Monthly Archives: June 2012

Has Your Gospel Reduced to Christian Causes?

“Whenever you believe that the evil outside you is greater than the evil inside you, a heartfelt pursuit of Christ will be replaced by a zealous fighting of the “evil” around you.  A celebration of the grace that rescues you from your own sin will be replaced by the crusade to the rescue the church from the ills of the surrounding culture.  Christian maturity becomes defined as a willingness to defend right from the wrong.  The gospel is reduced to participation in Christian causes.”

— Tim Lane and Paul David Tripp, How People Change, p. 10. 

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My Preaching Blog Back in Operation as Exposition Avenue

After an almost six month hiatus, delving in almost exclusively to my Gospel Gripped blog, I am now back to posting periodically at this blog, now retooled and been renamed:  Exposition Avenue.

Why Exposition Avenue?2012-06-19 13.13.28

Exposition Ave. is the name of a street here in Denver.  I would pass it frequently, and I thought to myself, “Wouldn’t it be great if our churches travelled on this road; not literally, but in practice?  Wouldn’t it be great if not just our preaching, but every part of our church life here at Arapahoe Road Baptist Church was an exposition of the teaching of Scripture?” 

My passion for expositional preaching stems from a personal journey that has included a life of ‘impositional living’—that is, me imposing my own interpretation and my own ‘reading’ upon the Scripture.  There is no room for this!  We expose the true meaning, context, and application directly from Scripture by the means of the Holy Spirit so as to expose the idols of our lives, have them toppled, so the Spirit would reign full and free.

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Feel free to not only subscribe to this blog via e-mail or by RSS, as well as going to our Twitter feed.  All of this information is on our blog.  These social media avenues will help all of us to be sharpened, challenged, and encouraged as the Word by the Spirit is the central focus of our churches and lives. 

Thanks for being a part of my outlet as a Christian, husband, father, pastor, and preacher of the Gospel.  I can’t wait to see what God does with us!

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Seminaries Are Great, But Cannot and Must Not Replace the Holy Spirit

In yesterday’s post, I alluded to a passage in Acts 4:13, in which the Jewish council looked upon the disciples:  “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished.  And they recognized they had been with Jesus.” 

As a three-time product of seminary (from Southern Seminary—MCM 1997, MDiv 2003, DMin 2009), I furiously resisted the temptation to thing that just because I had the institutional education that I was spiritually mature.  Not so!  One can venture through seminary without the Holy Spirit that has sealed their heart in Christ. 

Seminaries that hold to the Scripture above all else are great.  I benefited greatly and was sharpened there like no other place educationally. 

John 14-16 gives us a great understanding of the Holy Spirit.  Jesus has informed his disciples that he must return to the Father.  That, along with the news that one of his own would betray him and another would deny him, left the disciples grieving and afraid.  How would they go on alone?

They wouldn’t!  Jesus would leave but would send the Holy Spirit.  Look briefly at what the Spirit can do:

16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper,[a] to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be[b] in you. . . . 25 “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you (John 14:16-17, 25-26).

  • He is another helper that would never leave (v. 16);
  • He is the Spirit of truth (v. 17).
  • The world cannot receive him—that is, those in the kingdom of this world and not in the kingdom of God (v. 17).
  • He dwells in (not just with, in) every Christian (v. 17).
  • He comes in the Father’s name.
  • He is our Teacher (v. 25).
  • He will bring to remembers everything Christ said to them (v. 25).

 

“But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me” (John 15:26).

  • The Helper is certain to come (“When the Helper comes”—not if). 
  • He proceeds from the Father.
  • He bears witness about Christ.

7 Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. 8 And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; 11 concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.

Reflections:

  • Jesus had to leave—in fact, Jesus says it is better that he leaves, so the Spirit will come (v. 7). 
  • The Spirit convicts of sin, righteousness, and judgment; working to keep us between the hedges (v. 8). 

12 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you (John 16:7-14).

  • Again, he will guide into all truth (v. 13).
  • He speaks what He hears from God and thus speaks with ultimate authority (v. 13).
  • He is everpresent, knowing the future as he does the present or past (v. 13). 
  • He glorifies Christ, making us aware of what and whom are his (v. 14).

