Thursday, March 31, 2016

9 Reasons (macro) Evolution is Bunk

I am currently reading through a brand new book (copyright 2016), The Absurdity of Unbeliefwritten by my friend Dr. Jeffrey D. Johnson. Of the book Dr. James White says: "In The Absurdity of Unbelief, Jeffrey Johnson provides a clear and compelling case for the Christian faith, readable and usable for believer and unbeliever alike." So, at the onset, let me say I agree with Dr. White and make a plea to believer and unbeliever alike: grab this book and read it!

In chapter 12 of this book Johnson deals with the Irrationality of Evolution. The goal of this particular chapter is to show not only that (macro) Evolution cannot be proven but that the presupposition of Naturalism that lies behind it cannot even support its own claims. Thus, Naturalism is inconsistent and irrational (see definition 2). To make his terms clear Johnson writes "Microevoltuion is a fact that is easily demonstrated by taking note of the different ethnicities of people that have developed along geographical lines. Macroevolution, on the other hand, is the theory that the complexities of the human race have evolved from non-living matter through the slow process of adaptation" (pg. 141).

So, the goal of his chapter is not to say that species don't adapt but that it is absurd to think that macroevolution is a tenable position to hold (i.e. a fish evolving into a kangaroo). It is not my goal to put forth in detail all of Dr. Johnson's arguments, for that you need to buy the book! Also, anything not argued well in this blog is not a representation of Dr. Johnson, but of my own inability to communicate his ideas as clearly as he did! With that in mind,  let me list 9 convincing reasons why macroevolution is bunk according to this chapter:

1. It is irrational to think that life can come from non-life

"Life evolving from non-life goes against the law of biogenesis." Often, macroevolutionists want to say they love 'science.' And yet, "there has been no observable exception to this rule" of the inability of life coming from non-life. (pg. 143).

2. Only preexisting traits can evolve

"Bird beaks can get longer or shorter, but there is no empirical evidence that beaks turn into snouts" (pg. 142). So, I think this sort of fits in with the recent 'controversy' between Ken Ham and Kenneth D. Keathley.  I think Johnson makes the point very plainly that reptile scales can't turn into feathers.  There's simply no empirical evidence for such absurdity. Both of Ham and Keathley, as well as Johnson, are miles ahead of me intellectually but for what it's worth, it appears to me that Keathley has misrepresented Ham's position on evolution (link).

3. Macro Evolution fails to explain how the reproductive system ever gets started

"Survival of the fittest demands that the reproductive system be already functioning before any adaptations can take place. Rocks do not mutate or reproduce themselves" (pg.143-144). 

4. It is impossible for the simplest cells to have evolved from less complex cells

"The simplest cell is irreducibly complex...All the different components of the simplest cell..are needed for it to be able to reproduce itself...So, if the unnecessary parts are discarded in the evolutionary process the simplest cell had to come together simultaneously" (pg. 148). 

5. If the evolutionary process eliminates that which is non-useful we would never have eyes

5% of an eye isn't a functioning eye. It can't see. It's not useful. How would 'natural selection' increase the function of a non-functioning eye? (see page 150).

6. It cannot give account for consciousness

"Consciousness, which includes self-awreness and willful intent, cannot be reduced to merely physical properties" (pg. 152).

7. It is not supported by the fossil records

Two arguments here really. The 'missing links' are still missing! And secondly, the Cambrian explosion discredits Darwin's theory of 'small incremental change' (see pg. 154).

8. Evolution is Based in a Naturalistic Worldview, Not Science

Johnson cites author and scientist Richard Lewontin who says "We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism" (pg. 155)

In other words, I think a lot of people are 'convinced' of (macro) evolution because they can't fathom that a community of scientists could possibly be wrong. But when we examine the case for macroevolution we see that it doesn't stem from hard facts but from presuppositions. "To abandon belief in evolution would require naturalists to abandon their faith-commitment in naturalism...[But] naturalism is not only a worldview that fails to be supported by the evidence, it is a worldview that fails to provide answers for the existence of the immaterial laws of science - the very foundation on which naturalism is ostensibly built" (pg. 158-160). 

9. Evolution still can't explain the origin of life

This is really dealt with more in chapter 11, but it is worthy of repeating in this post. If there were ever a time that 'nothing' existed, then nothing would still exist today. The only rational explanation to our universe is that it was created by our eternal triune God. 

I want to stress again, the above is just a SMALL taste of the chapter and even smaller taste of the entire book! I encourage you to pick it up and read it for yourself. See quotes from important scientists (both atheists and believers). See more discussion about each of the things I listed above. See more discussion on the cell and DNA and RNA. Dr. Johnson goes into great details on these matters to demonstrate the absurdity that stems from unbelief in our Triune God. This book is so much more than just about 'evolution.' But this chapter has been one of my favorites thus far. It is well worth your time to read especially in a day where macro evolution seems to be accepted as 'fact' and any who oppose it are seen as ignorant. Johnson does an excellent job in this chapter of turning all of that on its head. 

Romans 1:18 still holds true today. There are many who suppress the truth of our great and glorious God.  The result? Absurdity

What the Bible Says, the Holy Spirit Says

"I don't think it's right to limit people speaking in tongues. 
That would be trying to quench the Holy Spirit."

For the record, I'm a cessationist, but we were having a discussion on 1 Corinthians 14:27 and I had just finished making the comment that even if one is not a cessationist, you have to grant that what passes for 'speaking in tongues' in many churches today is not done orderly according to Paul.

