Monthly Archives: July 2016

WHAT IS YOUR CULTURAL DIET?

Not long ago I was reading an article in which the author gave what I think is wonderful advice:

Take stock of your cultural diet. Evaluate and re-evaluate your movie-watching, music-listening, clothes-wearing habits. Are you feeding or starving the lust of your flesh?

We all live in a culture. More accurately we live in the midst of several overlapping and often co-mingling cultures.

As Christians, we are alert to the extreme violations of biblically defined culture, but too often we float along without serious examination of our “cultural diet”.

The point is not to make us rigid; it is to make us biblical – which by God’s definition is always wise and good!

This exercise is not an infringement upon our Christian liberties; it is a sifting to make sure our liberties are in fact God-honoring and Christian.

I will press the point a little further to say, if we are unwilling to examine our cultural diet, then we are not actually serious about being Christ-followers. For Jesus unceasingly leads to love the Father with all that we are. This includes honoring Him in all that we take in.

THE AMAZEMENT OF LIFE CAN ONLY BE EXPLAINED BY GOD

 

This is a fascinating video of a caterpillar becoming a butterfly.

I am baffled how anyone can watch this process and affirm that evolution explains it.

Evolution is treated as if it’s an overseeing god. Nature is treated as if it is a reasoning force which places instinct within all living creatures so they know how to live. How does a fish instantaneously know how to swim or a mosquito to fly?

When a worker Honey Bees finds a pollen source, it returns to the hive and perform a “dance” that instructs the other bees in its direction and distance. Where do all Honey Bees learn the dance and how to interpret it?

If evolution is correct, then all that exists is matter. How do we even explain consciousness, when all that exists are atoms of matter?

But evolution is not about reasoning, it is about not wanting to submit to our God, before whom we are all responsible.

SERMON LEFTOVERS 7.25.16

             “Peace is found in Jesus”                     

John 14:25-31

People look for peace in the absence of conflict, intrusion, people and problems. They miss the fact that peace is found in the presence of Christ

 

Jesus gives more instruction about the Holy Spirit (vs 25-26)

The word for ‘Helper’ means “one who comes along side”

One of the ways he ‘comes alongside’ us is by “teaching” us  

He will teach them what Jesus has already ‘spoken’ to them

Jesus’ disciples had heard Jesus for years, yet their understanding remained shallow

We need to understand more than words and concepts, the realities of Christ must capture our hearts

We need to see them as true for us and compelling to us

The Holy Spirit brings truths to our “remembrance”

This is how biblical truths touch the practices of our life

Jesus is giving assurance to his followers concerning how we will make our way in life

 

Jesus’ leaving is hard, but it is also victorious (vs 28-29)

Jesus was sovereign over all the circumstances of his leaving

He has been telling his disciples for months about the details of his death

His crucifixion was not a surprise, everything was according to God’s plan

Jesus would leave in complete victory

Jesus entered death to conquer death, by breaking the power of sin (1 Corinthians 15:55-57)

When Jesus paid the price for our sin, death lost its hold on us  

The result would be Jesus returning to the Father having fully completed his plan to save a people for himself

It seems like a loss to have Jesus leave, but he leaves to reign

Jesus would leave death exalted over the powers of this world

The ‘ruler of this world was coming’ (v30), Satan was involved in the events leading to Jesus’ death

But Satan’s efforts would not override God’s plan, his efforts were contained in it

Jesus would enter death, the territory of Satan, but it would have “no hold” on him

As followers of Jesus, v28 we should rejoice because his victory is our victory

Jesus tells them in v29 not to misinterpret events of his death; the same is true about interpreting the circumstances in our life

 

Jesus leaving this world doesn’t rob us of peace (v27)

We have peace because Jesus leaves us with his victory

We think we cannot have peace when life goes wrong or is out of our control

Even though wrong can be done to us, in Christ our future cannot go wrong

As citizens in Christ’s kingdom it is impossible for the events of our life to be out of control