As incredible an education I received from seminary and as amazing as they are at teaching the Scriptures, even those professors must be under the anointing of the Holy Spirit as much as the students must be.  Otherwise, the professors and students over time will begin to actively or subtly believe that the Scriptures are simply another book that must submit either to other leadership or church growth books on how to ‘do church,’ or they will submit Scripture to the scientific world and just the veracity of Scripture up against their limited scope of the universe.

Seminaries are great!  The Spirit is ultimate!

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SERMON: The Missing Pieces of our Christian Walk (John 1:35-39)

My father loves to work on puzzles. Every time I would go and visit him, there would be this 1000-2000 piece puzzle that is set up on the table behind the couch in various stages of completion. Usually there would be a farmland picture he would try to put together.

I never enjoyed working on puzzles. Nothing against puzzles per se, but my personality would have trouble sitting still, doing the painstaking work of looking for time pieces that completed the hubcap on the tractor or the cumulonimbus cloud over the silo. I wanted to play piano or go play ball—something else besides the mind-numbing process of probing for those pieces.

In our Christian lives, we want all the pieces of the puzzle to be in place yesterday! And it’s frustrating in our Christian walk when some of those pieces are missing. It’s not simply about trying to determine in the manufacturer left one out, or if the vacuum sucked one or two or ten up by mistake.

But that’s not the case here. God provides us with all the pieces necessary. The writer of Hebrews tells us that for believers, Christ will “equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever. Amen” (Hebrews 13:21).

He equips us with everything we need to do everything He wills for us. Yet, some pieces are missing for so many—not because they aren’t there. They are missing because we have left them in the box.

John 1:35-51 helps us with these pieces. John the Baptist has pointed from afar about the coming Messiah, Jesus Christ—the one who would deliver His people from their sins! As we will see, the apostle John points his disciples to Jesus as he comes closer. What happens in this passage provides the missing pieces of the puzzle of our Christian life. Once these pieces are in place, you will see the grand picture and design of what our life should be like in Christ. We will

Are these pieces missing in our Christian lives?

  1. Missing piece #1:  Is our Christianity about being with Christ? (John 1:35-39). 

35 The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, 36 and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” 37 The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. 38 Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, “What are you seeking?” And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” 39 He said to them, “Come and you will see.” So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour.

John the Baptist came on the scene for the express purpose of pointing people to their coming Deliverer, Jesus Christ. He had no other aim. If he did anything else, such as call people to repentance for sin, it was only to prepare their hearts for when the Savior would come.

That’s what takes away the edge of sadness from this. Sadness? In verses 35-36, John is with his disciples. We ministers and leaders get very close to those who are ministering with us. So when John points to Jesus, as soon as he said it, what did they do?

They followed him! But this thrilled John! They followed Jesus, not really knowing what to do, and he said, “What are you seeking?” Do we understand what a penetrating question this is? We are all here this morning, whether we realize it or not, in the presence of Jesus. His Word is opened and preached, He resides on the praises of His people, we are His body—He is here this morning. And so are we—so what are we seeking?

Do we want Jesus to make our lives better? Give us something we want to make this world smoother? Provide better financial advice? Marital advice? We must be careful not to simply use Jesus to leverage what we want. Christ must be sufficient! This is a missing piece of the puzzle of our lives—is being with Christ enough? Or will we only be happy with Christ-plus?

In Acts 4, we see the apostles Peter and John before the council for preaching Christ in the temple area. When they stood and gave testimony, Peter was filled with the Spirit. He testified boldly that Christ is alive and they would preach in His name, “and there is salvation is no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

What was their reaction? “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13). Churches was professional pastors with a lot of letters behind their name. Christians often believe that the work should be done by trained professionals. But oh my goodness… it’s not about education or being among the erudite. It’s not the seminaries that teach ultimately, but the Spirit!

