Monthly Archives: November 2012

Veiled in Flesh the Godhead See

(This is the newsletter article I write for our Arapahoe Road Baptist Church Challenger (December 2012.)

“Veiled in flesh the Godhead see,

Hail th’ Incarnate Deity.

Pleased as man with men to dwell,

Jesus, our Immanuel.”

Do you recognize these words? Whether in church or listening to KOSI 101.1 and their 24-hour “holiday music,” you will hear these words originally penned by Charles Wesley and found in your hymnal as “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing!” This is my favorite Christmas hymn because, to me, it best captures the reason why Christmas is so important.

Veiled in flesh the Godhead see. Colossians 2:9 says, “For in him [Christ] the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily.” When Jesus was born in that manger, Holy God (the second person of the Trinity) made His entrance in the most humble of ways. Even though He had hair and bones and skin and fingernails, He was and is and evermore will be Holy God.

Hail the Incarnate Deity. ‘Incarnate’ means put into flesh. Deity means that this Person is Holy God—basically a restatement of the previous phrase. And that phrase is so good, why not repeat the principle, yes? And Brother Wesley’s Britishness, if you will, comes out. Hail! Praise! Honor! Worship this One who is born in Bethlehem.

Pleased as man with men to dwell, Jesus our Immanuel. In Matthew 1:24, we see that one of many of Jesus’ titles is “Immanuel”—God with us. This gives us a foretaste of when God will dwell with His people and His people with Him physically and literally for all eternity (Revelation 21:1-4). Jesus’ birth, life, death and resurrection are the firstfruits of what is to come for us (1 Corinthians 15:23).

Thanks to Christmas, we don’t simply look forward to the presents under the tree in our living room, but we look at the Presence of the One on the Tree and the lack of Presence in that empty tomb to see why this is a time of hope, peace, and joy. Wars and rumors of wars will continue, the poor will always be among us no matter how hard we work and should work, disease will always mark this fallen world—but Christmas shows that God came to dwell with us (Matthew 1:24), and in us (Colossians 1:27), for us (Romans 8:31) and through us (Ephesians 4:11-16).

May God provide you with a Christ-filled Christmas not dependent solely on the food, family, presents, or decorations! Because Christmas has its cradle, Good Friday has its cross, and Resurrection Sunday has the empty tomb! May nothing good or bad or indifferent cloud that out!

Have a very Merry Christmas! Celebrate with us with all the Christmas parties, activities, Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International missions, Lord’s Supper, and our Christmas Eve service just to name a few. I treasure all of you and am grateful every moment that God brought me to serve Christ with you at ARBC.

Pastor Matt

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The Hezekiah Syndrome: Only My Generation Counts

16 Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Hear the word of the Lord: 17 Behold, the days are coming, when all that is in your house, and that which your fathers have stored up till this day, shall be carried to Babylon. Nothing shall be left, says the Lord. 18 And some of your own sons, who shall be born to you, shall be taken away, and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.” 19 Then Hezekiah said to Isaiah, “The word of the Lord that you have spoken is good.” For he thought, “Why not, if there will be peace and security in my days?” (2 Kings 20:16-19)

Hezekiah was good king, obedient in the ways of the Lord.  But when God gave him extra time to the tune of 15 years (2 Kings 20:1-11), he made one critical error—an error that didn’t seem to concern him much.  When, acting the proper host, he took the Babylonian envoys all over the palace and showed them everything (“all his treasure house, the silver, the gold, the spices, the precious oil, his armory, all that was found in his storehouses”—v. 13), Isaiah conveyed God’s displeasure.  These Babylonians would carry that treasure off as their enemies and take all the people of Judah into exile for 70 years—even some of his own sons! 

Hezekiah’s response?  The Lord has spoken a good word.  Hezekiah’s thought?  At least it won’t be on my watch!

Everything we do, everything we put forward has a ripple effect—a consequence for the next generation.  Carl Trueman wrote a thought-provoking article recently entitled T-t-t-talkin’ Bout My Generation (But Thinking About the One After Next) which delves into the issue of our legacy and the legacy of the churches and Christians institutions we would leave behind.  He notes:

One cannot truly assess a Christian leader until one can see clearly what his legacy is. That is sobering to anyone who is a minister, from the pastor of a small church to the international statesman.  

