Thursday, December 3, 2015

Cooking St. Nick

One of my favorite Christmas memories growing up was gathering at my grandmother's house to make Santa cookies. These aren't just any cookies mind you. They are the best frosted sugar cookies ever. This is not mere opinion, but scientifically verifiable. 

My grandfather served in the Air Force and while he was away during the holiday season my grandmother had to think of something to help keep her children occupied. One winter while stationed in Japan she had the phenomenal idea to make these cookies. This was in the late 1940s. 

So these babies were in our family almost a full four decades before I even arrived on the scene. Thankfully, my grandmother still had the joy and energy to make these cookies each year with me, my brother, and my sister. She would help us make some for us, our friends at school, and then she'd make dozens more on her own to mail to various family members. We'd sneak cookie dough when she wasn't looking and I'm sure at times it might have felt to her like this whole endeavor was more trouble than it was worth. We literally would spend all day at her house causing icing, flour, and cookie crumbs to be scattered all over the kitchen and dining room! But still, every year we made the cookies. To us, skipping this would have been equivalent to burning the flag (and having a grandfather who retired as a Colonel, that's a big deal!).

On December 20, 2014 my grandmother passed away. I guess in a way it was appropriate that she passed in December as this time of year brings back some of the fondest memories I have of her. As her health was failing last year we gave her one of the cookies we had made while she was suffering from dementia in the nursing home. She may not have remembered our faces at that point but she remembered that cookie, and smiled. After all, at that point she had been seeing those sweet treats for almost 70 years! And unlike her children and grandchildren, those Santa Clause cookies never grew up. They never changed. Always the red suit, the blue eyes, the green boots and gloves, they looked in 2014 Arkansas just like they did in 1948 Japan. Amazing how such a seemingly insignificant object (a Christmas cookie!) can transcend time and bring to life the feeblest of memories. 

A few years ago we got the recipe for the cookies and started our own tradition with our 4 children. While we have no vendetta against the fat man in the red suit, we've chosen to change the tradition just slightly. The cookies still taste and look the same but instead we call them "St. Nicholas" cookies. We cherish the family tradition, the cookie dough (the kids still eat it!), and the absoulute mess baking with children under 10 creates. But we also use it as an opportunity to focus on Jesus. After all, St. Nicholas (the real one!), fits very nicely into the Christmas story. The stories of his Christian kindness and benevolence are legendary. And then of course we love that he took a stand for the divinity of Jesus (it is said that at the council of Nicea in 325 AD, he punched the heretic Arius in the face). Our salvation rests wholly on the fact that Jesus is God the Son incarnate. If He is not fully God and fully man we have no hope that His death on the cross for sinners was able to reconcile God and man. Only One fully man can pay for our sins and only One fully God can bear the weight of the righteous wrath due us. St. Nicholas was right to see that this is no small matter. If there were ever a time that the Son was not, we are hopeless! But this is the glorious truth of Christmas isn't it? That God came to us to make His blessings flow far as the curse is found. The war has been won and one day we will see all that has gone wrong in our world be fully and finally undone and made right. No more struggle with sin, no more dementia, no more gaining weight because of too many cookies.  It's special to us that we can use this family Christmas ritual to discuss with our children the eternality of Jesus our Redeemer and the true significance of what we are celebrating on December 25. 

So, we plan to carry on this 70 year Nelson tradition once again in 2015. We'll laugh, make messes, cut cookies, bake, decorate, reminisce, and if we get the opportunity, slap a heretic. It makes me smile to think that when my children have their own kids, they too will reach back in the memory box and think of these times with happy thoughts. 

Maybe you don't have any special traditions like this in your family. Can I encourage you to start something this year? You never know what it will look like in 7 decades! Through continuing family times like these, your influence will live on long after you're gone. Cherish the moments God has given you. And it's ok to get creative in using them to tell of His greatness! 

Merry Christmas to you and yours... 

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Let Angels Sing

On a typical weekday morning I enjoy reading from The Valley of Vision during my time with the Lord. This morning I read from the prayer entitled The Great God that had these words:

Let angels sing for
sinners repenting,
prodigals restored,
backsliders reclaimed,
Satan's captives released,
blind eyes opened,
broken hearts bound up,
the despondent cheered,
the self righteous stripped,
the formalist driven from a refuge of lies,
the ignorant enlightened,
and saints built up in their holy faith.

Let angels sing indeed! I can't help but think of how fitting this is for our current Advent season. I think Angels singing brings our minds to Luke's narrative of their appearance to the shepherds. Did the angels actually 'sing'? They certainly praised God and gave Him glory! Whether or not this involved a song as we know it matters not. But they did have great reason to praise God. The One had been born. The One who would bruise that old Serpent's head. The One who would make His blessings flow as far as the curse is found. Which brings us back to the above prayer.

All of these things are results of Christ's coming: sinners repenting, prodigals restored, backsliders reclaimed, Satan's captives released, blind eyes opened, broken hearts bound up, the despondent cheered, the self righteous stripped, the formalist driven from a refuge of lies, the ignorant enlightened, and saints built up in their holy faith. 

What a marvelous season Advent is! As we think deeply about Christ's first coming and all that He has accomplished in it, may our hearts rejoice. Don't let the "arrows" of this season distract you from Whom they are actually pointing. The lights, the family, the cookies, the presents, all of it ought to be pointing us to this greater reality that Christ has came and He has conquered. Joy to the world! We are free from our bondage to sin and our rebellion against God and we are restored, setting our minds and hearts on our chief end: to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. Christ is the great hope, love, joy, and peace of this season. Let angels sing indeed!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Thy Will Be Done

We continue in our journey through the Model Prayer in Matthew 6:9-13.  Today we'll look at the second half of v. 10 - "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven."

The first question to think about as we come to this instruction is this: Can God’s will be thwarted?

Well, it depends on what you mean. Let's look at Scripture:
Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases. - Psalm 115:3
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 - Ephesians 1:11
I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. - Job 42:2
The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; he frustrates the plans of the peoples. The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations. - Psalm 33:10–11
The Lord has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble. - Proverbs 16:4
Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand. Proverbs 19:21

The eternal purposes and decrees of God, the eternal will of God, cannot be thwarted by us, by Satan, by the nations, by anyone or anything… But, in God’s revealed moral will, in which He commands men to do certain things, well yes, that is rejected quite often. However, even that falls under His eternal sovereign will.

So why does Jesus command us to pray this way? Two reasons:

1. God does hear and answer prayer and accomplish His purposes through what we pray-

So, if we didn’t believe God was Sovereign if we thought God could be defeated by the will of man, Satan, a tornado, or whatever…why would we pray this? Why would we pray “Thy will be done…”? Because ultimately if God could be thwarted, this prayer would be pointless. It would be more like “Well God, we hope you won’t be frustrated in this endeavor, best of luck.” But that’s blasphemous!

So, we can pray confidently for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven because God can and will use our prayers to bring that to pass!

Yes, it is true, that this may not fully happen over all the earth until Jesus comes back. But why does that keep us from praying it right now? For our homes? For our churches? For our communities? Sure, the world might not rejoice as a whole at God’s reign, but why can’t your county or your state? 

