Thursday, June 30, 2005

Are You Listening?

Directions on how to hear sermons from an old preacher...

And from a younger one...

A Word-Centered Church

How do we become a church where the Word is taking very seriously? If I were to ask you to describe a Word centered church, where would you begin?

For most, their first thought is what the pastor does. Many would say that in order for the Word of Christ to dwell richly in a church, pastors must preach the Word! And they’d be right. It’d be difficult to overemphasize the importance of biblical preaching.

But although that obviously is a key facet of allowing the Word to dwell in us richly, it is not the aspect Paul describes in Colossians 3:16.

Instead he refers to two responsibilities of each and every believer.

The first responsibility, “biblical friendships.”

If the word of Christ dwells in us richly our church will be characterized by relationships in which believers are teaching and admonishing one another from the Word. Paul says, “Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom…”

This means we’re going to have relationships outside of Sunday morning where we are helping each other learn what the Word of Christ means. That’s what the word teach indicates, doesn’t it? We’re to teach each other the Word, continually.

This also means we’re going to have relationships outside of Sunday morning where we are helping each other deal with specific problems in light of what the Word of Christ teaches. That’s what the word admonish is all about.

This verse places a great responsibility on each of us towards our brothers and sisters in Christ. If the pastor showed up on a Sunday morning and didn’t preach, if he just sat in his seat and stared at the pulpit, the whole church would go home talking about it. Everyone would say, “I can’t believe pastor is not fulfilling his responsibility.” But the pastor is not the only one with a responsibility to teach and admonish. Every believer has that responsibility as well. If we do not fulfill our responsibility, while it may not be as obvious as the pastor sitting in his pew, over a period of time the effects will be just as devastating. If we do not, the Word of Christ isn’t dwelling in us.

Do you have these kinds of relationships? Are you pursuing them? I know my prayer for the church I'm part of is that every single member would be involved in relationships with other believers within the local church in which they are helping others become more like Christ.

The second responsibility, “expository singing.” If the Word of Christ dwells in us richly our church will be characterized by grateful, biblical singing. Paul explains, “Let the word of Christ dwell in your richly…singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”

It’s easy to downplay the value of singing. Singing is not a take it or leave it matter. Often people will say to me I just don’t like singing. If you are saying that, just understand there are many people out there who say I just don’t like preaching. It doesn’t matter so much what you like as what God wants. He wants biblical preaching in the church and He wants biblical singing. It’s an essential part of allowing the Word of Christ to dwell in us richly!

If we are going to be a Word-centered church we must pursue biblical friendships and work on singing biblically!

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Gospel Change...

"Where the Lord calls for change, connect those specific changes to what God is doing. Whenever you need to change, put the Redeemer in the center of the picture. Whenever others need to change, remember that the Light enlightens and the Holy One sanctifies. God is primarily interested in making us know him. Don't ever degenerate into giving advice unconnected to the good news of Jesus crucified, alive, present, at work, and returning. [For example] Ephesians gives us no Reader's Digest list of six principles for successful marital conversation' or 'four keys to getting your life organized.' Such advice is often reasonably OK, though rather pale and powerless. It often expresses a superficial analogy to biblical wisdom, in the same way that the moral codes of false religions often grope in the right direction. But looked at more deeeply, such things are only crude imitations of biblical truth. Paul never slips into giving pointers for life, because he has much bigger goals in view. He pleads with God that he would open our hearts to know Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit. So we don't dare read the communication discusion at the end of Ephesians 4 and only say Paul teaches four key principles: 1.) Tell the truth. 2.) Keep short accounts and deal with anger daily. 3.) Speak constructive rather than destructive words. 4.) Forgive others. Now those are terrific principles! But they are gutted of the knowledge of Jesus Christ, which is the point of human life and the power and reason to obey in truth." (Seeing with New Eyes, David Powlison, p.43)

Tuesday, June 28, 2005


What does it look like to be committed to a local church? The following questions might help for personal evaluation...

1.) Do I get together with people from my church alot? Do I get together with them alot so that I can learn from them and perhaps even help them grow spiritually?

2.) Am I working to advance the cause of Christ on a regular basis?

3.) Am I willing to put up with people at my church who don't know as much as me? Am I willing to say no to some things that I might want and might even have a right to for their spiritual good?

4.) Do I really care about people about my church? Am I careful not to cause any unnecessary division among people at church? Do I feel a personal responsibility for unity at my church?

5.) Am I interested in what is going on in the lives of people at my church? Do I only care about people that seem to care about me or do I look out for the good of people that don't seem to care that much about me?

6.) Do I know what the spiritual goals are of people at my church? When was the last time I worked at helping someone achieve their spiritual goals? How can I do that even this week?

7.) When someone rebukes me for sin, do I freak out? Am I open for rebuke? Do I allow people to get to know me well enough to rebuke me? Do I put on a show so everybody thinks everything is great with me when it really is not?

8.) Do I give to people in my church who are in need?

9.) When someone is hurting in my church, do I try to help them? Do I visit people who are perhaps physically ill? Am I even willing to?

10.) Do I try to think the best about what other people are doing and saying? Am I loyal to people at my church? Do I want them to be right?

11.) Do I gossip?

12.) Am I excited about worship, hearing the word, and participating in the Lord's Supper?

13.) Do I pray for other people at the church? In particular, do I often pray for their spiritual good?

14.) Am I willing to confront someone for sin if they need it?

15.) Am I mostly concerned about myself and my rights, or about the rights and concerns of people at my church?

For more check out The Works of John Flavel vol. 6. I basically just piggybacked off many of the ideas he presented there!

Monday, June 27, 2005

The One Opinion that Counts...1 Peter 2:4

Whose opinion do you value most?

The unbeliever's or God's?

At first that question seems like an easy one to answer. That is, until we take a good look at our lives. The fact of the matter is what unbelievers think about us and about Christian faith often influences our lives more than we think.

Their opinions often influence the way we speak.

I mean, where would you say it is easier to talk about Christ and the gospel? At church, or at work?

At church, of course.

At church we have no problem saying, 'The Lord is more important to me than anyone else...' At work, we feel like we've done something amazing if we can muster up the courage to say, 'Thank you Lord.'


At church, people agree. At work, they don't. What unbelievers think about Christ changes the way we talk. They don't think much of Christ so we don't speak much of Him.

Their opinions often influence the way we feel.

I know for myself I've never been embarrassed to drive my Ford Aerostar to church. When I come here to meet with Christians I never think negatively about my 1993 bright blue green I don't know what color it really is min-van, but if I have to meet with an unbeliever, there are times when hopping out of my van, I feel a bit differently.

When we come to church the people we meet with by and large are believers and they understand biblical values; but when we go to work and interact with people in the world they don't and so their opinions can tempt us to become embarrased about living all out for Christ.

We say we value God's opinion above the world's but we often live like the world's opinion is more valuable than God's. That's why I want to remind you of one fundamental problem when it comes to the Christian life with allowing the world's opinion to change the way you speak, feel, think and act.

The world's opinion is wrong.

The world was wrong about Jesus christ.

Peter makes that clear in 1 Peter 2:4,

"As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious..."

Reading this verse is a little bit like watching a movie. Peter's the cameraman and he's zooming in on a very unusual scene.

A group of men huddled around a stone.

Not a rock that you might pick up on the side of the road or at the edge of a creek, no this is a stone that has been prepared, one that is specially designed for use in the construction of a building.

This particular stone is a very important one; it's to be the cornerstone, the stone around which the rest of the building revolves and on which the rest of the building stands.

Intent on building a place to meet with God these men are examining this stone carefully, deciding whether or not it will meet their exacting standards and be useful for accomplishing the task they have set out to perform.

You might imagine one of them picking it up, setting it down, another walking slowly around it, eyeing it from every angle, each of them looking at one another, shaking their heads, and finally saying in unison, 'Useless...'

That stone is Jesus.

As we come to Jesus, we must remember that we are coming to a living stone rejected by men.

When Jesus came into the world, the world that he made, the world did not know Him. 'He came to His own people, and his own people did not receive him.'

He did not meet their standards of what a Savior should be.

'This man eats with tax collectors and sinners'
'This man claims to forgive sins'
'This man doesn't do everything the way we think he should'
'This man is no Savior. He is possessed.'
'Crucify Him.'

When Jesus rose again and sent out messengers to proclaim His victory to the world, the world again soundly rejected Him.

Over and over again.

Peter proclaiming Jesus in Jerusalem, threatened and imprisoned...

Stephen proclaiming Jesus before the Jewish leaders, slandered and stone...

