God’s Word

HOW CAN WE KNOW?

A woman recently asked how she should respond to an accusation that we have all heard in various forms:

All religions are the same

There are many ways to God

No one can say they have the truth

How can you speak for God?

Here is a synopsis of my answer to her:

If God exists, then it is completely unreasonable to think that He has not communicated Himself to us. If God is wise and good, then it is beyond doubt that He has communicated in a way that is obvious and clear.

As people, we don’t want to be misunderstood. In fact, we become offended if we hear that someone is misrepresenting our thoughts, feelings, values, and opinions.

If clarity about who we are is important to us, how much more is this true for God. Having people get the truth right about ourselves is usually simply a matter of our pride. But getting the truth right about God is about our eternity!

In the end, it is ridiculous to admit that God exists, but then deny that anyone can know the truth about him. It is equally absurd to question whether there is a clear truth about him.

This leaves us with the question of how can we know the truth about God.

Many people in our world speak as if they can simply derive what God is like and what He will do from within their own mind. The problems with this are many.

How can anyone know what is in the mind of someone they have never met?

How can we determine the values and thinking of a Being who is eternal and transcendent?

What God will or will not do is certainly not bound or compelled by our opinions

The essential question is not, has God spoken?  It is how has God revealed himself?

The truths of God are first revealed in His written Word, the Bible. When it comes to the trustworthiness of the Bible, there is no religious book that can come near to its veracity.

God is revealed secondly, in the incarnation of His Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus’ trustworthiness as God in flesh was verified when He arose from the dead, demonstrating His authority and power.

If there is truth about God that you don’t know – do you want to know it?

Are you willing to ask God to reveal Himself to you?

Are you willing to read the Bible and allow it to speak to you?

Are you willing to call upon Christ to lead your life?

Are you willing to respond to the reality God gives you?

 

IT’S NOT A CHORE!

You should be thoughtfully reading God’s Word on a regular basis.

But you already know that.

A good definition of regular is each day. There will be days when circumstances get out of control and you miss your reading time. When that happens, don’t drift into guilt. Simply thank God for his graciousness and pick up again the next day.

I cannot remember ever hearing a Christian tell me they didn’t think Bible reading was important. But I know there are many Christians who have not consistently established a habit of regular Bible reading.

The most common excuse we use is that “We don’t have time”.

But I think the actual most common reason is that we think of it as a burdensome chore.

In an article on the desiringGod website, David Mathis wrote:

“One of the biggest scams Satan has running is the lie that reading the Bible is a chore.”

I hope you will consider reading his entire article, “Treat Yourself to the Voice of God”.

David, not only encourages us in what Bible reading is – he also presents several helpful and perhaps unexpected tips for enjoying regular Bible reading.

If you enjoy David’s article, I highly recommend his outstanding book, “Habits of Grace”.

 

SERMON LEFTOVERS 3.06.17

Wisdom Follows Humility

 

1 Corinthians 4:6-21                   

 

We all make a life choice concerning whose perspective is upside down, God’s or that of the world. The Corinthians had not chosen well as evidenced by their divisiveness. Paul has answered by contrasting the wisdom of God with that of world. Now he unmasks the motivation behind their choices.

 

The wisdom we follow is a pride issue

All human history and the gospel are connected to this reality (compare Gen 3:1-6 and Mt 4:3-10)

1. Paul uses confrontation, to help the Corinthians see their true selves

He asks three who – what – why questions (v7)

There is no mystery concerning the answers; all we have is from God, which takes away our reasons for boasting

But unless we know God clearly, we will not see this basic reality

Even believers drift if God’s Word does not anchor our minds

We desperately need the conviction not to go “beyond” God’s Word (v6)

Paul had “applied all these things” i.e. the truths of chapters 1-4

Paul has doggedly pressed this conviction on us – how has it impacted you?

Beware, it is not just the world that tries to draw us “beyond what is written”

There are some in the church who diminish the infallibility and authority of God’s word

Discernment matters concerning what we read and who we hear

2. Paul uses sarcasm to help the Corinthians see the foolishness of their pride

They had an exaggerated view their maturity, so in v8 Paul uses exaggeration

Then he makes comparisons in v10 using words they probably used about themselves

When we compare ourselves to others, we usually use a one-sided and distorted storyline

3. Paul uses his own example of humbly resting in Christ

Paul is no longer using hyperbole, this is how he lived!

