Monday, March 16, 2020

7 Resources while at home during COVID-19

Here are 7 resources to redeem the time while at home during COVID-19. 6 of them are free and 1 is deeply discounted:

FREE – 15 devotions from Ed Welch’s book A Small Book for the Anxious Heart – click here

Reduced price Catechism books for kids all ages (3 books for $12) – click here

FREE – Audio Sermon on Fear, Anxiety, and Worry (Brian Borgman) – click here

FREE – Video Sermon: Providence Defined, Alistair Begg – click here

FREE – 24 sermons on Revival by Martyn Lloyd Jones – click here

FREE Ebooks – The Doctrine of Repentancy by Thomas Watson (here) or The Bruised Reed by Richard Sibbes (here)

FREE – Blog Post – A Life of Fear and Trembling (here

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

More Reviews of From Death to Life - (and a SALE!)

Today's post features two more reviews of From Death to Life!: How Salvation Works. The first is from Pastor Wade Lentz of Beryl Baptist Church in Vilonia, AR. I asked if he wouldn't mind writing a short review of the book and also the Small Group Curriculum that is free on .pdf. His church has been going through the study on Sunday evenings.

The second review is from Twitter friend Christian Cotton. I am grateful for his kind words.

Today, October 31, 2018, you can get a copy of the book for just $7.50 or two for $12! This price includes shipping. If you're interested in that you can contact me here (scroll to bottom of the page) or you may message me on Twitter or Facebook. If you're interested in more reviews see:

hereherehereherehere, here, here, and here. 

If you're reading this after October 31, you can grab a copy on Amazon or for multi-order discounts check out the ThingsAbove order page here.

Now for today's reviews:

Wade Lentz

As a pastor, I genuinely desire the members of our church to grow “in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” And if that is to be the case, then I know our church must be fed a steady diet of God’s Word through pastoral preaching. But this also means that I must set aside time each week for the teaching of God’s Word that aims solely on grounding our church in the essential doctrines of the faith.

One great tool that the Lord has greatly used to help teach and edify His people within our church is the book written by Pastor Allen Nelson IV entitled From Death to Life: How Salvation Works. This is a wonderful book on the most important doctrine of the church, the doctrine of salvation. If the church gets this doctrine wrong then it really doesn’t matter what other doctrines we get right.
Allen’s book focuses on this question; how does one genuinely move from being spiritually dead to being spiritually alive in Jesus Christ?

Allen’s answer to this most important subject is concise, but it is also constructive as it has served the purpose of “building up our local church in our most holy faith”.

Allen has created a study guide for a small group type atmosphere. Please understand that the book is only a tool that is used to help extract and apply what the scriptures already teach about the doctrine of salvation. Allen’s main focus in this study is to show the student just what does the Bible have to say about this all-important subject.

I cannot tell you how encouraged I have been as a pastor watching our people learn and grow in their understanding of how a person passes from death to life. I highly recommend this book and the small group participation study guide to be used as a tool for the edification of your church.    

Christian Cotton 

From Death to Life is an immensely helpful and timely book for our day. While many churches in America are eager to offer the assurance of salvation with the recital of a one-time prayer, Allen Nelson offers a biblical look of the true process God undertakes in bringing sinners from death to life. 

Nelson grounds the book in the sobering reminder of the eternal stakes at play in the church’s idea of salvation. While acknowledging that a church’s desire to see many come to Christ should be applauded, Allen makes clear that offering and affirming it in non-biblical ways is, in fact, the antithesis of love. Nelson’s address to this end is straight-forward, truthful, and gracious. While he submits that few if any, ministers or parents seek to intentionally mislead children or unbelievers, an un-biblical approach achieves the same end. Without casting stones, and freely admitting he too has taken part in the same practices in the past, he calls on the church and its shepherds to repent and seek fidelity to the biblical definition of salvation.

