Monthly Archives: May 2008

You Can't Love Jesus and Refuse To Disciple

(This is Part III of a sermon preached at the Boone’s Creek Baptist Church, Lexington, KY, on Sunday, May 25, 2008.  You can also read Part I and Part II.)

We pointed out in verse 19 about the dangers of relaxing the commands of God. Here, I want to warn you about the fact that we at this very moment are discipling someone else in our way of thinking. Right now, you are communicating to someone else what you believe is important — and they are watching you. In the Great Commission that Jesus gives to us the core of what we are to do: “Go and make disciples” — the idea being, as you live in your day-to-day routine, make disciples and reproduce me in others.

Notice what Jesus says in Matthew 5:19, “Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” It’s not just about doing, it’s about teaching others. This is called discipling. And who does this? Whoever. Not the ministry professionals, not the seminary-trained, not the uber-gifted in teaching. Not those who take a spiritual-gifts test and scored aces in the area of “teaching.”

Martin Luther said one time, “A religion that gives nothing, costs nothing, and suffers nothing, is worth nothing.” As Christians, we have most certainly received something. Romans 8:31-33 tells us:

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.

Nathan Schaeffer one time said:

At the close of life, the question will not be,

“How much have you gotten?” but “How much have you given?”
Not “How much have you won?” but “How much have you done?”
Not “How much have you saved?” but “How much have you sacrificed?”
It will be “How much have you loved and served,” not “How much were you honored?”

What does this look like?

First, we must be sure we are being discipled and growing in Christ.

Second, we must let go of the mindset of discipleship as classes at church or a church program.

Thirdly, we must seek out those who know more than us and develop a relationship with them.

Fourthly, we must seek out those who may know less, and help them in every area of their Christian walk.

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You Can't Love Jesus, and Relax His Commands

(This is Part II of a sermon preached at the Boone’s Creek Baptist Church, Lexington, KY, on Sunday, May 25, 2008. If you would like to read Part I, click here.)

In Matthew 5:19-20, Jesus tells us:

Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. [20] For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Jesus clearly tells us a danger of relaxing “one of the least of these commandments.” We saw in Matthew 5:18 that every bit and every piece of the law must be accomplished. Even heaven and earth will pass away first, but not God’s law until it all comes to fruition in the work of Christ.

What does Jesus mean here when he warns us against relaxing his commands? The word ‘relax’ comes from a word which can mean to loosen, break, set free. The idea here is that when we see a command given by King Jesus, we find in ourselves a desire to break away or be set free from that command’s authority over us. It does not just have to be a blatant rejection of the command, but can also be a pursuit of other side issues while avoiding the thrust of the command.

The Pharisees were all about prioritizing God’s commands. They would have heated discussions about which commands were most important. When they made their own determination, they would live accordingly. In Matthew 23:23, Jesus exposed the folly of this mindset:

“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 (Matthew 23:23, ESV).

The Pharisees did what was asked of them, but why? Because by keeping such detailed instructions, they felt morally superior to others who didn’t. But they clearly did not like stooping down and taking off that self-righteousness superiority in reaching down to the “tax collectors and sinners.” Do we find ourselves putting into mental categories those things which we deem most important?

Two Sundays ago, we went through a section on “Pride” in Jerry Bridges’ book Respectable Sins. We tend to categorize sins as well. “Since we don’t commit sins such as immorality, easy divorce, homosexual lifestyle, abortion, drunkenness, drug use, avarice, then we look with contempt and disdain on those who do.” Do we realize that we fall into just as dangerous a type of sin when we fall into a moral self-righteousness as well? If so, we engage in relaxing one of God’s commands over another.

Jesus says, “Whoever does them … will be called great in the Kingdom of heaven.” You say, “Wait, the Pharisees were doing these laws.” Yes, but from what base? From a base of understanding being poor in spirit, grieving over sin, hungering and thirsting after righteousness, being a recipient of mercy, desiring holiness before God, reconciling sinful people before a holy God — even to the point of persecution and death? This is the base from which we are to obey!

