Thursday, August 25, 2016

3 Truths on Regeneration from Titus 3

black-and-white, dawn, mountainsOur church recently finished a short series through the book of Titus (sermons here). In our concluding message we talked about good works and the reason we do them. One of the reasons we do them is because we have been transformed by the power of God! Paul explains how that happens in Titus 3:5:

[God our Savior] saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit

This passage is an important text for the doctrine of regeneration. We see the word there in our text: ‘washing of regeneration’.This word ‘regeneration’ literally means ‘to be born again.’ (Remember Jesus’s teaching to Nicodemus in John 3?).

So, what I want to do today is look at 3 Truths about Regeneration from this text:

I.   It is the Main Event

I don’t want to downplay other aspects of salvation at all! But, what I mean here is that without regeneration, without being born again, nothing else matters for the individual. In other words, you can try and be a good person. You can try and come to church. You can try and give more money in the offering plate. You can try to be baptized 153 times.

But at the end of the day, the question for you is this: Are you born again? Because if not, then in your heart you don’t really love God or the things of God. You are still in a state of disobedience and sin. You’re still in the state of Titus 3:3

foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures…
Actually, this explains a lot about the state of Christianity in the Bible Belt. This is why so many professing Christians don’t go to church, they don’t read their bibles, they don’t live separate from the world. Why? Because they haven’t really been born again! There is no desire to do the things of God because they still have a heart of stone.

II.   It is Monergistic

Now that’s a fun word isn’t it? But here’s what it means. It means that regeneration is not a work of you and God, but a work of God in you! (See also for example, 1 Peter 1:3).

In the original language the text of Titus 3:5 is emphatic that it is not our works that bring about regeneration. It’s not because we are ‘baptized’ or even because we have a thought originate within ourselves ‘Hey, I think I’ll be born again today!’ By the way, this is why Paul uses the words ‘washing’ and ‘poured out’. Not because Baptism is what regenerates us but because it is a beautiful picture of how God sends the Holy Spirit to us. God promised in Ezekiel 36:25-27 that He would cleanse us spiritually, and this text shows us that He does so through His Holy Spirit whom He poured out on us richly, not through baptism, but through Jesus Christ our Savior! (Titus 3:6)

Regeneration is possible because of the finished work of Christ. The way a person is born again is only through the heralding of the gospel – the good news of Jesus’ life, death, & resurrection for our sins! A person doesn’t walk down the sidewalk and say “I think I’ll be born again today.” No, the gospel is proclaimed either during a preaching time, or over coffee, or as you’re text messaging back and forth. And it is only through the gospel that God ‘turns on the lights’ so a person sees their wretchedness and their need for Christ and so they can close with Him in faith and repentance by grace alone (see Titus 3:7).

So, regeneration is God’s Work. However, this doesn’t mean it’s separated from a response of faith and repentance on our part. We are never told to discern the Spirit’s working. What are we told to do? Repent and believe the gospel! So, the Holy Spirit’s work is the new birth, but it is still the command of God to every person on the planet to repent and believe the gospel. What I mean is don’t say ‘I can’t be born again because the Spirit’s not working in me.’ You are not told to discern that!
I want to pause here and just issue a call to come to Christ. If you are reading this and saying ‘I want to be born again, I don’t understand how that works, what do I need to do, can God save me?’


I just want to issue a simple call: Come to Christ. See His finished work. See the goodness and loving kindness of God displayed in Christ’s bearing our sin. See His offer of mercy even now. Repent of your sin and believe the gospel. Will you have Him today?

III.   It is a Massive Overhaul

Regeneration changes us. It takes us from being foolish, disobedient, et al,  to being ready for every good work. It changes our desires, it changes our hopes, it changes our priorities.

You’re still feeling the effects of your first birth, aren’t you? If you’re reading this you are! So too with your second birth. If you've been born again, you haven't quite gotten over it!

The beauty of the gospel is not merely that God forgives sinners, which is wonderful news! But it is also that He actually changes us to want to serve Him joyfully and to be a people for Christ’s own possession who are zealous for good works (Titus 2:14).

