Monthly Archives: March 2011

Results of the Fall of Man

“As a result of the fall, the descent into sin has continued unabated ever since.  A respect for authority was replaced by rebellion. A clear conscience was replaced by guilt and shame. Blessing was replaced by physical, spiritual, and eternal punishment. Viewing God as a friend to walk with was replaced by viewing him as an enemy to hide from. Trust was replaced by fear. Love was replaced by indifference and even hatred. Intimacy with God was replaced by separation from God. Freedom to obey God was replaced by enslavement to sin. Honesty was replaced with lying and deceit. Self-sacrifice was replaced by self-centeredness. Peace was replaced by restlessness. Responsibility was replaced by blaming. Authenticity was replaced by hiding.”

— Mark Driscoll, Doctrine: What Christians Should Believe, p. 147-48.

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Categories: doctrine, sin | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Why Rob Bell Did the Church No Favors

This past month, a pastor of a large Grand Rapids church, Rob Bell, wrote a book that’s causing a significant firestorm in the Christian community. The title of it is Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived (published by HarperOne). Bell contends that what many orthodox evangelical church teach about heaven and hell isn’t right. Kevin DeYoung, another pastor from Michigan, puts Bell’s book in this light:

Hell is what we create for ourselves when we reject God’s love. Hell is both a present reality for those who resist God and a future reality for those who die unready for God’s love. Hell is what we make of heaven when we cannot accept the good news of God’s forgiveness and mercy. But hell is not forever. God will have his way. How can his good purposes fail? Every sinner will turn to God and realize he has already been reconciled to God, in this life or in the next. There will be no eternal conscious torment. God says no to injustice in the age to come, but he does not pour out wrath (we bring the temporary suffering upon ourselves), and he certainly does not punish for eternity. In the end, love wins.

In an interview with NBC’s Martin Bashir, Bell admits that he grew up in a rigid evangelical Christian home that he felt constricted him in his walk with God. As a pastor, he saw how devastated people became over this doctrine, which seemed to them to run counter to what they understood God to be—a God of love.

Bashir asked him a great question: “So are you saying that the choices and decisions we make in this life have no bearing on the next?” (You can go here to watch Bell’s reaction—but he gives an answer that is not an answer.) A secular journalist understood the nature of Bell’s contention that there is no hell.

Why do we need this doctrine?

First, the Bible teaches the reality of hell. Jesus tells the wicked to “depart from me, you wicked ones, into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41). Jesus preached on hell more than heaven—but this is a reality in every portion of Scripture, and plays a huge part in Revelation when judgment occurs on all the enemies of God. If hell is simply about this life, then where was Jesus sending them upon their death and judgment?

Second, without the reality of hell, the cross and empty tomb were unnecessary. In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul showed that the cross and resurrection took away the sting of sin and death and defeated them (1 Corinthians 15:50-58). If there is no ‘hell’ and everyone will be saved eventually, the cross was a waste of time. “The wages of sin is death”—meaning, eternal separation in hell (Romans 6:23). No eternal separation, no need to pay for the sin that separates.

Thirdly, do we really want an unjust God? God is holy (1 Peter 1:17) and will not allow sin into His heaven, and died to keep sin from His people (1 Peter 2:9-10). A God that gives commands, but does not enforce or discipline is the most unloving of all in the universe (see Hebrews 12:5-11). We expect our police force to enforce the law and punish those who commit crimes, but we expect God to pass it over? Romans 2:4-5 says, “Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.” Galatians 6:7-8 says, “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.”

Lastly, we deserve hell but by God’s grace heaven was opened through Christ. R.C. Sproul once said, “A man-centered gospel says, ‘How can a loving God send someone to hell?’ while a God-centered gospel says, ‘How can a holy God send someone to heaven?’” Do we expect God to operate on our terms, or us to operate on His? The cross shows the reality of sin, death, and hell through the death of Christ. But thanks be to Him—if we surrender to Christ and His work on the cross, death and hell have already been paid for by Him.

Resurrection Sunday is April 24th. We are not entitled to anything regarding God—it’s all of grace! Meditate on 1 Corinthians 15 and all the resurrection accounts in the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John). Ponder all that He has accomplished for you by taking all that punishment that belonged to you. No, Rob Bell does the Christian church no favors with his book. Let us pray that the damage done to his followers is minimal and that we continue to trumpet the truth of the true gospel of Jesus Christ,

(Written to my congregation at Boone’s Creek Baptist Church, Lexington, Kentucky for the April 2011 church newsletter.)

Categories: eschatology, hell | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Monday Morning Reflections from Boone’s Creek Baptist Church

Dear Boone’s Creek Family:
What a great day we had yesterday! 

  • One of our young children at church made her confession of faith public yesterday morning.  How glorious it is to see a mom and dad who seek to raise their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord invest their faith in Jesus Christ to their daughter.  Her dad had been praying for her at every deacon’s meeting, shedding tears praying that she would come to Christ.  Praise God for His sovereign grace in calling Hannah to himself!  That never, ever gets old!
  • I praise God for the incredible response to the sermon yesterday.  For those of you who could not make it, it will be ‘up’ tomorrow on our podcast (http://www.sermoncloud.com/bcbc).  So many face disillusionment and discouragement.  But these are areas that the devil uses to bring us down, but areas that God uses to test us and see where our true allegiance lies.  He builds us up through adversity.