That's when this particular person made the above statement. She was aghast that any person would be so brazen as to stop people from speaking in tongues if they felt 'led by the Spirit.' My response was that if we want to actually know what the Holy Spirit Himself thinks about this, all we have to do is read Scripture.

See, it comes across sometimes like we think that the Holy Spirit may operate in our lives in such a way as to lead us to do things contrary to what the Bible says. This speaking in tongues issue is just one example. But I've heard others too.  One time I heard a person justify a divorce by saying that she felt led in that direction because she knew God wanted her to be happy. Say what? 

So, today's post is just a friendly reminder that what the Bible says, the Holy Spirit says. 

Let me give you a few more examples:

Do you think the Holy Spirit would ever direct a Believer to examine themselves to see whether they are in the faith? (2 Corinthians 13:5)
Do you think the Holy Spirit would ever press upon the conscience of a Believer to confront another Believer about sin? (Galatians 6:1)
Do you think the Holy Spirit would ever convict a Christian father for not inentionally instructing their children in the way of the Lord? (Eph. 6:4)

There are obviously many more examples I could add, the main point being: What the Bible says, the Holy Spirit says. And conversely, the Holy Spirit says (and stands behind!) what the Bible says.

The Bible isn't a box of fortune cookies for us to reach into and pull out a verse here or there to feel inspired from time to time and then to really hear from God go sit in a corner and consider whatever comes into your mind as a 'word from the Lord.' What's worse is that many people simply do what their seared conscience wants to do and then justify the action because they 'felt led' by the Holy Spirit. And hey, who can argue with that right? Ohhhhhh. You were led by the Holy Spirit! Well then! And of course there is always the 'I'll rip a verse out of context to justify anything I really want to do anyway.'

No, no, no, and no. What the Bible says, the Holy Spirit says. Any action, thought, intention, motivation, or desire that runs afoul of Scripture in even the slightest way, was not given to you by the Holy Spirit. He did not (and does not) lead you to do something contrary to His Word.

We don't have time to dig into it, but two verses in Scripture give us a beautiful picture of how the Holy Spirit wrote the Bible: 2 Timothy 3:16, and 2 Peter 1:21. These passages help show us that while it is true men wrote the Bible exactly as they wanted, it was the Holy Spirit who was working in and through them so that they recorded exactly what He intended. Thus, ever word of the Bible is not just attributed to a human author but also to the Divine Author (see more here).

Do you really want to know what the Holy Spirit thinks about a certain situation? What He thinks about your Sunday gathering? What He thinks about a particular circumstance? His stance on a particular doctrine? Go hear what He has to say in His Book.

Take up and read. (Heb. 4:12)

Monday, March 28, 2016

For Lunch: A Hebrews Sandwich, with extra Let Us

Recently, I went on my 3rd Bible Intensive Retreat and our text was Hebrews 10. As we were noting the imperatives of this chapter we came across the 'Let us' in v.22-24.  We concluded that while these aren't technically 'imperatives' (they are subjunctives) they are functioning as commands for Believers. It's not that the command is 'softened' (like, 'ah it doesn't matter if you do this or not'), rather the way it is being said is one of encouragement as the author includes himself in the exhortation.

One brother gave the illustration of a marriage class he took one time where the instructor said, in terms of how men and women communicate with each other, that men are like buffaloes and women are like butterflies. I must admit, that was something we all laughed at pretty hard. But, I think there is a way we can try and 'buffalo' commands. "Hey you! Do this, now!" Admittedl, we do sometimes need things said like that don't we? We can be pretty hard headed. However, the author of Hebrews doesn't speak that way does he? While the warnings of Hebrews are very sobering, these 'subjunctive commands' are a gentle (but no less forceful) exhortation to Believers to continue in the faith. It's comforting I think that the author of Hebrews includes himself in these exhortations to other Believers. In my mind it sort of reaffirms the 'community' aspect of our Christian walk. We are in this together.

So, here's the extra 'Let Us' found in Hebrews:

HEBREWS 4:1 Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it. 
HEBREWS 4:11 Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. 
HEBREWS 4:14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 
HEBREWS 4:16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. 
HEBREWS 6:1  Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, 
HEBREWS 10:22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 
HEBREWS 10:23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 
HEBREWS 10:24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 
HEBREWS 12:1  Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 
HEBREWS 12:28 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, 
HEBREWS 13:13 Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. 
HEBREWS 13:15 Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.

Bonus lettuce! Thanks to Logos, I was able to search for the 'subjunctive mood' in the book of Hebrews and found that the author also uses the 'let us' in the following verses, although we can't pick it up as easy in English. Main point: Notice how the author includes himself in these exhortations.

HEBREWS 2:1 Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. 
HEBREWS 3:6 but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope. 
HEBREWS 3:14 For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. 
HEBREWS 6:18  so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us.
I hope as you get just a small taste of the book of Hebrews that you find these exhortations beneficial to your soul. I think not only can we take away what these exhortations tell us to do, but we can also take away how they are said. In other words, there are times to be a 'buffalo' (funny, i know, but it communicates doesn't it!?). And there are also times to be generous with the Let Us.

I hope this psot encourages you to take up Hebrews as a whole and feast on it, lettuce and all.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Would Jesus Say You're a Christian?

Boy does Jesus know how to conclude a sermon! Hear His conclusion from His most well known (the most well known) sermon of all time, the Sermon on the Mount:

"Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it." - Matthew 7:24-27

Let's be clear. This isn't the option between being a "super Christian" and a "backslidden Christian". This is the difference between a person who is a Christian - hearing and doing the words of Christ - and one who isn't - merely hearing the words of Christ but not actually doing them. 

