Why I am a Calvinist

Tulip-8

It’s been suggested to me that I back down or refrain from preaching or teaching the doctrines of Grace i.e. Calvinism. I’d like to explain why these doctrines of total depravity, unconditional election/ predestination, limited atonement, effectual calling, and the perseverance of the saints are so treasured by me that I cannot back away from them even if it costs me my current job or a future job in an SBC church.

 

First, they are precious doctrines because they are biblical. That should be all the grounding that any believer needs. God has saw fit to reveal in his Word these teachings for us to study and to treasure. His word is the standard for all of our beliefs and practices. Jesus said, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

 

Second, these doctrines exalt God and humble men. Salvation is 100% God’s working. We contribute absolutely nothing to our salvation except the sin that makes it necessary. God will share his glory with no one. It is humbling to know that if not for the sovereign grace of God, I would take myself straight to hell. Yet it causes me to shout in praise of God that he took a dead sinner like myself and made me alive. He has lavished his grace upon one who hated him and could not and would not choose him of his own will.

 

Thirdly, these doctrines are exquisite because they reveal the love that God has for his elect. That in eternity past, God the Father chose a people for himself. He chose to reveal his love to his people by sending God the Son to the cross and dying to save them. He died not just to make salvation possible in generalities but to actually save his specific sheep.  And because God is the one who saves then those who are saved can never be lost. Those he predestines he calls, justifies and will glorify. What great comfort and assurance is found in Christ.

 

Fourthly, these doctrines fuel our evangelism and zeal good works. Because God prepared our salvation beforehand, he also prepared our good works as well. He has chosen to use saved and sanctified sinners to take the glory of the gospel into the world to reach his children. Whether I preach in the pulpit or in the street, I can be confident that my job is just to be faithful to his word and that He is the one who is responsible for the results. I can be confident that God has chosen that the power of the gospel can overwhelm the enslaved and dead will of a sinner and cause them to be born again so that they will now freely chose to obey him. I can pray with confidence for God to save my friends and family, knowing that God actually has the power to save them if he so chooses.

 

Fifthly, and related to the last, because I trust in the sovereignty of God, I do not have to resort to merely pragmatic and worse yet emotionally manipulative means in order to try and get a decision while sharing the gospel. I can faithfully preach the commands of God without being embarrassed by things that our culture finds antiquated. I don’t have to rely on half-truths or the nuancing of things to death so as not to offend. I can trust that God is sovereign and that he has determined to use the proclamation of his word to either save his sheep or to drive away the goats. Consequently, I am free to be faithful to share the gospel with my neighbor without fear that if I mess something up or if I am not the greatest communicator that my neighbor won’t be saved because something I said. Salvation is of the Lord and not of the will of man.

 

There are plenty of other reasons I can think of for why these doctrines are so amazing and precious. Hitting home for me is that God has used the preaching of these beliefs to bring me to repentance and faith in him. And because of that there is no way that I can ever refrain from believing, teaching, preaching, and celebrating the doctrines of Grace.

 

 

Additional Sources:
A Defense of Calvinism by Charles Spurgeon

John Calvin’s Institutes of Christian Religion

Robert Dabney Defends the Five Points of Calvinism

Arminian Errors

 

One Kingdom Shall Remain

US-JUSTICE-GAY-MARRIAGE

Today, the United States Supreme Court followed up its past few days of foolish rulings with another tyrannical and unconstitutional order declaring that homosexuals have a “right” to “marry.”  . The Court since its beginning increasingly has given itself more and more power. They have in the past ruled that a black person was a piece of property and that there is a right to murder children in the womb.  In the past few years, they have usurped the legislative branch by rewriting laws to uphold the immoral and unconstitutional Obama Care.   Today, they have attempted to usurp the marriage foundation. The Justices that make up this Court are illegitimate claimants to the magistracy.  But they are not alone in their complacency.  They are just another piece in the puzzle of a  bloated federal leviathan. This is all, of course, reflects a nation of greedy, selfish, and immoral people. John Adams once said, “W]e have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. . . . Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

The United States of America is a crumbling empire bent on self-destruction. Its government is in crippling debt. It promotes the destruction of life in the womb, killing its future. It celebrates sexual perversions that cannot create life and will only bring lasting ruin.  This can seem like a despairing and heart wrenching time for Christians. No doubt many will be tempted to turn to predictions of the rapture for solace.

11650738_10152997006133526_677169778_n(These predictions never pan out of course.)
The Bible ,however, can provide us with greater hope than failed predictions of a getaway car even in the face of a rebellious and tyrannical government. Daniel 2 speaks of a kingdom that has come which will outlast all empires and nations. America may linger on for a few years. God may grant us repentance and full restoration. Or America may ultimately collapse. But, Daniel tells us while interpreting a dream that ” And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever, just as you saw that a stone was cut from a mountain by no human hand, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold. A great God has made known to the king what shall be after this. The dream is certain, and its interpretation sure. (Daniel 2:44-45)”

the-statue
In Daniel’s time, this was a future prediction speaking of the coming of Christ.  With the coming of Christ in the manger, this vision became reality.  In Luke 11:20 Jesus says,” But if I drive out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.” Jesus was clear, the Kingdom of God has come. And it will break into pieces all kingdoms and bring to an end those who oppose Christ and his Lordship.  If the United States continues on in its rebellion, it too will be broken into pieces but Christ’s kingdom will remain.  Daniel inspired by the Holy Spirit tells us that this is certain and true.  That is to be our hope in this time. Our response in this time needs to be one of repentance and obedience. Jesus told us in Matthew 28 that “all authority in heaven and ON EARTH” is his.   We are to go and make disciples of ALL NATIONS (Matthew 28:19).   Our hope is not found in courts, governments, or the Red, White, and Blue.   We need to be in the streets, in our neighborhoods, in our cities and towns proclaiming the gospel of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ.  We need to put all of life  under the sure authority of God’s law-word.   The Gospel is the good news of forgiveness of sins for sure.  However, it is much more.  It is the good news of the Kingdom of Jesus.  This King brings forgiveness and transformation to those who repent and put their trust in him.  This King has his good and perfect law for all aspects of our life, including civil government.   We have one King and He is Jesus (Revelation 19:16, Isaiah 9:6).   We proclaim him and pledge allegiance to Him alone.

The 6th Commandment- Hold Back the Slaughter

(The following is a transcript from a sermon I preached on May 31, 2015)

A month and a half ago, Pastor Tony told me that he would need me to preach today. As you know Pastor Tony has been going through a series of sermons on the 10 Commandments.   He told me then that I was free to preach the next sermon in the series or whatever sermon God had instructed me to preach. At the time he initially asked me, today was supposed to be the 8th commandment, Thou Shall Not Steal. However a few Sundays back, Pastor Tony felt God leading him to take a break from the series for a sermon on Romans 1 and then the next week for special sermon for Mother’s day.   This change meant that instead of the 8th commandment, this week’s message will be about the 6th commandment. Pastor Tony and I have both seen God’s hand at work in how this has fell into place. God has gifted me the opportunity to share with you a passion from my heart and quite frankly from God’s own heart. I pray that God will use me today to awaken our hearts to obey God’s commandment to Hold Back the Slaughter.   Let us, pray. (Pray)

Please turn in your copy of God’s word to Exodus 20:13 and Proverbs 24:11-12.   And as your turning to these passages I want to give by way of introduction a reminder regarding God’s law.   First, God’s Law was given as a gracious move on God’s part after rescuing the Israelites from slavery. It is an act of grace that he gives believer’s his word and expectations for their life as his covenant people. God’s commandments are truly meant for our benefit and not our harm. Secondly, we must always remember that we cannot be saved by law keeping. Ephesians 2:8 &9 tells us that we are saved by grace through faith, and that it is not our own doing. It is the gift of God, not a result of works.   The Law never was meant as a way for salvation. It was never given that power. Let me repeat, we are saved, justified, made right with God by his total grace through faith.   Now having been saved, we are now set apart or sanctified to good works.   If anyone is in Christ he is a new Creation. We have been recreated and now enabled by The Holy Spirit to keep the commandments of God.   So if the law was meant for salvation what was it given for?  1. The commandments point us to our need for a savior. They are like mirror that reveals our sinfulness and inability to save ourselves. 2. They are given to restrain evil. One way they do this is by providing to the magistrate or rulers the standard for what constitutes a crime and the prescribed punishments thereof.   3. The third purpose of the law is to reveal what is pleasing to God. As born-again children of God, the law enlightens us as to what is pleasing to our Father, whom we seek to serve. The Christian delights in the law as God Himself delights in it. Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15). This is the highest function of the law, to serve as an instrument for the people of God to give Him honor and glory.

As we look now to Exodus 20:13, I want us also to remember that Jesus summarized all of the Law in Two Commandments- Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul and mind. And Love your Neighbor as yourself.   These two summarize all of God’s law.   The 10 Commandments though in a way are summaries too.   They act as chapter titles or a table of contents for the rest of the law.   Therefore to fully understand each commandment we need to keep in mind both how they fit into Christ’s summary and how it in turn they are broadened and defined in the rest of God’s word. One thing we see is that each commandment often has a negative or forbidding aspect and a positive or commanding aspect. We also see that the commandments are not just concerned with outward obedience but also the condition of the heart.

That said let’s read our passage. Exodus 20:13 :“You shall not murder.”   Aright that’s pretty easy to figure out, let’s all go home. Seriously, while containing just four words, this commandment when fully understood should drive us to our knees in repentance and then on further to action.   I want to briefly share with you first a theological foundation to this commandment and then transition to a specific implication and application for us as Christians in a culture of death.

First let’s look to the theological foundation for this commandment. To do that, we begin of all places in the beginning. Genesis 1:1 tells us that in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. We then see throughout this chapter God speaking forth into the darkness and by his words creating.   The Earth, Sun, the moon, the stars, fish and birds, plants and animals are all created by God speaking them into existence.   But on the sixth day, God does something different. He forms a person from the dust of the ground and breath’s life into him. The Genesis account gives the briefest of mention to the fact that God created the stars. The vast expanse of the heavens is almost seen as an afterthought.   But the Bible, spends a great deal of more time on the creation of people. In fact it gives an account in chapter 1 and then turns around and gives a more intimate account in chapter 2 on the creation of Adam and Eve.   There is something personal about how God forms man and breathes life into Him. We are told here in Genesis that God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. We are all created in the image of God.   What does this mean? Not wanting to bore you with the many definitions, I am going to give you what I have come to believe through my studies this to mean. “Being created in the image of God” means that we are made to be his representatives on earth. We are to operate as his image or ambassador. In Genesis, the first humans were commanded to subdue the earth, to take dominion of it. We are to do this in God’s name as his image bearers.  Thus our lives have value as we are created to be God’s representatives.

