Posts Tagged With: ARBC

What Would You Like to Know About Pastor’s Kids? Here’s Seven

Thanks to Thom Rainer for putting this article out back in June.  I have four pastor’s kids at my house and who come with me to worship at Arapahoe Road Baptist Church.  Rainer felt the rage we all do when someone comes up to us and says, “You need to tell your kid to get up. Pastors’ children aren’t supposed to act that way.”  When Rainer conducted a Twitter poll of pastors and their spouses, some of the responses were heartbreaking. 

I know I got a letter from one of my boys asking me why, as a pastor, I had to work so much around Jesus’ birthday.  They observe more than we realize. 

But church, you can help your pastors, as many in our church have helped me stay grounded and them feel loved. 

Categories: pastor, pastoring | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Apologetics and the Mission of our Church

Apologetics is the study of defending the Christian faith.  This field is not merely for the academicians or the intellectual elite, but is for all believers everywhere. 

If Christians simply stay cloistered in the church world and only befriend other believers who think like they do, they will see no need to study other belief systems since they rarely encounter those systems.

Yet, if Christians find themselves engaged with other belief systems in school, at the workplace, in the marketplace of ideas, interacting with the evening news, watch television shows or movies—or really any type of encounters with anyone in our culture—you will see the need to delve into the root behind those systems and to understand your faith all the better.

Here at Arapahoe Road Baptist Church, we have centered our vision and mission around five M’s, if you will:

  • Magnify Christ:  this is upward in direction as we seek to know Christ more deeply.
  • Mature:  this is  forward in direction as we see to grow in Christ.
  • Minister:  this is inward in direction as we seek to show others Christ in day-to-day gospel living.
  • Mobilize:  this is outward in direction as we seek to go in the name of Christ from Centennial to the corners of creation.
  • Multiply:  this is onward in direction as we seek to flow in the Kingdom work of Christ in places that do not have a gospel witness.

The key verse for many in apologetics is that of 1 Peter 3:15:  “But in your hearts regard Christ as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.”  Notice how the mission fits in:

  • Magnify:  “In your hearts regard Christ as holy …”  Magnify Christ by seeing Him as He truly is!
  • Mature:  “… Always being prepared to make a defense …” – Christians will want to grow in their faith to be prepared to..
  • Minister:  “ … with gentleness and respect…”—We minister out of love, understanding that we ourselves, outside of Christ, would be lost and blind without Him taking the scales from our eyes. 
  • Mobilize: “… to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.”  As you are mobilized (as you go), others may and will ask you what makes you tick. 
  • Multiplication:  In this, as the Spirit moves and flows through us, God will bring the growth (1 Corinthians 3:8). 

We trust the Word and the Spirit—but we (regardless of what others may say) have a reasonable, rational, defensible faith.  Religion and reason are not mutually exclusive—those who come to those conclusions are either biased (some church has hurt them in the past and that pain has dug down deep) or are lazy (those who jump to the conclusions or listen to others who don’t know better either, and they perpetuate the falsehood). 

But we engage in this to strengthen the believers and to be ready to share the gospel as we connect with others and their worldview. 

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God’s Intention for Marriage (Part I of the Biblical Portrait of Marriage)

(This was preached at Arapahoe Road Baptist Church in Centennial, CO on Sunday, February 3, 2013 as the first installment of a sermon series on “The Biblical Portrait of Marriage.”  You may listen to the sermon here.  Below are the notes I brought into the pulpit.)

I have a friend of mine who planted a church in Eastern Kentucky last year who is starting his own sermon series on marriage. He entitled it, “Weird Marriage.” Then I saw the promo video. The whole premise of the series is this: normal marriages in our country aren’t working. What are needed are weird marriages.