The basis of the article is that a pastor or church leader cannot simply be fixated upon the individual—although we must recognize that God does deal with us individually.  The leader must have a wider scope than this.  He reminds us of the downgrade of evangelical decline:

  • The first generation fights for orthodoxy;
  • The second generation assumes it;
  • The third generation abandons it. 

In the account above, Hezekiah only thought about the effects of his administration and his actions in his own generation.  This is wrong-headed thinking of the first order. 

We as leaders must be thinking one or two generations ahead.  We’ve seen it in academia:  that which was taught in the classroom in the 1960s and 1970s is now being pushed as public policy and law now.  The same is true in the church: what we preach in the pulpit and small groups now will have a trickle-down effect in the pew in the days and years ahead.

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Why So Much Anger? Christians, Atheists and All Points In-Between

People are angry!  Surprised?  Me neither.  While a plethora of reasons exists for people’s angst, permit me in this space to focus on one particular area: the conflict of worldviews.  And it exists in the religious as well as the decidedly non-religious cultures.  It starts like this:

First, you find a worldview that seems to fit their outlook on life (keep in mind: I will say that this is not why many should embrace Christianity for various reasons, but that will have to wait until the end).  The journey to find purpose and peace—your raison d’être, if you will—goes through a sharpening process, either moving toward something or reacting against something (or both).  Then, through a convergence and confluence of events and various light switches in the soul being thrown—you arrive! 

Secondly, once you arrive, you hope other people will arrive with you as well.  After all, you may think, if I can see how right and true this worldview is, why can’t those around me?  It’s so obvious, you may say.  How can people with eyes and ears and a soul not see the world around us like we do?  I just don’t get it!

Thirdly, you who have arrived come to the proverbial fork-in-the-road.  To those who agree with them, to them we gravitate.  “They get it,” we think or even say.  We have our worldviews reinforced, glad to have the fellowship, will feel filled to the brim and even overflowing with this connection and confirmation of your worldview (and the more you respect that person who agrees with you, the more you feel filled and alive in your arrival). 

To those who disagree with us in our passionate pursuit of purpose and peace, we come to a sub-fork, if you will.  We can say, “Well, they disagree with me?  Fine.  I will pray/persuade in a peaceable manner, and will treat them as a fellow human being on the journey.”  Or, as the article’s title speaks to, we can become angry.  How so?

Those leaning left have been known to say, “Those of you who believe in pro-life/pro-God/pro-church/pro-man-woman-alone marriage are bigoted/intolerant/antiquated/hateful/vengeful/backward/stupid/rube-ish, etc.”  Those who lean to the right side of an issue have been known to say, “You baby-killing/God-hating/church-burning/Sodomizing are murderous/anything-goes/liberal/hateful/vengeful/educated-beyond-your-intelligence, etc.” 

Anger!  Hateful!  Both sides!  And thus the last step in this process.

If you don’t agree with me, then you hate me.  If you don’t agree with me, then you need to be

It goes to the logical fallacy of the ad hominem—where both sides move from addressing the argument to berating the man making the argument.  “You disagree with me?  You must be stupid!”  “You believe in this?  You must be a liberal!”  “You still hold to that?  Then you are hateful to those who hold to something else.”

Now, some who are reading this who are well-acquainted with the worldview of this writer and this blog will likely notice that the picture I used above is from a Francis Schaffer website—an evangelical Christian.  You have a fork in the road to take.  You can look at his argument and evaluate whether what he says is true or not—or you can dismiss it because the argument came from someone who holds a worldview you may find hateful.  Take the high road and evaluate the argument.

If someone disagrees with you and you become angry and spiteful, regardless of which side you may be on, the issue is a deep, personal angst that doesn’t do anyone any good.  Whether you believe Jesus or not, you can see the wisdom here:

21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults[b] his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. 23 So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. 25 Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. 26 Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny (Matthew 5:21-26).