Paul proclaiming Jesus in Athens before the intellectual giants of his day, ridiculed and dismissed...

Jesus didn't meet their standards of what a Savior should be.

To the Jews he was a stumbling block.

To the Greeks, foolishness.

After Jesus rose again the world's opinion of him was the same as that of those who crucified him, the same opinion every unbeliever holds today:

'No good. Useless.'

Jesus is a living stone rejected by men.

Don't let the Jesus is my homeboy t-shirts and cross necklaces and WWJD bracelets worn by unconverted people fool you, the only Jesus that unconverted person will accept apart from the grace of God is a Jesus they have made up in their own mind.

A fictional Jesus.

Everybody likes the fictional Jesus, the Jesus who says exactly what you want him to say and does exactly what you want him to do. The historical Jesus, the Jesus of Scripture, that's a different matter altogether.

The world's opinion of that Jesus is entirely negative.


The world is wrong.

Does the world's rejection of Jesus mean God has rejected Him? Does the world's attitude towards Jesus reflect God's?

Not in the least.

"As you come to Him...' Peter writes, you are coming to 'a living stone, rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious...'

The most important stone in God's plan for building a spiritual place to dwell in is the very stone the world rejects.

When the world tells us not to speak up for Jesus, when the world tells us it is foolish to live for Jesus, when the world's attitude towards the faith starts to influence ours in a negative way, we must remind ourselves that just as the world was wrong about Jesus, the world is wrong about us.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Spotted on the Web...

They said it better than I could!

First Forgiveness, Then Charles Spurgeon

Battling the Unbelief of John Piper

Pardon for the Greatest of J. Edwards

Cotton Mather On Doing Good...

"It is an invaluable honor to do good; it is an incomparable pleasure. A man must look upon himself as dignified and gratified by God when an opportunity to do good is placed into his hands. He must embrace it with rapture as enabling him directly to answer the great end of his being. He must manage it with rapturous delight as a most suitable business, as a most precious privilege...we ought to be glad when any opportunity to do good is offered to us. We should need no arguments to make us entertain the offer; but we should naturally fly into the amtter as most agreeable to the Divine Nature whereof we are made partakers. It should oblige us wonderfully. A bar of gold presented unto us could not be more obliging. Think sirs, "Now I enjoy what I am for! Now I attain what I wish for!...Look upon an opportunity to do good as a thing that enriches you and look upon yourselves as enriched and favored of God when He does employ you to do good..."

Thursday, June 23, 2005

All Ears Posted by Hello

Cambria Mack

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Brothers, Let Us Pray

" every season of general awakening the Christian community waits just as they waited for the effusion of the Spirit, with one accord in prayer and supplication in the interval between the Ascension and Pentecost. No other course has been prescribed; and the church of the present has all the warrant she ever had to wait, expect and pray. The first disciples waited in the youthfulness of simple hope, not for a spirit which they had not, but for more of the Spirit which they had, and Christianity has not outlived itself. Ten days they waited with one accord in prayer, when of a sudden the Spirit came to give them spiritual eyes to apprehend divine things as they never knew them before, and to impart a joy which no man could take from them. It was prayer in the Spirit, the great promise of the Father. But the prayer which brought down the Holy Ghost was not that style of petition which ceases if it is not heard at once, or if the heart is out of tune. The prayer which prevails with Him who gives the Spirit is that which will not let Him go without the blessing...When we look at the prayers in Scripture, we find that God's glory, the Church's growth and welfare, her holiness and progress, were ever highest in the thoughts and breathings of the saints than personal considerations. And if we are animated with any other frame of mind, it is not prayer taught by the Spirit nor offered up in the name of Christ. The praying attitude of the Church in the first days after the ascension when the disciples waited for the Spirit should be the Church's attitude still." George Smeaton

Feeling Unrighteous?

If you are a Christian and you begin to look at your sin and say to yourself, “I’m just don’t know if Christ could have possibly dealt with this…” it is as if you are looking at the cross and saying, “Jesus I’m just not sure about what you did.”

Well, the thing is, you may not be sure about what Jesus did, but God the Father is. He’s sure that Christ fully paid the penalty for believer’s sins.

The resurrection proves that.

You could say the resurrection is something like a receipt. In Christ’s death, He paid the penalty for our sin. In Christ’s resurrection, God the Father acknowledged publicly that the debt had been paid. I think that’s part of the point behind Romans 4:25. “He was delivered up because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification.” As we look to the cross the writers of the New Testament say Jesus is paying what you owed. And we’re like he is, that sounds good, is he really? And in the resurrection, it’s as if we receive a receipt from God. Yes, look here, the debt’s been paid.

Another way to put it, would be to say that the resurrection is God stamp of approval on the work of Christ on the cross. It proves Jesus’ work authentic.

I just recently got an e-mail that claims to be from Bill Gates. Apparently, according to this e-mail at least, Bill Gates just wants to give away his fortune. And so if I forward this e-mail to so many people, he will pay me so much for every one who receives it.

Now you can tell what I think about that e-mail. I don’t buy it. I would react differently however, if representatives from Microsoft came to my home and presented an offer, and they had a letter from Bill Gates, with an undeniable, authentic, only Bill Gates could do that, stamp of approval.

The apostles, these representatives of Christ, they said some pretty remarkable things about Jesus’ death. We know that when they talked about all the benefits of Christ’s death they weren’t saying more than what was true because Christ’s death had the undeniable, authentic, only God could do that, stamp of approval – the resurrection.

And so as we look at our sin and we look at the future, it’s not as if our hope is based on some sort of fantasy or fairy tale, no it’s based on a historical fact. Christ died and Christ rose again. And by that resurrection, Paul says in Romans 1:4, “…he was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead…”

Sometimes when it comes to the gospel, people are like well that sounds wonderful, I would to believe my sins are forgiven, but I can’t, I need more proof. In the resurrection, it is as if God is standing right next to their ear with a megaphone and He is shouting out or declaring loudly, “Jesus is the Son of God! His Work is for real!”

As believers, we can get discouraged by the fact that we still struggle with sin and we feel so unworthy, and we are like man can the cross really deal with all my sin? Well, when you are beginning to get discouraged by your sin, you need to take that sin and go to the tomb. And you need to ask yourself, “Do I really believe that Jesus rose from the dead?”

Because if you do, and you can go to 1 Corinthians 15 for this, you can say, if Jesus did rise from the dead, I know that I’m going to be raised from the dead. I know that I have this incredible future hope. I know that my faith is based on reality. And I know that I’m not in my sins anymore.

And when your sin is like "man you don’t deserve to go to heaven, God is constantly upset with you, you have no hope." You can be like, "man I know I don’t deserve to go to heaven, but I also know that I have peace with God, and I have hope, because Jesus died and Jesus rose again. Sin, his death and his resurrection took care of you. So I’ll be sad about you, but I’m not going to despair."

No matter how unrighteous you feel, there’s no reason to be discouraged because the resurrection proves that Jesus paid the penalty of every believer’s sin on the cross.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

1 Peter 2:1-3 - Do You Want It?

“So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up to salvation, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.”

Reading these verses for the first time you might think the main point would be how much you need the Bible.

After all, you’ll remember that the immediate context in which this verse is set is one where Peter is stressing the importance of the Word. He reminds us in verses 22-25 that as believers we’ve been purified by obedience to the Word and born again by the means of the Word. Here in this passage we find him piggybacking on that theme reminding us that we need that same Word in order to grow.

Or perhaps if you wanted to be a little more specific, reading these verses for the first time you might think the main point would be how you need to read the Bible.

Since milk, looking at the context, obviously refers to the Word; and Peter says in verse 2 that just as infants need their mother’s milk in order to survive physically, you and I need a regular intake of the Word in order to survive spiritually.

But if you look a little closer at these verses, I think you’ll agree that while this passage does stress our need for the Word and that the reading the Word is certainly a valid application; its main point is just a bit different.

The main point of this text is found smack dab in the middle where Peter writes:

“…long for the pure spiritual milk.”

That’s a command and everything else in these verses revolves around that command. When Peter tells us to put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander in verse 1 he is telling us what we must do if we are going to obey this command to long for the Word. When he brings up the illustration of newborn infants at the beginning of verse 2 he is describing the way we are obey this command to long for the Word. When he explains that it is by the pure spiritual milk that we grow up to salvation at the end of verse 2, and calls on us to think about whether or not we have tasted of the Lord’s kindness in verse 3, he is explaining why we ought to obey this command to long for the Word.

