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Two New Sermons from 1 Timothy

August 13, 2012 Leave a comment

Yesterday I had the privilege to preach two sermons from 1 Timothy.

In the morning, I preached on 1 Timothy 6:1-2. In that text, Paul commands Christian slaves to honor their masters both by attitude and by action. Modern American Christians, none of whom are slaves, can apply this text to their lives with the truth of Colossians 3:23: “whatever we do,” we should “work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men,” because although we are not physical slaves, we are spiritual slaves of Christ in God (Rom. 6:22).

That afternoon, I preached on 1 Timothy 5:17-25. Whereas in my first sermon from this text I had focused primarily on 1 Timothy 5:17, yesterday I put 5:17 in its wider context of 5:17-25 in which Paul explains not only to which elders (pastors) we should show double honor (v. 17) but also how we are to show them double honor (vv. 18-25): by financially supporting them (v. 18), by rightly handling charges against them (vv. 19-21), and by rightly appointing other men to serve as elders with them (vv. 22-25).

You can listen to my sermon on 1 Timothy 6:1-2 here.

You can listen to my sermon on 1 Timothy 5:17-25 here.

Both sermons are permanently linked to along with my other sermons from 1 Timothy here.

Have a blessed rest of the day, and may these sermons help you to “set your minds on things that are above”!


Eat Mor Chikin!

August 1, 2012 Leave a comment

For the past two weeks, I’ve told myself over and over again: don’t write a blog post about the current Chick-fil-a controversy. You can be relevant in other ways. Don’t post a blog about Chick-fil-a. But a couple of days ago, my mind wavered. Yes, I was tired of the situation being blown out of proportion. Yes, I was tired about hearing it on the radio every day to and from my office (and I have a 45-minute commute one-way!). But I began to become even more tired of the reaction of some Christians to this whole controversy. When Mike Huckabee originally encouraged others to participate in a national “Support Chick-fil-a Day,” I was sad that it was scheduled for Wednesday, August 1. I’m at church for my office hours today from 9-5, and the youth Bible study is at 6. Abi and I won’t be home before 9. I knew in my heart that I support Chick-fil-a regularly (not just for their Christian values but also because their chicken nuggests, waffle fries, and sweet tea are just plain-old GOOD!), so I didn’t feel too bad that today wouldn’t be the most convenient day for me personally to support Chick-fil-a.

But after nearly a week of hearing Christians adopt what amounts to, what seems to me, a “stick-your-head-in-the-sand” attitude about the issue of the wrongness of homosexuality, Abi and I are going to Chick-fil-a tonight after church on our way home, no matter how late it is! (As long as it’s not after 10:05, of course, at which time Chick-fil-a would be closed.) I’m going to get a cookies and cream milkshake. Why? Because I’m a Christian who lives in America, the greatest nation in the world (and because I happen to LOVE Chil-fil-A milkshakes!). Because I live in America, I’m free to eat at any establishment I choose, and tonight I’m going to get a late-night snack from Chick-fil-A. Just like other Americans are free to boycott Chick-fil-a, I’m free to eat at Chick-fil-a.

I couldn’t disagree more with Barnabas Piper’s article for WORLD magazine (online) yesterday. By going to Chick-fil-A tonight, I’m not participating in “a collective action easily seen as a shaking of the fist or a wagging of the finger.” I’m “affirm[ing my] appreciation for a company run by Christian principles by showing up,” to put it in Mike Huckabee’s words. By indulging in a few hundred extra calories that I really don’t need I am in no way delivering the message of “us versus you” to homosexuals, as Barnabas Piper said. I am simply enjoying a milkshake with my wife, and at the same time putting my five dollars into the hands of a company who has been taking a lot of heat lately for simply agreeing with the Biblical definition of marriage. I am making no statement to any homosexuals. I am not declaring war on them. I’m enjoying a milkshake!

