Monthly Archives: September 2007

Saturday Spurgeon: "Truth Comes Before Unity"

“To remain divided is sinful! Did not our Lord pray, that they may be one, even as we are one”? (John 17:22). A chorus of ecumenical voices keep harping the unity tune. What they are saying is, “Christians of all doctrinal shades and beliefs must come together in one visible organization, regardless… Unite, unite!”  Such teaching is false, reckless and dangerous. Truth alone must determine our alignments. Truth comes before unity.  Unity without truth is hazardous. Our Lord’s prayer in John 17 must be read in its full context. Look at verse 17: “Sanctify them through thy truth; thy word is truth.” Only those sanctified through the Word can be one in Christ. To teach otherwise is to betray the Gospel.

(From The Essence of Separation)

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why Do Christians Hold to Such an Old Book? (Part II: Rooted in History, Not Mystery)

(You may listen to this sermon in its entirety by clicking here. This was preached at the Boone’s Creek Baptist Church, Lexington, KY on 23 September 2007.  You may also read the Introduction and Part I as well.)

One of the objections about the Scripture is that it is simply a collection of stories and myths that promote an agenda by those who wrote them. Not only that, but some question whether the Bible can be understood as it was originally intended at all. Some will say, “Yeah, the Bible was written in one language, but it’s gone through so many translations, there’s no way we can really know what it says.” Others will say, “The Bible has too many contradictions. You Christians just trust the Bible by faith — but you won’t deal with the problems the Bible has.”

What we want to show you now is what theologians call the perspicuity of the Bible. The Bible is clear, able to be understood. First of all, the Bible bends over backwards to use as roadmarkers actual events in history to give every story a context. For the most part, the events described in the Scriptures happened in real places with real people in real life situations. Look with me at Luke 2:1-4

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. [2] This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. [3] And all went to be registered, each to his own town. [4] And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David,

In Luke 3:1-2:

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, [2] during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness.

Notice in these two instances the people, places, events, and timeframes. In fact, no archaeological discovery has ever contradicted anything in the Scriptures. It’s as if the Bible wants you to dig in and see its truth by going back and looking at these events and places. One writer said, “Men do not reject the Bible because it contradicts itself — men reject the Bible because it contradicts them.” With all the animosity against it, no one has ever been able to downplay that it’s historically accurate.

Why is this important? This helps us rely on the Scriptures even more. People who try to downplay the accuracy of the Scriptures are likely doing so because they cannot abide by the claims of Christ or the commands and precepts outlined by God. If the Bible is historically accurate, then there is a possibility in their eyes that it’s all accurate — the existence of God, his creation, our sinfulness, Christ’s death, burial and resurrection — and that He is coming back.

What about the translations? If I were to take a poll right now, I would guess that at least six different translations are used. We have pew Bibles on the back of the pews which are King James Version. I preach and many of you read out of the English Standard Version. Some have the New American Standard, the Holman Christian Standard, the New International Version, the New Century Version, the New King James Version — and so on and so forth. Skeptics look at us and say, “How can you know what the Bible says with all those translations?”

It’s a valid question. First of all, we are thankful that we have so many manuscripts from the original sources which help us know what the Apostles wrote for sure. In fact, we have over 6,000 manuscripts of the New Testament which were made very close to the timeframe of the originals. So when we translate the Bible, we are translating it from the original Greek and Hebrew sources.

But they say, “Why so many translations?” We will talk more about that tonight — but each publisher has a certain philosophy for translations. Some versions go about translating it word-for-word from the original languages. Other versions take the thoughts and ideas from that time and try to translate those ideas into modern ideas in the language and vernacular of the people. While some of these publishers understand that there is money to be made in this, others realize how important it is to have a reliable translation that represents what God’s authors wrote of his inspired word — not simply what is more readable to our day and has the prettiest packaging!

Do you see the Bible as a mystery? Do you see the Bible only as just a collection of spiritual words of comfort having nothing to do with real life now? I would say that if you feel that way, you may have never really read through the Scriptures and taken them on their own terms. Yes, the Bible brings comfort, but it also penetrates our lifestyles and mindsets to deal with us honestly and realistically.

Powered by ScribeFire.

