Monthly Archives: January 2013

Quiet Trust Amid Troubling Circumstances (Psalm 4)

Introduction

When one lays their head down on their pillow at night, the true issues circling in their souls come to the forefront. The children are in bed, the work is done, the media is off—outward distractions are at a minimum.

Yet our hearts and minds are likely still active. The issues and troubles of our lives are still pressing. What presses on the Christian most is when, even when they look to do the right thing and to honor Christ with all they have, they still suffer persecution! The persecution can come from the outside, or they can come from the inside—and it’s the ‘inside persecution’ that hurts the most.

The Apostle Paul at the end of 2 Timothy, showed some of this hurt. He said:

Do your best to come to me soon. For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia. Luke alone is with me.

While Crescens and Titus were faithful, notice that Paul mentions Demas first. He was with Paul, but grew “in love with this present world.”

In 1 Timothy 1:16-18, Paul says that Hymenaeus and Philetus, “who have swerved from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already happened”—made him an enemy of the things of the Lord. And this broke his heart. But he maintained perspective. He never stopped, he never wavered, he never gave up on the gospel. Paul was the epitome of quiet trust amid troubling circumstances. We shall see how Christ was the ultimate.

We will see how this can happen from looking at Psalm 4. Are your circumstances troubling you? Is the devil tempting and discouraging you? Is the standard by which you live letting you down—and you’re thinking, there has to be something more?

Psalm 4 gives us some perspective.

Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness!
You have given me relief when I was in distress.
Be gracious to me and hear my prayer!

2 O men, how long shall my honor be turned into shame?
How long will you love vain words and seek after lies? Selah
3 But know that the Lord has set apart the godly for himself;
the Lord hears when I call to him.

4 Be angry, and do not sin;
ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. Selah
5 Offer right sacrifices,
and put your trust in the Lord.

6 There are many who say, “Who will show us some good?
Lift up the light of your face upon us, O Lord!”
7 You have put more joy in my heart
than they have when their grain and wine abound.

8 In peace I will both lie down and sleep;
for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.

1. God’s past deliverance gives David a present confidence (4:1).

Our appeal to God must be confident in the God who delivers from enemies, but recognizes our personal sin of one who petitions.

2. God’s past warnings give David a present clarity in regards to his enemies (4:2-3).

No matter what our enemies may do, God cares for His own and hears when they call. This clarity provides the Christian with eternal perspective during the earthly persecutions.  If we approach even the throne of Almighty God through Christ with confidence, then who are our enemies in comparison?  We can talk with them with confidence as well!

3. God’s past promises give the believer a present calling (4:4-5).

God has called all believers to holiness—an anger toward sin, and an aim to offer ourselves as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God (Romans 12:1). Sin is a lack of trust in God’s promises. Trust is wanting lack of sin and more of Christ.

4. God’s presence gives the believer a present cheer (4:6-8).

Both joy and peace belong to the believer when the light of God’s face shines on us. Regardless of what Satan does, what our flesh feels, or where our mind takes us, God brings joy and peace—and even rest! God’s got it!

So how does this tie in with the vision of our church?

Magnify (upward toward Christ)

Will you magnify the Lord this week for his deliverance, his warnings, his promises, and his presence—even in the midst of temptations and persecutions?  Where do you find your confidence? (Read Psalm 73:24-25.)

Mature (forward in Christ)

Are you reading and memorizing Scripture to know of God’s deliverance, warnings, promises, and presence?  No matter how much you want to do for Christ, if you don’t spend time getting to know Christ in His Word, what you will do will be for you and what you think and not for Christ and what He wills.

Minister

Who do you know right now that needs to know of the promises and presence of God? Who needs to be reminded of the joy and peace that comes from the Lord—and not in personal reputation or circumstances?

Mobilize

As you take Christ into your circle of friends and in the community, remind yourself of the how “the LORD has set apart the godly for himself” (4:3) and no one can ultimately touch us. Be strong in the Lord!

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

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Categories: Psalms, sermons | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Do We Truly Have Free Will?

Every so often over the years, this question of free will arises, usually under the context of salvation.  “Are we free to choose and do we have the capability to choose Christ within our own desires, or does the Father predestine us in Christ before the foundation of the world and choose us?”  After a while, an argument ensues, with each camp picking their choice verses to lob at one another—which can be divisive in the church, and less-than-impressive when the world watches on.