John Knox who died in 1572 used to pray “God, give me Scotland, or I die!” Why can’t we pray that about our cities, counties, and even our country? We are to pray confidently for God's will to be done knowing that it will be done and that He uses our prayers to accomplish His good purposes!

2. When we pray, we aren’t trying to change God, we are asking God to change us-

In the act of this very prayer our hearts ought to be drawn to areas in our life that are resisting God. What areas of your life wouldn’t be the same if you were in heaven right now?

Maybe your response is: Well I don’t know? How can I know? Do we understand Beloved, that God has given us a Book? Do you want to know God’s will for your life? Read the Book! The Book teaches us the will of God. And so as Believers, we want to love what God loves and we want to hate what God hates and we want God to orient our lives in such a way that we do on earth as it is in heaven.

Again, this sort of reorients our priorities doesn’t it?
  • Whose will do we want done in our church?
  • Whose will do we want done in our home?
  • Whose will do we want done in our business?
  • What about our children? What about our grandchildren?
And let's not take this prayer lightly either. What if God is calling your child to the jungles of the Amazon Rain Forest? You gonna trust Him with that? Are you going to believer that the grand purpose for God's eternal decrees is for the glory of His great name and the good of His people?

Specifically with this petition I think it ought to drive us to be better students of the Word. God is not hiding His will from us is He!? No, we can’t know the secret things of God. But we can and should and must know the things He has plainly revealed to us in His precious Word.

And how do we want His will manifest in our lives: “on earth as it is in heaven…” Don’t we see here Jesus’ concern for God’s glory? Isn’t God glorified when His children freely and joyfully submit to Him in all things? Aren't we most glad when we freely and joyfully submit to Him in all things?

And no, we are not advocating perfection but we are advocating forgetting what lies behind and pressing on towards the prize! We must continually rest ourselves in the gospel and the finished work of Jesus and as we are doing that we must pray for God’s reign to ever more manifest itself in our lives that we would be conformed into the image of His dear Son.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

What if I don't Persevere to the End?

Finishing well matters. As a Southern Baptist I often hear the phrase "once saved always saved" thrown around sort of causally in various circles. While I whole heartedly do affirm that all those genuinely converted will go to heaven, I have an issue with that phrase. 

It's not that the phrase in and of itself is all that bad, but it's what it has come to mean. Now days it means "anyone who at any point in his or her life has made any sort of profession of faith, will go to heaven." If you don't believe that's the case, you must not have attended many funerals in the Bible Belt. 

So, then, what happens if I don't persevere to the end? To answer that, let's read from a sermon by Charles Spurgeon entitled Enduring to the End:

Only he who continueth till he reaches the goal may be accounted a Christian at all...Those who merely begin, and do not hold out, will not be saved. Why! If every man would be saved who began to follow Christ, who would be damned? In a country as this, the most of men have at least one religious spasm in their lives (emphasis mine). I suppose that there is not a person before me who at some time or other did not determine to be a pilgrim (Christian).
You, Mr. Pliable, were induced by a Christian friend, who had some influence with you, to go with him some short way, till you came to the Slough of Despond (a Pilgrim's Progress reference); and you thought yourself very wise when you scrambled out on that side which was nearest to your own home. And even you, Mr. Obstinate, are not always dogged; you have fits of thoughtfulness and intervals of tenderness. My hearer, how impressed you were at the prayer meeting! How excited you were at that revival service! When you heard a zealous brother preach at the theater, what an impression was produced! Ah, yes! The shop was shut up for a Sunday or two; you did not swear or get drunk for nearly a month; but you could not hold on any longer.
Now, if those who were to begin were saved, you would be secure, though you are at the present time as far from anything like religion as the darkness at midnight is from the blazing light of midday. Besides, common sense shows us, I say, that a man must hold on, or else he cannot be saved; because the very worst of men are those who begin and then give up...There are none so bad as those who once seemed to be good.
After a lengthy illustration on a young man who walked away from the church, Spurgeon goes on to say:
Do not think it is the young alone however. It is a very lamentable fact that there are, in proportion, more backslidings among the old than the young; and if you want to find a great sinner in that respect, you will find him, surely, nine times out of ten with gray hairs on his head. Have I not frequently mentioned that you do not find in Scripture many cases of young people going astray..."Let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall."  
 No true child of God perishes - hold that fast; but this is the badge of a true child of God, - that a man endures to the end, and if a man does not hold on, but slinks back to his old master, and once again fits on the old collar, and wears again the Satanic yoke, there is sure proof that he has never come out of the spiritual Egypt through Jesus Christ, his leader, and hath never obtained that eternal life which cannot die, because it is born of God. The true badge of the Christian is perseverance, and without it no man has proved himself to be a child of God.
There it is.  While it is true that all Christians are preserved by God and never lost, it is equally true that they all persevere to the end. We cannot tell a person is saved simply by what they say about their conversion. The most dramatic and emotional of conversion experiences may prove false if one does not persevere to the end. "Although works do not justify a man before God, they do justify a man's profession before his fellows" (CHS).

Let us recover right teaching on this grand doctrine of Believers persevering to the end! Let me encourage you Believer to continue the fight! Continue to run the race set before you. Continue on this narrow way. Continue! For he who endures to the end, shall be saved.

Spurgeon concludes:
But ye cannot persevere except by much watchfulness in the closet, much carefulness over every action, much dependence upon the strong hand of the Holy Spirit, who alone can make you stand. Walk and live as in the sight of God, knowing where your great strength lieth; and depend upon it, you shall yet sing that sweet doxology in Jude, "Now unto Him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God our Savior, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen." A simple faith brings the soul to Christ. Christ keep the faith alive. That faith enables the believer to persevere, and so he enters heaven. May that be your lot and mine, for Christ's sake. Amen. 

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Your Kingdom Come

We continue in our journey through the Model Prayer in Matthew 6:9-13.  Today we'll look at the phrase Your Kingdom Come.

When we pray “Your Kingdom Come” what are we praying for?

1. A Priority RealignmentYour

We live in a ‘me’ culture. It’s all about me, what I can get out of life. We take verses like Jeremiah 29:11 and say God has a wonderful plan for my life full of college educations, a big house, and a nice retirement.

Whether we admit it or not, Christianity has become ‘me focused’. I want my type of music, my style of preaching, my sort of ministries. And when we don’t get that we move on to a church that will give it to us, or maybe we plant a church that will give us what we want. (By the way, this is why affinity base churches find 'success' in America. They are "me-churches". This is also why many churches that we might call "traditional" struggle. They are "me-churches".)

Essentially, we say “I care about God’s Kingdom as long as it lines up with MY Kingdom.”

But here in this petition we ought to have a priority realignment. An intentional refocusing of our priorities to be on God’s glory through the furthering of His Kingdom.

2. A Present Reality – Your Kingdom

A short definition for the Kingdom of God: Where God’s rule is recognized and rejoiced in. Most people are happy to talk about how the Kingdom of God as the ‘already not yet’. So, in this point we want to talk about the ‘already.’ 

I will tip my eschatological hand here but I think there is a correlation between John 12:31 and Revelation 20:1-3

Is Satan still active in our world? You better believe it! But through the death of Christ, through the victory Jesus won through His crucifixion and subsequent resurrection, the works of the devil have been defeated.

