Sunday, July 31, 2016

Hear what the Spirit says to the Churches

Jesus says specific things to each of the 7 churches in the book of Revelation. But there is one phrase He says to all 7:

"He who has ears to hear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches..." (2:7, 11, 17, 29, 3:6, 13, 22)

In the immediate context these churches were charged to hear what Jesus was specifically telling them through His angel. But I think there is a broader context applicable to us this Lord's Day. 

As a gathered Body ever Sunday, we are still charged to hearHe who has ears to hear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. No, Jesus hasn't sent us a personal angel to deliver a message for us. We actually have something even more sure: the completed canon of Scripture. 

See, the Spirit has spoken and is still speaking to the churches and He is doing so through Scripture. This is why we must be Word centered on Sunday mornings: singing the Word, praying the Word, and preaching the Word. It is through the Word that the Spirit speaks. You don't have to worry whether or not your pastor will get a 'word from the Lord' this morning. He already has one! He has the Bible. 66 Books, 1,189 chapters, and 31,102 verses. Each one breathed out by God down to the very last jot and tittle. This is one reason why it's so foolish to listen to someone who won't preach the Bible. There is plenty in there that God has for us! 

As we listen to Scripture rightly taught this morning we are listening to what the Spirit says to the churches. In Revelation, Jesus gives so many good promises to those who will hear and respond obediently. Don't you want to be in that camp? It starts by hearing. This is anot reason regular and habitual gathering with the local body (i.e. going to churc!) is so essential. 

You still have time to get ready this morning and go. To go and hear. To go and hear what the Spirit has to say to you and your church this morning.

If your Pastor is rightly handling the Word, the question isn't "is the Spirit speaking this morning?" The question is:

Do you have ears to hear?  

Thursday, July 28, 2016

The Aim of Shame

I don't buy any argument that says Americans are worse today than we were 50 years ago, 100 years ago, or even 240 years ago. 

Some may baffle at such a statement given the recent debacle over 'gay mirage'* but the truth is that since Genesis 3, men have always been sinners. Having said that, however, I do think there is one noteable difference in the 21st century: there is no shame. The same actions committed 50 years ago in secret, are committed today publicly and proudly. 

I once worked with a secular program that helped troubled children. In a group session one day another adult began to talk about how 'shame' was evil. While shame can certainly be wrongly felt or applied, there is actually a redemptive purpose to it when understood properly. By the common grace of God to all men vestiges of the Imago Dei remain in us even post Fall and so even unconverted people often rightly feel wrong for doing wicked things. Of course, this other adult in that group discussion was only echoing contemporary psychological trends. The current moral revolution actively teaches us to deny, suppress, and rage against shame. The only thing shameful in today's society is telling someone else that they should be ashamed for their actions. 

As you can imagine, or probably have even seen firsthand, or (may the Lord forbid), experienced in your own heart, this idea of shame has crept into local churches. I actually even heard a story recently about a person who was upset because a pastor 'shamed' them because of their sin. 

We don't mind speaking in generalities about sin, but when you get specific about an individual's sin, well, that's taboo, even in conservative, bible believing churches. We have come to believe the lie that shame is always a bad thing and thus should be avoided. 

Let's observe something Paul wrote to the local church of the Thessalonians:

As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good. If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed. Do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother. (2 Thessalonians 3:13-15 emphasis mine)

Paul argues that there is a proper purpose and redemptive value for shame. A person who is disobedient to Apostolic  instruction (in the immediate context this specific letter, but in broader context the entire New and Old Testament of Scripture), ought to be taken note of (recognized, marked out - v.14) and separated from in order that he will be ashamed (v.14). 

Ah! How rude and judgmental of the church! That poor Thessalonian ought to find him a church that doesn't care about getting in his private business!

Actually no. 

