Recent Sermons

Monday, September 10, 2012

Saving Repentance

Charles Ryrie on Saving Repentance:

Repentance means a genuine change of mind that affects the life in some way. Like other significant theological terms it must be defined specifically by asking a further question, namely, Change the mind about what? Unsaved people can truly repent but without being saved, as, for example, to change the mind about a bad habit and to break that habit as a result. Christians can repent of specific sins and stop doing them (Rev. 2:5; 2 Cor. 7:9—notice that in this verse sorrow leads to repentance, but it is not necessarily the same as repentance). And unsaved people can repent unto salvation. This saving repentance has to involve a change of mind about Jesus Christ so that whatever a person thought of Him before, he changes his mind and trusts Him to be his Savior. That is the only kind or content of repentance that saves (Acts 2:38; 17:30; 2 Pet. 3:9). However, saving repentance may be preceded by a repentance concerning sin (which activates an individual’s sense of need for forgiveness) or a repentance toward God (which alerts him to the fact that he has offended a holy God and therefore needs a way to appease Him). This aspect of repentance (like John 16:8–11) is still not saving unless it is accompanied by faith in Christ (Acts 20:21).

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Sin and Sovereignty

Interesting article regarding what John Piper believes about man's sin and God's sovereignty.  Roger Olson makes comments relating to this article that are interesting as well.


Friday, June 29, 2012

Live the Gospel - What's That Mean?

Heart change comes by a choice we make to read our Bibles, pray, attend church, and love others enough to share with them the Gospel (Jesus died, was buried, and rose again the third day).  Then we should compel them to believe in or rely upon that Gospel for their eternal life and a relationship with God.  Discipleship or sanctification comes next.  Saved people must separate themselves from the world to God.  For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.  (Titus 2:11–13) 
I don’t read in the NT about unpacking the Gospel in my life.  That’s a bit mystical and abstract.  I also don’t believe we ought to grind things out in a dutiful, law-centered way.  But I do read and believe the following:  Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:16–18) or Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified. (1 Corinthians 9:24–27)  I think we ought to be clear and not clever.  

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Training Wheels of Evangelism - Part 2

Does your life have an opalescent quality to it?

Monday, May 14, 2012

Mommies Worth Holding On To

Sometimes I am asked about what I bring with me to the pulpit.  I would have to say I bring everything and the kitchen sink!  While I don't read my manuscript, I know it well enough that it keeps me from tangential preaching (when I stick my foot in my mouth often)!  So, for whatever it's worth, here are my notes from my Mother's Day sermon:

A four-year-old girl accompanied her mother into a public restroom equipped with handicapped facilities. “What are the bars for?” she asked.
“They're for big people to hold on to,” her mother explained.  The girl thought a moment, squeezed her mother's hand, and said, “Little girls don't need bars because they have mommies to hold on to.”
Guy Belleranti, Tucson, Ariz. Christian Reader, "Kids of the Kingdom."

Then Jesus went out from there and departed to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a woman of Canaan came from that region and cried out to Him, saying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! My daughter is severely demon-possessed.” But He answered her not a word. And His disciples came and urged Him, saying, “Send her away, for she cries out after us.” But He answered and said, “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Then she came and worshiped Him, saying, “Lord, help me!” But He answered and said, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.” And she said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered and said to her, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed from that very hour. (Matthew 15:21–28)

The woman of Canaan is commended by Jesus for her faith explicitly.  But there are other underlying or implicit characteristics which belong to her.  These should be developed in all of us, but more specifically this morning in godly mothers.  Working through the text, let us examine for character traits of a godly mother…

1.      Godly mothers are known by their sacrificial spirit.

Verse 22 states that this mother cried out to Jesus, saying, “Have mercy on me!”  She knew that Jesus was the only One who could help her so she went to Him and would not let Him go.  Dealing with your own illness, that’s difficult; dealing with the illness of your child, that’s beyond difficult!  Mercy on the child is equated with mercy on the mother.  Is it not amazing how forceful we can be with doctors when our children and their well-being are at stake?  But where do we find the real help?  We find it in prayer poured out in love desiring mercy from God. 
Godly mothers see the souls of their children possessed by darkness and sin.  They know that the only One who could possibly deliver their children from the wrath of God is the One who propitiated that wrath – the Lord Jesus Christ.  He alone will deliver them.  Parents ought to desire mercy for their children.  God alone can and will abundantly pardon.  How much do you really think about the eternal well-being of your children?  Pray about it?  It might be quite sobering to find that we often care more for their physical and temporal well-being even when the very eternal soul is at stake.   
It is clear that this woman cared deeply for a child and that that care was forged by a sacrificial spirit, a love that would not let Jesus go!  Will we care less than her for the desperate condition of the eternal souls of our children?  If you are preoccupied with the salvation of your children …if you weep sacrificially and lovingly in prayer for your kids, then you are a mommy worth holding on to!