When we speak our worldview, do we speak it so we will show everyone, “I’m right and you’re wrong?”  That’s a selfish motive.  That’s not necessarily a quest for truth—it’s just yelling loudly, a desire to yell louder that those who disagree.  Whether Christian, atheist, or all points in-between, you will only gain traction by those who agree with you and not persuade because the hate being spewed will run others off.  You may be right in what you believe, or you may not—the anger and hate will cloud out the veracity of your argument. 

What about Christianity?  Those who submit to the teachings of Christ and the Bible and do so because it fits their lifestyle right now must beware.  The gospel is all about undoing your life, not fitting into your life.  Paul warns us not to be conformed to the world but to be transformed by the renewing of your mind so we know what God’s perfect will is. 

Conformity to the world’s system is the most natural act a man can do.  Just ‘be’ and you’ll conform.  Just resist any outside authority in heaven and on earth, and you’ll conform because it’s the most natural thing to do.  Christianity is not simply a repair—it’s an overhaul, and it’s too much for many to endure.  The most natural thing to do is to look to the ones we can see (people) rather than accept that there is One over all we cannot see.  The most natural thing is to believe that we are OK in our own faculties rather than recognizing we need rescuing.

Which gets back to the ‘arrival.’  When we finally arrive at our preferred worldview, we not only believe we’ve arrived—we believe in a sense we’ve been rescued.  Rescued from purposeless to purpose!  We finally found our reason for being—aaaahhhh! 

Which goes to what Christianity has said all along: every person on the planet worships something and believe they need rescuing.  Every person looks for it, longs for it!  But we cannot rescue ourselves!  We need a rescuer!  Who or what will that rescuer be? 

“As I seek to [move a man toward the natural direction his presuppositions take him], I need to remind myself constantly that this is not a game I am playing. If I begin to enjoy it as a kind of intellectual exercise, then I am cruel and can expect no real spiritual results. As I push the man off his false balance, he must be able to feel that I care for him. Otherwise I will only end up destroying him, and the cruelty and ugliness of it all will destroy me as well. Merely to be abstract and cold is to show that I do not really believe this person to be created in God’s image and therefore one of my kind. Pushing him towards the logic of his presuppositions is going to cause him pain; therefore, I must not push any further than I need to” (Francis Schaeffer). 

Some people on both sides use their belief systems to leverage for hate!  As for my team, we use Christianity to show what Christ and His followers have to say and do so in love, not hate.  It’s not my job to convince you of that, because I know that mere message of us being sinners who need to repent and believe in the cross and empty tomb of Christ for the forgiveness of sin will be seen as hateful, regardless of how lovingly I may put it. 

But if you are angry at even those who lovingly say these things, examine why?  If you don’t believe it, why spew venom at them personally? 

And if you are angry, dear Christian, at those who may say there is no God and religion is harmful not helpful, etc., examine why you are angry at them

In both cases, it would seem that the person making the argument is not worth loving.  I cannot speak to the atheist or secular worldview—I don’t hold to that—but I can speak to the Christian.  Every person on the planet is an imagebearer of God.  Before you spew the venom to one of God’s creation, remember that this person was “fearfully and wonderfully made… formed in the womb” by God Himself (Psalm 139:13-14).  We don’t see people as a product of random particles that came together—if we did, then the venom would be justified.  No care from a Maker, no care need be extended for we are all on our own, fighting for survival with our own cause.

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Why Read Through the Bible in 90 Days?

After attending a men’s conference at my church, led by Allen Huth of the Ezra Project, I began reading through the Bible.  We were encouraged during the conference to take a part of Psalm 119 each day and a Proverb each day for a month; then move on to another portion in Month 2, then another in Month 3.

Yet, I felt God pressing me to do another Bible plan.  So, I looked through my YouVersion app for various plans that I could read through and listen to as I drive from Point A to Point B. So, I came across Read the Bible in 90 Days.  I decided to give it a go.  I started on Monday, October 27th and have kept up with it by the grace of God.  I love to read, and would read Scripture plus a number of other works.  But of late, with the nature of this plan and the time constraints this husband/father/pastor has, I’m finding myself wanting to get exclusively to the Scriptures during this season.