  • By the age of 20, 75% of all people will have engaged in sex before marriage. By 30, that number increases to 90%–meaning activities that God designed for marriage are happening before and outside marriage.
  • As we saw last week, 40% of all women will have had abortions—making it the 2nd largest surgical procedure.
  • 1/3 of all men and ¼ of all women have had an adulterous relationship (that is, sexual relations with someone who is not their spouse).
  • Add into it that 80% of all websites are pornographic and nature and the snare of that cyber world is almost frightening.
  • Men are especially prone. There are approximately 150-200 ‘skin’ magazines like Playboy, Penthouse, Maxim, etc.—whereas only 3-5 skin magazines exist for women.
  • And while we may have heard for most of our lives that 50% of our marriages are breaking up, we do know that those who put Christ at the center of their marriages and not themselves fair way better than the other.

The relationship/marriage system that the culture brings is broken. Yet, the culture seems adamant in holding on to their way, while looking at God’s design as outlined in the Bible as oppressive, repressive, and obsolete. The idea of a lifelong, monogamous relationship based upon Scripture makes many roll their eyes.

But we must also recognize that many have seen people who call themselves Christians not emulate a very Christian marriage. In fact, they may wonder if God’s design is the best design. It’s easy to get off track. As I was going through the various airports (Denver, Miami, and Port of Spain), you see the magazines. Plus, 80% of the websites on the internet are pornographic. Sports Illustrated has a swimsuit issue that sells more magazines than all of the other weeks put together. And now, the 50 Shades Trilogy which is now basically a pornographic novel for women—and many who are Christians are reading this: “It’s just a story after all.”

But these areas are destructive because it’s taking an image bearer of God (someone’s son or daughter—usually daughter) and instead of being seen as God’s creation, they are seen as an airbrushed object.

The purpose of this series is to recapture in our minds and hearts God’s grand design for marriage and his designed use for the vessel he gave us. For us as Christians, we must remember that our bodies are not our own, but as Paul told us in 1 Corinthians, “We are the Temple of the Holy Spirit. You are not your own, you were bought with a price. Honor God with your bodies.”

1. God created all things by His Word—and His Word must re-create us.

In Genesis 1:1 (the very first verse of the Bible, mind you), speaks volumes in ten economical words: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” God created everything contained in time and space. John 1:3 says, “All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.” At first, it was a dark and empty waste, but God through His Word brought it into form. Notice the pattern found throughout Genesis 1:

  • And God said . . . (a phrase used ten times)
  • And ‘it’ was so.
  • And God saw that it was good (six times—one for each day).
  • “And there was evening and there was morning…”
  • Number/day (“the first day,” “the second day,” etc.)

How powerful is the Word of God! In Revelation 4:11, we see:

“Worthy are you, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they existed and were created.”

The Word of God reflects the will of God. It creates and it exists based on His Word. And, again, how much did God create? “For you created all things” (Rev. 4:11). So, if God made everything, then everything created must be good! We must absorb this foundational proposition found in Scripture. God made all things and he made them good. “He saw that it was good.” Approximately 4,000 years later, the Apostle Paul wrote a letter to young Pastor Timothy, reminding him of the goodness of creation—and helping him recognize how well-meaning but misguided people began to redefine what “good” was outside of God’s design:

Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer (The Apostle Paul, 1 Timothy 4:1-5).

Notice how he describes these people twist the good things God made because of their devotion to “deceitful spirits and teaching of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared” (v. 1). Twisting God’s Word is demonic! In commenting on the word ‘seared,’ Warren Wiersbe defines it as ‘cauterized.’

Just as a person’s flesh can be ‘branded so that it becomes hard and without feeling, so a person’s conscience can be deadened. Whenever we affirm with our lips something that we deny with our lives (whether people know it or not), we deaden our consciences just a little more.”

How does this apply to our topic tonight? Simply put, the consciences of those inside and outside the church have been seared. Inside the church, we avoid the topic of “naked and not ashamed” because the world has hijacked this design in such an ugly way that we believe it’s ugly. We need to rescue this beautiful design from the world’s clutches because everything that God made, even the ‘naked and not ashamed’ aspect of creation, is good and glorious to Him.

