Monthly Archives: September 2008

Sermon Posted: "That's a 'When' When It Comes to Fasting" (Matthew 6:16-18)

I am thankful for the wonderful response to God’s Word, especially in regards to the issue of fasting.  This sermon was preached on Sunday, September 28, 2008 at Boone’s Creek Baptist Church, Lexington, KY.

Here’s an excerpt:

David Legge noted in a recent sermon that “Prayer is attaching yourself to God, but fasting is detaching yourself from the earth.” Whatever definition you want to put on fasting, few would equal that one. It is a renewed focus away from the things of earth It is a humbling of yourself before God, bringing your body into subjection through discipline.

These particular verses really turned the focus of what fasting was about in transitioning from the Old Testament to the New. In the Old Testament, the Jewish people celebrated various Holy Days. For instance, on Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) there would be a day of fasting and mourning over their own sins and the sins of a nation. The sacrifices offered that day were scene as ways that they may be reconciled to God for their sins. This served as the only time in the OT on which the people of Israel were commanded directly to fast.

Yet other fasts cropped up. We read about them in Joel when national disasters took place. Nineveh fasted after hearing the reluctant preaching of Jonah. Fasting even took place under Samuel as a part of national revival.

Yet for the most part, fasting prior to Jesus’ time was about repentance of sin that transformed the covenant child into selfless human being. Fasting would be undertaken in order to sacrifice for repentance of sin and looking outward for justice among the people. Look at this passage in Isaiah 58:1-7:

Does this mean Jesus did not care for food? Hardly! In fact, the biggest condemnation the Pharisees gave to Jesus was that he eats and drinks with tax collectors and sinners. His most amazing miracle to us is his feeding of the five thousand (Matthew 14:13-21). His focus was on his soul and mind being galvanized to the will of His Father, dependent on nothing in the meantime.

“Cry aloud; do not hold back; lift up your voice like a trumpet;

declare to my people their transgression,

to the house of Jacob their sins.

Yet they seek me daily

and delight to know my ways,

as if they were a nation that did righteousness

and did not forsake the judgment of their God;

they ask of me righteous judgments;

they delight to draw near to God.

‘Why have we fasted, and you see it not?

Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no knowledge of it?’

Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure,

and oppress all your workers.

Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight

and to hit with a wicked fist.

Fasting like yours this day

will not make your voice to be heard on high.

Is such the fast that I choose,

a day for a person to humble himself?

Is it to bow down his head like a reed,

and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him?

Will you call this a fast,

and a day acceptable to the Lord?

“Is not this the fast that I choose:

to loose the bonds of wickedness,

to undo the straps of the yoke,

to let the oppressed go free,

and to break every yoke?

Is it not to share your bread with the hungry

and bring the homeless poor into your house;

when you see the naked, to cover him,

and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?

Yet, with Jesus, the issue of fasting became very different. We see in Matthew 4 that Jesus went out and fasted for 40 days and 40 nights. Why? Was it for repentance of sin? We know from Scripture and from clear reason that Jesus never sinned (Hebrews 4:14-16; 2 Corinthians 5:21). So what was he doing? One commentator put it so rightly, “He was gathering strength not by eating and resting but by fasting and praying.”

Yet did Jesus seem outwardly strengthened? No, not at all. In fact, Satan tempted him with food and fame and fortune—the very things that Jesus would have struggled with to get him out of his situation. But he said no. Clearly, through his responses to Satan, he found himself feasting on prayer and the Word.

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What Kind of Legacy Do I Wish To Leave At My Church?

I had the privilege of chatting with Terry Willett today. Terry serves as an IMB missionary in Germany (and I’m still amazed that I can have a real-time conversation with someone in another continent, but that’s another topic for another post). Terry and I served together for about six months at First Baptist Church in Clewiston, Florida where he served as Minister of Education and Family Life and I served as Minister of Music and Youth.

During the course of our conversation, he asked me how long I had served at Boone’s Creek (5 years), followed by, “What kind of legacy would you like to leave?” A thought-provoking question indeed! So, in short order, here is the passion that God has given me for this church.