Or we could even say that ‘free will’ is that in which a will operates outside of God’s compulsion or wooing.  This idea is embraced greatly by Americans who hold to ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,’ written in the context of being free from the monarchy and control of the British throne.  The aim of the founding of the United States of America was independence.  The people could exercise their will in voting for their leaders, voting on legislation, and having a significant say in the direction our country goes. 

Before one lunges into this line of thinking, let’s get a bit more ground level.  Two items converged in my thinking to make me so bold as to say, no, our will is not nor has ever been free in the most important sense.  In what sense?  Are humans free beings in one sense, in that we are not programmed robots?  In that sense, yes, we are free to think and choose on the natural level within the realm of time, space, and the limitations of our flesh.  Beyond this?  Well, let me share with you my two items.

First, Scripture.  I grieve over how Christians pick their verses that support their thinking rather than looking at the whole counsel of Scripture to rightly discern God’s Word (2 Timothy 2:15).  God is not divided, He is not inconsistent, and neither is His Word

In Paul’s epistle to the Romans, he (under the Spirit’s inspiration) writes a critical word to the church:

16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. 19 I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.

We are all slaves to something!  Even the atheist has at some point submitted to a course of thinking and living and has, willingly, become a slave to that thinking.  But Paul rightly tells us that we are either in two camps:  slaves of sin (as inaugurated by Father Adam) or slaves of righteousness (as made possible by Christ). 

To be a slave is to be ‘not free.’  To say that our will, our thinking, the core of our being, is free is to miss what Scripture teaches.  We all are led by whatever has taken our will captive. 

Secondly, I came across a quote by my pastor, Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892) from a website I frequent:

‎”Free will I have often heard of, but I have never seen it. I have always met with will, and plenty of it, but it has either been led captive by sin or held in the blessed bonds of grace.”

Clearly, Spurgeon had at least Romans 6:16-19 in mind. 

Someone then asks, “Why would God give commands in the first place?  Does this not imply free will?”  It does.  We are free to look at those commands, process them, then try to do them.  But keep in mind the greatest commandment, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength; the second is like it, to love your neighbor as yourself.  On these hang all of the law and the prophets” (Matthew 22:37-40).  We look at these, process them, then try to do them. 

But can we?  The command is all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.  Can we do this?  No, we cannot.  So what’s the point of giving the command in the first place?  It’s to show that we can’t and are need of rescue by Someone who can and did fulfill these (Matthew 5:17-20).  Our ‘free will’ could also take us to a place where we see that it’s impossible, and who is this God who imposes such commands on us?  So they freely take their will to a place where they begin to set up their own standard, becoming a slave to that standard.  But even then, whatever standard we try to set up even for ourselves, we will fail at this as well (Romans 2:14-15).  We need a change—we need to be rescued, even from our own supposed ‘freedom.’ 

So before we begin to get into the deep theological and philosophical arguments in regards to ‘free will,’ take Paul’s truth in mind.  We are all slaves to something on this level.  And, yes, Christ does set us free (John 8:31-36), but free from what?  He ultimately sets us free from our slavery to sin.  Once he redeems us and rescues us from that sin, “We are not our own, we were bought with a price” (1 Corinthians 6:19).  Christians are now free from their sin under the bonds of righteousness. 

Genesis 2:18 says, “It was not good for man to be alone.”  Outside of Christ, our own selfish aims and desires drive us, and our free will will always take us away from Christ.  But when Christ comes to rescue us, He draws us to Himself (John 6:37-44) and by the Spirit that indwells begins to lead us into all truth (read John 14-16 on the beautiful gift of the Holy Spirit).  Being free in Christ is the equivalent of being a slave to righteousness. 

If I’m going to be a slave to something, I’m thankful it’s in service to my Lord Jesus Christ! 

Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus—than to trust and obey!

Categories: Theology | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Ways We React as Adherents to the Pro-Life Cause

At the Vietnam War Memorial, there stands a wall containing 58,272 names of those who fell in the Vietnam War. The Wall was designed by Maya Lin and is made up of two gabbro walls 246 feet, nine inches long. At the highest tip it’s just over 10 feet tall. While I have never been there, this looks like a very impressive structure that it was ranked 10th on the List of America’s Favorite Architecture by the American Institute of Architects.