And speaking of the Spirit, we are one up on these men who were at Jesus’ house. Because Jesus told them at the end of his earthly ministry that he must return to the Father and it was for their good. If he didn’t go, the Spirit wouldn’t come. This was “Christ in them.” They would fellowship with him no matter what, where, or when. He would guide them into all truth, comfort them in all turmoil, walk alongside them in the storm.

Is this the missing piece of the puzzle—wanting all the benefits of Christ, but not wanting to spend time with Christ himself?

  1. Missing piece #2:  Is our Christianity about finding and bringing people to Christ and His people? (John 1:40-46).

40 One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. 41 He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). 42 He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John. You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter[c]).

43 The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” 44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” 46 Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.”

The identity of one of the two disciples who left John the Baptist to follow Jesus is revealed: Andrew, the brother of none other than Simon Peter. If you look at each of the gospels, Peter is always mentioned first, followed by either James or John. Andrew is always mentioned fourth! But God used Andrew as an instrument to call him to be his disciple.

Notice a word in verse 41: “He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ (which means Christ).” He went to his brother first. We talk about going to our Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth, as Jesus commands us in Acts 1:8. We are to reach our hometown, state, country, and all nations. What we tend to forget is an important piece of that Acts 1:8 puzzle: our home and our family!

Former professor at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Oscar Thompson, wrote a very helpful evangelistic book entitled “Concentric Circles of Concern.” In this book, he shares how our evangelism should be like a rock thrown in the middle of a lake. From the center where the rock entered the water, ripples come out from that point. Thompson tells us that we are that person ‘thrown,’ if you will, in the midst of where we are, and our relationships are like the ripples, from closest to furthest.

Immediate family—relatives — close friends– neighbors and business associates—acquaintances  — Person X

But we must recognize that sharing the gospel and planting those seeds with those who have the closest relationship to us. Our evangelism must not stay exclusively at Person X, people we have no initial relationships with. Elmer Towns used the acronym FRAN, an acronym that we use for our prayer time for those who do not know Jesus.

  • Friends
  • Relatives
  • Associates
  • Neighbors

What’s the point of this? The point is that we have people closest to us who need to know Christ.

But the other word is found. Andrew found Peter and brought him to Jesus. Philip is from the town of Bethsaida (which may mean they all lived there or that they were from the same town). But by God’s providence and sovereignty they were all connected in that way. Philip found Nathanael. How did he approach this?

Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” Nathanael said to him, ‘Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” (John 1:45-46).

Andrew appealed to the Messiah, Philip appealed to what was written in to the Old Testament about the coming Christ/Messiah. Here we see two areas of intentionality: one, we must be intentional in finding those close to us who need Christ. Secondly, we need to be intentional about the Word—and how the Word changes us.

Friends, never underestimate the power of the Word of God! Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God (Romans 10:17).

Tim Chester and Steve Timmis authored a book that I would love to gear a leaders’ retreat around entitled, Total Church: A Radical Reshaping Around Gospel and Community. This is based on their life in their church plant in England. They affirm that evangelism is a community project. They recognize that evangelism produces “guilt and despondency” that is in part due to “ungodly attitudes such as pride or the fear of man.”

They also affirm that not everyone is eloquent or engaging. So they tell us that there is a three strand approach to evangelism:

  • Building relationships
  • Sharing the gospel
  • Introducing people to community

They say this:

One of the practical benefits of the three-strand model of evangelism is that it gives a role to all of God’s people. By making evangelism a community project, it also takes seriously the sovereign work of the Holy Spirit in distributing a variety of gifts among his people. Everyone has a part to play—the new Christian, the introvert, the extrovert, the eloquent, the stuttering, the intelligent, the awkward. I may be the one who has begun to build a relationship with my neighbor, but in introducing him to community, it is someone else who shares the gospel with him. That is not only legitimate—it is positively thrilling.[1]

Community project? John the Baptist to Andrew to Peter to Philip to Nathanael and all points in between.

In what ways, dear friends, can you build relationships with people around you? In what ways can you plant the seed of the gospel? In what ways can you introduce people to our church and other believers, not in a one-and-done fashion, but developing relationships in bringing them into our community of real people dealing with real things with a real Savior?