I want to look at a few more passages here that drive home the point that God has created us and formed us.   God’s Word says that He personally made each one of us. Speaking personally of Jeremiah, God says in  Jeremiah 1:5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart.” Before we were even conceived God had a determined to create us.   We also see God’s choosing and purpose for Paul before he was born in Galatians 1:15 But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace. The Psalmist writes in Psalm 139:13,16 “For You created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb… Your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be.” And in Job we read “Your hands shaped me and made me… Did You not clothe me with skin and flesh and knit me together with bones and sinews? You gave me life.” Isaiah the prophet writes “This is what the Lord says—He who made you, who formed you in the womb. “   And again in Job, “Did not He who made me in the womb make them? Did not the same One form us both within our mothers?”

God has determined to create us and give us life. He formed us in the womb. Life is a gift from Him. And as Job tells us “In His hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of every human being” Job 12:10.   If God gives us life and makes us in His image, then it is He alone who has the right to determine what to do with that life. In fact it is his prerogative to decide when to give life and when to take it.

However in the garden of Eden we see that the Image bearers Adam and Eve did not believe God. They were willingly deceived into believing a lie.   They believed the lie that they could be not just image bearers but God themselves. They could cast aside the name they were supposed to rule in and instead attempt to reign in their own. What follows shortly after is that their son Cain again claims a right reserved to God alone and he kills His brother, Abel.

Thus I want us to see four things about Murder:

  1. Murder is an attack on the image of God and thus truly an attack on God himself. It is an act of war against God the Creator of the Universe.   We understand this when it comes to ambassadors of a nation. Ambassadors are given referential respect in the nations that they are sent to. To attack imprison, threaten, or worse kill an ambassador of a nation for most of history was seen as not just an attack on that person but an attack upon the nation He represents. In 2 Samuel David sent representatives to a nation who has just lost its king. The new King saw them not as the delegation of honor they were meant for but as a threat. This new king shamed the delegation by cutting off their beard and shredding their clothing. David saw this an act of war against God’s people and went to war.    Murder and unjust violence against a fellow human is an act of war against God.   David again acknowledged this in his Psalm of repentance. David whom had stolen a wife and committed murder acknowledge that this was first and foremost a crime against God.
  2. Murder is a crime against God and man. It therefore is a capital crime. The state has been given the responsibility of being an agent of wrath upon those who kill. Christians should not oppose the death penalty for murder because God has prescribed that very thing. Exodus 21:12 12 “Whoever strikes a man so that he dies shall be put to death. Genesis 9:6 “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.
  3. As I said above, the law is not just content to deal with outward conformity but it has our hearts conditions in mind as well. .   Matthew 5: 21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment.     Hate in your heart toward another person created in the image of God is a sin against God.   And while God has not given the government the responsibility to punish people for their heart “hate crimes”, he has promised a sure and just punishment for an unrepentant person full of hate.
  4. The 6th Commandment is not just a prohibition but it also entails upon God’s people a responsibility to defend life. God’s people are to protect the less fortunate. We are to seek to justice. You can’t read through the prophets of the Old Testament without seeing the concern for life and justice.   We are to love our neighbor as our self.   We all know the parable of the Good Samaritan.   Jesus tells us to even love those who hate us and pray for them who persecute us.

There is so much more than can be said here but I want to turn now to a particular implication of this commandment for today. Having now laid down a general understanding of this command I want us to look at our passage in Proverbs and see how it applies for us as a church today. Proverbs 24:11-12 says “Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter. If you say, “Behold, we did not know this,” does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it, and will he not repay man according to his work?”

I recently watched a video from the end of the Second World War.
The Americans after having defeated the Germans and liberated the residents of the concentration camps made sure those residents of Dachau and other towns were forced to confront the horrors of the concentration camps. According to Harold Marcuse, in his book “Legacies of Dachau,” after the liberation “a group of Nazi elite was forced to tour the Dachau crematorium on May 8 1945.” There they were made to look at the naked, emaciated bodies of the innocent victims of Nazi barbarity, piled up in the mortuary room right next to the gas chamber. Young boys in the Hitler Youth were brought to the camp and forced to look at the corpses on the Death Train.

Just a short distance from these concentration camps, the German people had went about their business in the towns. They went to work, raised their children, listened to music, and even went to church while a hike a way Jews, Gypsies, blacks, and other unwanted people were forced into death champers and slaughtered.

As you watch the video footage of these Germans hiking up the five miles to the liberated camp, you can see that they are woefully unprepared for what they are about to see.   Many of them look like they are just out for gentle stroll through the country side. They have smiles and pep in their walk.     But as they were marched through these camps, their faces change.   The smiles are gone and replaced with tears of pain and outrage.

According to Peter Wyden, in his book “The Hitler Virus,” a few of the Dachau notables, who were forced to view the corpses, fainted. Some cried and many shook their heads. Most of them turned away, eager to avoid the scene. Afterwards, they were heard to whisper, “Unglaublich!” (Unbelievable)

The practice of bringing German civilians from nearby towns to the concentration camps after they were liberated was started by General Walton Walker who ordered the Mayor of the town of Ohrdruf and his wife to visit the Ohrdruf labor camp after it was discovered by American troops on April 4, 1945. After their visit, the Mayor and his wife returned home and killed themselves.

What a gruesome and horrible scene. The German people had long heard rumors or even know about what had happened in those camps but they refused to acknowledge it.   They lived in a culture of death and pretended like nothing was wrong.   And we look back today wondering how that could have happened in a modern society in enlightened Europe.

How could they have allowed that to happen?   My question is How Can we allow the same thing to happen.   Just an hour down the road from this church building, Tuesday through Saturday, people go into a building and pay someone to slaughter their child.   Every year 4,000 children are taken to the butcher by their own parents here in Kentucky.   We are living in a Holocaust.   Every year in the US, 1.06 Million Children are killed. Since 1973 there have been almost 58 Million children killed in our nation.   Every day 2600 babies are murdered by the very ones who are supposed to love them.   And we would ask the Germans how they could allow such a thing to happen. How can we allow it to happen?

Since I can’t take you on a physical tour of the facilities in Louisville and Lexington, please allow me just a minute to describe for you the procedures that they do at these facilities. I have taken the names of these procedures straight from the website for the abortion death camp in Louisville called EMW’s womens surgical center.    Please listen as to what happens day in and day out at this place in Louisville.

EMW’s Abortion Mill does both medical and surgical abortion. Let’s begin with the surgical abortions: The first procedure is called :.

D & C (Dilation and Curettage): within first 12 weeks
The abortionist uses a dilator or laminaria to open the cervix. Laminaria are thin sticks from a kelp species that are inserted hours before the procedure and allowed to slowly absorb water and expand, thereby dilating the cervix. A suction device is placed in the uterine cavity to remove the fetus and placenta.  Then the abortionist inserts a curette (a loop-shaped knife) into the uterus. The abortionist uses the curette to scrape any remaining fetal parts and the placenta out of the uterus. After suction, the doctor and nurses must reassemble the fetus’ dismembered parts to ensure they have all the pieces.

D and C

D & E (Dilation and Evacuation): within 13-24 weeks after last menstrual period
The fetus literally doubles in size between the 11th and 12th weeks of pregnancy. Soft cartilage hardens into bone at 16 weeks, making the fetus too large and strong to pass through a suction tube. The D & E procedure begins by inserting laminaria a day or two before the abortion, opening the cervix wide to accommodate the larger fetal size. The abortionist then both tears and cuts the fetus and uses the vacuum machine to extract its remains. Because the skull is too large to be suctioned through the tube, it must be crushed by forceps for removal. Pieces must be extracted very carefully because the jagged, sharp pieces of the broken skull could easily cut the cervix.

09_weeks-03_medium

As for the Medical or Chemical abortion. They use:

RU-486 (Mifepristone): within 4-7 weeks of the last menstrual period.
Also called “the abortion pill.”
This drug interferes with levels of progesterone, a hormone that keeps the fetus implanted in the wall of the uterus. The woman is prescribed Mifepristone and then Misoprostol (Cytotec) is taken two days later at home. This medication causes the uterus to contract, induces labor and expels the dead fetus. A follow visit may be required if the baby is not expelled, at which time a woman has a 5-8% likelihood of needing a surgical abortion to complete the process.

This happens not an hour from our church.   People take the precious life that God has gifted them with and have it destroyed.   Moms and Dads who are supposed to care about their children will have their child ripped limb by limb.   This is our Holocaust. These are Kentucky’s children being killed, children who should grow up to make a difference in this world.   These mother’s and father’s will not experience the changing of the first diaper, seeing the first smiles, hearing the coos, and watching their child grow. These children will not experience learning how to walk, clumsily falling down just to get back up and do it all over again. These children will not hear the sound of their mother’s voice saying I love you. They will not say their first words, da da or mama.   No these children will not do any of that because they will have been murdered by their own parents.   And far worse is that for the most part the church, the bride of Christ has set back and done very little.

A Christian Philosopher Francis Schaeffer once said ““Every abortion clinic should have a sign in front of it saying, “Open by the permission of the church.” Wow that is tough to hear.   But in many ways it is true.

For one many of these people who are going to the mill in Louisville claim to be Christians. Many of them go to churches and sing hymns.   I’ve even been at there one Saturday and had a man who brought his daughter for an abortion tell me that He was a minister after he threatened to beat me up.


Secondly, for most we have relegated this to a political issue.   We have bought the lie that this is best fought in the senate or Whitehouse.   Because of that too many preachers have been afraid to speak to this issue.   Thirdly, for many we have just become too apathetic or resigned to defeat.   There are a lot of excuses we give to keep from doing anything “I don’t want to get involved.” “It’s none of my business.” “I might make enemies if I say something.” “It’s too much trouble.” “I’m too busy to take the time.” “I’ll leave that job to the professionals.” “Someone else will take care of it.”

Excuses will not do.   Proverbs 24: 11-12 tells us Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter. If you say, “Behold, we did not know this,” does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it, and will he not repay man according to his work?”   Dietrich Bonhoeffer a christian preacher put to death by the Nazis for speaking out said “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”   And the bible agrees with Him.

