Monthly Archives: July 2015

“You Asked For It Sermon Series” Is Complete–What Did We Learn?

And so yesterday completed the sermon series at ARBC called “You Asked For It” (previously named Summer Playlist).  I can see this being a summer staple in the years to come.  Here are the sermons (complete with links):

  1. What is the Unforgivable Sin?
  2. Why Do We Need Church Plants–Don’t We Have Enough Churches? (Kevin Hasenack of Calvary Church-Littleton preached this)
  3. How Should a Christian Think About War?
  4. How Should Christians Respond to Religious Liberty Attacks?
  5. I Don’t Reconcile Friends:  Predestination and Free Will
  6. What Does the Bible Say About Cremation?
  7. What Does the Bible Say About Speaking in Tongues?
  8. What is God’s Will for My Life?

As I’ve said before, these stand as some industrial strength questions that all of you asked.  What did I/we learn from this?

  1. Many of you have multi-faceted questions about the gospel and about life.
  2. You have a desire to see what the Scriptures say, increasing your assurance in the Bible’s sufficiency.
  3. Of all the sermons, the sermon on cremation generated the most interested.
  4. This gave me a chance to address issues that were/are churning in your hearts.

What were some things you learned from this series?  I’d be very interested to know!

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Before We Debate About the Spiritual Gift of Tongues, How About This…

Amazingly, while many people speak about the gift of tongues, whether they exist or don’t exist, one aspect we tend to forget is how we use the language (i.e., tongue) that God has given us now?

Jump with me to 1 Corinthians 14:23-25:

23 If, therefore, the whole church comes together and all speak in tongues, and outsiders or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are out of your minds? 24 But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, 25 the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you.

Tongues, Paul says, are a sign for unbelievers.  When Peter, skeptical that God would send his Spirit to all the nations to show them His glory and His work through Jesus, we read in Acts 10:44-47:

44 While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. 45 And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. 46 For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, 47 “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?”

What’s the point? The point is that God used this sign (not the gift, the sign) to show the world that God was moving forward in bringing His message of the Gospel through the Spirit to the whole world.  And, friends, we are the recipient of that.  God used His messengers through the Spirit and the gifts that He bestowed to take the message of the gospel, of which we are a recipient.

Dear Christians, unbelievers will enter into your life and your church.  So how are we using the language God has given to us?  Let me show you how some use them.  In Romans 1:28-32:

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. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips30 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.

How many times have we seen Christians come together, and use their tongues not for the purpose of building up believers in the faith, but to tear down other believers and leaders that God has put in their path. Rather than going and speaking directly to the person, they gossip and slander and become insolent, arrogant, boastful!  Many of these sins in place are right up there with the flow of the argument—God giving people over to their desires, their sexual sins.

Alan Redpath calls us to think when it comes to what we’re getting ready to say.  It’s an acronym:

T–Is it true?
H–Is it helpful?
I–Is it inspiring?
N–Is it necessary?
K–Is it kind?

If what I am about to say does not pass those tests, I will keep my mouth shut! And it worked!

But really, it’s not just about what we shouldn’t say, it’s about being clear regarding the person and work of Christ both in private, and in this case in public.  Prophesy and preaching and teaching about Jesus and His death and resurrection as the only hope for the forgiveness of sins and eternal must be crystal clear.  Intelligible.  Distinct.  Do we have that?  When we tell people phrases we’re used to like, “Ask Jesus into your heart” or “Won’t you walk the aisle?”

You see, I fear that many in our churches in America believe that the church exists for them.  The spiritual gifts exist for them.  God in heaven simply exists to meet our needs.  We can only worship if the music is just right, the curriculum is just right, if the money is spent just right.  Do you see what’s happening?  Everything can come down to the fact that many believe that everything exists for them!  But vv 24-25 shatter that.  Clarity about the gospel, about Jesus’ person and work will convict as worked by the Spirit.  We want to be clear to call everyone to repent and believe the gospel as Jesus said.  We want to be clear to our family and friends about the gospel—and that our words and our actions match!

The entire point of 1 Corinthians 14 is that of clarity so that the church would be built up!  Outward love toward others always trumps simply building up oneself, whether it’s speaking in tongues or in any other aspect of our Christian walk. But we all speak in a language–how are we using that for God’s glory and building up the church?

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The Praise of His Glorious Grace

At our Sunday night Connect Group, one participant asked about grace.  I’m thankful she wished to have that glorious term clarified.  She mentioned that the time she usually hears about grace is when it came to something like being graceful in one’s movements.

