Sermon Video – “Discover, Decide, Defend” 1 Peter 3:15

Video

Here’s a video of me preaching the 2014 VBS sermon “Discover, Decide, Defend” from 1 Peter 3:15 at Reed Springs Baptist Church May 25, 2014.

“Discover, Decide, Defend” 1 Peter 3:15

1. We must discover the truth about Jesus

• He is Jesus of Nazareth — the historical man
• He is Jesus the Christ, the Jewish Messiah
• He is Jesus the Lord, Son of God and God the Son

2. We must decide what to do with Jesus

• Romans 10:10 “with the heart one believes and is justified”

3. We must defend our faith in Jesus

• “defense” — Gr. apologia — where we get apologetics
• Apologetics is spiritual warfare (2 Cor. 10:4-6)
• Be well-versed in the Bible (2 Tim. 2:15)
• Anticipate arguments by unbelievers (2 Tim. 2:24-26)
• We are to defend why we believe.

God Doesn’t Have a “Plan B”

Standard

Do you ever feel like lifScreenshot 2014-06-25 00.23.59e is out of control and there is no purpose or meaning in the ups and d owns of life? I think we’ve all felt that way. For the Christian, however, God tells us that this is not the case. That even when life seems out of control, He is very much in control. The 8th chapter of Romans is a treasure trove of encouragement and hope, and verse 28 is the pinnacle of this chapter. Through the pen of the apostle Paul, God tells us:

 

Romans 8:28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Those who are called according to God’s purpose and love God have the benefit of knowing that all things work out to the good. This good is not necessarily our temporal good, but eternal good. The good of God’s perfect plan. This assures us that there is a method to the perceived madness around us. There is rhyme and reason to the rat race we find ourselves in. Even in the chaos, there is cosmos. There is order in the circumstances in our lives because the Spirit is praying for us perfectly and God has planned our steps precisely.God works sovereignly in the events of our lives to shape and position us for calling he gives us.

The Greek word translated “work together” is συνεργέω (synergeō) which means “to work together with.”[1]  If something unfavorable happens to us it is for good. We see this in the life of Joseph who had suffered because of his brothers, but God used it for a greater good (Gen. 50:20). Also, if something favorable happens to us it is for good, but not our good only. God allowed Esther to be promoted to be the queen of Persia, but this was so she would be able to save her people, the Hebrews (Esther 4:14). Ultimately “good” or “bad” things don’t happen to us for our pleasure, promotion, pain, or persecution. They happen to bring about God’s purpose. We should recognize this in all aspects of life. This principle is no doubt why Paul could say, “…I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need (Philippians 4:11-12, ESV).Has God blessed you with wealth, position, or power? It is for His purpose, not yours. Has God allowed you to experience need, weakness, or sorrow? It is also for His purpose.

The following verse (vs. 29) informs us that the “good” that is being produced in us is conformity to the image of Christ. Whatever makes us like Christ is good. Believers becoming more and more like Christ brings God glory and is our ultimate purpose in life. When we recognize that God has not called us primarily for our benefit but for His purpose, it gives our lives transcendence and meaning because we are rooted in the purpose of God. We are called, for His purpose. This is why all things work together for good.

2 Timothy 1:9 (NKJV)  who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began,

[1] Swanson, J. (1997). Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Greek (New Testament). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

Sermon Video – “Slaves” Romans 6:15-23

Video

This is a sermon I preached at Reed Springs Baptist Church Sunday morning, May 18, 2014. My sermon title is “Slaves” and my sermon text is Romans 6:15-23. Here is the sermon outline:

“Slaves” Romans 6:15-23

1. We are slaves to whom we obey (vs. 15-16)

• Slave — doulos — completely controlled by someone.
• Matthew 6:24 “No one can serve two masters”

2. Slaves of sin or slaves of God (vs. 17-19)

• 1 Corinthians 6:9 “…the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God…”

3. The wages of sin or the gift of God (vs. 20-23)

• Slavery to sin leads to more and more sin and death
• Slavery to God leads to sanctification and eternal life

Basically on My Way to Australia

Standard

In the movie Support Your Local Sheriff, James Garner plays a gold prospector who takes the job of sheriff in a small western town. The people get attached to him and he even falls in love with a young lady, but he continually reminds the townfolk that he’s just there temporarily as his ultimate goal is to get to Australia because “its the last of the frontier country.”  His ambition is to get to Australia and being a sheriff is just a temporary stop along the way.