There is a lot of talk today about people being 'born this way' or 'born that way' as an excuse for living in rebellion against God. The truth of the matter is that we are all born sinners and we are all in need of a new birth. And when we are born again by the power of the Holy Spirit, we are changed. It is a massive overhaul of all we once were and trapped in our old little kingdoms, to being transferred to the Kingdom of Light. This is not to imply that we are perfect, but by the grace of God, we are no longer who we once were (Titus 3:3). 

In Titus 3:8, Paul exhorts Titus to insist on these things. A healthy understanding of regeneration is vital to a church being ready for every good work. Why?

1)     It helps us appreciate God’s unfathomable grace - We who were disobedient and slaves to various passions. We who were deserving of hell and wrath, God has made us alive with Christ!

2)     It reminds us where good works come from – GOD! (Phil. 2:12-13)

3)     It compels us to show grace to others - Sometimes we who’ve received such grace are the first to fail to show it to others. Do not be that way!

4)     It encourages us about the power of God – If God brought us from death to life, can He not also equip us to carry out good works for His glory?

Some people say it doesn’t really matter how God saves, just that He saves. Well, praise the Lord that He does save! Hallelujah! What a Savior! But, let us also remember that the Bible does show us how God saves and furthermore Scriptures shows us that it is important for us to believe rightly about salvation. Regeneration is not the full encompassment of the word ‘salvation’ used in the Bible, but it is an important and vital aspect of salvation, and one the church would do well to understand rightly to the praise of His glorious grace!

Have you been born again? If not, will you look to Christ today as your only suitable and all sufficient savior? Will you rest in His finished work on the cross when He bore the wrath of God for sin for all those who would trust Him by faith? 

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Two Non-Negotiable Requirements for being a Disciple of Jesus

Luke 5 records Jesus' calling of the very first disciples. The response of Peter, James, and John and then Levi is almost identical. We have that recorded in 5:11 and 5:28

"...they left everything and followed Him."

"And leaving everything, he rose and followed Him."

Did you catch that? Here are the two things these disciples did:

1. Left everything 
2. Followed Jesus

I understand that there are things the first disciples could literally do that we cannot. They literally hung out with the God-Man in the flesh. They walked in his very footsteps. They ate with Him. They touched Him. They spoke with Him face to face. 

That being said, the requirement of disciples today is no less of a calling. If we are to be disciples of Jesus we must leave everything and follow Him. 

Leave everything

By this, I don't mean to imply that every disciple must leave his job and become a full time evangelist or move overseas to be a foreign missionary. Let's be clear: some do need to do that. However, my point here is that the only way to be a disciple of Jesus is to leave our old way of thinking. Our old way of doing things. Our old allegiances. Our old priorities. 

Too many claim to be disciples who only acknowledge Jesus as Lord of this or that area. Many don't even acknowledge Him as Lord of their Sundays! They consider themselves disciples simply because they think themselves morally superior to others, they vote conservative, and they pay their taxes for the most part. 

But they are still in love with the world system. Their real priorities in life aren't much different than the Kardashians, except maybe a few Christianese twists and a couple of bible verses sprinkled on top, and don't forget occasionally listening to more music, KLOVE...

But the call to leave everything is surely much more radical. It is a call to leave the world system. It is a call to view things with a Kingdom perspective. It is a call to see our Father's name hallowed, HisKingdom  come, and His will be done on earth as it is in heaven. It is a call to leave one way of life and to take up another. And what is that other way of life? We see it in the second requirement:

Follow Him

Disciples of Jesus aren't called to just go live in a desert monstery and await His return. They are called to leave everything and follow Him. This is life. 

If you are not following Jesus, you're not His disciple. To follow Him doesn't mean wearing a bracelet that says WWJD. There are many things Jesus did that you and I cannot do nor are we called to do. We can't turn water into wine. We can't calm storms. We can't walk on water. We can't multiply bread and fish. And we can't bear the wrath of God for anyone's sins. 

But to follow Jesus is to learn Jesus. To follow Jesus is to love Jesus. To follow Jesus is to listen to Jesus. We learn who He is and His finished work through the Scriptures. We grow to love Him more by reading the Scriptures. We understand what it means to follow Him by understanding the Scriptures. 

So we see at a basic level for one to truly follow Jesus, he must, at the very least, be acquainted with the Sacred Writings. (Which makes it curious that we have many who claim to be disciples but never have time for reading the Bible, doesn't it?) 