You Can Be a Part of Reaching our Neighbors and the Nations!

  • Neighborhood Prayer/Share Blitz this Saturday, March 26th.  Come help us pass out information about our church, invite them to Easter Services, and tell them about our Easter Egg Hunt.  We’ll also find ways we can pray for them and pray with them!  The more folks we have to be salt and light to our community, the more houses we can cover for the Kingdom!  We need you! Meet us at the church at 10:00 a.m.
  • Kentucky Changers Missions Lunch this coming Sunday after church.  Stay a while, fellowship, eat some good food–and give to help the 15 signed up to minister in Bullitt County for our Lord Jesus. 
  • Hazard Missions Trip, Saturday, April 9:  Help Summit Community Church (http://www.summithazard.com) with their “World’s Largest Easter Egg Hunt” at the Perry County Park.  We as a church agreed to go over and help, and we need all hands on deck. Please let us know if you are going.  Alex Marshall, Jr. and Ron Chaffins will be leading this charge.  If you are on Facebook, feel free to sign up on our event page here (http://www.facebook.com/#!/event.php?eid=161681653874844).  Come help reach a county that is 75% unchurched for the gospel.  Make a difference!
  • Blood Drive, Sunday, April 17 after church:  Can you help save some lives?  One pint given equals three lives saved.  Sign-up with Alex Marshall, Jr for this ‘extra’ blood drive to help make up for a shortage of blood needed to help those in need.  Let’s see if we can have 15 contribute.  What do you say?  Those in need, need you!
  • Eggs-traordinary Easter Egg Hunt at our church, Saturday, April 23.  Come help us reach our neighbor children for our Lord Jesus with an incredible Easter Egg hunt at our park.  Games, booths, hotdogs and drinks, and lots of candy and eggs.  It’ll give us a chance to minister to children, to parents, and to share the great work of our Lord Jesus Christ.  You can help with a booth, with cooking, with keeping kids in-bounds–let us know if you can be a part of this.  We need you!  It starts at 10:30 a.m.

May God continue to use us as we pray, give and go to our neighbors and the nations!
Blessings,
Bro. Matt

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“You Teach More Than You Preach, Preacher!”

A number of times in my 7+ years at my church, I have been told variations of this theme: "Bro. Matt, you do more teaching than preaching on Sunday morning."  Some have meant this as a mere observation, others have not intended this as a compliment.  Yet, I take it as one for numerous reasons.  Of late, I have asked some who say this what they mean by this.  What do they consider ‘teaching’ and ‘preaching.’  Here are some things they have said:

  • Planning a sermon series for multiple weeks. This comes across as not being led by the Spirit to preach, but merely putting together something from my own thinking.
  • Using an outline or providing bullet points in the bulletin for note-taking. This reminds them more of a lecture than a sermon.
  • Mentioning a Scripture reference and having it appear on our overhead screen right after its mentioned. This comes across as having the sermon scripted rather than preaching ‘from the heart.’
  • Bringing in a lot of historical background. Some wonder how this connects to life in 2011 USA.
  • Using ‘ big theological’ words. 

Everyone (both Christian and non-Christian) has their own thoughts on what preaching should be. Everybody preaches with a certain style and everyone prefers a certain style.  Since I hear these issues more than anything else, let me address them and show reasons why I go this direction.

Planning a sermon series for multiple weeks.

Many pluses come from this:

  • First, planning ahead is not anti-Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit is certainly able to give the content not only for one sermon at a time, but for a continuity of sermons.  Each of the letters in the New Testament are orderly and address particular issues in a structured fashion—even the book of Revelation! 
  • Secondly, it gives my music minister an idea of how to plan.  When he knows what I shall be preaching in the weeks ahead, he can plan the worship music, the choir music, and other items that help the collective unity and theme of the Sunday morning worship time. 
  • Thirdly, it provides our members an opportunity to see what’s coming up, and invite those who may need to hear a particular topic. 

Using and Providing an Outline for the Congregation

  • First, providing an outline aims to help retention.  If you provide an outline (especially with blanks), by hearing that point then writing that point in will aid in memory through hearing, writing, and seeing it.
  • Secondly, you can take those notes with you from the service.  Then the impressions you received from that truth being preached will return. 

The Use of the Overhead Screen for Displaying Scripture

  • In November 2003, our church voted to purchase and install a screen in our sanctuary.  We have not only used it to put up words for the worship music, but also during the sermon.  In a way, we are still learning how to best use this.  Do we just put up the sermon Scripture or do we put up every Scripture reference spoken?  Do we put up the entire outline?  Do we use video clips?
  • We have a program called MediaShout, which is like PowerPoint on caffeine.  I can mentioned a passage of Scripture, and they have the capability of punching in that Scripture into the MediaShout program and have it on the screen in two seconds.  Some have mentioned that this makes the sermon look scripted and less “from the heart.”  When, in fact, it shows how far technology has come with the desire to help others see what the Word of God says in short order. 