Furthermore, for Mr. Piper to say that the divisions caused by biblical convictions are “inevitable, but not desirable” is to go against the attitude of Scripture and of the Christ to whom Scripture points us. Before his death, Jesus told his disciples (and us by extension), “If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (John 15:19). And did Jesus not elsewhere say, “I have not come to bring peace, but a sword” to this earth (Matt. 10:34)? And Jesus followed himself up by saying that “a person’s enemies will be those of his own household” (Matt. 10:36). It’s interesting that Jesus should say that, because in the online discussions of many Christians who are downing other Christians for noticeably standing up for Chick-fil-A, it seems to me that one of their main arguments is, “I have homosexual friends and relatives whom I don’t want to offend and thus lose the opportunity to witness to them.” Is it a witness to homosexuals to (perhaps unknowingly) condone their behavior as right (or even morally irrelevant) by not standing up for those who call homosexuality what it is: a sin? Edmund Burke is absolutely right: “evil prevails when good men do nothing.” Sins of omission are just as much sins as sins of commission. Not doing the right thing is just as bad as doing the bad thing.

As I have written in a prior blog post:

The issue of homosexuality matters because it is a grievous sin. And unless people come to a knowledge of their sin, and realize their need of Christ as their Savior, they cannot and will not believe on Him for eternal life. Nothing short of eternity is at stake!

We certainly must not add further stumbling blocks and follies to the already offensive (offensive to the natural mind, anyway) gospel, but we Christians must realize and affirm that homosexuality is a dangerous sin that further erodes the already suffering view of marriage. We must realize that since marriage is a picture of “Christ and the church,” if we call homosexuality anything less than a sin (or worse yet, to condone it openly!), we betray and water down and adulterate the gospel itself.

And as I have written at another time, we Christians should “respond biblically” to homosexuals by offering them the hope of forgiveness in Christ after lovingly pointing out their sin nature (which manifests itself, in part, in their homosexuality) to them. I will elaborate this earlier point here in this post: Jesus tells us that loving our neighbors, which include all unbelievers, as ourselves is the second greatest commandment (Matt. 22:39). But how are we to love homosexuals, or any unbeliever for that matter? The highest act of love we can show toward a homosexual or any unbeliever is to share with them the gospel: that although they are sinners, Creator God sent his Son Jesus Christ to this earth. Jesus Christ lived a life of perfect obedience, and because of his perfect obedience, his death on the cross fully satisfied God’s wrath on all those who would ever come to faith in him. And God proved his satisfaction by raising Jesus from the dead on the third day. We receive forgiveness for sin and eternal life through Jesus Christ only when we trust him to save us by what he has done, turning to him in repentance, away from our sin.

Accusing other Christians for making the “bold mistake” of supporting “the leadership” of Chick-fil-A in its “view on this issue” of homosexuality is not loving, toward believers or unbelievers. Sticking our heads in the sand and hiding in the basement and refusing to address homosexuals’ sin is not loving; it’s damning. If we maintain close friendships (“good relationships”) with homosexuals without showing them their sin and need for a Savior, are we diligently sharing the gospel (the whole gospel) with them? To ignore their unrepentant sin is just as bad as withholding the good news of Jesus (for indeed, they won’t be saved if they do not see their need of the Savior and repent of their sin!). Barnabas Piper is wrong. My going to Chick-fil-A tonight is about me supporting a company whose values I agree with. Tonight as I pay for my large cookies and cream milkshake, I’m not bashing gays; I’m hoping that Dan Cathy and his company will continue to prosper as they speak biblical values into a lost world, and that unbelievers of all kinds, both homosexual and heterosexual, will come to faith in Jesus Christ and be saved.

As for you? Go to Chick-fil-A. Or don’t go to Chick-fil-A. This is America, and you have the freedom to choose. So make your choice. Just make it for the right reasons. Don’t worry that supporting Chick-fil-A will “result in greater contention and fewer softened hearts. On both sides.” (By the way, Christians should not soften their hearts regarding the sinfulness of homosexuality. Sin is sin. We should be loving toward homosexuals, but again, that means pointing out their sin and the only hope in Christ, NOT ignoring their sin altogether.) Don’t worry that you’ll lose any hope you have for witnessing to homosexuals. Don’t worry that other Christians will condemn you for being unloving. If you don’t want to eat Chick-fil-A (today or any day), don’t. If you want to, do. Love Christ. Love others. And don’t be afraid to point out an unbeliever’s sin before sharing the forgiveness available in Jesus Christ. Even if they are homosexual. Because sin is sin, and we sin when we ignore unbelievers, whether homosexual or heterosexual, in their hell-bound state.

