Sermon Audio: True and False Worship

On Sunday, July 11th, I once again had the opportunity to preach at Poplar Hill Christian Church in Poplar Hill, Ontario. The message is from Romans 1:18-25, True and False Worship.

The abbreviated transcript follows for those who need/prefer:

The last time I was here, I spoke on obedience and how obedience—to God’s Word, for His Glory—is the evidence of the Christian life. That message has weighed heavily on me since I was last here and as I’ve examined my own life in light of it, I’ve been left with a question: If obedience is the evidence of what we worship, who or what am I worshipping? Is it God or something else?

What we’re going to discover together is this:

Because God is the only One worthy of our praise, we must examine our lives and discover who or what we truly worship.

Turn with me to Romans chapter 1; this is where we’re going to be spending the bulk of our time today.

Starting in verse eighteen:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

 

Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

[Opening Prayer]

We are all Worshippers

At the end of June, I went to Honduras with Compassion Canada. We saw the projects at work, visited homes, played with kids, and it was amazing. While we were there, we also had the opportunity to visit the Copan Ruins and the remnants of the Mayan temples.

Our tour guide took us through the ruins, teaching us about the culture of the Mayans as we went. There were idols everywhere.

Images of iguanas symbolizing fertility; macaw birds representing their sun god… It was everywhere. But the thing that stood out to me the most was listening to him describe the after parties from a sports event.

Basically what would happen is that athletes would compete against each other, passing the ball around with the goal of hitting one of the six stone macaw heads on the sidelines of the court. And you had to do it without using your hands.

These games were a big deal—the religious leaders, the chieftains and all the people would fill the stadium. Now, after the game was won and a winner was proclaimed, there’d be a celebration in his honor.

Can you guess the prize for the winner? Sacrificed to the gods.

Doesn’t really make you want to win the game, does it?

Human sacrifice was all too common in this area of Honduras. People would throw themselves off the cliffs into the temple courts as a sacrifice, hoping to appease the gods.

As I learned about the culture, as impressive as the architecture is and as breathtaking as the ruins are, I was disgusted by the idolatry.

I started thinking about our own culture… is it really that different?

Sure, we don’t (normally) worship birds or practice human sacrifice as a reward for a game well-played; but as I’ve been looking around since I came home, one inescapable truth has become more apparent than ever:

We are all worshippers.

This is the way God has made us.

He’s not made us to worship, or to be worshippers; He’s made us worshipping.

Harold Best in his book Unceasing Worship describes it this way:

We were created continuously outpouring. Note that I did not say we were created to be continuous outpourers. Nor can I dare imply that we were created to worship. This would suggest that God is an incomplete person whose need for something outside himself (worship) completes his sense of himself. It might not even be safe to say that we were created for worship, because the inference can be drawn that worship is a capacity that can be separated out and eventually relegated to one of several categories of being. I believe it is strategically important, therefore, to say that we were created continuously outpouring—we were created in that condition, at that instant, imago Dei.

What Best is telling us is that our identity as worshippers is tied to God’s nature and our being created in His image.

Back in Genesis 1, we’re told that in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. And the earth was formless and void and the Spirit of God hovered over the depths.

So in the beginning, there was God.

And that’s it.

Some will speculate that God created the world and humanity because He was lonely. He needed something to pour out His love upon. But that’s not what Scripture says. The Bible says that God lacks nothing. If he lacked, then He would cease to be God.

This is where the doctrine of the Trinity is so important. Because God is one God in three persons—God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit—He lives in perfect, eternal, joyful, community, unceasingly outpouring His love on Himself.

And we were created out of an overflow of this, not of need, but out of joy to share His glory with others. And because we were created in His image, we do likewise—unceasingly worshipping, intended to reflect His glory in all creation.

Paul understands this. That’s why he doesn’t say, “In the past, some of you didn’t worship anything at all.” He says, “All of you have worshipped created things instead of the Creator.”

We are all always worshipping something. And more often than not, it’s not our Creator.