So based on this text would Jesus say you're a Christian? Not what I think. Not your family. Not your friends. 

Would Jesus call you a Christian?

I know we get nervous about speaking on works sometimes. And I understand that. We must unapologetically and unequivocally hold the line on justification by faith alone. We are saved by grace alone through faith alone. Yes! Amen! And these are truths important enough to die for.  

But we can't ignore these plain words of Jesus. A faith that won't submit to Jesus' words is a faith that won't save from Jesus' wrath. We can hear Jesus' words, and even like Jesus' words, and talk about Jesus' words, and think about maybe trying out Jesus' words, but if there is never any actual acting on Jesus' words, we are building on sand, and on the Day of judgment our 'house' will fall and great will be the fall of it. 

Very truly "unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." (Mt. 5:20)

A life that hears what Jesus says on the Sermon on the Mount, but doesn't abide by it is building on sand. 

I know I should read my bible but I don't. I know I should pray but I don't. I know I should love holiness but I don't. I know I should intentionally instruct my children in the ways of God but I don't. I know I should not love the world but I do. I know I should love my enemies but I only really love people like me. 

This is a life built on sand. 

No, no one is advocating perfectionism. Christians are meek and understanding of their need for constant grace, forgiveness (Mt. 6:12), and the power of Christ in their daily lives. But let us be clear: Believers do what Jesus says. They don't just hear it and admire it. They do it. 

We are either building in the rock or building on sand. We are either committed to Christ or not. We are either saved or lost. 

Would Jesus say you're a Christian?

See, the standard isn't the Bible Belt is it? It isn't your neighbors' view. Or even necessarily your Pastor's. What does Jesus say about you? Does your life exemplify one on the rock or one on the sand?

Jesus doesn't give an altar call after this message. He doesn't ask people to bow their heads and close their eyes. He doesn't ask them to repeat a prayer after Him. He simply states the unshakable truth that those who hear and do His words are building on the rock and those who don't are building on the sand. 

Of course, this demands a response from us doesn't it?

Would Jesus say you're a Christian?

If we answer 'no' to this question, what hope do we have!? Absolutely none unless we close with Christ. Jesus says whoever comes to Him, He will not cast out. That leaves us with no excuse. If we look at Jesus' standard and see that we aren't a Believer, we must go to Him. Go to Him now! Do not delay. 

Or the house will fall. And great will be the fall of it. 

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Spurgeon: God is Good and God is Sovereign

The following is taken from Charles Haddon Spurgeon's Sermon "A View of God's Glory". You can read the it in its entirety here:

The following section was particularly edifying to me:

"Do not be alarmed, my Friends, because I am going to preach about Divine Sovereignty. I know some people, when they hear about Sovereignty, say, “Oh, we are going to have some terrible high Doctrine!” But as it is in the Bible, that ought to be enough for you. Is not that all you need to know? If God says, “I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy,” it is not for you to say that it is high Doctrine. Who told you it was high Doctrine? It is good Doctrine. What right have you to call one Doctrine high and another low? Would you like me to have a Bible with “H” against high, and “L” against low, so that I should leave the high Doctrine out to please you? My Bible has no mark of that kind! It says, “I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious.” There is Divine Sovereignty! I believe some are afraid to say anything about this great Doctrine lest they should offend some of their people, but, my Friends, it is true and you shall hear it! God is a Sovereign. He was a Sovereign before He made this world. He lived alone and this thought was in His mind, “Shall I make anything, or shall I not? I have a right to make creatures, or not to make any.” He resolved that He would fashion a world. When He made it, He had a right to form the world in what shape and size He pleased. And He had a right, if He chose, to leave the globe untenanted by a single creature. When He had resolved to make man, He had a right to make him whatever kind of creature He liked. If He wished to make him a worm or a serpent, He had a right to do it. When He made him, He had a right to put any command on him that He pleased. And God had a right to say to Adam, “You shall not touch that forbidden tree.” And when Adam offended, God had a right to punish him and all the race forever in the bottomless pit!

God is so far Sovereign that He has a right, if He likes, to save anyone in this Chapel, or to crush all who are here. He has a right to take us all to Heaven if He pleases, or to destroy us. He has a right to do just as He pleases with us. We are as much in His hands as prisoners are in the hands of Her Majesty when they are condemned for a capital offense against the law of the land—yes, as much as clay in the hands of the potter. This is what He asserted when He said, “I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.” This Doctrine stirs up your carnal pride, does it not? Men want to be somebody. They do not like to lie down before God and have it preached to them that God can do just as He wills with them. Ah, you may hate this Doctrine but it is what the Scripture tells us. Surely it is self-evident that God may do as He wills with His own! We all like to do what we will with our own property. God has said that if you go to His Throne in prayer, He will hear you—but He has a right not to do so if He likes. He has a right to do just as He pleases. If He chooses to let you go on in the error of your ways, that is His right. And if He says, as He does, “Come unto Me, all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest,” it is His right to do so.

That is the high and awful Doctrine of Divine Sovereignty!

Put the two together, goodness and Sovereignty, and you see God’s Glory! If you take Sovereignty alone, you will not understand God. Some people only have an idea of God’s Sovereignty and not of His goodness—such are usually gloomy, harsh and ill humored. You must put the two together—that God is good and that God is a Sovereign. You must speak of Sovereign Grace. God is not gracious alone, He is sovereignly gracious! He is not Sovereign alone, but He is graciously Sovereign. That is the true idea of God. When Moses said, “I beseech You, show me Your Glory.” God made him see that He was glorious and that His Glory was His Sovereign goodness. Surely, Beloved, we cannot be wrong in loving the Doctrine of free, unmerited, distinguishing Grace when we see it thus mentioned as the brightest jewel in the crown of our Covenant God! Do not be afraid of Election and Sovereignty. The time has come when our ministers must tell us more about them or, if not, our souls will be so lean and starved that we shall mutiny for the Bread of Life! Oh, may God send us more thorough Gospel men who will preach Sovereign Grace as the Glory of the Gospel!"