Categories: culture | Leave a comment

Why Do Christians Hold to Such an Old Book? (Part I: Godly Inspiration, or Worldly Interpretation)

(You may listen to this sermon in its entirety by clicking here. This was preached at the Boone’s Creek Baptist Church, Lexington, KY on 23 September 2007.  You may also read the Introduction entry as well.)

Look with me at 2 Timothy 3:16 which says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God.” Why would the Bible make this claim? Why do these men claim that, even though they physically wrote this book, that it is inspired by God?

When we think of something that ‘inspired’ we usually think of it as a burst of creative energy. Someone plays something musically, writes or paints something wonderful, we talk about how they were ‘inspired’ to do so. Is this what happened? Did God simply have a creative burst?

No, God planned to perfection everything he spoke. The word ‘inspire’ or ‘breathed out’ comes from the Greek word ‘pneuma’ which is where we obtain the root of words such as pneumonia, pneumatic — meaning wind, breath, or spirit. In this case, Paul makes the case to Timothy that the Scriptures are actually from the mouth of God. Consider too 2 Peter 1:19-21:

And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, [20] knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. [21] For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

The men who wrote the Scriptures were not simply recording their own thoughts about an issue, but were speaking “from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” One thing to note: the word “Spirit” in Holy Spirit is the same root as the word ‘inspired’ or ‘breathed out.’ Basically, the Holy Spirit breathes out the Spirit-inspired message found in the Scriptures.

But notice who God used to speak his Word — those men who were obedient vessels to carry along by the Holy Spirit. The Word was not produced by the will of man, but through the will and way of God. The Word of God is not merely subject to specific men’s interpretation! In fact, back in 2 Peter 1:16, we see that they were eyewitnesses to his majesty. Every book in the Bible came into being through the eyewitness account and the revealing work of God.

So what are we saying? The Scriptures have one author — the Holy Spirit of God.

As you can imagine, many in our culture have objections to this — especially those who have convinced themselves that nothing of the supernatural. In fact, many look at the Scriptures and see plenty of contradictions. They look at passages like one of the commandments which says, “honor your father and mother,” then look at Jesus’ words which says , “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:26). What about how the Bible calls Jesus the Prince of Peace, yet later Jesus tells his disciples in John 14 that he came not to bring peace but a sword (Matthew 10:34)? In fact, you may have people come up to you with many supposed “contradictions” which will supposedly show you that the Bible is not inspired?

While it is crucial to look at the context of why Jesus said and did what he did (he brings peace to the heart of those in rebellion, but that will not always translate into peace with other relationships; plus, we are to honor our Father and Mother, but we are to give the ultimate honor to our Heavenly Father who must dominate our relationships), we do have to understand that many approach the Scriptures missing one important component — the Holy Spirit of God?

Gipsy Smith told of a man who said he had received no inspiration from the Bible although he had “gone through it several times.” “Let it go through you once,” replied Smith, “then you will tell a different story!”

Powered by ScribeFire.

Categories: Church Life | Leave a comment

Why Do Christians Hold to Such an Old Book? (Introduction)

(You may listen to this sermon in its entirety by clicking here. This was preached at the Boone’s Creek Baptist Church, Lexington, KY on 23 September 2007.)

In our culture, ‘old’ is out. When it comes to fashion and trends, to be told “Uh… that is sooo yesterday” is a death knell for that particular product.
Now, there are certain things that come back into style (remember the bellbottoms a few years ago which came back from the 1970s?), they seem to just as quickly get out of style. “New” is in — ‘old’ is out.

Yet, here we are meeting in this place. Here I am and here you are, I pray, with something rather old in your hands. Older than your wedding ring. Older than this building. Older than this church. Older than this country. We’re talking old. This book you have in your hand called the Bible goes way back. The oldest portion of the Scriptures could go back to as far as 1600
B.C. with the book of Job. The newest portion of this was written by the Apostle John somewhere between A.D. 85 and 90. These forty authors from different cultures and backgrounds and occupations find themselves writing various types of literature (history, poetry, biographies, letters, works about the end times, etc.) which all of us hold as something significant and special. And yes, I’ll even say ‘authoritative.’