Our Lives Show Us Who We Worship

We’re continuously worshipping, but there’s something else we need to understand:

Our lives show us who we worship.

The hard thing for all of us is discovering what it is we worship—why? Because we’re blind to it. We’re blind to it because we have, as Paul wrote, exchanged the truth about God for a lie.

We’ve made created things—sometimes good things—our god, worshipping them instead of our Creator.

Let me give you a couple of practical examples:

Every day, men and women across the country congregate in one of the dozens of temples that are on nearly every street corner in Canada to worship as we roll up a rim.

This past winter, we had the Olympics; do you remember the fervor that surrounded Men’s Hockey?

How about the last few weeks with the World Cup going on?

And what about all the silliness with Lebron James and Chris Bosch joining the Miami Heat?

I know a few people who were cussing out Bosch, but James… They were burning his jersey in Cleveland this week!

Why?

Because the god they worshipped had let them down.

He left to play for a different team.

And the idol was crushed.

We are all worshippers; we’re always worshipping something—and our lives will reveal who or what we worship.

Maybe there’s something coming to your mind right now—your job, your spouse, your kids, your car, your computer, candy…

We think that these things will make us happy. That they’ll satisfy and save us. But anything but God will always fail.

But we don’t believe it. We don’t believe it because we’ve exchanged the truth for a lie.

False Worship Suppresses the Truth

“The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth,” writes Paul in verse 18.

When we sin, when we behave in a manner contrary to God’s commands and His character, we “suppress the truth” about God.

False worship suppresses the truth.

When we put anything in place of God in our lives, we suppress the truth.

This is a damning indictment!

To suppress the truth about God—to deny His authority, His majesty, His power—is to commit an act of cosmic treason.

Why? Here’s what Paul says on this. “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”

Do you realize that every day, the evidence of God’s existence and His power are manifest? What can be known about God is plain to us because God has shown it to us.

Where does He show it?

In all of creation.

This is what the theologians call general revelation. That is, that we can know that there is a God and we can know something of who He is through natural means.

Speaking to this point, Acts 14:17 says,

 

[H]e [God] did not leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.”

What we see here is that God gives us rain and allows our crops to grow, and our livestock to thrive, in a display of His power and character. He “satisfies our hearts with food and gladness.”

In short, a great steak can bear witness to God’s existence.

And in Acts 17:24-27 we read,

“The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him…”

Practically, this means for us that everything—science, art, music, nature… everything reveals God’s eternal power and divine nature to the degree that we cannot with integrity deny God’s existence.

We are, Paul says, without excuse in acknowledging Him.

But consistently we fail to do exactly that. Instead, we suppress the truth about God in our unrighteousness.

False worship makes us fools

Verse 21:

For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.

What Paul says here is that we have failed to honor God, to acknowledge and worship Him. In our sin, we have suppressed the truth about God.

And because we’ve suppressed the truth, we have come futile in our thinking. “[Our] foolish hearts [are] darkened.”

This is idolatry’s second effect:

When we fail to honor God, we become fools bent on stealing His glory.

When we refuse to honor God or give thanks to Him, we become fools, says Paul. In other words: Idolatry is stupid.

The prophet Isaiah communicated this well when he wrote,

The ironsmith takes a cutting tool and works it over the coals. He fashions it with hammers and works it with his strong arm. He becomes hungry, and his strength fails; he drinks no water and is faint. The carpenter stretches a line; he marks it out with a pencil. He shapes it with planes and marks it with a compass. He shapes it into the figure of a man, with the beauty of a man, to dwell in a house. He cuts down cedars, or he chooses a cypress tree or an oak and lets it grow strong among the trees of the forest. He plants a cedar and the rain nourishes it. Then it becomes fuel for a man. He takes a part of it and warms himself; he kindles a fire and bakes bread. Also he makes a god and worships it; he makes it an idol and falls down before it. Half of it he burns in the fire. Over the half he eats meat; he roasts it and is satisfied. Also he warms himself and says, “Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire!” And the rest of it he makes into a god, his idol, and falls down to it and worships it. He prays to it and says, “Deliver me, for you are my god!”