Going Into Historical Background

  • The false notion that the Scripture is simply a book of rules fails to understand that the working out of God’s Word among His people takes place in history.  These are not fictional stories with nice, straightforward morals like Aesop’s Fables.  These are about real people occupying time and space before a holy God.  And, a la Solomon, since there is “nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9),  helping one understand the historical background brings to life the situation in which that narrative takes place. 
  • Going into historical background is not a waste of time or simply filler.  Timothy Beougher noted that we need to connect the context of “Jerusalem to Louisville” (or fill in the blank of your respective place of service).  Plus, we need to see how that area of the NT fulfills what God laid forth in the OT concerning Christ and His prophecies/promises (2 Corinthians 1:20). 
  • Early in my ministry, I heard of someone who, in response to my preaching, tell me, “He just seems like he wants to show us all that he knows.”  At the time, I was 31 years old working to give the “whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:24)—though I had only been preaching steadily for two years.  I held to the fact that Christians needed to see the full scope of Scripture and its aim.  It is crucial to understand the biblical author’s meaning and context in order to understand and apply it to ours. 

Using Big ‘Theological’ Words

  • When learning a new trade or engaging in any new thing, you have to learn certain terminology.  Christianity has some beautiful terms such as atonement, propitiation, justification, sanctification, glorification, etc.  I have vowed to use these words, but also to immediately follow-up these words with a clear, concise, accurate definition. 
  • Some have said, “If you use these large words, folks will tune you out.”  I understand why: it comes across as if the Scriptures and their principles are inaccessible.  Yet, those words carry much strength and serve as some of the great fundamentals of our Christian faith.  These are words used in Scripture!  We will come across these words sooner or later—so why not have a responsible preacher rightly divide the Word in helping others understand what this Word says in fullness (2 Timothy 2:15; Psalm 25:4-5)?

Pastors, be clear, clear, clear about what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.  Help your congregation understand the motives and rationale behind what you preach and how you preach it.  By being proactive in this manner, you will stave off most (but not all) misperceptions.  Plus, folks will know you have a plan and also a passion to help them understand God’s Word and the purpose of His Word, Jesus Christ.

What think ye?

Categories: preaching | Tags: , | 2 Comments

Book Review: “An Honorable Defeat: The Last Days of the Confederate Government” by William C. Davis

The Confederate States of America has long held an interest for this ‘son of Virginia,’ ever since my second-grade teacher took us on a field trip to Appomattox. It’s infused in every Virginian the history of his native state. William C. Davis’ book on the last four months of the Confederacy is a marvelous book in giving the grim realities of how ‘the Cause’ flickered out.

Now living in Kentucky, this book offered me my first glimpse at John C. Breckinridge. Against secession and against the notion of taking up arms against the Union, he did so nonetheless in defense of the South. He served as the only one who would stand up to Jefferson Davis’ stubbornness with some modicum of (as a previous reviewer noted) statesmanship. He knew when the Confederacy was over, unlike Davis who was willing to continue the cause in Texas, and he helped more than anyone in the South (along with Lee) to make sure the South wasn’t completely crushed in the aftermath of Lincoln’s death.

This book was meticulously researched–and imminently readable! I couldn’t put it down–especially at the part when Davis was captured by Yankee soldiers in Irwinville, GA, and how Breckinridge and Judah P. Benjamin escaped through Florida, survived over open water to Cuba, then the Bahamas. Benjamin went to England, Breckinridge returned to the North American continent, stayed with expatriate Confederates in Toronto until Andrew Johnson’ Universal Amnesty allowed him to return to his beloved Kentucky. Unlike Davis, Breckinridge did not continue the vitriol in who was to blame (unlike Davis), but remained quite, save a brief eulogy in 1870 for the death of Robert E. Lee.

Breckinridge was a noble man caught up in a bad cause. It’s because of him that the Confederacy contains any nobility at all. For some of you, that may not be a ringing endorsement for the man. But this book will help you see the warts and wrinkles of it all–and show that not everyone caught up in that cause was inherently evil. This book is worth your time.

For a more extended (and much better) review, check out Ryan McMaken’s review

Categories: Civil War, History | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ministry and Fellowship Opportunities at Boone’s Creek

Dear Boone’s Creek Family:
I am grateful for your love and prayers for our church here at Boone’s Creek.  While every church goes through different seasons, we do know that this church will always belong to Jesus as we are being obedient to His Word and His Great Commission purpose (Matthew 28:18-20).  Our aim is to spread His glory through worship (reaching UP), strengthening our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ (reaching IN), and sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ (reaching OUT). 

Friends, we spent 21 days fasting about people close to us that we can reach for Jesus.  Satan has a way of getting us discouraged and off-track, thinking about everything around us except our Lord and those who need to know Him.  Fight the good fight!  God is doing a good work here–so press on with our Savior and Lord.  Evangelize the lost and encourage the saved–and bring glory to God!  He is faithful!

