Saturday, May 19, 2012

Waging War On Sin

The apostle Paul exhorts the believer to wage war on sin.  He writes, "So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh— for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.  For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God" (Romans 8:12-14 NASB).

Jared Wilson, in his excellent post "Spare No Sin You Find," presents this message well.  He writes, "We don’t graduate from the gospel. We hold true to it. And it alone propels us out and empowers us to press on. Grace-driven effort flows from the joys and wonders of worship that flow from beholding the amazing gospel of God’s grace.

Were this true in you, the sin in you would become your enemy. Do you profess Christ? Have you received Christ? Then, 'Don’t just avoid sin; hate it' (Ed Welch). Be as intentional with your sin as Christ was. Carrying the banner of the gospel, which declares Christ’s conquering of sin and death, make bloodthirsty war with the sin in you. Watch for it, search it out, assassinate it with the word of God. Arm yourself with Spiritual armor, put on Christ, and spare no sin you find. Kill it, even as you trust the Spirit is killing it on your behalf. Because he is. And if he is, you should be too.

 You won’t drift into holiness. The Spirit will take you there. But God uses means to achieve his ends, and his earthly means of Spiritually sanctifying you is your pursuit of the righteousness of Christ. That we are 'being transformed' is a promise; that we should 'be transformed' is a command (2 Cor. 3:18; Rom. 12:2). This Spiritual tension causes Walter Marshall to affirm in The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification, his classic work affirming that grace is not only the grounds of our justification but our sanctification as well, that the reader must 'endeavour diligently to make right use of all means appointed in the word of God, for the obtaining and practicing holiness.'”

Be encouraged brothers and sisters in your battle with sin, for our strength and confidence is in in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who has declared, "In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world" (John 16:33b NASB).  Let us put to death the deeds of the body and live!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Thou Shalt Remember-Lessons From Newton, Goodwin and Paul

Biographer F. W. Boreham relates the following concerning John Newton, former slave trader and author of "Amazing Grace." Boreham shares that Newton "printed a certain text in bold letters, and fastened it right across the wall over his study mantelpiece:
A photograph of that mantelpiece lies before me as I write. There, clearly enough, hangs John Newton's text! In sight of it he prepared every sermon. In this respect John Newton resembled Thomas Goodwin. 'When,' says that sturdy Puritan, in a letter to his son, 'when I was threatening to become cold in my ministry, and when I felt Sabbath morning coming and my heart not filled with amazement at the grace of God, or when I was making ready to dispense the Lord's Supper, do you know what I used to do? I used to take a turn up and down among the sins of my past life, and I always came down again with a broken and contrite heart, ready to preach, as it was preached in the beginning, the forgiveness of sins.' 'I do not think,' he says again, 'I ever went up the pulpit stair that I did not stop for a moment at the foot of it and take a turn up and down among the sins of my past years. I do not think that I ever planned a sermon that I did not take a turn round my study-table and look back at the sins of my youth and of all my life down to the present; and many a Sabbath morning, when my soul had been cold and dry for the lack of prayer during the week, a turn up and down in my past life before I went into the pulpit always broke my hard heart and made me close with the gospel for my own soul before I began to preach.'" (You can find additional portions of Boreham's biography here).

The apostle Paul, writing to Timothy , testifies to the glorious gospel to which he has been entrusted, remembering the depths of his depravity from which he had found mercy from God:

12 I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service, 13 even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief; 14 and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus. 15 It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. 16 Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life. 17 Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. (1 Timothy 1:12-17 NASB)

Oh that we would never forget the depths of depravity from which we have found mercy by the grace of God and the redemption made sure in the salvation of Jesus Christ!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

"The Best Warrant For Christian Mission" by D. A. Carson

As we walk through this Easter season, the Williams Creek Baptist family has not only been rehearsing the events surrounding the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, but we've been celebrating what those events have done to reconcile lost and dying sinners with the holy and righteous God.  Any individual who has been made alive by the Spirit through this gospel message understands the call of taking this gospel to the four corners of the earth.  