  1. That our members would love and study the Word of God and not simply love the Bible in theory but also in practice. Therefore, I must train my leaders by giving them tools to study the Word through observation, interpretation, and application.  I must also model it through faithful expositional preaching which goes through the “whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:28) rather than simply giving life lesson principles to meet temporal needs.
  2. To provide a biblical model of personal and corporate discipleship as we seek to strengthen the people of God in their walk with Christ.
  3. To provide a paradigm to welcome everyone who walks into our church.  Our members have stepped up with a valet service; Welcome Table complete with welcome cards, newsletters, etc.; and ushers to hand out bulletins and seat people who come in.  Through some restructuring, I would like to see a time where we would have coffee and donuts for visitors who come so we can get to know them better.
  4. To continue establishing an Acts 1:8 paradigm through monthly local missions, yearly Samaria missions, and every 2-3 years an overseas missions trip. In this, there would be a continual witnessing training and opportunities given through our missions organizations and our soon-to-be established Team MVP (Missions, Vision, and Prayer).
  5. To offer special leadership training for our staff, deacons, Sunday School leaders, and other key areas of ministry at our church.
  6. To have Boone’s Creek be a place for young ministers to intern so they may exercise their gifts.

There will be more, I’m sure.  But I’m thankful that God grants this vision.  May He continue to mold and make me after His will — and may I be waiting, yielded and still.

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Extended Video on the ESV Study Bible

Check out this 13 minute video covering the particulars of the ESV Study Bible.

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What is the Future of Expository Preaching? (Bryan Chapell)

(HT: Kenneth Clayton)

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Online Version of the ESV Study Bible

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How Long Is Too Long for a Sermon?

One of the standard jokes we have here at Boone’s Creek is the length of my sermons. I tend to preach about 35 minutes on average, which is a bit longer than some. I preach expositionally, which means that whatever the theme of the text is becomes the theme of my sermon. Whatever structure the biblical text is becomes the structure of the sermon. The Holy Spirit laid out the Scriptures this way, so who am I to do otherwise?

But getting back to the “joke,” we have some folks in our church who grew up with a preacher who preached two hours or more. Others grew up with a sermon lasting only 15 minutes or so. In fact, I had one person tell me a number of years ago, “If you preach past 12:00, they’ll tune you out” (this was after a Trinidadian preacher visited us and preached a God-glorifying sermon, but went until 12:30).

John MacArthur has a wonderful article entitled “Preaching and the Clock” (website/pdf) which begins as follows:

I do not think the length of the sermon is as important as its content. At times I have preached fifty minutes and it has been ten minutes too long. Other times, I have preached an hour and twenty-five minutes and it has been just right. The important thing is to cover the main point so that people are convinced of its truth and comprehend its requirements.

If you have nothing worthwhile to say, even twenty minutes will seem like an eternity to your people. If you are interesting, they will stay with you. Do not mistake persuasion for long-windedness, however. If you preach longer than you should, you will sacrifice persuasiveness.

Now, I will confess freely that I do not preach like MacArthur. God has not called me to preach like John MacArthur (God already gave us one of him), but to preach in the Spirit and His Word using me as his earthen vessel. Even so, I do understand that even with me preaching 35 minutes or so, I am just barely scratching the surface of what the Word is saying.

And fortunately for me, I do not have a “one-and-done” situation– I will have other Sundays! But I am with MacArthur: as a preacher, make sure your people know the principle of the passage on which you preach so they may grow in Christlikeness.

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Is God Caught By Surprise? (A Perspective on Open Theism)

(I wrote this article for my church back in 2004 and thought I would post it again. Feel free to comment.)

Many of you here at Boone’s Creek Baptist Church who are reading this particular devotional have a rather strong view and belief on who God is. God is the Creator of all that is (Genesis 1:1) and that He is, as the Psalmist said, the owner of “the cattle on a thousand hills” — meaning that He owns all there is (Psalm 50:10, see also Psalm 24:1). We learn from the Scriptures that God knows all (1 John 3:20); sees all (Psalm 139:1-6); and that He will accomplish all that He sets out to accomplish (Isaiah 55:11).