Our work being biblically mandated and sovereignly ordained, we are called to be salt and light in a darkened, and defiled world; we are commanded to care for the fatherless and bring justice to the oppressed and preyed-upon. We have been exhorted to expose deeds of darkness, and destroy speculations raised up against the knowledge of God. We are exhorted to rescue the weak from death, snatch the falling from flames, and hold back the stumbling from the slaughter. We are to be against the world, for the world.   So what is the answer?

Supreme above all philosophies, all isms and ideologies, is the fullness of the Gospel of God; (that God himself stepped down into human history as Jesus Christ, conceived in the womb of a young unmarried woman who did not choose to be with child or plan on being a mother, to live a sinless life before wicked man whom he came to die for, and redeem from the just wrath of God against sinners. It is the will of God that all men might come to know Him, and in the fullness of time, Christ Jesus has made this possible). The Gospel above all else possesses the capacity to mobilize human action, motivate moral behavior, and mandate consistent compassionate social justice. It is the answer to all of societies ills and injustices. It is the bulwark against an ever increasing inhumanity of man against man. It is the Gospel alone that will end human oppression and redeem mankind from the dominion of evil powers and sinful man. It is the wellspring of love, hope, and joy. The actual foundation for justice. And the real answer to abortion

We have been given the weapons of God to take down all strongholds.   The Gates of Hell cannot prevail against the Church.   We have the power of the Gospel.     Paul says it is the power for salvation.

We have to begin dealing with the excuses. Each of us need to look at the fullness of the gospel and repent. We need to repent for our apathy. Repentance will involve us turning from apathy and doing nothing to being what we are called to be, salt and light.

We need to reclaim a culture of life.   Our world is a culture of death. It celebrates abortion and all types of sexual perversions that are incapable of producing life.   We who are in Christ have been given life.   We are being empowered to keep God’s commands which bring forth blessing.   We have to put to death in us the idea that children are a curse and not a blessing.   My brother has 5 children and I can’t tell you the number of well meaning people who have asked him if he knew what causes children.   Our culture looks at having children as strange.   Test yourself, if you are of the age where you can have children and you are married, What is the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about having another child? Is it money?   Is it Oh No , what would we do.   I am not discounting the importance of providing financially. But our first concern should be whether it is God’s will that we have children. We should think about what God would have us do.   I am grateful that our church does celebrate children.   But there is more we can do.   We need to educate them in the Lord.

We all need to be sharing the good news of Jesus Christ.   We have wonderful and great news.   How often do we share that news with others around us?   Do your friends and coworkers see in you a transformed life? Have they heard from you the glorious truth of the gospel? Sharing the gospel is not just for the pastor, it is all of ours blessed responsibility.

God has gifted us as a church with many different people with many different talents and skills.   We can use them to God’s glory and to end this evil on our land called abortion.   God has gifted some of us to be teachers and principals. How can you use that vocation and skill to fight abortion? How can you be used to make a difference? There are teenagers every week who go to the clinic who have abortions. They need to be told the gospel. They need to be called to repentance.   God may have placed you where you are to make that difference.

We have people who maybe God has gifted with good business skills and know how to use their resources wisely. Maybe you can contribute by buying tracts, drop cards, signs, cameras, ads, or a host of other resources that can be used to stop abortion.   We need people who are willing to give of their resources to help unexpected mother’s who are seeking help instead of an abortion.   We need someone whom we call when a mother leaves the abortion clinic having changed her mind but needs help. We need people willing to adopt a child, to give them a loving home and family.

Many of us have Saturday Morning’s off or any other mornings for that matter and I know we like to sleep in. But there are children dying. God can use you driving to Louisville to hold a sign for a couple of hours.   You can pray there and reach out to plead with the woman going to murder their child.   Just this week, we saw a couple change their mind after having been pleaded with by Christians.

Maybe you can’t do that because of health reasons or job situation but you can write letters to politicians, post on facebook, and do a host of other things from your home.   The opportunities are almost endless here. But we must act.

I’d like to close today with two quick stories.

The first is of the early church. They were persecuted and lived with many fearing for their lives. They had been sent by Jesus into a dark world.   In the city Antioch where they were first called Christians, abortion and a host of other evils were rampant.   People would not only abort, they would throw their unwanted babies out into the street to die if they were born.   People with disabilities were mistreated.   It was a culture of death.   This ragtag band of believers there worked tirelessly under threat of death to take in these unwanted children. One of the first Christian documents outside of the Bible, speaks out against abortion.   These Christians suffered and many died.   But God used them.   They transformed that city.   Eventually the whole of the Roman Empire would succumb to Christian influence.   The gladiator games where people were put to death for other’s enjoyment were ended. Christianity transformed Europe and led to the foundation of our country.   This was all by God using Christians working with the power of the gospel. They rescued those going to death.

A second story is told from a German man who lived during World War II.

“I lived in Germany during the Nazi holocaust. I considered myself a Christian. I attended church since I was a small boy. We had heard the stories of what was happening to the Jews, but like most people today in this country, we tried to distance ourselves from the reality of what was really taking place. What could anyone do to stop it?

A railroad track ran behind our small church, and each Sunday morning we would hear the whistle from a distance and then the clacking of the wheels moving over the track. We became disturbed when one Sunday we noticed cries coming from the train as it passed by. We grimly realized that the train was carrying Jews. They were like cattle in those cars!

Week after week that train whistle would blow. We would dread to hear the sound of those old wheels because we knew that the Jews would begin to cry out to us as they passed our church. It was so terribly disturbing! We could do nothing to help these poor miserable people, yet their screams tormented us. We knew exactly at what time that whistle would blow, and we decided the only way to keep from being so disturbed by the cries was to start singing our hymns. By the time that train came rumbling past the church yard, we were singing at the top of our voices. If some of the screams reached our ears, we’d just sing a little louder until we could hear them no more. Years have passed and no one talks about it much anymore, but I still hear that train whistle in my sleep. I can still hear them crying out for help. God forgive all of us who called ourselves Christians, yet did nothing to intervene. “

Irvington Baptist Church will we be like the Christians in Antioch who we willing to suffer unto death to rescue those who are to being taken away to death or will we be a church who just sings songs louder over the cries of our unborn neighbors are stumbling to the slaughter.

Let us Pray.

Knowing Jesus Through the Old Testament

(The following is a book review of  Christopher Wright’s  Knowing Jesus Through the Old Testament.)

22144304

In the second century A.D., Marcion of Sinope was rightly declared a heretic for rejecting the Old Testament scripture and declaring that the New Testament had a different God than the Old. Unfortunately in our current culture, there are many who have adopted a subtle version of this heresy. Many in the contemporary church have a very low view of the Old Testament, and tend to somehow think that Jesus came to do away with it. Christopher Wright makes it clear in Knowing Jesus Through the Old Testament that far from coming to do away with the Old Testament, Jesus comes from within the Old Testament framework.   The Old Testament provides the background for so much of Christ’s teaching and mission. Yet it does more in that Jesus came to fulfill and uphold all that the Old Testament taught.

In reading the Old Testament, we are reading the very words of God. As Paul writes to Timothy, “All Scripture is God breathed and profitable…(2 Timothy 3:16-17).” The Old Testament contains the commands of God, the mission of God, and the promises of God. These are the words Jesus read. These are the stories, songs, and commands that Jesus memorized. Wright says that, “In short, the deeper you go into understanding the Old Testament, the closer you come to the heart of Jesus.” This is the thesis of Wright’s book. The more we understand the Old Testament the better we will understand Jesus and the more we understand Jesus the better we will understand the Old Testament. Wright works to show this through how the Old Testament story, promises, and mission find their completion in Christ. Wright also shows how Jesus’ identity as the Messiah, Son of God and Son of Man is based upon revelation found in the Hebrew scripture. Lastly, Wright shows that far from coming to abolish the Old Testament commands and ethic, Jesus comes to uphold and re-establish those commands through Christ’s own ethical teaching.

The Hermeneutic

Before digging into each of Wright’s chapters and main points, it might be helpful to say something here about the hermeneutic that he uses.   While this book is not on hermeneutics per sey, Wright, as do all theologians who write books, uses a hermeneutic principle as he interprets the scriptures. Wright dismisses allegorical schools of interpretation that would seek to spiritualize the words of the Old Testament. He does, however, acknowledge typology, though he does have some reservations about how typology has been used in the past. He says that typology has been abused in the past by those who would seek to find a type in every passage or story of the Old Testament. For Wright, to use typology properly is to understand “Christ and the various events and experiences surrounding him in the New Testament by analogy or correspondence with the historical realities of the Old Testament seen as patterns or models.”

For Wright, the Old Testament is not primarily “a promise box full of blessed predictions about Jesus.” It is a story from real history with promises that only make sense in relation to that history. Wright’s hermeneutic will be firmly grounded then in historical grammatical interpretation. However, it is not historical-grammatical interpretation alone but historical-grammatical in light of redemption history. Therefore for Wright, “first of all, we must affirm whatever significance a particular event had in terms of Israel’s own experience of God and faith in him.” That is the grammatical-historical part of the hermeneutic. And for the redemptive historical aspect Wright says, “Second, however, we may legitimately see in the Old Testament event additional levels of significance in the light of the end of the story—that is, in the light of Christ.”   Thirdly for Wright and possibly the most important aspect is that “the Old Testament event may provide levels of significance to our full understanding of all that Christ was and said and did.”

Much more could be said about the hermeneutic used but that would fall outside of the scope of this review. It does seem to be a healthy correction to both those who would over emphasis typology or allegory and those who would see no typology. One should be careful however that this correction does not go too far in the opposite direction. The entire Bible ultimately has God as its divine author. He has seen the beginning from the end. We also know from Peter’s letters that the Old Testament human authors were writing down things for our benefit.   Wright seems a little hesitate for example to say that Genesis 3:15 refers specifically to Jesus, though he says that it ultimately finds its completion in Christ. This hesitation to see this as a direct reference to Christ seems to be unfounded in light of God as the primary author of all of scripture. That minor critique aside, let us now turn to each of Wright’s main points.

Jesus and the Old Testament Story

It makes sense that Wright would begin his look at Jesus with what is often called the Hebrew gospel, the Gospel of Matthew. Many people skip the genealogies but Matthew had a purpose in starting his account with one. Matthew wants to show that Jesus did not just show up on the scene out of the blue. Jesus is the one who all of the Old Testament was anticipating, the Messiah. This genealogy therefore shows that Jesus has a legitimate claim to this title. In recounting this lineage Matthew is also recounting the story of Israel. “So when we turn the page from the Old to the New Testament, we find a link between the two that is more important than the attention we usually give it. . . The Old Testament tells the story that Jesus completes.”