  1. Missing piece #3:  Is our Christianity centered around the sovereignty of God in all things? (John 1:42, 47-51). 

47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” 48 Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” 49 Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” 50 Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” 51 And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you,[d] you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

Yes, evangelism is a community project, and God will use us as his instruments to bring his good news to them. But we also see a spiritual, supernatural aspect to this.

Notice in vv. 35-36: John the Baptist was standing with his disciples and Jesus walked by. He said, “Behold!” and they left and followed. Do you believe that Jesus merely walked by coincidentally?

In verse 41-42, when Andrew brought Peter to Jesus, “Jesus looked at him and said, ‘So you are Simon the son of John? You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter). So did Jesus simply have a lucky guess or predict who this is?

Now let’s get to this passage regarding Nathanael: “Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” How did he know this? “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.”

From our vantage point, we are intentionally getting into the Word and finding others to get the Word in them. We may even feel that it’s all on us! If we don’t do it right, say it right—then everything is up.

But behind the scenes is a God who is working and drawing and calling. We this with the disciples. In Mark 3, when we have another angle of Jesus’ calling the disciples, we see here: “And he went up on the mountain and called to him those whom he desired, and they came to him.” The ones who came to Christ were not simply random men who just so happened to be in the right place at the right time. God is working from heaven to put them at the right place at the right time to hear the right message and to turn to the right!

In John 6, when the 20,000 of those who were fed at the feeding of the 5000 men, Jesus gave a difficult teaching that ran them all off. “This is a hard saying, who can listen to it?” All that were left were the 12. Jesus asked them in verse 67: “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God?” Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the Twelve?”

Nathanael’s heart was changed by the Spirit. He got it! Jesus had his aim to bring Andrew, Peter, Philip, and Nathanael into the fold along with the other 8 who would follow him.

This fuels our evangelism, which is so often marked with fear. God is working in those who will come, and has for all eternity. You did not come by chance, you came because of the work of God in you, changing your heart, drawing you to himself. He calls you to repent and believe the gospel and surrender to Christ. Surrender your all! And when you know, you realize that God was forming and fashioning your heart to himself.

Conclusion

Has God opened your eyes? If you are one who has rejected Christ’s call up to this point, has he opened your eyes and shown you the glory and beauty of Christ and the deceitfulness of your sin that keeps you from him? Won’t you come to him by faith?

Dear Christian, has God opened your eyes? Have you seen the glory of Christ, having seen heaven opened and pouring out his favor on the Son of Man?

Dear Christian, has God opened your eyes to the fact that He is sovereign over all things, in control of all things, and that you do not have to worry about self anymore? He holds you in the palm of his hand! You have no need to fear!

Dear Christian, has God opened your eyes to the fact that you must live intentionally? As Andrew found Christ, then found Peter; as Philip found Nathanael—we must find those who need Christ and build those relationships, share the gospel, or at least bring them into this community of faith to be around other believers who are living and loving Christ as no other!

(This sermon was preached on Sunday, June 24, 2012 at Arapahoe Road Baptist Church, Centennial, CO.  You can listen to the sermon at our ARBC sermons page.  If it’s not up, keep checking back.


[1]Tim Chester and Steve Timmis, Total Church: A Radical Reshaping of Gospel and Community (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2008), 62.

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VIDEO: This is the Gospel Project

Trevin Wax debuted this three-minute video at the SBC Annual Meeting about Lifeway’s new curriculum, The Gospel Project.  So good!

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ARBC Visioneering: The Doctrinal Aspect of the Great Commandment Education

Overview | Biblical (Heart) | Spiritual (Soul) | Doctrinal (Mind) | Missional (Love neighbor as self)|

While I plan on developing this more fully, permit me if you will to scratch out some thoughts on this matter.