The word long is a word you might use to describe the way some single people feel about getting married. It’s a word you might use to describe the way someone who is out in the desert with nothing to drink might feel about a glass of water. It’s a word you might use to describe the way a parent feels about an unrepentant, prodigal child. Most graphically, it’s a word you might use the way Peter does here, to describe the way a newborn baby feels about his mother’s milk.

The primary challenge of this text, its main point is not that we are supposed to read the Word, or study the Word, or meditate on the Word, or memorize the Word, the primary challenge of this text is that we are supposed to long for the Word; we need to want it.

I want that challenge to be very clear in your minds because if we tone it down at all, or even shift the focus of this passage a bit, we are going to miss what is really a revolutionary concept.

The fact that Peter is commanding us to long for the Word means: “We have a responsibility to take control of our desires and start wanting the Word with everything we’ve got.”

Monday, June 20, 2005

The foolishness of pride

Pride is perhaps the most destructive attitude of all.

It damned Satan. It damned the angels who followed him. And it has damned many others throughout history.

Yet instead of warring against it, our world actually promotes it.

Of course, that’s not too surprising since Satan wants to promote pride and squelch humility. He’s got strategies and schemes, and one of those schemes is to fan the flames of pride and to stomp out any small spark of humility.

He doesn’t have too hard a time doing that since our own hearts are prone to pride. As Spurgeon once explained, “There is nothing into which the heart of man so easily falls as pride, and yet there is no vice which is more frequently, and emphatically, and more eloquently condemned in Scripture.”

Since the world promotes pride, Satan promotes pride, and our own hearts promote pride, we better pay careful attention to what God says about pride or we’ll easily become ensnared in its trap.

Throughout the Bible God gives us a number of different reasons it is completely foolish to be proud.

It’s foolish to be proud because of God’s attitude towards the proud person.

God hates pride. In Proverbs 16:15 Solomon is very blunt, “Everyone proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord.”

God hates pride, because pride is a violation of the first commandment. God alone is to be worshiped and served because His will is supreme and He alone is God. But pride asserts that man should take supremacy over God. The proud man opposes God. But God will not tolerate a usurper who attempts to rise above Him. Thus God opposes the proud man.

That means if you are proud you are setting yourself up in opposition to God.

You versus God.

That’s not a good match. You don’t have a chance. As Thomas Watson explains, “The proud man is the mark which God shoots at. And He never misses the mark.”

If we say we love God, how can we ever be content with doing something that He hates? We can’t, and if you are a believer you are going to war against pride because you understand what Scripture says about God’s attitude towards the proud person.

It’s foolish to be proud because you have no reason apart from Christ to be proud.

What would you think of a person who went about speaking very dogmatically about all sorts of different issues but was always wrong? 2 plus 2 equals 5. The earth is flat. I remember being embarrassed recently when I saw someone asked who was the president before Bill Clinton and she said confidently Colin Powell. Colin Powell isn’t even one of the options. Yet she was certain. You get embarrassed for people like that because they are displaying their ignorance. They are showing everybody just how little they know.

And that’s what we are doing when we become proud. We are displaying our ignorance. We are showing everybody just how little we really know.

When we become proud we are acting like we are the Creator when we are only creatures. We are forgetting our own natural insignificance.

Think about some of the things people are proud about. Men often become proud when they have some power. They think they are something because they have been placed in a position of authority. Scripture explains that God is the one who gives men power and authority and He is able to take that power and authority away. Isaiah writes, “He it is who reduces rulers to nothing, who makes the judges of the earth meaningless.”

King Nebuchadnezzar found this out the hard way. King Nebuchadnezzar had become strong and great, and he was a person of incredible importance in this world’s eyes. Instead of praising and giving glory to God, he began to take pride in himself and in his power. We read in verse 30 of Daniel 4, “The king reflected and said, ‘Is this not Babylon the great, which I myself have built as a royal residence by the might of my power and for the glory of my majesty?’ While the word was in the king’s mouth, a voice came from heaven, saying ‘King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is declared: sovereignty has been removed from you and you will be driven away from mankind and your dwelling place will be with the beasts of the field. You will be given grass to eat like cattle, and seven periods of time will pass over you, until you recognize that the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind and bestows it on whomever He wishes.” That’s exactly what happened and what did Nebuchadnezzar learn, verse 34, “I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever; For His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom endures from generation to generation. And all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, But He does according to His will in the host of the heaven and among the inhabitants of earth; and no one can ward off His hand or say to Him, what hast thou done….Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise, exalt, and honor the King of heaven, for all His works are true and His ways just, and He is able to humble those who walk in pride.” Daniel 5:18-20 sums it up, “O King the Most High God granted sovereignty, grandeur, glory and majesty to Nebuchadnezzar your father. And because of the grandeur which He bestowed on him, all the peoples, nations, and men of every language feared and trembled before him…But when his heart was lifted up and his spirit became so proud that he behaved arrogantly, he was deposed from his royal throne and his glory was taken away…until he recognized that the Most High God is ruler over the realm of mankind, and that He sets over it, whomever He wishes…”

That’s a major league example of why you shouldn’t be proud when you’ve been given some pride and authority. Any importance that you have, any position that you have, it’s from God, and He could very easily take it away.

Men often become proud about their talents and abilities. A guy who is a good basketball player walks with a little swagger because he can play basketball better than others. A guy who is a good mechanic takes pride because he knows how to fix cars and others don’t. A woman who is an excellent cook boasts about herself because of her abilities in the kitchen. We all know when you have a talent or ability, one of the first things you do is look around to see if anyone else noticed, so you can take pride in what you’ve accomplished.

But we have no reason to be proud about our talents and abilities because everything we have is a gift from God. You can take this down to the most basic level. Imagine a person on life-support becoming proud and boasting about how he is breathing. You’d say buddy I’m glad you are breathing, but don’t you see, you are only breathing because you are hooked up to this machine. Everything we have is from God, even our breath. We are completely dependent. That’s not just true when it comes to breathing, that is true when it comes to everything we do.

If you look at 1 Corinthians 4:7, Paul explains, “For who regards you as superior. And what do you have that you did not receive? But if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?” When we boast about our gifts we are flat out lying, because we are talking and acting like we achieved something when in reality we’re only able to achieve anything because of God’s grace.

We can do what we can do because God enables us to do it. That’s it. End of sentence.

It’s amazing how insidious pride is. We can even become proud about our spiritual gifts. A preacher can become proud about a sermon he preached on humility. Or someone can become proud about the money they put in the offering plate.

It's important we war against spiritual pride of any sort. Once again, Charles Spurgeon explains, “It is of the utmost importance to us to be kept humble. Consciousness of self-importance is a hateful delusion, but one into which we fall as naturally as weeds grow on a dunghill. We cannot be used of the Lord but what we also dream of personal greatness, we think ourselves almost indispensable to the church, pillars of the cause, and foundations of the temple of God. We are nothings and nobodies, but that we do not think so is very evident, for as soon as we are put on the shelf we begin anxiously to enquire, ‘How will the work go on without me?’ As well might the fly on the coach wheel enquire, “How will the mails be carried without me?” Far better men have been laid in the grave without having brought the Lord’s work to a standstill, and shall we fume and fret because for a little season we must lie upon the bed of languishing? God sometimes weakens our strength in a way a the precise juncture when our presence seems most needed, to teach us that we are not necessary to God’s work, and that when we are most useful he can easily do without us. If this be the practical lesson, the rough schooling may be easily endured for assuredly it is beyond all things desirable that self should be kept low and the Lord alone be magnified.”

When we become proud we are not only showing that we are ignorant regarding our natural insignificance, we are also showing our ignorance of our spiritual condition. As believers we sometimes have too rosey a picture of our spiritual condition apart from Christ. And that’s a bad place to be, because we’ll never appreciate the magnificence of what God has done for us in our salvation until we understand what the Bible says about us before our salvation.

Paul uses a choice word in Romans 5:10 to describe who we were before God apart from His work of grace in our lives. He says we were God’s enemies.

Think about the ramifications of that.

Before God saved you:

Your mind was opposed to God. As Jonathan Edwards explains, “It is evident, that the mind of the unsaved man is naturally averse to thinking about God. And hence, if any thoughts of him be suggested to the mind, they soon go away. Such thoughts are not apt to rest in the minds of natural men.” Romans 3:18 says of the unbeliever, “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” In other words – unbelievers do not think of God aright. Before we were saved we had little regard for God. He was small and contemptible in our eyes. We did not fear Him. We valued our friends opinions of us, and were much more afraid of offending them than we were of displeasing the God that made us.