We have peace because Jesus leaves us with the Holy Spirit

God is not watching how we are making it as Christians, he is involved in all of it

And we can be assured that the Holy Spirit’s work in us will be completely done 

We have peace because Jesus leaves us with himself

Jesus did not leave his humanity, he remains fully man, with understanding and empathy for us

Jesus did not leave this world; his Divine nature continues to operate the universe

Jesus was sovereign over the events his arrest, over the moment of his death . . and over your troubles

Jesus will not leave our lives! He will never ignore or fail those he died to save, and reigns to keep

We have surpassing peace in Jesus, so let’s live in it

The Hebrew use of the word peace meant blessing through a right relationship with God

Jesus’ first words to his disciples after his resurrection would be “Peace be with you”

Jesus who is the “Prince of Peace” came to establish a “covenant of peace” (Ezekiel 37:26-27)

Peace is here . . it’s ours . . we cannot lose it . . we can only lose sight of it

How or where are you looking for peace?

When I have financial security

When my problems finally are solved

When I find the right relationship or fix the people in my life  

These are all about our control and they ignore the reality that we live in a broken world

True peace is only in Christ: what he calls in v27 “my” peace

Only Christ fully removes all disturbances of peace

Only Christ reigns to guarantee that his peace will last

 

CHURCH SERVICES SHOULD REFLECT GOD’S SENSIBILITIES

One of my concerns with the church in America over the past generation is that the focus in the main worship service is often on reaching unbelievers.

Certainly we want to be as committed to reaching people as Jesus!

But we should not lose sight of the purpose for the gathering of God’s people, which is the ministry of the means of grace God has given to the church. This involves the ministry of the Word, prayer and the ordinances of communion and baptism.

None of this excludes reaching out to unbelievers; in fact a healthy church will be drenched with gospel clarity. My concern is when the church shapes itself according to the sensibilities of those who don’t actually care about God. The result can be churches that are shallow.

A worship service is meant to exalt God; we are not doing a good job of that if we have to minimize biblical priorities so unbelievers will not be offended.

This can easily lead to confusing people about gospel-living rather than leading them into it.

Jared Wilson lays this out in a much more coherent way that I do in this article, “Is Your Worship Service Upside Down?”  

The purpose is not to attack churches, but to have us become more thoughtful of what the church is meant to be. At the same time we will be able to think more clearly about our own role in the church and our expectations for it.

HOW A CHURCH INFLUENCES PEOPLE DOES MATTER

rouen-cathedral-building-attractions-photo-u1

Today’s blog is not meant to be a smear or a rant against the Roman Catholic Church.

However, what a church teaches and practices shapes its members in ways that have eternal consequences.

In other words – it matters that we get church practices right

To get them right means we must be biblical. There is nothing wrong with traditions “if” they are biblically rooted. But if they are unbiblical, they can become hellish in their affect.

I read this fascinating article by John Piper which presented 7 lessons he learned in a recent trip he made to Europe.

The first point is the one I hope you will take the time to read (the rest is extra credit).  Piper describes the “shackles” that the Roman Catholicism has placed upon millions of people over centuries.

Some of the issues he describes have lessened over the years, but their influence on people remain obstacles to the gospel.

Think about that reality for a moment.

When an institution which claims to be the church actually keeps people in darkness about the gospel, which is the only hope we have for salvation – what spiritual force is truly in charge of it?

 

SERMON LEFTOVERS 7.18.16

‘God is with us, are we with Him?’