So basically, a man cuts down a tree—and one half he uses for firewood. The other he worships. We rob God of His glory… and give it to a piece of kindling.

Does that even make sense?

In our foolishness we start to think that God doesn’t really see what we’re doing. That because our false god doesn’t speak or think or see or hear, we’re in the clear.

But, Isaiah 47:10 says, God always knows:

You felt secure in your wickedness, you said, “No one sees me”; your wisdom and your knowledge led you astray, and you said in your heart, “I am, and there is no one besides me.”

Paul writes that as those who suppressed the truth claimed to be wise, “they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.”

Again, it comes back to the truth that we are without excuse for acknowledging our Creator.

It’s why the “new atheism” movement is so bizarre. The whole point of books by Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and several others is basically to say this:

There is no God… And I hate Him.

It’s intellectually dishonest. How can you hate someone you don’t believe exists?

If God doesn’t exist, shouldn’t you not care?

Instead, what do we see?

Dozens of books, documentaries and magazine articles attempting to debunk the idea of God… and in particular the God of the Bible.

Why? Why is so much energy spent debunking Christianity?

Why do we see more books trying to do this entering the bestseller lists every year?

Why is there such a need to find the gospel—that God the Son, Jesus Christ, became a man, lived the perfect life, died in our place for our sins and rose again to give us new life and reconcile us to God the Father—to be a sham?

Because deep down, we all know it’s true. We all know He’s real.

And it terrifies us.

Because we stand naked before Him—and without His intervention, we—have—no—hope.

Here’s the thing: Every other religion, every other belief system, in the end, revolves around the same thing—You.

It’s all about what you do, about how you must earn your way into God’s favor, how you must become one with the divine or with the universe. All is one. God is a part of the system or God doesn’t exist.

But if all is one, God is none.

It’s the lie that we’ve exchanged the truth for. It’s a foolish act meant to rob God of His glory.

It’s the serpent’s lie from Genesis three: “When you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

Understand—Buddha, Krishna, Allah… There is no hope. There is no life. They have no power.

But Jesus Christ does.

That’s why the gospel is so offensive—it’s not about what we do, it’s about what Jesus HAS already done!

He saved us when we could not save ourselves! He took the punishment that we so richly deserved.

And we show ourselves to be fools when we deny His power, authority and majesty—when we rob Him of His glory and deny Him the worship that is His due.

And it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the Living God.

False Worship Reveals of the Wrath of God

Going back to verse eighteen, we read, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men…”

All of what we’ve just talked about—that we continually worshipping, that in our rebellion against God we’ve suppressed the truth and exchanged His glory for created things—Because of all these things, the wrath of God is revealed from heaven.

When we talk about wrath, we have to understand that there are two basic kinds that we’re talking about.

The first is God’s active wrath.

Active wrath is a tangible demonstration of God’s judgment over sinners.

When we read of the conquest of the Promised Land and the command to kill ALL the Canaanites—that was the active wrath of God.

When Ananias and Sapphira dropped dead because they lied about how much they were giving in Acts 5—THAT was the active wrath of God.

When we look toward the Day of the Lord when He will execute final judgment on all of creation—THAT is the active wrath of God…

God’s active wrath is offensive to so many people; it’s the cause of ideas about there being two different kinds of God depicted in the Bible—the hot-tempered God of the Old Testament and gentle Jesus, meek and mild. The reason for this is that we have difficulty understanding God’s perfect justice and holiness.

But there’s something even more terrifying than God’s active wrath, as we’re about to see. Listen to what Paul says in verse 24:

Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

What Paul describes here is the passive wrath of God.

What this means is that we’re so bent on our sin—we’re consumed with doing what we want, rather than obeying Him—God says, “Okay, go get’em tiger.”

He gives us over to a “debased” or depraved mind says in verse 28. Second Thessalonians 2:11 says that, “God sends a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false.”