With the gravity of the situation defined, Nelson systematically lays out the process of true conversion with a wealth of biblical support. At each point he states clearly and scripturally the process of salvation, using a wealth of Bible verses to fortify each point. While I believe any theologian can likewise benefit immensely from the book, Nelson’s language and careful definition for every part of the process lends itself well to those who might otherwise be intimidated to read such a book. Similarly, Nelson also buttresses his definitions of each step of the process with analogies and life situations that helpfully convey the idea. 

One of the strengths of the book was Nelson’s defining the relationship between God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility in salvation. He makes much of God and clearly affirms that God alone is the author, giver, and sustainer of our salvation without discounting our responsibility in responding to the gospel in faith and repentance. Nelson helpfully follows by examining the signs of genuine conversion in a believer – examining fruit, ongoing repentance, and sanctification.

I would gladly commend this book to any Christian - particularly ministers, parents of younger children, and those wrestling with the assurance of salvation. By writing a book that is theologically rich and yet imminently readable, Nelson has given the church a true gift.

The church has no higher responsibility than clearly articulating and defining the gospel and how one comes to salvation. While much of the church drifts further from the foundational truths of salvation, From Death to Life offers a useful guide on how to right the ship and truly love people well in our message of God’s saving work.

Monday, March 26, 2018

The Gospel at Home Conference 2018

The Conway/Perry Baptist Association* is excited to announce our 2018 Association Conference on the Gospel at Home on August 25, 2018! The conference is hosted this year at the First Baptist Church of Oppelo.


The theme of this year's conference deals with marriages, families, discipleship, children, teenagers, grandparenting, etc. This conference is for everyone! That includes pastors, deacons, laypersons, teenagers, children, etc. (We will provide childcare for younger children).

The format of the day will follow a similar pattern to last year. It will go something like this:

8:45am - Coffee and Donuts
9:45am – Preconference music
10:00am – Session 1
11:00am – 11:20am – Break
11:20am – 12:20pm – Session 2
12:20pm – 1:50pm – Lunch (served on site)
2:00pm – 3:00pm – Breakouts
3:00pm – 3:15pm – Break
3:15pm – 4:15pm – Session 3 and dismiss

We have always been blessed with high quality, godly speakers at these conferences and this year is no exception!

SCHEDULE UPDATE: Grace Bible Institue is hosting an informational breakfast on site at FBC Oppelo starting at 8:45am! They will be providing free Chick-Fil-A breakfast. You must be registered for the breakfast. Register for the GBI Info Breakfast by clicking here.

Our plenary speakers are:

Don Whitney: has been Professor of Biblical Spirituality and Associate Dean at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY since 2005. Before that, he held a similar position (the first such position in the six Southern Baptist seminaries) at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, MO, for ten years. He is the founder and president of The Center for Biblical Spirituality. (Read more here)

Jared Wilson: is the Director of Content Strategy for Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Managing Editor of For The Church (and host of the FTC Podcast), and Director of The Pastoral Training Center at Liberty Baptist Church in Kansas City, MO. (Read more here)

Ben Phillips: began serving as the Pastor of First Baptist Church of Murphy, TX on April 1, 2018. Prior to that, he served with the Arkansas Baptist State convention for over 20 years, most recently serving on the church health team. (Read more here)

Our breakout speakers:

Our plenary speakers will also be leading breakout sessions. In addition to these men, we will also have these breakout speakers:

Jim Elliff: is founder and president of Christian Communicators Worldwide (CCW). For nearly twenty years prior to the beginning of CCW, he served as teaching pastor or on the pastoral staff of churches in Florida, Arkansas, Texas, and Oklahoma. (Read more here)

Kole Farney: is a writer, speaker and assistant to Jim Elliff at Christian Communicators Worldwide. He is one of six pastors of Christ Fellowship of Kansas City, a network of congregations that meet primarily in homes in the Kansas City metro. Kole is passionate about encouraging pastors, helping churches, orphan care, and teaching people how to study the Bible for themselves. He is husband to Rachel and dad to Karter and Russell. Kole attended Kansas State University (BA) and Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (M.Div).

Jim and Mary Larmoyeux: are members of Perryville Second Baptist Church in Perryville, AR. They will be leading a workshop at the conference on leaving a grandparent legacy. This is a demographic that sometimes goes unnoticed in local churches, but the influence grandparents can have on subsequent generations is immense!