What has been the benefits?

  1. You are submerged in God’s Word.
  2. You are on the 50-yard line in God unrolling out His redemptive plan.
  3. You are forced to read passages that you would otherwise skip over because they don’t seem “relevant” to you—only to find out that they are.
  4. You recognize that the Scriptures contain some uncomfortable passages, especially in the OT, and have to deal with them in light of God’s holiness and His hatred of sin among His people. 
  5. You praise Christ the King even more—especially after reading how even the best kings of Israel and Judah failed at times or even all the time.  Christ, seated on His throne, will always rule with justice and mercy.
  6. You recognize the “types and shadows” found in the OT all point to the substance of Christ revealed in the NT (Colossians 2:16-17). 
  7. You recognize the need to permit the clear, literal passages to inform that which is unclear or symbolic. 
  8. You see how grace and the gospel are the common thread throughout Scripture—numerous times God preserves His people simply based on His covenant promises and not on their obedience.  Other times, you see how he judges them, only to restore them to the land and, more importantly, to “restore unto me the joy of they salvation” (Psalm 51:11-12). 
  9. In the end, we see who wins!

Sixty more days to go!  Can’t wait to share more with you!

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Tebow, Teammates, and a Lesson for the Body of Christ

Tim Tebow serves in our culture now as a very polarizing figure.  He is loved/hated for his faith in Christ; he is loved/hated for his football ability (“I love his energy” to “he can’t throw a spiral”); and he is scrutinized almost daily on ESPN, more so than any other barely-playing backup quarterback of all-time.  I mean, every day on the’s top headlines, Tebow is mentioned—showing that he still provides a lot of traffic for ESPN,, etc. 

Tebow didn’t play against New England because he had two fractured ribs.  Yet, he still dressed out (that is, was in uniform and on the active roster).  Why? 

“I had to do a little bit of talking just to dress but I just want to be there for my teammates in case they needed me in an emergency situation.”

Tebow has a litany of answers he provides for the media that goes something like this:  “I just want to go out and practice as hard as I can everyday to improve everyday so I can contribute to this team and be there for my teammates.”  Time will tell if this truly is so, but few are able to say anything negative about his work ethic that takes away from this aforementioned litany.

May God grant us the attitude expressed here as a body of Christ: always ready to dress out, ready to come into the game, ready to do Kingdom work.  May we always have our Christ and our teammates in mind before self.

19 For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. 20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. 21 To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. 23 I do it all for the sake of the gospel,that I may share with them in its blessings (1 Corinthians 9:19-23).

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Let Us Help You Through the Holidays

A (belated) Happy Thanksgiving message from us at Arapahoe Road Baptist Church

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Prayer of Thanksgiving and Praise

Thou fairest, greatest, first of all objects,
     my heart admires, adores, loves thee,
     for my little vessel is as full as it can be,
     and I would pour out all that fullness before thee in ceaseless flow.
When I think upon and converse with thee
     ten thousand delightful thoughts spring up,
     ten thousand sources of pleasure are unseal,
     ten thousand refreshing joys spread over my heart,
     crowding into every moment of happiness.
I bless thee for the soul thou hast created,
     for adorning it, sanctifying it, though it is fixed in barren soil;
     for the body thou hast given me,
     for preserving its strength and vigour,
     for providing sense to enjoy delights,
     for the ease and freedom of my limbs,
     for hands, eyes, ears that do thy bidding;
     for thy royal bounty providing my daily support,
     for a full table and overflowing cup,
     for appetite, taste, sweetness,
     for social joys of relatives and friends,
     for ability to serve others,
     for a heart that feels sorrow and necessities,
     for a mind to care for my fellow-men,
     for opportunities of spreading happiness around,
     for loved ones in the joys of heaven,
     for my own expectation of seeing thee clearly.
I love thee above the powers of language to express,
     for what thou are to thy creatures.
Increase my love, O my God, through time and eternity.

Valley of Vision

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The 9Marks November-December Journal is Out


I so enjoy 9 Marks and their ministry to strengthen the local church.  As Ephesians 3:10 says that the church is the instrument through which “the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.”