See, Paul understood that when a person is allowed to continue unrepentantly in sin that at best it is a blight on the purity of Christ's church, a leavening of sin in the entirety of the local Body, and grossly harmful to the individual's walk with the Lord. At best. But at worst it could mean the individual isn't actually a Christian at all. And so, to allow a person to continue in sin without address is akin to allowing his house to burn down while letting him sleep inside because you feel bad about waking him up. That happens to be the epitome of unkindness. In fact, it is downright wicked to let a man burn his life down while you stand by and watch refusing to be involved. 

Some readers may be thinking of the woman caught in adultery and how Jesus told the crowd 'he without sin cast the first stone.' First of all, these weren't proverbial 'shame stones'. They were literal rocks meant to kill her. Secondly, Jesus calls out her sin. He tells her 'go and sin no more.' Thirdly, there is much more that goes into interpreting and handling that particular text than this post will deal with. But suffice it to say Jesus clearly identified sin. The same is true of His encounter with the woman at the well. And Jesus actually taught His disciples how to deal with sin in the church: Matthew 18:15-18. Finally, Jesus' Apostles, who, along with their close associates, are the ones who wrote the New Testament, speak on behalf of Christ. Their words are His words as the very words they wrote were God-breathed. The point in including this paragraph is to show that Jesus and His apostles are on the same page on this issue (and all issues for that matter).

The aim of shame in the church isn't to destroy a person. It's that a person would regain a proper perspective of their sin and flee to Christ for mercy. The formal disfellowship between a local body and a member is ultimately for the purpose of reconciliation. Without shame for sin an individual may snowball down the mountain of iniquity right into the pit of hell. (I should also add the same is true for a society that has no shame, but that's another blogpost). 

Let's return to the text. We see in v.15 that the offending party is not to be shamed as an enemy but rather warned as a brother. So, it's not a secret pulling away. It's not a "there's no mercy in Christ for you!" but rather a "hey brother, as long as you continue in this sin, we cannot extend the right hand of Christian fellowship to you. Please repent! Let us assist you in conquering this sin in your life! Please do not go down this road brother! Come back to Jesus! There is time right now. There is still mercy. Flee to Him this moment!" 

Sadly, many in the Bible Belt do not want this kind of 'intrusion' by the church into their life. I have literally heard to my own face (at a former church) a person say "You don't have a right to involve yourself in the lives of people. You're just supposed to be up there and preach." We want to determine ourselves whether or not we can continue in this action or that action. But Jesus didn't give the keys to the kingdom to scattered individuals. He gave them to the church. 

Beloved, understood rightly, shame plays an important and helpful part in the life of the church. It's not a power tool but an instrument of mercy. In fact, a lot of times the word 'shame' doesn't even have to be verbalized. The simple act of having 'nothing to do' (v.14) with a person is enough to cause them to undergo introspection, feel shame for their sin, and by grace repent and reunite with the local church. 

So again, the purpose of the shame Paul writes about is redemptive. Shaming can certainly be wrong and when it is, can be dreadfully harmful.  Shaming someone for something that has been repented of is wrong. Shaming someone for something they are not guilty of is wrong. Using shame as a punitive scare tactic is wrong. And I'm sure there are other examples for the misuse of shame as well. 

We are probably also fearful of the misuse of shame because we've all experienced the fiery darts of the Evil One who has told us we are not worthy. God could never love us.  We could never be forgiven for such a wicked sin against the Lord. This is where we need reminded of two things: 1.) Grace abounds. The gospel says that Christ has bore the righteous wrath of God in the place of every Believer. All of our sin had been dealt with at Calvary. It truly is finished! Men wagged their heads at Christ and scoffed so that God could look on men with mercy and favor. He has taken our shame! Don't you believe this!? Then these glorious gospel promises are for you! 2.) Just because a thing is misused by some does not give the church the right to lay it aside altogether. Just because shame is twisted and misused by Satan, and people at times, does not mean it is always wrong. Rightly understood, shame reminds us of Christ's work and that the proper response demanded is faith in Him which should manifest itself in total allegiance to His Lordship as communicated to us by His Apostles in His Word. 