Sunday Morning (8/26):

Jim Elliff, Kole Farney, Don Whitney, and Jared Wilson will all be speaking in area churches on Sunday morning, August 26. Kole and Jim will also be speaking in area churches on Sunday night as well. So, it's definitely worth your time if you'd like to drive in and stay the night! We will give an update on what churches these brothers are speaking at a few weeks before the conference. 


FBC Oppelo is only about 10 minutes south of Morrilton, AR, 35 minutes east of Russellville, AR, and 30 minutes west of Conway, AR. Each of these locations offers affordable places for lodging. If you need assistance in finding a place to stay, please contact me (see form on bottom of the contact page). 

Cost and Registration:

Although only officially Sponsored by the Conway/Perry Association for 2 years, this is actually the 5th annual bible conference we have organized! It is our vision to keep this conference free and to not require registration in order to attend. We want people who decide to come at the last minute, to still be able to join us for a great day in the Lord. However, please note: Registration is extremely helpful to us so that we can be prepared to serve you! So, registration is not required, but is greatly encouraged! The sooner you register, the better. We will try to have some giveaways for those who register early. You may register here.

We will also accept donations toward the cost of this conference if a church or individual is willing to give. Please note that this is not a requirement! But if you want to donate, this will help us offset costs. You can contact me if you have more questions about this (see form on bottom of the contact page). 

Additional Info:

In addition to our great conference line up, we will also have a bookstore and several booths set up that have information about important ministries around the state of Arkansas and beyond. Also, there is always a great time for connecting with likeminded brothers and sisters over lunch and during our breaks. We recommend bringing a group from your church, spreading out during the breakouts, and using the conference to grow in your understanding and conviction on bringing the gospel regularly, habitually, and frequently into your home. We hope to see you August 25, 2018 at FBC Oppelo! 

You can listen to some of the messages and breakouts from last year's conference here.

In case you missed it above, Grace Bible Institue is hosting an informational breakfast on site at FBC Oppelo! They will be providing free Chick-Fil-A breakfast. You must be registered for the breakfast. Register for the GBI Info Breakfast by clicking here

*The Conway/Perry Baptist Association is a Southern Baptist association of like-minded churches in Conway County and Perry County, Arkansas who are affiliated with the Arkansas Baptist State Convention.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

A Letter to Naomi

My dear sister Naomi,

It’s been much too long since I’ve seen your face and I miss you fiercely. My heart yearns for you. I will dispense with the pleasantries of asking if you are well because I know the last decade has been a difficult one. Even the word 'difficulty' pales in comparison to the great heartache you have faced. The loss of your husband, and most recently your two boys is a suffering that I cannot feel as fully and deeply as you do but please know my heart grieves with you.

The 'what might have beens' can make us go crazy, but there is nothing that you or I can do about what lies now in the past. There is no benefit in trying to relive what got you to where you are now as there’s no way to fix what has now been permanently broken in the loss of your family. I know that if you were given the opportunity you’d choose differently but at the same time I firmly believe that even in these most difficult of moments Yahweh has a plan for His people. Joseph's brothers sold him into slavery, but even then the Lord was using it to save His people. Oh, how His steadfast love endures forever! He is a gracious God, full of compassion, and willingness to forgive.

Therefore, my beloved Naomi, I am writing to you with an appeal to action. The Lord has once again visited His people here in Bethlehem! He has given us bread. The wickedness of our culture pains me but in the midst of these turbulent times, God has not forgotten His promises. Leave Moab, my sister. Turn your back on it! Turn to Bethlehem and trust the God of our fathers. Don’t pretend you love Him while living your own way and doing your own thing. Come to Him. He will cover you with His pinions, and under His wings, you will find refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and buckler.