Spurgeon in his work, All of Grace, pens two beautiful paragraphs on the nature of grace, springboarding from Romans 4:5: “And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness:”  Hear Pastor Spurgeon:

He makes those just who are unjust, forgives those who deserve to be punished, and favors those who deserve no favor. You thought, did you not, that salvation was for the good? that God’s grace was for the pure and holy, who are free from sin? It has fallen into your mind that, if you were excellent, then God would reward you; and you have thought that because you are not worthy, therefore there could be no way of your enjoying His favor. You must be somewhat surprised to read a text like this: “Him that justifieth the ungodly. ” I do not wonder that you are surprised; for with all my familiarity with the great grace of God, I never cease to wonder at it. It does sound surprising, does it not, that it should be possible for a holy God to justify an unholy man? We, according to the natural legality of our hearts, are always talking about our own goodness and our own worthiness, and we stubbornly hold to it that there must be somewhat in us in order to win the notice of God. Now, God, who sees through all deceptions, knows that there is no goodness whatever in us. He says that “there is none righteous, no not one.” He knows that “all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags,” and, therefore the Lord Jesus did not come into the world to look after goodness and righteousness with him, and to bestow them upon persons who have none of them. He comes, not because we are just, but to make us so: he justifieth the ungodly.

When a counsellor comes into court, if he is an honest man, he desires to plead the case of an innocent person and justify him before the court from the things which are falsely laid to his charge. It should be the lawyer’s object to justify the innocent person, and he should not attempt to screen the guilty party. It lies not in man’s right nor in man’s power truly to justify the guilty. This is a miracle reserved for the Lord alone. God, the infinitely just Sovereign, knows that there is not a just man upon earth that doeth good and sinneth not, and therefore, in the infinite sovereignty of His divine nature and in the splendor of His ineffable love, He undertakes the task, not so much of justifying the just as of justifying the ungodly. God has devised ways and means of making the ungodly man to stand justly accepted before Him: He has set up a system by which with perfect justice He can treat the guilty as if he had been all his life free from offence, yea, can treat him as if he were wholly free from sin. He justifieth the ungodly.

(Charles H. Spurgeon, All of Grace, the beginning of Chapter 3.)

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His Blessing, His Comfort, His Glory: How Paul Shepherds With God’s Sovereign Purpose

(Below is the manuscript of the sermon preached on July 5, 2015:  “I Never Reconcile Friends: Predestination and Free Will” from Ephesians 1:3-14.  Note: if you listen to the sermon, don’t try to follow along with the manuscript.  Really.  Don’t. Seriously.)

Remember when I said that you all asked major league questions for this Summer Playlist series?  Absolutely!  If you’re a guest with us, about two or three months ago, I asked our people what questions you have of the Bible that you’d like answered.  Here’s what you’ve asked so far:

The next question?  What About Predestination and Free Will?, in which we will look at Ephesians 1:3-14.   If we have free will, how can we be predestined?  If we are predestined, how can we have free will?”

Whenever this conversation takes place, it’s like oil and water as far as how people deal with this.  Those who hold strongly to free will have their verses, and those who hold to predestination have their verses.  We then load it up in our theological gun and shoot them at each other.  For those who are new to the faith, you may wonder, “What in the world are you talking about?”  But for those who may have been in Baptist world for any amount of time know how contentious this topic can be.

But it doesn’t have to be.  A few years ago, I was talking to a pastor of an evangelical church in Trinidad & Tobago who never shied away from preaching on this topic.  I’ll never forget what He said:  “Our people need to see God’s side of salvation as well.”  I never forgot that.  The Father wants us to see that!  Christ explicitly spoke of this.  The Spirit inspired the writers to talk about this.  So let’s not shy away from what God has spoken.  We didn’t last week—nor should we this week.

Turn with me to Ephesians 1:3-14:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insightmaking known[b] to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will,12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit,14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

We as Americans trumpet freedom.  So when we see that God chooses or predestines or elects, what happens in our hearts when we hear this?  If you’re like most Americans or even Western Europeans, you feel this is God infringing upon your autonomy and upon your freedom.  Yet, other countries who have a monarch and who endure much persecution have little trouble with this doctrine of predestination.

My aim is to show you that the doctrine of predestination is not only biblical, but is necessary for us to have any hope of holiness, comfort, and perseverance.  For the Apostle Paul and all other writers of Scripture, preaching and teaching on this topic was not simply a theological exercise, but a pastoral exhortation.  It extols the sovereignty of God—His rule and reign over all things in His creation—including us. Every part of our spiritual lives revolves around two words:  “in him” or “in Christ.”

Let’s take a look at this and numerous other passages.

The greatest spiritual blessing He gives:  “in Christ.”

Verse 3 says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.”  Paul starts this off with a prayer:  “Blessed be… .”   All prayer is grounded in a belief in the sovereignty of God.