Transition:  A godly mothers is known by her sacrificial spirit, second…

2.      Godly mothers are known by their heartfelt humility.

Worth in the sight of God Almighty is measured not by who you are, where you came from, when you lived, or how much you have.  “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart – these, O God, You will not despise” (Ps 57.17).  “For thus says the High and Lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy:  ‘I dwell in the high and holy place, with him who has a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones’” (Isa 57.15). 

The woman in our text approached Jesus with a humble plea, and endured even though He did not answer a word.  The disciples of Jesus told Him to dismiss a woman they viewed as bothersome – not worth the time or energy.  Jesus called her a dog – not exactly promising.  But she did not take it as an insult and pressed on.  After all, crumbs that fall from the master’s table don’t rob from the master’s children.  Mercy for a Gentile will not stem the flow of mercy to the Jews.  Perhaps she understood that she and all Gentiles are worthy of the title given them.  Is this not humility? 
Mothers approach the throne of grace with great success in proportion to their humility …their dependence …their contrite spirits.  We have no strength or wisdom of our own.  We know ourselves full well.  We are but dogs and all our righteous deeds are as filthy rags before God Almighty.  Yet He will hear the cry of the one who understands how needy she is …how desperate to have mercy from her Heavenly Father.  If you are known for humility …for dependence upon God, then you’re a mommy worth holding on to!

Transition:  A godly mother is known by her sacrificial spirit and heartfelt humility.  But there is a third characteristic in this woman from Matthew 15…

3.      Godly mothers are known by their formidable faith.

When we think of this text, this is what we immediately think of.  There is good reason for that.  Mark well the words of the Lord Jesus in v. 28:  “O woman, great is your faith!  Let it be to you as you desire.”  But note carefully how she addressed Jesus in v. 22:  “O Lord, Son of David!”  Jesus was able to cast the demons out of this mother’s daughter.  She believed that Jesus had supernatural power to do what was necessary. 

When Jesus granted her request, she believed that her daughter was dispossessed and in her right mind.  She believed it as if it had occurred right in front of her.  So it is with godly mothers, they come to the Lord Jesus not wavering or doubting His ability to deliver them and their children from all harm.  They read promises in the Bible and claim them as if the Lord spoke them directly to them.  They don’t just believe God is able; they believe that God will!  So, with certainty, confidence, and courage, godly mothers trust that God’s Word will be accomplished in and through them.  Not one jot or tittle of it will fail.  If you’re a mommy who refuses to let go of the hem of Jesus’ garment …a woman of deep and abiding faith, then you’re a mommy worth holding on to!

Transition:  A godly mother is known by her sacrificial spirit, heartfelt humility, and formidable faith.  Fourth….

4.      Godly mothers are known by their persevering patience.

It is quite obvious that this woman persists all the way through the exchange even though she had many reasons for going away dejected. 
  • She pleaded for mercy, Jesus ignored her.
  • She followed after Him begging, and the disciples wanted the Lord to dismiss her.
  • Jesus said that He would not acknowledge this woman because He came for the lost sheep of Israel not the Gentiles.  Certainly she heard that exchange.
  • She continued to forge ahead with humility and confidence.  But still Jesus seemed to turn her away. 
  • She endured and persevered with patience.  She would not leave Jesus until her request had been granted.

So, mothers pray hard …they pray long.  They will not let Jesus go.  They hold on to Him like Jacob held on at the Brook.  Wrestling in prayer for the blessing of Almighty God.  They don’t think that God is out to get them or that God will not hear them and answer.  They forge ahead patiently and persistently.  They deserve nothing; but ask for everything they need.  And they find it.  If you’re a mommy who holds on to Jesus in prayer and never give in, then you’re a mommy worth holding on to!

Transition:  Having examined the character of this woman of great faith, let us now turn to her great Savior!  Much may be gained as we examine the way the Lord Jesus worked with this woman.  First, He behaved in a way that was unexpected.  But in the end, we see what we would completely expect from our Savior…

1.      Unexpected Confrontation:  A Very Beneficial Delay

There is always tension when we read this passage.  Many think that Jesus was being cruel or as condescending as the religious leaders of His day.  Every other situation where Jesus is met with a need, He ably and readily meets it.  But this woman was different.  Of course, Jesus knew that.  He didn’t cease to become God when He became flesh and dwelt among us.  This woman would behold the glory of the only begotten Son in a unique way. 