We pray all of you can take advantage of these opportunities of ministry and fellowship.  God has placed us here in Athens to reach Athens and our surrounding communities with the love of Jesus.  Here’s some great opportunities for you to step out in faith and do just that.:

  • “Find It Here” Neighborhood Blitz:  Join us on Saturday morning, March 26th, as we go to various neighborhoods introducing ourselves, asking for ways we can pray for them, and inviting them to our Easter Egg Hunt (if young children live there) and our Easter Services on Saturday, April 24th.  We also need some prayerwalkers as well. 
  • WorldChangers Missions Lunch on Saturday, March 27 after church.  Come help our youth raise funds to go on-mission this coming June. 
  • Pray for our team going to Trinidad. We leave 15 days from now, leaving March 31st.  We leave from the parking lot at 10:30 a.m. with our flight from Cincinnati leaving at 2:55 pm.  We land in Port of Spain at 11:20 pm.  We would love to have a going-away group come out around 10:00 a.m. that Thursday morning to see us off.  Every one of you who has helped, contributed (money, crafts, candy, etc.), and prayed are with us!  You are part of this trip, too!  Pray hard for us.  We will have a retreat for our team at Ashland Avenue Baptist Church on Saturday, March 26th from 1-3 p.m.  Pray that God would bring us together in a mighty way.
  • Summit Community Church Mission Trip to Hazard, Saturday, April 9.  We need all hands on deck for this to help Mark and Summit Church reach the over 1,000 children he’s invited to this Easter Egg hunt at Perry County Park.  Alex Marshall, Jr. and Ron Chaffins will be leading this trip–for which I am grateful.
  • Blood Drive Sunday, April 17:  Through the Kentucky Blood Center, we will have a bloodmobile come to our church.  Let’s get 15 pints donated!  One pint donated saves up to three lives.  What a ministry!
  • Eggs-traordinary Easter Egg Hunt, Saturday, April 23rd at Boone’s Creek Park:  If you are willing to help with this, please let me or one of our TeamKid leaders know.  With Easter being so late this year, we plan to have an expanded Easter Egg Hunt at the park and work to invite as many children in our community as possible to be a part.  What’s the adage: you reach the children, you reach the adults.  We need chaperones, those skilled with the grill to grill out hot dogs, bring other picnicky snacks, some to help stuff lots and lots of eggs, and others to help us get the word out about it in various places (such as our elementary schools and neighborhoods).  Can you help?  Our Children’s Workers have already met about this and will meet again on Wednesday, March 23rd. 
  • Can you say, VBS?  Cindy Parker and her trusty assistant, Veronica Brown (the self-proclaimed “Cindy Parker’s shadow”) are head-long and hip-deep in getting Bible School together.  Will you pray for our VBS (takes place July 11-15th)?  Will you help get the word out?  Do you realize how many lives this ministry touches?  Check it out at http://www.boonescreekchurch.com/vbs
  • Senior Living Celebration, Friday, May 6th, at First Baptist Church, Richmond.  We will have some posters and sign-ups here at church, but you can look over it at http://kybaptist.org/kbc.nsf/pages/Senior+Living+Celebration+First+Baptist+Richmond+KY+5+6+2011.html.  Joe McKeever will be the speaker–a very funny, gifted, and faithful follower of Christ.  The cost is $15 if you register by April 8th–$20 at the door.  Come join us!

Should you have any questions, please let me know!  You are loved, wanted, and needed here at Boone’s Creek.  Don’t ever forget that!
Blessings,
Bro. Matt

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Little is Much When God Is In It (Much is Little When God Isn’t)

(Feel free to listen to this sermon, preaching Sunday, March 13, 2011 during our morning service at Boone’s Creek Baptist Church, Lexington, KY.)

Whenever I stand up here to preach, my aim is to preach the Word of God so that His Word would be sent forth and applied by His Spirit. Whenever God’s Word is preached, we have confidence in knowing that it will go forth and accomplish all that He desires and will never return empty (Isaiah 55:11-12).

This morning, the majority of my aim of this sermon is to speak to our family here at Boone’s Creek Baptist Church. By this, I mean those who have surrendered to Jesus Christ as their Master and Savior, and have made a covenant with Boone’s Creek to join them in membership—seeking to make a visible difference and influence in this world for the cause of Jesus Christ through Boone’s Creek.

On the second Sunday of each month, we have a business meeting. Those sound like fun, don’t they? I attended a church one time when they were called “Family Conferences.” I like that better. We think as members that we don’t have a part in the business of God’s work, but as family members we do. He has bestowed a marvelous privilege on us. And if we miss out on this privilege, we miss out on being a part of something much bigger than ourselves!

Each business meeting, we discuss our financial position. While we are a spiritual body, we do live in the physical world. This is why Jesus discussed the issue of money so much, and why the book of Acts and Paul’s letters mention how thankful they were for God providing, and using the church to do so! Look at 2 Corinthians 8:1-5:

We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, 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. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints—and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us (2 Corinthians 8:1-5, ESV).