Today, we observe Sanctity of Human Life Sunday. I echo what Russ Moore and other evangelicals have said in that I hate that we have to observe this! That we’ve come to a point where human life at all stages and circumstances. January 22, 1973 was the 40th anniversary of the Roe V. Wade decision. Since that decision, 55 million unborn children have lost their lives due to this procedure. In fact, it is now the second most common surgical procedure in the US. Prior to 1973, abortion was allowed to save the woman’s life or in cases of rape or incest.

The law of Roe v. Wade prevented the government from stopping abortions, and included the clause “right to privacy” to consider a woman’s decision to terminate the pregnancy. The ruling also stated that the “fetus” is not a person in the sense intended by the Constitution and therefore has restricted rights. Plus, there’s no regulations on the first trimester.[1]

We could go on. But how do we react? Some react violently. They say, if we bomb the abortion clinics, even the ones performing the procedures, then that’s one less office, one less doctor, one less system of machinery. But that doesn’t make sense, being pro-life using destruction and murder to make a pro-life point. Pass.

Some look at this passively.  “Well, the pro-life movement is gaining some momentum—I’m convinced abortion will pass away soon.”  In the meantime, 4,000 abortions are happening every hour.  Most who have those abortions would not have if they had received any type of support at all! 

Some act legally. The argument here is this: “The Supreme Court ruled that this was legal—and don’t you believe that women do have a right to choose?  What kind of a country would we be if we went backwards in removing this right?” Yes, it is legal—but consider this. Slavery at one point was legal for a long time—from colonial times until the 13th Amendment was passed in January, 1865. Slavemasters used the same argument: “Slaveholding is legal. They used the rationale that their economy would fall apart!  using this rationale to subjugate an entire race of people for their conceived purposes. Not everyone in the South believed that slavery was right—90% of them didn’t own them. But it was a blight on the entire nation.

Now, replace slaveholding with those who are pro-abortion, and replace the rationale (economy with numerous other reasons): a group of more powerful people inflict their choice on another less powerful people. Not everyone is pro-abortion, but it is a blight on the entire nation.

Scripture calls us not to act violently, passively, nor even legally as a justification in how we deal with abortion. He wants us to act biblically, gracefully, and even gospelly.

I was deeply moved by Russ Moore’s insight, when he said that he hated Sanctity of Human Life Sunday because it was a day that was necessary for us to even have, but that he loved it because it could reaffirm some things. And we must be careful, too. Even in church world, this can touch us. He brings up a scenario of a young girl who had grown up in church who after an immoral encounter with a boy became pregnant. She repented, asked God to forgive—but then what? What would folks at church say when she began to ‘show’? How would they treat her? He speaks of those who, considering how judgmental church folks are, would be advised by family or friends to abort the child to be spared of such reactions.

I would say that, all the while affirming God’s design should be affirmed over our desire in that area in not committing those sinful acts, the tape cannot be rewound.  Regardless of how that child is coming into the world, that child bears God’s image and is of value (Genesis 1:26-27).   That child is now on its way—and if the gospel is the gospel, we have to recognize, yes, the clear teaching of God’s Word and not compromise, but not forget that there is only one unforgiveable sin and we need to come along and support with the situation before us. 

David writes:

For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.

He makes no distinction that unborn (or born) children are of any more or less value because of how they came into the world!  No, human being = imagebearer of God!  And yes, while those imagebearers can take their bodies God gave them to shake their fist at him, even with this it doesn’t change the fact.  We are born once—and the value inherent in being in an imagebearer is even made greater by the cross and empty tomb and how Christ came to rectify the situation Adam brought in.  For all who would believe, Christ reverses the curse that Adam brought into creation and to the bodies and souls God made.  While we may not understand everything else in Scripture, this aspect is crystal clear.

Let’s be pro-earthly life and pro-eternal life.  You can be pro-life but not be a follower of Christ.   But I will say this—you cannot be a follower of Christ and not be pro-life.  You cannot say you treasure the author of life, and then turn around and not treasure the life He authored. 