The outstanding element of this scene is the way that Israel viewed herself as privileged and just how apathetic and accustomed they were to that role.  They were of their father Abraham (never mind Abraham being a Gentile from Ur of the Chaldees or the fact that God chose them because He simply chose them – they certainly would be a people that tested Him and thereby glorify Him). 

No, Jesus chose to delay things throughout the story because He knew what was in this Gentile woman’s heart.  He was aware of her great faith and He gently pulled it to the surface.  She responded as expected and received great benefit.  She even is a great example for us.

It is very easy to grow discouraged with being a mother.  It is very demanding.  The unexpected confrontations we have in our relationship with the Lord don’t seem to fit the need.  We feel like God is in hiding – nowhere to be found.  We pray, but uninspired, dispassionate, and mechanical prayer.  Prayer that is listless.  But the godly mother presses on and expectantly waits for the windows of Heaven to open …for the refreshing rain of God’s presence.  She won’t listen to the selfish, proud, unbelieving, and impatient sin nature within.  She has great faith!  The great confrontations of life are often unexpected; but when God whispers, “Wait for it!”  it’s a beneficial delay indeed!

Transition:  But what we expect from Jesus is comfort and the meeting of this woman’s need.  And we get what we expect in this story.

2.      Expected Consolation:  A Very Beneficial Desire

The ultimate comfort for this woman was the healing of her daughter.  Her last hope appeared to be a faltering hope.  But then her faith was rewarded.  Imagine the comfort of knowing not only your daughter had been dispossessed of the spirits who tormented her, but also that the Son of God commended your faith.  How often did Jesus point out great faith in the people He ministered to?
He did speak of those who were worried about how they were going to make ends meet as those of little faith (Matt 6.30), the fearful were of little faith (Matt 8.26), the doubters had little faith (Matt 14.31), and even disciples who had worked alongside of Jesus had little faith (Matt 16.8).  After calming the stormy sea, Jesus asked them, “Why are you so fearful?  How is it that you have no faith” (Mark 4.40)?  Jesus even once said, “When the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?” (see Luke 18.8)

But there was a man who was a Centurion in the Roman army.  He came to Jesus for the healing of His servant.  Recognizing the authority of Christ, when Jesus affirmed he would come and see him and heal him, the Centurion said that there was no need for Jesus to come …that he wasn’t worth of Him coming under his roof (there’s that humility again).  He remarked that all he needed was a word from Jesus and he’d believe it was done.  Jesus marveled at this and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel” (Matt 8.10)!  Interesting that he’s a Gentile as well.

Jesus showed this woman mercy and responded to her great faith.  So mothers ought to find courage in this story from the life of Christ.  If you cling to Christ, you will see Heaven and Earth move for you on your knees!  The Sovereign of the Universe will listen from His throne of grace and say, “What is it, my child?  What can be done for you?”  You may say, “I don’t understand how God would condescend to the prayer of a mother laboring to raise godly children in Antioch, CA?”  But Jesus will say to you, Woman, great is your faith!  Let it be to you as you desire!”  But our desire is for not only the temporal well-being of our children.  A godly mother looks first to the Kingdom of God and His righteousness; all other things will follow! 

Conclusion:  All moms can take heart from this passage this morning.  The delay may be the very channel to the fulfillment of a desire that lines up with God’s will for you.  All of us find favor with God and the desires of our hearts if we seek Jesus Christ.  Inside track people consider themselves children.  The dogs are left out in the backyard.  But dogs and children make up the church.  Let us pray for the bread that comes from the table of God – however it comes. 

Mommies worth holding on to are mommies who persevere and finally prevail.  Your faith will attest to the faithfulness of God toward you. 

I waited patiently for the Lord; and He inclined to me, and heard my cry. He also brought me up out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my steps. He has put a new song in my mouth— praise to our God; many will see it and fear, and will trust in the Lord. (Psalm 40:1–3)

Continue to do right and give God no rest until He brings stability and hope to you and your family (cf. Isa 62.7).  The answers of God come at just the right time for the faithful.  They also perfectly meet every need we have.