John 14:15-24

Jesus Farewell Discourse (John 13-16) is preparing his followers for his departure and their continued service

 

God is with us in his Trinitarian nature

Jesus has already given them implications of his being One with the Father

To trust Jesus is to trust the One who is “the Way, the Truth and the Life” (v6)

He is the fullness and the revealing of the Father (v9)

Throughout chapter 14, Jesus has given reasons why God being with them brings hope and confidence: 

In chapters 14-16, Jesus repeatedly adds that the Holy Spirit will also be with them

Jesus will send “another Helper”. The Greek word for ‘helper’ means “to come alongside”

The Holy Spirit comes alongside to fulfill Jesus’ work in us and through us

Throughout this discourse, Jesus keeps coming back to the Holy Spirit as the “Helper”

He wants to magnify this great reality about God with us

By nature, the Holy Spirit is all God is; and by inclination he is all God intends (Romans 8:9-11)

Jesus also frequently mentions the Holy Spirit in his post-resurrection appearances

When Jesus presents our mission, he adds that the Holy Spirit will enable us (Matthew 28:19-20, Luke 24:46-49, John 20:21-22 & Acts 1:8)

Jesus says, the Spirit who is already with you, will be forever “in” you

The permanent indwelling of the Holy Spirit is a significant difference between Old and New Testament believers

Why doesn’t the Holy Spirit simply help us without indwelling us, as he did in the Old Testament,?

The answer is that God’s great purpose in salvation is to bring us into communion with the Triune God (v20)

The Holy Spirit is the “Spirit of Truth”

Jesus combines these titles three times in this Farewell Discourse

The help brought by the Holy Spirit is not just empowering, it is full truth

We need this because Satan who is called the ‘ruler of this world’ in v30, is also called ‘the Father of Lies’ in John 8:44

Living with a Trinitarian perspective is not theological minutia

This is God’s nature; as a Triune being, he is a relational and communicative person

What a wondrous reality! God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are committed to us

 

What does it mean for us to be with God?

We are to be as fully committed to God as he is to us

In the middle of assuring the disciples that he would be with them, Jesus says our love for God is shown by obedience (vs 15, 21, 23 & 24)

Why bring that up here?  It is a reminder that God is with us, so we can be with him

God saves us into a relationship; that relationship requires obedience

Disobedience is sin, and sin ‘separates us’ from God

Obedience doesn’t maintain our salvation; it verifies and honors our salvation

God does not leave us as “orphans” (v18), so we should not abandon him

An orphan is without parental care; God will never leave or neglect his covenant responsibilities to us

Jesus repeats the connection between love and obedience four times – this is serious!

We don’t have the freedom to define how we love Jesus. Some Christians minimize biblical teaching by saying “I just love Jesus”

But love is more than feelings; the Bible defines love by its actions

Action Jesus gives is to obey God’s word; these are the only actions we have to give God

Jesus calls us to be obedient as he was 

1.  Compartmentalized obedience is disobedience 

2.  Half-hearted obedience is disobedience

3.  Common disobedience, doesn’t provide any cover

4.  So called “justified” disobedience (when we think we have been mistreated or we deserve a break) is just plain ole disobedience

5.  Oblivious disobedience is still disobedience

God gave us his word and he speaks through it, so we are responsible to know what’s in it

We are also responsible to examine our hearts, because not all sin is easy for us to see   

Jesus moves in only one direction – which is to serve the Father’s eternal purpose

If we live ignoring or disobeying where Jesus is going, we are not with him

But if follow this path, even in weakness the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are with us

AS GOOD AS A BOOK

r-albert-mohler-jr-baptists

This month rather than recommending a book, I am recommending a website. AlMohler.com is the home of Dr. Al Mohler’s articles and podcasts.

In my opinion Al Mohler is the preeminent evangelical voice commenting on socio-political issues today.

Mohler’s website has helpful articles and his daily podcast commenting on the news from a biblical perspective is exceptionally insightful.

A bonus at this time of year is Mohler’s annual summer reading list which is geared for those who love history and biographies.

Dr. Mohler is President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY. Mohler not only leads this seminary well, by God’s grace he rescued the seminary from liberalism and almost single-handedly turned it into one of the strongest biblical seminaries in the world today.

I have heard Al Mohler a few times and met him once briefly. In additional to having a brilliant and thoroughly biblical mind, he is an engaging and gracious man. You will benefit by listening to and reading what he has to say.