A question remains: Why did God make everything? Simply put, to point to Him and bring glory to His Son. Those who say that they would believe if God would show Himself are speaking out of ignorance. God has shown Himself.

2. God created us male and female in His image.

When it comes to humanity, let’s look at Genesis 1:26-31:

26 Then God said, “Let us make man[a] in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

27 So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.

28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” 29 And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. 30 And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. 31 And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

The relationship that man and woman have comes from an overflow of the relationship of the Godhead (“Let us make man in our image”). This is a shadow of the reference to the doctrine of the Trinity—one God in the Three Persons of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Robert Smith spoke recently at Southern Seminary conveyed a beautiful thought regarding the Trinity from the lips of Jonathan Edwards, whom Smith calls the greatest theologian born on American soil: “God has forever known himself in a sweet and holy society as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”[1] The Trinity is one in essence, though three in persons. By the Trinity making man Imago Dei, we see that male and female, though two, are in the covenant of marriage joined together as one, as the sweetest and holiest society found on planet earth by two created beings.

Charles Spurgeon said it right:

Matrimony came from Paradise, and leads to it. I never was half so happy, before I was a married man, as I am now. When you are married, your bliss begins. Let the husband love his wife as he loves himself, and a little better, for she is his better half. He should feel, “If there’s only one good wife in the whole world, I’ve got her.”[2]

We shall develop this as we delve into Genesis 2 and how woman was made from man, exemplifying the closeness and intimacy of the man and woman. But for our purposes, we recognize that the Genesis 2:23-25 passage is built on the foundation laid in Genesis 1:26-27.

So what does this entail? What does it mean that we are image bearers of God? First, we are called to engage in procreation. “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.” God commanded the male and female to use their bodies in the marriage covenant to procreate so they may populate the world with image bearers. How? Through a sexual uniting of the bodies God made in His image. This uniting serves a number of purposes.

First, this sexual union between a man and woman in a covenant relationship is an act of worship—a way for us to know God in Christ more fully. In his book Desiring God, John Piper insightfully shares:

His goal in creating human beings with personhood and passion was to make sure that there would be sexual language and sexual images that would point to the promises and the pleasures of God’s relationship to his people and our relationship to him. In other words, the ultimate reason (not the only one) why we are sexual is to make God more deeply knowable. The language and imagery of sexuality are the most graphic and most powerful that the Bible uses to describe the relationship between God and his people—both positively (when we are faithful) and negatively (when we are not).[3]

By God providing our spouses as an avenue for procreation, protection, and pleasure, He gives us also an avenue of understanding the intimacy found in a way among the Trinity who created us in His image, but also a depth of understanding of the intimacy that may be found in Christ. It was not by artistic license that the apostle Paul noted in Ephesians 5:28-33:

28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body.31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

So, an earthly marriage is a portrait of the heavenly marriage of Christ and His bride, the church. As image bearers of God by virtue of creation, and as followers of Christ by virtue of the New Creation, our relationship in our marriages (for good or for ill) put on display the type of relationship Christ has with His bride.

If we use our bodies for sex without the triumvirate of procreation, protection, and pleasure as happens outside the covenant of marriage, it matters not how much one “plays house,” the sexual union in these types of relationships (from one-night stands to living together, or ‘shacking up,’ as my father used to say) runs counter to whatever objective you may have. One-night stands are designed for pleasure without responsibility. Living together may lead to procreation, but not in the fruitful kind of way. Multiplying, yes—fruitful, no! Protection? Living together usually happens because of one of two things: (1) There is a low view of marriage that deems the civil construct of this unnecessary; or (2) they are taking their relationship out for a test drive to see if it will work—and if not, no covenant has been made, so the next thing to do is dissolve the arrangement.