This isn't about applying scarlet letters. This is about the truth that a church who refuses to heed 2 Thessalonians 3:13-15 will bring harm to itself, to its members, and even to the surrounding outside world. When we fail to call sin 'sin' and fail to give testimony to the power, grace, and glory of the gospel, we do great damage to the cause of Christ. Conversely, when a church is faithful to Scripture and rightly practicing church discipline and utilizing the proper use of shame, it's a teaching moment. No the world may not always agree, but some will see the light and truth. That there is grace in shame. That it's a proper feeling for breaking God's Law and there is remedy in Jesus. 

The world says #ShoutYourAbortion! Suppress shame! Run from it! Spend thousands of dollars for a therapist to destroy it! But the Bible makes clear that if we never feel shame, we will never feel our need for Christ's mercy. In fact, we will never be rid of our shame until we take it to Christ. The world realizes that shouting down your shame doesn't actually rid yourself of it. That's why they continue to shout louder. But no amount of shouting will erase our innate knowledge that we are guilty. The only remedy is the cross. The preaching of our heinous breaking of God's Law is necessary so that we may see the necessity and beauty of the gospel. At first glance this seems to move beyond the scope of this blog. But upon further inspection, we see that both those inside and outside the church need biblical shame in order that the remedy might be sought: Christ, through faith and repentance. 

Let us endeavor to both properly apply shame and to understand its true aim: to bring us back into sweet fellowship with Christ and His church. 

*the first place I heard that statement was in a blog post by Doug Wilson

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

5 Giveaways!

We are giving away prize packs to FIVE different people!

This giveway is in connection with our one day free bible conference: Change and the Church: Why the Local Church Still Matters. However, let me state up front that you do not have to be attending the conference in order to win one of these gift packs. In honor of us being just ONE MONTH away from this year's conference, we want to give some great resources away! I'll explain the rules below but first, let me tell you what we are giving away:

1. The Vine Project by Colin Marshall and Tony Payne -

This is the follow-up book to The Trellis and the Vine. This is a wonderful book and one I think you'll find extremely beneficial to your discipleship strategy in your church. See the promo video below:


2. Bible Reading Pack -

This prize pack features 3 books. One to One Bible Reading: A simple guide for every Christian by David Helm is a short and practical guide for helping believers make disciples through a new and innovative concept: reading the bible together! ;-)

The other two books are two copies The Book of Books: A Short Guide to Reading the Bible by Geoff Robson. Robson gives a concise overview oBible BIble and how we may read it in order to get the most out of it. We are giving away two copies in this pack because you might find it beneficial to read through with a new Christian or even an unbeliever.

3. Discipleship Pack -

This pack contains 5 books and 1 Bible Study! The first book has already been mentioned and we are givinga way TWO copies of it: The Trellis and the Vine by Marshall and Payne. Sure, it's not the 'sequel' but I remember reading it a few years ago and being greatly encouraged and challenged in making disciples. I think you will find much benefit from it. We are giving away 2 copies because it would be beneficial to read along with another pastor or leader from your church.

Also included is Life on Mission by Willis Coe (foreword by David Platt). Coe encourages believers to join the everyday mission of God.

Next, we are including two copies of Wasted Faith by Jim Elliff. Two copies because this short book, which includes a study guide, would be a great book to read together with another Believer or even a non-Christian.

Finally, we are including a cope of Matthias Media's bible study entitled Full of Promise: 8 Interacive Bible Studies for Small Groups and Individuals. A great resource to help understand the Old Testament as a whole. You could go through this yourself, or with someone else, or in a small group or Sunday School setting.

4. Productivity Pack -

This pack features two books. The first is the latest from Tim Challies, Do More Better: A Practical Guide to Productivity. The second is a little bigger book by Matt Perman (foreword by John Piper), What's Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms The Way You Get Things Done. Both of these resources are helpful in learning a system and strategy to make you more efficient with your time.