This is the rub for many people. For our culture, ‘new’ is authoritative and
old is antiquated and outdated and to be relegated solely for a past day — not for today. We wouldn’t think of using a 50, 100, or even 200 year old anatomy book when considering surgery. Our math teachers here wouldn’t
pull out a 500 year old mathematics book as the main textbook in teaching
geometry. Each of these fields (and others) are constantly being updated with new advances — so why not Christianity? Why do we still use the same manual, the same ‘textbook’ as always? 

The reason stands on our conviction that this book is not simply a textbook, a history book, a manual for living — nor is it like any other book on the face of this earth.   While we do have history in the Bible, while we do have great stories, while we do have stirring poetry and exciting apocalyptic literature. While we have compelling biographies and heart-wrenching letters, the Bible is literature — but more than that. The Bible is the living, active, and authoritative Word of God.

(Tomorrow: Godly Inspiration, not Worldly Interpretation)

Powered by ScribeFire.

Categories: Church Life | Tags: , | 2 Comments

Bach in Japan (CT)

Yuko Maruyama, a Japanese organist working in Minneapolis, was once a devout Buddhist. Now she is a Christian thanks to the music of J. S. Bach. “Bach introduced me to God, Jesus and Christianity,” she told Metro Lutheran, a Twin Cities monthly. “When I play a fugue, I can feel Bach talking to God.” Masashi Masuda, a Jesuit priest, came to faith in almost the same way: “Listening to Bach’s Goldberg Variations first aroused my interest in Christianity.” Today Masuda teaches theology at Tokyo’s Sophia University.

Finishthis article from the Christian History & Biography website.

Powered by ScribeFire.

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Saturday Spurgeon for 9.22.07: "Up to the Hilt"

“I would recommend you either believe God up to the hilt, or else not to believe at all. Believe this book of God, every letter of it, or else reject it. There is no logical standing place between the two. Be satisfied with nothing less than a faith that swims in the deeps of divine revelation; a faith that paddles about the edge of the water is poor faith at best. It is little better than a dry-land faith, and is not good for much. ”

— C.H. Spurgeon.  From his sermon “Is God in the Camp?” (1891)

Categories: Spurgeon | 1 Comment

If Jesus Is So Wonderful, Why Are His Followers Such Jerks? Part III: Are Christians Wanting Holiness, or Just Heaven?

(Be sure and read the introduction , Part I , and Part II or you can listen to the sermon in its entirety.)

I read one time that all types of criticism (whether constructive or even destructive) has some value to it. It’s human nature to find ourselves getting defensive about the criticism and then fire off criticisms to them. Pretty soon, we find ourselves just shouting insults and criticisms that have no redemptive value to them whatsoever.

In Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew 5-7 (which we looked at in Sunday School), Jesus poses a challenge to all followers of Him: do not be like the hypocrites. So the culture and Jesus have a problem with hypocrites — and in fact, would it be fair to say that Jesus has more of a problem with the hypocrites in the church than any other person on the face of this earth? Absolutely. Why? Read with me 2 Cor. 5:19-21:

In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Christ came to reconcile the world to Himself. A major component in his work of that is that he entrusted to His church the message of reconciliation. Then he gives us a title and an office as followers of Christ: ambassadors for Christ. An ambassador is a delegate who represents one nation while in another. If you were an Ambassador for the United States to Trinidad & Tobago, you would represent the United States (obviously) while living amongst the Trinbago peoples. You would work to maintain the dignity and the core values that come from being a citizen belonging to this country.

We are ambassadors in this world, but we represent another country and another Dignitary — Jesus Christ. And Jesus has a problem with his ambassadors living in this world who say they represent him, yet live contrary to the mandates, precepts, and doctrines of the country and dignitary they represent.