In this issue, 9 Marks addresses Lay Leaders: A User’s Guide, Part IBelow is Jonathan Leeman’s introduction:

Do you want to know, like, the coolest thing? I live in a city where there are lots of powerful people. Big timers, you know. And some of those big timers show up in our church on Capitol Hill—the movers and shakers. So do the people who work for those big timers—the schmoozing and the sweaty. What’s cool about that? Nothing. What’s cool it that these positions are not exalted in our church; being an elder is! The office of elder is held up and given honor. Praise the Lord, right?

You might be a journalist, a lobbyist, a congressional staffer, an army general, or a partner in a law firm. But in the social economy of the church, none of that matters. What counts is your character and knowledge of the Scriptures. Ambitious young men enter the church, but if they have Holy Spirit-softened hearts, they begin desiring different things. They come to D.C. driven to succeed, but somewhere along the way they become ambitious about leading a small group, sharing the gospel, showing hospitality, helping the hurting, and teaching God’s Word, even if it means sacrifices to their career. I could name dozens: Chris, Bill, Scott, Eric, Michael, David, Dave, Randy, Steve, Papu, Sebastian, Klon, Greg…want me to keep going?

I am not talking about the men who leave their careers to enter vocational ministry. I am talking about the men who remain in their careers, but who begin to shepherd anyway. These are the men I admire so much. They move from the big prestigious firm to the small peripheral firm; they take the pay cut; they let themselves get passed over for promotion. Why? Because they love the sheep, and they cannot help but spend the time it takes to shepherd sheep.

This issue of the 9Marks Journal and the next are devoted to these men: lay elders, or the pastors that a church doesn’t pay, because they do all their work in the evenings and weekends. In this issue, Jeramie Rinne and Sebastian Traeger lay out the basic expectations for the job. Garrett Kell and Michael McKinley offer counsel on raising up such men within the flock. And Garrett, Steve Boyer, and I offer a few thoughts on equipping them once the work has begun.

In January, we will come back to address the relationship between staff and lay elders, the besetting sins of lay elders, building unity and friendship among the elders, and other practical matters. Stay tuned!

— Jonathan Leeman

Your ecclesiology may not permit the notion of elder-led leadership in the church, but a significant case can be made for it and still remain Baptist (as my background entails) and congregational. 

Enjoy—and Happy Thanksgiving! 

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When God Gives Up: The Ultimate Result of an Unthankful Heart

24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature;27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.

Whenever a phrase is used repeatedly, we should take notice. Three times in this passage, we see how “God gave them up.” What does this mean? First, it means that whatever restraining grace that God put on them was removed. Why? Because if you reject the honor and fail to give thanks to what God has revealed, you set yourself up as God and begin to believe you know best the direction of your life. You delight yourself in yourself, and you seek to give yourself the desires of your hearts.

The first giving over is to “the lust of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.” Remember in 1:18 how they suppressed the truth in unrighteousness. Here, the heart (the headquarters of a person) exchanged the truth for a lie. This leads to a dishonoring of the body. John MacArthur rightly noted, “No other society has done more to help the human body than ours. Yet no other society has degraded the body like ours.”

Which leads to the second giving over: to dishonorable passions. Now, this sees the light of day in its debauchery. Two issues arise here. The first is obvious: that of homosexuality.  Those who say that the Scriptures do not speak on the issue of homosexuality as sin are not dealing honestly with the text.  They may not believe what it says, but it is disingenuous to say that the Scriptures are silent. 

For one, the Scriptures speak of homosexuality as unnatural.  God did not create humans to act out sexually toward their own gender any more than He created us to act out to anyone sexually outside of the one-man-one-woman marriage covenant He ordained (Genesis 1:26-31; Matthew 19:1-6). 

Secondly, these ‘passions’ receive a penalty due to their error.  In other words, the God-inspired Scripture speaks that this activity is wrong (an error) and will receive punishment.  Why?  Because God made us for a reason and a purpose, and like any maker of anything, He does not want that Creation twisted to their harm.  Do you see that this is why Christ and His followers are saddened by homosexuality?  “If we reap to the flesh, from the flesh we shall reap destruction” (Galatians 6:6-7).  Any life outside of God’s will and toward our will is destructive—and we do not wish to see that happen to any imagebearer.

