Friday, November 27, 2009

Dangers of Doing

I am preparing my sermon for this Sunday from Galatians 5:16-26 and I came across something that I think will be helpful for others. When Paul lists the deeds of the flesh (verses 19-21) he ends by writing, "I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God." That's right! God will judge man according to his deeds. The initial thought would be to teach that we stop doing these things. But there is a problem with that teaching (actually a few problems). First of all, it does not suffice to stop doing these things because we all have already done these. Therefore, we are already guilty before God. We are by nature (as it says in Ephesians 2:3) children of wrath. So just not doing these things will not help anyone!

Of course that is evident from Scripture. Scripture clearly condemns everyone under sin and places all of mankind in need of a Savior. It also clearly points to the fact that Jesus Christ is that Savior. And that in order to have Christ as your Savior one must repent of their sin against Almighty God (recognizing that Christ died because of your sin) and believe that Christ's righteousness will be given to you if you would trust in Him alone (which is a work done by the Spirit of God). So we're all guilty and in need of the Savior, Jesus Christ.

So this brings up the second problem with teaching that we should just change our actions: the context does not support that! At first I wanted to show that we were sinners by nature and point out that our actions flow from what is on our hearts because of our sinful nature. As I thought through this particular passage of Scripture I saw how we are to change our actions. See if you can see how one is to "stop doing" what they have always done.

Galatians 5:16 - But I say to you walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.

Galatians 5:18 - But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

Galatians 5:22 - But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace,...

Galatians 5:25 - If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.

In those 4 verses in this immediate context it is clear that the way to be changed from what we have always done is to be led by the Spirit. You can do some great, moral, things without being led by the Spirit. But you can only be led by the Spirit if you have experienced verse 24, "And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires."

I want to preach in such a way that my congregation does not leave thinking they can "do things different" and accomplish what God requires of them for salvation. I want them to see that what God requires can only be accomplished when one comes to Christ and receives His righteousness and lives a life led by the Spirit.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

I'm Thankful for Thanksgiving

I am thankful for Thanksgiving because as a Christian I am commanded to be thankful. However, most of the time I am not thankful enough, especially about the common graces I experience everyday or the many blessings that "seem" normal (at least in America). On Thanksgiving I'm giving the opportunity to think about what I'm thankful for and I take the time to slow down and actually do that. So I am thankful for Thanksgiving because it causes me to take time to be obedient to God. Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

You are not the Bride of Christ...

There are times in your life when you figure out something that maybe you should have known for a long time. That recently happened to me (again!). In our individualistic society we live in today it is easy to see why I missed this, but as a pastor and seminary student I should not have. The point is that you (singular) are not the bride of Christ. You (plural) are the bride of Christ. There is no place of individualism in the Christian life. All those who believe are part of the bride of Christ. I bring that out because of a couple of reasons. One reason is for those who say you can be a believer in Christ and not be a part of the church. For one thing that's just disobedient to God's word. For another thing, however, you are part of the church if you are in Christ. So to hate the church is to hate the very bride that you help make. Another reason I've thought about this is because the church must recapture the understanding of community (not individualism) if she will actually be the church Christ has died for her to be. The bride of Christ is a corporate bride, not an individualistic person.

What are some other implications of this truth?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

What are we Saying?

Last night I had the opportunity to speak at the Baptist Collegiate Ministries at Virginia Tech. I spoke on "Missions is a Blood Issue" based on Revelation 5:9-10, "And they sang a new song, saying, 'Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.'" My challenge to them was that missions was important because Christ spilled out His blood for people from every tribe and language and people and nation.

This has me thinking today. What are we saying if we are not involved in fulfilling what Christ Himself died to fulfill? In other words, if Christ has purchased people from every tribe, and His sheep will hear his voice (John 10:16), then what are we saying by not taking this seriously? I think we're saying the death of Christ on behalf of His sheep isn't all that important to us. What do you think?

Friday, November 13, 2009

Churches Planting Churches

Ed Stetzer gives 10 Reasons to Partner in Planting Now. Here are the 10 reasons, but I would encourage you to go and check out what he writes.