Of course, these sacred pages of Holy Writ tell us much more don't they? They show us that following Jesus is following Him in community. We aren't the 'persons' of Christ but the people of Christ. We follow Him together. (The local church still matters!)

And of course to follow Jesus means to actually do what He has commanded us. In fact, we don't love Jesus unless we are doing the things He has told us to do (cf. John 14:15). This includes gathering with the Saints regularly, showing humility and kindness to all people, giving of our time, talents, and treasures to Kingdom work, making more disciples, and the list goes on and on and on. 

I do not mean to suggest that our following Jesus is a mechanical system of checking boxes. It is very much relational. However, many people claim to have a relationship with Jesus when who they have a relationship with is only themselves. Their jesus approves of everything they do because he isn't the jesus of the Bible, but a mere invention of their own wicked heart. We cannot separate a relationship with Jesus from His clear teachings in Scriptire. Which by the way, all the Bible is His teaching!

It is amazing in our day of easy believism how these two basic requirements are left out of what it means to be a disciple. People can be considered a disciple of Jesus today who have not left anything and are still following the course of this world. This is impossible. 

If one is not leaving everything and not following Jesus, they are not His disciple. 

We also in Luke 5 Jesus forgives a man of his sins (5:20) and tells us He has come to call "sinners to repentance" (5:32). So, we must understand that to be a disciple is a result of God's gracious calling. He calls us to repentance and then actually forgives us of all sins! Therefore, do not think that I mean we can work our way into being a disciple! But, we must be adamant that the same call of God that has always been issued to man is the same one issued today: 

leave everything and follow Him. 

These are non-negotiables. There is no discipleship without them. 

Sunday, August 21, 2016

The Giveaway Haul for Why the Local Church Still Matters Conference

So grateful for the response that we've had thus for our 1 day free conference at Perryville Second Baptist Church coming up on August 27, 2016. There are many great reasons to come visit us in Perryville for our conference, but one of those reasons definitely has to be the great lineup of giveaways. Thanks to some generous contributions we have several great things to help equip pastors and laypersons with resources that will help build healthy churches. After all, that is our goal. The local church still matters!. Here are some examples:

Everyone will receive a free ebook of The Church by Mark Dever and/or Don't Fire Your Church Members: The Case for Congregationalism by Jonathan Leeman. 

Everyone will receive their choice of some great Chapel Library Material. Examples include Soul Winning by Charles Spurgeon and Public Worship by J.C. Ryle, as well as some other great titles.

Most everyone will receive a free copy of Jeffrey Johnson's book The Church: Why Bother? These are limited. Either preregister or come early to secure your copy.

Everyone will have the opportunity to buy some great books from Grace and Truth Books. We will also be selling limited copies of The Vine Project for just $5 each!


In addition to all the stuff we are giving away to everyone, we will also be having a great list of giveaways that anyone can sign up for as you whenever you arrive at the conference 8/27. These giveaways include:

A Guide to Church Revitalization, edited by R. Albert Mohler (4 copies)

Biblical Church Revitalization by Brian Croft (BRAND NEW RELEASE! - 3 copies)

Baptist Foundations: Church Government for an anti-institutional age edited by Mark Dever and Jonathan Leeman (3 copies)

The Trellis and the Vine by Colin Marshal and Tony Payne (10 Copies)

One to One Bible Reading by David Helm (10 copies)

The Book of Books: A short guide to reading the Bible by Geoff Robson (8 copies)

Six Steps to Loving Your Church. A DVD series from Mathias Media with workbooks (10 copies)

3 Book Prize Pack: Evangelism by Mack Stiles, Visit the Sick by Brian Croft, and What is the Mission of the Church? by Kevin Deyoung and Greg Gilbert (1 prize pack)

There will also be drawings for over 30 small group bible studies!

Other Giveaways:

20+ copies of Church Membership by Jonathan Leeman

3 copies of Church Discipline by Jonathan Leeman

I'm sure there are a few things I haven't mentioned as well as a few things that will be added as we move closer to 8/27! If you've been sitting on the fence about coming or if you've wondered whether or not you should give up a Saturday to join us, I hope this has helped persuade you a little. Come be a part of a great day in the Lord together as we take a stand of the importance of the local church.

See you there!