Beloved, the Kingdom of God is advancing RIGHT NOW! Who can stop it? Corrupt churches? Kim Jong-Un? Satan? Ha! No sir! 

Aslan is on the move.

Oh yes, there is still much work to do. There is still much sorrow, pain and suffering in this world. But know this: The Kingdom is ever growing. People in Africa, Asia, and the jungles of South America are coming to faith in Christ, recognizing and rejoicing in the rule of God.

The church in America may be suffering. She may be weak and faltering in many areas and in desperate need of Revival. But don’t miss this truth: THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS ADVANCING! Souls are coming to Christ, marriages are being restored, wrongs are being righted!

So when we say “Your Kingdom come” we are saying “God, let my priorities be refocused on You and Your Kingdom…”

And we are saying “God, break through the darkness! Save sinners for your eternal glory! Use me in this endeavor. Send me, I’ll go! Restore prodigals to their Father, bring back the lost Sheep, raise the banner of Christ over all the nations! May the Lamb that was slain receive the full reward for His suffering!”

Let those in my home, workplace, neighborhood, recognize and rejoice in your sovereign rule. 

3. A Promised Return – your Kingdom come

Yes, the Kingdom of God is advancing now, but we still wait its fulfillment. We long for Jesus’ return where He will fully and finally restore all things. It is when Jesus comes that His people will reign with Him forever perfectly recognizing and rejoicing in His Sovereign rule.

Have you heard of the word ‘Maranatha’? In 1 Corinthians 16:22 some translations use that word. It simply means “Our Lord come!”

The early church longed for the coming of Jesus. The Didache 10:5-6 says this:

“Remember your church, Lord, to deliver it from all evil and to make it perfect in your love; and gather it, the one that has been sanctified, from the four winds into your kingdom, which you have prepared for it; for yours is the power and the glory forever. May grace come, and may this world pass away. Hosanna to the God of David. If anyone is holy, let him come; if anyone is not, let him repent. Maranatha! Amen.”

Revelation 22:20 says
He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!
Are you praying for Jesus to come back?

It is at that point we will see the fullness of the Kingdom and God glorified over all the nations as every knee and every tongue bows to the Sovereign Christ and confesses that He is Lord. It is when Jesus returns that all God’s enemies, including all people who have refused to bow the knee in this life, will be vanquished in Hell continually day and night for all eternity.

“Well, if I pray for Jesus to come back it may make all this stuff I’m focused on now seem less important…” Ah ha!

Don’t get me wrong, we ought to glorify God in all of our endeavors. And it is good and right to live for His glory in the time He has given us. In our jobs, families, retirement, leisure activities…

But all of these things must be subservient to our grand desire for Jesus to come back and set all things right! So, we see this desire for restoration in this model prayer: Your Kingdom Come

We will save 'Thy will be done' for another blog post...

Our Father Who Art in Heaven

We are doing a 'series within a series' currently at Immanuel. We are taking some extra time during our journey through the Sermon on the Mount to specifically focus on the Model Prayer given to us in Matthew 6:9-13. I will attempt to blog each week about our time in this section. This week we are looking at v.9

Our Father in heaven
hallowed be Your name.
Four things we see in the section of the Model Prayer:

1. Exclusivity - Our Father.

God is God of all, but He is not the Father of all. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus is preaching to His disciples (Mt. 5:1-2). Later in Matthew Jesus says " 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" (Matthew 11:27).

So, it is impossible for one to know the Father apart from knowing Christ as Savior and Lord. If you are reading this and are not a follower of Jesus, God is not to be considered your Father as He is to Believers.

In fact, let me put it more bluntly: God is your Judge. For those who refuse to repent of their sin and trust the perfect and all sufficient sacrifice of Christ, the bible says:
God will whet his sword; he has bent and readied his bow; He has prepared his deadly weapons, making his arrows fiery shafts.(Psalm 7:13)
For those who are not followers of Jesus, they will meet God as a righteous and Holy Judge who will destroy their soul continually day and night for all eternity in Hell.

If you are not a follower of Jesus, won't you trust His sacrifice on the cross for sinners? Won't you repent of your sin and place your faith in our only suitable, all sufficient Savior?

2. Intimacy - Our Father

Jesus refers to God as Father over 40x in the gospel of Matthew

Think on this glorious thought: What ought we to call God? Master? King? Ruler? Sovereign?

All of those titles are certainly appropriate and should be used at various times no doubt. However, Jesus says to come to God and call Him ‘Father’. He is our Father because He has created us and He has redeemed us through the work of Christ.

Believers have the privilege, honor, and duty of going to their heavenly Father in prayer.

I don’t think the term needs to be stretched to lose the reverence. There is ‘authority’ wrapped up in that word Father isn’t there? But, it is a valid interpretation to understand Father as One who loves us, is kind and affectionate towards us, and who delights over His children…

It reminds us that although God is transcendent and high above us, He can be known through the person and work of God the Son. It is through Christ that we come to know God as Father.

There is something distinctly Trinitarian about Christian prayer. We can pray to God the Son and God the Spirit. However, when we come to God the Father we do so because we have been redeemed by God the Son and that has been applied to our hearts by God the Spirit. We serve a Triune God.  One Being eternally existing in three distinct Persons. 

3. Other Worldliness - Our Father in Heaven.

Lest we forget that God is not just some benevolent grandfather doting over us, Jesus reminds us that our Father is in heaven.

It reminds us that in a sense to pray is to enter another world. Our minds and our hearts ought to be lifted out of just where we are now in time and space and set on the things above and the glory of God…

Our hearts and minds ought to be drawn to the fact that God is our Father but He is our Father who is the infinitely sovereign God of the universe. There ought to accompany prayer a holy reverence, awe, and fear of God.

That yes, we approach Him as Father, but He is our Father who meticulously orders every nanosecond of history for His own eternal glory. Who is the Supreme ruler and holy King of all things seen and unseen. Who alone is God and there is no other. Who will not give His glory to another….


You may go to God confidently, but don’t do so casually. He is our Father, in heaven. This doesn’t mean He is not omnipresent. But it is to remind us of His transcendent glory and inimitable majesty.

4. Consecration - Hallowed be Thy Name

Hallowed. There is a word you don’t use often. Here we have the idea of consecration.

May God’s Name be set apart in our minds and hearts as holy. May I think of and speak of God in a way that actually reflects who He is.

Notice, this is a petition. It’s not a statement. It’s not: Your name is hallowed. It’s “let your name be hallowed.” It implies that there are still areas of our lives and minds and hearts where God’s name is not hallowed as it should be. 

  • For God to be honored in our thoughts, words, and actions,
  • For His Word to be prized and cherished
  • For God to be set apart in our hearts as having the highest honor and supremely holy…what would these things look like in our lives?

Reverence. When we say ‘hallowed be your name’, it’s not just that we want God to have a good reputation. God cannot be any less glorious than He is. When we say ‘hallowed be your name’ we are saying in the words of Craig Blomberg:
“All that God stands for should be treated as holy and honored because of his utter perfection and goodness.”
So, we aren’t actually asking anything to be changed about God in this petition. Rather, we are asking for God to change us. And specifically to change us to evermore enjoy God and glorify Him forever. May I think of and speak of God in a way that actually reflects who He is.