Your desires were opposed to God. Ephesians 2:3 explains, “Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh…” We did not desire God. Thinking about God and His attributes was a chore to us. Instead we desired to do evil. Look into the unsaved heart and you do not find a passion for the true God, but a passion for oneself. There was not even a spark of a right desire for God in us. As Paul explains, we were dead in our transgressions and sins.

Your will was opposed to God. Unsaved man does not love God but instead hates him. We may not see that hatred displayed because there are things which restrain that hatred at the present time like unbelief or a distorted understanding of who God is. But mark this: when an unsaved person sees God for who He really is, unless there is a work of grace in that man’s heart, he will hate God. For as Romans 3 says, “There is none righteous, not even one, there is none who understands, there is none who seeks after God…”

Your behavior was opposed to God. Paul writes in Colossians 1:21, “And although you were formerly alienated and hostile, engaged in evil deeds…” We were actively warring against God by disobeying His commands and attempting to dethrone Him and set ourselves up in His place. We were not neutral bystanders – instead we were God-haters and we demonstrated that hatred for God through a wicked life.

Your worship was opposed to God. Every man is a worshiper. Unsaved man just worships the creation instead of the creator. No man can serve two masters –therefore when a man worships anyone other than the true God, he is setting himself up as God’s enemy.

We need to understand that we were God’s enemies. We did not seek Him nor love Him. Even our best deeds were filthy rags in his sight, polluted by sin. How foolish to become proud of ourselves, when apart from Christ, there was nothing good in us. Imagine a child bragging about a mess he made in his pants. You say that’s gross. You are right, that is exactly how gross it is for us to brag about anything we have done. The proud person has an unbiblical view of sin, and has an unbiblical view of himself.

Believing this humbles us and helps us see the greatness of Christ. Again Edwards writes, “How wonderful is this love that is manifested in giving Christ to die for us. For this is love to enemies…How wonderful was the love of the Father, in giving such a gift to those who not only could not be profitable to him, but were his enemies and to so great a degree. We had great enmity to against Him, yet so did He love us, that He gave His own Son to lay down His life, in order to save our lives, from His own throne there, to be in the form of a servant; and instead of a throne of glory, gave Him to be nailed to the cross, and to be laid in the grave, so that we might be brought to a throne of glory. How wonderful was the love of Christ, in thus exercising dying love towards His enemies. He loved those that hated Him, with hatred sought to take away His life, so as voluntarily to lay down His life that they might have life through Him.”

So it’s foolish to become proud because of God’s attitude towards the proud, and because we have nothing to be proud about apart from Christ, we’re just creatures and sinful creatures at that.

It’s foolish to become proud because of what pride produces.

You may have heard the old story about two rabbits hiding in a bush because they are surrounded by a pack of wolves. The one rabbit looks at the other and says, what do you think we should we do? Should we try to escape, or should we wait a couple of minutes until we outnumber them?

Rabbits reproduce very quickly, and so does pride. Pride’s constantly having little babies, but these babies aren’t cute cuddly little things, they are monsters. Pride is not a stand alone sin, it invades and affects everything about you.

Or to put it another way, pride has some terrible side-effects. If you were deciding whether or not to take a certain drug, one of the things you would do is look at the listing of side-effects. If it said, death, comas, loss of mental capacity, put you in a wheel-chair, you probably wouldn’t take that drug.

Well, Scripture tells us pride has some terrible side-effects.

Pride leads to forgetting God. (Deutoronomy 8:11ff)

Pride can cause a godly man to act in wicked ways. (2 Chronicles 26:16ff)

Pride produces ingratitude. (2 Chronicles 32:34,35)

Pride causes us to sin in our speech. (Psalm 31:18)

Pride causes us to act in careless ways, like a fool. (Proverbs 14:16)

Pride causes us to close our ears to God’s Word and to lean on our own understanding. (Jeremiah 13:9,10)

Those are just some of the things pride produces. On the flip side, it's interesting to note what pride prevents. It keeps us from praying, from reading God’s Word, from receiving life-giving rebuke, from changing, from seeing our own sin, from truly listening to others, from developing deep and meaningful relationships, from being truly used in the kingdom of God. The list is almost endless.

Jonathan Edwards sums it up when he writes, “Pride is the main handle by which Satan grabs hold of Christian persons and is the chief source of all the mischief that he introduces to clog and hinder the work of God.”

So it’s foolish to be proud because of how Scripture describes God’s attitude toward the proud, because apart from Christ we have no reason to be proud, and because of what God’s Word tells us pride produces.

It’s foolish to be proud because of what the Bible reveals are the consequences of pride.

Imagine that you had to go on a journey down a certain road. And so you asked someone who traveled the road often to draw you a map. When he draws the map he also lays out some of the pit-falls. Watch out for this, watch out for that. Since you’d never traveled down that road, you’d be foolish to ignore his warnings. You’d be careful not to fall into the traps.

Here we are on a journey, it’s called life. And we have a map, it’s called Scripture. Only it’s not written by someone who has only traveled the road, it’s written by the owner of the road, the ruler of all, the one who knows all things. We’re blessed because he’s carefully laid out many of the traps along the way.

Yet so often we fail to pay attention to what He has to say. It’s like this whole thing that is happening with the Catholic Church. Scripture talks about it – Paul says in 1 Timothy 4, “the Spirit explicitly says that in the later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to the deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron, men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from certain foods…” I mean Scripture talks about it, how could people fall for it, but they do.

Or sometimes I will listen to certain preachers and it’s almost like they are opening up their Bibles finding a verse, and saying the exact opposite of what that verse really means. And Scripture talks about that too…

I think of Nebuchadnezzar. He has a dream. Daniel interprets it and tells him what is going to happen and why. I would think this guy would go, wow, I better repent. I don’t want that to happen. But no he just ignores the message, keeps going his way, and eventually it all happens just as Daniel foretold.

It’s easy to look at Nebuchadnezzar, the Catholics, and even others who are caught in weak churches and think what is going on guys, how could you be so fooled. Yet, truth be told, the same thing often happens to us. We are ensnared by pride.

God’s been good. He’s gone to great lengths to warn us of the dangers of pride. We just need to pay careful attention to what He says.

Psalm 31:23, “The Lord preserves the faithful, and will fully pay back the proud doer…”

Proverbs 11:2, “When pride comes, then comes dishonor…”

Proverbs 15:25, “The Lord will tear down the house of the proud…”

Proverbs 16:5, “Everyone who is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord, assuredly he will not be unpunished.”

Proverbs 16:18, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before stumbling…”

Proverbs 29:23, “A man’s pride will bring him low…”

Isaiah 2:11 foretells a day when, “The proud look of man will be abased, and the loftiness of man will be humbled, and the Lord alone will be exalted in that day…”

Jesus Himself says in Luke 14:11, “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted…”

You may think you are something for a little while, you may even deceive a few others into believing it, but you will not fool God. There is a day coming when the proud will stand before God and be humiliated, but the humble will stand before God and will be exalted.

God’s given us warning about this, and he’s also given us examples. Nebuchadnezzar’s one. Herod’s another. Flip over to Acts 12:21-23, “And on an appointed day, Herod, having put on his royal apparel, took his seat on the rostrum and began delivering an address to them. And the people kept crying out, ‘The voice of a god and not of a man.’ And immediately an angel of the Lord struck him because he did not give God the glory and he died…”

If you are proud you are playing with fire. You will suffer the consequences. Scripture makes it very clear there is a day coming when God will humble everyone who is proud. Malachi 4:1, “For behold, the day is coming, burning like a furnace; and all the arrogant and every evildoer will be chaff; and the day that is coming will set them ablaze,” says the Lord of hosts, “so that it will leave them neither root nor branch.”

And once again, we could look at this from the opposite angle. We’ve talked about the consequences of pride, but we could spend just as much time talking about the many benefits of humility.

For one, Psalm 34:18 says, “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, and saves those who are crushed in spirit…” Psalm 51:17 tells us, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise…” God says in Isaiah 57:15, “I dwell on a high and holy place, and also with the contrite and lowly of spirit in order to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.” And then in Isaiah 66:2, “…to this one I will look, to him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word.” Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:3 and 4, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” And “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted…” And we’ve seen in James that God promises one to give grace to the humble, and two to exalt the humble.

You’re foolish to be proud because of the consequences of pride, and because you are missing out on the many blessings of humility.