The Lord has commissioned His church to "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).  Our church body is contemplating and praying about how we might sacrificially give to the support of this gospel kingdom work here in North America.  With this in mind, let me encourage you to read D. A. Carson's brief message which has been described as a "brief apologia for mission in a world that regularly despises mission."  His article is entitled "Take Up Your Cross And Follow Me." (You can find it here).  Carson concludes the following:

"But the best warrant for Christian mission is Jesus himself. He claims all authority is his, but he speaks not as a cosmic bully but as the crucified Lord. He insists that men and women have rebelled against his heavenly Father, but he joins himself to the human rebels so as to identify with them. He declares they deserve punishment, then bears the punishment himself. He claims to be the Judge they will meet on the last day, and meanwhile entreats them to turn to him, to trust him, and live. If one is going to follow a leader, what better leader than the one who demonstrates his love for his followers by dying on a cross to win them to himself? What political leader does that? What religious leader does that? Only God does that!

And then, in a small piece of mimicry, his followers are challenged to take up their cross and follow him (see Luke 9:23). If one of the results is a worldwide missionary movement, I for one will pray for it to thrive."

May we find ourselves fully surrendered to the Master's plan and fully participating in the life-changing mission of taking the gospel concerning Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

This Was The Fall

The apostle Paul describes the fallen condition of humanity in Romans 1:21-23, writing, "For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.  Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures."  Jonathan Parnell, in his post "When People Look Like Satan", provides a powerful description of humanity's fallen condition, highlighting Greg Beale's explanation, Parnell writes the following;

"God made humans to reflect his image and advance the display of his glory over the created world (Genesis 1:26–28). But Adam failed in this commission. Rather than have dominion over the serpent he succombed to its craftiness. As Greg Beale explains, 'Instead of wanting to be near God to reflect him, Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden' (Genesis 3:8 [so also 3:10])" (NTBT, 359).

Sin brought chaos and disorder. Things got all messed up. In fact, things became so backwards that Adam could be seen as actually supressing the image of God to reflect the image of the serpent, like a back-story to Romans 1:18–25.

Adam was the first human idolator who became something he was not supposed to become, looking more like the snake than he did his Creator. Beale explains how:
'Idol worship' should be defined as revering anything other than God. At the least, Adam's allegiance had shifted from God to himself and probably to Satan, since he came to resemble the serpent's character in some ways.
[He Lied]
The serpent was a liar (Genesis 3:4) and a deceiver (Genesis 3:1, 13). Likewise Adam, when asked by God, "Have you eaten from the tree of the which I commanded you not to eat?" (Genesis 3:11), does not answer forthrightly. Adam replies, "The woman whom you gave me to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate" (Genesis 3:12). Adam was deceptively blaming Eve for his sin, which shifted accountability from him to his wife, in contrast to the biblical testimony that Adam, not Eve, was accountable for the fall (e.g., see Romans 5:12–19).
[He Didn't Trust God's Word]
In addition, Adam, like the serpent, did not trust the word of God (with respect to Adam, see Genesis 2:16–17; 3:6; with respect to the serpent, Genesis 3:1, 4–5). Adam's shift from trusting God to trusting the serpent meant that he no longer reflected God's image but rather the serpent's image. . . .
[He Exalted Himself]
[Adam] not only stood by while his covenantal ally, Eve, was deceived by the serpent, but also decided for himself that God's word was wrong and the devil's word was right. In so doing, perhaps Adam was reflecting another feature of the serpent, who has exalted his code of behavior over and against the dictates of God's righteous standard. But, if not, certainly Adam was deciding for himself that God's word was wrong. This is precisely the point where Adam placed himself in God's place — this is worship of the self.
G. K. Beale, A New Testament Biblical Theology, (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2011), 359f., headings and full biblical citations added.
Adam was a deceiver. He didn't trust God's word. He exalted his standard above's God's in the worship of himself. Humans, created to image the majesty of God, rebelled and imaged the character of the serpent. This was the fall. And it's not just Adam's story, it's our story, too."

The result of this fall is death.  Death is the penalty for sin (Romans 6:23) and sin is the condition of all humanity (Romans 3:23).  But praise be to God, the story does not end here!  Through His predetermined plan of redemption, God would restore His glory by reconciling His people through the sacrifice of "His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life" (John 3:16)  Paul further explains, "But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep.  For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead.  For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive" (1 Corinthians 15:21-22.)

Having survived a powerful earthquake, the Philippian Jailer, "trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas, and after he brought them out, he said, 'Sirs, what must I do to be saved?' They said, 'Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household'”(Acts 16:29-31). 

