3:6).  When a passage is difficult to understand it is of necessity to go to one that is clearly understood.  If the difficulty is to determine the way to define relent/repent then the interpreter can go to Malachi 3:6; Psa. 102:25-27; James 1:17; Psa. 33:11; Isa. 46:9-11; Num. 23:19; 1 Sam. 15:29; Rom. 11:29; and Heb. 13:8.  Knowing that Scripture cannot, has not, and will not contradict itself the interpreter is helped to see that whatever relent/repent means, it does not mean that God changed His mind.

Another problem that surfaces with people who believe that God can and does change His mind is the problem of misunderstanding the omniscience of God.  God's knowledge is perfect.  He knows eternity past, present, and future uno intuito, at once.  Since God's knowledge is perfect it would be a contradiction of His character to change His mind.  If He changed His mind He would have to change for the better or for the worse.  If He changed for the better then His previous decision would be inferior and we would be trusting in a God who is improving as He goes along.  If He changed to the worse, what type of being would He become?  What type of being would He be if He is improving or digressing?  He would necessarily not be as good as He can be at this moment or He is tainted with some level of evil.  These thoughts are utterly repulsive to the nature and being of the God of Scripture. 

Lastly, it is helpful to look at things from a different angle.  There are things that seem to change from our perspective, but perhaps to look through a new set of lenses will help.  The puritan Thomas Watson uses two different analogies.  First, he refers to the sun that hardens the clay and melts the wax.  A person could observe the effects of the sun upon the clay one day and on the next day observe the wax melting under the heat of the sun and conclude that the sun changed.  The change was not in the sun, but rather in the objects that were heated.  The other illustration that Watson uses is the example of the clouds passing in front of the sun.  One day it is bright and glorious outside and the next it is dull and dreary.  However, there is no change in the sun.  God has more than enough ability to have a variety of effects upon men without ever changing anything in who He is and what He does from eternity past. 

In contrast to the entire universe, that changes we are confronted in Scripture by  the God who never changes.  "You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of your hands; they will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment, like a robe you will roll them up, like a garment they will be changed, But you are the same, and your years will have no end" (Heb. 1:10-12).  The phrase "you are the same" comes from the Greek word "I AM".  God is the eternal I AM. 

Monday, August 1, 2011

Glory in the Church

The Lord has been reforming me for years and it has been an interesting journey along the way.  I can look back over the years of my life and see the progress that His sanctifying work has had upon me.  There certainly have been times in my life that I have been disturbed by the lack of people who are zealous for the Lord Jesus Christ.  I have allowed my views horizontally to affect my emotions.  This week has been different for me.  I am currently sitting in a city of 29 million people, the second largest city in the world (next to Tokyo).  Yesterday we passed out some 800 gospel tracts in the market and had numerous conversations with different people.  The people seem to have little to no concern about spiritual matters, but yet they all say they believe in God and certainly in Jesus Christ.  However, the churches are empty and the markets are full.  I found myself grieved in spirit, but not because of the situation of the people, but because I do not feel that God is getting the glory that He deserves. 

We have a wonderful Savior and He is worthy to be praised.  "Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen" (Eph. 3:20-21).  There are countless thousands in the background of the picture who have never heard the gospel.  Literally millions in the city who do not give God the glory that He deserves.  Oh, that God's people would pray for God to receive the glory that He deserves.  The task of reaching Mexico City by the efforts of man is impossible, but with God all things are possible.  Please pray that idolatry would be destroyed and Christ would be exalted. 

Today (August 1st, 2011) we will go door to door sharing the gospel.  Pray that God will direct us to the right doors where the Holy Spirit is working and that today someone in Mexico will be raised from the dead and will give God the glory that He deserves. 