And truth be told, there’s little more terrifying to me than this.

If God’s passive wrath is upon me, it means He’s letting me do what I want. It means my conscience has become so hard that I don’t want to respond.

Because I love my sin.

I want my idols.

And God says, “Have at it.”

Before God sent the flood in one of the most magnificent displays of His active wrath, He looked down at all of creation and “saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”

Man was given over to a depraved mind. The passive wrath of God was upon Him.

And the active wrath was coming.

We Must Recover True Worship

Verse 25 says that we’ve exchanged the truth about God for a lie, worshiping and serving created things rather than the Creator.

In order for us to be saved we must recover true worship.

Left to our own devices, we’re utterly incapable of doing this.

Fortunately, God has made a way for us.

In Romans 12:1-2 Paul writes, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

That, friends, is the secret. That is how we are able to recover true worship:

We must apply the gospel to our worship.

Because of Christ’s death on the cross, our sins are paid for when we put our faith in Him. Elsewhere, Scripture says that we are made new creations in Christ—and because it is no longer we who live, but Christ who lives in us, we are given new desires to serve Him and worship Him as He deserves.

We must apply the gospel to our worship. And that begins with repentance.

Why is repentance important?

Repentance is the heart of the Christian life. The first of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses, which ultimately resulted in the explosion of the Protestant Reformation, says, “All of life is one of repentance.” Repentance is not a one and done action—it’s a lifestyle.

A Christian cannot live an unrepentant life. Dr. J.I. Packer, one of the most brilliant theologians of the last 100 years has been quoted as saying, “All you need to do to become a heretic is to stop repenting or fail to call others to repentance.” It’s become contentious to call anyone to repentance in our day, even on issues where Scripture is clear—be it sexuality, gossip, gluttony, slander, malice… but here’s the thing: whenever we come up against one of these issues, we have to remember what the real question is—it’s not, “can one be a homosexual, an adulterer, a liar, a gossip, and be a Christian?” The question is—Can one be unrepentant and be a Christian?

Repentance is a process. Repentance isn’t being sorry that we got caught, or feeling bad or even acknowledging our sins. It’s much deeper.

  • Repentance begins with conviction from the Holy Spirit. Our sin is revealed to us through prayer, through our conscience, through Scripture or through the preaching of God’s Word.
  • Conviction leads to confession—we name our sin and agree with God, acknowledging our idol.
  • Confession leads to true repentance—it demands the death of our idols, which comes as we rely on the power of the Holy Spirit.
  • This leads to restitution—we seek to make right whatever we’ve done wrong in our pursuit of our idols. So if we’ve cheated on our taxes, we put it right. If we’ve stolen from work, we return it. If we’ve broken something, we replace it
  • The final step is reconciliation. Repentance—true repentance—restores relationships with God first and foremost and other people as we are able.

Repentance allows us to worship in freedom. Through repentance, we are no longer slaves to our idols, but free to worship God as He would have us—to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice,” as Paul wrote in Romans 12:1. As we trust God, study His Word, obey Him and worship Him, we are “no longer conformed to this patterns of this world, but transformed by the renewal of our minds.” Our desires change. Our attitudes change. Our habits change. All to the glory of God.

A few questions and we’ll close:

  1. What idols exist in my life?
  2. What created thing is robbing God of His glory?
  3. If that thing is revealed to me, will I repent?
  4. Will I take that first step today?

[Closing Prayer]

"I Just Want My Husband to Be Saved"

This is Fanny. She’s 46, married and has five children. The youngest is in the sponsorship program. Her husband sells eggs from their home.

Our visit to Fanny's home

Her four-year-old son is registered in Compassion’s program at The Ark of Salvation Church down the street.

We came to her home to ask a few questions about how having her son in the program has affected her life. She and her oldest daughter are Christians, and she is glad that her son is now going to a church.

as we talked, we asked her if there was anything we could pray with her about. Her answer was simple:

“I just want my husband to be saved.”

And we did.