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You Can't Love Jesus and Reject the Bible

(This is Part I of a sermon preached at the Boone’s Creek Baptist Church, Lexington, KY, on Sunday, May 25, 2008.)

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:17-20, ESV).

When we come together, our goal is for you to love Jesus more when you leave than when you walked in. For those of you who may have never submitted to Christ, our prayer is that you would see all that he accomplished for you on your behalf by taking our sin and its penalty and removing us from this world’s curse and emptiness. For those of you who may be followers of Christ, but the flame of fire and dimmed to a small ember, our desire is that you would not be like the Ephesian church in Revelation where you have “abandoned the love you had at first” (Revelation 2:4).

So, is loving Jesus enough? I just want to answer with an undeniable, “Yes!” I suppose the next question you all may ask me is, “Why would this question even come up?” Sadly, because we have a number of folks who really question the very nature of the Scriptures. But it’s the same principle with our marriages and our children. You can say, “I love my wife and kids.” But if you neglect them, ignore your vows to them, and exclude them from the day-to-day aspect of your life, you do not truly love them. You may get a warm feeling, but you are failing to see the nature of marriage and parenthood.

In this passage of Scripture, Jesus teaches us about what it means to love and be devoted to him. Some were intrigued by him and curious at his teaching and demeanor, and thought that was enough. Others were comparing him to the Pharisees, of whom many considered as the spiritual leaders and examples. Jesus in these four verses takes time to tell us what it really means to love him.

1. You cannot say you love Jesus, but reject the Bible.

In Matthew 5:17-18, Jesus says, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.”

Do you find yourself separating Jesus from the Bible? When I was in college and seminary in the early 1990s, I would find myself sitting under a professor who, in an effort to be more spiritual and less dry and academic, would warn us not to commit what was called “bible-olatry,” or a worship of the Bible. They would give us a warning not to put our heads so deep in the Bible. Just love Jesus. After all, they would say, there are so many interpretations that it’s hard to know what the Bible is saying (especially the Old Testament). I was taught by these professors that for the majority of the Old Testament, the stories were transmitted orally for many years before they were written down, so we really cannot know for sure how many adaptations and changes took place — so just cling to Jesus.

The result was many of my fellow student brothers in the ministry (and for a time, myself included) would walk out of those classrooms thinking that you could actually take one without the other. As a result, those students would often go into the pulpits of our local churches teaching that very thing. They would seem to show that you that you could make a distinction. With all due respect to these professors and many others dotting our landscape, we must realize that Jesus never, ever makes this distinction. To try and separate Jesus from the Scriptures may sound noble and pious but it is confusing and dangerous.

All through his ministry, he notes how he does what he does “so the Scriptures may be fulfilled.” Why did he go here? The people and even the Pharisees could tell that he was a rabbi because (1) he taught about the Law, and (2) he had disciples. But he was different in that he went against their traditions. Jesus was accused of “eating with tax collectors and sinners,” plus he would on occasion converse with women. According to Jewish tradition, holy men did not do either one of these things. Because of this, the Pharisees and the people were confused and would even say that he was not from God and was wanting to do away with all of the Old Testament.

Is this what Jesus is saying? No, he came to finish and fulfill the Old Testament. But how did he do that? Some say he simply came to accomplished all of the law and to live a perfect life. Did he do this? Yes. Romans 8 tells us that “By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:3b-4). But let’s not miss the full reason.

D.A. Carson noted that “Jesus does not conceive of his life and ministry in terms of opposition to the Old Testament, but in terms of bringing to fruition that toward which it points. Jesus continued and completed the work the law and the prophets began. Every moral, civil, and ceremonial law points in some way to Christ.” Romans 3:21 even says, “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it.”

So why did he come? What is the “fulfillment” part? Let’s put it this way: have you ever had someone come up to you pointing out a problem they see? Let’s just say that on occasion (sarcasm intended) that happens to me. They come up to me and issue a problem. Some even come up and offer a solution: “Bro. Matt, what you should do is … ?” Yet there are some that go even further and say, “And Bro. Matt, I’ll take care of it.”