He is uplifting the seemingly ‘upside down’ biblical perspective of humility

The world resents life that looks like (v11)

The rich and wise would have mocked Paul for demeaning himself in physical labor (v12)

People ridicule those who have a v13 lifestyle

Humility as lifestyle is upside down to a world that is self-centered

Then why would any of us want to embrace it and be content!?

It’s the way of wisdom, for it is the way of Christ (Philippians 3:8)

What is truly upside down, is the so-called wisdom of the world

If you know Christ and have his gospel, the choice of where wisdom is found should not be difficult

To help us joyfully agree with the worthiness of Christ, we need to be immersed in praise of him

 

Paul presents their response options

Paul has firmly “admonished” them: how will they receive it? (vs 14-17)

(1)  They can justify themselves and reject his assessment

(2)  They can be self-focused in “shame” and pull away

(3)  Or they can humble themselves and follow the example of godly wisdom

Paul offers himself as an example, because he has “applied these things”

We are all called to be disciple-makers; and part of that is being an example

You don’t need to be a perfect example, you can be a committed example

We can show that we are committed to “applying” the wisdom of God instead of our own

We can show that we take joy in the wisdom of God instead of our own

Paul has softened his tone from confrontational to fatherly

But these believers must still decide how they will respond (vs 18-21)

The wisdom of the world has influence, but it’s devoid of power

The wisdom of God consists of power, so serving his “kingdom” has power

     The wisdom of the gospel is ‘the power of God for salvation’

     The wisdom of God is power to make life whole

     The wisdom of God is power to sustain and lift you in every storm

If you are in Christ and you embrace his word, your life will have power

 

SOMETHING TO SAY

opinion

 

I thought this cartoon brilliantly captures our culture.

We all have something to say, and every person should be heard; but not all of what is said has equal value.

If you are interested in hearing words that are always worthy, then read the book that is eternally true and valuable!

 

FAMILY DEVOTIONS, CAN WE LIVE WITHOUT THEM?

 

“Can our family live without having devotions together?”

This a prodigious question for parents with children still at home.

The short answer is, yes you can live.

But the fuller answer is, not anywhere near as well as a Christian family should!

Family devotions are not about parents being scholars, teachers, or having all the answers.

Family devotions are about inserting God and his Word into family life. It an essential process for making sure that the most important truths for life and eternity are given a prominent voice in our home.

If your answer is “My children get enough of God at church and their Christian school.”

My response is NO THEY DON”T!!

What your children don’t get – and this is enormous– is to see that the most influential people to them are committed to loving God and putting him first in their lives. They don’t see that your family is led by God’s Word – unless they experience your family reading and implementing God’s Word

In the end, God has placed the primary discipleship role on parents. God gave your children to you and God made you their parents. Your church has an essential role that supplements, not supplants the role of parents.

If your answer is “But I don’t know where to start and what to do?”

I understand. Keep it simple.

Gather the family

Open your Bible to the New Testament

Read a small portion (they key is consistency not amount)

If an application or comment comes to you, share it. If not, don’t worry about it

Close with prayer

Over time you will become more comfortable doing it. And if you sincerely pray for God to help, he will answer that prayer.

Be encouraged in knowing that God is always the main character in the process.

To help stir up some good ideas for family devotions, I urge you to read this article by Tim Challies. He gives 10 Ideas for family devotions and then adds 10 Tips to help make it work.