Wright then recounts the story of the Old Testament.  Central to this story are the covenants. Wright seems to deviate from traditional covenant theology, in that he does not see an Adamic covenant. He doesn’t spend a lot of time at this point, so it is hard to tell if he is rejecting the implied “covenant of works” in the Garden of Eden or the idea of a post-fall covenant with Adam that is the beginning of the “covenant of grace.” It not being his main point to come up with a complete covenantal theology, it will be too difficult to supply a full critique for this review. Wright’s main point is to show that Adam sinned in the garden and man fell. God does show grace to Adam and Eve in supplying a covering for their bodies and promising that the seed of the woman would defeat the serpent.

Skipping forward to the Abrahamic covenant, we see part of what may be called Wrights secondary thesis for the book.   “The main point of God’s promise to Abram was not merely that he would have a son and then descendants who would be especially blessed by God. God also promised that through the people of Abram God would bring blessing to all nations of the earth.” A theme of Wright’s writings in other books and clearly in this book is the mission of God throughout the Bible. God chose Israel so that they would be a blessing to all nations. Jesus’ mission then is tied to that blessing.

The story of the Old Testament is tied to this election of Abraham and his descendents. Wright rightfully sees that the Mosaic covenant was not a covenant of works but one of grace. God had saved his people from slavery and chosen to enter covenant with them as a nation. He would be their God in relationship with them. “It is important to see that this covenant was based on what God had already done for them. God’s grace and redemptive action came first.” Their obedience to law did not allow them to enter the covenant but was to come from response to God’s grace. This obedience would enable them to complete their mission and calling to the nations. Israel was often reminded that while they were chosen it was not because of anything in them but because of God’s love and purpose.

But we see that the people did not and could not live up to this mission. They fell into sin and idolatry. Even after periods of great blessing through the kingdom of David and Solomon, the people did not remember their commitment. God who had a concern for justice within the society, sent prophets to call His people back to Him and remind them of this commitment. Wright makes several points about this concern of God for justice and righteousness.

God’s moral concern is not only individual (though the masses of individual stories show that it certainly does claim every individual) but also social.” God evaluates the moral health of society as a whole, from international treaties to market economies, from military strategy to local court procedures, from national politics to the local.

These same concerns show up in the teaching and ministry of Jesus. We also see in the New Testament that in fact the death and resurrection of Jesus was a victory over all authorities.

At the cross Jesus defeated all the evil forces that bind and enslave human beings, corrupt and distort human life, and warp, pollute and frustrate the very creation itself. That victory is an essential part of the biblical “good news.” And applying that victory to every dimension of human life on earth is the task of Christian mission.

Jesus comes at the end of this Old Testament story. The people of Israel had failed to live up to their mission. They had been taken into captivity and now brought back into the land. However the people were still not fulfilling this purpose.   They were still under the rule of the Romans.   The New Testament opens up with Jesus into this story.

Jesus and the Old Testament Promise

Having gone through the Old Testament story leading to the birth of Christ, Wright now turns his attention to going back through that story and pulling out major themes and points of contact with Christ. The first aspect of this is to pay attention to how Jesus fulfills the promise of the Old Testament. Again going back through the beginning of Matthew, Wright highlights five scenes from Jesus’ childhood and how Matthew claims that all these events fulfill scripture. In using this fulfillment theme, “Matthew clearly wants his readers to see that Jesus was not only the completion of the Old Testament story at a historical level, as his genealogy portrays, but also that he was in a deeper sense its fulfillment.”

How does Jesus provide this fulfillment? Are these texts mentioned by Matthew direct prophecies of Christ or does Matthew have something different in mind when highlighting these texts? Wright shows that these texts in their original context do not seem to be prophecies on the surface. Instead it seems that Matthew is working back from events that happened in the life of Jesus to certain texts in which in light of Christ they contain a deeper significance. Wright follows his hermeneutic mentioned above to show that the Old Testament events are in some way types but also that they point forward to a greater promise and fulfillment.   This section was very helpful in seeing, for example, how Jesus could fulfill something such as the text of Hosea.

He is not suggesting that the Hosea text was a prediction. His point is simply that what God had done for his people Israel—in fact the greatest thing God had done for them—had its counterpart, even in a purely physical sense, in the life of Jesus.

Continuing, Wright explains that what makes the the exodus and the return from exile so important to the Old Testament story is that even though they in and among themselves were awesome examples of God’s grace in history, they were more than that. “Both events were utterly saturated in promise.” This promise is what Jesus is fulfilling. All of the Old Testament points forward to the promise of God beginning in the garden and continuing through Abraham, Moses, David, and the Prophets. This promise, according to Wright, is more than prediction because unlike a prediction, a promise involves a relationship. This promise to make of Abraham a great nation so as to bless the entire world is fulfilled in Christ. Again coming back to Wright’s theme of mission in the Bible, the promise is to fulfill this mission.

Wright is very helpful in clearing up some misconceptions people have about the Old Testament. He points out that salvation has always been by grace in both the New and the Old Testament:

Some people have the idea that the difference between the Old and New Testaments is that in the Old salvation is by obeying the law whereas in the New it is by grace. But that sets up a totally false contrast. In the Old as in the New, it is God who takes the initiative of grace and calls people to faith and obedient response.

He also points out that there is a conditional element to this promise that requires our response. God’s promise requires our faith and obedience. Wright drives home that our response is vital. He does not mince words.   Our faithful obedience is necessary. However, Wright should note that part of what makes the new covenant so glorious is that it enables what the old couldn’t, our faith and obedience. In Christ, we are transformed. We are justified not by any of our merit but by Christ’s faithful obedience.   We are imputed his righteous obedience. Jesus fulfilled the obligation that we could not. He also however enables us with the Holy Spirit now to respond in faith and obedience. God then fulfills the promise and demands of the covenant. This does not in any way diminish our responsible to respond in obedient faith.   It does however provide the way that this is even possible.

One further note on the promise from Wright’s view is important to highlight.   Wright does an excellent job of explaining the nature of the land promises in Jesus. Using the story of a father who in the days before the invention of the automobile promises his son a horse when he turns twenty-one, but gives the son a newly invented automobile instead, Wright tries to show that the promises in Christ are expanded and better than what could be imagined in the Old Testament.   While the analogy is not perfect there is truth to the fact that in Christ the promises are expanded and better.   One point of contention is that in the book of Hebrews, it seems to say that Abraham and those in the Old Testament were aware that the promises were larger than just a promise to a plot of land in the Middle East. The question that always arises is: how much did the Old Testament saints understand about the promise? A good case based upon statements from Jesus and other New Testament books can be made that they knew more than what we often want to allow that they knew.   That said it is important to see that instead of a plot of land in the Middle East, the meek now inherit the earth.   The promise is not limited by national boundaries but all of the earth belongs to those in Christ.

Jesus and His Old Testament Identity

Next, Wright continues into the book of Matthew to Jesus’ baptism. Here the voice of God proclaims that Jesus is the Son of God. Wright now moves to answer what it means for Christ to be the Son of God, the Son of Man, and the Messiah. Going again through the Old Testament we see that each of these titles have precedent. Sonship of God is something said of both Israel as a nation and of its king.   The king in particular enjoyed a son-like relationship with God. He was a representative of God’s rule and was required to be obedient to the divine King. This idea of sonship is also linked to the idea of the servant of the Lord in Isaiah. This link is especially prevalent in Jesus. Jesus is the representative of God. He is the King and he is the obedient servant. “Similarly, obedience was the link with the allusion to Isaac, as the one willing to be sacrificed, even as the only son of a loving father.” Kingship, servanthood, and service are built into the calling of Jesus.

Wright looks at this sonship theme in four ways. First he sees how the parent-child relationship actually works in Israel’s society. Next he shows how the metaphor undergirded the covenant concept. Third, he shows how sonship generates hope and expectation. Fourthly, Wright sees that idea is broadened and given eschatological flavor. This leads us to see that Jesus as the Son of God is one who represents Israel. Where Israel failed at being this Son, Jesus is God’s true son who would succeed in completing this mission. Wright also correctly points out that “(i)n an eternal sense, of course, Jesus always was, is and always will be God the Son, the second person of the Trinity.”

More can be said about this chapter but I would like to quickly highlight an excellent section of it. Some have argued that Christians should not be involved with politics. They argue from both a faulty view of eschatology and from a faulty of view of Christ’s mission.

But for the present it will be enough to say that if Jesus had intended only to talk about a purely spiritual revival in an otherworldly framework with no relevance to the seething politics of his day, then he went about it in a very strange way. So many of the words and actions of Jesus were so challenging to the political authorities that they executed him as a political threat. But to argue that because he did not preach violent politics he was therefore uninterested in politics at all is absurd. Nonviolent is not simply nonpolitical—now or then. No, the difference between Jesus and his contemporaries was not that he was purely spiritual while they were political (a modern kind of dichotomy that would probably not have made much sense in Jesus’ world anyway). The problem was that his announcement of the arrival of the kingdom of God in the present did have profound political and national consequences for the old order of Jewish society that were too radical and final for its leaders to tolerate.

Jesus indeed was political and the gospel has implications for all aspects of life. Jesus being the Messiah King has enormous practical applications that Christians should be working through. We will see in the next two chapters how this works out in Christ’s mission and ethical teaching.

Jesus and His Old Testament Mission

We have seen how Jesus comes within the historical story of the Old Testament, how the Old Testament promises of His coming, and how the Old Testament provides the identity of Jesus as the Messiah, King, and Son of God. Now we are at what is the heart of Wright’s message. We are now looking at why Jesus came. What was his mission? This mission is tied up in all of the previous chapters. It is what the story, promises, and identity point to. We see that each of these things are tied up in the expectations of the Messiah. To be sure there were some expectations that had developed during the inter-testamental period that were unfounded, but there were clear expectations set forth by scripture.

Again Wright points out that the mission is tied to the covenant and mission of Israel. Israel was to be a nation of priests and kings for the rest of the world. In Israel’s faith and obedience the rest of the world was supposed to marvel and give glory to God.   But further than that, the scriptures declare that the nations would stream to Israel and its God. Thus the goal of the Old Testament is world missions. It is a turning back of sin and a recreating of the world in righteousness.   It is a restoration from the fall. All people and even nature itself was awaiting this mission. Wright explains that Israel was awaiting its restoration and the ingathering of the nations. This was seen in eschatological terms as the final great act of God, the Day of the Lord. This was what the kingdom of God was all about.