To God alone be the glory

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Does Jesus Know You?

 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’" Matthew 7:21-23It appears to me that in our evangelibubble we often speak of getting people to make a commitment to Christ, whether that be in personal evangelism encounters, or an altar call, or a VBS meeting, or a Facebook meme. If we can get people to say 'yes' to Jesus then we've done our duty as faithful disciples of our King...Or so we think.Obviously, it is true that people must come to Christ. They most close with Him in faith and surrender their lives to His Lordship. I don't mean to downplay a 'commitment' to Christ in the least. However, if we think mere professions of faith make a person a Christian, we are sorely mistaken, and we haven't really been reading our New Testaments very well to be frank. In fact, I even heard a man who once said that if any person 'comes forward' and says they are a Christian we have 'no right' to think otherwise. Certainly we don't want to fall in to the trap of being unduly harsh! But as we see in the text above, we must face the sobering reality that not everyone who confesses Jesus as Lord will enter the Kingdom of heaven...So, I want to offer Five observations about the above confession in an effort to help us think through our own walk with Christ and in helping others understand what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. 

It is a:

1. Proper Confession - 'Lord'

I think in the context of this passage the Greek word 'kurios' is being used as more than just a mere formality. They aren't just saying 'sir'. They are confessing Jesus as Lord. In fact, 'on that day' is when many will call Jesus 'Lord'. It appears they recognize Him not just as a good teacher, or a moral man but as Lord.This is a confession all Believers do make.  This is why it is so sobering. While all true Believers do confess Jesus as Lord, not everyone who confesses Jesus as Lord is a true Believer. 

2. Personal Confession - 'Lord, Lord'

It appears that not only are they calling Jesus Lord, but by repeating His name they are perhaps appealing to Jesus as 'my Lord.' Often times in the Bible a name repeated twice is evidence of intimacy. For example, God called to Samuel 'Samuel, Samuel' and Jesus Himself said of Jerusalem 'O, Jerusalem, Jerusalem.'These false confessors weren't just saying Jesus is Lord in the abstract but they were saying Jesus was their Lord. Their 'personal Lord and Savior.'It is not enough for one to simply 'believe' they have a personal relationship with Jesus. In fact, Jesus speaks on a relational level when He says in verse 23 "I never knew you." It's obvious that the Lord of the Universe knows everybody on an intellectual level. But regarding a relational level (in the sense of a saving relationship) it is clear that Jesus does not know everyone. If you believe you have a personal relationship with Jesus, but He says He doesn't have one with you, that's very problematic.

3. Pleading Confession - "Lord, Lord, did we not...?"

These false confessors are appealing to Jesus. It's as though they do clearly recognize Jesus as the Judge of all the Earth and they plead with Him to make an exception on their behalf. This reminds me of the passage at the end of John 2. Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.We've come to think in evangelistic encounters that if a person just says a certain set of words and 'really means it', then Jesus is obligated to 'accept them' into the fold. As if Jesus is required to bring His salvation on our terms instead of His. Or even worse, as if He 'owes' us something, which completely turns grace on its head. Pleading with Jesus doesn't necessitate His allowing you entrance into the Kingdom.

4. 'Productive' Confession - "Did we not do...many mighty works in your name?"

It's not as though these confessors merely gave lip service to Jesus and did nothing to back up their claim from the human perspective. They lived a life filled with many mighty works. Many mighty works. Many mighty works.

They are essentially arguing with Jesus. "But wait! We are giving you the proper confession and what's more look at all we've done!" It's actually quite alarming to me at how many 'righteous deeds' a person is able to do without being born again. The list in Matthew 7:22 is impressive. These people weren't just saying Jesus is Lord but they actually worked hard not to go to hell.

Perhaps we might draw the line directly to Southern Baptists (my own denomination). They were good pastors (Yes, it is possible for even pastors to be deceived). Good deacons. Good Sunday School teachers. Good laypersons. They preached in Jesus' name. Prayed in Jesus' name. Taught in Jesus' name. Gathered regularly in Jesus name. Volunteered with the youth in Jesus' name. 

And it was all for naught. Leading me to my last observation...