SERMON LEFTOVERS 11.07.16

Pastors Feed and Lead their Church

 

1 Peter 5:1-4

The title ‘pastor’ comes from the biblical picture of ‘shepherd’. Pastors fulfill their role as shepherds by Feeding, Leading, Protecting and Caring for the flock (we will look at the first two in this message). Understanding the pastors’ role helps guide our expectations of pastors and our responses to them

 

God calls pastors to feed his people

Feeding is essential to the biblical intention of shepherding

The KJV even translated “shepherd the flock” as “feed the flock”

In John 21 Jesus restores Peter who had denied him 3 times, with the 3-fold charge of “feed my lambs . . tend my sheep . . feed my sheep”

Feeding is our primary responsibility, leading and protecting flow out of it

The only food we have to feed God’s people is God’s Word  2 Timothy 3:16-17

God’s word needs to be continuously Exalted – it is to be honored as being “God-breathed”

God’s word needs to be continuously Loved – more than simply revered

God’s word needs to be fully Trusted – as the highest truth, and as completely sufficient for our lives

God’s word needs to be continuously applied – that is how it “profits” us

Our spiritual diet has to mature if we are to mature  Hebrews 5:12-14

v12 we must start with the basics and be firmly rooted in them

vs 13-14 but we should not stay there

To shepherd a congregation to fully health, the teaching diet must be healthy

Pastors need to challenge how we think; because we  don’t believe as fully as we think we do

We need to dig in more by reading and thinking more deeply

We saw in 2 Timothy 3 that pastoral teaching is not merely presenting info biblical truths are to transform and mobilize our lives

Word ministry is a serious responsibility  2 Timothy 4:1-4

Pause to digest the magnitude of this “charge” (v1)

Pastors dare not hold back by avoiding or minimizing God’s word

Listeners dare not push off what they don’t like, or receive it casually

 

God calls pastors to lead his people (v2)

Christians are people in motion, we are going somewhere

(1)  We are headed for life in a kingdom that is not of this world

(2)  We are being transformed into the image of Christ

Pastors ‘shepherd’ God’s people in the direction we are to be going  Ephesians 4:11-13

They are to help everyone under their care to become more like Christ, which includes engaging everyone in service to his kingdom

This is Challenging!      

If everyone is to participate in all that maturity requires, there need to be church programs and processes to guide them

If everyone is to participate, those who are lagging must be challenged in the areas where they need to move forward

Pastors answer to God in how we fulfill the role he has given  Hebrews 13:17

It is hard to stay fully and unyieldingly biblical; so it is important that congregations encourage their pastors to remain faithful and as they are faithful

How we lead is as important as the fact that we lead (vs 2-3)

Peter presents 3 contrasting ways pastors can serve

1.  Our Attitude is not to be as under compulsion (drudgery), but willingly for the gospel

2.  Our Motive is not to be shameful gain (money, notoriety, power), but eagerly serving Christ

3.  Our Approach is not to be domineering, but as examples of godliness. We cannot lead where we are not going

Any God-given authority or responsibility is built on God-shaped character (who we are), and desires (what we want)

There is mutual accountability in the church

How the pastors lead and how the congregation follows

“Submission to pastors is not subservience, it is living orderly under the leadership of the pastors”  Scott McKnight

The entire church must be abounding with gospel truths for one another to both correct and encourage

All of us are under the leading and care of the “Chief Shepherd” (v4)

We will never truly understand the church or have a healthy church, unless Christ is our exalted head

GOD IS NOT CUSTOMIZABLE

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Have you ever noticed the way people who leave God on the periphery of life feel free to tell Christians how we are following God incorrectly?

They blithely declare how the church needs to act differently in terms of support for social, political, economic and even sexual issues. They will even go so far as to accuse Christians of this head scratcher: we are being unchristian, if we will not agree and go along with other religions.

Accusations such as these reveal that the accusers don’t believe God is real, and they don’t believe His Word has any authority.

Sometimes they will throw out a broad and out of context biblical statement as to justify their accusation, but generally their opinions rest simply on the fact that they want Christians to think and act different.

G Shane Morris wrote an interesting article on this topic for The Federalist entitle “Dear Media: Stop Trying to Teach Christians Theology”.

We shouldn’t be surprised when unbelievers act this way, people will always be desperate to silence the voice of God from their lives.

But what about professed Christians, do we ever act as if the Bible’s authority over our preferences is questionable?

When believers pile up days without giving time or thought to God, how do explain the difference between our life and that of an unbeliever (many of them are nice and moral too)?

God is Creator, Sustainer, Lord of all, Almighty, Glorious and Perfect. He graciously is quite interested in hearing from us, but God has absolutely no interest in adjusting His will and Word for us.