Hymn:  My Faith Has Found A Resting Place (228)

Sunday, May 6, 2012

How Shall We Live? Compromises and Contributions of Chuck Colson

Chuck Colson was a prominent figure on the evangelical landscape.  He was imprisoned due to his part in the Watergate scandal which led to the demise of the Nixon administration during the early 1970s.  He founded a ministry called Prison Fellowship in 1976.  It now operates in 113 countries.  His death on April 21 reminds us of how fleeting human life is even when lived to the full age of 80 years.  
Colson was fairly optimistic about the influence of Christianity upon the culture.  He called for a revival of moral discourse and believed that only Christianity operates as a viable worldview.  He called for believers to live out their faith and see the world as God sees it.  He saw the real culture war as a conflict between two kingdoms:  God’s kingdom of light and the satanic kingdom of darkness.  
Zeal for a unified church led to great compromise for Colson.  He published a work titled The Body in 1992.  It was updated and re-worked in 2004.  The title was changed to Being the Body.  The 1992 work opposed radical individualism that expressed itself with a “Jesus and me” mentality or a solitary belief system.  The desire for a church that expressed itself with solidarity led Colson to a great compromise with theological systems which betrayed the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.  
This error stirred great controversy when Colson brought so-called Evangelicals and Catholics together for a meeting in New York in 1991.  The Catholic theologian Richard John Neuhaus called for the meeting to quell unrest between Protestant and Catholic groups in Brazil and Chile.  The goal was to avoid what had happened in Northern Ireland between Protestants and Catholics.  Colson believed that the Holy Spirit prodded him to reach across the table and seek real fellowship with Catholics as a reformed Southern Baptist.  Neuhaus and Colson met together regularly and in 1994 released an unofficial document (ECT) about unity.  J. I. Packer, Bill Bright, and Pat Robertson signed it.  Other conservative evangelicals like R.C. Sproul and John MacArthur did not.  
Years later in 2009 another document called The Manhattan Declaration identified “Christians” as those from the Eastern Orthodox, Catholic, and Evangelical traditions.  The document called for all believers to unite in the Gospel.  But what Gospel is not so clear.  Conservative evangelical and Southern Baptist Albert Mohler signed this document because of the so-called Culture of Death which threatens our society.  Concerns about abortion, assisted suicide, euthanasia, and the destruction of human embryos for medical research motivated even conservative believers to compromise along with Colson.  Colson once quipped, “The church is like Noah’s ark:  The stench inside would be unbearable if it weren’t for the storm outside.”  As humourous as that is, it is sad to realize how far Colson was willing to go because of the raging cultural storm.
When Neuhaus and Colson tried to hammer out a compromise and answer the question, “What does it mean to be saved?” they simply could not do it.  They met for a two-year period and published a document called The Gift of Salvation.  It affirmed that justification is not earned by any good works or merits of our own, but it is entirely God’s gift conferred through the Father’s grace.  The statement remains unofficial and not accepted by the Vatican in Rome.  So, ECT and The Manhattan Declaration affirm a continued search for common ground.  But this is ground that will not be found.  Roman Catholicism has taught that a faith alone salvation is anathema.  Reforms in the 1960s (i.e., Vatican II) did not change that fact.  It is fatal to confuse the Gospel with a works or merit-based approach.  This is what Colson and others involved with ECT have clearly done.  Roman Catholicism teaches that one must do something for his eternal life; Christianity teaches that only Jesus’ work is acceptable to the Father.  There must be no  confusion on this point.  
Colson believed and defended his view that the Roman Catholic nun Teresa was a Christian.  He also once had a powerful urge to make the sign of the cross after prayer with an Eastern Orthodox adherent.  He did not for the fear of betraying his Baptist tradition.  Later, he felt foolish because church history reveals that believers had been making the sign of the cross from the very beginning in order to signify they had been crucified with Christ.  While that may be so, it is certain that making the sign of the cross carries a much different mystical and idolatrous meaning today.  As a former Roman Catholic, I consider it misguided at best and blasphemous at its very worst.  
However dangerous Colson was when it came to compromise, he did call Christians to the discipleship of the mind.  He demonstrated that our society has set up a false dichotomy between faith and reason, viewed the humanities as explorations of God’s truth, and argued powerfully for the cultivation of the Christian mind.  
There are many interesting and helpful facts in Colson’s work How Shall We Live.  One particular highlight is the earth’s uniqueness as evidenced in its ability to support life.  If it were even slightly closer to the sun, all its water would boil away, and life would be impossible.  If the earth were only slightly farther away from the sun, all its water would freeze, and the terrestrial landscape would be nothing but barren deserts.  He wrote that the chemical reactions necessary for life to function occur within a narrow temperature range, and Earth is exactly the right distance from the sun to fall within that range.  Earth must remain the same distance from the sun in its orbit as well.  Thus, the orbit must be and is circular.  Most other planets in our solar system have elliptical orbits.  Interestingly, water is the only substance whose solid phase is less dense than its liquid phase.  This is why ice forms on the top of oceans and lakes.  Thus, marine life survives and thrives.  This is all very good illustrative material for the preacher.  