Romans 3:20 says, “For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.” In other words, the Old Testament tells us that God made everything and made everything for a purpose. But the Old Testament also reveals God’s will and way — and how we have rebelled and fallen short. God in his goodness lets us know that we are under judgment. That’s our problem. But the Old Testament also prophecies that a solution will take place: not by works but by One who comes. But then he goes a step further by saying, “I’ll even take care of the problem and be the solution.”

Jesus came fulfill the demands of the law which we have violated and have separated us from him, but also to fulfill all that the prophets said about him. Let me ask you: are you rejecting the Bible, all the while saying you love Jesus? See, in theory we hold to a high view of Scriptures, but yet we reject reading the Scriptures as part of our daily walk with Christ. We may say that the Bible is hard to understand, or we may say that since we are already in the Kingdom then there’s no sense in continuing on. So there are many ways to reject the Scriptures. May this not be the case with us!

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Give Earnestly (Part IV: A Biblical Attitude of Giving)

We must give with gravity, with solemnity, with seriousness. How often do people who are Christians who have never been taught about giving. How much worse is the fact that Christians see God’s commands and God’s desire and the need all around them, yet their hearts are calloused to God’s will and man’s need.

These churches in Macedonia saw a need and saw the seriousness of the need of seeing fellow believers in need of relief. They were in extreme poverty but that abundant joy in Jesus won the day. We as the church of Jesus Christ have lost our seriousness and lost our sense of urgency when it comes to being on mission. That must be recovered in our hearts — else what little influence we have in this world will fade away.

What seriousness can we see? Malachi 3:8-10 shows the gravity of the situation:

Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions. [9] You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you. [10] Bring the full tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.

We watch on the news and are mortified when someone robs a bank or a convenience store or steals a car. Yet we should be mortified to infinity when we consider that we may be robbing from God. When we fail to give to God, we show that we really do not worship nor do we have the faith.

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Give Readily (Part III: The Biblical Attitude of Giving)

The key word in this passage is “readiness.” John Calvin notes that there are three degrees of giving in this act of grace:

First, we sometimes act unwillingly, but it is from shame or fear. Secondly, we act willingly, but at the same time it is from being either impelled, or induced from influence apart from our own minds. Thirdly, we act from the promptings of our own minds, when we of our own accord set ourselves to do what is becoming. Such cheerfulness of anticipation is better than the actual performance of the deed .

We can give out of shame (no!), out of a twisting of an arm (no!), or out of a spirit transformed by Christ who changes our hearts from self to servanthood. The Corinthian church risked being cool to their duty of giving, so Paul urges them to “finish doing it as well.” May your desire and readiness match the abundance of which God has given to you. If God has given to you, and there are others such as your church or fellow Christians who are struggling, God has allowed you to have what you have not for personal gain but for the glory of God and the advancement of His Kingdom.

You say, “Bro. Matt, this economy. I’ve got to feed my family and take care of some serious issues in my life. I got to get out from under this debt. I know I should give, but I just don’t think if I give a small sum of money that it would make a big difference. There are others who are rich, let them handle the burden until I get on my feet.” Oh, so you find yourself thinking exclusively in amount of money rather than the amount of grace God extended to you?

Do you remember the passage we read earlier from Mark 12:41-44

And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. [42] And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. [43] And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. [44] For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”

Readiness — not just looking at a particular amount, but looking to the Savior! Why? Because of a promise made. 2 Cor. 9:5 says, “So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to go on ahead to you and arrange in advance for the gift you have promised, so that it may be ready as a willing gift, not as an exaction.” Do we realize that when we came to Christ that we came surrendering our all to him?

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How Preaching the Hard Texts Can Endear You To Your People

Whereas conventional wisdom in most evangelical circles dictates that pastors would do well to avoid the hard texts, my contention is that pastors should never shy away from this.  While the Joel Osteens and the Robert Schullers of the world will shy away from such dealings , I believe that many in our pews are just wanting a pastor who will deal directly with what the Bible says and address the issue at hand.