John Calvin puts it this way: “We ought to lose sight of ourselves, and seek the glory of God…It is of unspeakable advantage to us that God reigns, and that He receives the honor which is due to Him: but no man has sufficiently earnest desire to promote the glory of God, unless (so to speak) he forgets himself, and raises his mind to seek God’s exalted greatness.”

I wonder if you would be willing to say that you are actively seeking God’s exalted greatness? Are you seeking to give God the glory due His name with your life? With your plans? With your desires? With your thoughts? With your hopes? With your words? With your actions?

Is this petition a regular one in your prayers? That God would be glorified in you and through you?

Consider Psalm 23:1-3
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
This gives us some perspective doesn’t it? Salvation actually isn’t ultimately about you. Your holiness isn’t ultimately about you. Prayer even isn’t ultimately about you. In fact, nothing is ultimately about you at all is it? We could boil down this fact that the chief end of all things is the glory of God!

Jesus teaches us to pray in such a way that we have the chief end of God’s glory on our minds and hearts. So, we may desire Aunt Sally’s surgery to go well, and for a job interview to go well, or for a promotion to happen, or that we’d make a good grade on a test. But we put all of these things in subservience to the glory of God. What we want chiefly is that God’s name would be hallowed

Oh God, would you lead me in paths of righteousness for the sake of your great and glorious name!?

Let me bring you glory in thought and deed. May your name be consecrated in my life so that my life might be consecrated before a lost and dying world.

I do wonder how many of us would put ourselves in this camp?

It is very easy to focus on ourselves. It is very easy to think God is the means to some other end. Like, the purpose of knowing God is just that we’d get salvation or heaven or some temporal blessing here on earth.

But God is not the means to some other end. God is the end. God is the goal, the prize, the destination. In the words of Augustine:
 “Thou movest us to delight in praising Thee; for Thou hast formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee…”

My goal is that you will grow to prize the privilege of prayer. I hope that your prayers will ever increase in their Kingdom focus. Check back as we continue to walk through the Model Prayer together...

The audio for this sermon can be accessed HERE

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Should Pastors Quit Preaching Doctrine?

Sometimes Facebook can be hazardous to your health.

Like when you come across that certain post from someone seen as a Christian leader and it is so off base that you almost choke on your chips and salsa.

This happened to me last night. Normally, I don't take the time to respond to such foolishness but it seems to me that there are a lot of people who buy into this line of thinking and perhaps the church will be served if I offer a few comments. First, here's the post in it's exact 'copy and paste' form:
Sitting here this Sunday morning and the one thing on my mind is the Oregon tragedy. And the one who caused it. It breaks my heart on two counts. One, for all the families who lost someone they loved, and two, that hatred for organized religion is what drove him to that point. There is always a cause and effect for most everything and I begin to wonder what happened?? How was he hurt by the church? Because that kind of hatred doesn't come for nothing. I wonder this one thing.....if Pastor's quit teaching doctrines and trying to regulate people's lives by a list of do's and don't"s and simply started teaching these simple things- love for Jesus and conforming ourselves to Him. Becoming like Him. A person who loves, not condemns or judges. Who sees everyone as Christ does. Whether we've chosen the path of Believer or not, we are all loved by Him. It hurts my heart the damage the church has done and continues to do by laying down our rules and regulations and not focusing on what truly matters. Being like Him. Do we need revival? Yes, but in our hearts, not our churches......
Where does one begin!?

Again, this person is seen as a Christian leader and so there are some things that are simply inexcusable. Let's take first that phrase "organized religion." I'm going to defer to my friend Matthew Woodside who had a great little post about this a while back:
A word from the Chaplain: 
Every so often the popular phrase, "Christianity is not a religion, it's a relationship," resurfaces. It's seen on memes, tweets, t-shirts, bumper stickers, and billboards. It's also said by pastors, teachers and by conference speakers.
That statement is false. It's false biblically, it's false sociologically, it's false on every level. While the statement sounds good, it's no less false. It's false because it's incomplete and it's disingenuous. 
Christianity is a religion. It's the ONLY true religion. By every definition of the word, Christianity is a religion: it has doctrine, it has a sacred text, it has ordinances of worship, it has guidelines for its people, it's people meet to observe it's tenets. It most definitely is a religion. 
But it's a religion unlike anything else. It presents a true God not a false one. It presents a divinely inspired text, not a text of mere human authorship. 
But more than anything, Christianity sets itself apart in that God died for man. Allah did not die for Muslims, the myriad of gods didn't die for the Hindu, and Buddha gave not his life for his devotees. But the fundamental difference in Christianity is that God in the person of Jesus Christ died for man. 
It's only when you do realize that Christianity is most definitely a religion, that the fact that man now can have a relationship with God is made plain. The God of the universe is thus knowable, relatable, and approachable not because of our external acts, but based on His own act of giving His own Son. 
When people say Christianity is not a religion, they think they are elevating the personal aspect of God's character. But, they are doing the opposite. If you really want to understand the personal and relatable nature of God in the person and work of Jesus Christ, place the truth of the gospel against all other religions of the world and creations of man. Then you would grasp that seeing Christianity as a religion, the only true religion, is not only right, but true.

The only thing I'll add to that is not only is Christianity a religion, it is an organized religion. It is organized by a Holy God in His infallible, inerrant, all sufficient word. To blame the tragedy in Oregon on the idea that 'organized religion' is bad, is despicable. It's false coming from any camp, but it is especially heinous coming from one who says 'they' are a Christian.

Second, let's consider the phrase "that kind of hatred doesn't come from nothing." Actually, that's true. But the conclusion is wrong. Anyone who shoots people in cold blood has a problem first and foremost with God. Of course, this is not to imply that there might not have been mental issues as well. The point is, the above post is taking the blame off of this person and his hatred toward God and fellow man and placing it on 'organized religion.' More could be said there but let's get to the meat of the issue.

"I wonder this one thing.....if Pastor's quit teaching doctrines..." That right there is where I almost choked on my chips and salsa. Before I comment let me just quote a few verses:

Titus 1:9 - [A pastor] must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.

Romans 16:17 - I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them.

2 Timothy 4:3 - For the time is coming when people will not endure sound doctrine, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions
The problem is, an exhortation to quit teaching doctrine doesn't come from the Good Shepherd but from the mind of the Serpent. I am NOT saying this person is Satan. I am saying this person is influenced by his wiles. To say "Pastors need to quit teaching doctrines" can't be said without detecting a not so subtle wolf howl even if the person is wrapped in sheep's clothing.

The very thing the church needs most in our day is instruction in sound doctrine. Doctrine is simply teaching. In fact, to teach someone to 'quit teaching doctrine' is doctrine. A healthy church has Christ as her cornerstone and is built on the doctrine of the Prophets and the Apostles (see Eph. 2:20).

Currently at our church we are walking through the Model Prayer together in Matthew 6:9-13. This prayer is dripping with wonderful and glorious doctrine! God loves sound doctrine because He is the one who has given it to us. And so we must preach, and teach, and heed the full counsel of God’s Word if we want His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. Let's move on.