In the field of systematic theology, scholars have historically broken down and systematized the doctrines of Scripture into various categories:

  • Bibliology: the doctrine of the nature of Scripture
  • Theology:  the doctrine of God
  • Anthropology:  the doctrine of man
  • Pneumatology:  the doctrine of the Holy Spirit
  • Soteriology:  the doctrine of salvation
  • Ecclesiology:  the doctrine of the church
  • Eschatology:  the doctrine of the end times/last things

While this word ‘doctrine’ may cause many inside and outside the church to break out in hives, we must realize that all of us live doctrinally.  A doctrine is a teaching that arises out of a standard or text by which one lives and believes.  So everyone lives doctrinally.  Those who advocate so-called ‘same-sex’ marriage have a standard that they have constructed with the help of culture or other types of systems.  Thus, any violation of this construct pricks their conscience—because a conscience is activated by whatever standard to which one adheres.  This applies to any standard, even to those who claim to have no standards (which is in itself a standard, a doctrine).

When it comes to Christian doctrine, we have our standards that arise out of a responsible hermeneutic.  And these doctrines must be in place in order to tell the world where we stand.  We are in good company, because our culture has no trouble telling us where they stand.  Make no mistake: we have doctrines of all sorts flying at us, subtly or no, and if we who are followers of Christ do not understand what Scripture teaches and are willing to stand on what Scripture says, even if the world calls us fools, so be it.  But our response to what Scripture says exposes how we have ultimately responded to the One who gave it (Romans 1:18-32).

During the overview portion of this visioneering process, I quoted from Romans 8:5-8–

5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God (ESV).

In these four short verses, four truths are clear:

  1. Where we set our minds shows where we live in this life;
  2. Where we set our minds sets a trajectory toward death and life;
  3. Where we set our minds manifests our relationship to God, either hostile or reconciled.
  4. A mind set on the flesh cannot obey God’s law—it has no capability.

With this in mind, a Great Commandment Education is, most obviously, set upon affecting the mind.  But even with this, there are limitations.  Outside of Christ, our flesh has no ability to obey God’s law (“indeed, it cannot”).

So we must not isolate this from the other aspects of our Great Commandment Education.  The progression is as follows:

  • The heart is changed by truth, by the Word of God (Romans 10:17);
  • The spirit of man is changed when God made us alive in Christ (John 3:3-8; Ephesians 2:4-7).
  • The Holy Spirit indwells us, giving us the ability to understand the things of God (1 Corinthians 2:6-16).
  • The Spirit pours the love of God in our hearts (Romans 5:1-5).
  • Out of love for God, we want to learn as much about God and what He has revealed in His Word as we can (Psalm 119).
  • His Word has teachings that arise out of this.  Another word for teachings is ‘doctrines’ (Psalm 25:4-5).
  • These doctrines galvanize our hearts by the Spirit to bring forth truth to those without Christ (1 Peter 3:15).

So we must recognize first of all that the moment you begin grounding anything on the Word of God, you must recognize that this Word quickens and this Word kills.  The heart is changed not simply by an intellectual assent, but by the Spirit taking the truth and regenerating the heart so we can respond that that truth.  The Word galvanized Moses, but hardened Pharaoh.

Yet there will be some that will make it very clear that they have rejected this Word as intolerant, bigoted, irrelevant, and must be silenced.  The expositional teaching of the Scriptures does not simply expose the Word, but it exposes our motives and will as well.

So, in closing, an education/discipleship ministry has a clear doctrinal aspect that fuels the practical and spiritual aspect.   Otherwise, we do what we do without knowing why we do it.

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D.A. Carson Getting Excited about Melchizedek

D.A. Carson is in my top three favorite scholars and theologians.  He has such a pastoral, gentle dealing with the text that gives us the meat its understanding.  He possesses an enthusiasm couple with a French-Canadian precision to his speaking that makes the whole experience a joy.

Imagine my surprise at going to The Gospel Coalition website and seeing a talk by him entitled, “Getting Excited about Melchizedek.”  I listened to it about a month ago and have listened to this numerous times since.  And given how I was speaking on Psalm 110 tonight, I listened to this once again.  Permit me if you will, dear friends, to share this with you.  Enjoy!  Yes, even about Melchizedek!

 

Here are some of the notes from the June 20, 2012 study:

_______

 

Christ is in the order of Melchizedek, who is called ‘the priest of the Most High God.’ Why Melchizedek? Go to Hebrews 7!