The big bang theory, the atom, and DNA discussions within this work are also well worth the reader’s careful consideration.  Colson showed how Darwinism is a crucial plank in the worldview of naturalism.  Naturalism claims that God did not create man; rather, it is man who created the idea of God.  Since naturalism has no basis for morality, mankind creates his own standards.  Therefore, Christianity and Darwinism are mutually exclusive.  If God has a hand in the evolutionary process, then each variation would be beneficial from the start of creation.  This is obviously not the case.  Colson argued passionately for biblical origins which preserve the value of human life.  
The face of evil and the Culture of Death mentality are indicators of the increasingly depraved condition of the human populace.  Colson cites many examples of atrocities committed in our own country.  Colson believed that God is not the author of evil because had He created evil, then His own essence would contain both good and evil.  Colson writes of man’s freedom to choose.  There must be a source of sin outside of God.  Our moral choices make us genuine first causes in the sovereign plan of God.  God created the world good and perfect.  One of the perfect things He made was free creatures.  They have freely chosen to do wrong.  Man and his rebellion brought sin into the world.  Once the creation chose evil, God could not ignore it.  God astonishingly would bear the punishment for such a choice by sending His Son to redeem the fallen creation.  
Is there a better way of living?  Colson illustrates the danger of the utopian mindset by meticulously unfolding the story of Meg Broadhurst and a group called Synanon.  Meg sought help through Synanon which was an Alcoholic’s Anonymous offshoot.  The group shamed members into publicly doing ‘right’.  Meg moved with her husband Jack to Synanon’s Tomales Bay facility in Northern California.  
Charles Dederich was the founder of Synanon.  Dederich believed that the problem was addiction when it came to drug and alcohol use.  He came to believe that the root problem was society.  He desired to build a new community to show the whole world a better way of living.  
Meg and Jack gave their son Jason to the care of the Synanon community schools.  Jason and the other children were taught that allegiance must be given first to Dederich and then to parents.  
Time passed and negative publicity began to hurt the organization.  Synanon moved to protect itself by declaring that they were a religion.  Dederich became the deity figure.  Loyalty tests like shaving one’s head became the norm.  Abortions and vasectomies were ordered so that members could get better housing, job assignments, and other benefits.  
Dederich developed an internal police force called the Imperial Marines.  He forced couples to split and marry other members in three-year stints.  Meg escaped and her son Jason turned on her.  Hundreds of children lost their childhood to Synanon’s communal nurseries.  Hundreds of parents lost their families, their children’s love and affection, and years of their lives to Charles Dederich’s idea of utopia.  
Colson uses this story to illustrate the great myth utopianism presents.  Human nature is not intrinsically good and cannot form the basis of a perfect society.  Synanon missed sin just as Robespierre, Marx, Lenin, Hitler, Mao, and Pol Pot did.  Indeed, absolute power does corrupt absolutely.  
There were two choices in one’s perspective of the world according to Colson:  1) Acknowledge a transcendent standard and your accountability before a holy God for your sin.  This will make it possible for an ordered and morally responsible society.  While my eschatology will not allow for this, many Christians tend to disagree.  2) Or one maintains that he is inherently good.  This, in turn, creates moral anarchy and opens the door to tyranny.  
Colson wrote that Christian schools can do much to help children formulate a right worldview.  Christian education does not propagate utopian ideals.  God speaks through His Word.  He reveals an objective standard of truth and morality for mankind.  What are those truths?  Colson highlighted three:  1)  Children are not merely biological organisms adapting to the environment; they are created in the image of God and bear all the dignity of beings capable of recognizing truth, goodness, and beauty.  2)  Parents must recognize a child’s capacity for selfishness and willfulness.  3)  Education is one of the ways we seek to reverse the effects of the Fall and restore humanity to its original dignity and purpose.  Again, notice Colson’s eschatological bent.    
How shall we live?  Colson believed that Christians need to understand biblical truth and have the courage to live it out in order to redeem culture or create a new culture.  He affirmed that Christianity is the only accurate road map of reality.  The only real solution to our sin problem is spiritual.  Christianity provides the power to transform the world.  Colson believed we must live by embracing God’s truth, understand the physical and moral order God created, lovingly contend for God’s truth with our neighbors, and then have the courage to live it out in every walk and area of life.  
Although there are certainly major problems with Colson’s compromise with the error of Roman Catholicism, Fundamentalist believers ought to be thankful to him for such a cogent and passionate plea for God’s people to engage a lost and dying world and offer true hope based upon the message of redemption.  We may even disagree regarding his optimism about the end-times, but we are indebted to him for his illustrative and well-researched material in many of his books and on many of his Break Point radio programs.