"if Pastor's quit teaching doctrines and trying to regulate people's lives by a list of do's and don't"s and simply started teaching these simple things- love for Jesus and conforming ourselves to Him. Becoming like Him. A person who loves, not condemns or judges. Who sees everyone as Christ does."

Ok, so 'teaching love for Jesus and conforming ourselves to Him' is doctrine. Also, teaching people to love Jesus and conform ourselves to Him is a list of do's and don'ts. But here's the deal: You don't teach people to become like Jesus, and love like Jesus, and conform to the image of Jesus, if you don't teach the Jesus of the Bible. Which, I think is the main issue going on with this person.

The Jesus of the Bible is the perfect God-Man. He is the 2nd Person of the Trinity. He is God in the flesh sent to rescue us from our sin by taking the wrath of God for us on the cross and rising again from the grave the third day in victory. Here's some truths about the Jesus of the Bible (meaning Jesus while He walked on earth as recorded for us in the 4 gospel accounts). The Jesus of the Bible hated sin. The Jesus of the Bible confronted people with their sin. The Jesus of the Bible loved people enough to show them that the only way to the Father was through Him meaning they must renounce themselves, take up their instrument of death, and follow Him. The Jesus of the Bible told people to eat His flesh and drink His blood. He told people that they couldn't follow Him unless they hated their own father and mother! The Jesus of the Bible actually talked some people out of following Him!

We've got a big problem in the United States when it comes to love and the Bible. We want to define love in whatever way we think it is, instead of defining it as Scripture does. Many, including this person, think love = nice, not hurting feelings, thinking positive thoughts toward others. But the Bible defines love as something that actually seeks the highest good of another person. What kind of love is it to tell someone 'be like Jesus' but not teach them anything about what that means? What Jesus hates? What Jesus loves? What Jesus told us to do?

It is certainly true that Jesus is the Judge. But it is also true that we are to go throughout the world and to teach (or we could say 'indoctrinate') the world the things Jesus taught us. We are to communicate to the world what the Judge has spoken. And too often the word 'judge' is used as though Christians are not allowed to 'discriminate'. This of course is foolish. The word 'discriminate' simply means to differentiate between choices. We discriminate when we choose McDonalds over Subway.

Christians are actually commanded to discriminate. In the church, Paul tells us to 'judge' (1 Cor. 5:12). Outside the church we are not to cast our pearls before swine (Mt. 7:6) and to 'judge correctly' (John 7:24). There are many more passages we could look at, but the point is, it is actually sinful for a Christian not to practice discernment. For example, what person in their right mind would let a repeat level 4 sex offender teach their child's Sunday School class? That's an extreme example to show that 'everyone judges' and that this is good and right. No, we do not have the right or power to condemn any person to Hell. But we do have the obligation to preach the gospel, calling sinners to repentance and teaching the truth to people who live unrepentant lives that if they do not repent and believe the Gospel they will meet Jesus as a holy and righteous judge.

"Who sees everyone as Christ does. Whether we've chosen the path of Believer or not, we are all loved by Him. It hurts my heart the damage the church has done and continues to do by laying down our rules and regulations and not focusing on what truly matters. Being like Him."

This statment almost seems to insinuate that it's "ok" for a person to not be a Believer. Sounds very Oprah-esque. Again, to say to someone 'just be like Jesus' is a rule and regulation. In fact, to tell people 'be like Jesus' IS NOT the gospel.

What is the hope for the world? If I were to say to the masses: Here's your hope, Just go be like Jesus! That would be terrible terrible terrible news. Why? You can't be like Jesus. The gospel is the good news that Jesus lived a perfect life and then was treated as us on the Cross so that through faith we could be treated as Him by the Father. It is the truth that Jesus Christ died for our sins, was buried, but on the 3rd day he rose again, all according perfectly to the Scriptures (1 Cor. 15:1-4).

That being said, the church most definitely should, by faith, strive to be like Jesus. And of course, we do want to always be wary of imposing any sort of man made rules. However, it is absolutely absurd to suppose Christianity is a 'rule-less' religion. That's the false teaching we call 'antinomianism'. In fact, probably helpful to cite a couple of verses here:
John 14:15 - “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.

1 John 5:3 - For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.
Yes, we could get into a healthy theological discussion on the full meaning of these verses but suffice it to say Jesus did not say "Hey, don't worry about rules guys, just love me!"

Again, let's think of the Model Prayer, (Matthew 6:10b): "Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven."

How do we know God's will for our lives? (It's not hiding!) How do we not only pray this petition but seek to have God apply it in a tangible way to our lives? Answer: Scripture. This Facebook post reeks of one who either does not know or simply does not care about what Scripture says. Many doctrinal statements say "the Bible is our only rule for faith and practice" meaning that not even our experience or feeling is enough to guide us rightly (see Jeremiah 17:9). God's Word is our supreme authority and all sufficient rule for how to become a Christian, what a Christian looks like, and how the Christian life is lived. As Believers, we must endeavor to teach every iota of doctrine, rule, and regulation that Scripture teaches us to. Too many treat the Bible as though it's simply there for us to just turn to to feel motivated or to find a verse in case we have a trial in this life. Beloved, the Bible is God's Book. It is our final standard and sufficient to teach us all things in accordance with a life of godliness.

The church must love people. And I do think we can do a better job at this. We must not only love those like us but also those unlike us. But to love someone is to desire their highest good. In the words of Charles Spurgeon: "it is treason against the King of kings to tone down the word of the Lord." But not only is it treason against God, it is unloving to our fellow man!

"Do we need revival? Yes, but in our hearts, not our churches......" I don't even know what this means. I think it is a stab again at 'organized religion.' As though what we really need is a bunch of individuals instead of an organized church? I think it is meant to sound deep when in reality it is nonsense. What we need is a revival of hungering and thirsting for righteousness in our hearts and in our churches. We need a people whose minds are captivated by the word of God. Who are so enamored with the glory of God that they refuse to compromise the Bible's teaching in any area.

Well, if you've made it this far, congrats! It is my sincere prayer that you have been edified in this post. If you are a pastor, I exhort you to stay in the Book, and strive with all your might to teach and preach sound doctrine.

If you are not a pastor, take a moment to text, call, or email your pastor and just say "Bro _______, please continue to preach and teach sound doctrine! Thank you for doing so. I for one need it and I just want to encourage you to continue the fight!"

Without sound doctrine, the church falters. So, take up the Book and read! Seriously, if you haven't read your bible today, go do so right now! The church needs it.

Oh yeah, and beware of reading Facebook posts...Especially while munching on chips and salsa.

Soli Deo Gloria

Friday, September 4, 2015

Why You Don't Read the Bible

One of the greatest problems in our churches today is a practical denial of the sufficiency of Scripture.  I say “practical” denial because most people (at least in Southern Baptist churches) would not actually verbally deny that Scripture is sufficient for knowing, trusting, and obeying God, but practically this is not lived out.  We “know” the Bible is sufficient, it just doesn’t show up practically. While there are several examples of this, one major example is the fact that there are many in the South who claim allegiance to Christ who rarely read their bibles.  Sure, maybe they open it from time to time, or read a “devotional” daily, but for the most part they go day after day without meaningful time in the Word.  Here are 3 common excuses:

  1. I’m too Busy
  2. I’m no bible scholar-  I just can’t understand the bible when I read it
  3. I just don’t like to read

I’d like to tell you the real reason people don’t read the Bible: they don’t want to.  Plain and simple. If you really want to read your Bible you will.  If you don’t want to read your Bible you won’t- and here in the South, there’s no in between.  We can read, we have time, and we have access to God’s Word in our language (several times over!).  What are people really saying when they don’t discipline themselves to take in a consistent regimen of God’s Word? “I don’t really need that.”  In other words, it’s not important.  Sure, I may say the Bible is sufficient, but in reality I’m just trying to “live life” and I really depend on other things (like “feelings”) to tell me what I need to know about trusting, obeying, and knowing God.