5. Small Group Pack -

Finally, we are giving away a DVD resource from Matthias Media, 6 Steps to Loving Your Church. This will also include 1 copy of the required accompanying workbook.

Over the six sessions of the course you will cover subjects such as: (from the back cover)

  • you current attitudes towards church, and how they are expressed
  • what the Bibles says about the meaning and purposes of church
  • what it means to love your church and the people who go there
  • how all of us can be engaged in 'the ministry of the pew' - an active, loving service of others, before, during, and after church

The Rules:

To get more information about our upcoming conference on 8/27, please click here

This giveaway is an effort to help spread the word about our conference and give a preview of some of what we will be giving away (and MORE!) on the day of the conference.

So, here's how we are going to do it: On August 8, 2016 at 1:00pm (CST) I will draw 5 names to give these prize packs to. 

The 1st, 2nd, 4th, and 5th name will be only from people who have preregistered for our conference. So, if you are coming all you have to do to be in the running for these giveways is to PREREGISTER by 12:59pm on August 8th! Click here to do that NOW. I will contact you after we announce the winners and you can pick up your prize pack on the day of the conference. (If you have already preregistered, you don't have to do it again, I've already got you down!). 

The 3rd name will be drawn from ANYONE who shares this post! Be sure and tag @cuatronelson when you share on twitter so I can enter you. If you share via email or some other way, comment below so I know and can enter you in the drawing. This 3rd name draw is separate from the 1st, 2nd, 4th, and 5th, so if you preregister AND share this blog post, you will have a chance to win TWO of the prize packs above! For this winner, I will contact you and mail out your prize pack ASAP (most likely just a day or two after 8/8/16).

How I will divvy out the packs is by asking each winner in order their preference. So, 1st gets 1st pick, 2nd gets 2nd pick, 3rd gets 3rd pick, 4th gets 4th pick, and 5th gets whatever is left.

One final note: I want to make it clear that registration is not 'required' for our conference. If you wake up Saturday, 8/27 and decide you can make it, come on! We'd love to have you. But preregistration does help us as a church to be prepared for you! So, if you plan on coming, go ahead and preregister today!

What are you waiting for? Get yourself entered to win one of these giveaways!

8 Gospel Words/Phrases from Titus 1:1-4

We recently began a series on the book of Titus here at Perryville Second Baptist (you can listen to recent sermons here).

Paul has a way with introductions doesn't he? He can be more gospel-centric in 4 verses than many preachers can be in 4 sermons. Technically, the word 'gospel' isn't even used in these first four verses of the book of Titus but as we'll see that fact doesn't keep Paul from dropping some glorious Truth about the finished work of Jesus. So, let's take a look at 8 gospel words/phrases from Titus 1:1-4 in hopes of giving us a more robust picture of the gospel. Think of these words/phrases sort of like puzzle pieces that we piece together to see a glimpse of the beautiful picture of all that God is for us in the person and work of Christ. Here we go...
1:1 Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness, 2 in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began 3 and at the proper time manifested in his word through the preaching with which I have been entrusted by the command of God our Savior; 4 To Titus, my true child in a common faith: Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior.
1. Trinity

Ok, I'm not sneaking one in here on you. The word 'Trinity' is not in the text. But notice something in verses 3 and 4. In verse 3 Paul writes "...God our Savior;" and in verse 4b he says "Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior."

If you've kept up with Christian blogs much the last month or so you've seen some debate taking place on the Trinity. This is because the Trinity is vital to the gospel and thus our salvation. Without the Trinity we don't have the gospel. It is by nature, Trinitarian. One God who eternally exists in three distinct persons, who are equal in essence.

Titus equates Jesus with God in these very opening verses of Titus. Two more times in the book he calls God our savior (2:10, 3:4). In Titus 2:13 Paul explicitly calls Jesus 'God'. So, even in this short book of Titus we get a glimpse of the importance of the Trinity! All three persons of the Trinity are mentioned. We've already covered the Father and the Son, but also in Titus 3:5 Paul mentions the Holy Spirit. All three persons of the Trinity are working in glorious harmony to bring us salvation through the gospel of Christ. The Father chooses us, the Son dies for us (Titus 2:14), and the Holy Spirit regenerates our hearts.