 

DO YOU HAVE GOSPEL FLEXIBILITY?

Last week I wrote an article on “Watching Our Cultural Diet”.

Today, I am encouraging you to watch out for cultural inflexibility.

The point in my previous article was guarding what we allow into our lives, while my point today is making sure we are touching lives in the world around us.

There are several practical problems that come up as we become culturally Christianized.

We have fewer relationships outside of the church in which we can share the gospel.

Our changes in lifestyle make us increasingly uncomfortable with the culture around us. This is a good reality, but unbelievers can feel our discomfort and think we are looking down on them.

Our conversation is peppered with “Christianese”; words that are confusing to unbelievers.

We can become judgmental on people we think have flagrant sins, rather than being burdened for their souls.

Sometimes we can think that our use of “Christian” symbols, words, plaques and music is witness enough. However, it is not enough for people to know we are Christian or religious, they need to hear the actual truths of the gospel (Romans 10:17). It is the gospel which leads people to salvation not religious influence.

We have to exercise thoughtfulness and prayerfulness to overcome the obstacles of Christian culture, but the Holy Spirit is eager to help.

Don Carson provides a few thoughts on these issues in this article “Are You Flexible for the Gospel?”

SERMON LEFTOVERS 7.11.16

‘The Father Revealed in the Son’

John 14:8-14

by Eric Huber

In John 14:9 Jesus says, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.”  The God of Bible is a self-revealing God.  He created us to know Him. 

However, He is not like us; He is not of this created reality, so God is beyond our comprehension.  If we are going to have a relationship with Him, then God must condescend to reveal Himself to us.

God reveals Himself in the Creation (Ps19:1 & Rom 1:18-25).  He makes Himself known in the things that are created. 

But that self-revelation of Creation only leaves us without an excuse.  It cannot save us.  It only condemns us as sinners who have rejected God. 

We need something more.

We need God revealing Himself is His Word, the Bible.  The Bible is not men’s thoughts about God, but God’s Word to and for us.  

In the Bible, God reveals Himself as both the just and justifier of sinners. He shows how we can be reconciled to God through Christ.

God reveals Himself in Creation and the Bible, but at the center of the self- revealing God is the Father revealing Himself in the Son. 

If we are going to know the heart of the Father, we look to the Son who reveals to us the person and nature of God.  He shows us God’s justice and mercy, His hatred for sin and His steadfast love for His people.

As the second person of the Trinity, Jesus reveals to us what God is like.  And in His incarnation, Jesus shows us how we are to live in obedience to the Father. 

Jesus came to be us – to live our life and die in our place.  And as we are united to Him, His Spirit is poured out upon us, so that we can live the way that He lived – obeying the Father in everything.

As we live walk in the Spirit, obeying God, the Father is glorified in the Son as the Son lives in and thru us.

DON’T FORGET GOD ON YOUR VACATION

Vacation season is upon us, and whether or not this is when you are on the road, it is a good time to consider how we honor God while we travel.

Sam Bierig encourages us in this article to make sure we don’t allow excuses to keep us from being in church on Sundays when we are away.

I will add two other important areas we should not let slip aside during vacations.

Giving – the expenses of your church don’t diminish when you are on vacation. Make sure you remain supportive of your church family whenever you cannot attend a service.

If you don’t give regularly to your church during the rest of the year, keep this in mind: you expect your church to be faithful in its ministry to you, so you should be faithful in making that ministry possible. You are part of the ministry of your church!

Devotional time – vacation definitely flips over our regular schedule, which is the point of going on vacation! Still, find some time to be with God.

Vacations are meant to be relaxing, but we have all experienced vacations turning into times of frustration. We need our hearts equipped by God wherever we are. Our God is worthy of living for him in all situations – including the times of getting away which he so graciously makes possible for us.

When you go away to be refreshed, keep in mind that meaning time with our good God is refreshing.