Yesterday, I announced my resignation to the congregation at Reed Springs Baptist Church. Katrina and I have been there for four years and these have been the best four years of my ministry. Reed Springs has loved us and treated us like family and I have thoroughly enjoyed my time as pastor there. Nevertheless, God is calling us onward to the next chapter of the story He is writing with our lives.

southern2Just as God called Abram to leave his “country and… kindred… father’s house” to go to the land of Canaan, God is calling us to the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY where I will complete a Master of Divinity and God willing, my doctorate. This is a decision that Katrina and I have prayed about for over a year and we are sure that this is God’s will for us.

In the time I have been at Reed Springs, I have been blessed to complete both a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree. Reed Springs has been very gracious in allowing me to be a student while also being their pastor. Were it feasible for me to complete my education while at Reed Springs, I would be quite tempted to stay here. However, to finish my education in a reasonable amount of time, it is necessary for us to relocate and for me to be a full-time student.

Katrina and I would appreciate your prayers as we fulfill God’s plan for our lives. We are wholly trusting God’s provision and direction as we set forth on this great adventure. Our last Sunday at Reed Springs will be July 13th, after which we will move to Louisville and spend a few weeks getting settled in before classes start in August. Also pray for Reed Springs as they begin the process of searching for their next pastor.

I’ve already been asked about what happens after I finish school. God hasn’t let us see that far ahead yet, and that’s Ok. We’ve got enough to focus on at hand and sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof… but who knows? “I’ve never made any secret of the fact that basically I’m on my way to Australia.”

Kangaroo_Amiee-Stubbs

Can You Defend Your Faith?

Standard

837706-shield_defense In 1 Peter 3:15, Peter instructs the Christians in Asia Minor concerning evangelism in a culture that is hostile towards them.

but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, (1 Peter 3:15, ESV)

This verse is an evangelism verse, and it is an apologetics verse. Peter is writing in the context of suffering for the gospel. This letter was written during the persecution of the Christians under Nero. Peter is writing to Christians dispersed through Asia Minor. Christians are suffering persecution and having to live and worship in a society that is hostile and antagonistic towards them. Even the wording of this verse shows us that the Christian is apparently on the defense, not the offense. In this passage the Christian is being ready to be examined for their faith, not fearlessly going forward to share it. The believer in this passage is anticipating an interrogation and Peter says that they should be ready to give and defense to any and all who ask.

This is not to insinuate that Christians should give up evangelism in favor of passivity towards the lost; that we should wait until they get curious. Rather, it is asserting that in a culture that is hostile towards Christianity we should anticipate being singled-out and examined. We are seeing this today; people are examining the Christian faith and desperately seeking some flaw in its truths. They are seeking to find the Christian faith illegitimate, illogical, and unintellectual.

If the world is hostile toward Christianity and is examining it in order to find it guilty of any error or inconsistency, we must be always ready to defend what and why we believe and not leave our faith to the mercy of the critics. We should know what it is that we believe and secondly be able to communicate it in a winsome and convincing manner. The word translated “defense” is the Greek word apologia which is where we get our English word apologetics. It means to defend against false accusations. Christian apologetics, therefore, is the discipline of making intellectual cases for Christianity and countering arguments against Christianity.

We are to give a defense for WHY we believe. Notice Peter doesn’t say “give a defense for the hope that is in you.” He says give a defense for the REASON for the hope that is within you. Every religion has a “hope,” a faith in some future heavenly home or something else. Anyone can have “hope” for that matter. Anybody can believe something with no reason to believe it. We are to be able to account for the reason that we have hope. In other words, be able to tell people WHY you believe what you do.

In a culture that is largely antagonistic toward the claims of Christianity, it is not only the scholars and theologians who need to concern themselves with defending the faith. Every Christian must be an apologist in his or her own right. Evangelism and apologetics are inseparable. If we wish to win souls, we must first be ready to win minds. What are the questions and objections to Christianity that you might expect to hear from your friends, family, or co-workers? Are you ready to give an answer?