Paul, the greatest Christian who ever lived, had physical needs to meet in order to facilitate meeting the spiritual task God had given him into the world.

Our aim here at Boone’s Creek is to spread the glory of God from our neighbors to the nations. We are not here solely to meet and hear nice songs and listen to a nice sermon so we can go out and be nice people. We enter to worship, and exit into our mission field as missionaries of Jesus Christ.

While God has always provided for our needs, He has also provided His Word for us to obey. We have had opportunities open up to us with Trinidad, with Hazard, and now a ground swell is arising in our church to reach our neighbors for Jesus through our Easter Egg Hunt on the 23rd of April, backyard Bible schools along with Vacation Bible School. Our youth are focusing on service. Our adults have their eyes open to the concerns around them. If God can show His glory by feeding 20,000 people with five loaves of bread and two fish, he can use a church that’s struggling financially.

In this passage of Scripture from Luke 20:45-21:4, we have before us two groups. One is represented by the “scribes,” the other is represented by a “poor widow” (Luke 21:3). One had money and influence and power, the other was in poverty, ignored, and powerless to her plight – to the point that the scribes were ones who “devour widows’ houses” (20:47a). As far as Jesus was concerned, one received condemnation, the other received commendation.

I think of a song written decades ago with the chorus:

Little is much when God is in it;
Labor not for wealth or fame.
There’s a crown and you can win it
If you go in Jesus’ name.

Thus, the title of this sermon: Little is much when God is in it; but much is little when God is not in it.

1. Much is little when God is not in it.

Look with me again at Luke 20:45-47:

And in the hearing of all the people Jesus said to his disciples, “Beware of the scribes who like to walk around in long robes, and love greetings in the marketplaces and the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, who devour widows’ houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation” (Luke 20:45-47).

Luke begins in 20:45 by saying that Jesus spoke to his disciples in “the hearing of all the people.” In a sense that is what I am doing this morning: speaking to the believers here at Boone’s Creek in the hearing of everyone else who is not a follower of Jesus. And in a sense, that’s what happens every Sunday morning when I preach from the Word. We are in a worship service—and that worship is directed to our Lord Jesus Christ. By virtue of that definition, these services are not primarily for those who are unbelievers. They cannot worship that which is not their Lord. But we are indeed glad that you who have not yet surrendered to Christ are here so that the Word may be planted by the Spirit in your hearts and you would surrender to Jesus Christ, forsaking all to follow Him.

The Scribes were personally comfortable in their religious position. Jesus brings out that they “walk around in long robes.” They wanted everyone to know who they were! They wanted everyone to know who they were by their outward appearance. Leon Morris noted that their long robbers “were a sign of distinction and marked the wearers as gentlemen leisure.”[1] By their appearance, they wanted to show how God favored them through their success. These scribes have their descendants nowadays in TV and prosperity preachers who wear the fanciest clothes and drive the finest automobiles and million-dollar luxury places to show that God has blessed them and wishes to bless all who hold to their teaching. In Matthew 23, Jesus brought out other types of clothing and religious wear:

They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others (Matthew 23:5-6).

You see, the phylacteries and fringes were biblically ordained priestly wear, but they overdid it. In Deuteronomy 6:4-9, this passage known as the Shema was given as part of the greatest commandment. In elaborating on the importance of love Yahweh and him alone, He told Moses, “You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes” (6:8).

They made the tassels longer than necessary so everyone could see who they were and remark on how smart and powerful they were. He also mentioned in the Luke passage that they “for a pretense make long prayers” by “heap[ing] up empty words” (20:47; cf. Matthew 6:5-6). The place of honor at feasts and best seats in synagogue and greetings and even being called rabbi weren’t sinful in and of themselves. It was their ‘love’ and ‘pretense’ of these privileges. Their motive was wrong, their focus was self.

Yet, Jesus comes and levels the playing field.

“But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. And call no man father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ. The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” (Matthew 23:8-12).

These scribes were also ones who gave an offering! Matthew 23:23 said that they tithed mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weighter matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. Jesus said, “These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.” We can be externally obedient to the things of Scripture, and yet do them only for our own recognition. We can be absent in the silence of giving, but we love it when people brag about our new car or iPhone.

We joke in that in Trinidad one sees folks living in broken down houses, but they have cell phones and the latest American fashions. My Eastern Kentucky friends note that houses are broken down and children do without clothes and such, but most every house has a satellite dish. The truth is, we spend our money on that which is our priority. And if our hearts are not surrendered to Christ, they are enslaved to self and our money will show that.

Jesus said we should offer our offerings to the Lord as well as live a life of sacrifice in justice, mercy, and faithfulness. We do not give just to uplift our name. This is why here at Boone’s Creek nowadays, we shy away from putting up the name of who gave. When we were taking donations for the windows, we made a conscious decision not to put the name of the one who paid for each one because we did not want to give an opportunity for the flesh to gain a victory in the battle. More money may have come in and the windows may have been paid off more quickly. But what’s the issue? The issue is obedience. We don’t give to make ourselves feel better about ourselves. Nor do we simply give when there’s a need. Each of us are to give because we love the Lord who gave everything to us! Remember what Paul wrote to the Corinthian church about their generous giving out of their extreme poverty: “They gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us.” When our hearts belong fully to the Lord, so will our wallets!