Oh, Naomi! I know your pain seems unbearable but I write to remind you that my God is king! Don’t dwell in Moab any longer. There is no hope there. How often the grass seems greener the in the fields of sin, but we learn that it only leaves us hollow. I don't mean to pile on your grief, so hear me in live, but did you find what you were looking for in Moab? Of course not! The famine you found in Moab is far worse than the physical famine we briefly experienced here in the Promised Land. But I hold forth hope to you. Our hope is Yahweh Himself! He remembered Noah, sought out Abraham, never abandoned Joseph, revealed Himself to Moses from the burning bush, and strengthened Joshua. And despite the wickedness of our leaders and our people, I know that He will send us a Deliverer! I wait for Him to free us from our wretched condition and to fulfill all the promises that God has given. What we are experiencing now in this city is a foretaste of what is to come. Come to us, dear sister. Come and see what the Lord has done.

Yahweh has visited His people Naomi! He has given us bread to eat! What will you do? Out of your sorrow, bondage, and night come to Bethlehem. Out of your shameful failure and loss, come to Bethlehem. Let not pride, stubbornness, or any other sin stand in the way. Leave Moab now. Turn away from there and come and see God’s work here. Come rest in Him. He is still a gracious God, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. Come and see for yourself!

I don’t know God’s specific purposes for you but I know this: while you breathe there is hope for you. What glorious purposes God might still have for Naomi! I know it seems like all is lost, but what might Yahweh do with you if you humbled yourself and sought Him? And even if your life did not end like Job's, would it not be worth it simply to find delight in the Lord Himself? Isn't He that worthy? Isn't our praise due Him? But please do not delay. I cannot bear to hear of another one whom I love so dearly being buried in Moab. In the Bread Yahweh has given us, there is life. Come and dine.

May God answer my prayer for you,



You can read Ruth 1:1-7 to help set the background to this imaginative letter. You can listen to our current sermon series through the book of Ruth here. Eliana means 'My God Answers'.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The Days of the Judges

Our current sermon series is through the book of Ruth. Here is a post form our introductory message. You can keep up with the sermons here.

The Book of Ruth is a beautiful story – in fact, I put it up against any Nicholas Spark’s book or Lifetime move – but, it’s much more than that. It’s a true story. But really, it’s even more than that. The Book of Ruth is Scripture. It’s a historical account of something that happened that God wants us to know about. It’s living and active and purposeful and beneficial for us.

Before one can fully grasp how beautiful this book is, we need to set it in its historical context. After all, it’s God who tells us through the human author that this happened in the days of the Judges

In the days when the judges ruled there was a famine in the land, and a man of Bethlehem in Judah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he and his wife and his two sons. (Ruth 1:1)
The days of the judges was a period from 1375 – 1055 BC of generally great apostasy, idolatry, and sin with few bright spots sprinkled over the centuries. In Genesis 12 God called Abraham and promised Him a blessing which included his descendants inheriting the land. Abraham’s grandson, Jacob, had 12 sons who wound up in Egypt. They multiplied there and eventually became enslaved to Pharaoh. God called Moses to lead His people out of Egypt and to the land promised to Abraham centuries before.

Moses gets them to the precipice of the land and God’s people grumble and want to head back. They are then punished by having to wander 40 years in the wilderness. When that 40 years is up, Moses dies having handed the reigns of leadership to Joshua. The people of Israel have been divided into 12 tribes according to their lineage to the 12 sons of Jacob. As they begin to conquer the land things go wrong. Then Joshua dies.

To really sum up Judges all we have to do is read its very last verse: (21:25)

In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.

So, this post is written as a summary of the book of Judges as we prepare to think about what God is doing in the book of Ruth. So, what's going on during the days of the Judges?

(Note: The bible verses are linked so all you have to do is click on them to see the reference)

1. A Compromise with the CanaanitesJudges 1:28

God made it clear through Moses that Israel was to devote the people to destruction and drive them out of the land completely. But what we see in the book of Judges is compromise after compromise. When the people of God attempt compromise with the world, the result is always catastrophic to God’s people and a tarnishing of God’s Name.

2. A Complacency in CatechismJudges 2:10

How could it be that one generation who knew God reared a generation that didn’t know God?