How God Gave Us The Bible

Standard

000000019How can the Bible be God’s Word if it was written by human authors? This is a common question that arises when discussing the supernatural origin of the Bible. It is true that the Bible was written across 1600 years of human history by more than 40 human authors. How can it still be written by God? Paul tells Timothy that “All scripture is given by inspiration of God” (2 Timothy 3:16). “Inspiration” is the Greek word theopnuestos which literally means “God-breathed.” Jesus corroborates this when he said that we live by “…every word that comes from the mouth of God’ ” (Matthew 4:4). The men who wrote the books of the Bible wrote under divine inspiration and the end result is the words of both the human author and of God.

There are differing theories of how God inspired the biblical authors. Most conservative, evangelical Christians believe in what is call “verbal plenary inspiration.” The word verbal  affirms that the very words the writers chose are inspired. For example, in Acts 1:16 the Apostle Peter says “the Holy Ghost by the mouth of David spake” (KJV). The word  plenary means “full” or “complete” meaning that God inspired the complete text of the Bible, including historical, scientific, and doctrinal details. This concept of how God inspired the Bible is seen in Peter’s words, “For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21, ESV). Although men put the pen to paper, the things they wrote did not originate in their brains, but in the heart of God. God inspired the writers, they transmitted the message.

Some of the authors might not have realized at the time that they were writing the words of God. However, many did know this. Gordon R. Lewis writes, “Over 3,000 times biblical writers claimed to have received their messages from God. God the Holy Spirit “inspired” (breathed out or originated) the Scriptures through the human writers (2 Tm 3:16).God prepared these conscious, active prophetic and apostolic spokesmen (and their secretaries) providentially by their heredity, character, vocabularies, and writing styles. At the appropriate time, in all the processes of writing, they were “moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pt 1:21).” [1]

The Holy Spirit guided the human authors while allowing their individual personality, knowledge, and vocabulary to produce the books of the Bible. The end result is the very Word of God communicated through the medium of human writers. This view recognizes both the human and divine aspect of Scripture.

 

[1] Cabal, T., Brand, C. O., Clendenen, E. R., Copan, P., Moreland, J., & Powell, D. (2007). The Apologetics Study Bible: Real Questions, Straight Answers, Stronger Faith (1812). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

Why God Gave Us The Bible

Standard

big_ten_std_t_nt“All scripture is given by inspiration of God” (2 Timothy 3:16). These words were written by Paul the apostle to a young pastor named Timothy. Paul is instructing him to be faithful to what God has revealed in the scriptures in the face of opposition and pressure from others who have abandoned the Word of God. How did these Scriptures come to be, and why was it necessary for God to reveal Himself through written words? The answer is as old as time…

In the original design of creation, man had fellowship with God in Eden. That fellowship was lost in the Fall and all humanity was separated from God in that one act. All Adam’s descendants are born estranged from God, aliens to truth and righteousness and in such a sinful state that we only rebel against God. Even when men try to worship what they think God is, the result is false religion, paganism, polytheism, and creature worship. We are often convinced from creation and conscience that God exists, but we cannot know Him on our own.

From Adam till Moses, humanity continues to sin, die, and live in separation from God. Paul says that during the time from Adam to Moses “death reigned.”“Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses…” (Romans 5:14 KJV). There is no written revelation from God to show what God expects of humanity and people are left to grope in the darkness and to die in their sins. Everyone does what is right in his or her own eyes and is in bondage to sin and enslaved to death.

During this time, God revealed Himself personally to individuals as He chose. God revealed Himself to Abel, Seth, Enosh, Enoch, Noah, Job, Abraham, Melchizedek, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, and others. The faith of these individuals was based on their personal experiences with God. They had no Bible, no law to guide them; only their own consciences and personal revelation from God and perhaps, oral traditions passed down about God.