5. Pointless Confession - "Depart from Me you workers of lawlessness."


I don't mean to say this tritely either. This is sobering. Their works have been weighed in Christ's holy balance and found wanting.You can say "Jesus is Lord!" (or even "God is good, all the time!"), you can sing "O How I Love Jesus", you can tell Jesus you're sorry, you can 'go to church' (a lot), and it can all be for nothing. In fact, it can be for worse than nothing. Like, all of your pretending is only heaping up more condemnation! It's that you did a lot of good things but Jesus doesn't count it. No, those 'good things' are described by Jesus as lawlessness. And it's a travesty that their whole lives were lived under the deception that they were truly in right standing with Christ (see the argument 'did we not').
So what do we do?
Actually, Matthew 7:21 could not get any clearer on who gets into the Kingdom of heaven: the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. I know. We immediately want to offer 1,000 qualifications here about how we don't 'work' to get to heaven. And while I emphatically don't deny that, I do want us to see here that Jesus doesn't offer these qualifications. He simply states the truth: Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven...But what exactly is the will of the Father? Two things I will say:1. Repentance. In Matthew 4:17 Jesus says "Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand." I think this helps us frame the Sermon on the Mount in context.  Also, in Matthew 21:28-31a Jesus says: A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ And he answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went. And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.”This is essentially what repentance is. To think differently. To 'turn'. To have a change of mind. In fact, God commands all men everywhere to do this: Acts 17:30.I don't mean to suggest that repentance is 'merely' changing one's mind, but that it's a change of mind so radical that it actually results in a changed life. And what will this changed life look like?2. The Sermon on the Mount. Jesus' Sermon on the Mount is intense. It is radical. It is counter-cultural and counter-Pharisaical. But it is not pie in the sky idealism. The Sermon on the Mount is how Jesus' followers really live because they are aided by the very power of Christ within them. They recognize their spiritual bankruptcy (5:3) and hunger and thirst for the righteousness that only those in Christ can obtain (5:6). Their righteousness exceeds that of the Scribes and Pharisees (5:20) as they have entered the narrow gate (7:13) and built their house on the rock of Christ's teachings (7:24). Of course we know this change of mind is only produced by the power of the Holy Spirit. Suppose I asked you to 'change your mind' from not hating spinach to now loving spinach. Could you do that? Obviously not! (If you really hated spinach). You would need your very nature changed. And this is what is necessary for the human condition. We don't need to just say 'Lord, Lord' and then try to be more moral than we are now, or even more religious. We need a heart change, and this is only possible through the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit.So what must you do? You must heed this gospel: Jesus' righteous life, atoning death, and victorious resurrection alone can merit us right standing before God. No, you can't manipulate the Holy Spirit to do His work any more than you can ride a tornado. But you are commanded to repent and Believe the gospel! And this is a repentance and belief that isn't merely a 'one time decision' but one that results in a life (and lifestyle) of repentance and belief.Notice by the way that's not a 'perfect' lifestyle. It's a lifestyle of repentance and belief. Constantly running to the mercy and grace of Jesus for our sin and trusting that His Sacrifice is enough. That when He said 'It is finished', He meant it. That you aren't accepted based on your worthiness but His. This is the motivation and power for living holy lives. So what will you do with this message?Will you rely on a confession that may be proper, personal, pleading, productive, and yet pointless? Or will you be one who does the will of the Father? There is a wide chasm between the two. 
It is the difference between 'depart from me' and 'well done'. It is the difference between a lake of fire and an eternity with Christ and His people.  It is the difference between you claiming to know Jesus, and Jesus knowing you...

You can listen to the sermon (which follows a different outline) by clicking here.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Who doesn't go to heaven?

It is certainly not my goal to take a passage of Scripture out of context. Or to confuse anyone or cause any unnecessary despair. I encourage you to read the surrounding contexts of the passages listed below.

But what I am doing is simply listing a passage penned by Paul, one by John, and another by Matthew that give evidence as to the nature of a Believer's life. 

Actually the passage from Paul and John may help shed light on how the passage in Matthew is true from a practical perspective. So many lay their head on their pillow at night and feel comforted that they are going to heaven, while they live in and love and enjoy their sin with no real love for Christ or true living for His glory. 

What does the bible say about who doesn't go to heaven?

I think so often people look for assurance of salvation by thinking back to what they call their moment of conversion and trying to discern if they "really meant it."  "Well, I'm not living for the Lord right now. I'm not going to church. I don't ever read my bible. And I'm living in sin. But I KNOW I'm a Christian and going to heaven because I remember walking an aisle and praying and asking Jesus in my heart and I just know that was real."

What does the bible say about who doesn't go to heaven?

Read these passages in succession. Then go back and consider them in their contexts. It is so important that we bow to the Bible's definition of Christianity, not what we 'feel' or 'think we know'. Scripture bears highest authority. What does it say about a true Believer?

Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. - Galatians 5:19-21

But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death." - Revelation 21:8

"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. - Matthew 7:21

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Walking Christ's Road

We have been journeying through the Sermon on the Mount as a church for a little over a year now. Last Sunday we found ourselves in Matthew 7:13-14.  At this point in Jesus’ Sermon we must seriously consider our response. Not to just a verse here or there but His entire message. As you read this blog today, my hope is that you will ask yourself which way you are traveling.

Are you Walking Christ’s Road?

Everyone is traveling one of two ways. The way of death or the way of life. Let’s consider each of these in turn:

I.                    The Way of Death – v.13 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.

A.      Access onto this Road is By Default –

How do you get on this way of death? You don’t have to do anything Every person is born on this way. From conception we are guilty in Adam, and we have a sinful nature that loves sin.

3 Big picture types of people on this road:

     1.     Rank Pagans – people who follow other religions or even deny existence of God

       2.      “Righteous” Pharisees – (See Matthew 5:20)

People with only an external religion. They may read their bibles, come to church, and tithe. But it’s not out of a love for Christ.

     3.     Rash Professors

Those who think they’ve made some decision for Christ but never considered the cost. They may give lip service to Christ but their hearts and even their actions are far from Him.

B.      Adventuring on this Road is Deceptive – For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many

I think we see the word ‘easy’ and it might throw people off. Well, my life hasn’t been ‘easy’ so I must not be on this broad way. This way of death.” But let’s consider that word ‘easy’. I’ll sum it up with the Outback Steakhouse slogan: No Rules. Just Right.