My Thoughts on “A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation”

June 5, 2012 1 comment

On May 30, 2012, several Southern Baptist leaders issued online “A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation.” Tom Ascol is currently writing a thorough response to this Statement at the Founders’ blog, so I will not go through the Statement article by article; rather, I will respond to this Statement briefly and focus on the continued need for unity among Southern Baptists.

A Brief Response

“A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation” is rife with falsehoods, contradictions, and slanders.

Before the numerous theological falsehoods of the ten articles, the Statement’s Preamble includes numerous factual errors. The authors define Calvinism in terms of “the doctrines of grace,” TULIP. Calvinists, then, (according to this Statement) are those who believe these things. Calvinism is NOT, as this Statement claims, anti-missional. Both John Piper and David Platt are two prime examples of people who believe “the doctrines of grace” and who are also very missional. As Platt writes in Radical,

God gave his people his image for a reason–so that they might multiply his image throughout the world. He created human beings, not only to enjoy his grace in a relationship with him, but also to extend his glory to the ends of the earth.

Simple enough. Enjoy his grace and extend his glory. This is the twofold purpose behind the creation of the human race in Genesis 1, and it sets the stage for an entire Book that revolves around the same purpose. In every genre of biblical literature and every stage of biblical history, God is seen pouring out his grace on his people for the sake of his glory among all peoples. (65)

How could Platt there be more “Calvinistic”? How could Platt there be more missional? God’s meticulous sovereignty doesn’t undermine missions: it gives missions its ultimate purpose–to glorify Him! This being said, how can it possibly be true “Without ascribing to Calvinism, Southern Baptists have reached around the world with the Gospel message of salvation by grace through faith in Christ alone”? Adoniram Judson, the first Southern Baptist missionary to Burma (modern Myanmar), believed in God’s meticulous sovereignty. Earlier in church history, before “Southern Baptists” existed, Paul of Tarsus was so engrossed by God’s glorious grace that he spread the gospel all over the Roman Empire!

In addition to those factual falsehoods in the Preamble and too many theological falsehoods for me to list here, contradictions redound in this Statement. The most glaring contradiction is in the Preamble:

We propose that what most Southern Baptists believe about salvation can rightly be called “Traditional” Southern Baptist soteriology, which should be understood in distinction to “Calvinist” soteriology. Traditional Southern Baptist soteriology is articulated in a general way in the Baptist Faith and Message, “Article IV.”

The beauty of Article IV of The Baptist Faith and Message (2000) is that whether or not one believes the Bible’s declarations of God’s meticulous sovereignty, one can accept it. Article IV in its entirety reads thus:

Salvation involves the redemption of the whole man, and is offered freely to all who accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, who by His own blood obtained eternal redemption for the believer. In its broadest sense salvation includes regeneration, justification, sanctification, and glorification. There is no salvation apart from personal faith in Jesus Christ as Lord.

A. Regeneration, or the new birth, is a work of God’s grace whereby believers become new creatures in Christ Jesus. It is a change of heart wrought by the Holy Spirit through conviction of sin, to which the sinner responds in repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Repentance and faith are inseparable experiences of grace.

Repentance is a genuine turning from sin toward God. Faith is the acceptance of Jesus Christ and commitment of the entire personality to Him as Lord and Saviour.

B. Justification is God’s gracious and full acquittal upon principles of His righteousness of all sinners who repent and believe in Christ. Justification brings the believer unto a relationship of peace and favor with God.

C. Sanctification is the experience, beginning in regeneration, by which the believer is set apart to God’s purposes, and is enabled to progress toward moral and spiritual maturity through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit dwelling in him. Growth in grace should continue throughout the regenerate person’s life.

D. Glorification is the culmination of salvation and is the final blessed and abiding state of the redeemed.

This Statement in its Preamble affirms that this Article articulates “in a general way” their “‘Traditional’ Southern Baptist soteriology.” But they later contradict the BF&M Article IV in their own Article Five: The Regeneration of the Sinner:

We affirm that any person who responds to the Gospel with repentance and faith is born again through the power of the Holy Spirit. He is a new creation in Christ and enters, at the moment he believes, into eternal life.

We deny that any person is regenerated prior to or apart from hearing and responding to the Gospel.