The second is that of abortion: “For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature.” No relationship is more natural than a mother toward her baby. Yet, with our sex-starved culture, so many believe that abortions are a viable option. Some come to clinics out of fear that their lives will be turned upside down if they have this child with no husband, or are afraid to tell their parents, or are afraid their boyfriend will leave them. It is here that we tend to listen to things we shouldn’t—we may believe the lies that are told us. Abortions are not a termination of life (i.e., murdering a child) but are considered pregnancy option procedures. The fear clouds out the clear truth of God’s Word that this is a life growing in that womb.

You may not believe that this is a life. Consider:

  • Day 5-9: it’s already possible to determine the sex of the baby.
  • Day 18: The heart and eyes begin to form.
  • Day 20: Brain, spinal cord, and nervous system begin to develop.
  • Day 22-24: The heart begins to beat.
  • Day 30: The brain has human proportions; blood flows in the veins and is separate from the mother’s blood supply. (It is at this time that the RU-486 pill takes effect.)
  • Day 35: Mouth, ears, and nose take shape (also the time when the suction and the D&C begin.
  • Day 42: Skeleton is formed. Reflux responses have begun. The brain is coordinating movement. Male sexual organs begin to form.
  • Day 43: Brain waves recorded.
  • Day 45: Spontaneous movements begun and teeth are developing.
  • 7 weeks: Lips are sensitive to touch. Ears take shape.
  • 9 weeks: Thumb sucking begins; fingernails form. Everything now in place.
  • 10 weeks. Baby squints, swallows and frowns.
  • 11 weeks. Baby can urinate and can smile. Can feel pain, responds to touch, light, heat, and noise.
  • 12 weeks. Breathing has begun. Baby kicks, wiggles toes, makes a fist, moves thumbs, bend wrists, turns head, opens mouth.
  • 13 weeks: vocal cords formed. Sex organs distinct. [Source]

ALL OF THESE THINGS TAKE PLACE IN THE FIRST TRIMESTER WHEN NO RESTRICTIONS TAKE PLACE ON ABORTIONS IN THIS COUNTRY!  Everyone in the medical field and many in the political field understand the human development, but they turn their backs!  Has God given up the United States of America?   

Dear friends, this is why so many evangelical Christians are against homosexuality and abortion. It’s not for political reasons—its for the sake of their own soul. Remember, those who do not honor God nor are thankful want to be their own god and ruler of their lives. And when someone comes along and says, “What you are doing is wrong, but also harmful to you”—we must never be surprised at the reactions to this.

But we must not simply look at these sins and believe this is it:

Look at vv. 29-32:

29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.32 Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

Sadly, we have Christian homes and Christian churches all over this world filled with people whose unrepentant lifestyles bear this out. And these desires and these penalties are powerful!

But let’s return to Romans 1:16-17:

16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

Whatever power exists in the universe, on a soul level in regards to temptations and sin, or on a galactic level—nothing is more powerful in all the universe than the gospel of Jesus Christ!  The power of His paying for the penalty of our sin on the cross is more powerful than your sin.  The power that raised Him from the dead is more powerful than death itself!  The grace He demonstrated is more powerful than our most destructive sin.  He calls us to surrender!  To repent from our sin, and surrender to Christ and what He accomplished for us!

Now that’s something for which to be thankful!  Will you “honor God and give him thanks” for creation and for Christ and the cross?

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The Soul-Saving Beauty of a Thankful Heart, Part I

2012-10-08 11.47.55

(Photo courtesy of Bob Scott)

Thanksgiving is just a few days away. Thanksgiving is usually about the three F’s for most of us: family, food, and football. In fact, we have some who are already gone for Thanksgiving weekend, while others may be getting ready for family to come in.

Food? I was at King Soopers yesterday, and it was packed. People had one, two, three, some four turkeys or some other kind of bird in their shopping cart—along with all the trimmings.