  • Genesis 14:18-20 is the first place we hear of Melchizedek when Abraham encountered him after a battle. Melchizedek blessed him, and Abraham offered to him a tithe (10th) of the spoils. His name means ‘king of righteousness,’ as well as the king of peace (see Hebrews 7:1-2).
  • Melchizedek’s priesthood resembles the Son of God. It has no beginning or end, no genealogy, no end of life, “resembling the Son of God, he continues a priest forever” (Hebrews 7:3).
  • Melchizedek’s priesthood has no descendant. He was not descended from the priestly tribe of Levi, but as a descendent of Levi, in Abraham as grandson. So, in essence, Levi gave tithe and tribute to a permanent priest, rather than the temporary priesthood beginning with Levi (Hebrews 7:4-10).
  • Melchizedek represents perfection of the priesthood, in which he is a copy and type of Christ (Hebrews 7:11-14).
  • Melchizedek represents the indestructible life of Christ’s priesthood, rather than merely conferred by the law of Moses. Thus, this earthly, temporary priesthood is set aside in favor of the greater, permanent, and indestructible priesthood (Hebrews 7:15-19).
  • Melchizedek presents a permanent oath to the Lord who has sworn and will not change his mind! “This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant” (Hebrews 7:20-22).
  • Melchizedek’s priesthood is eternal. Earthly priests stopped their service when they died. Hearkening back to Hebrews 7:3, this priesthood endures eternally, therefore whoever draws near to him for salvation. “He always lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:23-25).
  • Melchizedek’s priesthood is separate and unstained from sin. High priests had to make atonement for their sins as well as the sins of the people during the day of atonement (Yom Kippur). This high priest had no need to atone for his own sins, for this is a perfect priest with no weakness (Hebrews 7:26-28).
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BYOG: Bring Your Own God?

Church exterior

Driving up University Blvd. here in Denver, I drove past a church called Unity Church of Denver.  I always enjoy reading the marquees out front of the churches, from clever to corny.   But this marquee in front of this place of worship said simply this: 

BYOG:  Bring Your Own God!

Here is a paragraph from their website:

We are growing a community of spiritually vibrant individuals. Since 1944, Unity Church of Denver has been supporting the spiritual growth and personal lives of individuals by teaching and practicing an approach to Christianity that is positive, practical, mystical and powerful. We know there is One God and many authentic spiritual paths. We invite you to explore this Web site to see if Our People, Our Programs, and Our Principles fit with your path. Wherever you go from here, know that we honor your inner wisdom and we bless you as you take your next step on your spiritual journey.

The level of inconsistency with these statements is stunning.  With a desire to be inclusive, they have decided to in essence say nothing except what works for you works.  Some concerns:

  1. Their definition of spiritual is that which seeks the something ‘higher.’  By definition of orthodox Christianity, ‘spiritual’ is that which one pursues Christ through the Holy Spirit.  There is a distinct path, not many.  Kevin DeYoung wrote an excellent article this morning on the subject (“You Cannot Be Spiritual without Being Religious”). 
  2. But supposing there are many different spiritual paths, the issue comes to this: each path says something distinct in regards to both the journey and the destination.  “One God and many authentic spiritual paths”?  God is not the hub and all the different religions are spokes of a wheel leading to the same place.  If there is one God, there is one absolute.  Different paths are not all the same.
  3. Your spirituality, according to this mindset, is all about you.  ‘Know that we honor your inner wisdom and we bless you as you take your next step on your spiritual journey.’  It’s not about the pursuit or the one pursued (God), it’s ultimately about the pursuer (you).  The Scriptures say that we are lost(Luke 15), blind (John 9), fools (Romans 1:18-25), weak (1 Corinthians 1:21-23), and have no righteousness in us, no understanding, no ability to seek God on our own (Romans 3:9-10).  If we all have inner wisdom, why are we all pursuing in different ways by different means?  It’s not about what fits with my path, but what fits with our Creator’s path in Christ. 

While we need to understand where people are coming from, we must not believe that, given how horrible the world’s situation is at present, we have any collective ‘inner wisdom’ at all.  We do not need affirmation in our wisdom or our path—we need confrontation and proclamation of the Holy Spirit’s path in presenting the atoning work of Jesus Christ.   It is here that we find unity—only by Christ!