A case in point: the past two Sundays, I have preached on two rather “hard texts”: one dealing with the role of women in the church, the other on the necessity of giving.  After each of those sermons, one of my deacons came out and said, “Man, I thought you’d be black and blue right now — you really laid it out there.”  But the reaction couldn’t have been different.  By the grace and glory of God, I received thank you’s for being willing to tackle such issues and helping to make things clear.

Why should we preach the hard texts as well as the other types to our people?

  1. Those texts are in the Scriptures! Obvious, yes.  But I have had well-meaning ministers tell me that just because it is in the Bible does not necessarily mean it will be appropriate to preach on.  This is why I make the case for expositional preaching: if forces you to deal with a text that your flesh may tempt you to avoid.
  2. For all the talk about our people despising authority, I believe they are looking for solid ground on which to stand.  We all are.  All this noise about postmodernism winning the day is far too premature.  It may be prevalent, but it hasn’t won anything.  If anything, our culture feels more in the dark than ever because many people’s spiritual journey is leading them down some deadends.  Preachers must never forget the supernatural transformational power of the Scriptures that are breathed out by the Spirit of God himself!   Never give up preaching!  The world may deem it folly, but to those who are being saved it  is the power of God (1 Corinthians 1:18).
  3. People, especially Christians, long to be dealt with honestly. Many in my generation are becoming angry at the church for their failure to teach them the things of the faith.  They praise God for churches sharing the gospel with them and showing them Jesus, but afterwards they become afraid of being too doctrinal (read: divisive) and therefore they do not “grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).
  4. People feel patronized when pastors fail to deal with a text or issue.  When pastors avoid these texts, they are in so many words telling their people, “You really can’t handle this right now.”  Yet, pastors who stay with their churches and invest their time in their people can take them along slowly and help them step-by-step.  Young pastors especially need to remember that you don’t need to tell them everything you know (or think you know) in one sermon.  Pour yourself out into your people and teach them with patience (1 Timothy 4:13-16).

What do you think?

Categories: Bible, Expositional Preaching, ministry, preaching, Scriptures | 2 Comments

The Crucial Issue for a Barack Obama Presidency? Partial-Birth Abortion!

From Justin Taylor’s blog:

Every evangelical should watch the first 10 minutes or so of this speech by Barack Obama, delivered to Planned Parenthood in July 2007. It contains an impassioned defense of partial-birth abortion.

Note carefully:

“This is what is at stake in this election.”

“It is time to write a new chapter in American history.”

“I have worked on these issues for decades now.”

“This election is not just about playing defense, it’s about playing offense. It’s not just about defending what is, it’s about creating what might be in this country.”

“On this issue, I will not yield.”

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Our Hearts Are With You, SCC

When I saw that Steven Curtis Chapman’s little daughter Maria was killed, my heart broke.  I mean, to pieces!!  And when I went to a tribute blog about her and saw the dates (2003-2008), my heart broke all over again because I have a daughter who, if she were to leave this earth, would have those same exact dates.  Once you have children, the pain of what SCC and his family are going through becomes so personal. 

Below is a video with SCC and Maria washing dishes.  In the midst of the crushing reality of her loss, there are memories like this that can uplift and crush all at once: uplift in that you praise God you had those memories to begin with, and crush because you will feel the great emptiness that that precious little girl leaves.

SCC and family, our hearts are with you. Please know that there is a pastor and a church in Lexington, Kentucky that cares deeply for you. I had a chance to meet you back in 2002 backstage after a concert which promoted the Wycliffe Bible Translators as well as presented Steve Saint, the son of one of the missionaries in Ecuador killed by the Auca Indians in 1955.  I pray that the hope in Christ that you have sung about over the years that has brought so much encouragement to so many will be yours during this time. 

 

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Give Generously (Part II: A Biblical Attitude of Giving)

The Apostle Paul continues:

I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine. [9] For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich. [10] And in this matter I give my judgment: this benefits you, who a year ago started not only to do this work but also to desire to do it (2 Corinthians 8:8-10, ESV).