The ‘easy’ way is a way of human autonomy. In other words, you call the shots, and there’s really no accountability to any higher authority. The highest authority for what you want to do is you. Sure, you may be kept in check by social mores, but really, you do you. You do what you want, and frankly, no one’s really going to tell you differently. You may say you love the bible but it’s only in the capacity in which you can twist its words to make it fit your agenda.

And I say adventuring on this road is deceptive because no one really thinks their headed for hell do they? I mean most people think in their minds ‘You know, I’m an ok person. Am I perfect? No. But I’m as good as most.’

And that’s the issue. Not just most, but NONE are good. None are righteous, no not one. Here’s some characteristics of those adventuring on this wide way. Do one or more of these happen to describe you? If so, you are on the wide and easy way:

1. Unbelief – Don’t believe the truths of the Gospel or Scripture

2. Hypocrisy – claim to love God but live a life contrary

3. Presumption – Assume God must meet you on your terms

4. Apathy – no real or tangible concern for holiness or the ways of God

5. Worldliness – in love with the stuff and systems of this world

6. Self-Righteous – you’ve got what you need in you

Lost people go through hardships all the time. We live in a Genesis 3 world. It’s fallen. Jesus isn’t saying a life of no hard things. He’s saying those on the way of Death just give in to sin, don’t care about holiness, and don’t submit to a higher authority.
The deception of this way is that so many are going traveling this road. You can look around at the world and you can fit right in on going this way. It’s not our natural way to reject the way so many are going, is it?

C. The Achievement of this Road is Destruction –…that leads to destruction

What is the achievement of this way of life? Destruction

Live your way, even if you give occasional lip service to God, and you are headed toward destruction. This is Hell. Not annihilation, but eternal, conscious torment under the holy righteous wrath of God.

II.                  The Way of Life: Enter by the narrow gate…For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

Jesus commands us to ‘enter the narrow gate’ because this is the way of life. This is Walking Christ’s Road

A.      Passage into this Road is Exclusive: v.14 - For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

It is exclusive because there is only:

1.       One Person: Christ.

Acts 4:12 there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved

Christ is the Gate. He is the way, the truth, and the life. He is God in the flesh. He bore our burden to Calvary. We’re in need of His righteousness

2.       One Way: Christ is the way. But let me be clear: This requires a decision of faith

You can’t be an onlooker of Jesus and hope to have eternal life. What does Jesus say? Enter!
You must receive Christ! You must come to Him in faith! But do you know why so few find it? No one is really looking. Romans 3:11 says ‘no one seeks after God.’ So, we’ve bought into this concept of the need to create ‘seeker sensitive’ churches. Like, create churches were we can attract lost people by looking more like the world. But, the Bible teaches us there is only one seeker: It is God. Jesus came to seek and save the lost. Will you repent and believe the gospel?

Just prior to the Sermon on the Mount, in Mathew 4:17, we see the heart of Jesus’ message: From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Now, we know that the work of the Holy Spirit under the hearing of the gospel is absolutely required for a person to repent and believe. No one will call upon Christ unless God acts first. The Holy Spirt must raise the dead to life before anyone will come to Christ. But let us be clear that the gospel call to all man is: TURN and be saved!

If you are reading this your call isn’t to discern the actions of the Spirit. Your call is to flee to Jesus. Plead with God by the mercies of Christ to save your soul. Go to Christ in faith!

3.       One at a time:  Do you know what a turnstile is? Those gate things at amusement parks where u walk through and they turn and count you? It’s one at a time.

It’s one at a time with the narrow gate. I can’t enter for you. I can’t enter with you.  The faith of your pastor or parents can’t save you.

B.      Pilgrimage on this Road Requires Endurance – the way is hard

Whether they admit it or not, many begin this journey and turn back. No, I’m not saying people lose their salvation, but I am saying many think they’ve gone through the narrow gate, only to fail to endure when the way gets hard, and thus show they were never regenerated.

So many hear the call of Christ in churches today and they say “Ah, I’ve done did that.” When the truth is, they are living for themselves and not for Christ. They are on the wide way not Walking Christ’s Road

The way is hard because it is not just a one-time decision to follow Christ but a daily renouncing of ourselves and taking up our cross and following Jesus

It is the way of holiness. I am surprised at the number of people who say they are Believers but there is no conscious decision in their daily life to pursue holiness.

In fact, Christ gives us a picture of what those Walking Christ’s Road look like doesn’t He (Matthew 5:3-10)

1.       Helpless: acknowledge spiritual bankruptcy and need for Christ
2.       Haters of Sin: Mourn their sin, fight it, repent of it, hate it
3.       Humble: surrendered to Christ
4.       Hungry: Hunger and thirst for righteousness
5.       Hearts of compassion: Merciful
6.       Holy: Pure in heart, not just outwardly righteous, but also inwardly desire Christ, love Christ, follow Christ
7.       Hopeful: Peacemakers, gospel sharers
8.       Hated by others: Despised by those going that broad way

And those Walking Christ’s Road are few in comparison to the broad way. J.C. Ryle said:  "Repentance, faith in Christ, &holiness of life have never been fashionable. The true flock of Christ has always been small."

Are you walking Christ’s Road?

I wonder, if it really cost you to gather at your local church, would you still go?:

Ø  If your family was in danger by your presence here, would you still go?
Ø  If your life was in danger because you gathered here today, would you still gather?
Ø  If your bank account was in danger because the IRS was going to fine you for gathering today, would you still gather?

Are you walking Christ’s Road?

C.      The Prize of this Road is Eternal Life – For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few

Eternal life! Ah, the way is hard, but it leads to life. The idea is not that we have to work our way to heaven. The idea is that true Believers will be on this narrow way and seek to live for the glory of God.