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A Believing Community is a Persuasive Apologetic for the Gospel

John Divito who serves at Heritage Baptist Church in Owensboro, Kentucky, recommended a great book to me by Tim Chester and Steve Timmis called Total Church: A Radical Reshaping Around Gospel and Community that really helps us see the local church as a gospel community on mission—something that chimes with me.  I was especially struck by a paragraph in chapter three on the topic of evangelism.  First, the quote: 

In our experience people are often attracted to the Christian community before they are attracted to the Christian message.  If a believing community is a persuasive apologetic for the gospel, then people need to be included to see that apologetic at work.  People often tell me how they have tried telling their unbelieving friends about Jesus, but they do not seem interested.  So they want to know what to do next.  My answer is to find ways of introducing them to the Christian community.  The life of the Christian community provokes a response.  When Peter says, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have,” he is not speaking to individuals but to churches (1 Peter 3:15).  Too much evangelism is an attempt to answer questions people are not asking.  Let them experience the life of the Christian community.  The church is the home in which God dwells by His Spirit (Ephesians 2:22).  Its life is the life of the Spirit, and its community is the community of the Spirit.  Let our relationships provoke questions.  And do not worry if your church life is sometimes less perfect than it should be!  We do not witness to good works but to the grace of God.  Our commitment to one another despite our difference and our grace toward one another’s failures are more eloquent testimony to the grace of God than any pretense at perfection.

This really chimes with me for a number of reasons. 

First, I agree that a powerful apologetic is seeing the church (warts, wrinkles, grace, and all) at work.  

Secondly, our evangelistic efforts should primarily come out of relationships we forge.  If they see Christ in us, they will give more of a hearing to us about that Christ they see. 

Thirdly, this affirms the conviction I have put forth to our people at Arapahoe Road Baptist Church here in Centennial, Colorado:  invite, invest, involve.  Invite your unbelieving friends to our community and let them see our faith in action among our people!  Powerful indeed!

Thoughts?

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What I Appreciate Now That My Computer is Repaired

Over the last couple of weeks, my computer has been in the shop.  (PSA announcement alert:  Coffee, slippery fingers and keyboards do not mix.)  So whatever blogging I did on my trip to Kentucky two weeks ago came from my iPhone, which served well, but not as well as a laptop with a normal sized keys. 

I enjoy blogging, not simply to get noticed by others, but to help me stay sharp.  Sir Francis Bacon once said, “Reading maketh a full man; conference a ready man; and writing an exact man.’’   I love to read, and yes it fills me up.  I love to talk about theology and the things of the faith, and especially love preaching.  But I have profited greatly from writing out my thoughts.  Seeing them on paper (or in this case, a screen) helps me to see the logical and emotive flow of the argument I am making.  Ministers of the gospel (and all believers in the gospel) would do well to be exact and precise in their thinking. 

But with my computer at the shop (along with my phone about out of data due to our long trip to Kentucky), I began to appreciate some things that I wouldn’t have otherwise:

  1. My Bible never needs recharging. No, I’m not speaking of my Bible app on my phone.  You remember the Bible with the leather cover, onion skin pages, etc.?  I have never once had to plug that in because the battery was low.
  2. I can still ‘call’ on the Father.  Can’t text?  Can’t call?  Can’t send an email on your phone?  I can still call upon the Father and know He will receive my prayer. 
  3. I don’t have as much distraction.  I am interested in a lot of things, so a lot of things capture my attention.  I was able to focus more on the task at hand.
  4. Journaling is a lost art form—that I have found once again.  Little gets the juices flowing for me than having my Ecosystem-life Journal, my Pilot G-2 black ink 0.7’’ pen, and some quiet.  Once the pen hits the paper, I find myself thinking and reflecting like no other time.  These times are productive in the highest order.  Add the Solid Grounds coffee shop up the road to the mix, and you have something to behold.  With no computer and phone, I found my old friend.  I shall never let him go.

I’m sure more will come to the fore as I reflect on this further.  It is good to be back to blogging. 

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