They were complacent in passing on any sort of faith legacy.

Catechism just means asking our children questions about the faith. It’s what we do on Sunday mornings with our kiddos to try and instill the building blocks of truth in their minds so that one day they will repent about believe the gospel.

You see, our children won’t own faith through osmosis. They must be taught.
God has entrusted parents with teaching their children the faith: 

4 “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. (Deuteronomy 6:-7)
The Israelites would have heard this right before entering the Promised Land but what happened? They grew complacent. They didn’t teach their children.

Let’s make two quick applications for us:

a.) Parents, have your children in church.

"But I don’t want to force them to go to church or anything." You don’t use that argument with school do you? Bring them to church. Even if they don’t want to come.

b.) Train them at home. Between Sunday and Wednesday teach them. Ask them questions. Read the Bible with them. Pray.
3. A Corruption of CultureJudges 2:11

When the people of God compromise with the world and when they fail to train their children in the faith, what can we expect? 

In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes. -Judges 17:6

When you take God out of morality you are left with only wickedness. When culture begins to define what’s right apart from God’s truth, what do you get? A mess. A sinful and wicked mess.

We see murder, sexual immorality, homosexuality, corrupt leaders, idol worship, and a plethora of other sins in the book of Judges. It’s a complete societal and cultural breakdown and if not for grace, they would have ceased to exist at all.

4. A Capitulation to Worldly CravingsJudges 2:12-13

The Israelites completely surrendered to the lusts of the world. God’s people rejected Him. 

God is faithful. Patient. Longsuffering. And God is good. Paul says in Romans that His kindness is meant to lead us to repentance. But what does man do? Tramples on God’s goodness - Rejects His promises for the allurements of the world.

They rejected God covenant. Sure, in the LORD’s presence is fullness of joy. But what do I want? I want joy somewhere else. I want pleasure in earthly things. In Scripture is wisdom. But I want wisdom from Facebook.

5. A Consistency in Crying Judges 3:7-9, 12-15

There is a consistent pattern of Israel sinning against God, being punished, crying out to God, God rescuing them, and then the pattern repeating. J. Sidlow Baxter articulates the pattern like this: Sin, suffering, supplication, salvation.

So, Israel would break God’s Law, then God would punish them, then they would cry out to God, then he would bring salvation in the form of a judge We see this pattern continually repeating itself during this time period. It is a consistent downward spiral away from God and His goodness.

6. A Continual Forsaking of God’s CompanyJudges 8:34
They didn’t merely reject God’s promises, but also His person. They did not remember the LORD who had saved them.

You see, we often try to find a way to receive God’s promises, like heaven, without having to deal with God’s person.So basically, give me heaven, but stay out of my life. But the truth is, you will find that it’s a dual package. If you reject one, you reject the other.

The people of Israel broke the covenant of God and rejected the God of the covenant. If you want the promises, you must seek the person.

7. A Confusion about the Lord’s CustomsJudges 13:22-23

The people rejected God’s covenant, and God Himself, so its not surprising that they really didn’t understand God’s ways.When He appeared to them they weren’t sure who He was or how they should really think about it.

Compromise, complacency, corruption, and then the people don’t even realize what revival looks like.The people had invented, and borrowed, and compromised with so many wrong ways of worship that God’s ways were foreign to them.

Do we not see a parallel in our day?

8. A Conjecturing about God’s CommitmentsJudges 16:20

Samson gives us a picture of the nation as a whole. He thought he could live like he wanted and compromise like he wanted and that God would still be committed to him.

But here’s the truth: God is most committed to God. God will never compromise His holiness, His Godness, or His righteous character. The people of God thought they “Hey, God has to be with us no matter what.”

I think churches think that sometimes.

  • “Hey, we have church in our name so God must be for us”
  • “Hey, we are here on Sunday right? So God is obligated to show up.”

But the book of Judges shows us that God will not dwell with a stiff-necked and rebellious people.

God is holy, holy, holy. If he were to compromise His holiness, He would cease to be God. God will not give sin a pass. Don’t conjecture that God is for you, if you consistently desire and choose to reject Him and to do things your way.