It’s foolish to be proud because pride is a characteristic of the wicked not the righteous. You claim to be a Christian. Which means you claim to be a follower of God. But when you are proud you are placing yourself in the camp of those who oppose God. Pride is not just a mistake, it’s not simply a character flaw. It’s sin. Proverbs 21:4 says, “Haughty eyes and a proud heart, the lamp of the wicked is sin.” In Mark 7:22 Jesus tells us that pride is evil and defiles a person. In 1 John 2:16 we read that pride is against God. And Psalm 73:3,6 uses pride as a synonym for the wicked. That’s why 2 Timothy 3:2 tells us that one of the marks of the last days is that “men will be lovers of self…” It makes no sense for a person who claims to love God and to be concerned about righteousness to be proud because by doing so he is sinning, defiling himself, actively opposing God, acting just like the wicked around him, and really living up to Paul’s description of the apostate who live during the last days.

It’s foolish to be proud because of how Jesus Christ humbled himself. Jesus Christ deserved glory and honor. If you look over at Hebrews 1, you read that “He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power…For to which of the angels did He ever say, ‘Thou art my Son, today I have begotten Thee’? And again, ‘I will be a Father to Him, and He shall be a son to Me.’ And when He again brings the first-born into the world, He says, ‘And let all the angels of God worship Him…’….of the Son He says, ‘Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever, and the righteous scepter of His kingdom, thou hast loved righteousness and hates lawlessness, therefore God thy God has anointed Thee, with the oil of gladness above thy companions…And Thou Lord in the beginning didst lay the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are they work of thy hands; they will perish but thou remainest and they all will become old as a garment, and as a mantle thou will roll them up, as a garment they will also be changed, but thou art the same, and thy years will not come to an end…”

Yet what did Christ do? He humbled himself. Philippians 2:6-8, “…who although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

“The Lord of the world became a servant in the world. He whose right it was to rule, took obedience as His life characteristic…”

If Christ who was perfect, who never sinned, who was and is God, if He voluntarily humbled himself, how much more should we.

One of the things that makes pride so dangerous is that it is so hard to spot. The very definition of being proud is to think you are better than you really are. So it’s not surprising that the proud person doesn’t tend to see his own pride. That’s why I’d encourage you this week to think long and hard about your life, and to do some serious soul-searching, to discover if and where you are proud, when you are tempted to be proud, and to war against it.

Because really, pride is the height of folly. Remember what God’s attitude is towards the proud, that you have no reason to be proud, what pride produces, the consequences of pride, the description of the proud, and the character of our Lord!

Friday, June 17, 2005

You Are Not the Same Old You - Do You Believe It?

"…here is the miracle of redemption. We are given our temperaments by God…all our temperaments are different and that also is of God. Yes, but it must never be true of us as Christians that we are controlled by our temperaments. We must be controlled by the Holy Ghost. You must put them in that order. Here are powers and capacities and here is your particular temperament that uses them, but the vital point is that as a Christian you should be controlled by the Holy Spirit. What is so tragically wrong in a Christian is that he should allow himself to be controlled by his temperament. The natural man is always controlled by his temperament, he cannot help himself; but the difference that regeneration makes is that there is now a higher control even over temperament. The moment the Holy Spirit enters in, He controls everything including our temperament, and so He enables you to function in your own particular way through your temperament. That is the miracle of redemption. Temperament remains, but temperament no longer controls. The Holy Spirit now controls." (Martyn Lloyd Jones, Spiritual Depression, Eerdmans Pub., Grand Rapids, Mi.,1965, p.101)

Am I Patient?

I've found the following questions helpful for evaluating whether or not I am manifesting patience in the way I relate to other people:

1. Do I get upset with other people alot?
2. Do I usually return insult for insult?
3. Do I freak out when I don't get my own way?
4. Do I tend to get annoyed when others don't see things the way I do?
5. How do I react when I am interrupted?
6. Do I become irritate quickly when others don't understand what I'm trying to explain to them?
7. Do I give people a hard time when they forget something I told them? Do I just hate having to repeat myself?
8. Do I get ticked off when someone is late or isn't ready on time?
9. Does it bother me to the point of distraction when I'm not appreciated for doing something?
10. Do I lash out on people who are slow to change?
11. Do I give up on people after one or two failures?

(I need to give a nod to my Dad for these questions. I've modified them from a sermon he preached entitled "Aiming for a patient ministry..." You can check it out at