Little Is Much When God is In It

Now we come to the widow.

Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. And he said, “Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on” (Luke 21:1-4).

Widows fell on hard times in biblical times. By virtue of being a widow, we see that they had lost their husbands who were the providers of the family. Even the religious leaders were condemned for being ones who “devour women’s houses.” Jesus brings out this truth frequently: you can tell what type of Christianity one has in how they deal with the poor. Whatever the outward apparel, their outward treatment of the most unfortunate and poor in that society (the widow) spoke volumes about their inward heart.

Scripture does not go into detail as to how they devoured them. The reason may be that in that time, no explanation was needed. Some possibilities came up. Maybe they were helping the widows manage their money, but taking a helper’s fee off the top. Maybe they were telling them to give more money so God would be pleased with their giving and help them more. Either way, they were taking advantage of the helpless rather than helping the disadvantaged.

The scene here is showing how the rich were putting gifts into one of 13 offering boxes called ‘trumpets,’ when the small end sticking up and the larger end resting on the ground to catch the money, one would put their offering into this and be on their way. Mark’s account says that “Many rich people put in large sums” (Mark 12:41-44).

So Jesus here is saying there are many ways to give. You can give the right amount with the wrong motive. You can give a relatively large amount with the wrong motive. Or, you can be like the Macedonians and the widow and give a relatively generous amount proportionally (based on what you have) with the right motive. It wasn’t the issue of giving in comparison to each other, but in proportion to what one had. Which is best?

Truth be told, this can be an upsetting passage to those who are rich, but consider: this culture and the American society is the richest to every walk the planet. Over 40% of the world’s population lives on less than $1 per day.

Motive over amount wins everytime. What’s the motive? The motive is the affect that the gospel grips our hearts. From our passage that I read to you at the very beginning of this service, take a look at what role the gospel plays in the heart, and thus making it overflow in this generosity:

[10 ] He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. [11 ] You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. [12 ] For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God. [13 ] By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission flowing from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others, [14 ] while they long for you and pray for you, because of the surpassing grace of God upon you. [15 ] Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift! (2 Corinthians 9:10-15 ESV)

First, you are to give confidently. The widow did not show confidence in her appearance. She did not rely on the latest fashions or place confidence in living in the nicest home. She did not rely on being popular. Her confidence was in the Lord. So she gave Him all she had.

Second, you are to give sacrificially. Are we more willing to sacrifice for things that won’t last?  These scribes would not sacrifice their reputation.  This widow would not sacrifice her convictions and her faith.

Fourthly, you are to give seriously. Giving is an act of worship.  It is an act of trust.  It’s an act of obedience.  It’s not a casual matter in listening and obeying the Lord in this manner—it is of ultimate seriousness.  You are saying, “Lord, you are worth me giving back to you that which you entrusted to me.” 

Lastly, you are to give lovinglyWhen you give, you are not simply doing this for yourself.  What you give has a ripple effect in helping others in the Gospel work. 


[1] Leon Morris, The Gospel According to St. Luke: An Introduction and Commentary, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1974), 294. Quoted in Philip G. Ryken, Luke: Volume II: Chapters 13-24 (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2009), 399.

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The Waning Authority of Christ in the Churches (A.W. Tozer)

HERE IS THE BURDEN of my heart; and while I claim for myself no special inspiration I yet feel that this is also the burden of the Spirit.

If I know my own heart it is love alone that moves me to write this. What I write here is not the sour ferment of a mind agitated by contentions with my fellow Christians. There have been no such contentions. I have not been abused, mistreated or attacked by anyone. Nor have these observations grown out of any unpleasant experiences that I have had in my association with others. My relations with my own church as well as with Christians of other denominations have been friendly, courteous and pleasant. My grief is simply the result of a condition which I believe to be almost universally prevalent among the churches. I think also that I should acknowledge that I am myself very much involved in the situation I here deplore. As Ezra in his mighty prayer of intercession included himself among the wrongdoers, so do I. “0 my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift up my face to thee, my God: for our iniquities are increased over our head, and our trespass is grown up unto the heavens.” Any hard word spoken here against others must in simple honesty return upon my own head. I too have been guilty. This is written with the hope that we all may turn unto the Lord our God and sin no more against Him.

Let me state the cause of my burden. It is this: Jesus Christ has today almost no authority at all among the groups that call themselves by His name. By these I mean not the Roman Catholics nor the liberals, nor the various quasi-Christian cults. I do mean Protestant churches generally, and I include those that protest the loudest that they are in spiritual descent from our Lord and His apostles, namely, the evangelicals.

