Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Preach The Word

A few weeks ago I posted an article by John Piper entitled Tethered Preaching, and just yesterday as I was getting caught up with some of the blogs that I read I came across this article by Dan Phillips over at Pyromaniacs where he basically said the same thing.

This article is very poignant and it needs to be read, not just by everyone who preaches or teaches the Bible, but by every Christian who ever comes into contact with non-Christians. Every time that we fail to share the Gospel we have wasted an opportunity that may never come again; there are people all around us who are dying and going to hell, and we are continually - myself included - missing the opportunities that God has placed right in front of us.

As you read this article by Dan Phillips I hope that you are as convicted as I was.

Carpe Diem, Preacherdude

I can't tell you how many times I've sat in an assembly and thought this, in the past 35+ years since my conversion: Dude, this critical moment, with these assembled people, on this your one shot — and you do that with it?

Let me unpack.

To me, as a preacher, one of the most stirring, throat-grabbing-and-shaking passages in the Bible is the one that starts this way:
I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom... (2 Timothy 4:1)
What? You charge me what? I'm sitting up, wide-awake, alert, holding my breath. With an attention-getter like that, what is the apostle going to say? Next verse:

There it is. That is our defining task. That is what we must do.

There may be pastoral activities that are nice, and even complementary — but this is not one of them. This is a must. This is definitional. This is non-negotiable. Fail at this, and you fail at pastoral ministry.

So. This guy gets up in the pulpit, right? He's got all these people, these immortal souls, literally one heartbeat away from an irreversible eternity, and he... does what?

This is the critical moment. These people have re-arranged their calendars. They've altered their schedules. They've said "No" to every activity but this. They're just sitting there. Most or all of them are quiet. You've got a minute to grab their attention, and fix it on something. What do you do?

Maybe there are 5 people, maybe there are 500 or 5000. Maybe you've got 5 minutes, maybe you've got 50. Doesn't matter. What do you do?

This may be the only time they've been in a church, about to hear someone who claims to believe the Word, the Gospel. Maybe they're there because a friend or relative has prayed for them for months, for years, for decades. Finally, they're in a (professedly) Christian church, intending to listen to whatever a (professedly) Christian preacher is about to say. It is literally a critical moment, a moment of crisis, of judgment. Angels attend! The Triune God is there! Endless ages will reverberate with the impact of what happens next. These people are accountable, you are accountable. All eyes are on you.

What do you do? What do you do with that priceless, pivotal, unbearably freighted opportunity?

I can tell you what some do.

This one guy — he tells jokes. Now, anyone who's heard me preach knows I've no problem with humor in the service of a Biblical message. The Bible does it, Spurgeon did it, I do it.

But that isn't the aim here. That isn't the purpose. No, these are jokes with the sole purpose of making the joker look cute and clever and witty. "Oh, please — like me," these jokes wail. "Love me. Think I'm cool!" The audience chuckles, and has a good time. Some of them go off to Hell chuckling. Others become a reproach to their professed Lord as they do what sheep characteristically do, without a shepherd.

Then there's this other guy, who gets up and chats. He shares, he randomly free-associates. Word flow, unfiltered, from imagination to mouth. He poses questions to which he offers no answer. Then he shrugs and wanders on. People leave with never a "Thus says the Lord" to challenge their thinking and point them to Christ.

Yet a third fellow tells stories, as if Garrison Keillor were his model for preaching rather than Isaiah or Paul, Wesley, Whitfield, Spurgeon, or Ryle. They are stories of which the only point is the story itself, or the cleverness of the storyteller. They serve the end of entertaining the audience, or provoking its admiration, or filling time inoffensively. They'll go off to Hell, or to shame Christ, with a nice story in their ears.

Still another gent weaves a blurry tapestry of vague, gauzy religious sentiments that could equally have been preached by a Unitarian, a pantheist, a New Ager, a Mormon, a Christian Scientist, a Roman Catholic, or a secular motivational speaker. Nobody's offended. Nobody. People like him, they think he's clever. Well, good. Because that was his goal: to be liked. Mission Accomplished. He has his reward. They like him... until eternity dawns, and they see how miserably he failed them. But for now, nobody's offended or upset.