We could go on in regards to abortion, fornication, adultery, homosexuality, and other forms of sexual activity outside of the covenant of marriage—which we will soon. Right now, planet Earth houses seven billion people—that’s billion with a ‘b.’ Each person came on earth as the result of a male image bearer of God and a female image bearer of God coming together in sexual union—from a myriad of different circumstances. But regardless of how you came into the world and by what circumstances, nothing changes that you

We are to engage in domination and cultivation. Genesis 1:28 also“… and subdue it, and have dominion . . . .” God has called His image bearers to take care of the earth He gave them. “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food” (Genesis 1:29).

15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

This is where the church has, by the authority of Scripture, the wherewithal to address environmental issues. This does not give humanity license to abuse God’s good creation. He has called us to be good stewards for the benefit (but, again, not the abuse) of the image bearers he created. Some believe that since the Scriptures say God will ultimately usher in a new heaven and new earth, where the old one will pass away (Revelation 21:1), why bother worrying about the condition of this earth? Why waste time in such a futile area, when we know from God’s Word that He will burn it up (2 Peter 3:7)?

Others go completely to the other extreme, almost in reaction to the ways previous generations abused and raped the land. Global warming, the polar ice caps, preservation of vast areas of land (with the related refusal to allow other actions such as oil drilling or landscaping for the sale of real estate, etc.), animal protection, etc., are some areas of emphasis. Whereas the former group thought it was a waste of time to preserve the earth, the latter group felt there was no time to waste—for in time, the earth would be destroyed due to continued negligence.

Michael Horton provides a helpful balance:

Believers with the same commitments to Scripture and its teachings will differ on their interpretation of the data and the best agenda. Nevertheless, I still hear some conservative Christians say that God’s sovereignty means that the world can’t be destroyed; humans can’t ruin it. Therefore, never mind global warming. That’s not just bad politics, in my view, but bad theology. God always works through means. He is sovereign, but I still think I should take a bath. He’s not going to take one for me. God has called us to be prophets, priests, and kings in his Son, the Prophet, Priest, and King. If you think it’s all going to burn anyway, who cares? But if you’re looking forward to “the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting” in a renewed creation, we should anticipate that new age now by our daily actions.[4]

Communication. (Genesis 2:23-24). As God communicated in time and space to create everything, and even man (Genesis 1:26-27), so as image bearers of God we may communicate. The type of communication in which His image bearers engage provides a sophisticated type of communication that’s not simply utilitarian, but emotional, purposeful, and even philosophical. As God used words, so we, too, use words.

God used words to communicate to His creation, but more specifically to His prophets. Conveying God’s words through our words was such a high premium that a false prophet who misled God’s people with false prophecies (by either denying, adding to, or taking away from God’s Word) would be executed (Deuteronomy 13:5, Revelation 22:7-19). In Paul’s last words to young pastor Timothy, he charged him in the sight of God to “preach the Word, in season and out of season” (2 Timothy 4:2). Jesus even tells believers we will be held accountable for every idle word we say, for “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (see Matthew 12:33-37). Why is this so important? By virtue of God’s intention for creation, we are to use the mouth (fueled by the heart) to speak that which is appropriate for one made by God.

3. God created us to leave and cleave—becoming one flesh.

While I intend to spend more time on this next week than this week, it’s important for us to understand a vital cog in God’s design for marriage. But keep in mind this practical truth along with a gospel truth. God has called us to worship him as our primary relationship. No relationship in the universe is more important than our relationship with Jesus Christ. Nothing trumps that. But in the economy of God, and by His perfect design, the most important earthly relationship on the planet is that between you and your spouse. Up until that point, the most important relationship is of that with your parents. But once you leave and cleave to your spouse, you are now one flesh.

You say, “How is that? I still have my name. I have my own clothes. I have my own SSN. Do I lose myself?” No, you complete yourself. Or should we say, God completes you. But we must realize that everything in this world is working to break up your marriage. The apostle John talks about the unholy trinity of the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life (1 John 2:15-16). All of these items converge as tools in the spiritual warfare in which we are engaged. This is why I tell married couples and couples in premarital counseling, “It’s you against the world.”