Did you catch the contradiction? Article IV, BF&M, says that regeneration “is a change of heart wrought by the Holy Spirit through conviction of sin, to which the sinner responds in repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ” (emphasis added). According to the Baptist Faith and Message, regeneration comes before (prior to) repentance and faith (responding to the Gospel). But what does this new Statement, which claims to affirm the BF&M, deny? “We deny that any person is regenerated prior to … responding to the Gospel” in repentance and faith. This is a logical contradiction. Regeneration cannot come both before and after repentance and faith. It must come either before or after since regeneration is an event that occurs at a single moment in time. Although the writers of this Statement accuse “Calvinists” of departing from traditional Southern Baptist soteriology, it is the authors of this Statement who are departing from established Southern Baptist (and more importantly, biblical) belief concerning regeneration, which is the first aspect of salvation “in its broadest sense.”

Finally and saddest of all, slanders crop up at various points in the Statement. Not only is the statement, “Without ascribing to Calvinism, Southern Baptists have reached around the world with the Gospel message of salvation by grace through faith in Christ alone,” factually false, but it is also a slanderous blow to genuine Southern Baptist believers who affirm God’s sovereignty in addition to human responsibility because it implies that they are anti-missional and uninvolved in missions. And as Tom Aschol has noted, the Statement’s insistence that “The Southern Baptist majority has fellowshipped happily with its Calvinist brethren while kindly resisting Calvinism itself” is demeaning toward those whom the authors identify as Calvinist, almost relegating them to a second-class status as Southern Baptists. These slanderous labels and statements are divisive, and it saddens my heart to see such a display of divisiveness by fellow Southern Baptists, brothers whom I and every other Southern Baptist have partnered with in order to fulfill the Great Commission to spread the gospel to all the nations.

The Need for Unity

The Southern Baptist Convention has always included “Calvinists” and “Arminians.” Southern Baptists have always differed as to how many points of TULIP to believe, but Southern Baptists have always unified despite these differences in order to cooperate together to spread the gospel to all nations. I want to see this cooperation continue. I want to see this unity continue. Surely heaven will be composed of both “Calvinists” and “Arminians,” so I want to see these different groups of believers cooperate on earth! And they have in the Southern Baptist Convention for nearly two hundred years. I would hate to see this cooperation stop.

Yes, there was a decline for most of the 20th century among Southern Baptists, both individuals and churches, who taught both God’s meticulous sovereignty and man’s responsibility, but there was also a simultaneous decline in Southern Baptists who taught the inerrancy of Scripture and the exclusivity of Christ. Since the conservative resurgence in the SBC in the late 1980s, an increasing number of Southern Baptists, both individuals and churches, have found themselves believing anew not only in the inerrancy of Scripture and the exclusivity of Christ but also in God’s meticulous sovereignty. Why is this necessarily a bad thing, even to those Christians who do not believe in God’s meticulous sovereignty? The Southern Baptist Convention is just that: a convention. Its churches are autonomous. Let individual churches decide what to believe as a local body concerning God’s sovereignty. Since this Statement could unnecessarily divide the SBC, it is unwarranted, sad, and ultimately, I believe, unbiblical.

Never mind the fact that I disagree on biblical grounds with at least something in every Article of this Statement except Article Ten. This Statement is unbiblical because it seems to be fostering disunity and disharmony in Christ’s church as represented in the SBC. (One need only look at the comments on the Statement’s web page to discern this.) Such disunity directly defies God’s Word:

  • This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. – John 15:12
  • I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through your word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.  – John 17:20-21
  • I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. – 1 Corinthians 1:10
  • Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel – Philippians 1:27
  • complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. – Philippians 2:2

These and other verses are commands from God that Christians love one another and unite around the gospel for the sake of spreading the gospel and making God’s name known throughout the whole world. The Baptist Faith and Message (2000) is helpful; “A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation” is not helpful. Fellow Christians who believe in God’s meticulous sovereignty, do not be consumed by anger at this incendiary Statement; rather, let us pray for our brothers and sisters who disagree with us on this matter, so that we may continue to join together in spreading the gospel around the world. Fellow Christians who do not believe in God’s meticulous sovereignty, do not sign this Statement and lend it your support; rather, continue to unite with us believers who disagree with you on this matter.

Doctrine is important. So is unity. May the Southern Baptist Convention continue to grow in both, to the glory of God.