First Corinthians 7:14 says that “the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife.” Because of her influence and consistent Christian lifestyle, there’s every chance that his heart would soften to the gospel and he would be saved. It would be amazing to see this happen.

To see this family united in Christ.

I believe it can happen.

Fanny and her family

“I just want my husband to be saved,” Fanny told us.

I want that, too.

Does God Get More Glory if Man Has Free Will?

John Piper offers a thoughtful response to this question. The edited transcript follows:

A friend thinks allowing men free will, and yet still achieving his purposes, shows a greater view of God’s sovereignty. What are your thoughts on this?

Let me define the term first, and then I’ll respond. I’m going to assume that by “free will” he means something really controversial, not something obvious. What I’m going to assume the term means is “real, ultimate self-determination,” because that’s the only kind of free will that is controversial. [Read more…]

God Loved You By Calling You

The above is a powerful excerpt from John Piper’s final sermon before beginning his eight-month sabbatical, Consider Your Calling from 1 Cor. 1: 26-31:

For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

I would highly recommend you listen to the whole thing as it’s quite moving and encouraging.

The following text is from the sermon’s transcript:

“For consider your calling, brothers.” What is Paul referring to? Their job? Being a carpenter? Homemaker? Teacher? No. He is referring to the work of God in calling them to himself out of darkness into light, out of death into life. You can see the meaning pretty clearly in verses 22-24:

For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. [Read more…]

Book Review: Once An Arafat Man by Tass Saada

Title: Once an Arafat Man
Authors: Tass Saada with Dean Merrill
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers

Tass Saada was born in Gaza City in 1951. He was born in a tent. His family one of the many groups of refugees moved out of Palestine.

Moving from Palestine to Saudi Arabia and eventually to Jordan, Saada grew to be a young man characterized by rage. He found a channel for it: He joined the PLO and was trained as a sniper.

He became a murderer. And he trained others—including children—to be the same.

Eventually, Saada left the PLO and came to America. He married, had a family, a successful career… but his life was a wreck. He was a terrible husband, a worse father. While he didn’t actively practice the Muslim faith of his youth, he still identified with it.

Then, his friend Charlie told him about Jesus, and his life was changed forever.

Grace Abounding

Saada’s story as told in Once an Arafat Man, is powerful. He’s very transparent about his past, how he relished in the death and destruction he caused, his selfish motives for marrying his wife, Karen, and his unfaithfulness to her… Saada makes it very plain that he was a very bad man. He’s not a man deserving of God’s grace, and he knows it. That, in large part, is what makes his story so powerful. God had no need to save Saada, yet He did. The same is true for you, if you’re a Christian, and me.

A Dangerous Decision

Converting from Islam to Christianity is a dangerous thing, far more dangerous than I think most of us would realize. To do so brings dishonor to the family, a crime punishable by death. [Read more…]

Charles Haddon Spurgeon: Him who Justifies the Ungodly

This message is for you: “And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness.”

I call your attention to the words, “Him who justifies the ungodly.” They seem to me to be very wonderful words.

Are you not surprised that there is such an expression as that in the Bible, “who justifies the ungodly”? I have heard that men who hate the doctrine of the Cross bring the charge against God that he saves wicked men and receives to Himself the vilest of the vile. See how this Scripture accepts the charge and plainly states it! By the mouth of His servant Paul, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, He takes to Himself the title of “Him who justifies the ungodly.” He makes those just who are unjust. He forgives those who deserve no favor.

Did you think that salvation was for the good and that God’s grace was for the pure and holy who are free from sin? Perhaps you think that if you were excellent, then God would reward you. Maybe you have thought that, because you are not worthy, there could be no way for you to enjoy His favor.

You must be somewhat surprised to read a text like this: “Him who justifies the ungodly.” I do not wonder at your surprise. For, with all my familiarity with the great grace of God, I never cease to wonder, at it either…

“Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” This truth is a very surprising thing—a thing to be marveled at most of all by those who enjoy it. I know that it is to me even to this day the greatest wonder that I ever heard of—that God should ever justify me.