We have the power of Christ in us and it is by Him that we persevere. By grace are we saved and by grace are we sanctified and by grace will we endure to the end.

To the true Believer let me encourage you: keep running

This is the straight and narrow way.  Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Heb. 12:1-2)

Oh Believer! KEEP RUNNING! Keep fighting sin! Keep striving toward the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. Do not turn to the right or the left! Stay on the narrow way! Keep killing sin! Run harder! Stay disciplined! Keep reading! Keep praying! Keep Hoping! Keep seeking God!
And let’s run together…

And when we see our blessed Lord and Savior He will say to us: “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

I asked you at the beginning to consider which way you are traveling. Remember, there are only two ways. You are either walking Christ’s road, or you are deceived and walking the way toward destruction.

Which road are you on?

Does my life fit Jesus’ definition of a Christian? And if not, will I repent this day and bow to Him as King, trusting Him as my only suitable and all sufficient Savior?

You can listen to the audio of this sermon by clicking here

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Baptist Liturgy

I heard a story once about a man who went to preach at a small, country Baptist church.  This church had been without a pastor for some time and had called this man to come fill in for them on one particular Sunday.

As the man walked into the church he noticed that it was typical of what you might expect a rural Baptist church to look like. Let me interject here for a moment to say that I do think there is still a need for rural churches.  If you've ever lived in a state like Arkansas, then you'll understand exactly what I mean.  There are still places here that are a long way from any sort of real town, let alone what we would call a city. So, let's not forget the need for rural churches and faithful pastors to shepherd them.

Anyway, this particular rural church only had two people at church that day, and they were siblings.  One led music and the other played the piano. Both were considerably older. But, here is the most interesting part of the story in my opinion: the man said that if he would have closed his eyes, the service was ran just like there were 100 people there. In other words, they stuck to the liturgy!

  • A Welcome was given
  • Announcements were read from the Bulletin (Yes, a bulletin for 2 people)
  • The Offering was taken up during the middle of the song service
  • Prayers were prayed at the appropriate places
  • The preaching was after the song service
  • An invitation was given after the preaching
  • And then Dismissal 

I'm sure there are a few things you could add to the above list for your Baptist church, like 'Special Music right before the Preaching' or 'A Meet and Greet song to start the service.' Now, it is not my intention to say that any of those things listed above are bad per se. But it is my desire to press us just a little bit on our liturgical hypocrisy. As Baptists, we scoff at other denominations for their 'formulaic' worship and the liturgy which we say feels forced, too Roman Catholic, and not genuine.

And yet, so often, Southern Baptists are as liturgical as they come!

It is true that there is much danger in bad liturgy.  Liturgy that becomes formulaic, or that is all truth (which is good!), but no Spirit (which is not good - John 4:24). I think it's possible that bad Baptist liturgy (see the bullet points above) has stifled church health. When we have these set things that we do in our church gatherings we begin to think that we've 'had church' as long as we've checked off all of those boxes above. I think that's why so many churches are so averse to change in the worship service.  I've seen deacons get upset before simply because you move the announcements from the beginning of the service, to the end.  The reason? I think one is because when we begin to mess with 'Baptist Liturgy' people really begin to get uncomfortable because that's not 'church' to them.

So, week in and week out, year after year, we have churches that will continue to gather each Sunday to practice their liturgical obligations, but never meet with God.  Younger generations begin to leave because what they see the church saying, singing, and praying, they don't see the church living. All the way to the point where you get down to just two people left.  The people are gone, the pews are empty, the harvest is still plentiful, and the liturgy remains. 

Like King Hezekiah, Baptist Liturgy has kept many saying for years “There will be peace and security in my days" (Isaiah 39:8), while Babylon sweeps away the next generation. Prayer meetings are poorly attended, gospel outreach is poorly done, many Bibles are left unread...But the liturgy remains!

Now, if you are reading this and think that I am against liturgy, you are mistaken. Paul tells us But all things should be done decently and in order (1 Cor. 14:40). I am not against liturgy.  I'm not against Baptist Liturgy! I'm against bad liturgy.  Liturgy is inevitable.  Every church has a 'way' that they do Sunday services week in and week out.  Therefore, this is not "Will we or won't we have liturgy?" as much as it is "Will we practice good liturgy or bad liturgy?"

I challenge all pastors, music leaders, deacons, and laypersons reading this to consider the why of each element of your Sunday service.  Why are we doing the things we are doing? Are there any elements that need to be excluded from our services? Are there any elements of worship that need to be added in our services?*

Also, let's not forget that the gospel must have the right place in our liturgy. If we understand our services only as things we are doing 'for' God so that He might bless us, we've confused Law and Gospel. The New Testament Church met on Sundays because Jesus rose from the dead on that day! And His resurrection changes everything. The foundation of our meetings then must be the gospel and what God had done for us! What we do is a result of what God had done for us in Christ and our union with Him. If ever we walk away from a church gathering and think 'we had church today!' only because of things we've done, sung, recited, preached, or heard, with no connection to what God has done for us in Christ, we've miss the entire point of the why we need to meet together in the first place.

So, do our people own the liturgy, or does the liturgy own them? In other words, is our Baptist Liturgy a means by which we help people meet with God on Sundays and to be reminded and rejoice in what He has done, and to consider our appropriate response, or is it a slavish order that we feel subconsciously obligated to abide by so that when we leave we can 'feel' like we 'had church' that day? It's ironic isn't it? That we scoff at what we might call 'liturgical' denominations because there's no 'feeling' in their services, while as Baptists we have to have our liturgy so that we can 'feel' like we have had church!