Jesus’ mission is launched by John’s mission “to identify, through his call for repentance and baptism, the remnant of Israel who, by responding, was destined for cleansing and restoration as the true, eschatological people of God.”   Wright says that

The fact that Jesus accepted and endorsed the ministry of John the Baptist and launched his own ministry on the foundation of John’s shows that Jesus also saw his own mission in terms of the fulfillment of the great expectations of the restoration of Israel. If John was the one who had been sent to prepare Israel for its eschatological restoration by God himself, then Jesus was the one who had been sent to accomplish it.

There was something deep about Christ’s coming. We then see that Jesus preaches that the kingdom is at hand and is here. This means that the promises from the psalms of restoration had entered in history. We then see in Christ’s death the atonement for sin and in the resurrection the victory over it. Christ then tells his disciples that authority in both heaven and on earth had been given to Him. Jesus is not just King over some nebulous spiritual realm. He is Lord and King over all reality. He then tells his disciples to take that good news worldwide.

In the Old Testament, the people of Israel were to bear witness among the nations of God’s saving and redeeming rule. They failed but Jesus the true Israel and Son of God did not. Now in Christ we are fulfilling this mission.

Jesus was launched by a revival movement for the restoration of Israel. He himself launched a movement for the blessing of the nations. Jesus, therefore, was the hinge, the vital link between the two great movements. He was the climax and fulfillment of the hope of Israel and the beginning of the hope of the nations

This is incredibly good news. Sin can be forgiven and lives changed. Through this gospel, individuals, families, cultures and entire nations can be changed. We are called to a part of it.

Sometimes our eschatology hinders this. A pessimistic view of history and the future can lead people to see themselves as just holding on until being rescued out. Dispensationalism with its view of a secret rapture has led many Christians to avoid being salt and light in a real way in the culture at large. Why bother polishing brass on a sinking ship? Premillennial views miss this glorious picture of the kingdom of God. They miss the message that Jesus brought that in Him the kingdom of God had actually come. The promises of Moses, the Psalms, and the Prophets were coming true in Christ’s day. He was bringing the kingdom then and not at some later date. Amillennialism also fails on this same part. It misses the progressive growth of the kingdom into victory promised throughout the Old Testament and in Jesus’ teaching. Ultimately it is the Postmillennial view that accurately sees this thread of mission and victory woven throughout scripture. The Postmillennial view has always been such a great fuel for missions.   No wonder the period that we often call the Greatest Century of Missionary advance was also the time in which the Postmillennial view was the dominant one.

Jesus and His Old Testament Values

We have seen how the Old Testament provided the story, purpose, identity and mission of Jesus. Jesus had come to fulfill the mission of Israel to be a light to the nations. He did this through perfect obedience and by being a sacrificial atonement for the sins of His people. Through Jesus those who were far off are now made near to God.   Those born genetically Jewish and those born genetically Gentile are now in Christ united together as the true Israel of God. They are now called and enabled to continue the mission of Christ. Jesus commands his followers to share the good news of the gospel of the kingdom by making disciples, baptizing them, and teaching these new disciples to obey all that he commanded.

Wright now turns to these commandments and shows that Jesus’ commands are not a new or different law than what was revealed in the Old Testament. In Matthew, Jesus says that he did not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it. Wright here does not go into a complete exposition on Matthew 5 but does make it clear that Jesus is not ending the requirements of the law. Greg Bahnsen wrote a complete exegesis of this passage. He says in “Theonomy in Christian Ethics, “fulfill” should be taken to mean “confirm and restore in full measure”. Wright’s view is similar.[1] Wright says that Jesus taught the validity of the law and made a point to correct misapplications and notions in his opponents. Christ in his teaching thus is restoring the full measure of the law.

In fact the nations are described as waiting for him to bring the law (Torah) and justice (mishpat) of God to them. In other words, the Servant has the task of making real to the rest of humanity the whole package of ethical values and social priorities that God had entrusted to Israel. Being a “light to the nations” includes this moral teaching dimension as well as the extending of the saving light of the covenant.

Wright explains that Jesus is not concerned merely with outward conformity to laws. This is not new to the New Testament, because in the revealing of the law in the Old Testament we see that God is concerned with “the whole shape of a person and society, the inner drives of the heart, the direction of the walk of life. “

It is important to realize that our justification and right standing with God does not come by our obedience but by the grace of God. Our obedience is only made possible by this grace. “The repeated command is to obey God’s laws wholeheartedly, since that is the way to life and blessing for a people who have already experienced God’s redemption.” The law is and never was a way to salvation. It is intended to show how those who are redeemed live.

Wright works through several motivations for keeping the law that Christians have. First as said above, obedience flows from gratitude for grace—in both Old and New Testaments. Another powerful motive is that the law is for our own benefit. The assumption behind this kind of motivation is that God, as the creator of human beings, knows best what kind of social patterns will contribute to human well-being.” God’s law used lawfully is good and protecting of life.   Living by God’s commands will generally bring benefit and happiness. A society built around these commands will generally prosper while a country in disobedience will find judgment.

The reality of God’s rule cannot be spiritualized into heaven (now or later) or privatized into individuals. Of course, it does have spiritual and personal dimensions, which are fundamental also. We are called to submit to God’s reign in our individual lives. But the term itself speaks of the aligning of human life on earth, in all its dimensions, with the will of the divine government of God. To pray “may your kingdom come” is to pray “may your will be done on earth as in heaven.” The one must produce the other. . .To enter the kingdom of God means to submit oneself to the rule of God, and that means a fundamental reorientation of one’s ethical commitments and values into line with the priorities and character of the God revealed in the Scriptures. The point of being Israel and living as the people of Yahweh was to make the universal reign of God local and visible in its whole structure of religious, social, economic and political life. It was to manifest in practical reality what it meant to live, as well as to sing, “the LORD reigns.”

Wright cannot be accused of having a truncated view of the gospel.   The Gospel saves sinners and souls. The Gospel does not stop there though. As people are saved their lives are changed. This change will naturally work itself out into every area of life. More can be said of this positive view of the law for the Christian life but the interested reader would be encouraged to seek out more along this work in the writings of Greg Bahnsen, RJ Rushdooney, or Gary North.  You can find must more at Chalcedon, The American Vision, and Apologia Radio.

Conclusions

Wright’s work here is an excellent introduction to Jesus through the Old Testament. There is not much to be critical of. Wright’s theme of mission through the Bible is refreshing as is his view that the law of God is still applicable today.   Of course there will be exegetical work to do to see where in the New Testament we are told that some parts of the law, i.e. the ceremonial aspect have a changed application in Christ. Work will need to be done to see what part of the law was a shadow of Christ such as the sacrifices. Another refreshing theme of Wright is that he has a whole life perspective of the gospel.   The gospel will have impact on economics and politics along with our spiritual lives.

One area that Wright could improve on is to be very clear about is the doctrines of grace. It is not that he does not acknowledge grace through faith alone but one can never overestimate the value of this doctrine. The biggest area of improvement is the lack of footnotes or endnotes. He does have a bibliography at the end but it would have been helpful to be able to track his research along with him.

Overall the book provides good insight into why Christians are to be the people of the book, both the Old and New Testaments. Jesus without the Old Testament is not Jesus. His mission, identity, and ethics get lost when we neglect to see how he comes into the Biblical story with its promises. This teaching is vital today in which Jesus is often ripped from his context to support all manners of evil. Wright is correct, the better we understand the Old Testament the better we understand Jesus.

[1] Bahnsen Greg, Theonomy in Christian Ethics, 3rd Ed. (Nacogdoches, TX: Covenant Media Press, 2002), 67.

Teach Them Well (Deut 6:4-7)

(The following is a sermon that I recently preached at Irvington Baptist Church and Westmoreland Baptist Church)

chalkboard

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. our God is one Lord. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.  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.”- Deuteronomy 6: 4-7

 

I have a confession to make, I love watching documentary movies.   It’s nerdy I know but I love them.  My wife and I have Netflix and it has a ton of them.  I like to watch documentaries on about anything: War, history, food, politics, dinosaurs, or grass growing. You can film someone putting up wall paper, get Morgan Freeman to narrate it and I will want to watch it. I’ve tried to show my wife a few but they often just put her to sleep.   Anyways, the other day I was on Netflix and came across this documentary called “Hitler’s Children.”   So I watched it.   It was one of the most powerful documentaries that I have ever seen.  It has occupied my thoughts for several weeks now.  Now you may know, Adolf Hitler did not actually have any children of his own.   He only got married a couple of days before his death; however, some of his closest companions did have families and children. This documentary focuses on five people who are the descendents of those Nazis. One such person is the grandson of Rudolf Hoess, the commander of a concentration camp.   As I watched the documentary, I saw five people trying to come to grips with the legacy that their parents or grandparents left them, each of them  enslaved to an overwhelming guilt of being associated with those horrible Nazis.   They want to love their parents as any child would but yet are horrified at the things their parents did.   After watching this film, I was just overwhelmed with thoughts about how our lives affect those around us. And now as I stand here at the beginning of this sermon with you, I am reminded of the impact of that movie: “Your legacy matters.”  The things we do matter to the next generation, to our children and those around us.   Just as these Nazi’s left a legacy to their children that will haunt them their entire lives, we too leave a legacy behind.   With that in mind, I want to preach to you a message from God’s word regarding the type of legacy God would have us leave.

What verses or passages come to mind when you think of the great passages of the Bible? What bible stories stick out in your mind? You might think of John 3:16, The Great Commission, “Judge Not”, The Ten Commandments or even Genesis 1:1, “In the Beginning.”   We believe all of the Bible to be God-breathed and useful for correction and reproach but even in the church there are some passages that we know more than others.   I want us to look at one such passage in the Old Testament that for the nation of Israel and even for Jewish people today is the passage that would stick out in their minds.  The Jews call this passage in Deuteronomy the “Shema Israel”.   It gets that name because the first two words of these verses in Hebrew are ,you guessed it, “Shema Israel.”   For Jews, this passage is one that they remember from childhood. This is their version of John 3:16. This would be the first verses that they teach their children. Even today if you were to go to a synagogue on any given Sabbath you will hear this passage recited.   It is of extreme importance to them.   A Jewish boy or girl would be taught these verses and would read them every night in what is called the “Bedtime Shema.”   They would also be taught that these words should be the last on their lips as they die.   In 2006, Roi Klein a major in the IDF, said the Shema before jumping on a live grenade to save his fellow soldiers. So as you can tell this passage is important.   In fact it is important not only for ethnic Jews but for us as well.   Jesus was once asked what the most important commandment of God is and he recited this passage.