1. The current economy is a perfect opportunity.

2. Plants do better when local people are sent out.

3. Churches get healthier as and after they plant another church.

4. Shared DNA is better than solo DNA.

5. Planters who partner benefit from increased accountability.

6. Partnerships lessen the financial and resource burdens.

7. People in the community need to reach their community.

8. You can take advantage of more effective exposure.

9. It creates a vivid witness.

10. It is ultimately Kingdom-minded.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Called to Lay Down Your Life

Several weeks ago we had a deacon ordination at our church. As I was researching the passage I wanted to preach from that morning I ended up in Mark 10:35-45. The reason is not because that passage has to do with the office of deacon, but because it captures the heart of everyone involved in deacon ministry. In this passage James and John ask Jesus to do for them whatever they ask. They proceed to ask to sit on His right hand and left hand in glory. They did not display a servant attitude.

However, the other disciples did not either. Verse 41 says, "And when the then heard it, they began to be indignant at James and John." The response of these disciples was not what Jesus wanted either. All of the disciples in this passage missed the way in which Jesus would build His kingdom. So Jesus responds in verses 42-45 by showing that the way to be great in His kingdom is to become a servant of all.

Interestingly, in verse 45 a from of the word for deacon is used twice. It says, "For even the Son of Man came not to be served (deaconed) but to serve (deacon), and to give his life as a ransom for many." Jesus came to serve and He pointed His disciples in the same direction. If they were to follow Jesus and achieve greatness in His kingdom, they would have to empty themselves of everything in order to serve others, as it says in verse 44, "and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all."

I tied this in with our church by saying that we are all called to serve others. We are not called to lord our positions over one another, but rather to lay our lives down for one another. Those who do this well would make good deacons. The example that Jesus gives, however, is for all who are followers of Him. We are all called to lay down our lives for others.

Certainly it is not in the same way as Jesus. Jesus laid down His life as a ransom for many. We cannot do that. But we can lay our lives down for many. I wonder, what would happen if Christians today took seriously the pattern Jesus set by laying down their lives for others for the glory of God and to point to (let's not miss the reason for this) the fact that Jesus bought you and others with His blood. May we serve in such a way that people see our good works and glorify our Father who is in heaven.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

I'm After an Image, but not that Image

Romans 8:29 - For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.

Certainly there is much theology in this verse. Some would even debate exactly what is being taught here. However, it is very clear that God plans for those who believe in Christ to be conformed into the image of Christ. That is what we are becoming as believers. We are called to the image of Christ.

However, I do not see that in myself. Over the years I have come to realize more and more that I am a very prideful person. Though I would like to think that has changed for the better, the fact remains I'm still prideful. This is clearly evident in my desire to have an image. I want to be seen as something. I want people to know who I am for something. As a pastor I can make that sound very spiritual. I didn't realize the pride of the following statement until recently, but it has been my thought for some time, "I want to be known as a sinner conformed to the image of Christ." Doesn't that sound great?

The problem is the first five words of that statement: I want to be known. It shows that my goal is not so much for Christ to be seen as it is for ME to be seen in Christ. Pride is such a difficult sin to combat because it's prevalent in all of life. As a prideful sinner I can take the best of things and try to twist it and turn it for my own glory. Of course it would be great for people to see you as conformed (or conforming) into the image of Christ. We are saved for that purpose. But the point is that they see the image of Christ, not us.

I have concluded that I am after an image, but it's not the right image. I (we) must fight against our sinful, prideful desires to be known and live for Christ's image to be displayed through us. He gets all the glory because He is the One worthy of being seen.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

We're NOT all God's Children

To be a child of God is a special privilege. I have heard many people over the years talk about how everyone is God's child. There is a great problem with that: It's not what the Bible says. In fact, in Galatians 4 Paul talks about becoming a child of God by saying in verses 4-5, "But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons." If we were already children of God, then we would not need to be adopted into His family. To say everyone is a child of God is to diminish what Christ accomplished on the cross for those who would believe. In fact, those who are actually children of God (through adoption) have evidence that they are children called the Holy Spirit, "And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, 'Abba! Father!' So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God" (Gal. 4:6-7). We must rejoice that God in His sovereign mercy would redeem a people and adopt them as children into His family. We must plead with others that they would renounce their own self-righteousness (which is no righteousness) and embrace the righteousness of Christ. And we must rejoice that those who have faith in the finished work of Christ are sons of God through faith.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Wow, It's been a Month

I just realized yesterday that I haven't posted anything on here in a month. I will work on that. For now let me say that I have recently been pondering the glorious truth of justification by faith alone in Christ alone. I have been preaching through Galatians and have been sweetly encouraged of God's sovereign grace in salvation. I am completely undeserving of such grace.