But Ephesians 5 tells us that marriage is a portrait of Christ and the church. Just as marriage is the most important relationship on the planet, no relationship trumps Christ. At times, we put our spouses in place of Christ. We expect them to follow our standards, meet our needs, fulfill us fully—and when they don’t, we believe something is wrong with them and with our marriages. Not so! Our spouses are not meant to serve as our Savior—only Christ can do that. But they are to serve as those who help “Christ be formed in” us.

Have you surrendered to Christ this morning? Or is there an idol or a standard which you are worshiping to give you your identity and that which you think will be your Savior?


[1]Robert Smith, Preached at the E.Y. Mullins Lectures at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, KY, 24 April 2012

[2]Charles H. Spurgeon quoted in Larry J. Michael, Spurgeon on Leadership: Key Insights for Christian Leaders from the Prince of Preachers (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 2010), 131. Quoted (again) in Justin Buzzard, Date Your Wife: A Husband’s Guide (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012), 13.

[3]John Piper, “Sex and the Supremacy of Christ: Part One” in Sex and the Supremacy of Christ, eds., John Piper and Justin Taylor (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2005), 26.

[4]Michael Horton, Environmental Stewardship vs. Environmentalism. Accessed 14 January 2013; available at http://theresurgence.com/2010/04/07/environmental-stewardship-vs-environmentalism [on-line]; Internet.

Categories: Marriage, sermons | 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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The Gospel Gripped Fellowship: 12 Books, 12 Months, Maturing Hearts for the Gospel

Beginning in January 2013 (that’s tomorrow, believe it or not), I will be kicking off a group known as The Gospel Gripped Fellowship.  While I have a Facebook page for this group, do not feel you have to join this FB page to participate.  Here is the description:

A group of believers getting together to read a book a month that deals with theology, spiritual growth, evangelism, and other biblical matters.  This is an outgrowth of Arapahoe Road Baptist Church, Centennial, CO (http://www.arbc.net). 

We have a number of young men who sense and have responded to a call to ministry.  This will help keep them sharp as we seek to train them to work out their calling in a local church setting.

But God has called all of us to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). 

The first book we will read is by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck, “Why We Love the Church.”  So many have been disparaging the local/institutional church that it’s time we see that these kingdom outposts are designed by God to “display the manifold wisdom of God” (Ephesians 3:10). 

Are you in?  I’ll be posting remarks on this blog as well as on the Facebook page.  Join us in the journey!

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Flying in a Christ Formation: Resolutions for our ARBC Family

… for whom I am again in anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you (Galatians 4:19).

Hard to believe 2013 is here. Was it just me, or did 2012 go by in a blur? When I look back and slow the tape down, if you will, I see that God did some marvelous things at ARBC:

  • He brought some incredible people into a church already filled with incredible people ready to mature and mobilize in Christ (69 have joined the church this year!).
  • He has allowed us to participate in some great neighborhood outreaches.
  • He is using us to develop men and women in Christ to make an impact in our homes, jobs, and schools.
  • Our worship gatherings have been filled with a ‘serious joy,’ in that we take God’s Word seriously, and His Spirit is filling His people with the joy of Christ!
  • A growing desire is taking place among our people to go deeper in the Word and a desire to be discipled in Christ.

I could go on about what God is doing here in looking back at 2012, but soon 2012 will be ‘last year.’ What does 2013 have in store? Honestly, only God knows what He has planned for our church. But I do know that of the things I see Him bringing over the horizon, 2013 could bring be a very special, Christ-exalting year in the life of ARBC.