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Serving The Local Body Of Christ

Are you committed to the local church?  Do you find yourself in your God-given position, strengthening, encouraging and building up the local body at Williams Creek Baptist Church?  The apostle Paul, writing to the Ephesian Church, clarified, "And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ" (Ephesians 4:11-13).  In a very helpful and encouraging way, Tim Challies has provided an excellent challenge addressing our individual responsibility to serving the local body of Christ.  The following is an excerpt from his recent post entitled "Good Churchmanship".  Challies writes:

Churchmanship is a virtue that may also be fading into history. We all lead busy and multi-faceted lives. We have obligations at home and at work and we have relationships to nurture with family, extended family, neighbors, friends. Somewhere in that mix is commitment to a local church. For some people church ranks so highly that ministry always comes first, even at the expense of everything and everyone else; for some people church barely ranks at all and receives only the few moments that are left over when everything else has been taken care of.

Between these extremes is the virtue of good churchmanship. The good churchman is a Christian who truly and wholeheartedly dedicates himself to his local church, to the community of believers he loves. This is the Christian who who loves those people, who serves them, and who prioritizes them. This is a fading virtue we would do well to recover and to call one another to.

Here are some of the ways a Christian can face particular challenges in our time and in our churches and excel at churchmanship.

A Good Churchman Attends. Commitment to a community of Christians involves much more than just being there, but it certainly does not involve less than this. In order to be dedicated to a church—not just the church as institution but the church as people—you need to be present so you can be with people and actively engage with them. The good churchman knows that every time the church gathers, there are opportunities to pursue, to minister, to bless, and he is eager to take full advantage of every one of these times.

A Good Churchman Serves. The person who is dedicated to his church actively pursues opportunities to serve the people he loves. He looks beyond the formal ministries of the church—greeters and nursery workers and offices of elder or deacon—and continually looks for ways to serve other people, even, or perhaps especially, in ways that few will ever notice. His pursuit of people is always a pursuit of ways to serve.

A Good Churchman Disciples. There are so many skills and virtues that are better caught than taught, better modeled than explained. The good churchman knows this and is active in discipling others, even though this requires him to give of his time. Discipleship requires humility—not just the humility to know your weakness, but humility to believe that the Lord can use you in another person’s life despite your sin and failings. It was not pride but humility that motivated Paul to tell the church at Corinth, “I urge you, then, be imitators of me” and “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.”

A Good Churchman Grows. The Christian who attends and serves and disciples will almost inevitably be a Christian who shows steady growth in his understanding of the Scripture and in his application of its truths. This Christian life calls for a relentless pursuit of holiness, which is the product of an ongoing pursuit of God himself, which is in turn the product of a relentless pursuit of truth as God has revealed it in the Bible. The good churchman takes advantage of every ordinary means of God’s grace, he reads and listens and studies and prays, and through it all is more and more conformed to the image of the Savior.

A Good Churchman Submits. There are few tasks more rewarding and at the same time more trying than leading a church. The good churchman loves the leaders in his church, trusts them, and submits to their leadership. Submission to authority is increasingly counter-cultural in our anti-authority culture, but it is clearly taught and carefully modeled in the pages of Scripture. Rather than assuming that he knows best and rather than making bold statements with only a partial understanding of the facts, the churchman submits with joy and confidence.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

"Jesus is Coming Back When?" by Joe Carter

For anyone who has been walking with us through the Revelation study on Wednesday evenings, you will find the article by Joe Carter, "Jesus is Coming Back When?", very insightful for the study on Christ's return as it relates to the Millenial kingdom.  Joe is one of the editors for The Gospel Coalition website.  Joe begins:

If you expect Jesus to return within the next forty years, does that make you an optimist or a pessimist?  The Pew Research Center released a survey in 2010 about what events Americans believe will unfold in the next forty years. One interesting question asked about the return of Jesus Christ:

As expected, predictions about whether Jesus Christ will return to earth in the next 40 years divide along religious lines. Fully 58% of white evangelical Christians say Jesus Christ will definitely or probably return to earth in this period, by far the highest percentage in any religious group. Only about a third of Catholics (32%), and even fewer white mainline Protestants (27%) and the religiously unaffiliated (20%) predict Jesus Christ's return to earth.  In addition, those with no college experience (59%) are much more likely than those with some college experience (35%) and college graduates (19%) to expect Jesus Christ's return. By region, those in the South (52%) are the most likely to predict a Second Coming by 2050.

But what does it mean? How does this fit into the overall views of Christians in America?

Not surprisingly, there are few areas of Christian theology more contentious or confusing than eschatology, the study of the end times. Should the Book of Revelation be interpreted literally or metphorically? Will Christ establish his Kingdom on earth or has his millenial reign already begun? Within evangelicalism there are four general points of agreement and four general perspectives on eschatology.