2. Knowledge of the Truth – 

This phrase is found in the opening verse. Truth is used in Paul’s letters often as a synonym for the gospel. Ephesians 1:13 Paul writes "In Him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit..." (emphasis mine).

Yes, there is such a thing as absolute truth. The gospel is truth. People can discern 'true' things without the gospel, but there is always distortion attached to it. For example, a person does not have a true picture of God apart from the gospel. A person does not have a true picture of man, nor a true picture of themselves without the gospel.

The truth is, mankind’s problem is not outer circumstances. It is sin. And because of sin we are in desperate need of a Savior. That Savior is God Himself in the person and work of Christ. His substitutionary work on the cross is our only of reconciliation with the God we have so offended by our rebellion.

Let me also add here that truth is doctrine! Sound doctrine is vital to the church and a big part of this letter (Titus 2:1). And sound doctrine leads to sound living, but more on that later…

3. Grace and Peace – 

We find this phrase in Titus 1:4 (as well as in Romans 1:7, 1 Cor. 1:3, 2 Cor. 1:2, Gal. 1:3, Eph. 1:2, Phil. 1:2, Col. 1:2, 1 Thess. 1:1, 2 Thess. 1:2, 1 Tim. 1:2, 2 Tim. 1:2, and Philemon 1:3).

Paul was pretty fond of grace and peace it seems. Of course this was similar to a common Greek introduction, but Paul ‘Christianizes’ it. It is through the gospel that we have received both grace from God and peace with God through the person and work of Christ.

Grace because we are unworthy, hostile in mind, opposed to God and yet He redeemed us anyway by placing the wrath that we deserve from Him because of our sin on His own Son on the cross. We have peace because our sin is atoned for. Jesus' propitiatory sacrifice has reconciled us to God.

And there is nothing we can do to add to God’s love for us. We can’t work our way into His favor. Our salvation is wholly dependent upon grace from beginning to end. And notice there in Titus 1:4 that grace and peace is from God. He is the source!

4. Elect – 

Again, Paul gets into this right away in verse 1. The term 'elect' in the Bible is a synonym for Christian,and literally means ‘chosen’.

What a thought! By God’s grace alone, Believers are chosen in Christ even before time began. What a glorious gospel! We are not chosen based on a foreseen choice or work of righteousness on our part. Believers are chosen in Christ by the sheer grace and love of God!

The gospel is not plan B. It was God’s plan A all along. Look at what Paul say sin verse 2: "in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began" (emphasis mine). The gospel existed in the heart of the Triune Godhead even before there was time or space!

Let me emphasize here that salvation from beginning to end is of the Lord. We are not our own saviors. God is our Savior from beginning to end. As a review, three times in this letter God is called our savior: 1:3, 2:10, 3:4(5).

5. Hope of eternal life – 

This phrase is used in Titus 1:2 and in Titus 3:7. This gospel message brings us into a right relationship with God whereby we will glorify Him and enjoy Him forever. In verse 2 Paul also tells us that God never lies! Eternal life is the real deal and it is promised from a God who cannot lie. It is found in justification by His grace (3:7) and it is the good promise for all those who repent of their sins and close with Christ in faith.

Are you trusting God's good promises today?

What a word hope is. As we think of the devastating effects of sin in our society, in our homes, even in our churches, the gospel alone is the message of hope we truly need.

6. Faith – 
We see this word in v.1 and v.4. How is this gospel, this good news of Jesus death on the cross for our sins, how is it actually applied to an individual’s life? Sola Fide. Faith alone.

By faith we are credited with Jesus’ righteousness. It is by faith alone that we stand before God justified. Not by the works of the law.