Well, not everybody is not offended or upset. If I'm sitting there, you can lay good money I'm offended. (It isn't gambling when it's a sure thing.)

You can bet I'm sitting there fuming, and internally shouting these words: "You had that pulpit, these people, this opportunity — and you did that with it? What, in the name of all that's holy, were you thinking? You may never see these people again! Nobody may ever see them again! That may have been your one opportunity — and you do that with it? Why did you even get up there? Why are you even a pastor?"

Once again: it is a crucial moment. Vast ages of eternity hold their breath.

What do you do with it?

Preacherdude: best to ask yourself that question now, before it is asked of you on that Day.

We've already got a peek at the Teacher's Guide. We know the answer we'd better be able to give. What is it? Say it with me:

Preach the Word.

Now, don't waste the opportunities that God has given you... go share your faith!

You can see the article in it original form (with all of the cool Pyromaniacs graphics) at the Pyromaniacs website

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Feed On God's Word

I have been thinking and praying a lot about where I should go with this blog and I have narrowed it down to four possibilities: 1. A study of the book of Mark; 2. A study of the Ten Commandments; 3. A study of the Attributes of God; 4. A study of the book of Revelation (a continuation of the seven churches series that we just completed). I am leaning most toward the book of Mark right now, but in reality what I may end up doing is a combination of all four of these with the study of Mark being the most prominent.

While I prepare to kick off that study you will probably see more posts of Grace Gems excerpts since: 1. I really like them, and 2. posting them gives me the opportunity to get ahead on some of the writing that I need to do.

Here is another excerpt from Arthur Pink on Bible study. This spoke to me in a personal way because as someone who really likes to dig into the meaning of Greek and Hebrew words and someone who a lot of the time approaches the Bible as a "study" I need to be aware of the dangers of my time in God's word becoming an intellectual pursuit instead of a time of communion with my Heavenly Father. As I read this I was reminded of just how prone to this temptation I am, and I pray that the Holy Spirit will use these words to remind you was well that when we open the Bible we are not just reading a piece of literature, but we are reading the very words of God.
"Desire the sincere milk of the Word--that you may grow thereby." 1 Peter 2:2

The Bible consists of a series of letters from the Heavenly Father, to His dear children. Then let us cherish them as such, and act accordingly. A few verses that are thoughtfully and prayerfully pondered, will advantage us far more than two or three whole chapters, merely skimmed through.

That against which we are protesting--is the God-dishonoring idea that His Word is merely a piece of literature, which may be "mastered" by a course of "study." We would warn against an undue occupation with the technical aspects of the Bible. God's blessed Word is not for dissection by the knife of cold intellectuality. It is not given for us to display our cleverness and "brilliance" upon--but to be bowed before in true humility. It is not designed for mental entertainment--but for the regulation of our daily lives!

Our motive when approaching the Word, should be to seek that which will subdue pride and bring us as supplicants to the footstool of Mercy--not to acquire that which will puff us up in our own conceit. Of what value is a knowledge of the original Hebrew and Greek--or a thorough acquaintance with the history, geography, and chronology of the Bible--if the heart is left cold and hard toward its Author!

I seriously doubt if God has called or requires us, merely to 'study' His Word. What we need to do, is FEED thereon. How much nourishment would your body derive from a study of the chemical properties of foods--or from seeking to ascertain the various sorts of soil in which they are grown--or the meaning of their Latin names? None whatever! And I am persuaded that much of the modern 'study of the Bible' is equally profitless spiritually!

By all means, "search the Scriptures daily" (Acts 17:11); slowly ponder each word in every verse. Pray constantly for the guidance and illumination of the Spirit, that He may open to you its Divine mysteries. Above all, beg God to write His Word more legibly and fully upon the tablets of your heart--that you may put the precepts into practice.