9. A Cluelessness of ConsequencesJudges 20:34

Again, we have the tribe of Benjamin serve as a type of the Israelites as a whole. The Benjamites had done a wicked deed but had no concern for the consequences. (Maybe Judges 19 is not the best place for you to begin reading in your first attempt at family worship!) The Benjaminites were clueless as to what was about to happen. They did not know disaster was close upon them. How terrifying! How sobering.

Sin has consequences. - You will not live a life of rejecting God and not answer for it. Even Christians cannot choose to sin without facing consequences.Reject the church, reject Scripture, reject prayer – you’ll see consequences in your life. Not that God is making you face His wrath. That’s taken care of on the cross! But He disciplines His children for our good.

So, these 9 things are what’s happening during the book of Ruth. We don’t exactly know under which Judge this book takes place but we do know it’s in the time period of the Judges.

Right in the middle of Compromising with the Canaanites, complacency with children, corruption of the culture, capitulating to worldly cravings, a consistent crying, a continual forsaking of God’s company, a confusion about the LORD’s customs, conjecturing about God’s commitments, and a cluelessness of consequences, you have the story of Ruth.

And it is in the beautiful story of Ruth that we will see God’s real solution to all the problems of His people and that is, He is going continue the gospel plan. He is going to continue to line of the promised seed.

But more on that later. For today, I want to walk away with 7 quick takeaways in all of this.

Why does the historical context of the book of Judges matter? Why spend a whole sermon making sure we understand the time period in which Ruth takes place? I’m glad you asked! Here are 7 things:

1. Doing what is right in our own eyes is dumb

If you know yourself at all, you know you’re imperfect. You know you’re sinful. You know that you make bad decisions sometimes.What would we expect by creating a culture of just doing what we think is right, or what feels best?

Just follow your heart is terrible advice. We are sinful and broken people. Our hearts are deceitful. Why would we think doing right in our own eyes would work? Stop treating Christianity like a mystic religion. It’s not. It’s based on revealed truth.

Oprah Winfrey said on Sunday (1/7/18): “What I know for sure is speaking ‘your truth’ is the most powerful tool we have.”

No its not. Because there is no such thing as ‘your truth.’ There is truth, period. And that’s what we should seek. And that’s what we should do. Not what’s right in our own eyes.

2. We are wicked and foolish if we abandon Scripture –

It grows old to hear prominent church leaders say things like ‘God told me to say…’ Particularly it seems an alarming trend with women’s ministry leaders. Here’s the deal: God speaks to us in Scripture. We must be people of the Book. 

The Israelites abandoned the teachings of Moses during the time period of the Judges and what happened? Complete chaos and moral degradation. Why would we expect a different result in our lives and churches if we abandon Scripture?

3. Leadership matters
In our churches, in our nation, in our homes: Godly leadership matters. It’s not about being successful in the world’s eyes. We need men to lead our homes, nation, and churches that are seeking God and pursuing holiness.

4. Compromise always breeds worse compromise

When we compromise a little, we always increase that compromise over time, just like Israel spiraled down during the history of the judges. We want to push all the way to the line and then tiptoe over it thinking all will be well. Before we know it, we've fallen headlong into sin and we are stuck.

Don’t play with sin. Don’t entertain sin. Don’t capitulate. Don’t compromise the truth in the least. Stand firm.

5. Repentance is always in season

In the book of Judges, every time the people of God repented, there was an amazing reality they noticed: God was gracious!

So, this doesn’t mean presume on God’s kindness, but does mean repent today. Psalm 9:10 says you, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek you. Seek Him! Repent and go to Christ for the forgiveness of sins. Change your ways. Cleanse your hands. Real forgiveness, real change, real hope is available in Jesus.

6. God is gloriously patient and holy

You are reading this because God is patient. I’m so glad He is aren’t you? God was patient with the Israelites and was committed to continuing the line of Christ. That’s why we have the book of Ruth! And He is Holy. Don’t presume upon His patience if you are outside of Christ. Judgment is coming. Come to Him today.