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Get to Know Your Enemy

I’ll always remember a sweet, little old grandma who heard I was studying to be a pastor and wanted to give me a little advice before I headed off to serve at my first church. “Whatever you do” she said, “don’t talk about sin. I used to go to a church where the pastor always talked about sin. It made me miserable. But at the church I go to now, the pastor never talks about sin, and I love it.” Sadly, her attitude toward sin is not all that unusual.
Many view talking about sin as offensive, others view it as discouraging, and still others as pointless. God’s attitude toward the subject, however, is far different. He views talking about sin as important. So important that if you don’t “get” what the Bible says about sin, you won’t “get” anything else.
If you are serious about growing in your relationship with Christ, there are few subjects more important for you to consider than what the Bible teaches about sin. You don’t understand sin and you will struggle to comprehend the justice of God and His judgment on the lost.
During my first year of college I doubted God like I never had before. I was studying the Old Testament and I was shocked by the way God treated sinners; a man puts out his hand to steady the ark and he’s struck dead, Moses gets angry and he’s not allowed to enter the Promised Land, Adam and Eve eat some fruit and the whole world is sentenced to judgment. After about a year’s worth of struggle, I finally figured out what the problem was, and it wasn’t with God. It was with my view of sin. I didn’t think sin was as bad as it really was and as a result I couldn’t come to terms with the way God judged it. His reaction to sin was completely just, mine totally warped. You don’t understand sin and you are not going to be amazed you’ve been forgiven. I think about the Pharisee who was sitting across the table from Jesus judging the woman who was weeping at Jesus feet. He was so blind that he had the audacity to go a step further and judge Jesus himself. Jesus explained that the woman was overwhelmed with love for him because she realized she was a sinner who needed his forgiveness while the Pharisee wasn’t, because he didn’t.
Unfortunately, too often we’re more like the self-righteous Pharisee than the weeping woman. We’re not overwhelmed with love for Jesus. Truth is, Jesus seems pretty boring to us. If we get tired of singing about Jesus, talking about Jesus, thinking about Jesus, I guarantee you, the problem is not with Jesus, the problem is with us. We don’t take our sin seriously enough, and as a result aren’t amazed by Him and the forgiveness He provides.
You don’t understand sin and you are not going to be motivated to deal with it. I’ve found that many people say they want to change, but don’t really want to change, at least not enough. Mostly, they just want to say they want to change. That way they can appear to be holy while continuing to indulge in the very things that keep them from being holy. They like the benefits they see that result from a godly life, but do not want to make the sacrifices required to experience those benefits. They want to be godly, but they don’t really want to be godly, because they love their sin too much. That’s because they don’t really understand just how awful sin is. Fail to come to grips with that, and you’ll end up complacent. You’ll be willing to live with your sin. And sometimes you’ll even indulge it. You’ll betray yourself. You’ll aid and abet your enemy. You’ll help the very one who wants to destroy you.
The goal of this post is simple. I want to prove to you that sin is awful. I want to show you why it is so foolish to play with sin. And I want to motivate you to hate sin with everything you’ve got. At first, you might think it’s a little strange that I would sense the need to do that. After all, you are a Christian. You go to church. You know sin is bad; that’s one of the first things you learned in Sunday School. Unfortunately, though many of us know sin is bad, I don’t think many of us understand just how awful it really is. I say that from personal experience. One of the primary reasons I was motivated to look more carefully at what the Bible teaches about sin is because I realized that even as a pastor who spends hours in God’s Word almost every day, my attitude towards sin was slipping and it scared me.
I could blame society for that. The world gets mad at us for trying to convert them, when they are trying to convert us. They want us to think the way they do. In particular, the world in which we live wants us to think the way they do about sin. Our culture is constantly telling us that sin is not a serious issue. In fact, on most popular television shows the main goal is to show that sin is funny, not awful. And if we’re not careful it’s very easy to begin to laugh at the very thing Christ died to save us from. What God calls evil can slowly begin to appear normal, even good.
Or I could blame sin itself. Sin is deceptive. It doesn’t show its’ true colors. Sin disguises itself. It’s a beast, but when it comes knocking on the door of your heart, its dressed up like a girl scout. It wants you to think it just wants to sell you some ‘cookies’ when all it really wants to do is destroy you. To see how awful sin is, we have to rip off the disguises it puts on.
Do you know what’s really twisted? Most of us can easily see that other people’s sin is terrible. We’re good at exposing sin in others, and we are great at denouncing it. But when it comes to our sin, we’re even better at ignoring it. You see this kind of thing happening all the time. A parent screaming at a child for screaming at his sister, a wife refusing to talk to her husband because she thinks he is being selfish, a person gossiping about someone they think has offended them.
The truth is, while it would be easy to say that the main reason we don’t hate sin the way we should is because the world is lying to us, or sin is lying to us, I just don’t think that’s the case. The main reason we don’t hate sin the way we should is because our own hearts are lying to us. That’s Jeremiah 17:9, look it up. We deceive ourselves into believing we’re better than we really are, and that the sin we are indulging in isn’t all that serious, at least not as serious as the sin of those around us. It’s pretty sad to meet a person who has been deceived by someone else. It’s even more tragic to meet a person who has deceived himself. Yet that’s the way many of us are. As one writer puts it, “We deny…what we know to be true. We assert…what we know to be false. We prettify ugly realities and sell ourselves the prettified versions…We become our own dupes.” We sit in church and amen when the pastor says sin is awful, and yet when we go out in the world, the very sin we denounced in church appears pretty enticing. So we give in. Then we persuade ourselves that although sin is awful, our sin really isn’t. Our very own hearts betray us.
While there are a number of reasons we fall into this trap, one of the primary reasons is because we only have a vague understanding of what sin really is. We’ve heard the words sin and sinners over and over, we know it is bad, but beyond that everything gets a little hazy. If we are going to grow in our hatred of sin we have to grow in our understanding of exactly what sin is.
If I tell you there’s suffering in Africa, you might feel a little sad. But that statement is so vague, it’s not likely to break your heart. I’m guessing after hearing that, you’d still be able to get on with your day. You probably wouldn’t even think too much about it again. If I really want you to be moved by the suffering in Africa, I’d need to get more specific, and go on to describe what’s happening in greater detail, explain some statistics, perhaps even show some photos. Probably the best thing I could do would be to take you there and introduce you to some of those who are actually suffering because the more you see and the more you understand, the more likely you are to feel compassion. In a similar manner, if your understanding of what the Bible teaches about sin is vague, you are not likely to hate it that much. You might be a little bothered, but you are going to be able to get on with your day. If you really want to hate sin, you need to go to God’s Word, look at some “photos” and then learn to view your own sin in light of what Scripture says.
God gives us many vivid descriptions of sin throughout the Bible. As you study the Scripture you’ll find that there are a number of different words for sin, iniquity, transgression, wickedness, to name a few. That’s because the authors of Scripture used all sorts of different Hebrew and Greek words to describe what sin is. (Over seventeen distinct terms, in fact.) Each of these words adds a little to our picture of just how awful sin really is.
Sin is described as rebellion.
When we think about sin we tend to think horizontal, about our relationships with people. But we need to realize that all sin is vertical, all sin is against God. That’s why after David committed adultery and even murder, he still cries out to God, “Against Thee and Thee only have I sinned.” (Psalm 51:4) It’s not that he didn’t sin against Bathsheba and Uriah, but the person most offended by his sin was God. God is holy. He has laws we must obey. These laws are not arbitrary. It’s not as if God is up in heaven saying do this or don’t do that for absolutely no reason. No, the laws He has given us are the very definition of what is right. Sin is any failure to conform to God’s holy law, in action or in attitude. The slightest, most minute departure from absolute obedience to God’s law is sin. Sin is doing what God forbids or failing to do what He commands. The apostle John puts it like this; “sin is lawlessness…” (1 John 3:4) As one pastor puts it, “You sin when you do, when you say, when you think, or when you don’t do, say, or think what God commands you to.”
One of the words used throughout the Old Testament to describe sin is ‘transgression.’ That word literally means to revolt or rebel against a rightful authority. When you sin, you are shaking your fist at God. You are treating God like He is your enemy. You are fighting against Him. You are despising Him. You are committing treason. Imagine an American hiding Ossama Bin Laden in his house, taking him out to dinner, going to local amusement parks. If a person did that, he’d be a traitor. When you hide sin in your hearts, that’s exactly what you are doing, you are being a traitor to God.
Sin is described as perversion. To pervert something is to twist it or distort it. Many times when you sin you are taking something that is good and warping and twisting it into something evil. You are perverting that which is right. Think about idolatry. God designed us to worship Him. That’s the great purpose of our lives. When we worship someone or something other than God, we are being perverted. We’re taking that which is right, worshiping God and twisting it into something evil, worshiping someone else. The same is true for sexual sin. God has a good plan for sex. A plan which when followed brings joy and satisfaction. But people twist it into something awful. Very often I find when I talk to people that their problems stem from good desires improperly directed. A young man wants to do well in school, but allows that desire to become an obsession, and suddenly doing well in school becomes his chief objective in life. Or perhaps a young lady wants to have a boyfriend, but allows that desire to dominate her, and is willing to compromise what she knows to be true and right in order to achieve it. A pervert is not just someone who sits up in his room looking at dirty pictures. Anytime we deviate from what God commands, we are being perverted. Fix that thought in your mind.
Sin is described as emptiness.
When you choose to sin, you are choosing to do something that is inherently futile. One of the Old Testament words for sin literally means empty. When the Old Testament writers saw someone sinning, they could say he was doing emptiness. The sinner chases after the wind, pursuing something he’ll never catch. That’s why Paul describes the way we thought before Christ saved us as “meaningless…” (Ephesians 4:17) As one old theologian has explained, sinning is like getting into a bathtub filled with water, grabbing the sides and then trying to lift the bathtub to the ceiling. You can work and work but you are not going to get anywhere. Ultimately, you are wasting your energy doing something that is pointless.
Sin is described as breaking a trust.
Sin is often called ‘unfaithfulness.’ When you sin you are not only breaking God’s law, you are violating a relationship. The word for unfaithful is actually the same word you would use if someone committed adultery. Sinning against God is committing spiritual adultery. Ezekiel’s pretty graphic. He says that when God’s people sinned they were acting like prostitutes. “…you trusted in your beauty and played the harlot because of your fame, and you poured out your harlotries on every passer-by who might be willing.” (Ez.16:14) We like to trivialize our sin. But realizing sinning against God is like being a prostitute, or committing adultery puts things in perspective.
Sin is described as veering off the road God wants you to travel.
There are some scholars who think this is the primary emphasis behind the three most important Old Testament words for sin. There are two paths to travel throughout life; the way of godliness and the way of wickedness. When you obey God’s law you are walking on the way of godliness, when you sin you are walking along the way of wickedness. When we sin we are turning aside from the way God has laid out for us to follow. We are wandering off of God’s path. We are crossing over the boundaries that God has set, trespassing in forbidden, dangerous territory.
Sin is described as offending God. Sin is more than doing what you want, it’s doing the exact opposite of what God wants. It’s doing that which God hates. That’s why sin is so often called an abomination to God. In other words, sin is disgusting to God. To take it a step further, when we sin we are doing what the devil desires. God hates sin. Satan loves it. When we sin we are doing what God hates and what Satan loves. Thomas Watson explains, “Sin gratifies Satan. When lust or anger burn in the soul, Satan warms himself at the fire. Men’s sin feast the devil…How he laughs to see people giving up their souls for the world, as if one should trade diamonds for straws…” To hate our sin, we’ve got to see it for what it really is. When we sin we are “missing the mark, straying from the fold…” We are acting like people who are “spiritually blind and deaf…” We are being “unfaithful to our faithful God…” We are committing “spiritual adultery…” We are stepping off the path God has graciously revealed to wander about on a path that is anti-God; we are doing the very thing that God hates, we are choosing to disrupt our relationship with our God. The world, sin and our own hearts are going to tell us that sin is not serious. We must respond by speaking the truth to ourselves. If we don’t, we are placing ourselves in great danger.
A little over a hundred years ago, in May of 1902, a volcano on the island of Martinique was beginning to concern the residents of the city Saint-Pierre. Unfortunately, the volcano was heating up in an election year. The governor of Martinique was worried that if too much attention was given to the volcano, the candidates of his party would suffer in the upcoming election. So he went to work. He told the editor of a local paper to minimize the danger of an eruption. He stopped people from sending telegrams which warned of the threat. He even visited the city himself several days before the election just so that people knew things were safe. The day after he arrived in Saint-Pierre, the volcano erupted. It ended up killing the governor and thirty thousand others in under two minutes.
Listen, Satan, sin and our own flesh often act a lot like that governor – downplaying the seriousness of sin, of the “volcano.” Don’t be fooled. God promises, “He who keeps the commandment keeps his soul, but he who is careless of his ways will die…” (Proverbs 19:16)

A Shout Out...