My aim for 2013 in seeing the glory of the gospel spread from Centennial to the corners of creation is this: Christ formed in you (see Galatians 4:19). Here are some ‘resolutions’ I would encourage you to embrace in the year ahead:

  1. Bury yourself in the Word and prayer. Find a good Bible reading plan that will take you through the Scriptures. If you have Internet, http://www.youversion.com has a ton of Bible reading plans—and yes, smartphone users, they have an app. You can even download the ESV Bible app for free! I use it everyday and I praise God for it.  I also recommend two great books on prayer:  Valley of Vision, a collection of Puritan prayers that are food for my soul; and Developing a Healthy Prayer Life: 31 Meditations on Communing with God by James Beeke and Joel Beeke. 
  2. Commit to attending our worship gatherings (Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night). Hebrews 10:25 not only commands it for our own good, but shows some significant benefits to our Christian walk.  If
  3. Commit to a Sunday morning small group. These are more intimate settings where teaching and dialoguing about the Scriptures can take place. Plus, you develop friendships that last outside the class and the church. We cannot do this alone!  We need these relationships to help strengthen our main relationship with Christ. 
  4. Be a part of our monthly family conferences (business meetings) on Sunday nights: Do you realize that you can participate in the goings-on of our church? You can ask questions, make suggestions, and just learn about what’s going on with our various ministry teams. As a member, you can even vote. How wonderful it is to have a part in our church in this way! Don’t miss out!
  5. Do a Hi-Five: There are 401K Plans. Here is a 261K Plan—signifying the 261,000 people that live in a five-mile radius of our church. The Hi-Five seeks to make a dent in this: Make a list of five people you know that need Christ or at least need a church home where they can mature and minister for the cause of Christ. Pray for them. Then Invite-Invest-and Involve them in the Lord’s work here as they submit to the Lord’s Word in their hearts! Remember, Paul’s aim and ours is “Christ formed in you.” Who’s on your Hi-Five? Let us know so we can begin praying for them specifically on Wednesday nights.

May God grant you a blessed 2013! On the mountaintops or in the valleys, He has promised to walk with us all the way. What needs to happen and what obstacles need to be removed for Christ to be formed in you and in others?

Blessings,

Pastor Matt

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Visioneering: A Sermon Series for October

So October is here!  In this month, I turn 41, celebrating my first birthday in Denver! 

But October will also be key for our church as we move forward.  Our leadership has determined to set aside October as a time to cast a vision for the direction we will be going as we move forward in the days ahead.  The idea is to share this direction for everyone to get on-board, not simply the leadership.  When everyone is on the same page, beautiful things happen for Christ.

So here at the blog, I’ll be using this as a way to think through this process.  I would appreciate your feedback.  Below is the sermon series, which will set the framework for the days ahead.

 

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Visioneering

Engineering a Vision for ARBC that Spreads the Grace and Glory of the gospel from Centennial to the Corners of Creation!

October 7: Magnify: Visioneering an Upward Vision of Exalting Christ in All Things

October 14: Mature: Visioneering a Forward Vision for Personal Growth in Christ

October 21: Minister: Visioneering an Inward Vision of Equipping and Encouraging the Saints in the Things of Christ

October 28: Mobilize: Visioneering an Outward Vision of Engaging and Evangelizing Centennial to the Corners of Creation

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A Mile Wide in the Mile High

The following is my article for our monthly newsletter, the ARBC Challenger:

How wonderful God has been to us at ARBC! Such a spirit of joy and excitement! God has brought 46 (as of Sunday, August 26)  into our church family (approximately 30 as new members who are followers of Christ)! Four baptisms on the 26th (and three of them youth!), a sending of our missions team to Hungary—not to mention the missions team that came to help at the 316 booth and the parade at Western Welcome Week. We are seeing what can happen when we are motivated by the glory of God to put feet to our faith.

And the best is yet to come!

A Mile Wide in the Mile High: Loving Our Neighbors Back to Church

We are surrounded by neighbors who are simply going through the motions of the day, trying to find meaning, purpose, and value in this life. Get up, go to work, plug into a hobby, then off to bed only to get up and do the rat race again!

Why did God plant Arapahoe Road Baptist Church at 780 E. Arapahoe Road? He planted us here to make a visible difference for Christ! We were not planted here by accident! God is moving here—we have averaged over 200 for the last five months, and over 225 in August! It’s exciting to be here—it’s a church I would attend even if I were not the pastor! I’m just as curious as you are to see what God will do next!