"Nourished up in the Words of Faith" (1 Timothy 4:6). God's Word is the only nutritive food for the soul! This is why the Holy Scriptures are given to us--that we may grow in love and reverence for them, and be more and more regulated by them. It is only by feeding on this Heavenly Manna, that strength is obtained for our pilgrim walk, for our warfare with sin and Satan, and for our service unto God and our fellows.
A.W. Pink
Take some time today to get alone with your heavenly Father and FEED on His word - that is from where true nourishment comes.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

We Hold & Teach

The following was written by Bishop J.C. Ryle:

"All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness,so that the man of God may be complete,equipped for every good work."
2 Timothy 3:16-17

(1) We hold and teach--that the Bible is the only rule of faith and practice; and it alone is able to make a man wise unto salvation.

(2) We hold and teach--that we are accounted righteous before God--only for the merit of our Lord Jesus Christ, by faith--and not for our own works and deservings. We maintain that in the matter of our justification, our own goodness and holiness have nothing whatever to do.

(3) We hold and teach--that good works, which follow after justification, spring necessarily out of a true and living faith. We maintain that a living faith may be as evidently discerned, by the good works which spring from it--as a tree is discerned by its fruit; and that, consequently, the man in whom no good works and holiness can be seen--is not yet a converted man.

(4) We hold and teach--that repentance, faith, holiness of heart and life, justification, conversion, union with Christ, and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit--are the primary and principal things in true religion. We maintain that other points of doctrine, however important and valuable in their due place, are by comparison, things of secondary importance.

"Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage--with great patience and careful instruction."
2 Timothy 4:2

I could not have said it any better myself.

Friday, January 16, 2009

A Look At The Seven Churches Of Revelation As A Prophetic History Of The Church

Now that we have looked at the seven churches of Revelation chapters two and three individually I want to look at them from the perspective of prophecy. Please keep in mind as we work through this that even though I believe this gives us a picture of church history, these were letters to seven real churches, and the messages of each of these letters is still applicable to everyone of us today. We need to study and heed the warnings of these letters and apply the principles to our individual lives. With that said, let’s look at these churches as a prophetic pattern for the history of the church.

In Revelation 22:18-19 we are told that this book is a book of prophecy. It does not say that chapters four and beyond are prophecy, it says the whole book is a book of prophecy, and this includes chapters two and three. So what does this mean? As we look at the seven churches of Asia Minor we can see a picture, in very broad strokes, of the path that the church has taken throughout its history. While it is true that you can find individual churches in every age that look like each of these churches, the overall direction of the church as a whole has followed this pattern from the first century right up to today.

Also, if you look back to Revelation 1:11 you will see that Jesus told the Apostle John to “Write in a book what you see, and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea." The reason that this is important is this: unlike the letters that Paul wrote which were to a specific church, this message was to be sent to all seven churches, and it was to be read by all seven churches. So the message to the church at Ephesus, for example, applies not only to Ephesus but also to the other six churches, and it also has application for us today. But beyond that we can also see a pattern that begins with the church at Ephesus and ends with the church at Laodicea that mirrors, in very broad strokes, the history of the church since the first century. So let’s take a quick look at this and see what we can learn.

A. The Church at Ephesus – The Loveless Church

Ephesus, the first church we looked at, and the first church addressed in Revelation chapter two represents the beginning of the church age. If you think back to what we learned when we studied this church you will remember that they were praised for their works, but Jesus told them that they had left their first love. Their doctrine was sound; verse two tells us that they would not endure evil men, and they put to the test those who claimed to be apostles and were not, and they found them to be false. We also see in verse six that they hated the deeds of the Nicolaitans. This church was orthodox, they fought heresy, but they lost their zeal. The problem that this church faced was that their love for Jesus had grown cold; they continued to work for Him, but they did so out of duty. They were no longer motivated by love.

This is a picture of what happened to the church as a whole in the first century. The Ephesian church represents a time in church history when the church was new, and they were on fire for Jesus and the gospel, but as time went on and they were faced with continuing persecution and adversity they grew tired and they left their first love.

B. The Church at Smyrna – The Persecuted Church

The next church we came to was the church at Smyrna. The church at Smyrna represents the time from approximately 100 A.D. to the beginning of the fourth century. During this time the church underwent intense persecution at the hands of the Roman government. We can see from verse nine of chapter two that this church was in tribulation and extreme poverty. Verse ten lets us know that they were suffering for their faith, and Jesus tells them that they will be cast into prison and have tribulation ten days. During the time in history that this church represents there were ten waves of persecution under ten different Roman emperors, which ended in the year 313 A.D. when Constantine merged the church with the Roman government, which leads us to the next church; the church at Pergamum.