Unfortunately, there are some in evangelical circles who deny these attributes of God. There is a strain of thought infiltrating our churches known as Open Theism. Matt Slick of the Christian Apologetics Research Ministries (CARM) describes this movement as follows:

It is the teaching that God has granted to humanity free will and that in order for the free will to be truly free, the future free will choices of individuals cannot be known ahead of time by God. They hold that if God knows what we are going to choose, then how can we be truly free when it is time to make those choices since a counter choice cannot then be made by us because it is already “known” what we are going to do. In other words, we would not actually be able to make a contrary choice to what God “knows” we will choose thus implying that we would not then be free.

In fact, Gregory Boyd, one of the leading proponents of this movement, states in his recent book God of the Possible:

Much of it [the future], open theists will concede, is settled ahead of time, either by God’s predestining will or by existing earthly causes, but it is not exhaustively settled ahead of time. To whatever degree the future is yet open to be decided by free agents, it is unsettled.”
To bolster this view, Open Theists quote a number of verses that, at first glance, seem to show that God has not yet made up His mind as to how history will work out and that the future is … well … open.

One verse is Genesis 6:6 where God was “sorry” that He made humanity. Another is Genesis 22:12 when Abraham was ready to sacrifice his only son Isaac, God intervened and said, “Now I know that you fear God” and did not keep Isaac from Him. And probably the most frequently quoted verse from Open Theists is Exodus 32:14. Here, God hears Moses intervention concerning the wrath He was to inflict upon the rebellious Israelites and is seen as “changing his mind” (NASB), “relenting” (NIV, NKJV), or “repenting” (KJV) about the harm and punishment He would bring.

There are many verses where God is seen as regretting something He has done, where He is surprised (Isaiah 5:3-7), where He tests people to know whether they will walk in His ways (Exodus 16:4, Deuteronomy 13:1-3, Judges 2:22), and various others. Open Theists claim that if God really knows all the events of the future, then He would never regret doing anything, never change His mind, and would never wonder if people were or were not going to walk in His ways.

A Lesson on How God Relates to His People

Open Theists take these verses and run with them, but what do they do with verses such as Isaiah 55:10-11, which read:

For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bear forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out of my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it (ESV).

Or one such as John 6:37 which reads, “All that the Father gives to me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” Or Acts 4:27-28 which read:

For truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place (ESV).

Not to mention Romans 8:29-30, Romans 9, Ephesians 1:3-11, and many others which speak so strongly on the sovereignty of God and how all things are under His control and all things are not only known by Him but also all things are ordained and orchestrated by Him.

How are these verses reconciled with what we have seem from Open Theists?

There is a device used by God called anthropomorphism. It is a literary device used by the authors of Scripture to apply human characteristics and attribute them to God’s nature or actions. For instance, we hear in Scripture the plea for God to “shine his face on us” (Numbers 6:24-26). Well, we know that God is spirit (John 4:24) and does not have a ‘face.’ Same with the term such as the “right hand of God.” God does not have a hand or an arm, but we use these terms to convey various attributes about God. It makes it less abstract and more concrete!

God is a God who is “high and lifted up” (Isaiah 6:1) and one whose ways are higher than our ways and thoughts higher than our thoughts (Isaiah 55:8). Our finite minds cannot understand the greatness, grandeur and majesty of God Most High! So words are used in Scripture to help us understand them.

The Issue at Stake

What is at stake is the nature of God! If God is not one who is in control of every part of His creation, then that means He is a God who is not the “unmoved mover” of old, but as Clark Pinnock describes Him, He is the “Most Moved Mover.” He is a God who makes mistakes, who moves to “Plan B and C” when “Plan A” may not work out as He intended.

And if God is not in control of our situations, then guess who is? We are — and that, my friends, is the ultimate issue.

We hold tightly to free will. We want to be in control of our lives. But friends, if you want free will — total and unabashed free will — then you are not ready to be a follower of Christ. Why?

Our free will outside of the working of God will always lead us away from God. Adam and Eve had one command in the garden: “Don’t eat from that tree” (Genesis 2:15). Sin had not entered the world or their hearts, but they were easily swayed by Satan (“Did God really say…?”) and self (“it was pleasing to their eyes”) and their free will took them away from God.

But Jesus says in John 6:44 that “No one can come to Me unless the Father draws him.” We do not nor cannot seek after God in our own flesh (Romans 3:9-10), but God seeks after us and even has “chosen us from the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4).