May we react in this way!


[1]Thanks to ethicist Ken Magnuson and his notes from Introduction to Christian Ethics at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 2002.

Categories: Abortion, pro-life | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Reflections on my Latest Trip to Trinidad & Tobago 2013, Part I

2013-01-19 08.17.52My plane touched down at the Denver International Airport around 11:15 pm Wednesday night—effectively bringing to a close my latest missions trip to Trinidad & Tobago.  This, my ninth trip, was for the purposes of conducting a conference called “Naked and Not Ashamed: Sex, the Body, and the Glory of God.”  We went through all of the Scriptures on Friday-Saturday night, the 18th-19th of January.  We had a great time looking at Genesis, the wisdom literature, Matthew 5 and 19, and then what Paul had to say on the matter.  After that was a Q&A by those in attendance.  Praying God uses that time to bring people closer to Christ and to bring them closer to the design God has for their marriage or future marriages.

I’d like to offer some reflections on the trip in at least a three-part series.  Today I offer Part I.

First, all cultures struggle with pursuing their desires over God’s design for marriage.  With the Carnival season in full swing in Trinidad (which makes Mardi Gras in New Orleans look like a birthday party for your five-year-old), a lot of flesh and a lot of sexual promiscuousness takes place.  People travel in from all over the world to take part.  But even outside of Carnival, many relationships and many marriages in Trinidad, like in the US, are outside of God’s design and the general atmosphere of wondering if the relationships are worth it.  If nothing else, I hoped that showing them God’s design, then from hearing from men and women who have been married a good amount of time doing it God’s way will plant a seed for not only Christian marriages, but the gospel as well.

Secondly, all cultures struggle with racial tensions.  While I was there, the big news was that the Tobago Hall of Assembly was having their elections.  The two parties (the PNM—the People’s National Movement) and the somewhat-fledgling TOP (Tobago Organization for the People) were hoping to obtain the 12 seats for the 12 Tobago districts.  The PNM had 8, and the TOP had 4. 

The TOP were, the words of the Trinbagonians, “whitewashed.”  The PNM now holds all 12.  Why?  Among other issues, racial fears.  While we Americans look at the skins of Trinidadians and Tobagoans and seek them as all dark-skinned (true), most either come from African-American descent or East Indian descent.  One politician running for the PNM said that if the TOP won, they would be shipping Indians from Calcutta to Tobago.  Even though later he retracted that statement, it put enough fear in the Tobagoans to ouster the remaining TOP assemblymen. 

One commonality?  Given that Trinidad & Tobago has been under the Spanish, British, and French flags (all Europeans who had enslaved the people when they colonized them), there is a general undercurrent of dislike and distrust from many with European descent—including Americans.  While I have never had any issue with anyone there—and Roddie Taylor, the host pastor, is one of my dearest friends—the undercurrent is still there, deep-seeded from decades and centuries of experiences.  Even the Bible I use is deemed my some in Trinidad the “white man’s Bible that was used to enslave their people long ago.”  So may God continue to use His Word to break down the barriers of racial tensions so we can be united under the banner of the gospel (Ephesians 2:11-22; Galatians 3:28). 

(Part II forthcoming)

Categories: missions, Trinidad & Tobago | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Naked and Not Ashamed Conference Begins Tonight in Trinidad & Tobago

74986_10151338527366465_747860940_nTonight begins the Naked and Not Ashamed Conference here in Point Fortin, Trinidad and Tobago.  Needless to say, this conference (especially the title of it–assigned to me by host pastor Roddie Taylor–has caught some attention).

The paragraphs below are how I plan to start off the conference, addressing why such a topic needs to be discussed.  This conference is for marrieds and soon-to-be married couples, so please keep these dear folks in mind as they struggle in this area as do people in the USA.

Wish you all could be here!  And now, to the beginning

______________________________________________________

“… and they were naked and not ashamed” (Genesis 2:25).

“Biblical Christianity may be the most body-positive religion in the world”–Tim Keller

 In church circles, the use of the term ‘naked’ in terms of sexuality and anything of the flesh is often avoided.  Sex is so tied in to the overindulgences of our culture that, in the aim of avoiding worldliness, we tend to avoid the subject among God’s people because we tie all sex to wicked behavior.  This is unfortunate—especially since the world has hijacked this area for their own selfish purposes.