Update: On June 6, Dr. Albert Mohler posted his thoughts on “A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation.” I thoroughly recommend it to all of you.

Is Your Faith Radical?

May 31, 2012 1 comment

In his book Radical, Dr. David Platt, pastor at The Church at Brook Hills asks us Christians a sobering question: “Is your faith radical?” Radical faith, in Dr. Platt’s words, is “radical abandonment to Jesus” (3). Drawing from the parable of the hidden treasure in Matthew 13:45-46, Dr. Platt explains further,

This is the picture of Jesus in the gospel. He is something–someone–worth losing everything for. And if we walk away from the Jesus of the gospel, we walk away from eternal riches. The cost of nondiscipleship is profoundly greater than the cost of discipleship. For when we abandon the trinkets of this world and respond to the radical invitation of Jesus, we discover the infinite treasure of knowing and experiencing him. (18)

And over the next eight chapters, Dr. Platt explores what this radical abandonment looks like in our daily lives. In chapter two, Dr. Platt develops the idea that radical faith hungers for God’s Word and the gospel it contains. It is as Peter commands in 1 Peter 2:2-3, “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk [which is God’s word; cf. 1:23-25], that by it you may grow up into salvation–if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.” As Peter explains in these verses, true Christians–those who are abandoned to Jesus as Dr. Platt said in chapter one–are those who long for God’s word with a hunger that is “too hungry for words” (23). Consequently, one of the aspects of Dr. Platt’s “radical experiment” in chapter nine is a challenge to read through the entire Bible in a year. Dr. Platt writes, “Contemplate what you might know about the glory of God after a year of listening closely to his voice” (213). The Casting Crowns song, “To Know You” speaks true when it says, “To know You is to want to know You more.” Seeing God’s glory in the Bible only makes us want to see more of his glory.

Chapters three through eight focus on the other aspects of Dr. Platt’s “radical experiment.” In those chapters he explains the Scriptural basis for the other aspects of his challenge: to pray for the entire world, to give sacrificially and specifically, and to commit to (and then serve actively in) a local church. In chapter three, Dr. Platt emphasizes the importance on relying on God’s grace: we must not be “dependent on ourselves”; rather, we must be “dependent on His Spirit” (48). Why? Because God’s power is infinitely superior than ours.

The church I lead could have the least gifted people, the least talented people, the fewest leaders, and the least money, and this church under the power of the Holy Spirit could still shake the nations for his glory. The reality is that the church I lead can accomplish more during the next month in the power of God’s Spirit than we can in the next hundred years apart from his provision. His power is so superior to ours. (54)

If chapter three explains the how of the radical experiment, chapter four explains the why: “God blesses his people with extravagant grace so they might extend his extravagant glory to all peoples on the earth” (69). Taken together, chapters three and four provide the background to Dr. Platt’s challenge in chapter nine to “pray for the entire world” over the next year (185). (One free resource Dr. Platt mentioned in discussing this challenge is Operation World.)

Chapter five presents Dr. Platt’s discussion of why church involvement is so important and what true church involvement looks like. In his words,

Being a part of a community of faith involves being exposed to the life of Christ in others. Just as we identified with Christ and his church in baptism, we now share life in Christ with one another. So to whom can you deliberately, intentionally, and sacrificially show the love of Christ in this way? This is foundational in making disciples, and we will multiply the gospel only when we allow others to get close enough to us to see the life of Christ in action. (98-99)

Church life isn’t just attending worship services and Bible studies; it is “encouraging one another,” as we read in Hebrews 10:25. It is being involved in one another’s lives. As Dr. Platt elaborates in chapter nine while challenging us to be a committed member in a local community of believers,

If we are going to live in radical obedience to Christ, we will need the church to do it. …The global purpose of Christ was never intended to be accomplished by individuals. We are a global people whose family spans the nations. So first and foremost, I encourage you to be done with church hopping and shopping in a me-centered cultural milieu and to commit your life to a people who need you and whom you need. (206)

Chapters six and seven present the enormity of global poverty (both monetary and spiritual) and the urgency with which Christians must go to the poor of this world and share the gospel, the good news, of Jesus with them. Consider God’s word in James 1:27, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” This verse seems to be in the back of Dr. Platt’s mind in these two chapters. As we read in Psalm 68:5, God is the “Father of the fatherless and [the] protector of widows.” This fatherly love of God for the Father is our motivation as Christians “to visit orphans and widows” and other suffering people “in their affliction,” and by “visit” James means “reaching out in loving caring service” to afflicted orphans, widows, and all underprivileged, suffering people.