It is a basic doctrine of the New Testament that after His resurrection the Man Jesus was declared by God to be both Lord and Christ, and that He was invested by the Father with absolute Lordship over the church which is His Body. All authority is His in heaven and in earth. In His own proper time He will exert it to the full, but during this period in history He allows this authority to be challenged or ignored. And just now it is being challenged by the world and ignored by the church.

The present position of Christ in the gospel churches may be likened to that of a king in a limited, constitutional monarchy. The king (sometimes depersonalized by the term “the Crown”) is in such a country no more than a traditional rallying point, a pleasant symbol of unity and loyalty much like a flag or a national anthem. He is lauded, feted and supported, but his real authority is small.

Nominally he is head over all, but in every crisis someone else makes the decisions. On formal occasions he appears in his royal attire to deliver the tame, colorless speech put into his mouth by the real rulers of the country. The whole thing may be no more than good-natured make-believe, but it is rooted in antiquity, it is a lot of fun and no one wants to give it up.

Among the gospel churches Christ is now in fact little more than a beloved symbol. “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name” is the church’s national anthem and the cross is her official flag, but in the week-by-week services of the church and the day-by-day conduct of her members someone else, not Christ, makes the decisions.

Under proper circumstances Christ is allowed to say “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden” or “Let not your heart be troubled,” but when the speech is finished someone else takes over. Those in actual authority decide the moral standards of the church, as well as all objectives and all methods employed to achieve them. Because of long and meticulous organization it is now possible for the youngest pastor just out of seminary to have more actual authority in a church than Jesus Christ has.

Not only does Christ have little or no authority; His influence also is becoming less and less. I would not say that He has none, only that it is small and diminishing. A fair parallel would be the influence of Abraham Lincoln over the American people. Honest Abe is still the idol of the country. The likeness of his kind, rugged face, so homely that it is beautiful, appears everywhere. It is easy to grow misty-eyed over him. Children are brought up on stories of his love, his honesty and his humility.

But after we have gotten control over our tender emotions what have we left? No more than a good example which, as it recedes into the past, becomes more and more unreal and exercises less and less real influence. Every scoundrel is ready to wrap Lincoln’s long black coat around him. In the cold light of political facts in the United States the constant appeal to Lincoln by the politicians is a cynical joke.

The Lordship of Jesus is not quite forgotten among Christians, but it has been relegated to the hymnal where all responsibility toward it may be comfortably discharged in a glow of pleasant religious emotion. Or if it is taught as a theory in the classroom it is rarely applied to practical living. The idea that the Man Christ Jesus has absolute and final authority over the whole church and over all of its members in every detail of their lives is simply not now accepted as true by the rank and file of evangelical Christians.

What we do is this: We accept the Christianity of our group as being identical with that of Christ and His apostles. The beliefs, the practices, the ethics, the activities of our group are equated with the Christianity of the New Testament. Whatever the group thinks or says or does is scriptural, no questions asked. It is assumed that all our Lord expects of us is that we busy ourselves with the activities of the group. In so doing we are keeping the commandments of Christ.

To avoid the hard necessity of either obeying or rejecting the plain instructions of our Lord in the New Testament we take refuge in a liberal interpretation of them. Casuistry is not the possession of Roman Catholic theologians alone. We evangelicals also know how to avoid the sharp point of obedience by means of fine and intricate explanations. These are tailor-made for the flesh. They excuse disobedience, comfort carnality and make the words of Christ of none effect. And the essence of it all is that Christ simply could not have meant what He said. His teachings are accepted even theoretically only after they have been weakened by interpretation.

Yet Christ is consulted by increasing numbers of persons with “problems” and sought after by those who long for peace of mind. He is widely recommended as a kind of spiritual psychiatrist with remarkable powers to straighten people out. He is able to deliver them from their guilt complexes and to help them to avoid serious psychic traumas by making a smooth and easy adjustment to society and to their own ids. Of course this strange Christ has no relation whatever to the Christ of the New Testament. The true Christ is also Lord, but this accommodating Christ is little more than the servant of the people.

But I suppose I should offer some concrete proof to support my charge that Christ has little or no authority today among the churches. Well, let me put a few questions and let the answers be the evidence.

What church board consults our Lord’s words to decide matters under discussion? Let anyone reading this who has had experience on a church board try to recall the times or time when any board member read from the Scriptures to make a point, or when any chairman suggested that the brethren should see what instructions the Lord had for them on a particular question. Board meetings are habitually opened with a formal prayer or “a season of prayer”; after that the Head of the Church is respectfully silent while the real rulers take over. Let anyone who denies this bring forth evidence to refute it. I for one will be glad to hear it.

What Sunday school committee goes to the Word for directions? Do not the members invariably assume that they already know what they are supposed to do and that their only problem is to find effective means to get it done? Plans, rules, “operations” and new methodological techniques absorb all their time and attention. The prayer before the meeting is for divine help to carry out their plans. Apparently the idea that the Lord might have some instructions for them never so much as enters their heads.

Who remembers when a conference chairman brought his Bible to the table with him for the purpose of using it? Minutes, regulations, rules of order, yes. The sacred commandments of the Lord, no. An absolute dichotomy exists between the devotional period and the business session. The first has no relation to the second.