But it’s not just about what happens in the four walls of our church on Sunday morning! We don’t stay here all day or all week. God unleashes us into his world: schools, work, homes, marketplace, etc.

On Saturday, September 15, God has provided us an opportunity to care for our neighbors. My desire is to hit every home within a mile radius of our church. You heard me correctly. What will we do?

  • We will be armed with cards corresponding to every home within that radius.
  • On the cards will be name, address and some questions.
  • The questions will be as follows:
    • How can we pray for you?
    • Do you have a church home?
    • Do have any type of spiritual belief?
  • We will pray before, during, and after for an open door to the gospel.

Out of our comfort zone? Absolutely—this is not something that comes naturally! But is it an opportunity to care about our neighbors with truth and love? Absolutely!

And note that Sunday, September 16 is Back to Church Sunday. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if everyone at ARBC came to church, and brought a FRAN (friend, relative, associate or neighbor) with them, especially if they used to go to church but hadn’t been? Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have 275-300 on a non-Resurrection Day Sunday to hear the gospel again or for the first time—and to be around a great group of people?

That’s why God planted us at 780 E. Arapahoe Road. Let’s see what He does through us!

In Christ,

Pastor Matt

P.S. Please take note of my friends, Roddie and Stella Taylor, who will be with us for a week to preach and teach from God’s Word September 30-October 3.

Also, married or soon-to-be married men, don’t forget to sign up and get a ticket at the Guys’ Night Out on Friday, September 21, at Fellowship Church in Denver. The bus will leave at 5 pm. It’s general admission, so you can get your ticket ($15, includes pizza, Justin Buzzard’s book Date Your Wife, and other sessions) online here: http://www.crossway.org/group/gnotour.

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Western Welcome Week, a 316 Car, and the Importance of a Gospel Presence

2012-08-18

This past Saturday was my favorite day since I’ve come to Colorado—and God has provided some wonderful days since I’ve become pastor at Arapahoe Road Baptist Church .  This past Saturday was the parade for Western Welcome Week here in Littleton.  Here’s the description from the website:

Western Welcome Week, Inc. is ded­i­cated to hon­oring the tra­di­tion of cel­e­brating greater Littleton. The goal is to nur­ture com­mu­nity spirit, bring together res­i­dents and busi­nesses, sup­port ser­vice clubs and non­profits by cre­ating an oppor­tu­nity for fundraising, and pro­vide fes­tiv­i­ties and enter­tain­ment for fam­i­lies, friends and neigh­bors. In plan­ning Western Welcome Week the board pledges to remain open to new ideas, respect past tra­di­tions and be aware of present day needs with a vision for tomorrow.

It also provides a venue for fundraisers for non-profit organizations and other businesses.  So there were booths everywhere!  Not to mention anywhere from 50,000-75,000 people!

We manned the 316 booth. As you can see from the picture to the right, you can see the edge of the 2012-08-18 11.11.15316 car, the my316car.com booth, and the sign on the left saying, “Love Littleton: Caring Churches for Community.”  This was our booth.  With the help of area churches along with the Mile High Baptist Association and its Director of Missions Bob Ryan, we had hourly drawings for backpacks, lunchboxes, and the grand prize drawing, an iPod® shuffle.  We had dozens of people enter, and made some great contacts.

I’m not sure what anyone else did (if I wasn’t entering them in a drawing, I was doing something else with someone else), but I pointed them to the 316 car and asked them, “Do the numbers 316 ring a bell?”  If Tim Tebow was still the quarterback of the Broncos, that could have helped, but Broncos fans have long forgotten about him, football-wise.

Three answers were given in varying ratios:

  • One out of every 15 or so saying, “Oh, sure.  John 3:16”—then they would quote the verse. 
  • A number of others paused and thought about it.  So when I said, “Well, it’s a verse in the Bible…” they would say, “Oh, right!  I remember now.”  Takeaway: spiritual matters were most likely not first and foremost in their hearts and minds.
  • Many others had no clue, so it gave me the opportunity to share that verse with them:  “For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son, that whosoever believes in him will not perish, but have everlasting life.”  Seed planted—and we pray that God gives the growth.