C. The Church at Pergamum – The Worldly Church

In 313 A.D. the Roman emperor Constantine did something that on the surface appeared to be wonderful, but in reality ended up being awful; he merged the Roman government with the church. This merger seemed like a great thing for the church that had just suffered 200 years of persecution, but history would prove different. This became the point where the world moved into the church and the Roman Empire became the Holy Roman Empire.

This is the church that Jesus said was where Satan dwelled. And this unlike the church in the first century, this church embraced the doctrine and teaching of the Nicolaitans, which as you will recall was an establishment of the clergy over the people. The Nicolaitans taught that the people had to go through the clergy to get to God; they could not approach God on their own.

During this time in history it was hard to tell the difference between the government and the church, and although it didn’t happen immediately, within a few hundred years the Roman government would actually be picking the Popes. This period lasted until approximately 500 A.D.

D. The Church at Thyatira – The Compromising Church

This leads us to the next period of church history, which we know as the Dark Ages. At this point the church has gone from a new entity that was passionate for Jesus to a widely persecuted group to a church that looked exactly like the world, and now, after 200 years of the world infiltrating the church we come to a period where the church is compromising their beliefs. This is the church that was allowing Jezebel to teach immorality and lead people away from God. This was the time of indulgences; this was the time of the crusades.

During this time the church didn’t have easy access to the Bible, and most people had never even seen one, much less been able to read it in their own language. Access to the word of God was limited to the priests only, and not only did the people not have access to the Bible but the worship services were not even in a language that they could understand. This period lasted from about 500 A.D. to the early 1300’s.

E. The Church at Sardis – The Dead Church

After several hundred years without the word of God the church had began to look like the church at Sardis; it had a name that it was alive, but the church was dead. This period in church history, which began in the early 1300’s, lasted right up to the time of the Protestant Reformation in 1517.

Jesus told the church at Sardis that they were to wake up and strengthen the things which remained, which were about to die. That is the picture of the church during this time; the church had become indistinguishable from the world and had so compromised their beliefs that very few faithful remained. Then a man by the name of Martin Luther, who was training as a priest in the Roman Catholic Church got the opportunity to read the Bible for himself and as he began to study it he saw that the church was in error; he saw that salvation was by faith, and what we know as the Reformation began.

Along with Martin Luther men like John Calvin began to teach the word of God instead of the traditions of man, and Martin Luther worked diligently to translate the Bible into German so the people could have the word of God in a language they could understand. As the people once again had God’s word and were able to read it for themselves the church began to change, which leads us into the next phase of church history.

F. The Church at Philadelphia – The Faithful Church

The church at Philadelphia was characterized by their faithfulness to the word of God. For the first time in several hundred years the common man had access to the Bible and could read it for himself. As a result of this, if you look at the period of time from the Protestant Reformation in 1517 right up to the early 20th century you will see a church that was faithfully preaching and teaching the word of God. Jesus told the church at Philadelphia that He placed an open door before them, and that is exactly what happened during this period of time. All of the great revivals and prayer movements that we know about took place in this time. Men like Moody, Spurgeon, and Matthew Henry all came out of this period of church history. They had an open door and they took full advantage of the opportunities they were given. But around the turn of the 20th century things began to change, which leads us to the last phase of church history, the Laodicean age.

G. The Church at Laodicea – The Lukewarm Church

Around the year 1900 the church began to change. The church began to be more concerned with gaining “stuff” than with winning souls. No longer was the church interested in great revivals, they were interested in their own comfort. This is the picture that we see at the end of Revelation three with the church at Laodicea.

Jesus chastised the Laodicean church because they had the attitude that they had everything they needed and Jesus was left outside knocking on the door to get in. The people of Laodicea were guilty of “playing church.” For them it was all ritual with no relationship. They had become self-sufficient; notice that in Revelation 3:17 Jesus says, “you say, ‘I am rich and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing.’” They had completely missed the point that Christianity is about a relationship with Jesus and has nothing to do with religious ritual; they had become lukewarm.