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Commitment and Cost to Worship

"I will not offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God that cost me nothing." (2 Sam. 24:24b)
An unknown author defined commitment by saying, "The difference between involvement and commitment is like an eggs-and-ham breakfast:  the chicken was involved - the pig was committed."  Commitment to the physical things of life is more obvious in our culture than commitment to the spiritual.  Men, in the flesh will go to serious extremes to fulfill temporal desires, but little evidence is seen in the American church for true commitment to the Lord.  Families will exhaust all strength, finances, and time for worldly pursuits, but when it comes to worship the minimum is all that is sought for.  Two observations will suffice for revealing the commitment that people will make to fulfill earthly pursuits and family objectives:
First, many thousands will commit to participate in an ironman event.  They will train to swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles, and run 26.2 miles in less than 17 hours.  In order to accomplish such a task they will train countless hours every week for no less than a year just to be able to finish the event.  They will commit to serious eating habits, early morning hours of exercise, and even put numerous relationships on hold to accomplish their goal of finishing the ironman event.  They will train in extreme heat and frigid temperatures.  They will spend an incredible amount of money and exhaust an unbelievable amount of time.  The motive is self-accomplishment.  The desire to finish is self-will.  The joy is in the finishing.  Oh, that man would love God as much as he loves self.
Second, in a more applicable observation, to most Americans, commitment can easily be observed in the world of sports and entertainment.  Parents will commit their lives to fulfilling the goals that their children have or that they have for their children.  Parents will spend countless dollars for shoes, clothes, electronic gadgets, equipment, membership dues, gas, monthly phone bills, and certainly they must have the satellite TV.  Parents will sit on metal bleachers in 105 degree heat to see little Johnny hit a baseball with a metal bat.  Parents will work two jobs for countless hours to make sure that their kids have everything that all the other kids have.  Parents will work all day and drive all night to make sure the children get to whatever event is on the schedule and all with the underlying motive of commitment.  Parents are committed to prove their love by devotion to the physical.  Commitment levels go to the extreme for fleshly desires, but for the worship of the living God, commitment in the American family is at an all time low.   
Dearly beloved, let us learn from David at the end of his life.  David refuses to offer something to God that cost him nothing.  What does your worship cost?  What sacrifices are you making to give unto the Lord?  Is worship and service in the church something that is done only when it fits the ease of your schedule or do you sacrifice everything else for the sake of having Christ as the preeminent One?  When you show up for church this Sunday at your local church will you bring to Him a heart that is fully committed to Him?  Will you come to church with a heart that has sacrificed self, sports, entertainment, and they world?  What will it cost for you to worship?  The amount one is willing to pay is seen in the value of what is purchasing?  Oh, that God would have infinite value to your heart and you would give all in order to have Him in worship for the rest of your lives.

Friday, June 24, 2011

7 Fold Witness of Christ

John 5:31-47 masterfully proves the deity of Christ.  In the preceding verses Jesus has healed a man who was an invalid for 38 years.  He performed this healing upon the Sabbath and the Jews were extremely upset.  The Jews took great offense to work being done on the Sabbath and they wanted to kill Jesus for it.  The issue underneath the Sabbath breaking is what really drove their anger.  Jesus claimed to only do the work that His Father did.  The Jews understood His statement to mean that He was claiming equality with God (5:18). 

The tension in this conversation was really heating up.  Jesus is claiming equality with God and the Jews are plotting murder.  Jesus does not sidestep the situation, but rather in verses 5:19-30 Jesus tells them He does exactly what His Father says, that the Father loves the Son, that He will raise the dead just like His Father, that the Father has committed all judgment to Him, that if they do not honor the Son they show no honor for the Father, and that all men will give account to Him at the final judgment.  Wow!  Can you imagine what the Jews who heard Him speak must have been thinking?  Jesus does not stop there, but continues forward and gives the foundation for His position.