Is everything we do grounded in Scripture? Are we conscious that it is sin to not only be worshiping the wrong god, but also to be worshiping the right God in the wrong way

It matters the way we 'do church.' While it is true there are no parameters on when we might think it's best to give the announcements (or if we even have them at all!), Scripture is more specific than you might think on what elements we must include in our time of gathering together. Our worship services are not to be 'anything goes' or 'let's do whatever feels right.' We must get back to the sufficiency of Scripture for our regular worship gatherings.

I'm not picking on Baptists. I am one! But I want to encourage our churches, especially in the SBC (of which I am a part), to not be liturgical hypocrites.  Don't scoff at other denominations for too much formula, while we are guilty of some of the same things, just clothed in a different hat.

So, how's your church's liturgy? No, I'm not advocating mindless chants or a particular way to kneel, stand, kneel, stand, kneel every week.  But I am advocating that as Southern Baptist churches, we must be intentional and biblical in the way we lead our people to worship. Every church is going to follow some sort of order (and rightly so!). The question is, is your approach biblical, grounded in the gospel, and being used to serve the chief end of leading people in glorifying God, and enjoying Him forever?

*two immediate suggestions would be more Scripture reading, and more prayer

Amazing Justice?

Consider the following four passages:

While the people of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man gathering sticks on the Sabbath day. And those who found him gathering sticks brought him to Moses and Aaron and to all the congregation. They put him in custody, because it had not been made clear what should be done to him. And the LORD said to Moses, "The man shall be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him with stones outside the camp." And all the congregation brought him outside the camp and stoned him to death with stones, as the LORD commanded Moses. - Numbers 15:32-36

Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it and laid incense on it and offered unauthorized fire before the LORD, which he had not commanded them. And fire came out from before the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD. - Leviticus 10:1-2

And Joshua and all Israel with him took Achan the son of Zerah, and the silver and the cloak and the bar of gold, and his sons and daughters and his oxen and donkeys and sheep and his tent and all that he had. And they brought them up to the Valley of Achor. And Joshua said, "Why did you bring trouble on us? The LORD brings trouble on you today." And all Israel stoned him with stones. They burned them with fire and stoned them with stones. And they raised over him a great heap of stones that remains to this day. Then the LORD turned from his burning anger. Therefore, to this day the name of that place is called the Valley of Achor. - Joshua 7:24-26

And David and all the house of Israel were celebrating before the LORD, with songs and lyres and harps and tambourines and castanets and cymbals. And when they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah put out his hand to the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen stumbled. And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Uzzah, and God struck him down there because of his error, and he died there beside the ark of God. - 2 Samuel 6:5-7

One thing in common with all of these passages is sin. We might even get more specific and say that there is a common theme among these passages regarding God's holiness:

1. The Sabbath was to be kept Holy.

2.  Nadab and Abihu dishonored God's holiness by offering strange fire 

3. Achan disobeyed God's command to stay away from the things devoted to destruction (thus profaning Israel's command to be holy and unlike the surrounding peoples)

4. Uzzah disregarded his own sinful hands by touching God's holy ark.

Truly, the wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23). The point of today's post is that we are not amazed enough at grace. When we read passages like the ones above we are a little shocked. You mean God kills people people!?

Absolutely. God's holy justice demands the punishment of sin. The above accounts shouldn't be amazing to us. What should be amazing to us is that we are breathing right now able to read this blog post! 

Is there anyone reading this who would be so bold as to say that you have never profaned God's holy name? Either by sins of commission (actively profaning his name in something you've said or done) or by sins of omission (failing to give God the glory due His holiness). If you're honest, you know you're guilty of both. 

And yet, here you are. Not stoned to death. Not consumed by fire. Not struck down. 


One word: mercy. 

Mercy is not getting what you deserve. In what way can you say that you deserve God's sustaining your very existence today and withholding His justice from you for your crimes against Him? Again, if you're honest, there is nothing you have to offer a defense for your sin. It is by God's sheer mercy that you live this day. 

But beyond this, not only has God shown us mercy (not getting what we deserve), He also shows us grace in giving us what we don't deserve. 

If you're a Believer, not only has God shown you abundant mercy in not wiping you off the face of the earth, He has shown you grace in clothing you in the righteousness of His Son! 

Justice shouldn't amaze us. Justice should be expected. Justice is deserved. 

Ah, but grace! Grace ought to sweep us off our feet. Grace ought to overwhelm our souls so that we pour forth endless praises to God for His rescuing of undeserving blasphemers. 

I am the man gathering sticks on the Sabbath day. I am Nadab and Abihu. I am Achan. I am Uzzah. Actually, I feel I am far worse. And yet, God has not struck me down! Instead, He struck down His own Son. God treated Jesus like all of the above, and more, so that I could be treated like Jesus. 

Has the grace of God overwhelmed you?

Amazing Grace! How sweet the sound! That saved a wretch like me!

God is free and sovereign in His dispensing of grace. He is not obligated to show grace to anyone. While He shows His mercy to all mankind in currently withholding final judgment, not all experience His saving grace. God could save every person, but He has chosen to show justice on many. 

Again, this should not amaze us. 

It should not amaze us that so many go to hell. It should amaze us that any go to heaven. 

Don't treat grace lightly today. Be amazed by it!

If you're not a Believer: Don't presume upon mercy today. Don't think God owes you life. Cry out to Jesus in faith. Seeing yourself as an undeserving sinner and in need God's amazing grace. 

Oh where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more! There is more grace in God than sin in you! Be overwhelmed by it! Be amazed! Run to Jesus.