See, God is not locked in to time and space. He created time and space. He is over time and space. He was before time and space. We are finite, He is infinite. We have limited knowledge, but the Bible says over and over that He knows all things (see Psalm 139:1-6). Nothing flies under His radar.

God is not one who responds to creation in general and humanity specifically — He is the One who orchestrates it all.

So does God have a plan? Yes. Is God the true sovereign of the universe? Yes. Are there times when it seems to us as if God repents, changes His mind, is surprised, and stumped at our actions? Yes, it seems that way in our eyes. But God makes Himself understood by using our language and terms to communicate HIS truth and HIS nature.

I recommend you looking at the CARM site and the section that deals with Open Theism at . If God is not in control of everything and does not have the entire plan already worked out, He is not a God worth serving. But we know better …

… don’t we?

© 2004 by Rev. Matthew Perry. Boone’s Creek Baptist Church. 185 N. Cleveland Rd., Lexington, KY 40509. (859) 263-5466.
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Podcast #13: "The Pentagon of Christianity"

Our latest podcast from Treasure The Word is out. This deals with the Pentagon of Christianity. Only 17 minutes in length, this deals with setting up a Defense Department for our hearts.

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That's a "When" When It Comes To Giving (Matthew 6:1-4)

When I was young, I would watch or be familiar with shows on TV that had some pretty interesting characters. Mike Brady from the Brady Bunch, Gilligan from Gilligan’s Island, Archie Bunker from All in the Family, Hawkeye Pierce from MASH. As a kid, I could never separate the actor from the person in real life. And often times, these actors were quite different from the characters they portrayed.

While this may throw us a bit, what is even more concerning is when someone who portrays a believer and a follower of Christ is nothing like the character he or she portrays.

As we get into Matthew 6, we find Jesus addressing three particular areas of our Christian devotional life: giving to the needy (Matthew 6:2-4), praying (Matthew 6:5-15), and fasting (Matthew 6:16-18). But all of these issues come from what Jesus says in Matthew 6:1, “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.” While some versions say for us to beware of giving alms, the oldest and best manuscripts state that Jesus is merely speaking in general of appearing righteous before men in order to receive praise from men.

Matthew 5 dealt with the inner moral requirements found in the heart. Chapter six is now dealing with the outward religious requirements and the motives behind those religious works. We find ourselves wanting the approval of those who are just like us. Jesus moves back to Matthew 5:19-20:

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.

And now we are getting to the nuts and bolts of our religious rituals. Are we doing them to help and grow, or are we doing them so we can be seen helping, giving, and fasting? Dan Doriani in his commentary asks the appropriate question: are we desiring to be holy, or are we driving toward hypocrisy?

Let’s look at Matthew 6:2-4:

1. When you give, what reason do you have?

As we mentioned last week, there are numerous places to give: humanitarian efforts, missions work, charities, churches, television ministries, campus ministries, churches—there is no end. Each of these makes often legitimate cases for your giving. What makes you give to them?

Sadly, many give for what they can get out of it. When I worked in college at a local grocer, I would find myself witnessing to a lot of guys I went to high school with. One told me that he was up late at night going through some particular issue, when a TV minister put his hand toward the TV and said, “I sense someone is out there with a ______________ problem. Send $100 to our ministry and I will send you an anointed prayer towel. Just pray with this in hand, and God will hear and answer.” Sometimes we give thinking that by giving, God will materially bless us.

Yet, some of us are moved by pictures of needy children all over the world and give to these organizations. That’s a good sign. Jesus said, “When you give to the needy.” The operative word is needy. In fact, when the early church began, this area of giving and helping those in need was a very distinguishing mark for Christians. James Montgomery Boice noted

Before Christ’s time there were no homes for the sick or poor, no orphanages. There was a world of toil and poverty, of the exposure of unwanted children, of slavery, of great hunger side by side with great affluence, and appalling indifference. After Christ came there was an instant and sacrifical love of the believers for each other. This was followed by care for the poor, hospitals, reform laws in the status of women, the establishing of change in labor laws, the abolition of slavery, and other things.

Understand that giving is not optional, but it is a sign of obedience—especially if it is for the right reason.