So, before he mentions His choosing or predestinating believers, we reminds us that, through Christ, the Father has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.  Yet, none of those blessings would be possible without the greatest spiritual blessing He gave—His chosen Son, Jesus.  And since God rules and reigns over every molecule, every atom, every electron, He is most able to deliver, even when it seems a tall order.

How did He choose us?  In verse 4, it says:  “even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world.”  This speaks to a number of things.  First, we are chosen/predestined in Christ, not in ourselves One, that God did not wait for us to choose Him, but chose us even before we were born—even before the world began.  We even see this in Revelation 13:8 as the beast who would come and many would worship.  But who would worship him?  “And all who dwell on earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain.”  God has called out a spiritual blessing in Christ for protection and a maintenance of a witness in the world.

It was not based on our obedience.  Look with me at Deuteronomy 7:7-8:

It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples,but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.

It’s not due to numbers.  Were chosen not because of how obedient we were or how many we were.  In fact, that’s where free will comes in.    We were chosen in spite of our disobedience and in spite of our lack of number.  He did this because he resolved before one ray of light broke through the darkness of the universe.  And as we read through the books of Exodus through Deuteronomy, we see that God did not choose them due to their obedience.  Repeatedly, God gave spoke of how “stiffnecked and stubborn” they were, but they remained His people through the covenant He made through Abraham:

Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

So us being predestined in Him brings about a great comfort to us.  We are chosen in him, therefore, His calling and choosing are what keeps us.  This is where the free will comes in.  What do we mean by free will?  What we usually mean is that we are autonomous individuals who make our own choices and decisions without any coercion from anyone—even God.  God may nudge, but ultimately it’s our decision.

I believe that’s how we process it.  But we need to turn to the Scriptures and look at Romans 3:9-10:

For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, 10 as it is written:

“None is righteous, no, not one;
11     no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.”

The Bible tells us three chapters later in Romans 6 that we are either slaves to sin or slaves to righteousness.  So if we talk about free will in any sense at all like what was up top, how is our will free?  It’s not.  It’s either coerced by sin and self, or it’s coerced by the Spirit.  Who has free will?  It’s here we find our greatest spiritual comfort.

The greatest spiritual comfort He gives:  “according to the purpose of His will.”

This is first found in verse 5:  “In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will.  What affects God’s will? Nothing at all.  This is a big God we serve, dear Christian!

In James 1:17-18:

17 Every good gift 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. 18 Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.

God’s nature, will, and his purpose do not change.  He is the only truly free being.   And His will

The next place is in v. 9 where he makes known to us the purpose of His will.  Set forth in Christ as far as how and when the fullness of time would occur.  So God even predestined how long the world would last.  He ordained when he would let us know the fullness of his will through Christ.

Lastly in verse 11:  Then our inheritance that we have obtained because it was “predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will.”

So you say, how is this comforting?  In the same way that so many find comfort in Romans 8:28:  “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”  That’s right: purpose.  And what’s the purpose?  Romans 8:29-30:

29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

Through all of what God intends for us is found in verse 29 that also connects with Ephesians 1:4:  The purpose is to conform us to the image of His Son (the “in him”).  When we go back to Ephesians 1:4: “Even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.” Through God’s work, he seeks to work in us and move in us.  Even as we are not righteous, not seeking after him, after all of us going astray—God worked before the foundation of the world to set apart a people (holy), to purchase the sins of those people whom God called out, and then the Father by the Spirit moves in us to conform us to the image of His Son! It’s all of grace!  It’s all of God.

  1. The greatest spiritual response we give:  “to the praise of His glorious grace.”

We’ve spent much time talking about God predestining, choosing, and electing.  So am I saying that there’s no need for us to respond?  No, no, and no!  In Ephesians 1:13-14, we read this:

13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit,14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

 So much of the NT, we see that when belief and response come, it’s from the work that God already has done in our hearts.

For instance: Jesus said in John 6:37:  “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.”  All that the Father gives to me will come to me, which means there’s a certain number that God has called out—and they will respond.  Seven verses later in John 6:44, we again see Jesus say, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.”  God is the great initiator—and give us the gift of faith and belief!

In Matthew 11:28, we read of how Jesus tells us to, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn of me.”  But what about Matthew 11:25-27:

25 At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding andrevealed them to little children; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.[a] 27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

Folks come and say, “What about John 3:16?”  “Whosover believes.”  That is absolutely true!  Whosover believes.  But who are the ‘whosoever’?  Earlier, Jesus said that one had to be ‘born of the Spirit’ or ‘born again.”  In John 3:5-8:

Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.[c] Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You[d] must be born again.’ The wind[e] blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

So is the ‘whosoever’ in John 3:16 anyone, or those whom God is working and calling?  And those who are born of the Spirit, are sealed by the Spirit—protected and preserved!  No emperor, no unbelief, no Satan can take them out of his hand.