Sunday, August 14, 2016

8 Short Practical Tips for Bible Intake

1. Use an accurate but READABLE translation.  I don’t prefer the KJV because we don’t talk that way, it’s more difficult for me to grasp. Some people do prefer the KJV and that’s ok, but find a translation you’re comfortable with and stick with it.  ESV is for me.  NIV, HCSB, NASB are all reliable translations. NLT paraphrases a tad too much for me. I don’t mind looking at it from time to time but wouldn’t like using for my regular Scripture intake. Stay away from The Message as part of regular bible intake, it’s not a translation but rather one person’s commentary.

2. Don’t find time, make time. Personally, I like to read in the morning but that may not work for everyone. If you do the morning try setting the alarm 15 minutes earlier than normal. It’s just 15 minutes. The important thing here is make a plan and stick to it. MAKE A PLAN AND STICK TO IT. 15 minutes every morning is more than you think. I’m not advising you to stop with 15 minutes but try starting small if you’re not use to this, could even start with 10. Grow from there…

3. Speaking of plans, make a plan to read through the New Testament if you haven’t already done so.  You can do this pretty easily in a few months at just a few chapters a day. Also, make a plan to read through the Old Testament but it’s ok to take your time here.  It’s not that the OT is unimportant but it is a lot to take on if you’re not used to regular bible intake. So, you may want to have a 1-2 or even 3 year plan for the OT.

4. Tell yourself you will read EVERY DAY. Even if some days you do shorter time to simply read through a Psalm. Get in the habit of reading every day.  NOT A DEVOTIONAL. Those can be helpful but need to come SECONDARY to you actually opening your bible and reading it.

5. Accountability. For me, keeping a journal is great accountability.  You may also want to enlist your spouse or a friend to challenge you on your bible intake. 

6. In your regular reading pull out verses to meditate on. To meditate simply read a verse or a few and contemplate on it. Say it a few times over and over. Say it in different ways. Look it up in different translations.  Attempt to memorize it.  Think of how it applies. Think of what it tells you about God and man. TONS more could be said about meditation.

7. Pray. Pray that God will transform you through His Word. Use the Scriptures you read to voice your prayers to God. For example, if you’re reading Matthew 4, part of your prayer could be “God, give me a hunger for your Word. May I desire it more than food. I repent of not cherishing your precious Word as I ought, give me grace to discipline myself to read your Word daily…” etc. from v.4

8. If you are a dad or mom, READ WITH YOUR FAMILY. It can be as simple as reading a Psalm together 1-2 nights a week, discussing some, and praying. A total of 5-10 minutes!

Thursday, August 11, 2016

United in Rio

I haven't got to watch as much of the Olympics as I have in times past. I have gotten to see Michael Phelps dominate, which has been totally impressive. 

Isn't it interesting how something like the Olympics can unite our culture? For a brief moment we have forgetten about race, crime, politics, and the laundry list of other things we argue about and we are simply all Americans, cheering on our country. 

It's not that those other things aren't there, they've just sort of taken a back seat momentarily as we are united in Rio.

As I consider this phenomenon, my mind is drawn to the power of the gospel. In Ephesians, Paul writes:

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility - Ephesians 2:13-14

One of the beauties of the gospel is that it's not merely about bringing us into a right relationship with God. Yes, that is paramount, and the richest glory of Christ's work. However, that's not all. We are also reconciled to one another. In Christ, Jews and Gentiles are one. Black and White are one. Rich and poor are one. American and Chinese are one. 

The gospel transcends all racial, economic, political, cultural, and social barriers! 

This is why no one in the New Testsment planted any sort of 'cultural specific' church. In Phillipi there wasn't a jailer church and a seller of purple goods church. There was the church at Phillipi. Why? Because of the unifying power of the gospel. 

The gospel breaks down walls. It's not that cultural differences are evaporated. It's just that they take a back seat to Christ. In Jesus, we have more in common than we do differences. In Jesus, we are a new family. In Jesus, we have a bond that cannot be broken. 

Soon, the Olympics will be over. Phelps will go back to doing whatever he does when he's not winning gold medals. The presidential race will again be front and center. The unifying power of the games is real, but also fleeting. Not true of the gospel; it's power is eternal. 

I wonder if your church reflects this? Does it reflect the community around you? Does it show the world that the gospel transcends these barriers that divide our culture? If not, what can you do to change that?

" him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen." - Eph 3:21