7. Jesus is our only hope –

The book of Judges shows us that we have no hope in and of ourselves. It also shows us that left to ourselves society will only spiral downward. But the book of Ruth shows us that God’s big plan for the salvation of the nations is continuing right on through the line of Abraham, Judah, and David.

God is doing a work that is unfathomable to the human brain. God has made a way to uphold His holiness and extend mercy. But this is only in Christ. It’s not what’s right in our own eyes. It’s not in conservative values. It’s not found anywhere or in anyone else except Christ alone.

Jesus is the bread we need to rescue us from our famine. Jesus is the greater Boaz. Jesus leaps off the pages of the story of Ruth.

God punished Jesus in the place of sinners and raised Him the 3rd day in accordance with Scripture so that all who place their faith in Him may be justified – meaning, forgiven of all sins and declared righteous. That’s the biggest message of Ruth: Jesus is our only suitable and all-sufficient Savior. All this over 1,000 years before He even walked the earth as a man. 

The Bible is wonderful.

You can listen to this sermon in its entirety here

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

From Death to Life: How Salvation Works - A Book Update

This post has been updated and moved to:

(Photo Credit: Stephen J. Melniszyn

How to Recover from Declining Grace

Decorated sword in the grass field at John U. Lloyd Beach State Park

Yesterday, we examined William Gurnall's symptoms of declining grace. If we find ourselves in a situation whereby we aren't where we want to be (or once were) in our walk with the Lord, how do we recover.?

Gurnall answers, but first, he reminds us how our armor becomes impaired in the first place:

"The Christian's armor becomes damaged in two ways. The first is by violent assault - when you are overcome by temptation to sin. The second is by neglect - when you fail to perform those duties which, like oil, keep your armor polished and shining."

I. How to Recover when Sin is the Cause:

1. Renew Your Repentance:
"Here is Christ's counsel to the church at Ephesus: 'Repent, and do the first works' (Rev. 2:5). Go and search your heart as diligently as you would your house if you suspected a murderer was hiding, waiting to cut your throat in the night. When you have found the sin that has done the mischief, fill your heart with shame for it and indignation against it. Cast it before the Lord in a heartbreaking confession."

No doubt the Puritans are sometimes criticized for an overemphasis on introspection. I think those criticisms are occasionally warranted. But I also think there is a Biblical precedent and prescription for asking the Lord to search our hearts and show us sin so that we may kill it (see Psalm 139:23, and Romans 8:13).

Don't continue in sin. Repent. The glory of the gospel is that Christians are forgiven in Christ. His blood is wholly sufficient and we have already been declared righteous in Him by faith. So, why would you stay in sin? Seek and destroy. Kill it in repentance.

2. Reaffirm Your Faith:

"When you have renewed your repentance, then renew your faith in God's promise to pardon (1 John 1:9)." As mentioned above, we can recover from declining grace by clinging to the gospel. This is why we need daily reminders of God's work in Christ. We need a daily reminder of our position in Christ and what God has done for us through Him. Paul wants the Ephesians to "know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints" (Ephesians 1:18). Set your heart and mind there.

3. Renounce Your Lusts:
"Having repented and claimed God's promise of forgiveness, back up your actions by rooting out sin wherever it threatens to crop up. Where weeds thrive, flowers die."  As mentioned yesterday, we too often think of the Christian life as one that is passive. We think we will grow in sanctification simply by virtue of our aging physically. This is perhaps why some older Christians are not as mature in the faith as they are in age. Scripture calls us to actively fight sin. Yes, we rest in the gospel, but this resting is also one that requires a sharp sword and resolute heart.

II. How to Recover when Neglect is the Cause:

"When the armor of God which girds your soul is rusty from disuse, rather than tarnished by wilful sin, follow God's instructions for the strengthening of grace. If a fire goes out for lack of wood, the only solution is to lay on more wood. Likewise with grace; if neglect of your Christian duties causes its decline, you must restore those duties which kindled a fire under your grace in the first place. I refer you to four principal duties:"

1. Read Your Bible
Were you expecting something more profound? "Perhaps you say, 'Oh but I do read God's Word.' Then read it more! The Word shows your graces a perfect picture of the object of their affections - Christ."