The Bible is clear; if we love God we will bow before him and we will follow his Word. This particularly includes when God’s Word is running against our preferences.

As Shane Morris points out, God is not “customizable”.

 

THE UNENDING POWER OF GOSPEL PROCLAIMATION

 

The power of the Word of God can never be overstated.

God’s Word was not only given to us by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, it is the Holy Spirit who works through God’s Word when we speak it to ourselves and to others.

Even though we may feel the impact of our sharing the gospel to someone may have long since drifted away like smoke from a chimney – that is not necessarily true.

Here is my favorite story which captures these truths. May it encourage us to be faithful with the gospel and in our prayers for the unconverted.

A young boy named Luke Short once heard the eminent Puritan John Flavel (1630-1691) preaching in Dartmouth, England.  When that boy grew up, he immigrated to New England, going through his life without much thought of God.  

One day as Luke Short sat in a field reflecting upon his long life, he recalled a sermon he had heard in Dartmouth as a boy before he sailed to America.  The horror of dying under the curse of God was impressed upon him as he meditated on the words he had heard so long ago and he was converted to Christ – eighty five years after hearing John Flavel preach.    

From Michael Boland’s introduction to “The Mystery of Providence” by John Flavel. Published by Banner of Truth

 

PET PEEVES

 

We all have pet peeves, here are some of mine

 

Coffee served in Styrofoam cups
Once Dunkin Donuts switched from mugs to Styrofoam I never went back (so some pet peeves are good for us)

People who talk in movie theaters
When they sing it’s even worse

The phrase “Each and every”
Each is every

The New York Jets
Actually any professional sports team from New York City qualifies

30 second ads on YouTube
I understand you need to make money, but 30 seconds is too long when I desire immediacy

When people pass you on the interstate and then slow down once they are in front of you
Grrrrrr

Size 0 and minus sizes in women’s clothing
That’s impossible

Kids standing at bus stops in winter without a coat in order to look cool
You have several coats at home and you’re freezing – that’s just stupid

When software programs ask if you have read and agree to their ‘Terms of Service Agreement’
47 pages of small print legalese, are you serious?

When people post 30 tweets at one time
That’s just annoying

 

Well, God also has pet peeves

Whenever we know what his Word says, and then disregard it

 

CAUSEWAYS

Those who live near or regularly visit the Jersey shore know all about causeways

Causeways are roads that run through tidal marshes so we can get to the barrier islands with their highly desirable beaches and boardwalks.

If you have driven on these causeways, you can picture the scene clearly: a fairly straight and flat road cutting through a couple miles of mud, marsh and water.

There are no alternate roads on a causeway. They are cut through marshes that no vehicle can navigate. If you veer off the road, there is nothing but mud and swampy ground. In other words, you end up stuck and in a mess.

Now picture that causeway as our life between now and Heaven

It is a clear and straight road paved by the Word of God. Traveling on this road makes our journey safe and direct.

There is no viable alternate to God’s Word. We either follow its perfect wisdom or we end up in the swamp of human ingenuity and logic.

We have all experienced veering off the road and getting stuck in the mud. We mutter with frustration and plead with God to tow us out.

Once we are traveling through life by God’s Word, it shouldn’t be difficult to stay on that road. But somehow we find ourselves time and again swerving off into the mire of neglect and disobedience.

Maybe you end up stuck because you are following people who don’t know about the swamp.

Maybe you ignore God’s Word and are listening to the faulty GPS of the world’s values.

Or, maybe you lazily fail to pay attention to the road God has engineered and built for you.

It is impossible to disregard the causeway of God’s Word and not end up stuck – and yet some Christians keep doing it. A few will even pitch a tent and try to live in the mire, which is as foolish as it looks.

Whatever your reasons for floundering in the quagmire, is that reason worth it? Is life really better when it is lived beyond God’s Word?

We need humility to realize blazing our own trail always ends badly.

We need urgency to recognize that if we are careless toward God, we will get stuck.

Each day, we need fresh grace to simply stay on the road.

God has graciously provided His Word for our safety, encouragement and blessing.

Life is better when it stays on straight paths and solid ground.