The Mosaic law required more than one witness to establish a matter, so Jesus brings seven (7) witnesses to the table to prove His position.
1) εάν εγώ μαρτύρω περί εμαυτού [If Jesus bears witness concerning Himself (alone), His testimony would not be true.  This does not mean He does not bear witness of Himself (8:18), but that He has others to back up His testimony.
2) άλλος εστίν ο μαρτύρων περί εμού [There is another who bears witness concerning Me.  The Holy Spirit is the other witness and functions as the internal witness to men's conscience.]
3) ιωάννην μεμαρτύρηκεν τη αλήθεια [John has borne witness to the truth.]
4) τα έργα α ποιώ μαρτυρεί περί εμού [The works I do bear witness concerning Me.]
5) ο πεμφας με πατήρ εκείνος μεμαρτύρηκεν περί εμού [The Father who sent me bears witness concerning Me.]
6) γραφάς . . . εκείναι εισίν αι μαρτυρουσαι περί εμού [The Scriptures . . . is they that bear witness concerning Me.]
7) Μούσης . . . περί γαρ εμού εκείνος έγραφεν [Moses . . . for he wrote about Me.]

What a glorious Savior we find in John chapter 5.  He clearly reveals Himself to be God in human flesh.  He does not back down from the religious crowd of the day.  He gives authoritative, accurate truth to validate His identity.  This chapter is worth some long and prosperous meditations.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


In John 4:39-42 we find a progression of belief that is beneficial for our souls.  The woman of Samaria returns to town to μαρτυρουσης (testifying).  It is a direct result of the woman's testifying that many in the town επίστευσαν (believed).  The Greek word πιστεύω (believe) does not always mean saving belief.  In John 2:23 we find that many επίστευσαν (believed), but that belief was not a saving belief as verses 24-25 reveal.  Likewise, here in 4:39 the belief is not to the level of a saving belief.  They believe to the level that they are willing to go outside of the city and test what the woman has spoken.  In John 4:42 the crowd specifically says, "It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world."  They had believed to one degree because of the woman's testimony, but now that have a personalized belief, because they have heard from the Master.

There is a marvelous transition found in these few verses that is necessary for all true believers.  We certainly may come to believe as a result of man's testimony, but each person must go to the Word of God and hear from the Lord and come to true saving belief.  Perhaps the following illustration may help.  I believed in the Grand Canyon when my father told me about it.  However, when my eyes looked upon the Canyon I then truly believed.  I believed in Jesus when my Sunday School teacher told me about Him, but when my ears heard Him speak from the Word and my eyes saw Him by faith through the Word, I truly believed.  Every person needs a personal faith based upon the revelation of Jesus Christ through His Word.  It is wonderful to believe upon Him, because He revealed himself in Scripture rather than to believe simply in what someone else has said. 

It is good for man to leave the hustle and the bustle of the city and go out of town for the purpose of being alone with Jesus at the well in the middle of the wilderness.  Sweet communion can be found when we find a place to meet with Him without the distractions of the world.   

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


In John 4:26 in the conversation with the woman at the well Jesus uses a title that is unmistakably divine.  The woman says that she knows the Messiah is coming who is called the Christ and that when He comes He will tell them all things.  Jesus responds to her statement by saying, "εγώ ειμί, ο λάλων σοι (I AM He, the One speaking to you)." John's gospel alone has at least 24 references to the 'I AM' phase.  The phrase is unmistakably divine and finds it roots in the OT.    God appears to Abraham as says, "I AM God Almighty" (Gen. 17:1).  God appears to Isaac and says, "I AM the God of your father Abraham" (Gen. 26:24).  God appears to Jacob and says, "I AM the God, the God of your father" (Gen. 46:3).  At the burning bush God appears to Moses and says, "I AM the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob" (Exo. 3:6). When Moses ask who he is to say sent him he hears this reply, "I AM WHO I AM". And He said, Say this to the people of Israel, "I AM has sent me to you" (Exo. 3:14).  Thus, the 'I AM' statement has divine roots to it and for someone to use this statement as an proclamation of who they are is remarkable. 