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.

A little background information to this passage will be helpful as we dig in. You will remember how the Israelites had been enslaved to Egypt and how God had inflicted the plagues on Pharaoh  The Israelites led by Moses crossed the red sea on dry ground and were heading to the promise land.   They, however, refused to trust God and thus he swore that they would wander for 40 years in the desert.   So for 40 years, the Children of God wondered the desert instead of entering the promised land.   Moses who had led them faithfully for 40 years was nearing his death so in the book of Deuteronomy, He recounts to the Israelites who would be entering the Promised Land the Law that God had given them at Mount Sinai.     In Chapter 5, Moses tells how God had appeared to the Israelites in the dark clouds over Mount Sinai and had given them the Ten Commandments. Chapter 6  is the capstone or summary of all of the ten commandments and beginning of the exposition of the law to follow. With that in mind, we see four things from this passage.   1. Who God is  2. What God commands. 3.  What God fulfills 4. and How we respond.

The first thing mentioned here is “The Lord our God, the Lord is one.”     Everything begins with originates from and gets validity at their source which is God.   Thus we begin looking at God.  God in this passage starts by identifying himself.   It is God who reveals himself to us. God is the one who defines who God is. And the very first thing He mentions is that He is Lord. This is something we have forgotten or lost in our current culture. We have sometimes rush so quickly to “Jesus is a Friend of Mine” that we forgot the Holiness, the otherness, the supreme-ness, the Kingship of God.

We must have a right understanding of God as he reveals himself to us before we can ever get to the awesome good news of the Gospel. And while the cross and Jesus’ death on it are the central part of the Gospel, we must first, however, have a right view of God before we ever get to the cross.   God is creator of everything.   The 2nd London Baptist Confession gives an excellent summary of how God reveals himself in the Bible.  It says :

“The Lord our God is but one only living and true God; whose subsistence is in and of himself, infinite in being and perfection; whose essence cannot be comprehended by any but himself; a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts, or passions, who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; who is immutable, immense, eternal, incomprehensible, almighty, every way infinite, most holy, most wise, most free, most absolute; working all things according to the counsel of his own immutable and most righteous will for his own glory; most loving, gracious, merciful, long-suffering, abundant in goodness and truth, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin; the rewarder of them that diligently seek him, and withal most just and terrible in his judgments, hating all sin, and who will by no means clear the guilty.”

 

God is Holy.   And He is Creator. And it is He and He alone who decides the purpose for our lives and the way that we should live. The creation never gets to say to the creator what its purpose will be. That comes from God. God’s holiness also explains how he is also unable to be around sin and imperfection.

2Samuel 7:22 says “Wherefore thou art great, O LORD God: for there is none like thee, neither is there any God beside thee, according to all that we have heard with our ears.”

C.S. Lewis wrote a series of books called Chronicles of Narnia. Some of you may have read them or seen the movies but in them, Aslan the creator is a lion.   This lion represents God in the world of Narnia. Recurring over and over again in the book is this phrase about Aslan: “ He is not a tame lion.”   We need to remind ourselves this about God: We have not and cannot tame Him either. All throughout the Old Testament we are given pictures of the awesome wonder and power of God.   Many times it is scary. In fact, King Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes that the beginning of knowledge is the Fear of God.  

We need to reclaim the fear of the Lord. When we come to worship God we are to have a reverence for God. We are entering the presence of the Holy God who created everything and who holds the power over life and death. I like how John Piper talks about Worship and how it fuels missions:  “Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Missions exists because worship doesn’t. Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate, not man. When this age is over, and the countless millions of the redeemed fall on their faces before the throne of God, missions will be no more. It is a temporary necessity. But worship abides forever. Worship, therefore, is the fuel and goal of missions. “

Worship then is the ultimate reason we exist.   We should seek to present to God our very best. We should not come flippantly into worship as if this time is just the hour before lunch.
There is another documentary called “Grizzly Man.”   It was about a guy named Timothy Treadwell. He had a strange fascination with Grizzly Bears.  He went to Alaska each summer and lived in a tent right out in the wilderness next to the bears.   Over the course of several years, he began to name the bears.  He even would pet the bears and get on all fours and walk around with the bears.   As Timothy came to know and care for these bears, he forgot one important thing; they are bears.   He became too comfortable with them and lost track of the fact he was human and they were bears.   Things didn’t end well for Timothy because one summer both he and his girlfriend were killed by a grizzly bear.
We need now more than ever to remember that we are not humans and that God is God. And God burns with an infinite passion to declare and uphold the glory of His Name.   This passage begins with the declaration that God is Lord.

If I left you here, we would miss something for important.   The passage says the Lord “OUR” God.   While God is holy and perfect. He is personal. He is good and can be known.   He is not a grizzly bear that may lash out irrationally in the heat of the moment.   This untame God has created us for the purpose of knowing and enjoying Him forever. He created us for His glory.   The Westminster Catechism asks this question about man “What is the chief end of man?”   The answer given is this” To glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.” That fact the Lord is Our God makes this possible.    God receiving glory and our enjoyment go hand in hand.   John Piper again says this famously, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.” God is personal and we can know him.   He is not just some being out there in the nebula of space but is closer than any brother.

This verse also reveals to us that God alone is God.   God is one. 1Ch 17:20 says O LORD, there is none like thee, neither is there any God beside thee, according to all that we have heard with our ears.

In the New Testament 1 Corinthians 8:6 But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.

There is only one God and He exists eternally in three persons, The Father, The Son and the Holy Spirit.   We sing his praise every week.  Sometimes we sing a song that says “Glory Be to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost.”     This Trinity God is the only God. As the first of the 10 commandments say we are to have no other God before Him.

Theology or the study or thinking about God is important and vital for us as Christians and for this church. Theology is not just left to your pastor. Each of you are theologians in some way or another.     In fact every person is a theologian in the sense that they have think about God. You will either have thoughts about God that either conform to what God says about himself or you will follow some other god.  Many people get caught up listening and following all kinds of different voices. There are plenty of people with nice personalities who may have charisma and speak words eloquently.   However none of those traits are worth a hill of beans if the person does not have a right understanding of God and his word.

This brings us to the second point.   God commands:   Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.

Jesus was asked what was the most important command and he answered Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.

 What is love? Baby Don’t Hurt Me No More.   You can’t turn on the radio without hearing a song about LOVE.   The Beatles sang “All We Need is Love.  Elvis couldn’t help falling love.   The Righteous Brothers lost that Lovin Feelin.  Stevie Wonder was a Part time Lover. In today’s world, Love is often nothing more than a song. In our culture it is definitely is only a feeling. And as all feelings go, Love can to.   Maybe when we think of love, we think of all butterflies in the stomach and knots in the throat we got in middle school.  We were all shook up.   But as Tina Turner sang “What’s Love got to do with it?”   So What is love? Like Foreigner sings “I wanna know what Love is”   We need to rethink Love.   It’s more than a radio jingle and more than roses and flowers.

One contemporary Christian song describes God’s love this way “ God’s loves like a Hurricane and I am the tree.”

But here we are commanded to love God.   We don’t often think of being commanded to love.   But here it is, a commandment to love.   Love then must be more than these feelings. It must be a conscious determination to make the object of your love more important than yourself.   We are to love God with our Hearts:

This is the seat of our emotions so feelings do play a part. And when we think of God and his holiness and what he has done for us it does move us to love him with our hearts. It is not however only a part of our heart that God wants.   He wants the entire thing. No looking back as Sodom with love in our hearts for the idols there like Lots wife. No this love takes our entire heart.

It takes our Heart and Soul.  But what does it mean to love with our soul. We might summarize loving God with our soul as Greg Simas does:

“We love the Lord with all our soul by living a life of faithfulness to all that the Lord has required of us. While loving the Lord with all our heart has to do with affection, loving the Lord with all our soul has to do with devotion. The soul literally is the part of us that defines who we are. The essence of the biblical definition for soul means life, personality, the inner self and our identity. It’s where we make our decisions and choices that ultimately decide our lifestyle and behavior. Think of the soul as the “core you”. To love the Lord with all your soul means to love Him in the way we live, in the choices we make and in the behavior and lifestyle we adopt.”

Next we are to love God with our  Mind:   I think this is most of the neglected parts of this commandment today. There are several components to intellectual love for God. 1. Dedicating our minds to knowing him. 2 Thinking clearly and truly about him so that we don’t have false ideas in our minds.

We can only love God with our minds if we use them.   We need to be in his word reading it daily.   There are many false teachers out in this world. Loving God with our mind means testing the teaching we hear and seeing if it truly is from God.   We can only do that if we know our Bibles.   Did you guys know that before you got here this morning that I got on a ladder and painted the word gullible on the ceiling.   How many of you looked up?   We can’t be gullible.   Not every person claiming to speak for God does.   There are preachers who will tell you what you want to hear and may say things that sound nice but they distort the scriptures for financial gain.   You can turn on the tv and see some of them with large smiles and big wallets ready to take you for a ride.   I don’t want to name names but they might rhyme with Foel Bosteen and Royce Fryers.   Stay away from them.   Open your Bible and turn them off.   Loving the Lord your God with your mind means engaging your brain.

And the final component of love is our strength.   Some translations put it as resources.   I think that is a fair translation. To love the Lord God with our strength is to love him with our resources. It is to love God with our time and the things that we have.

The biblical definition of love according to Voddie Baucham  is that love is an act of the will (it’s a choice) accompanied (not led) by emotion that leads to action (it’s proved by our efforts) on behalf of its object.

This is the great commandment. And it’s a commandment. Sometimes we treat God’s commands like great suggestions. We read a command in the Bible from God and think, “Alright God, I’ll take it under advisement.”   We hear sermons and then leave thinking that what we heard was optional.   God’s commandments are not optional. They require our obedience.   This commandment to love God with everything requires our obedience.

When this command was first given Mt. Sinai, Moses was on the way down the mountain with the great tablets of stone that God had written with his own finger and the Israelites were already worshipping a god made out of their own hands.  Again when Moses writes this down in Deuteronomy, the ink could not have even dried on the paper before the Israelites broke the commandment.  It’s like the bride stopping off on the way from the wedding to the reception for a fling with another lover.