The Laodicean church is a picture of what the church will look like when Jesus returns, and if you look at the church today this is exactly what it looks like. Yes, you can still find Ephesian churches and Sardian churches and Philadelphian churches, just as all seven of these individual churches existed during the Ephesian age, but as a whole the church of today looks like the church of Laodicea.

So what does all of this mean for us? It means that is our individual responsibility to make sure that we are not following the trends that are present in the church today, but that we are seeking holiness and obedience to Christ above everything else. It means that we are to heed the warnings that Jesus gave to the churches in Revelation two and three, and we are to be overcomers. It means that we love God with our whole heart, soul, mind and strength. It means that we remain faithful when we are persecuted. It means that we don’t conform to the world or compromise what we know to be true. It means that when we sin we repent, and we run back to Jesus. It means that we hold fast to the faith. And it means that we do whatever it takes to remain on fire for God.

These messages may lay out prophetically the path that the church will take, and we may be living in the Laodicean age, but that doesn’t mean you have to be a Laodicean Christian.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

As Sure As Hell

Several months ago I was sitting somewhere and overheard a conversation between two people in which one of them said to the other, "It sure as hell does." That got me thinking, how many people will casually use a phrase like that and never understand the reality of what they have just said. Hell is real, and people need to be warned about its existence and that unless they repent of their sins and put their faith in Jesus Christ that is where they will spend eternity. But we don't warn them. We work and we shop and we play next to people everyday who are perishing - and they don't even know it.

Yes, hell is real. And if we believed that (like we say we do) we would be telling people about it; we would be pleading with the people that we love to come to Christ for the forgiveness of their sins. But we don't hear much about hell anymore in our churches, all we hear about is that God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life. This is tragic; while we are hearing about the wonderful plan God has for us our friends and families (and people we don't even know) are dying, and they are going to hell!

And since we don't hear much about it anymore, listen to what Jonathan Edwards had to say on the subject:

To help your conception of what hell is
Jonathan Edwards

"His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will clear His threshing floor, gathering His wheat into the barn--and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire!"
Matthew 3:12

"They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth!"
Matthew 13:42

"Then He will say to those on the left--Depart from Me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the Devil and his angels!"
Matthew 25:41

"If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell--where the fire never goes out!"
Mark 9:43

"He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire!"
Luke 3:17

"I am in agony in this fire!"
Luke 16:24
"Those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire!"
Jude 1:7

To help your conception of what hell is--imagine yourself to be cast into a fiery oven--or into the midst of a great furnace, where your pain would be as much greater than that occasioned by accidentally touching a coal of fire--as the heat is greater. Imagine also, that your body were to lie there for a quarter of an hour, full of fire, as full as a bright coal of fire, all the while full of quick sense. What horror would you feel at the entrance of such a furnace! And how long would that quarter of an hour seem to you! If it were to be measured by the hour-glass, how long would the glass seem to be running! And after you had endured it for one minute, how unbearable would it be to you--to think that you had yet to endure the other fourteen minutes!

But what would be the effect on your soul--if you knew you must lie there enduring that torment to the full--for twenty-four hours! And how much greater would be the effect--if you knew you must endure it for a whole year! And how vastly greater still--if you knew you must endure it for a thousand years! O then, how would your heart sink, if you thought, if you knew--that you must bear it forever and ever! That there would be no end--that after millions of millions of ages, your torment would be no nearer to an end, than it ever was; and that you would never, never be delivered!

But your torment in Hell will be immeasurably greater than this illustration represents! How then will the heart of a poor creature sink under it! How utterly inexpressible and inconceivable, must the sinking of the soul be in such a case!