I feel myself to be a lump of unworthiness, a mass of corruption, and a heap of sin, apart from His almighty love. I know and am fully assured that I am justified by “faith which is in Christ Jesus.” I am treated as if I had been perfectly just and made an heir of God and a joint-heir with Christ. And yet by nature, I must take my place among the most sinful. Though altogether undeserving, I am treated as if I had been deserving. I am loved with as much love as if I had always been godly, whereas before I was ungodly. Who can help being astonished at this demonstration of grace? Gratitude for such favor stands dressed in robes of wonder. 

Charles Haddon Spurgeon, All of Grace, pp 13-14, 15-16 (Scripture updated to ESV)

By Grace Alone: My Story

grace-alone

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I tend to shy away from talking about it too much because people might think I’m nuts. Then, I remembered that I worship Jesus and most people think I’m nuts anyway. So, for better or for worse, here’s my story:

A Bit of History

I didn’t grow up in a Christian home, or one that really practiced any sort of religious belief (unless watching Star Trek religiously counts). From what I recall, the only time someone said “God” or “Jesus” was when someone was exasperated. I learned a couple years ago that apparently I went to Sunday School a few times when I was about six, but the only thing I remember is making a guitar out of yarn and styrofoam plates.

I suppose that’s an indicator of what I learned there, isn’t it? [Read more…]

"Free Pass" Theology

Something interesting that’s been coming up over and over again in conversation has been the idea that God gives certain people a free pass.

If a group of people live somewhere where the gospel’s never been preached, they automatically get into Heaven, is one heard a fair bit, but I honestly don’t give it much thought because it’s answered in Romans 1:19-20.

But there’s another idea that gives me pause:

If a child dies very young, before reaching an “age of accountability,” then he or she goes to Heaven.

I’ll admit, I really like the idea of this, but I want to know if it’s true.

So I’ve been doing some research. And aside from (so far) finding that the only place where a doctrine of an age of accountability is clearly defined is within Mormonism, I did find a couple of interesting points:

In Deut. 1:35-36, the Israelites who are about to enter the Promised Land are reminded of God’s judgement on the previous generation, that “Not one of these men of this evil generation shall see the good land that I swore to give to your fathers, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh. He shall see it, and to him and to his children I will give the land on which he has trodden, because he has wholly followed the Lord!” [Read more…]

Sunday Shorts (07/19)

“He moved out, took all our money, and left me with two children”

A powerful testimony from the Mars Hill Church blog:

After giving my heart to Jesus, he radically changed my life. I stopped being sexually active, changed my circle of friends, started singing in a choir, changed the way I dressed, started treating the people better, and used my free time to get closer to Christ. After college, I met and married a man who was serving Jesus. We had two beautiful boys, we were a part of a church, we served in the music ministry, and things felt right. My life suddenly changed, however, when I caught my husband having an affair. He moved out the same day, took all our money, and left me with two children.

Read the rest at Blog.MarsHillChurch.org.

“Why Johnny Can’t Preach”

Ben Quinn at Baptist Twenty-One offers a concise recommendation for T. David Gordon’s Why Johnny Can’t Preach:

If you’re looking for a good book on preaching, you definitely want to check out T. David Gordon’s Why Johnny Can’t Preach.  I realize that most of you theology buffs are thinking, “The last thing I want to read is a preaching book,” but I assure you that you won’t be disappointed.  The literary quality alone is the worth the price of the book ($9.99 at Amazon), and you can read it in one sitting.

Playing off the titles of Why Johnny Can’t Read (Rudolf Flesch, 1966) and Why Johnny Can’t Write (Linden and Whimbey, 1990), T. David Gordon argues, “that societal changes that led to the concerns expressed in the 1960’s to 1980’s in educational circles…have led to the natural cultural consequence that people cannot preach expositorily” (15).