There is more bad news as we read this commandment because the truth is that we disobey it. From birth, we want to be god.   Like our fore-parents Adam and Eve we reject God. One of my favorite rappers Shai Linne writes about our rebellion this way:

“So why do the nations rage and all of the peoples plot in vain?
Their sin and offense is against His excellence and they’re not ashamed
As though He’s lacking the power to shackle them now in the hottest flames
And so they cock and aim- the target? His cosmic reign
That’s like a kid with a super soaker trying to conquer Spain!
Man thinks he’s a pugilist, trying to ball up his puny fist
At the LORD, who is ruling this
What’s amusing is God just laughs, like “Who is this”?
Stupid kids who persist in foolishness
It’s only by God’s power you exist
Now you declare war on the LORD
When before you were born, He formed you in the uterus?”

The Bible says there is not one who loves God not one.  Yet, here we are stuck with a commandment we don’t obey and the punishment for this commandment is Hell.   We deserve God’s wrath and judgment.

God fulfills this commandment. But there was one who did complete this.  His name is Jesus.   It was the greatest commandment. He lived it, breathed it, and died with it on his mind. Jesus fulfilled this commandment because we couldn’t    He obeyed God’s law and lived a Holy life free from sin. Yet ,He chose to take our sin and punishment upon himself and die. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says that God made Jesus to be sin even though he did not sin, so that we might become righteous.   He did this as 1st Peter 3:18 says by suffering in our place so that we might be forgiven by God.   The prophet Isaiah prophesied that this would take place years before Jesus would come. Isaiah said “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.” Jesus however not only died but defeated death by rising from dead.   Jesus did this so that we might have a right relationship with God and this demands a response.

Our response to the good news that Jesus died for our sins is to turn from our sins and to put our faith in Jesus. Romans 10:9 says it this way, “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”   We realize the evil in our hearts and the rebellion that we have against God’s commands. We then throw ourselves at His mercy and accept the gift of salvation that is offered in Jesus.   We respond to the Gospel by faith. This is not a blind faith but a trust in the reliability of Jesus.   We can trust Jesus because he loves us and because He rose from the dead. When we trust in Jesus as our Lord and Savior, God places on us the righteousness that Jesus earned and removes the guilt and shame of our rebellion and sin. , Paul wrote that when someone trusts in Jesus, they become a new creation.  They are forgiven and will have eternal life. Jesus said in John 5:24 “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.”      God then writes on the heart of the new creation his law.

While we were dead in our sins and rebellion to God there was no way for us to keep the Shema. We would not and could not obey this command because of the enslavement to sin.   Yet when we place our trust in Christ and repent of sins, this is a sign of the change in our heart that God has done.   And when God changes our heart in salvation, we can now return to this commandment with gladness.   It is no longer a burden but is something that the repentant heart, soul, mind, and strength will want to do.

We can keep this commandment because God made a way for us to do it. Maybe Elvis wasn’t too far off when he sang that he couldn’t help fall in love. When you have been saved by Christ, you can’t help but love God.   It will be imperfectly done in this lifetime but God will work in you to bring you to completion.

I want to ask you to examine yourself.   Can you see in your own life a desire to love God with all that you are? Do you see in yourself a desire to obey God’s commands? Do you still have places in your heart where you hold onto rebellion? Repent and turn to God.

 

Finally this passage ends with an example of the outworking of our response.   This example is one of the first ways we love God with everything we have.   This part of the passage has become my personal mission statement as a student minister and father.

 

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

 

I want to encourage you that this command is part of the previous. Loving the Lord means you will teach your children and those around you to love him as well.   It is a way of life. Not something that can be done on Sunday and Wednesday Nights alone. It is not something that you can outsource to a youth pastor or a children’s church worker.   You as parents and church members are commanded to teach these things to those around you especially your children.   We see from this passage that it is to happen all day every day in everything we do.   When we sit around the house, when we go out for a drive, when we lay down at night and when we wake up in the morning, we are to be constantly teaching and speaking about the love and commandments of God.

I want to share with you some statistics:According to researchers, between 70 and 88 percent of Christian teens are leaving the church by their second year in college.  That’s right, modern American Christianity has a failure rate somewhere around eight (almost nine) out of ten when it comes to raising children who continue in the faith.

Over the past several years a number of researchers have discovered that the overwhelming majority of our teenagers who still attend church and identify themselves as Christians have belief systems that mitigate their claims. Researcher George Barna, for example, discovered that 85 percent of “born again teens” do not believe in the existence of absolute truth.”

From the same study George Barna comes to this conclusion:

” Our research suggests that religious congregations are losing out to school and the media for the time and attention of youth. When it comes to the formation of the lives of youth, viewed sociologically, faith communities typically get a very small seat at the end of the table for a very limited period of time. The youth-formation table is dominated structurally by more powerful and vocal actors. Hence . . . most teens know details about television characters and pop stars, but many are quite vague about Moses and Jesus . . . Many parents also clearly prioritize homework and sports over church or youth group attendance.”

Youth are not leaving the church because the games are not cool enough.   Youth are not falling into the world because we didn’t serve the right pizza.   We are losing this generation because we have neglected to keep this commandment. We send our children to the enemy for 8 to 10 hours a day to be educated and don’t live out a life of God’s love before them the rest of the day and then take them to church on Sunday for 2 hours and expect that to be enough.

The Bible here and elsewhere gives Parents, not the student minister, not the church workers, not the nursery workers, not the schools but the Parents and in particular the fathers the responsibility to teach their children the commandments of God and to raise them to be followers of Christ.

Related research among church goers, however, revealed that a majority of parents do not spend any time during a typical week discussing religious matters or studying religious materials with their children. . . . About two out of three parents of children 12 or younger attend religious services at least once a month and generally take their children with them. . . . The survey data indicate that parents generally rely upon their church to do all of the religious training their children will receive.

However, Parents are the primary teachers in their children’s lives, even if they don’t know it. Some parents are better teachers than others, but every parent is a teacher when it comes to the children with whom he or she shares a home. Parents are the primary disciple-makers, every ministry should exist to support but never to replace the parents’ role. A key objective for this entire church must be to equip and support parents in making their homes ministry centers for the spiritual growth of their children.

Voddie Baucham says “A family without a commitment to the God of the Bible has no hope of stemming the tide of cultural onslaught. If we mix a little biblical truth, a little secular psychology, a little romance novel ideology, and a little eastern mysticism, we will get a deadly mixture of lies. Unfortunately, this is exactly what many Christian families do. We do marriage according to Dr. Phil, raise our children according to Dr. Spock, govern our sex lives according to Dr. Ruth, and only run to Dr. Jesus when things have gotten so bad we can’t find another doctor to help us.”

You cannot read the bible without getting the vision from God that parents and families are important.   You will also see in our culture that families are under attack.  Fathers and husbands are called by God from the very beginning in Genesis through the Old Testament and right into the New Testament to be the servant leaders and biblical leaders in their home.  This fact has been under attack since the beginning.   Since the beginning men have abandoned this role.   When Eve ate the fruit and sinned, the bible makes it pretty clear that Adam was standing right there and did nothing about it. In fact , the bible places the responsibility of sin on Adam the man.   Romans 5:12 Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned”   Men the bible holds you accountable for how your families turn out.   You have the spiritual responsibility and no one else.   I do not have time to go through all the verses and there are a ton of verse s about male headship to point this out but you can begin in Ephesians.

My point is this- fathers and men, you are called to lead your families and to love them like Jesus which is sacrificial with great gentleness and strength. Many men must move from merely bringing their families to church to embracing their God-ordained role as their families’ spiritual shepherd and mentor.

 

Women and mothers you are called to come along side your husband and to also be responsible in raising your children in the nurture of the Lord.   Look at proverbs 31 to get a picture of what a strong woman who willfully submits to the godly leadership of her husband while raising children that are pleasing to God looks like.We are to be teaching our children all day. It’s when you are at home, when you are on the road, when you walk by the way.

 

“What you do for God beyond your home will not typically be greater than what you practice with God within your home.” – G. Wishall.

Teaching your children happens every day and all day long. You teach with your words and actions.   What is important to you will be important to your children.

I want to give you one practical thing that my wife and I begun when Jasmine was born and has become the highlight of my day. Every night about an hour before bed, we get the girls ready for bed and sit down with them in the living room. I as a father read the Bible passage for the evening. We then sing songs with our girls. Some of them are silly children songs but others are hymns and worship songs.   We then pray together. This time is precious to me. It is refreshing and it is amazing to see Jasmine learn these songs.   I want to encourage you whether you have children or not, to start this practice with whoever is in your household

This may be a completely foreign concept to some of you. It may take some getting used to.  So many parents think they don’t have enough Bible knowledge to teach their children. Nothing could be further from the truth. If you can read, you can teach your children God’s Word. All you have to do is stay a step ahead of them. Don’t be afraid. God has given you everything you need to do this. You don’t have to be a seminary-trained theologian to read the Bible and talk about what it means. Besides, God would not have given you the responsibility unless He knew you could handle.

Regarding Family Worship, parents, you have the responsibility to carry this out. Fathers and men, again the bible places it squarely on your manly shoulders.   Don’t neglect to lead your family and this church family in worship. Do not let worship and music be the domain of woman only.   There are boys in this church that need you men to step up and be an example of Jesus.   Men should be some of the loudest singers and worshipers we have. Women and mothers, don’t let your husband’s neglect this responsibility.   And when they take responsibility follow them into worship of Jesus.   Girls and young women need adult women to lead them into loving the Lord.

Finally, The world’s limited view of life says that the most important thing we can teach our children to do is get good grades, go to a good college, get out of school, and get a good job so they can make more money than their mom and dad did.

“Being a member of an organized traveling baseball squad at age ten doesn’t add a single day to one’s life. In fact, many of these activities get in the way of much loftier pursuits. If I teach my son to keep his eye on the ball but fail to teach him to keep his eyes on Christ, I have failed as a father. We must refuse to allow trivial, temporal pursuits to interfere with the main thing. Making the team is a tremendous achievement; however, it must be put in its proper perspective. No sports endeavor will ever be as important as becoming a man or woman of God.” –  Voddie Baucham

It all comes down to a simple question: Why are we here? Does your family exist to prepare children for the NBA? If so, then basketball will be the center of our family’s universe, and everything will bow to the whims and wishes of the basketball god. Does your family exist to produce little pop culture icons? If so, then our family must revolve around the social calendars of our overloaded teenagers and their hectic schedules. However, if your family exists to love God then we can not allow anything to interfere with our commitment to family worship, prayer, and Bible study.