What kind of heart do we have when we give? Part of being God’s covenant people is that we give to the needy. As Eric read earlier from Deuteronomy 15, God commanded and expected his people to help their poor and needy brother. Why? Remember that Deuteronomy is all about Moses giving his last marching orders to the people of Israel before they entered into the Promised Land. But where did they come from? From being enslaved and mistreated in Egypt. God delivered them from their slavery and would always remind them of their former condition.

While the Jews of Jesus’ time did give, it was more of a ritual and very external. Yet, we must realize that giving must not be a ritual, but a matter of a relationship. You see, when we give, we really give unto the Lord. Remember Malachi 3:6-10:

“For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed. [7] From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from my statutes and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts. But you say, ‘How shall we return?’ [8] 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.

Remember this: when we do not give, we are robbing Him. Yes, we are giving to the needy, but remember there is a spiritual need as well, and God expects his people to give to the storehouse of the local church to which they belong so that physical and spiritual needs may be met.

2. When you give, what reward do you seek?

Rewards. Many people have this conversation about rewards. Will Billy Graham have more rewards in heaven than a regular Christian? Some ask these with their main concern being what kind of ‘stuff’ will we have in heaven.

Yet, I believe this is the wrong angle to take. Heaven is not earth. Beulah Land is not America. Getting to heaven is not the equivalent of obtaining the American Dream where we have everything we want and more. We think about our life and what blessings God can give us both now and in the by-and-by.

Yet, Jesus comes along and in a span of six verses mentions the word ‘reward’ four times. Go back and look at Matthew 5:46-47:

For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? [47] And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?

Notice in Matthew 6:2

“Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.

Both of these verses deal with a false desire for a false reward. The great snare for many was to give for the praise of men. Those in Jesus’ times were particularly snared because the model being presented by the religious leaders was one of drawing great attention to oneself. When the trumpet sounded from the Temple for a time of giving, the Pharisee would drop what he is doing and rush toward the Temple, giving a great sign to everyone that he was spiritual—he’s going to the Temple to give! But it went even further.

The scribes and the Pharisees even believed that the more one gave, the more sin was forgiven. In one of their writings, we read, “As water will quench a flaming fire, so charity will atone for sin” (The Wisdom of Sirach 3:30). The Pharisees, in a way, felt they could buy their way to heaven with the amount of money they gave to the needy. But ultimately, what they wanted was recognition from men. And since that’s what they desired, that is just the reward they received—but no more!

The word Jesus uses is the word ‘hypocrites’ – as the hypocrites do in the synagogue and in the streets. A hypocrite is someone who pretends to be something he is not, much like the actor in a play.

Do we do this? Ask yourselves these questions:

• Will we only give to the needy if someone is around to see us give it?
• Will we give to the church, but only if our name is on a plaque by a window or a nameplate in book or Bible?
• Do you find yourselves “accidentally” bringing up how much you give?
• Do you give, but only if there is no monetary sacrifice, but if there is, you find excuses not to give? In other words, will you only give when you are “financially settled?”
• Sometimes we just give with the expectation of gratitude to the one to whom we give.
• Sometimes, people will only give if things are going well at church, but will withhold their giving if things are not—using it as leverage for implementing change they want to see.

What reward do we seek? The question is, at this point, what reward should we seek? Jesus answers this in Matthew 6:3-4:

But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

This is an interesting picture. Jesus here is saying, “Be discreet—very discreet.” MacArthur says, “The most satisfying giving, and the giving that God blesses, is that which is done and forgotten.” When our right hand gives, we should be discreet even from our left hand, not to mention other people.

So are we to give in secret? Does this mean that every good work we do should be done in secret so no one else knows about it? What about what Jesus said in Matthew 5:16, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” So is Jesus saying in one place that people need to “see your good works” and in other place do like your Christian life and duty out in secret? No, the similarity still stands: what is the end result of your good works, to receive praise from men or from God? Wherever you seek praise from, from that same place your reward will come as well.

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Countdown to the ESV Study Bible Release

Evidently, numerous requests were made to the ESV publishers to put out a widget giving us a countdown. I’m thankful so many people are so excited about the Word of God.

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