God and Country: An Inadequate Vision

Standard

$(KGrHqVHJBsE-M9cSWtmBPpo,ty8Dw--60_35I’ve heard a lot of bad “God and Country” sermons. Quite frankly, I’ve preached some myself. You’ve probably heard them as well. They usually equate America with Israel in the Old Testament and claim the conditional blessings and cursings outlined by God in Deuteronomy and other passages as applying to America. II Chronicles 7:14 is often quoted. While I affirm that obedience brings blessing and disobedience brings judgment, we live in an upside-down world and sometimes God’s blessing doesn’t look like the blessings of Deuteronomy. We are following a crucified Savior, after all. The recent ruling by our Supreme Court which legalized same-sex marriage in the United States ought to help us understand that God and country are no longer one and the same.

THE TRADITIONAL CONCEPT OF “GOD AND COUNTRY” IS DEAD

We also need to understand that our American concepts of “God and Country” are incompatible with both the gospel and the current culture in America. American is becoming more like the Roman culture into which the church was born 2000 years ago. As Russell Moore of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission has said, “On the wrong side of history? We started on the wrong side of history—a Roman Empire and a cross. Rome’s dead and Jesus is fine.” The church survived and thrived in 1st century Rome. The church will not be overcome now. The Church has divine promises of victory over the forces of evil (Matt. 16:18). America has no such promise. Even in this dark hour, God is sovereign and I believe that God is using this present evil to call Christians away from our American dream fantasy and calling us to great gospel faithfulness and Great Commission vision. God is darkening the canvas against which we are to shine. We’re marching away from Mt. Rushmore and marching toward Mt. Zion.

HISTORY HAS A PREDETERMINED GOAL – HIS NAME IS JESUS

In Revelation 19:6-16 two important events are depicted at the end of this age: the marriage of the lamb and the second coming of Jesus. History is moving toward this glorious goal when the last marriage will be between Jesus and his spotless bride, the Church. This passage also depicts Jesus as a conqueror. He rides upon a white horse, he judges and makes war, his appearance is fearsome, and he strikes down the nations with a sharp sword a rules them with a rod of iron. He is called King of kings and Lord of lords. When Jesus stood before the high priest to be condemned he told him, “But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven” (Matthew 26:64, ESV). Jesus was facing crucifixion, yet told those who condemned him that he would be revealed at his second coming with power. When Jesus comes again he will shatter the nations like clay pots (Psalm 2:7-9), all rule and authority will be put down (1 Cor. 15:24-25), and the kingdoms of this world will belong to him (Rev. 11:15). These are the same kingdoms that Satan offered Jesus during the temptation in the wilderness (Matthew 4:8-10). As American Christians, we need to remember that America is a kingdom of this world, currently under the dominion of Satan, destined to be judged and conquered by Christ. The Gospel is not a message of national recovery, but a declaration of divine takeover and a call to unconditional surrender. God is not interested in fixing nations. God is interested in establishing his kingdom and putting down all earthly rule and authority.

THE “RIGHT SIDE OF HISTORY” IS THE OTHER SIDE OF A CROSS

For Christians, this world is not our home and neither is this country. We are citizens of the kingdom of heaven living in a foreign land. We should not sound like complaining citizens of an earthly kingdom, but as prophetic ambassadors of a heavenly kingdom. While it is true that Jesus is coming again to conquer the nations of this world, it is important to notice that his robe is stained with blood. In Revelation chapter five, Jesus is presented as both a conquering lion and a lamb that has been slaughtered. The path to glory leads to a cross. We cannot forget that we are following a crucified savior. Let us not be surprised if we walk the same road of suffering he walked. Jesus left nothing unclear when he said, ““If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

Advertisements

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

Video

My 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.

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).

Will God Judge Christians for Their Sins?

Standard

ImageThis question came up in a recent Pastor Q & A session at Reed Springs, “Why will believers be judged if Jesus paid for our sins and God has forgotten them?” This is a very good question. The fact is, believers will NOT be judged by God for their sins. If we were judged for just one of our sins, we could not go to heaven. We are justified in Christ. Justification is God’s gracious and full acquittal on the basis of Christ’s substitutionary death and resurrection of all who repent and believe in Christ (Romans 3:28). Through justification we receive a new standing for God has declared us to be righteous (2 Corinthians 5:21). Because of justification, the penalty for sin is done away with for the believer (Romans 6:23).

Believers WILL, however, be judged for our stewardship. There are two different judgments for the believer and the unbeliever. These are separate events that take place at separate times. The unbelievers are judged by their sinful works (Rev. 20:11-15) and punished. Believers are judged by our spiritual productivity and rewarded (1 Cor. 3:10-15). The Bible actually says that we will be involved in judging the world and the fallen angels (1 Cor. 2-3). Our sins will not exist. The judgment of believers will be concerned with the spiritual fruit our life produced and how we handled the gospel on earth. It’s like if you were unemployed (unsaved) and someone hired you (saved) and gave you an evaluation after 90 days (judgment) to determine what kind of raise you deserved (rewards).

1 Corinthians 3:10-15 (ESV) According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. 11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— 13 each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 14 If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.

This distinction is very important. Many Christians have a very negative view about the Christian life, as if we are only called to meticulously avoid sin so that we won’t have too many strikes against us when we stand before God. This is absolutely backwards. I fear that many Christians are so afraid of doing something wrong, they never do anything at all! Remember, the disobedient servant was scared of doing something wrong, so he didn’t do anything with what his master had given him (Matthew 25:24-27). Rather than focusing on the “thou shalt nots” the Christian is called to focus on the “thou shalts.” When we become concerned about what God has called us to do, then the other things sort of fall in place. When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was, he didn’t give a “thou shalt not” answer. Instead he said, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God…” and “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself…” (Matthew 22:37-40). If I am focused on worshiping God, growing in Christ, helping others, and sharing Christ with them; then I won’t have to continually worry about the things I’m not supposed to do. Remember, believers will be judged. We will be judged by our productivity and effectiveness as Christians. When we properly understand this and truly believe it, it will greatly affect how we live our lives. 