Nathaniel Hawthorne once said, “No man, for any considerable period, can wear one face to himself, and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which may be the true.” You see, integrity and genuineness is not reaching a place of perfection and staying there. Philip. 3:10-14 shows Paul:

That I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Christians are not perfect, nor will we ever be in this life. But the question remains: is aim of your Christian life simply about getting to heaven? According to Scripture, our Christian walk is about becoming holy as he is holy (1 Peter 1:16). We are to press on to Christlikeness — that’s our calling. See Romans 8:29-30:

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. [30] And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

Conclusion

In the most recent issue of Tabletalk, John MacArthur heard something several years ago from a parishioner that no pastor ever wants to hear. He had invited a business acquaintance to their church. The man replied, “You go to that church? I wouldn’t go to that church. The most corrupt lawyer in two goes to that church.” Although Dr. MacArthur had and still has no clue as to who he was talking about (since there were dozens of attorneys in that church) and prayed that it was a case of mistaken identity. He announced this from the pulpit: “If the lawyer that man described is here this morning, please take a lesson from Zaccheus: repent and do whatever you can to restore your reputation in the community. In the meantime, stop representing yourself as a Christian. You’re destroying the whole reputation of the church.”

Dear Christian, while we do acknowledge that the standards for Christian life are hard, that the insults the world hurls at us may indeed stem from hurt or even an unjust accusation, we must realize that our actions influence others and shade people’s opinions not just about our reputation but also about Christ’s reputation. Considering who He is and what He has done, do we truly want to sully and spoil the reputation of the One who is truly worthy of all praise? He is innocent, he is pure, he is spotless — we are here and have hope and life and joy because of Him.

But if you are here and you call yourself a Christian, yet you have no desire to represent Christ, give it no thought, but simply live for yourself and by your standard — you may be calling yourself a Christian, but you very well may not be one.  Come to the cross and delight in the One who paid such a high price and stood in your place to atone for your sin, to absorb your punishment, and to allow you into His heaven.  Come to Jesus Christ and live for Him as He lives in you. 

Romans 3:21-26

But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— [22] the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction:  [23] for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,  [24] and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,  [25] whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.  [26] It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

   

Powered by ScribeFire.

Categories: culture, evangelism | 1 Comment

If Jesus Is So Wonderful, Why Are His Followers Such Jerks? Part II: Question Reveals a Deeper Hurt

(Be sure and read the introduction and Part I or you can listen to the sermon in its entirety.)

Look with me at Matthew 23:13-15. Matthew 23 concludes some rather contentious sections in this Gospel where Jesus and the Pharisees are standing toe-to-toe during the week of the Passover. They ask Jesus difficult questions about the Law, but Jesus answers them in a way that cuts through the question to the heart and the motive of the matter. They became ones who were experts in the law and the doctrine of the Scriptures

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. [24] You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!

Only heaven truly knows the damage this type of thinking does and the type of hurt this inflicts. When we find ourselves becoming more concerned about majoring on the minors than on the majors — which is ministering the name of Christ by loving them in Christ. When we find ourselves speaking truth, believing truth, and dispensing truth with a cold and calculated heart and not the warmth of the love of Christ, we risk dispensing hurt and heartache that will in the end drive people away from the church. But how many souls have been injured by hypocritical spirits who say one thing and live another way? Many who bring charges like this against churches and Christians do so because of something painful that happened in the past.

Author James Spiegel relays a time when he was a teenager. He and his friend made money cutting grass in their neighborhood.

On one occasion a friend and I approached a man who lived across the street from my house and asked him if he would allow us to cut his lawn. He agreed and offered to pay us $25 for the job, nothing that he would be gone for the weekend and would therefore pay us upon his return. That Saturday my friend and I worked for several hours, but because it was a rather large lawn, we had to finish it on Sunday. The next day we returned to obtain our wages from the man. In hopes that he would be impressed by our labor, we informed him that it took us two days to get the job done. “Two days?” he asked. “You mean to tell me that you mowed my lawn on Sunday?” We nodded. “Well, boys, I don’t allow work to be done at my house on Sundays. I can’t pay you.” We watched him as he dug into his pocket and pulled out approximately two dollars in change. He handed it to us, saying, “I’m doing this out of the kindness of my heart.”

In stunned silence my friend and I sauntered back into my house and informed my father as to what had just transpired. He was irate. “Hypocrites … lousy hypocrites!” he bellowed. “They smile so sweetly and look so righteous at church, but in the real world they’re nothing but swindlers and cheats.”[1]

This story is pretty true-to-form to many other stories those in our cultures have about how Christians say one thing and practice another in their relationships. While they may overstate things about how all Christians look righteous but are actually cheats, instead of us simply looking at what they are saying, we need to see what’s behind it: a lot of hurt and betrayal of trust by people who promise to love and care, but who didn’t follow through on that.