Sure, it's the Sunday School answer, but it's still the right answer. Scripture is necessary and sufficient for our Christian growth. God speaks to us in Scripture. Too many Believers are spiritually famished because that are looking for God to speak in ways outside of the Bible. They are reading this or that book, or trying this or that practice, or just praying that He would audibly talk to them. Yet, He's already spoken and still speaks in His Word. Take up and read. (We recently podcasted about this here.)

When we read the Bible we see that it gives us a clear picture of both Christ, and ourselves. This is exactly what we need for growth in the Lord. "Just as a young man's heart leaps at the sight of his beloved, so your graces come to life when they behold the Christ who loved you and gave Himself for you. At the same time, when you see what your sins cost CHrist, it should produce in you a godly sorrow and a hatred for sin."

2. Meditate
"Meditation is to grace as bellows are to a fire. It revives the languishing soul with fresh thoughts of God. As you ponder over them, a holy fire will burn and your heart will grow warm within you."

Biblical meditation isn't emptying our mind. It is filling it with truth. Don't just read the Bible, think over it deeply. Turn its words over and over in your mind. Commit them to memory. Reflect upon the gospel truths revealed in Scripture and accordingly, reflect upon "your own behavior" and "what it has been toward God and toward man during the day".  First, think about what a passage means then think about how it applies to you. Don't rush too quickly into making the text about you. Think about what it says about God, or what it says about man in general, or what it shows us about the work of Christ. Chew on that, and then consider how it must apply to your own heart and walk with God. Rightly understand God's promises, and set your hope on them.

3. Pray
Yup. Sunday School answers. Read your Bible and pray. Sometimes we just think we are 'missing' something about the Christian life when its right there in front of us the whole time. If you have declined in your walk with God, don't expect that to be remedied apart from God's grace working through Bible intake and prayer.

This is why Gurnall emphasized mediation. "A soul in meditation is on its way to prayer." Scripture is actually fuel for our prayer. There are no better prayers out there than the ones fueled by the inspired Word.  Prayer doesn't always come easy. In fact, it's often hard work. Sometimes we expect that once we start praying we will change immediately. This is not always the case. "How often in the Psalms (eg., Psalm 56) do we see a dark cloud upon David's spirit at the beginning of his prayer. But before he has finished talking with the Father, his spirit has soared to new heights of faith and high acclamations of praise!" It might not necessarily be like this for you when you pray, but what is the answer? Keep on praying. Keep seeking God's face. Remind yourself of this truth: "you, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek you" (Psalm 9:10)

4. Fellowship with Other Christians
I'm so grateful Gurnall included this because it is spot on. Many Believers think that their walk with the Lord is merely a 'personal' one. Don't get me wrong, we must have a personal faith in Christ, but in no way is the Christian life about a 'personal' relationship only.

"If you keep your distance from the saints, Satan can more easily sabotage you.,,When you forsake the communion of saints, you take a dangerous step toward apostasy."

The local church is not an optional part of the Christian life. If you are not regularly in fellowship and deeply committed to a local body of Believers, you are in grave danger. Find a faithful local church as soon as possible. You were not meant to do Christianity alone. Not only do you need the local church, but the local church needs you. Fellowship with other Christians strengthens both your soul and theirs.

So, we've now seen Gurnall's take on symptoms of a Christian's decline, but also how we may recover. One big takeaway I hope you see is that the Christian life is not a ride off into the sunset. We have a real enemy and there are real consequences to neglecting this truth. Sin continues to linger in us and we take a perilous risk to let it simmer unattended. The gospel needs to be consistently applied to our hearts. We need to be ever ready to do battle with our own lusts. We need to keep a loving, watchful eye over our fellow Believers to help them in this battle just like we need their eyes over us. We need to be students of the Word and to daily drink from its fountains of grace. We need to regularly commune with God in secret prayer. We need to be Christians in complete armor.