Now, there are tons of passages that we could examine but I’d just like to quote one- Matthew 5:6

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

People don’t “hunger and thirst” for righteousness by reading the Bible (although it is certainly true that more bible increases hunger for more bible!). People read the Bible because they hunger and thirst for righteousness.  The explanation of this verse is that God’s people will hunger and thirst to pursue righteousness because of the change He has wrought in their hearts.  The application is that God’s people will read the Bible because they desire to read God’s Word since they’ve been changed and want to learn and grow in their pursuit of godliness.

I’m not saying if you don’t read your bible every day that you’re not a Christian.  I’m simply saying that when you don’t read the Bible it’s because you don’t want to, so don’t make a different excuse.  Confess it, repent of it, and look to Christ who atoned for our flippant attitude toward’s His Word.  And realize that if you don’t ever have a desire to pursue righteousness, then you are not saved.  Repent and believe the Gospel.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Receiving Christ by Faith - John Owen

"Cursed is the person who encourages you to come to Christ and allows you to think that you can still indulge one sin in your life.

I am not saying that when you come to Christ you will at once be absolutely and perfectly free from all sin. But in your heart and by a holy determination you must daily mortify all sin as grace enables you. Your choice of Christ must be wholehearted with no thought of turning back to some favourite sin. It is either God or the world, Christ or Satan, holiness or sin. They cannot be reconciled (2 Cor. 6:15-18).

As for your pleasures, the truth is, you have never yet known real pleasure and will not until you come to Christ. For only in Christ are true pleasures to be found. A few moments with Christ are to be preferred to an eternity with the cursed pleasures of this world (Prov. 3:13-18, Ps. 16:11).


But many believers do not seem to be any better than unbelievers! I am as good as those who claim to have received Christ! So why should I receive Christ?

Among true believers are many false and corrupt hypocrites. The tares look very like the wheat. Some whom we judge to be true believers, because of their unmortified pride, or covetousness, or careless unchristian behaviour, or their worldly dress and their conformity to the world, give rise to the sneers and jeers of the world. God is displeased with such believers. Christ and the gospel are dishonoured. Many who are weak in the faith are wounded and others discouraged. But as for you, you are not told to come to Christ only if all Christians behave perfectly or are all better than you. Hypocrites will end up in hell and you will be with them if you do not receive Christ by faith..."

From The Glory of Christ by John Owen

Monday, August 10, 2015

Thou Art the Ant

"Here I am an ant, and as I view a nest of ants so dost Thou view me and my fellow-creatures; But as an ant knows not me, my nature, my thoughts, so here I cannot know Thee clearly.
- The Valley of Vision

Suppose you had a pet ant. Since we are supposing we can suppose also that this ant is an ant of higher intelligence than the average ant. Ants live about 2 months so let’s suppose you got this ant when he was 5 days old. Every day you fed this ant only the best ant food. You took the ant for walks. You let this ant sit with you at supper and as much as an ant is able, enjoy the fellowship between you and your family.

Now, suppose one day, when your ant was about 50 days old, he met up with another ant of higher intelligence. Your ant has basically only known you his whole life and so he begins to communicate to this other ant, in whatever way ants do that, things about you. How would the ant describe you? Perhaps he would say something about the fact that you were a really big non-ant creature. Perhaps he would know that you provided him with his yummy ant food. Of course he would be clueless as to the square root of 64. He wouldnt know anything about cars. He wouldn’t really be able to communicate anything about love or hate, sadness or joy. And yet, suppose this ant began to describe you to his new ant acquaintance as though he had you exhaustively figured out. As though he exhaustive knew your nature, thoughts, plans, dreams, hopes. As though he supposed you bowed to his every whim and desire. What a foolish formicidae! Probably better off just squashing him.

Thou art the ant! The distance between a human and an ant is actually very close when compared to the distance between man and God. Of course, unlike the ant, we have Scripture where God has condescended to communicate to us exactly what He wants us to know about Him in a way that we can understand. But, to think that we’ve got God covered exhaustively would be worse than my 3-year old thinking she understands all there is to know about atoms because I rubbed a balloon on her head to make her hair stand up.

God will be delighted in. God will be enjoyed. God will satisfy. If at any point in our walk with God, He is not those things to us it stems from the root of our lack of knowledge of who He is. Paul told the Colossians that he was praying they would “ filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.Why was he praying this? Perhaps 2 Peter 1:3 helps us see the answer: His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us to his own glory and excellence...” Increasing knowledge of God increases godliness.

Don’t be an ant. God has revealed Himself to us in the life and ministry of His Son, Jesus. Through repentance and faith in Jesus we can know God. In fact, Jesus says this is the essence of eternal life (John 17:3). Whatever level your finite brain has reached in the knowledge of God, there is more to be known. In fact, you can rest assured that your finite brain will never fit inside it the fullness of the Infinite One. So, keep seeking His face. Keep searching His Word. Keep delighting in all that He is for us in the person and work of Jesus.

To God be the glory forever. 

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Receiving Christ in Saving Faith

Read these words from John Owen from his work The Glory of Christ...

“You tell us to come to Christ. Well, what would you have us do? We hear the Word preached, we believe it as well as we can. We do many things willingly. We make every effort to abstain from many evils. What more do you want us to do?

Those in the gospel who thought they had done their duty, and being pressed to believe by Jesus Christ asked him with some indignation, ‘What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?’ (John 6:28). If what we do is not enough what more do you require from us? It was the same with the young man who asked, ‘What do I still lack?’ (Matt. 19:20). So do not be too confident of your state, lest you should yet lack that one thing. That lack may prove to be your eternal ruin.

You may have done nothing which contains even a spark of that faith which brings salvation. Simon Magus heard the Word, and believed as well as he could. Herod heard John the Baptist, and did many things gladly. And all kinds of hypocrites, when convicted of sin, do many duties and abstain from many sins. Yet, notwithstanding all this, they may still perish forever.

These things can exist without faith, but faith cannot exist without them. There is a fundamental act of faith by which we receive Christ. This is the foundation of the Christian life. All other things belong to the building. This foundation faith is the one thing needed. Such faith is recognized by two particular properties:

1. The faith that receives Christ is unique.

Jesus said, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he sent’ (John 6:29). That faith which receives Christ is a unique work in which the soul gives special obedience to God. Therefore you must examine yourself to find out whether you have done that one thing required which is to receive Christ by faith for salvation.

2. This faith is accompanied with a spiritual change in the soul.

‘Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold all things have become new’ (2 Cor. 5:17). So if you do not choose to deceive yourself as to whether you have truly received Christ, then examine yourself. Have you been fundamentally changed?”