All of us know of people who may not come to our churches for various reasons, don’t we? They may be members of our churches. Yet, they just don’t come. If you were to invite them, some of them may respond to you that they just don’t like “Institutional religion” or “I just can’t stand all those hypocrites up there.” Don’t blow them off! Don’t write them off as not worth your time. There is a deeper hurt that’s there and we as the body of Christ and for the sake of their souls need to seek and find exactly what the issue is so healing can commence.

__________

[1]James S. Spiegel.  Hypocrisy: Moral Fraud and Other Vices (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1999), 25.  Quoted in Randy Newman’s Questioning Evangelism.  P. 191.   

Categories: evangelism | Leave a comment

How Do Pastors Stay Encouraged, Even with People Who Are Not Passionate for His Word? (Piper)

John Piper was asked one time, “How do you keep from getting discouraged when it is apparent that so many people, even in your own church, just aren’t passionate for God and his word?” Click here for his answer. So, so helpful.

Powered by ScribeFire.

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

If Jesus Is So Wonderful, Why Are His Followers Such Jerks: Part I

(Be sure and read the introduction or you can listen to the sermon in its entirety.)

This Question Shows the Difficulty of Christianity

Selwyn Duke wrote a compelling article entitled, “Are Christians Hypocrites?” Here’s an excerpt:

Many of us know that golf is a notoriously difficult game, and most who attempt it become well acquainted with water and wood as they try in vain to achieve mastery in what Mark Twain called “a good walk spoiled.” In contrast, the toddlers’ game that involves putting different shaped blocks in their respective holes is quite easy for even the worst of golfers to master. Yet, we don’t for even a second assume that the latter is a superior game because conforming to what constitutes proficiency in it is easier than in golf. On the contrary, we assume the opposite, which is that the more difficult the game the more developed it is — the higher in quality it is. Moreover, we know that the failure of golfers to play their sport well shouldn’t reflect negatively upon them, because their ineptitude is only a reflection of the fact that the standard they have to live up to is a higher one than most other games impose on their participants.

So it is with Christianity. Christianity is indeed a difficult game to play because to meet its standard entails cultivating saintly virtue in oneself. It’s a religion that gives you definite parameters within which your behavior must remain, and it never says “if it feels good do it.” So, of course its adherents will pale in comparison to that standard — they’re only human. And in just the same way that you wouldn’t say a child putting blocks in holes to perfection was “better” than those miserable golfers, it is also not reasonable to think that those who conform well to lesser standards are better than Christians who conform badly to their more stringent one.

Truly one is judged by the standards one keeps. And Christianity has some pretty high standards — especially when you consider the absolute nature of some of God’s commands. In Deuteronomy 6:4, we read, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind, and all your strength.” In Matthew 22, Jesus tells the lawyer this as well as loving your neighbor as yourself as the greatest commandment. Jesus remarks how we are to be perfect as our heavenly father is perfect (Matthew 5:48). In Leviticus 11:47, we are to be holy as God is holy — a command repeated by the Apostle Peter in one of his letters in 1 Peter 1:16 — a verse which Eric Masters read previously.

And don’t forget the Ten Commandments. This is where the rub comes in for so many. We have so many in the conservative political realm who are wanting the Ten Commandments posted in our court houses and schools and in public places.

We may be reminded of the man who told his wife a lifelong wish he had: “Honey, you know what I’d love to do? I’d love to climb to the top of Mt. Sinai and say the Ten Commandments.” His wife responded, “Why not stay home and try to keep them?” But this is what is happening in our culture — Christians working hard to keep the commandments posted in public places, but are they concerned about keeping them in their day-to-day lives?

How does this happen? In 2 Corinthians 3:3-6, we read from the Apostle Paul:

And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

The only way that we as followers of Christ can live as followers of Christ is not by living according to the letter of the law (which reveals what sin is — Romans 3:20) but by the Spirit who writes God’s law on our hearts and ultimately leads us, guides us, and seals us. We cannot follow Christ in our own strength — yet so many of us try. No wonder we are so far from what God has for us in Christ Jesus.

Powered by ScribeFire.

Categories: culture | Leave a comment