Can you imagine a person today identifying themselves as the 'I AM'?  This is exactly what Jesus does in His earthly ministry.  He boldly proclaims to the woman at the well that He is the 'I AM'.  The Word of God reveals Jesus to be the great 'I AM'.  Consider these claims: I Am the Christ (Jn. 4:26).  I AM the bread of life (Jn. 6:35).  I AM the bread that came down from heaven (Jn. 6:41).  I AM the light (Jn. 8:12).  Unless you believe that I AM, you will die in your sins (Jn. 8:24).   When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I AM (Jn. 8:28).  Before Abraham was, I AM (Jn. 8:58).  I AM the door of the sheep (Jn. 10:7).  I AM the good shepherd (Jn. 10:11).  I AM the resurrection and the life (Jn. 11:25).  I AM the way, and the truth, and the life (Jn. 14:6).  I AM the true vine (Jn. 15:1).  I AM the Alpha and the Omega (Rev. 1:8).  I AM the first and the last (Rev. 1:17).  I AM He who searches the mind and the heart (Rev. 2:23).  I AM the root and the descendant of David the bright and morning star (Rev. 22:16). 

The deity of Christ shines forth in the I AM statements of Scripture.  There are many more throughout the Word of God besides what I have listed here.  I come agree with the officers who came back and reported to the Pharisees, "No one ever spoke like this man!"  Many men hold different opinions about who Jesus really was, but it is for certain that Jesus has no doubts about His own identify.  He knew who He was and it is incumbent upon us to believe Him for who He claims to be. 

Tuesday, May 31, 2011


John chapter 3 is a gospel saturated chapter in which many gospel sermons have been preached.  In looking at the last verse of this chapter there is a truth that will help us to understand what it means for a man to believe (πιστεύω).  The verse states: "Whoever continually believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever continually disobeys the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains upon him." (My translation)  In my translation I am simply trying to highlight the ongoing nature of belief and of disobedience.  Belief and disobey are both present active participles in the Greek text.  If a man states that he believes upon the Lord Jesus, but continues in disobedience he will not (in the future) see life.  Not only will his future state be robbed of life, but his present state will be met with the abiding wrath of God. 

Translations vary on the phase, "but whoever 'disobeys' the Son."  Some translations use the word obey (ESV, NASB, NLT).  Some translations us the word reject (NET, NIV, GWN).  Some translations use the word believe and negate it by saying whoever does not believe (KJV, NKJV, YLT).  The Greek word in the text is απειθέω.  How is this word translated in other text?  "For just as your were at one time disobedient to God" (Rom. 11:30).  "But for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth" (Rom. 2:8).  "What will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?" (1 Pet. 4:17).  "They stumble because they disobey the Word" (1 Pet. 2:8).  "By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient" (Heb. 11:31)  "And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient?" (Heb. 3:18).  "Because they formerly did not obey" (1 Pet. 3:20).

The gospel is the good news about the Lord Jesus Christ.  He is Lord and He is sovereign over all of His creation.  Those who claim to believe Him will be known to the world as such, because they obey Him. It is as if a father walks into a room filled with 50 young boys and he cries out, "Son come here!"  One of the boys turns his head and sees his father and he runs to his father.  Everyone in the room knows that he is the son.  It is this way with true believers.  They know the Master's voice and they obey when He speaks. 

Belief in the Lord Jesus Christ that does not grow into obedience unto the Lord Jesus Christ is no better than demons who believe - - and shudder! (James 2:19).  Oh, that our believing will be seen in our obeying. 

Friday, May 27, 2011


"He must increase, but I must decrease." (John 3:30)  The word αυξάνω (to increase or become more important) is a word that is used in reference to φως (light).  In verses 19 -21 John has used the word light 5 times and now in verse 30 he uses αυξάνω in reference to Jesus.  The light of the world is going to shine brighter and brighter from this day forward.  John's light will be on the diminish and all attention will be shifted to the Lord of glory.  The word ελαττοω (to decrease or become less important) is another word that has to do with φως (light).  John is emphasizing the growing brightness of the Son of God and the diminishing of his own light. 

This is a glorious picture of the sanctification of the believer.  What a joy it should be for the Christian to have an ever growing desire to make sure that Jesus shines brightly.  What a privilege it must be to take the light off of ourselves and turn the spotlight to the Lord Jesus.  In Hollywood all the lights point to the stars on the main stage, but those who are truly great turn the light off of themselves in order to point all attention unto the one who deserves it.  These things will be true in heaven.  There will be no need for the sun by day or the moon by night, because the glory of king Jesus will illuminate the place. 