Thursday, July 16, 2015

TableTalk Magazine Giveaway!

Any person who registers for the Blessing of Bible Intake on or before Saturday, August 1, will get one free copy of TableTalk magazine when you arrive at the Conference! Register today!

One of four Issues. Two issues shown below:

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The Blessing of Bible Intake - Giveaways

What is the Blessing of Bible Intake conference? Click here!

Part of our heart for this conference is to give away resources that will be useful both to pastors and laypersons alike.  There are over 40 giveaways this year! Some consisting of individual items and others of several items together.  Here are just a few of the items we are giving away:

  • 2 ESV Study Bibles
  • 1 ESV Gospel Transformation Bible
  • 1 ESV Journaling Bible
  • Some more great Bibles!
  • Why We Trust the Bible - DVD Teaching Series by Dr. Stephen Nichols
  • 2 Gift Packs from Seeds Family Worship
  • Books from Conference Speakers 
  • Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Don Whitney
  • Don Whitney's new book Praying the Bible
  • The Pilgrim's Progress Desiring God edition
  • 2 copies of Truth Matters 
  • Compact Bible Dictionary
  • 2 Truth Remains DVDs
  • 2 copies of Steve Lawson's book on William Tyndale
  • And more!

Each conference attendee will also receive a conference packet with various resources in relation to our theme this year. Registration is not required to attend this conference.  However, each person who registers by August 1st will increase their chances of winning some of these giveaways.  Anyone is welcome to attend the conference. The goal is obviously to impact Van Buren County but we are looking forward to visiting with fellow Believers from around the great state of Arkansas. Register today!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

The Blessing of Bible Intake - 8/29/15 Schedule

  • 10am - Welcome and Session 1
  • 11:15am - Session 2
  • 12:15pm - 1:45pm Lunch (on your own)
  • 1:50pm - Session 3
  • 2:50pm - Session 4
  • 3:50pm - Break
  • 4:00pm - Session 5
  • 5:30pm - Dismissal
  • Sunday Morning (8/30) Jared Wilson will be speaking at Immanuel Baptist Church of Clinton and Jim Elliff will be speaking at First Baptist Marshall

Conference is FREE.  This includes all sessions, conference packet, and giveaways.  Lunch will be on your own.  Registration is not required but would be a huge help to us.  Please click the link below to register.

You may also help by liking our Facebook page and spreading the word about this conference...

The Blessing of Bible Intake - Conference Speakers

The Blessing of Bible Intake - August 29, 10am

With such great feedback from our Privilege of Prayer conference last year, Immanuel Baptist Church, Clinton, AR is happy to announce our conference for this year!:

The conference is completely free and open to everyone, but we do ask that you register so that we can be better prepared to serve you! See links below for registration and more info:

The Blessing of Bible Intake - Registration

Conference Schedule

Meet the Speakers

Like our Facebook Page for News and Updates on the Conference 

Directions to the Church

Hotel Information

Also, we have a limited number of posters for the conference that we would be happy to provide your church for advertising. We will be able to provide this only as they are available. You will see my contact information on the last question of the registration page.

If there are any other questions you may email our church.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Blessed are Those Who Mourn

6 Things Gospel Mourning Entails:

1. It is intense

In the previous blog we discussed that being poor in spirit means:

We can’t be full of self. We acknowledge our guilt and corruption.
We acknowledge our bankruptcy. We are humble.

It is one thing to agree with those, or verbalize mental ascent, yes I concur. I confess. But it is quite another to be broken over it. There is a natural flow of mourning out of those who are poor in spirit. This mourning for your own sins should be intense. (This is the same word James uses in James 4:8-10)

2. Recognizes Culpability in the Cross – 

This is why Jesus went to the Tree. Because your sin put Him there.

Gospel Mourning realizes, Jesus didn’t just endure suffering for sin in general, but MY sin. MY sin subjected Him to the wrath of God. MY sin nailed Him to the Cross. I smote Him with the Cat-O-Nine tails. I shouted “CRUCIFY HIM!”

3. Gospel Mourning mourns particular sins

Not just ‘forgive me of my many sins’ but “Oh God, forgive me for my failure to control my tongue…that angry thought…that selfish deed.”

4. Doesn’t seek to defend or explain sin –  “True repentance makes no excuses and offers no rationalizations. It grieves for sin from a broken heart.” -Charles Quarles

Well the REASON I did this was…. If it weren’t for that person I wouldn’t have…. 

No. I am guilty. I am broken. I am undone. I mourn.

5. Turns from Sin and Hates Sin - Cain, Esau, Pharaoh, Judas – all of these men offered a semblance of repentance.

Is saying ‘I’m sorry’, & shedding tears, & even actually feeling sorrow, is that enough? Is that true gospel mourning?

See 2 Cor. 7:10 – Have you been stricken with godly grief? Not “I don’t want to go to hell” or “people will think less of me because of that sin." But struck with a hatred of sin and a turning from it? Have you seen sin as offensive because it is an affront to GOD is HOLY & WORTHY? Have you seen God’s definition of Sin, not your own?

Blessed are those who mourn! Who mourn their own sin. Who hate it. Who are broken by it.

6. Gospel mourning is a continual mourning – Blessed are those who mourn (present tense)

We aren’t just talking about the moment you 'got saved'. In a very real sense the more we grow, the more we mourn BECAUSE we see the depth of our sinfulness. As a babe in Christ we may believe sin is just those things out here that we shouldn’t do. But as we grow in the Lord we realize, the need for continued repentance and the continued grace of God.

When is the last time you mourned like this over your sin? Have you ever mourned like this over your sin? Do you realize that this type of mourning is evidence of those who’ve been changed by grace?

And let us not forget the promise of Jesus: Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted. But you'll have to listen to the sermon to hear that part! You can do so by clicking HERE.

“There must be a real sense of sin before the remedy for it will even be desired…The Gospel promises no mercy except to those who forsake sin and close with Christ.” A.W. Pink

Reminder: These are simply notes directly from the sermon which was preached at Immanuel Baptist Church on February 8, 2015.  You can see the previous blog on the poor in spirit by clicking HERE.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Blessed are the Poor in Spirit

"Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven..." Matthew 5:3

This is directly from my sermon notes so it may not be the best 'blog format.' But as we go through the Sermon on the Mount here at Immanuel Baptist, I will attempt to share what we are learning.

What then does it mean to be poor in spirit?

First, let me emphasize that this is key to understanding the Sermon on the Mount. This verse is NOT a command. It is simply a statement of truth. When interpreted rightly it helps us to understand the rest of the sermon.

None of the commands given in the Sermon on the Mount are carried out by anyone other than those who are poor in spirit. No one possesses the Kingdom of Heaven other than those who are poor in spirit.

So, it is vital for us to understand rightly what this does mean:

1. Poor in Spirit is opposite of those in the kingdom of this world

Self. Self-sufficient. Self-confidence. Me. Me. Me. It is impossible to be full of self and full of Christ. You cannot be rich in self and poor in spirit at the same time.

2. Poor in spirit means we acknowledge our guilt – (see Mt. 4:17)

To tell someone to repent is not popular! Let me be clear: calling someone to repentance isn’t devaluing them as a human. It isn’t saying that they are less of a person than anyone else.