 

Which Old Testament Laws Are For Me?

Standard
How should the Christian respond to the various laws in the Old Testament? Some of the laws for Israel in the Old Testament seem strange to us today such as dietary laws forbidding pork and shellfish or laws that forbid wearing a garment made of two materials. To help us understand them, the various Old Testament laws can be classified into three categories:
· The moral law which governs the behavior for all men
· The judicial law which was for Israel’s operation as a nation 
· The ceremonial law which was for Israel’s worship until Christ came
We know that Jesus fulfilled the law (Romans 10:4; Colossians 2:14), but what does this mean for the Christian? How does the Old Testament law affect us practically now?
The judicial and ceremonial laws were fulfilled in Christ and Christians have no obligation to observe them literally. Many of these laws, however, teach us general principles about holiness that are good for us to follow.
The moral laws are God’s eternal standards of righteousness for all people – don’t murder, steal, commit adultery, etc. They teach us of our guilt before God and our need for salvation. Jesus also fulfilled the moral law, but this doesn’t free us from observing it. It simply frees us from the punishment of having already broken it.
The lines aren’t always clearly expressed. Sometimes you’ll come to a Scripture and it is pretty obvious that it is Israel-specific, other times you’ll find one that could go either way.
A good example is the verse about tattoos in Leviticus 19:28. There’s a lot of division over whether or not that verse is for Israel-only or for everyone. I particularly think it applies to God’s people whether Christians or Jews.
So… when coming to a particular law in the OT, ask the following questions:
1. Is this law obviously meant for Israel only?
2. Does Jesus coming change the application of this law?
3. What does the New Testament say about this issue/law?
4. Is there some spiritual benefit for Christians to obey this law?
5. If this law is not to be observed literally, what can it teach me?
Ultimately, Jesus simply wasthe fulfillment of the law. Jesus had to fulfill the law because it is eternal and cannot be broken. As Christians, we are bound under the new covenant and the law of love (Matthew 22:34-40). We must love God completely and sincerely and love our neighbor as we love ourselves. God’s eternal laws are bound up in these two great commandments.

Who Put The War in Worship?

Standard
Have you ever seen a church divided over an issue? I think we can all agree that division and disunity is destructive to the life of any church. When I think about church division, my mind goes to the subject of worship. Why? Because there are few others issues that can incite such red-hot emotions as the issue of worship. This is nothing new. A quick survey of the Bible indicates this.
In Genesis chapter 4, we see the culmination of Adam’s sin in Genesis 3; the murder of Abel by his brother Cain. Have you ever noticed that the issue over which Cain killed Abel was worship? Cain and Abel both worshiped God in different ways. Abel was accepted while Cain was rejected. Rather than repent and change, Cain kills his brother in a jealous rage.
In 2 Samuel chapter 6, we see another worship war between David the king of Israel and his wife, Michal. The ark of the covenant is being brought back to Jerusalem to its rightful place in the tabernacle of God. It had been stolen by the Philistines several years before and although Israel had retrieved it, it had not been taken back to the tabernacle till now. This was a great day. God’s manifest presence is coming to the capital city of Israel. David, the king, is overjoyed and is offering sacrifices and dancing before God as the ark enters the city. His wife looks out a window and despises David for being so undignified. She then proceeds to criticize David for his act of worship. As a result, God curses Michal with barrenness for the rest of her life.
In Ezra chapter 3 we see the dedication of the new temple. The Israelites have returned from Babylonian captivity and rebuilt the temple. The new temple is not nearly as magnificent as the first temple. At the dedication of this new, smaller, less-extravagant temple; the music is played and the young people rejoice because they finally have a temple to worship in, while the older men who remembered the first temple before it was destroyed 70 years prior are weeping because this new temple isn’t as grand as the first one. While this isn’t a war necessarily, it does show how God’s people can be divided over worship.
 Jesus encountered the war concerning worship when he spoke with the Samaritan woman at the well in Sychar in John chapter 4. “The woman said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship” (John 4:19-20). The Samaritans were a people of mixed race and mixed religion. After the northern kingdom of Israel was captured by the Assyrians in 722 BC, the Israelites from that area intermarried with Gentiles from the region. They also mingled elements of the worship of God with pagan worship. The result was the people called the Samaritans. They had been taught to worship on Mt. Gerizim, where Israel had received blessing from God (Deut. 11:29). The Jews were right to worship in Jerusalem, and the Samaritans were not worshiping according to the Scripture. Jesus points this out when he says, “You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews.” Jesus goes on to point out that the true worshiper must worship in “spirit and truth” meaning that true worship must be with the whole heart (spirit) and based on the Bible (truth).
Why all the division about worship? It’s really simple: Satan hates worship. He hated it in Isaiah 14 where we see his rebellion against God. Satan loves to turn worship of God into war between believers. Why? Because worship brings the body to Christ together as one and focuses us on Jesus Christ, the head of the church. Jesus prayer to the Father for the church in John 17 was that we be one: “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; 21 that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me” (John 17:20-21).
Worship is varied and diverse and not everyone worships the same. Jesus said that two things were necessary for worship. It must be in spirit – that is, from the heart; and it must be in truth – it must be biblical Don’t be a tool in Satan’s grip. Love God, love your brother, and don’t divide over that which ought to unite us – the worship of God.