In John 1:12-13:  “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”

So one may say, “Then why should we share the gospel if God is working and saving without our aid?”  For one, he commands us.  For two, it fuels our evangelism to know that we aren’t the ones doing the saving—that’s God’s job.  We are called to plant the seeds for which God will bring the growth (1 Corinthians 3:8).  When someone asked Charles Spurgeon how he reconciled the doctrine of God’s sovereignty in election and predestination with preaching the gospel and calling people to repentance, he said in the way only Spurgeon could:

“I never have to reconcile friends. Divine sovereignty and human responsibility have never had a falling out with each other. I do not need to reconcile what God has joined together. Where these two truths meet I do not know, nor do I want to know. They do not puzzle me, since I have given up my mind to believing them both.”

Do you understand it?  Probably not!  Do I understand it?  I still struggle with it.  But I’m not called to preach and teach and embrace that which I understand, but also that which I do not completely comprehend!  But God has revealed it in His Word.  He has spoken, and we must listen.  What a big God we serve to send Christ to continue and complete a work that took place before anything was around, to have a purpose put forth and completed, and to have a big God in Christ worthy of our praise!  This is the goal:  total glorification and satisfaction in Him!  Are we satisfied?

Categories: 2008 Presidential Election, Arapahoe Road Baptist Church, Ephesians 1:3-14, free will, Paul, predestination, Romans 6, sermons, sovereignty of God | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

What Does Freedom Even Mean for the Christian?

(From the July 2015 Challenger article for Arapahoe Road Baptist Church)

Freedom. My goodness, what does this word mean? It depends on your perspective. John Green in his book The Fault in our Stars, gives an interesting insight into how folks see freedom. “Some tourists think Amsterdam is a city of sin, but in truth it is a city of freedom. And in freedom, most people find sin.” So, for some, freedom is the right to pursue whatever desires you have, whether it’s education, jobs, hobbies, or other practices that the Bible calls ‘sin.’ Think about it: many folks want their ‘rights’ in this land of freedom, but what they really want is affirmation in what the culture has previously determined as sin. Now those barriers and boundaries are falling. Freedom now means that anything goes.

As far as freedom is concerned in previous decades in America, it meant freedom from foreign coercion (we’re looking at you, King George II of Britain, Mr. Taxation-Without-Representation). In the 19th century leading up to our Civil War, the North and the South defined freedom very differently—at least the white people defined freedom in various ways, for the slaves saw freedom entirely differently. Even some of my ancestors wanted the freedom to keep others in slavery.

In January 6, 1941, Franklin D. Roosevelt, in reflecting on the escalating Second World War taking place in Europe, outlined four freedoms: the freedom of speech, the freedom of worship, the freedom from want, and the freedom from fear.

In the Scriptures, only one type of freedom exists, and that’s freedom in Christ. It’s a freedom that far surpasses any other freedom this world provides. The Bible does not give us freedom to do whatever we want, and still call ourselves believers. No, the freedom we have in Christ is a freedom from sin and a freedom from self-direction and self-preservation. What does this mean?

In Romans 6, Paul tells us that we are “free from sin,” (v. 6) no longer under its dominion (v. 9). But in our freedom, we are still “slaves of righteousness” (v 18). Scripture makes it clear that we stay enslaved to something, whether it’s to sin or to slavery.

I’m reminded of two books written about 200 years apart. One book, written by Martin Luther (1483-1546) is entitled The Bondage of the Will. In Colonial America, Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) wrote The Freedom of the Will. Well, which is it? The bondage of the will or the freedom of the will. Yes! When Christ saves us, our will comes in bondage to Christ’s will. At the same time, when Christ saves us, our will is free to obey Christ and His will. In essence, these books deal with the exact same topic, even though their titles on the surface look diametrically opposed to one another.

With the words freedom and liberty so prevalent in our founding documents (The Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights), we as Americans see these words in the Scriptures and automatically works to find parallels. Granted, they exist—but only on the smallest of scales. While cultures may provide freedoms in all their varying perspectives and definitions, no culture, no man-made law, no king’s (with a small k) edict, no unspoken rules or traditions provide one molecule of freedom in the heart of any person on the planet.

You see, that freedom from sin was so elusive to human beings that the Father had to send His Son, Jesus Christ, to purchase our freedom on our behalf. Christ came as Holy God to fulfill the law that we disobeyed (which reflected the inclinations of our heart), but He also came as a human being to stand as a substitute for our atonement and redemption for our sin. No other act of love in the history of anything comes as close to this act of love, mercy, grace, forgiveness, and redemption. And again, no political freedom provided can free our hearts from that sin which enslaves us.

Independence Day? My goodness, dear Christian, every day in Christ is independence day, free in Christ under His Lordship! No other type of independence comes close!

Blessings,

Pastor Matt

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