It is simply calling them to acknowledge their guilt before God.

The poor in spirit acknowledge their guilt. They know that they cannot plead ‘not guilty’ before the judge. The evidence is stacked against them. Guilty as charged. Any sentence God could execute on us, we deserve. The fiery flames that would torment our immortal souls for ages upon end are but our just desserts…

3. Being Poor in spirit is an acknowledgement of our corruption

A lot of people who claim to be Christians will agree on the previous point. But on this point they may have an objection. Maybe some of you will have an objection. To be poor in spirit not only means you acknowledge your guilt, but also that you acknowledge your corruption.
Not only are you guilty before God, but you are broken. In and of yourself you are vile, wretched, and an inventor of evil. If we can lie to save ourselves & not get caught we will. If we can cheat & not get caught we will. We will justify ourselves in our sinful actions any way we can.

There is nothing in your natural self not tainted with sin. The highest thought you can think on your own is putrid. The best prayer you can pray on your own is worth 10,000 eternities in hell. Now, look, you are not any less valuable than any other human being on the planet. But we aren’t comparing one another to other humans are we?

We are comparing ourselves to God. And when we see that picture, we say with Isaiah: WOE IS ME

4. Poor in spirit is an acknowledgement of our bankruptcy

Not only are we guilty. Not only are we corrupt. But we are also helpless.
We are bankrupt. Is this not the common understanding of the word poor? We are impoverished in spirit. We do not have the resources necessary to change anything about our condition.

Think of a man in prison. He is on death row. He has lost everything. A real estate agent comes to him and says “I will give you a great deal on a beautiful island in the pacific. It is everything you could ever dream.” The inmate can do nothing about that. Not only does he not deserve the island but there is nothing within his power to obtain it. He is bankrupt.

5. Poor in spirit is an inward humility

Of course inward humility leads to outward humility. But outward humility can also be false humility. (For example: Mt. 6:1)

It is possible to put on a show of our so called ‘humility.’

But for the poor in spirit, the humility wrought by the Holy Spirit begins in the heart. When we compare ourselves to God we understand we deserve nothing but hell. We don’t deserve tomorrow’s sunrise, let alone the pleasures of knowing Christ…

AW Pink said “To be poor in spirit is to realize that I have nothing, am nothing, & can do nothing, & have need of all things.” We sing the song don’t we? Nothing in my hand I bring, Simply to the Cross I Cling...  The poor in spirit are the only ones who inherit the Kingdom of Heaven! (see also Isaiah 57:15, 66:2)

Look, those who give a tip of the hat to God and acknowledge maybe they need Him for some things are not poor in spirit. Each breath God gives is not something we deserve but a sheer act of mercy. We need God! We need Him and we do not deserve Him! This sheds a light on the rest of the Sermon on the Mount. What Jesus commands us to do in the Sermon on the Mount is not hard. It’s impossible in and of ourselves. I can’t look within myself and turn the other cheek. I want revenge. I can’t fast without trying to manipulate God or be showy. These standards are impossible for any natural man!

And yet, this is why Jesus begins here. No man has been filled with the Gospel unless He has first been crushed by God’s Holy Law.

As Lloyd-Jones says “the Gospel condemns before it releases.” Are you poor in spirit? – If not, the kingdom of heaven is not yours. Have you looked to Christ and felt the crushing weight of His holiness? Have you seen yourself as nothing, as less than nothing, and justly deserving of the full measure of His wrath?

To be filled you must first be emptied. To be healed you must first be broken. But look at the sweet promise mentioned from the lips of Jesus:

“BLESSED are the poor in spirit FOR theirs IS the Kingdom of heaven!”

Nothing in us deserving of God’s love. Of God’s Grace. Of God’s forgiveness. And yet, what did He do? – He came to rescue us anyway. He taught us the way is through Him. And He went to the cross to take our sin, our unworthiness, our failure, our guilt, our corruption upon Himself. God judged Jesus on the cross as if He were us!

As the Holy Spirit brings the truths to our eyes we must repent. We must acknowledge our poverty of spirit and turn to Him knowing He is full of grace and will in no wise cast out. Look to Christ! Cast yourselves on His mercy! Salvation is only by the sheer grace of God.

Can you see how being poor in spirit is essential?

You can listen to the entire sermon HERE

Friday, January 30, 2015

Have we Forgotten How to Mourn?

Recently we've began a series through the Sermon on the Mount at our church and I've been reading some of Thomas Watson's work on the Beatitudes. I was struck this morning by some of the things he wrote about gospel mourning. In partticular his thought that there are 3 special seasons of extraordinary mourning for the Christian "when it should be as it were high-water in the soul." I will list those seasons according to Watson, and offer some thoughts on why I find it so relevant.

1. When there are tokens of God's wrath breaking forth in the nation -

Mind you, Watson lived in England during the 17th century.  I am not sure what he would say about the United States of the 21st century.  Do we not see tokens of God's wrath breaking forth in our nation? Men and women given over to their own lusts.  Babies being murdered.  Idols of various shapes and sizes worshiped with no shame. The love of money, the love of self, and the love of profane pleasures flaunted about...

This has made us all angry for years.  But when is the last time it broke us? Watson writes "Rain follows thunder. When God thunders in a nation by His judgmeents, now the showers of tears must distill...If the Lord seems to be packing up and carrying away His gospel - it is now high time to mourn." 

2. Before the performing solemn duties of God's Worship - "Christian, are you about to seek God in an extraordinary manner? 'Seek Him sorrowing' (Luke 2:48)."

There is much talk about revival in our day.  There are exhortations for churches and denominations to collectively seek God's face for revival. And for these things I am grateful. However, how are we seeking for this revival? Is it in true Christ wrought gospel mourning? Why do we want revival? Because we want our churches to be filled so we can get a pat on the back and prove to the pagans that we are right? So that we can elect a Republican president? So that we can get the glory? None of us would say those things, but let us examine our hearts.

Beloved, let us mourn.  I don't know a single instance of revival in the bible or in church history were people were not broken.  I place the blame upon myself as well as the rest of the church in this indictment. If we truly want revival, then we are telling God to break our hearts. 

3. After scandalous relapses - "There is no mercy without bitter mourning."

I doubt most churches would know what a Solemn Assembly is.  Have we forgotten the heinousness of sin? The scandal of it? It's repugnant and God-hating nature?

Are we too proud to repent? Are we too proud to mourn? 

We are so busy with our innovations and strategies that we have failed to take time to mourn our grievances against a Holy and righteous God. Again, notice I say 'we'. Can we expect God to bless our efforts for church revitalization, church planting, evangelism, and reformation if we fail to mourn our sin? I am thankful that God in His grace continues to reach people for His own eternal glory despite our shortcomings.  However, shall we not be burdened by the reality that God promises to dwell with those who are of a humble and contrite spirit (Is. 57:15)?

After all, Jesus says "Blessed are those who mourn..." So, if we aren't mourning for the sin in our own lives, the sin in the church, and the sin in society, are we blessed or not?

Will you mourn with me? Jesus promises "...for they shall be comforted."

How foolish this may seem to a worldly mindset! 'Happiness' is what we should seek, not mourning! But it is only those who mourn who find true gospel comfort, peace, and joy.