"If anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire!" Revelation 20:15
And here is what Arthur Pink had to say:
"Such, in brief, is the portion awaiting the lost - eternal separation from the Fount of all goodness; everlasting punishment; torment of soul and body; endless existence in the Lake of Fire, in association with the vilest of the vile; every ray of hope excluded; utterly crushed and overwhelmed by the wrath of a sin-avenging God!"
Arthur Pink, Eternal Punishment
But we have more than just the words of Jonathan Edwards and A.W. Pink; we have the words of Jesus Himself, who said:
There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. 20 And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21 who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, 23 and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. 24 And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ 25 But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’ 27 And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house— 28 for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ 29 But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’
Luke 16:19-32
Some people teach that this is just a parable, but in no other parable did Jesus ever name the the people involved and here we are told that this story involves a poor man named Lazarus who had died, an unnamed rich man who had also died, and Abraham. I believe that Jesus named Lazarus here because the people that He was telling this to knew who Lazarus was.

Likewise, they probably also knew the rich man, so why is his name not given? Could it be that in hell there is no longer the need for individuality since the people there are in complete isolation (notice that the rich man never makes reference to anyone else in this place with him). That is just speculation on my part, but look at what Jesus does say about this man: he is in torment; he could see the comfort of God's people; he still had his senses (he begged for water to cool his tongue); he was in anguish; he described the place he was in as being in a flame;he was aware of his past life; and he understood why he was there and what it would take to keep others from coming there.

Imagine your family and friends in a place like this. And not just for a day - For Ever! The Bible teaches that it is appointed for man to die once and then judgment (Hebrews 9:27) - there are no second chances. Notice in the passage above that the rich man is told that there is a great gulf fixed between the place where he is and the place where Abraham and Lazarus are and that no one can cross over it from where he is to where they are. that means when someone dies their eternity is fixed.

Heaven is forever, but so is hell, and we need to warn people. The Bible says:
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
John 3:16-17
...if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.
Romans 10:9-10
For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
Romans 10:13
The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.
2 Peter 3:9 (NASB)
This is the Gospel -the good news - Jesus is God in human form who came to this world to die and take upon Himself the wrath of God for the sins that we committed. He was buried, and three days later He physically rose from the dead. If you repent of your sins and place your faith in Him you will be saved.But we have to let people know that if they reject Jesus Christ they will spend eternity in hell; the good news of the Gospel is freely offered to everyone, but you have to repent and come to Christ.

Those who do not repent will end up just like the rich man in the passage above - "as sure as hell."

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Another Thought Provoking Grace Gem

I have said before how much I look forward each day to the email that I get each morning from Grace Gems, and that even though every one of them is worth reading, on some days they are just profound and I find myself thinking about what I read all day. Today is one of those days. Today's Grace Gem was an excerpt from Arthur Pink's article David's Terrible Sin, and he asks the question, "Why did God permit David to fall so fearfully and sin so grievously?"

Have you ever asked that question about David? Have you ever asked that question about yourself? Have you ever wondered why God allows us to continue living in this sinful world and why, when He could keep us from sinning (Genesis 20:6), He allows us to still make our own choices and still lets us sin grievously against Him?

I have quoted Romans 8:28 here before and I think that this verse is just as applicable in answering these questions as it is in answering any other question we may have: everything that God allows in our lives has as it ultimate purpose to make us more like Christ. But how does that apply to when we sin? Look at what Arthur Pink had to say:

"Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. " Psalm 51:1-2

Why did God permit David to fall so fearfully, and sin so grievously?

One reason may be--that we might have set before our eyes the more clearly--the solemn fact that "the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked" (Jeremiah 17:9). Unmistakably plain as the meaning of those words is, uttered by Him who cannot lie--yet how very slow we all are to really receive them at their face value, and acknowledge that they accurately describe the natural state of every human heart! But God has done more than make this bare statement: He has placed on record in His Word-- illustrations, exemplifications, demonstrations of its verity--notably so in allowing us to see the unspeakable wickedness that still remained in the heart of David!

Also, the fearful fall of David, made way for a display of the amazing grace of God, in recovering His fallen people. If we are slow to receive what Scripture teaches concerning the depravity of the human heart and the exceeding sinfulness of sin--we are equally slow to really believe what it reveals about the covenant-faithfulness of God, the efficacy of Christ's blood to cleanse the foulest stain from those for whom it was shed, and the super-abounding grace of Him who is "the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort." Had David never sinned so grievously and sunken so low--he would have never known those infinite depths of mercy which are in the heart of God!

Also, had his terrible sin, his subsequent broken-hearted confession, and his pardon by God, never been placed in the Divine record--many of God's people throughout the centuries would have sunk in abject despair.