The four points of agreement are:

1. Jesus Christ will physically return to earth one day.
2. There will be a bodily resurrection of all people who have ever lived.
3. Satan will be defeated and constrained forever.
4. There will be a final judgment in which believers join Christ for eternity while nonbelievers are separated from God's presence.*
Joe provides an excellent overview of four distinct millenial positions.  You can find the article in its entirety here.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Training Our Children In Worship

I came across a wonderful follow up to the previous post on "How to Listen to a Sermon" by Phil Ryken.  Its an article by Jason Helopoulos entitled, "Children In Worship-Mom Tested Tips" which you can find here.  I've included the post below which presents 14 helpful points on how to train and encourage your children when it comes to the gathered church in worship.  Jason provides the following helpful points:

  1. Focus on this moment throughout the week: Talk about Sunday morning worship all week long. Help your children to see that each week begins with this privilege (Acts 20:7; Hebrews 10:24-25).
  2. Model excitement about the Lord’s Day: Children learn a great deal by watching their parents. If Mom and Dad reluctantly go to church, then the children will reluctantly go to church. If Mom and Dad are critical of the preacher, sermon, etc. then the children will most likely be critical. Wake up early on Sunday morning and prepare for worship. Let the children see your joy and excitement.
  3. Implement family worship at home: A family that worships together at home will find it much easier to worship together in corporate worship. A child will find it natural to hear the Word of God, to read the Word of God, to sing the hymns, etc. This will also help our children to learn to sit still, to understand the importance of worship, to focus during prayer, etc.
  4. Read the passage during the week: Most sermon series are an exposition of one book of the Bible. This means that you know what you are going to hear read and preached in the week’s service—the next passage. Read it throughout the week and converse about it around the dinner table or during family worship. The children will then be familiar with the text that the pastor is preaching on. With this knowledge, give them some things to listen for in the sermon.
  5. Start early: Many believe that it is harder to introduce a five year old to corporate worship then a twelve year old, but this is not true. A five year old is in the formative years of training. They are not yet “set in their ways.” A few months of struggling with a four or five year old teaching them how to sit in corporate worship yields benefits for the rest of their lives.
  6. Use Moments in the Service: Use transitional moments in the service to whisper in your child’s ear how much you loved a certain verse in a hymn, how you need to remember to pray for the sick person mentioned, or how you were convicted by that application. It keeps them engaged and allows them to see you participating intently in the service.
  7. Use the Obvious Helps: We often forget to use the helps that are already available to us. For example: have an older child find the Bible passage or guide your finger over the text as it is read for a younger child. Use the bulletin and show your children where the service is at. Have them read the confession as you point along with each word.
  8. Sit near the Front: Children are easily distracted, so sit near the front where there are less distractions.
  9. Create an atmosphere in your row: Encourage your children to pay attention, to stand when everyone stands, to sing when they are to sing, to bow their heads in prayer when the congregation is to pray, etc.
  10. Enlist the Support of Other Members: Ask another member to lend a helping hand by sitting with your family. Surround yourself with other families that you have enlisted to provide you encouragement and not to fuss if your child is a little restless.
  11. Stop Worrying: Many parents are concerned about what other parents or members of the congregation think of their parenting skills or how annoyed someone else is with their child’s fidgeting during the service. DON’T! Commit as a congregation to welcome children into your services. This means that not only do our children have to adjust, but so do the adults. In reality, it is adults who have to adjust the most! Let’s just learn to have a little more tolerance on this front. If a baby is a little fussy, papers are rustling, or a few things are dropping on the floor it is o.k. As congregations, we need to willingly and joyfully join in this great privilege of welcoming our covenant children into corporate worship. And that takes some minor adjusting on our part.
  12. Affirm Your Children: When you leave the service and are on the way home, affirm your children. Ask them questions about the service and relay how the Lord blessed you. Encourage your children if they were well-behaved and let them know how wonderful it was to worship alongside of them.
  13. Be Consistent: It will take time for your children to learn how to sit still, sing the hymns, etc. Be consistent in your expectations and desires for them during the service.
  14. Do Not be Overzealous: Be patient with your children and shower them with grace. It takes children time to adjust and different children adjust or accept on different time tables. Your child may come into the service and sit attentively and quietly within a few weeks or you may have to help your child with this for months or even years (as has been our case!). Be patient! Love them and do not compare them to other children. God has blessed you with this little bundle of joy!