This global poverty is one reason why Dr. Platt urges Christians in his “radical experiment” to “pray for the entire world” and “sacrifice your money for a specific purpose” (185). And as he writes in chapter seven, “We have the gospel of Christ in us, and we do not have time to waste” (159). Apart from faith in Christ, no one is saved (Jn. 14:6). And Jesus has commanded all Christians to share the gospel, making disciples of all nations (Matt. 28:18-20). Therefore it is both the responsibility and the privilege of us Christians to share the gospel with others, or, as Dr. Platt expresses it, “spend time in another context” (185).

Chapter eight serves as a fitting conclusion to the whole book. In that chapter, Dr. Platt keys in on Jesus’ instructions to his disciples in Matthew 10 and applies Jesus’ words to Christians today. Dr. Platt highlights the examples of John Paton, Jim Elliott, and C. T. Studd from church history to “illustrate one fundamental truth: your life is free to be radical when you see death as a reward” (179).

All in all, Radical was a great book. I agree with many of Kevin DeYoung’s cautions to those who read Radical (and also his hearty commendation of both the book and its author, David Platt!), but I do feel that DeYoung’s comment, “we are made to feel bad for the money we spend on french fries (108)” is unwarranted. The quote DeYoung is alluding to actually reads,

Today more than a billion people in the world live and die in desperate poverty. They attempt to survive on less than a dollar per day. Close to two billion others live on less than two dollars per day. That’s nearly half the world struggling to find food, water, and shelter with the same amount of money I spend on french fries for lunch.

Dr. Platt doesn’t seem to be intending for this quote to make Christians “feel bad”; in fact, in his response to Kevin, he clarifies that his french fry comment (and others like it!) was “not intended to promote guilt-driven obedience. Instead, my goal is simply to help open our eyes to realities in the world that we would rather ignore and to call us to look at those realities through the eyes of the One who “though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich” (2 Cor. 8:9; p. 113 in Radical).”

Admittedly, I wish that we could change the “radical” terminologyand I agree also with DeYoung that Dr. Platt would have included more exegesis to ground his many exhortations in the book. But on the whole, I believe that Radical was an edifying and challenging read for me. I eagerly anticipate starting the small group class this Sunday evening at Calvary (5:30-6:30) doing the Radical small group study published by NavPress.

My advice to future readers of Radical? Read it prayerfully and open to the Holy Spirit applying the Scripture therein to your life. Be ready to have your appetite for more of God’s Word whetted. But read with discernment. You may not agree with EVERYTHING Dr. Platt writes (I didn’t), but you’ll probably agree with the vast majority of it (I did!).

February Sermons

February 22, 2011 Leave a comment

Happy February, everyone! Yes, the month is almost gone, and I’m sure we’re all keeping very busy. (I am, as evidenced by the fact that I haven’t posted anything in over a month!) Thankfully, there are other blogs out there for you to read that should help you “set your minds on things that are above,” and many of them are linked to on the right hand side of your computer screen. (A few are The Gospel Coalition’s blogs and Dr. Mohler’s blog.) By way of updates, I have two new sermons posted on my podcast. The first is a sermon on 1 Timothy 3, dealing with being a pillar and buttress of the truth in our churches. The second is a sermon on John 17:20-26, looking at the love that Jesus wills for us in his high priestly prayer.

I hope you are all having a wonderful 2011! May God bless you all with more experiential knowledge of himself as the year goes on!

God Is Not Dead

December 24, 2010 Leave a comment

Friedrich Nietzsche first said that “God is dead” in the late 19th century. In 1966, Time magazine published an article chronicling the “death of God” theology of the 1960s. In the fifty years since, our culture has consistently lived out its belief that God is dead—not that He ever really lived, in their collective mind, but that His reality is not even worth debating anymore. For the Christless masses, God is dead because God is irrelevant. The Cross does no good, such people claim, because there is still evil in this world. The concept of “already but not yet” is lost on those who claim that “God is dead.”