Also, thousands, from age to age, have by this solemn example of David's terrible sin, been rendered . . . .
  • more suspicious of themselves,
  • more watchful,
  • more afraid of temptation,
  • more dependent on the Lord,
  • and more fervent in prayer.
By means of David's fall--they have, themselves, been preserved from falling!

Could this not also be the reason that some of us have fallen into terrible sin? Maybe the purpose was so that we would more fully appreciate the redemption that we have in Christ. Or maybe it is just so we can show compassion to others when they stumble themselves. I am certainly not saying that I completely understand why God chose to leave us with the ability to sin after we have come to Him in repentance and faith, but what Arthur Pink wrote does make sense.

Remember, as a child of God our goal - our desire - is to never sin, and we should be doing everything within our power to flee from any and all sin, but when we do fall we have an advocate with the Father, the Lord Jesus Christ; He is the propitiation for our sins (1 John 2:1-2).

Take some some tome today to get alone with God, repent of any known sin in your life and then thank Him that He alone is our Rock and our Salvation.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

John Piper On "Tethered" Preaching

Here is another excerpt from John Piper, this time reminding us of the importance of Biblical preaching.

'Tethered' Preaching: John Calvin & the Entertaining Pastor
by John Piper

The Bible tethers us to reality. We are not free to think and speak whatever might enter our minds or what might be pleasing to any given audience--except God.

By personal calling and Scripture, I am bound to the word of God and to the preaching of what the Bible says. There are few things that burden me more or refresh me more than saying what I see in the Bible. I love to see what God says in the Bible. I love to savor it. And I love to say it.

I believe with all my heart that this is the way God has appointed for me not to waste my life. His word is true. The Bible is the only completely true book in the world. It is inspired by God. Rightly understood and followed, it will lead us to everlasting joy with him. There is no greater book or greater truth.

The implications of this for preaching are immense. John Calvin, with the other Reformers, rescued the Scriptures from their subordination to tradition in the medieval church. The Reformation, let us thank God, was the recovery of the unique and supreme authority of Scripture over church authority.

Commenting on John 17:20, Calvin wrote,
Woe to the Papists who have no other rule of faith than the tradition of the Church. As for us, let us remember that the Son of God, who alone can and ought to pronounce in this matter, approves of no other faith but that which comes from the doctrine of the Apostles, of which we find no certain testimony except in their writings. (Commentary on John)
Calvin's preaching inspires me to press on with this great and glorious task of heralding the word of God. I feel what he says when he writes to Cardinal Sadolet
O Lord, you have enlightened me with the brightness of your Spirit. You have put your Word as a lamp to my feet. The clouds which before now veiled your glory have been dispelled by it, and the blessings of your Anointed have shone clearly upon my eyes. What I have learnt from your mouth (that is to say, from your Word) I will distribute faithfully to your church. ("Letter to Cardinal Jacopo Sadoleto," quoted in J. H. Merle D'Augigne, Let Christ Be Magnified, Banner of Truth, 2007, p. 13).
For Calvin, preaching was tethered to the Bible. That is why he preached through books of the Bible so relentlessly. In honor of tethered preaching, I would like to suggest the difference I hear between preaching tethered to the word of God and preaching that ranges free and leans toward entertainment.

The difference between an entertainment-oriented preacher and a Bible-oriented preacher is the manifest connection of the preacher's words to the Bible as what authorizes what he says.

The entertainment-oriented preacher gives the impression that he is not tethered to an authoritative book in what he says. What he says doesn't seem to be shaped and constrained by an authority outside himself. He gives the impression that what he says has significance for reasons other than that it manifestly expresses the meaning and significance of the Bible. So he seems untethered to objective authority.

The entertainment-oriented preacher seems to be at ease talking about many things that are not drawn out of the Bible. In his message, he seems to enjoy more talking about other things than what the Bible teaches. His words seem to have a self-standing worth as interesting or fun. They are entertaining. But they don't give the impression that this man stands as the representative of God before God's people to deliver God's message.