In verse 4 Paul refers to this as a 'common faith.' Let me just emphasize here that the way one is made right with God today is the same that it has always been: by faith alone. The never lying God has promised eternal life for all who will trust His Son's finished work by faith, repenting of their sin and turning to Jesus as their only suitable and all sufficient savior.

7. Preaching – 

I won't spend long here, but in verse 3 Paul mentions the word 'preaching.' The idea of preaching here means the public proclamation of the gospel to unbelievers. No one comes to faith in the Gospel apart from the proclamation of the gospel…We must hear the gospel, repent of our sin, and place our faith in the finished work of Jesus.

I bring this out because the gospel is good news and this good news is meant to be proclaimed. And, this proclamation of the gospel to the nations is the whole church’s mission…

8. Godliness – 

Finally, we have arrived at our last word. But, it is certainly not the least word we've covered thus far. Let me again quote Paul: "for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness" (emphasis mine).

Not all true statements produce godliness. The Dallas Cowboys have won 5 Superbowls. That's a true statement. But it doesn't produce godliness. But the gospel is more than merely a 'true statement.' As we've already covered, it is truth. And saving knowledge of this truth produces godliness in the lives of its adherents by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Yes, by grace, God actually produces godliness in Believers!: (See Titus 2:14 as well).

Gospel people are godly people. Through the gospel, God produces godliness in us. Take account of your life.
· Do you think you are loved more by God by what you do? That will not produce godliness in you. 
· Do you think you are a true Believer and now have a license to sin? That will not produce godliness sin you.

However, the deeper we go in the gospel – that all work is finished in Christ! And that we are called to rest in HIS merits alone for our acceptance b4 God – the deeper we go into that message – the more we will see godliness as natural outflow.

A gospel that does not produce godliness, is not the saving gospel of Jesus Christ! The more we see, hear, know, and understand the grace of God in the gospel, the more we are shaped into a people zealous for good works. Yes, this means Believers need the gospel. We are all prone to rest in the Law for our right standing with God. "I went to church 48x this year!" "I give lots of money to missions!" "I read my bible every day!" None of those things are bad things. But none of those things increase God's love for us, nor do they earn us points with Him to cash in on worldly rewards.

It is the grace of God in the gospel that is our chief (not only, but chief) motivation for godliness. Of course, the other side would be those who want to live in sin because 'grace abounds'. Paul addresses that in other places, but I will just add that a life that is comfortable in sin is a life that is not savingly comprehending the grace of God in the gospel. 

A lot to chew on in a mere four verses! But I hope you have been encouraged with the multifaceted nature of the saving gospel of Jesus Christ. I will leave you with this thought: God, the offended party, has taken the initiative in bringing reconciliation through His own Son. Do not question His willingness to save you to the uttermost! Run to Jesus today.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Another Reason to Go to Church

Last month I wrote a post entitled Three Reasons to go to Church Today. Take a moment and read that post to get some context.  

This afternoon I want to add a 4th reason. 

4. The World needs to see the gospel implications of life together

On several levels this has been a tough week as a Nation. We see racial tensions still existing on both the left and the right. We've seen the tragic terrorism in Dallas with the loss of 5 brave police officers. We continue to be divided on a whole host of issues as Americans. 

And maybe it's just me, but I've seen a lot of people posting on social media about us just needing to come together and love people better, etc. 

A major problem I've noticed is that a lot of these supposedly well meaning posts are by people who are not regularly involved in a local church. But it is in and through the local church that we both really learn how to love and put into tangible expression loving those different than us (Philippians 2:1-4). It is inconsistent at best and hypocritical at worst to claim to be a Christian talking about how we just need to 'love better' when we are not regularly gathering with the local church (1 Jn 3:14). 

I see memes and stats and arguments from both sides, but we cannot reasonably hope for any sort of real solution to these tensions without the local church. That may seem far fetched on first glance, but read the New Testament. It was the church who was given the great commission. It was the church who first witnessed the undoing of Genisis 11 in Acts 2. It is through the church that the mystery of God is revealed in reconciling the Nations to Himself in Christ (Eph. 3:10). 