As you see, the phrase ‘naked and not ashamed’ appears in Scripture—which means this is God’s Word!  And notice when this word is used—at the very end of Genesis 2!  This is pre-Fall of Man, before Adam’s sin brought the curse of sin into the world.  Being ‘naked and not ashamed’ is God’s design from the beginning.

In looking at our culture today in 2013, we see that the right notion of ‘naked and not ashamed’ has taken a perverted turn—and it’s a turn that slowly began centuries ago.  The word ‘pervert’ means to twist or distort.  I may have mentioned the word ‘naked’ to you tonight in this church building, and some of you blushed or were embarrassed that such a word was ever uttered from the pulpit of a Christian church.  You are not alone.  When I mentioned at the church where I pastor in Colorado that I would be teaching on this topic, some let me know in a very nice way that that … word was in this.  Then they wondered if I would preach on this when I returned.  If so, they may head back to Alabama for about a month or so!   But again, the church cannot allow the culture to have a corner on this topic.  Given that this is God’s creation and design (within certain parameters), this reaction displays how our culture has so twisted God’s design that we feel shame in bringing it up in the house of the one who created this in the first place!

What about the word ‘ashamed’?  In the church, shame may arise at the mention of the word ‘naked,’ while in the world’s system, no shame arises at the notion of being naked outside of God’s design—what an upside down world in which we live!  Let’s define shame, shall we?

1a : a painful emotion caused by consciousness of guilt, shortcoming, or impropriety

         b : the susceptibility to such emotion <have you no shame?>

        

         2: a condition of humiliating disgrace or disrepute

3 : something that brings censure or reproach; also :something to be regretted.[1]

The key words here are guilt, censure, reproach, humiliation, disgrace, or disrepute.  Do we see from books, movies, television shows, runway models, magazines, or other media in our culture that the concept of ‘shame’ exists?  One movie actress allowed herself in a sex scene to be completely nude for the first time.  Her story is like so many:  at first she felt inhibited, but when she finally stripped down and acted out that scene, she said she felt so liberated and free.  The shame left—and this is what our world says.  Even clothing is inhibiting.  They are naked and not ashamed—but in a problematic way.

God’s design is for us to be naked and not ashamed within boundaries He established that will bring the fullest blessing, the greatest satisfaction, and ultimately glorify God in a way that none other can—through the blessed bonds of marriage.  You see, God’s intention was among his greatest inventions: marriage and all that goes with it!  God’s creation of marriage means our elation in marriage.  Anything outside of God’s design is destructive!

This , my goal is to show you that God’s design in regards to sex and the body are to protect us from ourselves rather than to prevent us from having fun and being free.  God’s design is to bring greater freedom within his prescribed boundaries—guilt-free, shame-free, and free to enjoy your spouse the way God intended!


 

[1]Shame, Merriam-Webster Dictionary.  Accessed 5 September 2012; http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/shame?show=0&t=1346857996 [on-line]; Internet.

Categories: Marriage, sex, Trinidad & Tobago | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

What is the Gospel?

This past week, I came across a very transparent article written by a believer named Cornell. He shared about how his day usually goes, especially on the bus ride home. After a work day, he likes to sit alone in his world and read or simply pray and meditate. One day, this did not happen.

A man sat next to him and began to talk to him. After the initial annoyance, he began to see what a great conversationalist this man was. They talked about the literacy problem in Kenya and the western world, music trends, and other common ground topics that made him relax for about an hour. But he wasn’t fully relaxed:

I should have been fully relaxed and at ease by now. But I wasn’t. There was something that I was still holding back. Something that I felt would spoil this infant acquaintanceship. Numerous perfect opportunities for bringing it up came and went, but I ignored them all. I deliberately pushed it to the back of my mind and conveniently omitted it from the conversation. The truth of the matter is, I was ashamed of the Gospel. What’s even sadder is that this was not the first time it was happening. This is not to say that I am ashamed of the Gospel every time I choose to discuss politics over sharing it. But the circumstances surrounding today’s encounter were especially unique.