But in Moses’ lifetime (approx. 1500 BC) something very important changed. God began to break the reign of death by providing mankind with His written Word. God wrote His law on tablets of stone, delivered them to Moses who gave them to Israel. Moses would record all of God’s laws and ordinances for Israel, ultimately writing the first five books of the Bible, the Pentateuch. For the first time in human history, God had given His holy, inspired, written, indisputable Word to humanity. God would continue to inspire men to write Scripture from this point forward until about 400 years before Christ. Malachi was the last prophet to write under the inspiration of God in the Old Testament. It is believed that Ezra the scribe was the first to formally organize the Old Testament canon as we have it.

After 400 years of silence from God, God started speaking again. He began speaking through John the Baptist, continued through Jesus Christ who is the supreme revelation from God. He is called the Word of God (John 1:1-3). After Jesus’ ascension, the church began growing and men began writing. The four gospels tell of Jesus’ life and ministry, Acts gives the history of the early church, while the epistles contain the inspired teaching of the prophets and apostles of the New Testament. The final contribution to the New Testament canon is the Revelation, or Apocalypse of Jesus Christ penned by the Apostle John. With the completion of this book in 94-96 AD, God again ceased speaking written revelation. The Bible is complete.

The reason God inspired men to write the books of the Bible was to perfectly reveal Himself to us and provide a means of redemption and reconciliation through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Bible makes this great plan of redemption known and tells us how we can be reconciled with God. Without the Bible, we would have no message to share with the world, and we would have no hope ourselves because the only reason we are saved is because we have believed what God says about Jesus. “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God” (Romans 10:17). God’s revelation of Himself through the Bible is His way of reconciling fallen, sinful humanity to Himself based on the redemptive work of Christ.

Why is the Resurrection Important?

Standard

Picture1Have you ever played Jenga? It’s the game where players take turns removing wooden blocks from the stack until someone finally makes the tower fall. If so, you’ve probably made a huge mess by pulling out the block that supported the whole stack. The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is the central “block” of Christianity. Without it, nothing else matters. Without the literal resurrection of Christ, the Christian faith is pointless and empty. If the resurrection is not an historical event, then all New Testament preachers are liars and deceivers including myself. Without the resurrection, we are not forgiven and our sins are still counted against us. Without the resurrection all who have died trusting in Christ are lost forever. If Christ was not raised from the dead, we will not be raised from the dead either. In short, without the literal, historical, bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead; there is no forgiveness of sins, we are not justified and saved, we are all false prophets, Christianity is a waste of time and pointless, there is no heaven available to us, and when we die we either cease to exist (best case) or spend eternity in hell (worst case). Christianity falls apart. Everything we believe falls apart (1 Cor. 15:12-20).

The resurrection is the most important truth claim of Christianity. It is the pinnacle of all Christian truths, and all truths, period. All other Christian truths unite in the resurrection of Christ: heaven, hell, sin, judgment, the love of God, the person of Christ, faith, unbelief, and the list goes on.

The only thing necessary for the Roman government or the Jewish leaders to have crushed Christianity before it got “out of hand” would have been to produce the crucified body of Jesus. Yet this smoking gun has never been provided.

What has been provided, however, are four eyewitness accounts by men who were present during the crucifixion, burial, and following days who maintain with uncanny harmony that they saw Jesus alive after his crucifixion. One of whom was a medical doctor who asserted that Jesus showed himself alive by many “infallible proofs” (Acts 1:3). We also have the testimony of Paul who claims that over 500 individuals saw Jesus alive at one time and at the time of his writing, many of them were still alive to verify that claim (1 Cor. 15:6). Add to this the fact that all but one of Jesus’ disciples were brutally killed for this testimony and many were tortured and imprisoned but never changed their story. Many others in addition to the disciples were martyred as a result of their faith in the resurrection of Jesus.

Without the resurrection, Christianity falls apart. God has provided ample evidence for the reality of the resurrection, however. This Easter, I pray that each of you reading this post will “confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead” (Romans 10:9).

Why Christianity?

Standard

The questions of origiImagen, meaning, morality, and eternity cause us to posit the existence of God.

Assuming there is a God, is it reasonable that He has presented Himself to us?

If so, how has He presented Himself to us?

He could just reveal Himself personally in a spiritual sense to all people, but does our experience verify that? Not really.

He could remain hidden and uninvolved with us, but does that seem reasonable if we assume He exists? Probably not.