What foreign mission board actually seeks to follow the guidance of the Lord as provided by His Word and His Spirit? They all think they do, but what they do in fact is to assume the scripturalness of their ends and then ask for help to find ways to achieve them. They may pray all night for God to give success to their enterprises, but Christ is desired as their helper, not as their Lord. Human means are devised to achieve ends assumed to be divine. These harden into policy, and thereafter the Lord doesn’t even have a vote.
In the conduct of our public worship where is the authority of Christ to be found? The truth is that today the Lord rarely controls a service, and the influence He exerts is very small. We sing of Him and preach about Him, but He must not interfere; we worship our way, and it must be right because we have always done it that way, as have the other churches in our group.

What Christian when faced with a moral problem goes straight to the Sermon on the Mount or other New Testament Scripture for the authoritative answer? Who lets the words of Christ be final on giving, birth control, the bringing up of a family, personal habits, tithing, entertainment, buying, selling and other such important matters?

What theological school, from the lowly Bible institute up, could continue to operate if it were to make Christ Lord of its every policy? There may be some, and I hope there are, but I believe I am right when I say that most such schools” to stay in business are forced to adopt procedures which find no justification in the Bible they profess to teach. So we have this strange anomaly: the authority of Christ is ignored in order to maintain a school to teach among other things the authority of Christ.

The causes back of the decline in our Lord’s authority are many. I name only two.

One is the power of custom, precedent and tradition within the older religious groups. These like gravitation affect every particle of religious practice within the group, exerting a steady and constant pressure in one direction. Of course that direction is toward conformity to the status quo. Not Christ but custom is lord in this situation. And the same thing has passed over (possibly to a slightly lesser degree) into the other groups such as the full gospel tabernacles, the holiness churches, the pentecostal and fundamental churches and the many independent and undenominational churches found everywhere throughout the North American continent.

The second cause is the revival of intellectualism among the evangelicals. This, if I sense the situation correctly, is not so much a thirst for learning as a desire for a reputation of being learned. Because of it good men who ought to know better are being put in the position of collaborating with the enemy. I’ll explain.

Our evangelical faith (which I believe to be the true faith of Christ and His apostles) is being attacked these days from many different directions. In the Western world the enemy has forsworn violence. He comes against us no more with sword and fagot; he now comes smiling, bearing gifts. He raises his eyes to heaven and swears that he too believes in the faith of our fathers, but his real purpose is to destroy that faith, or at least to modify it to such an extent that it is no longer the supernatural thing it once was. He comes in the name of philosophy or psychology or anthropology, and with sweet reasonableness urges us to rethink our historic position, to be less rigid, more tolerant, more broadly understanding.

He speaks in the sacred jargon of the schools, and many of our half-educated evangelicals run to fawn on him. He tosses academic degrees to the scrambling sons of the prophets as Rockefeller used to toss dimes to the children of the peasants. The evangelicals who, with some justification, have been accused of lacking true scholarship, now grab for these status symbols with shining eyes, and when they get them they are scarcely able to believe their eyes. They walk about in a kind of ecstatic unbelief, much as the soloist of the neighborhood church choir might were she to be invited to sing at La Scala.

For the true Christian the one supreme test for the present soundness and ultimate worth of everything religious must be the place our Lord occupies in it. Is He Lord or symbol? Is He in charge of the project or merely one of the crew? Does He decide things or only help to carry out the plans of others? All religious activities, from the simplest act of an individual Christian to the ponderous and expensive operations of a whole denomination, may be proved by the answer to the question, Is Jesus Christ Lord in this act? Whether our works prove to be wood, hay and stubble or gold and silver and precious stones in that great day will depend upon the right answer to that question.

What, then, are we to do? Each one of us must decide, and there are at least three possible choices. One is to rise up in shocked indignation and accuse me of irresponsible reporting. Another is to nod general agreement with what is written here but take comfort in the fact that there are exceptions and we are among the exceptions. The other is to go down in meek humility and confess that we have grieved the Spirit and dishonored our Lord in failing to give Him the place His Father has given Him as Head and Lord of the Church.

Either the first or the second will but confirm the wrong. The third if carried out to its conclusion can remove the curse. The decision lies with us.

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This article appeared in The Alliance Witness May 15, 1963, just two days after the death of Dr. Tozer. In a sense it was his valedictory, for it expressed the concern of his heart.

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Needed: Tough and Tender Pastors

Justin Taylor passed along a quote from John Piper on a vision for tough and tender pastors in controversy.  Here’s an excerpt:

It seems to me that we are always falling off the horse on one side or the other in this matter of being tough and tender—wimping out on truth when we ought to be lion-hearted, or wrangling with anger when we ought to be weeping. . . .

Oh how rare are the pastors who speak with a tender heart and have a theological backbone of steel.

I dream of such pastors. I would like to be one someday.

A pastor whose might in the truth is matched by his meekness.

Whose theological acumen is matched by his manifest contrition.

Whose heights of intellect are matched by his depths of humility.

Yes, and the other way around!

Click here to read more. 

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