  1. I was on my way to church, to join others for the Wednesday evening prayers and Bible Study. The Gospel was bound to be on my mind.
  2. The e-mail I happened to be checking turned out to be today’s For the Love of God commentary by D. A. Carson, which I’ve been using as a guide through the Bible in the past couple of months. Today’s commentary was on Genesis 9 and this was one of the phrases that I picked from it, “… the problems of rebellion and sin are deep-seated; they constitute part of our nature.” Talk about a perfect cue for evangelism.
  3. I was wearing the T-shirt in the photo above (right). It’s written LIVE BY THE C.O.D.E. C.arrying O.ut D.iscipleship E.verywhere. Talk about a shouting hint.
  4. We stayed in that traffic for slightly over 2 hours.

So, it wasn’t for the lack of time or opportunity. I just didn’t feel like sharing the Gospel with the guy. I have found that there’s always a convenient excuse at the back of my mind every time I fail to share the Gospel with a friendly stranger on the bus. I can think of four excuses that made me shy away from sharing today:

He came up with four reasons why he didn’t share. (1) He didn’t want to be a killjoy, (2) he shared much about his love of certain styles of music, but also didn’t share that this was before he came to Christ—and was afraid he would compromise too much of the witness, (3) too many people listening. And lastly (4), even though he was a theology student and had preached, he didn’t know how in the day-to-day of a bus conversation with an unbeliever.

For the majority of us, we can relate to this. Talk about the Broncos, bring it on! Politic issues of the day, no problem! Gush about your wife and kids—I could give lessons on that. Share the gospel? We feel fine when it comes to common ground or about things we are passionate about. The gospel? Why should we be passionate about that? And if it’s so incredible, why do we find ourselves tight-lipped about it. It could be:

  • We’ve never surrendered to the gospel of Christ
  • We don’t know how to articulate it.
  • We are ashamed of it because we love what men think about us more than what God thinks about us.

But know this: the gospel of Jesus Christ is all that stands in the way of hell and eternal judgment for us. Receive it, it’s enough to save your soul and keep hell at bay. Reject it, and no amount of good works will be enough keep the penalty of our sin at bay.

1. Are we ashamed of the gospel—or eager for it?

Paul says that he is not ashamed of the gospel. Some are appalled that this notion—that the apostle Paul could ever have trouble in this area. How could Paul, after his conversion experience that was so spectacular, ever be ashamed of the gospel and of His Savior? As one commentator put it, it’s only when you have the capability of being ashamed that you could, by comparison, say that you are not ashamed. And before we put him up on too high a pedestal, some of you may recall from Romans 7:14-21, where he brings a bit of transparency to his Christian walk:

14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. 15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.

21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand.

Paul recognized that though the Spirit of Christ rested in Him because Christ regenerated and redeemed his soul, he was still in his body, his flesh. His flesh wanted to carry him in its desires one way, and the Spirit was carrying him in another way with His desires. So one of the issues Paul could well have dealt with was being ashamed of the gospel.

Jesus warned all of us about this. He told his disciples in Mark 8:34-38:

34 And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever would save his life[ will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. 36 For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? 37 For what can a man give in return for his soul? 38 For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels” (Mark 8:34-38).

Jesus warned the disciples, knowing that they all would struggle in this manner—and that all of us as believers would struggle with this. But he makes the implications clear. We are His body, and we make Him known on the earth. And if we, as His body, are ashamed of him in the midst of this sinful generation that needs Him—He will be ashamed of us.

Even Pastor Timothy struggled with fear and shame in regards to the gospel and his calling.

“Do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God. . . . But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to you” (2 Timothy 1:8, 12).

Why was Paul not ashamed—why was Paul to “eager to preach the gospel? In Romans 1:14, it says that he is “under obligation both to the Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and the foolish. . . . [and] to you who are in Rome.” An ‘obligation’ or (as some versions translate it, a ‘debt’)? What does Paul mean? It means that he is entrusted with the gospel as a steward—something that God gave for him to share.

2. The gospel serves as the power of God for salvation.

Notice that this is the “power of God” for salvation. It is not the “power of man” for salvation. Let me share with you that you are not saved by what you do. There were some in the Roman church (yes, in the church) who believed that they were saved by their own works. But notice in Romans where it says in Romans 2:3-5:

3 Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? 4 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? 5 But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing upwrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.