Read the rest at BaptistTwentyOne.org

Dan Kimball: “The Toughest Chapter to Write and Thank You NT Wright”

Dan Kimball shares his struggles writing about the issue of homosexuality:

The most difficult chapter in this book I am struggling with in the final writing and editing is the chapter on homosexuality. I did write about homosexuality before in the They Like Jesus But Not The Church book and my theological understanding of what Scriptures teach or don’t teach on it. I also addressed it in the DVD curriculum for that book, as I interviewed my gay friend Penny for that session in the DVD. The DVD was important as I wanted people to not just think about homosexuality or read about it, but to see the emotions, the eyes as one speaks, and hear the heart of my friend Penny – so that those that may not understand can hear her perspective and damage Christians and the church have done to her over the years.

But this book I am writing now is a trade book not written to only church leaders like my others. So I feel more weight  because the reading audience is much broader and probably more diverse. With this specific chapter, I am finding myself retyping sentences and thinking through how all different viewpoints will be reading what I am writing. So this one is taking several days wrapping it up.

Read the rest at Dan’s blog.

In case you missed it

Here are a few of this week’s notable posts:

Everyday Theology: “Money is the Root of All Evil” Exploring the truth that money is not the root of all evil, but the love of money is.

Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit & John Bunyan What does it mean to blaspheme the Holy Spirit, and what we can learn from John Bunyan’s experience.

Everyday Theology: “Spare the Rod, Spoil the Child” Seeking to understand the purpose of godly discipline.

Book Review: Deep Economy Emily Armstrong offers her insights into Bill McKibben’s Deep Economy.

The cool thing about a genealogy…

A short while ago, I was reading the first chapter of the Gospel according to Matthew. As many reading this would know, the chapter opens with a genealogy of Jesus’ lineage back to Abraham. As I read through it this time, I saw something really neat that I never really paid careful attention to before; that being the people on the list:

Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram, and Ram the father of Amminadab, and Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David the king.

And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, and Solomon the father of Rehoboam, and Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asaph, and Asaph the father of Jehoshaphat, and Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah, and Uzziah the father of Jotham, and Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, and Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, and Manasseh the father of Amos, and Amos the father of Josiah, and Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon.

And after the deportation to Babylon: Jechoniah was the father of Shealtiel, and Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel, and Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, and Abiud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor, and Azor the father of Zadok, and Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud, and Eliud the father of Eleazar, and Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ (Matt. 1:2-16).

In it we see men and women, priests, leaders, adulterers, idolaters, wicked kings, murderers, prostitutes, liars, covetous people, and even a gentile or two…

It is a cross section of all the people that Jesus came to save.

Jesus’ earthly family is just like all of us: Liars, murderers, idolaters, religious people, prideful, covetous people; men and women of all kinds.

There is so much more in this genealogy than I’ve ever given it credit for. It gives us the opportunity to rejoice and see that there is no type of person that Jesus cannot save. No sin that Jesus’ death on the cross is not sufficient to atone for. And it shows us that God will use whomever He chooses to bring Himself glory, regardless of their “goodness.”

Had I not stopped to chew on this passage, and just sped through it to get to the “more important” stuff, I would have missed something really cool that God was showing me, and an opportunity to stand in awe of how powerful and meaningful an easy-to-ignore passage of Scripture really is.

Three Simple Letters

When thinking about why I trust the Scripture, I am reminded of the beauty of it’s words. There’s truly no other book as powerful and amazing as the Bible.

And do you know what is one of my favorite words in the whole Bible?

It’s not one that a lot of people really think about, because it’s an easy word to overlook. It’s three letters that are packed with power:

But

Look at 1 John 4:10: “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (emphasis mine).

And check out Ephesians 2:1-6:

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following m the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus… (emphasis mine)

Just in these two examples, we see the power of the word “but.” Without these three letters, we would not see the grace of God in these passages. “But,” as a conjugation, connects opposing ideas, or coordinates elements.

We cannot love God on our own… but He loved us and died for us so that we can!

We were condemned, dead in our sins… but God, in His mercy and grace, made us alive!

Without the intervention of God, we’d be left stranded on our own, lost in our sins. “But” shows God’s intervention on our behalf.