The gospel is not merely personal. Yes, you must place your personal faith in Christ as your only suitable and all sufficient Savior. However, the gospel not only reconciles us to God, but also our fellow man (see for example Titus 3:3). This isn't reconciliation simply with those we already are like! It's easy to love people who look, talk, dress, vote, and think like you do. But the gospel is reconciling people from diverse backgrounds together in Christ. 

The world needs to see the gospel implications of life together in the local church. What does it look like to love those who are different than us? This should be tangibly expressed in the local church on a weekly (if not sometime daily) basis "where there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28). You can't say you're a Believer and that you really care about what's happening in our Nation, and then regularly sit Sundays out. Yes, church life is more than just gathering on Sunday. But it is not less. 

I am not saying this is the only reason to gather with the local church (read the first post). But it is an important reason. And it may be that you need to be intentional in this regard. You may need to intentionally make contact tomorrow with a fellow believer who is older or younger than you, or you has a different skin color, or who is of a different socioeconomic class, or who has a different stance on gun control than you do, so that you can show others what it looks like for God to reconcile the world to Himself in Christ. 

Finally, let me again warn us of the foolishness of the affinity based model of church planting. The picture the world needs to see is diversity unified in Jesus. Not diverse subgroups creating their own little brand of church. 

Gather with the church tomorrow Saints. You're not only commanded to, and benefited by it, but through it you may actually be a part of the solution to all that's happening in our society today. 

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Another Gospel Appeal

What type of person would you need to be in order for God to accept you?

The bad news is this: the best we are doesn’t cut it (Isaiah 64:6). You can’t clean yourself up enough, you can’t polish your shoes shiny enough, nor can you save enough whales in order for God to forgive you bring you to Himself. I know you consider yourself a good person. At least not too bad. But the bible is clear: your heart is desperately sick, dead to the things of God, and not seeking to give God the glory due His name (Jeremiah 17:9, Ephesians 2:1-10, Romans 3:10-23).

But the good news is this: God accepts sinners in His Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus is our only hope of salvation. He lived a perfect life on this earth and then died to bear the just punishment due for our sin (2 Corinthians 5:21). He rose again in victory (Romans 4:25), and it is the duty of every man, woman, boy and girl to repent and believe the gospel (Mark 1:15). It is wonderfully freeing to realize there is nothing you can do to earn God’s love but that He has offered it fully and freely in Jesus for all who trust Him in faith. All terms have been met. All debts have been paid. All documents have been signed. All t's crossed. All i's dotted. It is finished. What is left for us to do is to look to Jesus in faith, turning from our sin and believing the gospel: the good news that God saves sinners through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). No really. Quit attempting to satisfy God with vain works and rest all that you are in Jesus. Christ receives sinners who come to Him in faith.

And guess what? Those who come to Christ are not left in their sin! They are cleansed inwardly by the power of the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5), and set on the narrow way which leads to an eternity with Jesus (Matthew 7:13-14). He is our only suitable and all sufficient Savior (Acts 4:12). Will you trust Him today?

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

A Gospel Appeal

You were made for a purpose. Your greatest purpose in life isn't to be wealthy, or healthy, or famous. Although none of those things are inherently wrong, they just fall woefully short of the chief end for which you were created. You were made by God for God. You were made to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. The Christian worldview is the only worldview that consistently applies worth to every individual human being. And essential to the Christian worldview is the gospel.

Although you were made to glorify God and enjoy Him forever, that's not the default desire of any person left to themselves. We are too wrapped up in ourselves, attempting to establish our own purpose in life, to really care about God. The Bible calls this sin. Sin is anything we do that God tells us not to do and anything we don't do that God tells us to do. And the problem with mankind is we are all sinners. We are sinners by nature and choice. You were 'born that way' but you are also a most willing participant in your sin. You love it. We lie, steal, cheat, worship other things besides God, hate others, lust after others, are envious, greedy, and the list goes on and on. Instead of serving God we worship autonomy and try to be God. We might think we like the idea of God but really we don't want to bow to Him or have Him as King of our lives or live life by His rules. We were made to enjoy God and glorify Him forever but instead we have bought into the lie that we can find greater purpose in something else. But this is like trying to fit a round peg into a square hole. It just won't go. 