Perhaps prayer would be a good time to reflect upon these truths and ask the Holy Spirit to help us become more humble and to show us ways we can turn the light upon the Lord Jesus.  

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Who's Love is Greater?

I was pondering the word αγάπη in John 3:16 and 3:19.  John 3:16 says that, "God so loved the world."  John 3:19 says that, "men loved darkness."  The result of God's love of the world is that He sent His Son.  The result of man's love of darkness is that they would not come to the light.  We have here a competition of love between God and man.  The Greek word and tense is the same in both verse.  θεός ηγάπησεν and in verse 19 we have άνθρωποι ηγάπησεν.  Will man's love for darkness trump out over God's love for men?  Will God's love be enough to win the hearts of men or will man's love for darkness prevent him from being saved?  The questions that I am asking hinges upon ability and desire.  If God's love does not have the ability to cause men to love the light or if God's love does not carry with it a desire to turn men's heart to the light, they will be left to love darkness.  If man's love for darkness is able to negate God's love then man will forever remain in the dark.  Since man is shown to love the darkness more than the light what will produce in man a change?  How will a God hating rebel be turned into a God loving saint? 

The 21st century church claims that man must choose God.  How does a man who hates the light choose to come to the light?  Why would a man choose that which his soul hates?  The scenario seems to be like asking a fish to choose to live on the land or asking a bird to swim the depths of the ocean floor.  The only way to have such mind boggling things happen is for the nature to be changed.  The only way man will ever come to God is if his nature is changed.  Man needs a new heart and a new spirit and the only way this is going to happen is if God love is greater than man's love.  Oh, the love of God that melts the heart of stone! 

Born from Above

Nicodemus came to Jesus by night to discuss religious matters.  Nicodemus starts the conversation by stating, "we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him."  Jesus quickly turns the conversation to the gospel and presses a glorious truth upon the heart of Nicodemus.  Jesus tells him that he must be 'born from above' if he is to see or enter the kingdom of God.  Most translations use the phrase 'born again,' but this misses the essence of what Jesus is saying.  Re-birth is not something that is worked up from the bottom, but rather re-birth is that which is given from above.  To understand that re-birth is a top down model leaves the sinner in submission to cry out for God to come down.  The Greek word 'from above' is used in several other passages and gets translated 'from above' (Matt. 27:51; John 3:31; 19:11, 23; James 1:17; James 3:15, 17). 

In order for a man to see or enter the kingdom of God he must be effectively regenerated from above.  God the Holy Spirit must come down and grant a new heart and a right spirit in order that man by faith can believe upon the Lord Jesus Christ. 

In today 21st century church much effort is placed upon getting man to do something in order that he could be saved.  The church today tries to get man to repeat prayers, walk down isle's, raise hands, or some other gimmick to get man to open the door of his heart in order that Jesus can get in.  However, Jesus mentions none of this in his presentation to Nicodemus.  He simply presses upon him the glorious truth that salvation is a top down model.  The result of such preaching presses man to cry out to God until He has mercy upon them.  Jesus will go on to remind Nicodemus that just as the serpent was lifted up in the wilderness, so must the the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him may have eternal life. 

Salvation comes from the throne room of heaven and moves upon the heart of a man and causes him to look up to the beauty of the Savior on the cross and believe that Jesus bore his sins that he might die to sin and live to righteousness. 

So many people will refer to John 3:16 and some will even have an entire conference to talk about John 3:16, but the context of John 3:16 demands that we look at the whole chapter.  The honest reader of Scripture cannot read over the statement that man must be born 'from above.'  If God does not save there will be no saving.  If God does not move there will be no moving.  If God does not draw there will be no drawing.  If God does  not regenerate there will be no regeneration.  We are then left with the statement of the prophet Jonah, "Salvation belongs to the Lord!"

What about you?  Have you been born from above?  Have you experienced genuine repentance?  Have you been regenerated?  Do you now hate the sin you used to love?  Do you now love the righteousness you once hated?  I will repeat what the Lord Jesus has said; "You must be born from above to enter the kingdom of God."