That’s why a word like “but” is so powerful.

I trust the Scriptures because even the most seemingly insignificant words are rich with meaning.

I hope you will find as much joy in the simple words as I do.

Reflections on the Old Testament

A short time ago, I completed my read through the Old Testament. After I told Emily that I’d finished, she asked me a great question: “What do you take away from it?”

Anticipation.

Throughout the Old Testament, we read of men and women who try to pursue God on their own terms and fail. Who pursue things other than God and it destroys them. And we see the hopelessness that comes from trying to follow the Law apart from faith in Jesus Christ.

The Law and the Prophets teach us one thing: We are completely incapable of following the Law. And even if we conform morally, our hearts become proud and we trust in our moral conformity rather than in the God who gave us His Law!

So when we don’t follow the Law, we sin. And when we do follow the Law, it shows us just how broken and evil we really are.

But in the midst of that, there’s so much hope.

Salvation will come.

God has not left us in the darkness of our rebellion.

He has not left us in our pitiful moral conformity.

The Lord will come (Zech. 14:5) and will be king over all the earth (Zech. 14:9). “And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts” (Mal. 3:1b).

God is coming, and His herald will come before Him to prepare the way… “But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears?” (Mal. 3:2).

Made in the Image of God: Holiness

“Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…” Genesis 1:26

One of our most important shared attributes with God is holiness. The Scriptures repeatedly speak of God as being holy:

Psalm 22:3 says, “…you [God] are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel.”

Psalm 89:18 calls God “the Holy One of Israel.”

Psalm 99:9 says, “the Lord our God is holy!”

Isa. 6:3 says, ““Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”

The Prophet Habbakuk calls God, “my Holy One” (Hab. 1:12).

1 John 1:5 says, “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.”

His name is holy (Ezek. 36:22). His words are holy (Jer. 23:9). His Spirit is holy (Luke 1:35). Absolutely everything about God is holy. It is unique, set apart, pure, good and true. There is no malice in Him. No evil, “no darkness,” is in Him at all. He is perfect.

More than 600 times, the word “holy” appears in the ESV translation of the Bible. Every time, it refers to God’s name, character, covenant, dwelling place, offerings, statutes, law… and His people.

“You shall be holy, for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16, Lev. 11:44)

[Read more…]

The God Who Acts

I finished reading Isaiah yesterday. While spending some time reflecting on the major themes of the book, I found this question coming up over and over again: What is the major difference between the God of the Bible and other “gods”?

The God of the Bible — The Father, Son & Spirit — acts.

He calls (Isa. 41:4, 41:9, 42:6, 43:1, 43:7, 48:12, 49:1, 51:2).

He carries (Isa. 46:4).

He speaks (Isa. 7:7, 10:24, 22:15, 23:16, 29:22, 37:6, 38:1, 43:1, 43:12).

He purposes (Isa. 14:24, 19:12, 23:8, 44:28, 46:10, 48:14, 54:16, 55:11).

He judges (Isa 59:18, 65:6).

He saves (Isa. 25:9, 30:15, 33:22, 35:4, 45:22, 49:25, 63:1, 64:5)

He redeems (Isa. 29:22, 43:1, 44:22, 44:23, 48:20, 50:2, 52:9, 63:9)

There is no other god who emphatically states, over and over again, “I save. I judge. I purpose all things.”

Only the God of the Bible.

Only Jesus.

This is the message that Isaiah came to preach. This is the message that Jesus’ life, death, burial and resurrection, proclaim: There is a God who acts to save His creation and He will redeem us.

We cannot save ourselves and all other “saviors” are folly. There is no hope in a god that cannot act.

There’s no hope in TV. Sex. Sports. Bands. Education. Self-Esteem. False-Religion. Vague Spirituality.

There is only hope in Jesus.

So let us put our hope in Him.

From of old no one has heard or perceived by the ear,
no eye has seen a God besides you, who acts for those who wait for him (Isa. 64:4).