Because our rebellion is against a God who is Holy, He must punish it. A good judge is a just judge. God is a good judge and therefore delights in justice. Psalm 7:11 puts it this way: "God is a righteous judge, and a God who feels indignation every day." The Lord hates sin. Our rebellion must be dealt with in a way that is consistent with God's justice. The problem is we, as finite beings, could never finish paying for our sin against an infinite Being. This is why Hell is forever. Hell is the place where justice is served for all eternity for our sinful rebellion against God. Many will justly go to this dreadful place, but it does not have to be that way for you because before time had even began, God had a solution to our sin problem: Jesus.

Jesus is God. He is the Second person of the Trinity. Equal with the Father in essence but distinct in His ministry. I know all of those terms may seem complicated to you but suffice it to say this: God became one of us in order to rescue us. The Son of God took on human flesh and was born of the Virgin Mary 2,000 years ago. He lived a perfect life of enjoying and glorifying God in His humanity. He never sinned. He never did something God commanded us not to do. And He never failed to do anything God commanded us to do. And then, He went to the cross. Not simply to show His love for us, but so that He could meet God's righteous demand for the Law we've broken. In Jesus, God punished sin for all those who will look to Him in faith. The wrath of God was satisfied. Justice has been served. All i's have been dotted and every t has been crossed. It is finished. 

We know God accepted this perfect sacrifice because Jesus rose again from the dead (Romans 4:25). He then ascended into heaven and is now seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty. It is from there that He will come again soon to judge the living and the dead.

The call of the Christian gospel to all mankind is that every person would turn from his sin and rebellion against God in repentance, and come to Jesus in faith, trusting Him and His work as the only solution for making us right with God. It is not "just live like Jesus." You can't. And you don't want to. But Jesus has settled all accounts by His work and He stands as your surety if you will but look to Him in faith. Yes, look! This is a gospel for you. It is the Holy Spirit (the 3rd person of the Trinity) who takes this gospel and applies it to our lives. He opens our eyes that we may see. And the call to you is will you trust Jesus as your only suitable and all sufficient Savior? 

The result of repentance and faith isn't some bait and switch propaganda. You don't repent and believe the gospel so that you get money, fame, or power. You repent and believe the gospel so that you get God. The very purpose for which you were made. You may try your own way. Many do. But the rest every soul deeply desires will not be satisfied with the puny things of this world. It is only Christ. You were made by God for God. And we are saved by God for God. You were made to glorify God and enjoy Him forever and in Christ, and only in Christ, you can achieve this purpose. 

Every person will stand before God one day and give an account for the deeds they have done. For those who are in Christ, God will judge our lives as though we lived the life Jesus did. In other words, God looks at us and doesn't just say 'not guilty', but because of the work of Jesus He looks at us and says 'righteous.' Not our own righteousness but the righteousness of Jesus we receive when we come to Him in faith. Simply put, if you come to Jesus in faith, God doesn't count your sin against you. It has been placed on Jesus on the cross. And the obedience of Jesus to God's law is credited to your account. All of this happens by faith. Faith isn't a blind leap into the dark. It's believing and trusting the truth of the gospel. This is the only way into the presence of God for eternity. We must be righteous and the only righteousness that will do is the perfect righteousness of Jesus. You can receive that righteousness today, by faith!

You were made for a purpose. Would you have Christ today? Will you turn from your sin against God and trust the work of Jesus by faith? In Jesus there is life! True life. Lay down your rebellion. Lay down your efforts to appease God. Lay down your attempts at establishing your own purpose in this world. And come to Jesus. He will not cast you out! Come to Him in faith! Trust Him today. Repent and believe the gospel. 

Soli Deo Gloria.