Football? I know some of you enjoy a game or two of football. On Thanksgiving, the NFL brings us three games: Texans-Lions, Redskins-Cowboys, and Patriots-Jets.

I submit to you that another F needs to be included in this: faith! The holiday is Thanksgiving, and many may express how thankful they are for their family, for the food, for the football, for the time off, etc. But when you have thankfulness and when you are in the faith, each of these things has an object. We can express what we are thankful for, but do we take time to express to whom we are thankful?

Thankfulness marks the Christian life—not simply for the things in the hear and now and not simply for material things. James tells us that “Every good and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change
(James 1:17). Paul writes to the Corinthian church, “What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it” (1 Corinthians 4:7)? So what we find ourselves thankful for has a whom behind it. God gave us all we have.

Even with this, some fail to recognize this. Thankful hearts that should mark a Christian can become entitled hearts: “Well, God, I know you gave me this—but that’s your job!” We can become bitter hearts: “Well, God, I know you gave me this—but I really wanted that.” We can become proud in heart like Nebuchadnezzar, who when looking over his kingdom from his monstrous palace in Babylon, “Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?” (Daniel 4:30). Immediately, to show who truly ruled over all men, God immediately took away Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom until He gave glory to the Most High.

What’s the basis of a thankful heart? Look with me at the thesis, if you will permit me to use that term, of the entire book of Romans is found in Romans 1:16-17:

16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

Paul shares the reason for his lack of shame: the gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. The believers are not restricted to one group of people, but revealed to the Jew first, then to the Gentiles.
But we notice that God reveals Himself! We will see that to those who do not believe in Him, God has made himself clear in many obvious ways though there are many who are blind to this. For believers, he revealed something else: his righteousness. The righteousness that God requires for salvation is not something which we earn—it is something that God reveals and puts toward our account. This is God’s way of making us right with Him.

But what happens if even the very basics of what God revealed are smoothed over or even ignored? Taken for granted? A thankful heart is trouble and even destructive to your soul.

God reveals much—we are without excuse (Romans 1:18-20).

Look with me at Romans 1:18-20:

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse (Romans 1:18-20).

What is the wrath of God? God’s wrath is different from human wrath. Human wrath is most unrighteous. Stott notes that this is “an irrational and uncontrollable emotion, containing much vanity, animosity, malice and the desire for revenge.”[1] What God’s wrath is toward is evil, and its hatred therein. He does not condone it, but will judge it.

So it is this wrath that is revealed. To what end? Against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who … suppress the truth. So God’s wrath has a laser focus—those who suppress the truth. And this truth is ‘plain to them, because God has shown it to them.’

What is known about God? His ‘invisible attributes’ such as ‘his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived’ in creation.

The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
2 Day to day pours out speech,
and night to night reveals knowledge.
3 There is no speech, nor are there words,
whose voice is not heard.
4 Their voice goes out through all the earth,
and their words to the end of the world (Psalm 19:1-4).

The Psalmist shows that Creation is the calling card of God’s characteristics. All around we see this. God never intended for His nature or work to be hidden. He has given us plenty of clues.

We here in Colorado have no trouble in seeing the glory of God’s creation. The mountains are so close that many look forward to the weekend so they can spend it there. Isn’t it interesting that folks run to the mountains every chance they get, enjoying that aspect of God’s creation, yet miss him? Nicy Murphy got it right:

“Missions in Colorado is ministering to those who live in the mountain grandeur, but who never ‘lift their eyes to the hills’ to see from whence their help would come; who enjoy God’s placid lakes, tumbling streams, and majestic waterfalls, but who have never drunk of the Water of life; who shepherd the sheep on a thousand grassy hillsides, but who have never met the Good Shepherd; who reap the golden grain from the fertile plains, but who never partake of the Bread of Life.”[2]

Maybe the reason so many go to the mountains is due to their desire to connect with something bigger than themselves, to see breath-taking beauty. Yet, they do not realize that their desire to connect with something is a longing in every human heart. Ecclesiastes 3:8 says that God has placed eternity into the hearts to man. So many are so close, yet they are so far away.