We gave them a 316 sticker, a tract, a NT if they wished, and a handout of all the churches that participated in the booth. 

Now, about the 316 car.  There’s an old saying, “Confession is good for the soul.”  Well, I’m about to do my soul some good.  Given that this was my first year here in Colorado, I supported and gave my opinion and thoughts when asked, in order to see what Colorado culture and church life is like.  When I heard about this 316 car, I confessed to you that I thought the whole idea was corny and gimmicky.  I questioned its effectiveness.  I’ve always been leery of anything that looks like a dog-and-pony show when it comes to Kingdom work. 

But I stood back and supported.  And encouraged.  And participated.  And kept an open mind.

I’m glad I did.

Having the pleasure of driving the car in the parade, I saw how much the kids loved it, how much the Christians enjoyed seeing the witness present (although the church people did wonder where the colon was between the 3 and the 16, but I digress), and how much it caused others to scratch their heads.  If you noticed the side of the car more closely, all of the Colorado Baptist ministries’ logos were present around the numbers, so they saw who was participating and knew (at least on the surface) who we were. 

The 316 car generated a lot of conversation and provided an incredible open door to the gospel.  It reminded me of what the apostle Paul wrote to the Colossian church:

2 Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. 3 At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison— 4 that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak (Colossians 4:2-4, ESV).

Much prayer went into our presence at Western Welcome Week.  Many participated—not just Bob Ryan, but Jay Moyers (a member at ARBC) dig yeoman’s work in heading up the organization aspect, others participated as parade marshalls and booth workers.  I loved seeing that, too.

But it was the open door that God provided through the instrument of that 316 car.  Anytime you can use something as a way to share what Christ has accomplished on the cross and through the empty tomb is a blessed thing indeed. 

Because in Denver, which is 96% unchurched, where there is a strong non-religious, Muslim, and Mormon presence, we need for churches to get filled up inside the four walls with the Word, then be unleashed outside the four walls to dispense the Word and to pray for the culture around us in darkness and lostness. 

The 316 car helped provide that opportunity!  Isn’t God good in how he provides for us and what he teaches us?

I posted this as a Facebook status today.  I’ll close with it:

My desire is that ARBC be known as a kingdom outpost, serving as a missions hub from Centennial to the corners of the earth. My desire is that we have a culture here interested in sending capacity more than seating capacity. My desire is the gospel get out glocally (globally and locally) as we pray, give, go and send forth in Kingdom work. While I am happy we are growing, I pray that we are going, Great Commission-wise!

 

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The New Creation of the Church is More Amazing Than Even a 14er!

 

Tomorrow, I have the pleasure of going with another member of our church and a couple of his friends over to the Dillon area to climb another 14er (a mountain whose peak reaches over 14,000 ft.—quite a few here in the Colorado Rockies).  As you see from the picture, Grays (to the left) and Torreys (to the right) both reach to this height.  The ascent and descent total is around 8 miles on what looks to be good terrain. 

The thoughts of doing this as a resident of Kentucky never occurred to me.  But being here in Colorado, seeing the challenge, having good friends alongside, and the feeling of accomplishment once completed will be worth the time.  The best part about this is appreciating and glorifying God with his marvelous creativity! 

God displays his marvelous ‘new’ creativity in his church.  The variety he puts on display with the different people he brings together is amazing!  As amazing as the first creation is, as outlined in Genesis 1, the new creation is more miraculous—he takes that which is dead and rebellious against God and makes them alive in Christ (Ephesians 2:1-4). 

If you want to see more pictures of what the hike looks like along the way, click here

Oh, and ARBC family, if I’m sitting down to preach this coming Sunday, at least you’ll know why!  (Kidding—I only will stand barring an injury.  It’s God’s Word proclaimed, after all!)

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