Wouldn’t we expect God not only to reveal Himself but also to provide answers to life’s greatest questions and problems? Whether we believe in God or not, it is easily demonstrated that the human race is deficient where morality and society is concerned (slavery, racism, sex trafficking, drug abuse, murder, rape, violence, greed, etc).  Even atheists see problems with these types of things.

If we assume the existence of God, and assert that He has presented Himself to us, and that He should provide the answers to the problems of life and the weaknesses and failings of humanity; where should we look for Him?

It is reasonable that God would not wait until recent times to reveal Himself. We would expect God to have revealed Himself in ancient times as well. It is also not probable that God would have revealed Himself in the past, only to have allowed that information to pass from human knowledge. It is also expected that what God has revealed about Himself would have been made accessible to as many people as possible.

These assumptions could be wrong, but they are compelling; therefore, our search should at least begin with these criteria even if it does not end with them.

We should find a well-circulated, ancient, and a fairly logically and intellectually tenable philosophy about God. This philosophy should not only be consistent and relevant to human experience, but also profitable and complementary to human existence.

Let’s begin by examining the philosophies and teachings of the major religions:

Hinduism is the oldest religion – but there are problems with Hinduism: not widely circulated among ethnic groups, tends to impoverished conditions, reincarnation defied by population explosion, much disease in India due to religious beliefs about animals and failure to control populations.

Islam is still fairly young, but also has problems. Islam has a tendency to radical, militant terrorism. The Koran was composed by an uneducated, immoral, greedy, violent man named Mohammed. The Koran borrows from the Old Testament and the New Testament, yet is contradictory to these older and superior texts. The Koran is inconsistent in its storytelling (gets things out of order and confuses facts). Islam breeds oppression, bloodshed, and a worldview that is inconsistent with normal human existence.

Buddhism is essentially a religious atheism. There are no gods to please, only the self to regulate and perfect. Buddhism also tends to breed poverty and retards social progress. The central tenet of Buddhism that we must negate and do away with all human desire is inconsistent and nonproductive.

Judeo-Christian worldview – the texts are ancient and well-respected. The texts are historically, archaeologically, and scientifically verifiable. The Old and New Testaments contain much historical information and apart from their religious purposes are respected ancient sources. Christianity cultivates family, a respect for all people, self-denial and self-control, a robust morality and spirituality, and fosters a desire for knowledge. Despite baseless accusations of anti-intellectualism, Christianity encourages learning and personal growth and Christianity has historically produced many of the great thinkers in America and England. Christianity answers many of the moral and social problems of our human existence and when obeyed, creates peaceful, law-abiding citizens. Christianity promotes industry, social progress, healthy family life, and love for others – including one’s own enemies.

Christianity is also intellectually satisfying as its truth claims are defensible and sound. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the central truth claim of Christianity and is intellectually satisfying. The fact of the empty tomb and that there has never been a historical recovery of the body of Christ complements the assertion of Christ’s resurrection. The most compelling evidence for the resurrection might possibly be the fact that the New Testament contains the testimony of several eyewitnesses of people who saw Jesus alive after his crucifixion and the fact that many of these individuals died brutal deaths as martyrs as a result of the conviction that they had seen Jesus alive after his crucifixion. These are more than reasonable grounds for an intellectual case for the veracity of the Bible’s witness. Also Christianity has been spread to people groups all around the world and continues to grow today. The Bible is ancient, intellectually satisfying, widely circulated, and is consistent to human experience.

I have not fleshed out these issues fully here; it would take much more time and energy to do that. I have tried to demonstrate that from what we could expect from a deity who is involved with his creation; that Christianity satisfies our expectations and other religious philosophies seem to fall short. It is my conviction that Christianity alone sufficiently reveals who God is and what He expects from humanity, in addition to promoting those things that are understood to be most valuable to human existence: family, industry, society, education, etc. If I knew nothing of God, but were searching for Him with my own objective expectations of what He should be like and how He should have presented Himself; I am convinced that the Old and New Testaments provide precisely what I would end my search.

A Heartbreaking Tragedy

Video

Please watch this one-minute video about a growing trend in America that doesn’t get a lot of media attention. Perhaps we can raise awareness about this every year on April 1st. Once you’ve finished the video, would you please leave a comment? Thank you.