So many rely on the power of man to save them. In this context, the Jews looked down upon the Gentiles and all their practices and all their wickedness (see Romans 1:24-32), and felt a moral superiority as a Jew, since they were God’s covenant people descended from Abraham as a physical nation. They had God’s law and knew His boundaries. The difference?

The Gentiles broke God’s law out of ignorance, the Jews condemn the Gentiles for doing what they themselves were doing as well. Their spiritual walk was one of sheer morality. But their morality was for everyone else—they failed to look in the mirror. What mirror? The mirror on the bathroom wall? No, the mirror of God’s Word! The gospel is the ultimate mirror. It exposes the power on which we rely.

Then Paul says, “To everyone who believes, first to the Jew then to the Gentile.” Again we come across the ‘belief.’ It’s not simply believing He exists (first chair), or believing that he is true (second chair). It’s the third chair—surrender! It’s only by God’s power we are saved. The apostle John said, “You must be born again” and “you must be born from above.”

Unamuno y Jugo, a Spanish philosopher and writer, says:

“Those who believe that they believe in God, but without passion in their hearts, without anguish in mind, without uncertainty, without doubt, without an element of despair even in their consolation, believe only in the God idea, not God Himself.”

I believe in many cases the world sees churches who only believe in a Christ-idea, but not Christ Himself! And when the crunch of life comes, we it exposes what is or is not there. Look at Romans 5:1-5:

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

When we have surrendered to Christ and the penalty of our sin has been removed (justification), God grants a peace that passes all understanding. We have access to grace! We have joy in the hope of the glory of God! Suffering comes? We rejoice! It brings endurance, which develops character, which produces hope. How?

“God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” The Holy Spirit is sent by God to show us the Father, to convict us of our sin, to guide us into all truth, to regenerate us unto salvation by grace through faith, and will continue to counsel us in the days ahead. This is how we know of God’s power—it’s called change.

3. The gospel reveals the righteousness of God.

For the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, just as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

So we are not saved by the power of man, nor are we saved by the righteousness of man. And notice what it says. For the righteousness of God is revealed. It is a righteousness, first, that belongs to God. Whatever righteousness or approval we may find from God originates from God and not from man. Also, notice that he does not say, “The righteousness from God is earned.” Remember the passage from Romans 5:6-8?

6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Here’s the mistake many make when it comes to understanding the faith:

  1. “I have to be good enough in order for God to love me.” Yet, it says that Jesus Christ died for the “weak” and “ungodly” and “sinners.”
  2. “I have to do good things, but rely on Jesus to fill in the rest.” But Paul tells us that no one is good, not even one (Romans 3:9-10) for we must be rescued from the dominion of sin.

You see, we think we have to do something to help God along, to show we are of value. I read about an instant cake mix that was a big flop. The instructions said all you had to do was add water and bake. The company couldn’t understand why it didn’t sell — until their research discovered that the buying public felt uneasy about a mix that required only water. Apparently people thought it was too easy. So the company altered the formula and changed the directions to call for adding an egg to the mix in addition to the water. The idea worked and sales jumped dramatically.

People want to do something to help God along, but the more we try to do, the worse shape we are in. But the beauty of the gospel is that God has revealed his righteousness to us by His grace:

21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

Look at these phrases:

  • Righteousness of God through faith in Jesus
  • We are justified by His grace as a gift.
  • Redemption is found in Jesus Christ.
  • The cross of Christ show’s God’s righteousness.
  • He is just (he must demand a penalty for our sin) and the justifier (he took the penalty for our sin).

Charles Spurgeon once preached:

Those who are once justified are justified irreversibly. As soon as a sinner takes Christ’s place, and Christ takes the sinner’s place, there is no fear of a second change. If Christ has once paid the debt, the debt is paid, and it will never be asked for again; if you are pardoned, you are pardoned once forever. God does not give a free pardon . . . and then afterward retract it and punish man . . . He says, ‘I have punished Christ; you may go free.’ And after that we may ‘rejoice in hope of the glory of God,’ that ‘being justified by faith we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ.’ . . . . In the moment they believe, their sins being imputed to Christ, they cease to be theirs, and Christ’s righteousness is imputed to them and accounted theirs, so that they are accepted.[1]

(This was preached at Arapahoe Road Baptist Church, Centennial, CO on Sunday, January 13, 2012. You may listen to the sermon here or download the mp3.)