Two great blogs...


You'll go away saying, "Man, I wish I thought of that...but I'm sure glad they did!"

1 Peter 2:7,8 - The Problem of Unbelief

I think one of the most difficult things about believing in Jesus is the fact that so many people don’t.
Day after day we go to work and are surrounded by people who dismiss Him; day after day we turn on our televisions and watch people who reject Him; day after day we read in our newspapers about people who don’t believe in Him. Our lives are filled with people who ignore, minimize and reject Jesus; people who simply do not believe in Him.
And their lack of faith often wears on our faith.
Sometimes it plain wears it out. I’ve known people, and obviously they didn’t have a true faith, but they had a type of faith, they grew up in a Christian home and when they were in the safety of their parent’s home they didn’t question the faith because everyone else around them believed, but then when they went out on their own, they suddenly discovered that there were a whole lot of people who didn’t believe in Jesus and that many of those people who didn’t believe in Jesus were really, really smart. And that lack of faith, causes them to abandon the faith.
Other times though, and this is probably more true of us; the world’s lack of faith doesn’t tempt us to abandon the faith, but instead it does cause us to become really, really, really uncertain it.
With everyone telling you are wrong, it’s easy to start wondering if you are right. To believe, but not to be completely sure.
The world’s lack of faith is one of the greatest hindrances to our faith. Whether we are talking about rejecting the faith or becoming uncertain about it; the world’s lack of faith can easily shake ours.
What I would like to do is consider why the world’s lack of faith shouldn’t cause us to become uncertain about Christ or even pessimistic about what God is doing in this world. One of my primary goals as a pastor is to build our faith and I want to accomplish that by looking at two reasons the world’s lack of faith shouldn’t shake ours.
The first reason is found in verse 7.
We might have grounds for concern if the world’s unbelief could somehow frustrate God’s plan. If God wasn’t able to accomplish what He planned to accomplish because of people’s unbelief, I’d say we’d have a basis for being uncertain and pessimistic.
But it can’t.
The world’s unbelief has no effect on God’s Plan
That’s a pretty awesome statement. It’s also hard to believe, especially when you look out there and you see so many people who are living their lives completely ignoring God and Christ, and you are like how can God possibly accomplish what He wants to accomplish when so many people reject Him?
Well think about what Peter tells us in this text.
1.) He prophesied that He would lay a stone in Zion, the cornerstone for the spiritual house he was building;
2.) He sent Jesus to be that stone;
3.) But the builders rejected Jesus as the cornerstone.
They crucified Him actually.
Now did the fact that the builders rejected Christ as the cornerstone like that stop God from being able to use Him as the cornerstone? What difference did the builders rejection of Jesus make on God’s plan? Did their lack of faith frustrate it?
Not at all. Not even a bit.
Peter says matter of fact, “…the stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone…” They said this can’t be the cornerstone, no, no, no. This won’t work. This won’t work. But it’s the cornerstone.
They took the stone that God sent and tossed it aside, but in doing so, they tossed that stone right into the place God had prepared before the world for it. They got together, and they plotted to frustrate God’s plan, but God used their very plotting to frustrate their own plans; causing their rejection of Jesus Christ to accomplish the exact opposite of what they intended it to accomplish.
If you stop and think about it, if it weren’t so sad, the whole situation would be almost humorous.
What did the Jewish leaders think they would accomplish by crucifying Jesus?
They were trying to destroy Him – put an end to Him.
You can imagine the joyous conversations they had with one another the day after they hanged Jesus on the tree.
“I guess we finally did it. We showed Him. Who was He to go around making the claims He was making? He’s dead now. He can’t save anyone!”
You can be pretty confident they were saying things like that the day after Jesus was crucified because of the kinds of things they were saying as he was being crucified. Luke tells us, the Jewish leaders scoffed at him and said, ‘He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, His Chosen One.”
Ha! Ha!
They thought that by crucifying Jesus they were making it impossible for Him to be the Messiah.
But what did the Jewish leaders really accomplish by crucifying Jesus?
The exact opposite.
They enabled Him to be our Messiah. They helped Him accomplish His purpose. These leaders thought they were crucifying Jesus because He wasn’t the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy; but by crucifying Jesus they actually played a vital part in His fulfilling Old Testament prophecy.
They just couldn’t stop Jesus.
No matter what they did. “They betrayed Him, denied him, mocked him, struck him, spit on him, hit him with rods, crowned him with thorns, stripped him, crucified him, and buried him – but they could not stop Him from being what God destined him to be, the Living Cornerstone of a great and glorious people.”
Unbelief a reason for uncertainty – to fear that God may be frustrated?
No, God will be God. And no matter how hard men try to take His place or change His plans, He will accomplish what He desires to accomplish. No matter what evil men do – God is able to use it to accomplish His good purpose. Jesus is proof! Unbelieving men did the worst thing that anybody could ever do – they crucified Jesus. You take all the violent crimes, the evil atrocities that have ever been committed, and they do not compare to this one – the crucifixion of God’s perfect Son. And yet God took the worst thing that men have ever done in the history of the world and used it to accomplish the best thing that has ever happened in the history of the world for men.
Unbelief is a problem; but it’s not a problem for God, it’s not a problem for Jesus – it’s a problem for the unbeliever. People may ignore, dismiss, and reject Jesus just like the Jewish leaders did, but their rejection of Jesus doesn’t say anything about Him – instead it says something about them - because the unbeliever’s evaluation of Jesus Christ doesn’t affect God’s evaluation of Him. Their evaluation of Jesus Christ definitely does however affect God’s evaluation of them.
“The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” Peter says and “a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense.”
When people reject Jesus they pick up the stone God sent and toss it to the side, only to trip over it as they walk away and come crashing down themselves as a result. They make a choice not to hide in the rock that God has provided to protect them; and that rock comes crashing down on them, destroying them.
So when we go to work and we talk to people about Jesus and they just don’t care – that shouldn’t cause us to question our faith. When we look at what’s going on in this world, it shouldn’t cause us to become pessimistic. Sad perhaps, but not cynical or dismayed or hopeless.
That’s what the disciples felt when Jesus was hanging on the cross. But they were wrong. They didn’t understand this truth that was so clearly revealed after Jesus rose again, the lesson Peter teaches us here – the world’s lack of faith can’t hinder God from accomplishing what He plans to accomplish – and so it shouldn’t hinder us from believing in Him. Which is reason number #1 the world’s lack of faith, shouldn’t shake yours. It has no effect on God’s sovereign plan.
In fact, and this is really reason number #2, it is part of God’s plan. It’s not merely that God can use the evil actions of men and women to accomplish His plan; it’s that He often chooses to use their actions to accomplish His plan.
Understand this.
When men and women reject Jesus Christ; they choose to do so deliberately and willfully. There’s no reading 1 Peter 2 without recognizing that the decision to reject Jesus is a decision God holds people completely responsible for. People choose not to believe. People choose to be disobedient. Their unbelief and disobedience is an act of their will that God holds them completely responsible for.
This world is not one big puppet show where God sins through people. People willfully and deliberately choose to not believe God. People willfully and deliberately choose to disobey God.
No man, no woman, no one will be able to stand before God on judgment day and blame Him for their own unbelief or for their own disobedience. They will not be able to blame Him because it is absolutely impossible for God to sin. They will not be able to blame Him because it is absolutely impossible for God to tempt anyone to sin. They will not be able to blame Him because they are real people, making real decisions.
And yet…and yet…
Even as proud men and women willfully and deliberately choose to reject God’s plan, to disobey His Word; even as proud men and women make real, responsible, decisions to act against His will – God accomplishes His will in and through them. As men and women act against the will of God God accomplishes His sovereign will through them.
If you want proof of that, you just need to come back to 1 Peter 2:7,8.
“The stone the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone,’ and ‘A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense.’” Here it is – “They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.”
Underline that last phrase.
There are at least two different ways people interpret it. The first you’ll like, the second you won’t. But if you can quiet your heart and let God be God the one you don’t might become the one you do.
There are some who would say Peter’s point is that God destines those who disobey the Word will stumble. That it’s the judgment that He destines. Even the MacArthur Study Bible says, “These were not destined by God to disobedience and unbelief. Rather these were destined to doom because of their disobedience and unbelief.”
Now I can understand why some might lean towards that interpretation, I honestly am tempted to myself; but as you can tell even in our English translations, that interpretation is not the most natural way to read these verses. You have to do some pretty fancy Greek gymnastics with your eyes closed to make this verse say that. The most natural way to understand what Peter is saying here is that even the stumbling of unbelievers ultimately is not outside the sovereign will of God.[1] As one scholar puts it, “God has not only appointed that those who disobey the word would stumble and fall. He has also determined that they would disbelieve and stumble…”?? The unbelief of men cannot stop God from doing what He wants to do because God has decided to use the unbelief of men to do what He wants to do.
Now that’s one of those thoughts that you are going to have wrestle with for a while. To take these two truths and see them as one. Men responsible for their sin and God sovereignly using it for His own purposes.For the person struggling to see how those two fit together, I would say again, you’ve got to go to the cross. Think again about exactly what occurred.
Men were responsible for delivering Jesus up to be crucified. Can’t we say that? Who delivered Jesus up?
We could say – it was Judas – he betrayed Jesus; we could also say it was the Jewish leaders – they hated Jesus and took Him before Pontius Pilate. Peter he says, speaking to a group of people in the book of Acts, “you have taken Jesus by lawless hands, have crucified Him and put Him to death.” You! You! You!
But…who delivered Jesus up to be crucified?
We could say God delivered Jesus up to be crucified. Peter does. In the same breath, where he holds men responsible for delivering Jesus up, he goes on to say in Acts 2:23 that Jesus was delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God.
You have taken Jesus, you have crucified Jesus, you have put Him to death. Just like God planned.
So here we are – face to face with the dilemma of 1 Peter 2:8.
Does the fact that what they did was according to the plan of God mean they aren’t responsible for doing it? Does the fact that God was sovereign over their actions mean we can blame God for them?
It might help you to think about this from the opposite perspective.
Since we have been saved through Jesus’ death on the cross, and these men were the ones who crucified Him, should we give them credit for our salvation? Since Judas was the one who delivered Jesus up to death, and since the Jewish leaders put him to death, and since we are saved through Jesus’ death, should we praise Judas and the Jewish leaders for our salvation?
Of course not.
There is just as little reason to blame God for Judas’ and for the Jewish leaders’ crime as there is to honor Judas and the Jewish leaders for the salvation God provided through it. Just because these individuals killed Jesus doesn’t mean they deserve the credit for our salvation and just because it was according to God’s plan that they did so doesn’t mean that He deserves the blame for their sin.
The fact that God is able to, and chooses to take the real decisions of men like Judas and the Jewish leaders to do evil and use those real decisions to do evil to accomplish His good purpose is not a reason to get angry at God, but rather a reason to praise Him. It’s not a reason to be discouraged, but to be encouraged.
That’s the whole point of this shocking statement in 1 Peter.
Why does he even bring this up? That we might take heart.
He wants us to know we have no reason to be pessimistic or uncertain in the face of human unbelief; that we don’t have to wring our hands and hang our heads - because human unbelief cannot win. How could it win? Human unbelief cannot defeat God’s purpose, no matter how hard it tries, because God has chosen to use that unbelief to accomplish His purpose. Even the unbeliever, through his unbelief, is forced into serving God and accomplishing His will. “His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation; all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand…” None.
Which gives us as believers a reason for certainty – no matter how bad things get.
And things do get bad. I can’t imagine what life must have been like for these early believers receiving this letter. Hated, mocked, persecuted, rejected. Homes taken away, friends killed. The circumstances of their lives were completely uncertain. But Peter writes to let them know, their faith in Christ needn’t be. The world’s lack of faith didn’t need to shake their faith.
And it doesn’t have to shake yours.
Your life may not be as difficult as these early believers, but your faith can take a beating just the same. Spend much time with unbelievers, and it’s easy to become uncertain. Perhaps not to reject your faith, but to have serious doubts about it. To allow the world’s unbelief to cause your belief in Christ to waver.
I’m very concerned for you about that.
This is real life and I know that’s a struggle. It’s not wrong to wrestle with truths, it’s not wrong to wonder, it’s not wrong to fall on your knees and say God I believe, help my unbelief.
Unceasing uncertainty about Christ over the long haul can be spiritually devastating.
Spiritually devastating, because when you are uncertain about something – what do you do with it?
Not much.
This is why it’s so important you build your faith. So many of the problems in our spiritual lives, can be traced back to one root problem – uncertainty about our faith. When we are uncertain about our faith, we have a very difficult time living it out.
I have a t-shirt, I got it in a race a few months back and it’s bright lime green. I kind of like it so I’m not willing to throw it away but I’m just not sure about it because it so bright so I never wear it. I put it on sometimes but before I get out the door, I always go back to my room, toss it in the closet and change into something else. Which is I think a good way to describe what many Christians are doing with their Christian faith. They are not willing to toss it out; but they certainly aren’t living it out. It’s like this lime-green shirt that they want to wear but they are so concerned about what other people think and so unsure about it that they will only wear it when nobody else sees.
They are not happily and courageously and joyously proclaiming Christ and living for Him because they are uncertain.
And the thing is, they feel like they have good reason.
After all, look at the circumstances of their life. Look at this world. What reason does all the unbelief and evil in this world give you for faith? Pick up a newspaper, read about all the terrible things people are doing to one another. If the world were a little nicer place and there were more believers then there might be reason for confidence and certainty, but with the world the way it is, with the world abounding with unbelievers, why should I be certain? Why shouldn’t I be pessimistic? Why should I go out there and tell people about Jesus? Why should I make the sacrifices I know He wants me to make in my life? What reason do I have to be confident?
Because God will be God. Because no unbeliever can bring His purpose to ruin because God has so chosen to use their unbelief to accomplish His great plan! Because as John Piper puts it, “Men may reject His way, but they cannot destroy His plan…In the end, God is triumphant in men’s belief and unbelief, He is triumphant in their obedience and their disobedience. Human beings, whether good or evil, rejecting or accepting, believing or unbelieving, cannot thwart the ultimate purposes of God. ‘The stone which the builders rejected has become the corner.”
When the fact that so many people don’t believe in Jesus tempts you to stop believing, to become uncertain or even pessimistic, I challenge you – go back to the cross. Center your thoughts on your Savior. Remember that the world’s rejection didn’t stop God from doing what He wanted – in fact – He used the world’s rejection to accomplish His perfect plan!