The American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow could have easily argued that “God is dead” because of the death of his wife Frances followed closely behind by the serious injury of his son on a Civil War battlefield. In his grief, though, Longfellow rose above his sorrows and penned the beloved hymn, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” Longfellow wrote:

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

I thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair I bowed my head:
"There is no peace on earth," I said,
"For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men."

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men."

Till, ringing singing, on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime,
Of peace on earth, good will to men!

Though Longfellow could have lashed out at God and abandoned Christ, Longfellow rose above that to admit, “God is not dead, nor doth he sleep.” As Spurgeon puts it, “When you cannot trace God’s hand, you can trust His heart.” This Christmas, may we remember that our Lord Jesus Christ, God born Man, still lives today. In our despair, when all we see is the earth’s hate, may we remember that “God is not dead, nor doth he sleep. The wrong shall fail, the right prevail, with peace on earth, good will to men.”

Below is Casting Crowns’ arrangement of this glorious, comforting hymn.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

The Importance of Investing in Your Children’s (Daughters’) Lives

December 10, 2010 1 comment

I first heard this song on the radio shortly before Father’s Day, but Sanctus Real’s song, “Lead Me,” captivated me around the same time, and I forgot about this song. I heard this song again a couple of months ago on the radio and absolutely loved it and its message. This Wednesday, I heard it on the radio, and then they told me its title and songwriter/singer! Below is “Like That” by Eric Greene. He’s the Executive Music and Worship Director at The Summit Church of Birmingham in Trussville, AL.


Did you notice that last rendition of the chorus?

Won’t you pray with her?
Daddy, please stay with her,
And be there to hold her close when she’s afraid.
And 25 years from now, she will remember just how
It feels to know that her daddy loves her like that.
It means everything for you, Dad, to love her like that.

Eric Greene gets his lyrics from Scripture. God through Solomon in Proverbs 22:6 commands and promises: “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” In Deuteronomy 6:6-7, God commands through Moses: “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” In other words, parents are to raise their children in the Lord continually. Or, as Paul says in Ephesians 6:3, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”

Parents, Church is a wonderful thing. Sermons are wonderful things. Both of these are commanded and ordained in Scripture, but God doesn’t want half-hearted, hypocritical obedience. The time we spend in church each week maybe amounts to 1/28th of our weekly time, and that is a very generous estimate of the time we spend singing worship songs and listening to sermons. Let me ask you: do you really think that giving God 1/28th of our time will lead to lives of godliness? No. Could God use that? Yes. But as he uses it, that time with him would by necessity increase! As many have said before me, “God loves us enough to take us as we are, but he loves us too much to leave us as we are.” God changes us. God conforms us to the image of his Son if we are truly his (Romans 8:29). Parents, God has ordained that you be the primary instrument of his grace to your children. Your children are your “heritage from the Lord” (Psalm 127:3).

Parents, when you stand before God and give an account of your life, what will your account look like regarding your children? Will our Lord say to you, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master” (Matthew 25:21)? Or will you only be able to say, “I’ve wasted it. I’ve wasted it”?

As John Piper says, “Don’t waste your life.” I’m telling you, Don’t waste your children. Your salvation does not guarantee theirs. But God will use your faithfulness in discipling them in order to draw them to himself. “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Or as Eric Greene sings: “25 years from now, she will remember just how it feels to know that her daddy loves her like that.”

Dads, it really does mean everything for you to love your children enough to pray with them, to stay with them, to hold them close when they’re afraid. You can never be perfect in this life, as the heavenly Father is perfect; but God calls you to be holy, even as he is holy. Show your kids the Father’s love. Pray with them, stay with them, be there for them. Love your children enough to invest in their life.

On just a personal note as an illustration, some of my fondest childhood memories are of going to play golf with my dad. He’s invested in my life (so has Mom, but this post is about fathers, primarily). He’s prayed with me before; he’s stayed with me in sicknesses and literally held me as I’ve gone through some particularly hard physical ailments (debilitating headaches and wisdom teeth surgery in particular, both this past spring). And that means the world to me. God shows us himself through his Word, the Bible … but dads, he’ll also show himself to your daughters—and your sons, as I can affirm—if you will show them his love by your actions. It means everything for you to invest in your children’s (daughters’) lives.

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