Paul urges the Corinthian church to give genuinely. Don’t give with any pretenses. This is why he prefaces his comments here with, “I say this not as a command.” He is not saying that this is optional, for God does command us to give to help the people of God do their work. He could have made this command, but he did not want them to do this because they had to — that’s not genuine. He wanted them to do this genuinely to “prove by the earnestness of others that your love also was genuine.” What picture does he give to drive this home? None other than the Gospel.

A well-known philanthropist was asked, “How is it that you give away so much, and yet have so much left?” “I suppose it’s like this,” he replied. “I shovel out, and God shovels in, and he has a bigger shovel than I do!” Christ out of his abundance became poor so that we might become rich! This echoes Philippians 2:5-8:

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, [6] who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, [7] but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, [8] he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

The “poverty” that Christ experienced reflected in a greater way the “extreme poverty” or the empty vessel that was found among the other Macedonian churches. But Christ used the poverty of becoming a servant to all in order that we might become rich in Christ. Col. 1:27 says, “To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” With this,When we see the sacrifice of Christ and how Christ is in us, we will see the joy that comes with sacrifice for the Kingdom as well.

Do we give genuinely? Do we give out of love for God and love for neighbor? In Matthew 23:23, Jesus condemns the Pharisees for keeping requirements for requirements’ sake in order to make themselves look better, but weren’t willing to sacrifice:

“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” (Matthew 23:23, ESV).

Some of us may be guilty of that. We give out of the bare requirements, but not out of genuine love. We may get a $944.40 paycheck, so when it comes giving time, what’s the check amount? That’s right: $99.44. This may be a reflection of our live before God. You see, God calls us to live out a genuine commitment to him that is full, authentic, and real.

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Give Graciously (Part I: A Biblical Attitude Toward Giving)

(This sermon was preached on Sunday, May 18, 2008 at Boone’s Creek Baptist Church, Lexington, KY. To listen to the sermon in its entirety, click here. To read the Introduction to this blog series, click here.)

In 2 Cor. 8:1-7, we read:

We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, [2] for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. [3] For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own free will, [4] begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints— [5] and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us. [6] Accordingly, we urged Titus that as he had started, so he should complete among you this act of grace. [7] But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you— see that you excel in this act of grace also.

Paul rejoiced in the grace of God demonstrated among the churches at Macedonia, the province in which Corinth was located. How was it demonstrated? By circumstances? The Word says they were in a “severe test of affliction.” The affliction was a famine that had left the area in a hard grip. The economy was absolutely atrocious and affected everyone, even the Christians. But how did they react? External circumstances showed itself in “extreme poverty.” But what was going on internally? “An abundance of joy.” Why? Because of the grace of God.

Look with me at verse 4: “They gave themselves to the Lord first.” Now, let’s put all this together. Externally, a bad economy which led to a severe test of affliction resulting in extreme poverty. Internally, God’s grace took hold leading to an abundance of joy. They gave out of an overflow in a wealth of generosity! They gave. No one twisted their arm. God gave to them graciously, so they gave graciously out of their joy. In fact, notice that Paul calls this giving an “act of grace.”

What is the Spirit telling us? The Spirit informs us of the motive in which we are to give. We do not give primarily to keep up budgets. We do not give so our numbers are not embarrassing. We give because God has given so much to us. And the motive behind the gift we gift matches our view of the gloriousness of Christ’s act of grace toward us. We give based on the joy in our hearts.

We give not just with Christ in mind, but also his church — His body! Are we invested in God’s church as well? Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:23-24: “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, [24] leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” We will not give graciously if we fail to extend grace toward our brothers and sisters in Christ. If we are failing to give, we need to dig deep into our hearts to see if some unresolved relationship is blocking our fellowship with God and his church.

Consider the following:

1. Have we truly understood what that “act of grace” to which Paul refers really reflects? The gift we give and the motive behind it usually matches our view of the gloriousness of Christ’s act of grace toward us.

2. Is this “act of grace” also seen as an act of worship? Given all we have read in Matthew 5:23-24, we also see that the gifts we give will be received in direct proportion to the way we take care of our relationships with our brothers and sisters in Christ? Keep short accounts!

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