[1] One Greek scholar puts it like this, “All attempts to explain away the statement as if it meant only that they were appointed to this by just and natural consequences of their own acts, are futile.”

But What Can I Do?

Sometimes we wonder how we can have a ministry at our local church. Here are some thoughts that I've found helpful in moving forward in ministry...

1. I need to make the great aim of my entire life the glory of God.

So how can I glorify God today?

2. I need to worship God with all my heart, mind, strength, and soul.

So what can I praise God for today?

3. I need to grow in my knowledge of Christ, develop a deeper and fuller
understanding of His love for me and learn to trust Him more.

So how can I grow in my knowledge of Christ today?

4. I need to find ways to love others sacrificially so that unbelievers may see my good
works and glorify my Father who is in heaven.

So how can I love another believer today?

5. I need to become a person of the Book.

So what am I going to learn from Scripture today?

6. I need to become a deep thinker about God’s sovereign grace.

So when will I stop and think about God’s grace today?

7. I need to devote myself to prayer.

So who am I going to pray for today?

8. I need to abstain from fleshly lusts, making no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.

So what desire do I need to war with today?

9. I need to be totally committed to ministering to others.

So how can I help someone else today?

10. I need to share the gospel with lost sinners.

So who am I going to witness to today?

11. I need to develop biblical friendships.

So who am I going to get to know today?

12. I need to humbly honor even the most difficult Christian above myself.

So who do I need to honor above myself today?

13. I need to think about ways I can help other Christians grow.

So what can I do to help someone else become more like Christ today?

14. I need to use the spiritual gifts God has given me for His glory and for the good of the church.

So how can I use my giftedness today?

15. If I am single, I need to use my singleness as an opportunity to expend myself for the glory of Christ.

So how am I going to use my extra time today?

16. If I am married, I need to commit myself to the biblical model of marriage and seek to fulfill the role God has designed for me for His glory.

So how am I going to love my partner today?

17. I need to examine my life to see if there are ways I am wasting my time on unimportant things instead of redeeming my time for Christ and His glory.

So what do I need to put off and what do I need to put on in its place today?

18. If I am a parent, I need to seek to bring my children up in the knowledge and admonition of the Lord.

So how am I going to teach my children about God today?

19. I need to get to know other believers in meaningful ways.

So what am I going to do to develop deeper relationships with other believers today?

20. I need to fix my hope on heaven.

So how am I going to stir up my desire for eternity today?