The Bible-oriented preacher, on the other hand, does see himself that way--"I am God's representative sent to God's people to deliver a message from God." He knows that the only way a man can dare to assume such a position is with a trembling sense of unworthy servanthood under the authority of the Bible. He knows that the only way he can deliver God's message to God's people is by rooting it in and saturating it with God's own revelation in the Bible.

The Bible-oriented preacher wants the congregation to know that his words, if they have any abiding worth, are in accord with God's words. He wants this to be obvious to them. That is part of his humility and his authority. Therefore, he constantly tries to show the people that his ideas are coming from the Bible. He is hesitant to go too far toward points that are not demonstrable from the Bible.

His stories and illustrations are constrained and reined in by his hesitancy to lead the consciousness of his hearers away from the sense that this message is based on and expressive of what the Bible says. A sense of submission to the Bible and a sense that the Bible alone has words of true and lasting significance for our people mark the Bible-oriented preacher, but not the entertainment-oriented preacher.

People leave the preaching of the Bible-oriented preacher with a sense that the Bible is supremely authoritative and important and wonderfully good news. They feel less entertained than struck at the greatness of God and the weighty power of his word.

Lord, tether us to your mighty word. Cause me and all preachers to show the people that our word is powerless and insignificant in comparison with yours. Grant us to stand before our people as messengers sent with God's message to God's people in God's name by God's Spirit. Grant us to tremble at this responsibility. Protect us from trifling with this holy moment before your people.
Pastor John
We need to be holding our pastors and teachers accountable to teaching us the Word; if we are not sitting under a Bible-oriented preacher maybe we should be looking for another church. And for those of us who are teachers, we need to make sure that what we are teaching is tethered to the Bible, otherwise we are not just wasting our time - we are wasting the time of those that we have the privilege of teaching.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Do You Love People? Then Share Your Faith.

This is quite possibly the most convicting thing I have ever seen. How many times do we meet people in the course of our lives that we just pass by without ever letting them know that there is a way of salvation? Our job as followers of Jesus Christ is not to make people believe - that is the job of the Holy Spirit - our job is to let them know that God loves them and that He has provided a way for them to be forgiven of all of their sins.

I never thought that I would be agreeing with Penn on anything, especially on something as important as sharing our faith, but he is absolutely correct - if we love people like we say we do then we would share our faith with them; not warning people about judgment and hell is the most unchristian thing we can do. So go share your faith.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Welcome To 2009

As we begin the new year many people will have made resolutions to stop smoking, to lose weight, to exercise more, or one of countless other things. Among the resolutions that Christians make is often the resolution to read through the Bible in the new year. If this is something that you have decided to do I may have just the thing to help you; the folks over at the ESV Study Bible Blog have taken the yearly reading plan that is found in the back of the ESV Study Bible and the Literary Study Bible and put it into a bookmark form that can be printed and cut into four separate bookmarks that you can stick in your Bible and keep track of where you are each day.

You can print them here:
Bible Reading Plan Bookmarks
The thing that I really like about this reading plan is that you read a small section from each of four different sections of the Bible: Psalms and Wisdom Literature; Pentateuch and the History of Israel; Chronicles and Prophets; and Gospels and Epistles. The reason that I like this is because most times when people commit to reading though the Bible in a year they start out and everything is going well but by the time they get to Leviticus (or some other tough book) they give up because they are having a hard time reading several chapters of this or that particular book each day and they fall so far behind that they think they can never get caught back up, so they quit.

Unlike those plans that start in Genesis and just read straight though the Bible, several chapters a day, book-by-book, until you finish Revelation, this plan has you reading just one chapter a day from each of the above mentioned sections, so when you hit a tough spot in your reading the most you will have to read that day is just one chapter from that section.

So go over to the ESV Study Bible Blog, print out you bookmarks, and join me as we read through the Bible in 2009.

And as we begin 2009 we would do well to remember this quote from the great Puritan author and pastor, Thomas Watson:
The soul being so precious, and salvation so glorious, it is the highest point of prudence to make preparations for another world.
It is my prayer that each of us, myself included, would take this to heart and spend 2009 not worrying about what we become in this world that is passing away, but that we will make it our highest priority to prepare for the world to come.

Welcome to 2009!