[1]Charles Spurgeon. Quoted by Wil Pounds: http://www.abideinchrist.com/messages/rom1v16.html.

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True Doctors of Damnation

“When men are living in sin they go from bad to worse.  At first they merely walk in the counsel of the careless and ungodly, who forget God—the evil is rather practical than habitual—but after that, they become habituated to evil, and they stand in the way of open sinners who willfully violate God’s commandments; and if let alone, they go one step further, and become themselves pestilent teachers and tempters of others, and thus they sit in the seat of the scornful.  They have taken their degree in vice, and as true Doctors of Damnation they are installed.”

–Charles Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, Vol. 1, pp. 1-2

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The Hobby Lobby Owners and Executives Share Their Vision

Here, the Hobby Lobby owners, in the news of late due to their desire to run their business without being forced by the Obama Healthcare mandate to provide contraception coverage for their employers (to the fine of $1 million per day since the New Year hit).  Here you see their desire to run their business by their convictions and principles, as all business should in the USA—those convictions just happen to be Christian convictions and they happen to draw a line that the culture finds offensive. 

But let’s put some faces to these folks.  Hear from their own words!

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Gotta Play the Game on the Field: Lessons from Louisville’s Win over the Florida Gators Last Night

Charlie StrongMy Louisville Cardinals won the Allstate Sugar Bowl last night in pretty convincing fashion.

And I didn’t give them a shot!

Neither did anyone else in the media.

Even Vegas had them as 14-point underdogs.

Why should Louisville even show up?

And yet, as I followed on ESPN Gamecast and ESPN Radio (given that I do not have ESPN TV), Louisville was up by as much as 24-3 and 30-10 before winning 33-23. 

Yes, winning!  As a Louisville Cardinal fan transplanted to Denver, Colorado, I was likely the only person in the state rooting for Louisville.  I know a few who were rooting against Florida, but not pro-UofL.  And I was thrilled, proud of my team that they came prepared to play and executed their game plan beautifully.

The point?  Games are played on the field and nowhere else. 

And so, dear Christian, what’s the use for us? 

First, God has not called us to live out our faith in our minds, but to live it in our lives as well.  As I blogged about this after the election, we must recognize the field on which God has placed us, regardless of where that is.  For me, I’m in Denver, Colorado, USA.  I did not want marijuana to be legalized, but I cannot sit and pine away for the days when it was illegal.  If you’re in Washington State, not only where pot is legal but same-sex “marriage” is legal, quit pining away for the days-gone-by when this was not so and play on the field.  Execute the game plan God has called you to execute as Great Commission Christians.

Secondly, don’t buy in to what others who don’t believe in your team are saying.  And boy, are there a lot of voices out there saying things.  But remember 1 Corinthians 2:11-14: 

11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God.13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit,interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.

14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.

We have to trust God’s Word in that the key to understanding the things of God is the Spirit of God who shows us the Son of God, “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:3). 

Those who dismiss the Scriptures are ones who, in their finite knowledge and understanding, dismiss us as rubes and ignoramuses.  They do not worry me nor threaten me because it’s not about me—it’s about the One who purchased my salvation for me at the cross and empty tomb.  I will take the hope (noun, that is—a desire coupled with certainty—Romans 8:20-21) Christ provides for me over what any other provides.  The world says I have to understand before I should believe.  I know from the Word and from experience that I have to believe in Christ, the treasure of all wisdom and knowledge, then the rest falls into marvelous place and my soul is fed.

Spurgeon said that the anvil is never afraid of the hammer.  The Scriptures, which point to Christ, the cross, and the empty tomb, are that anvil with little hammers broken all around it! 

Christian, take the Word out on the field and live it!  Take it in your closet and absorb it!  Take it to the world and wield it!  People may say you’re a fool—they have to me.  But I would rather be a fool for Christ, than to be thought of as brilliant in the eyes of a world that has “no king, and everyone did what was right in their own eyes” (Judges 21:25).

Amazing what lessons God shows us—even from a football game! 

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Wishing you a Christ-Filled 2013!

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