Because of all that God has clearly revealed, He tells us that “we are without excuse.” There is no way that we could not ever say in any way, “God, I had no idea you were there! You kept yourself hidden.” Not so!

Humanity rejects much (Romans 1:21-23).

21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

The downgrade begins here. Clearly, man knew God, but the ramifications of knowing God did not jibe with the desires of their lives. Even with God revealing His invisible attributes, showing His glory in the heavens and in earth—“They did not honor him as God or give thanks to him.” Here is the theme of the day: they failed to honor him or thank him. Remember, they suppressed the truth , exposing their unrighteousness. They wanted to be god over their own lives.

How well does this describe us? Do our lives express to God and the world that we wish it to be our own way? Have we decided to try to build our own lives and chart our own path, then ask God to bless? Are we using all the gifts that God has given, yet failing to thank the giver of those gifts—then wonder why our lives seem to grown emptier and emptier the more we reach our own goals?

There was a man who was a gifted football player in the 1960s and 1970s. He played running back for USC, even winning the Heisman Trophy. He was drafted #1 over all by the Buffalo Bills in 1969 and in 1973 was the first to running for over 2000 yards. He was featured in a number of commercials and movies, showing his good looks and good humor. But in 1978, he made this comment: “I thought by the time I reached all of my goals, I would find peace and happiness. But now, I am lower than ever.” God gave him some incredible gifts, but he used those gifts to bring himself glory. The man’s name is OJ Simpson. All of us kept up with the trial in the mid 1990’s and heard about the robbery in the late 2000’s. Tragic.

But this was in the spotlight of Hollywood and the media. This happens all the time. If we fail to honor God and thank him, we have darkened hearts and futile thinking privately, and thus we “exchange the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.”

This phraseology, “exchanging the glory” is used elsewhere in Scripture. Turn with me to Jeremiah 2:9-13:

“Therefore I still contend with you,
declares the Lord,
and with your children’s children I will contend.
10 For cross to the coasts of Cyprus and see,
or send to Kedar and examine with care;
see if there has been such a thing.
11 Has a nation changed its gods,
even though they are no gods?
But my people have changed their glory
for that which does not profit.
12 Be appalled, O heavens, at this;
be shocked, be utterly desolate,
declares the Lord,
13 for my people have committed two evils:
they have forsaken me,
the fountain of living waters,
and hewed out cisterns for themselves,
broken cisterns that can hold no water.

Even with all that God had done in delivering and taking care of His people, they still rebelled, still chased after false gods, aligned with the other nations, and forgot the One who named them, called them, delivered them, guided them, and settled them in their land. So the people of Israel exchanged the glory of their Creator for things created. This was such a calamity, that the heavens are those who are appalled, shocked, utterly desolate. Why? Because God’s people committed two evils: they forsook the living water, then tried to cut out cisterns for themselves, “broken cisterns that can hold no water.”

John Calvin noted,

“When one leaves a living fountain and seeks a cistern, it is proof of great folly; for cisterns are dry except water comes elsewhere; but a fountain has its own spring; and further, where there is a vein perpetually flowing, and a perennial stream of waters, the water is more salubrious and much better.”[3]

But this is what happens when we move away from what God has revealed to what appeals to man. Christians must beware of this. I came from a seminary whose history from the 1920s to the 1980s wanted a seat at the table of academia. They had to compromise the notion of the supernatural and miraculous, and treat the Bible as any other book. I grew up in a core area of Virginia who believed that Christians should have a seat in the area of politics, thinking this would change the direction of the church. As a result, they risked compromising the one direction of Christ as Savior in order to link with others who may have rejected them—thus putting Christ on the backburner for a cause. I knew of friends who were so involved in churches who wished to reach the culture, they compromised issues in Scripture that seemed to offend so they could reach them.

In each case, Christians on both sides of the aisle risked compromise—relying on the systems of our society to propel the kingdom of God rather than the clear revelation of God through Scripture.

[1]John R.W. Stott, Romans: God’s Good News for the World (Downer’s Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1994), 71.

[2]Accessed at Colorado State Missions Offering at

[3]John Calvin, Jeremiah 1-19: Calvin’s Commentaries, Volume IX (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2003), 93.

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