  

Today we have looked at who God is, what He commands, how he fulfills and how we are to respond. How will you respond?   Will you join me and making this passage one of your life’s goals?

How to become a Christian? The Gospel in Four Words

what_is_the_gospel4

The Gospel can be stated using four words: God, Man, Jesus, Response. Let me unpack each of those words briefly and you will understand the Gospel and how to become a Christian.

God: It all begins with God. The Bible in its first verse (Genesis 1:1) says that “In the beginning, God created. . .” God is the author of life and creator of everything we see. He is not only creator but owner of everything. Job 41:11b says” Whatever is under the whole heaven is mine.” Because God is creator and owner, He determines the purpose of everything and everyone. God is also Holy and commands us to be Holy. Leviticus 19:2 God created us to be Holy and to live in relationship with Him. The word “Holy” has a lot of meaning but it essentially means that we are to be pure and free from evil. This leads us to the second of the four words.
Man: Mankind was created by God and thus are His. God revealed to Man how they should obey him. God’s commands can be summarized in two commands: Love God with all your heart, soul, and mind. Love your neighbor as yourself. People however since the creation have not obeyed. Beginning with Adam and Eve people have rejected God’s ownership and commands. The Bible says that we have all sinned and fall short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23). Sin is disobedience to God. Sin also separates us from God. Isaiah 59:2 says “But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.” Since God is the source of life and all that is good; separation from him leads to destruction and evil. The Bible says what we earn with our sin is death. (Romans 6:23). If you look around at the world or watch the news you can see the effects of sin everywhere. But the effects of sin don’t only affect our life in this world, Sin also will be judged by God. Just as everyone will die, they also will be judged after death. (Hebrews 9:27). Everyone has sinned and has lived in rebellion against God. This punishment is a terrifying thing because God is a just and holy God who cannot and will not allow sin to go unpunished. God however also loves, which leads us to the next of the four words.
Jesus: God loves us and thus wanted to make a way to both punish sin and forgive us. God decided to take the punishment sin upon himself in our place by sending His Son, Jesus to live and die on the cross (John 3:16, Romans 5:8) Jesus was born, God in the flesh. He obeyed God’s law and lived a Holy life free from sin. Yet ,He chose to take our sin and punishment upon himself and die. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says that God made Jesus to be sin even though he did not sin, so that we might become righteous. He did this as 1st Peter 3:18 says by suffering in our place so that we might be forgiven by God. The prophet Isaiah prophesized that this would take place years before Jesus would come. Isaiah said “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.” Jesus however not only died but defeated death by rising from dead. Jesus did this so that we might have a right relationship with God and this demands a response.
Response: Our response to the good news that Jesus died for our sins is to turn from our sins and to put our faith in Jesus. Romans 10:9 says it this way, “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” We realize the evil in our hearts and the rebellion that we have against God’s commands. We then throw ourselves at His mercy and accept the gift of salvation that is offered in Jesus. Becoming a Christian is not about trying to do more good things but is about trusting in what Jesus has already done in our place. We respond to the Gospel by faith. This is not a blind faith but a trust in the reliability of Jesus. We can trust Jesus because he loves us and because he did rise from the dead. When we trust in Jesus as our Lord and Savior, God places on us the righteousness that Jesus earned and removes the guilt and shame of our rebellion and sin. One of Jesus’s followers, Paul wrote that when someone trusts in Jesus, they become a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). They are forgiven and will have eternal life. Jesus said in John 5:24. “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.”
How does one become a Christian? Admit that you are a sinner deserving of judgment. Believe in your heart in what Jesus did on the cross. Confess and make Jesus Lord of your life.

If you have responded to the Gospel today, send me a message and I would love to follow-up with you.

Jesus Never Ducked the Truth (Thoughts on Duck Dynasty and Mark Driscoll)

rs_560x344-131219175530-560.duck-dynasty.cm.121913

 

As he went away from there, the scribes and the Pharisees began to press him hard and to provoke him to speak about many things, lying in wait for him, to catch him in something he might say. Luke 11:53-54

  People often think of Jesus as a mild-mannered man not wanting to offend anyone.   Luke in chapter 11 tells  a different story.   Jesus had been invited to dine at the home of a pharisee.  The pharisees were the leading religious and political figures of the Jewish day.     An invite to a pharisee’s house was as Joe Biden might say a “big deal.” Jesus wasted no time getting to the point during his visit.  He poignantly called out the pharisee and his guests for their sins.  His honest words rang like insults in the ears of his hearers.  “Fools, white washed tombs,  hypocrites, and brood of vipers” where some of the words that Jesus had for the pharisees and scribes.  Today we might say Jesus was a bit uncouth.   He was frank and to the point.   It’s hard to imagine how you might feel if your invited dinner guest begin to compare you to a murderer before the food had even had a chance to settle in your stomach.   Talk about indigestion.  Yet Jesus loved these people.  It was his love for them and their followers that motivated him to call out their sin.   

And then as Jesus left that dinner party, the pharisees plotted their revenge.  They were constantly on look out waiting for the opportune time when Jesus would slip up and say something.   They were like a rookie journalist hoping to make his big break by catching Jesus with a hot mic saying something under his breath.    Jesus was wise to their game though.   Yet, He would still answer their questions with the truth.   I imagine that every time that Jesus answered one of their questions in a way they didn’t expect, it would leave them jaw-dropped and infuriated.  He continued to call  sinners to repent while lovingly warning them of hell.   The pharisees eventually had enough and  conspired to kill Jesus.  

So if the pharisees treated Jesus this way, how shall his followers expect to be treated.   Jesus explained what to expect in John 15:18-25

If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my Father as well. If I had not done among them the works no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. As it is, they have seen, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: ‘They hated me without reason.’

It’s simple, if the world hated Jesus then they will hate his followers.   The way they treated Jesus is the way they will treat us.  This has been evident throughout the history of Christianity.   From its struggle  under the Roman rule to present day in places like Syria and China, Christians have been and are still persecuted for their faith.

In America where I write from, Christians have enjoyed a great amount of freedom.   However, it does seem like that freedom is under attack.   Which brings us back around to the first passage.   The pharisees watched and waited for Jesus to slip up.  They also asked him questions hoping to provoke an answer.  Two recent cases provide excellent examples of Luke 11:53,54.    

The news explodes yesterday that after an interview and profile in GQ magazine, Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty fame was going to be suspended from the hit show.    What was his crime?   When asked about his opinion on homosexuality, he gave it.   Some of have said that his response was a bit uncouth while GLAAD cried that he was offensive and hateful.   Phil Robertson paraphrased from the Bible while listing what he thought were sins. This included homosexuality, adultery, bestiality, and drunkenness.  A&E, the television network that Duck Dynasty airs on, under pressure from gay organizations put out a statement saying they were going to suspend Phil from the show indefinitely.   Then came the media storm.  Everyone and their brother has an opinion on the situation.  There have been several good posts from some leading Christian thinkers on the situation.  Dr. Albert Mohler of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in a blog piece entitled “You Have Been Warned”, came to the conclusion:

So the controversy over Duck Dynasty sends a clear signal to anyone who has anything to risk in public life: Say nothing about the sinfulness of homosexual acts or risk sure and certain destruction by the revolutionaries of the new morality. You have been warned.

Anyone who had watched the show or knows anything about the Robertson family knows that they are conservative Christians.  It should have been no shock to anyone that Phil Robertson would think that homosexuality is wrong.  And yet here we are.   It is sad that in America with its rich history influenced and shaped by great Christian thinkers like John Locke, Jonathan Edwards, and George Whitefield, that paraphrasing the Bible would be considered a public offense.   To be fair A&E has every right to broadcast who they want or to not broadcast who they want.   However, the day may be coming that speaking out against homosexuality will be considered a hate crime.

Returning to the scripture, its easy to see how the world when it is confronted with Christians living a godly life will not like it.   Just as the pharisees plotted against Jesus for speaking out against sin, the world will do the same to us.   You can also be sure that the world will be waiting and watching for Phil Robertson and family to slip up. 

Which brings us to another lesser known but still widely blogged about story.  A pastor that I have often enjoyed hearing preach through podcasts and the like, Mark Driscoll was caught in a “scandal.”   Driscoll is pastor of Mars Hill church in Seattle.  He is also a popular author and speaker somewhat controversial for his uncouth style and directness. (I personally appreciate his directness and willingness to tackle tough questions)   He went on a radio show back in November expecting to discuss his newest book.   While on the radio, the host accused Mark of plagiarism.  The blogosphere exploded when more accusations of plagiarism followed after the radio show.    Because of Mark’s bold stance against homosexuality, feminism, and biblical manhood, it seems like many came out of the woodwork to attack him.  After a month-long investigation into plagiarism by Tyndale House Publishing, they released a statement.   The initial accusation by the radio host was considered unfounded as Driscoll had properly cited in his book the source of his argument.   However, it was found that an internal publication for Mars Hill had mistakenly left out a citation in some sermon notes.   Mark also released a statement publicly apologizing for the mistake and promising to correct it.  In reality, the whole thing was blown way out of proportion.   I appreciated Mark’s willingness to own up to a mistake but this was not the big scandal that some were making it out to be.   Instead it looked to be as if some were once again looking for Driscoll to trip up and fall.

Both stories are slightly different with different lessons to learn.   In one, Driscoll did make a mistake.  I think his story serves as a warning that when Christians speak boldly upon anything, there will be plenty of others looking to take them down.   It means that Christians have to live above reproach.   We also like Driscoll  must be willing to own up to mistakes and work to correct them.  Christians are not perfect and nor will they be until Christ’s return.   Christians  need to be willing to accept apologies and to give grace especially over innocent mistakes. We need to be graceful to fellow Christians when they fall.  We also need to be willing to show that same grace and mercy to everyone around us.

The Duck Dynasty story goes to show that ultimately it is not the fact that Christians are imperfect that the culture finds offensive but it is the message of Christianity that they can not stand.   The world doesn’t need for someone to make mistakes to try to destroy them.  This culture is increasingly becoming offended by the Bible message.   While the verdict is out on whether Duck Dynasty will continue as a show with or without Phil, the time is coming and is here when anyone who speaks out about sin will be considered a bigot and hateful.   The world will be waiting like the Pharisees waited for Jesus to say something offensive.   Like Jesus, we must not be afraid to speak the uncouth and politically-incorrect truth.  In a culture where the only sin is to say that there is sin, the Christian message is going to be offensive.  Christians in America will have to learn to live with courage, speaking the truth in love