Monday, June 27, 2016

Ashamed of the Gospel



Romans 1:16 (NASB) - "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek."

In this verse Paul describes the Gospel as “the power of God for salvation.” Oh that this would burn into our hearts. Paul had great confidence in the Gospel of Christ. It is God’s only way of saving men from their sins. How does a Christian demonstrate that he is ashamed of the Gospel? One way is obvious. We do not declare it to others. By our actions we declare we don’t really believe its power. But there is another much more subtle way we demonstrate we don’t believe the power of the Gospel--when direct all of our focus towards the Law without the Gospel. We bewail all of the evil in our nation. We talk about Roe v. Wade and the great wickedness of abortion. We cry against homosexuality and same-sex marriage and transgender restrooms. Every generation has had particular sins to focus upon. In the 19th century it was slavery. In the 1920’s it was alcohol and the prohibition. In the 1960s it was the drug culture, sexual promiscuity and the removal of prayer from schools.

On one hand, we must always speak clearly on moral issues. All sin is an assault against the holiness of God. But we must never preach morality apart from the Gospel. The Bible never tells us to go into the world and cry against sin apart from the Gospel. If it were possible to get every man to begin living a moral life he would still die and go to hell. The truth is, this world will never be made righteous. It will remain an evil age until Christ returns and creation is renewed. The Gospel, however, declares that Jesus "gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age" (Gal. 1:4).

As you speak against the evils of our age never forget that evil actions are merely the fruit of a sinful heart. Only the Gospel of Christ can deliver us from sin. May we be careful not to speak loudly against sin but then become silent regarding the Gospel. We must always speak about sin in the context of Christ Jesus our Savior. He alone can deliver men from their sin. The Gospel alone is the power of God unto salvation. May we never lose our confidence in the Gospel.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

How Many Children Should I Have?

How many children should I have? This is a subject that often brings out passionate feelings. The mere suggestion of limiting family size can bring out caricatures and the negative charge that they must not value children. For this reason few pastors and teachers will even broach the subject, but it is an important subject. On occasion I read articles on the subject that are thoughtful and balanced. A recent article was posted on the website of The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. I have often found their positions on the role of men and women helpful, particularly in our day when few have an understanding of God's design for men and women. 

This brief article by Amanda Peacock is titled, "Go Forth and Multiply: How Many Children Should I Have." I recommend it as an unbiased, thought provoking treatment of this difficult subject, and it is given from the perspective of a woman. It can be read online or downloaded as a PDF.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Facebook Addiction

Addictions come in many forms but they all bear the same characteristics. They involve an obsession, a strong urge towards an activity that cannot be escaped. And almost everyone with an addiction denies that they are addicted. If confronted they quickly speak up in defense, "That's crazy. I can quit anytime I want." We all know the most common addictions: drugs and alcohol, tobacco, gambling, pornography, etc. But the human flesh can easily become addicted to any activity. As Christians, we need to be discerning and guard our hearts.

One of newer forms of addiction is social media, and like most addictions, almost no one would admit to their obsession. The easiest way to test for an obsession is to see how easy or difficult it is to set it aside. Many who would cry, "nonsense" to the charge of addiction would find it almost impossible to quit Facebook for a month. It is easy to fall into the trap of idolatry.

The statistics that are being reported today are alarming. One divorce attorney says that as many as one half of her cases involve social media. In a recent CBS article the reporter shared a sad testimony from a mom: "I was spending sometimes 4-5 hours a day . . . when I should have been cooking dinner or reading to my kids or watching a movie with my husband or just talking to my husband." Her marriage came to an end. Sadly, there are Christians falling into this trap.

Social media is not intrinsically evil. Our church has a Facebook page. The problem is the insatiable desire to read the next post and the urge to post a response or express a "like" to what was posted. It becomes an obsession where you could not imagine being without your phone or other electronic device. Paul wrote: "All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything" (1 Cor. 6:12). 

Try the test. See if you can set aside social media for a month, or even a week.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Pray for our Nation


One of the characteristics of God’s temporal judgments upon the earth is they usually come suddenly. When Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed they most likely began their day like every other day, completely oblivious to their pending destruction. Jesus wrote of the unexpected nature of the Noaic flood: "they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away" (Matt 24:38-39).

Could it be that our own nation is in great peril? In the history of the world nations have risen and fallen following a particular pattern. (1) God raises up a nation and they are blessed. (2) Men and women take all of the glory to themselves and deny God. (3) God brings the nation down in order to demonstrate that He alone reigns upon the earth. Sadly, our own nation is following this pattern. God raised up this nation and has blessed us beyond measure but we have denied Him and believe we are the lords of our destiny. We have fallen into terrible wickedness; we call the evil good and good evil. “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil” (Isaiah 5:20).

One blatant example of this is the sin of homosexuality. Our nation has determined that this is good and proper behavior. The homosexual agenda has been successful in convincing us that marriage between two men is no different than traditional marriage. And if a man wants to dress up like a woman it is perfectly acceptable. To further this wicked behavior, many churches have determined that it is righteous to ordain homosexual men (and women) to the ministry. This isn’t to say that homosexuality is a greater sin than all other sins. God will judge all sin. But our nation has determined not only that homosexuality is not wrong; it has determined that it is in fact good and proper and all must embrace this. To hold a different opinion is to be labeled a bigot, hatemonger, and intolerant person. To speak against homosexuality in our society is now completely unacceptable. Homosexuality may not be a greater sin, but our nation hasn’t yet declared murder to be good behavior or stealing good behavior. If we call murder sin or a murderer sinful we are not condemned for uttering hate speech. By embracing homosexuality as good and proper behavior our nation has declared evil to be the only right and proper choice. While our nation still stands there is still opportunity for repentance. May we as God’s people pray diligently.

Friday, March 28, 2014

"Noah" the Movie

When I heard that there was a movie about to be released about Noah and the Biblical account of the flood I thought, fantastic, what a wonderful opportunity to declare not only God's judgment upon sin, but also the grace of God's deliverance. My excitement was short lived. From all indications this film is nothing more than another display of Hollywood's contempt for God and His Word. I have no plans to view this movie, which for some, denies me the right to speak about it. Actor Russell Crowe has referred to those who criticize this movie as "stupid." I will risk coming under this label. I don't pretend this to be a review; only some statements on how our culture is continuing its slide towards secularism and the denial of God's right to reign, or as Robert Bork described in the title of his book almost 20 years ago, Slouching Towards Gomorrah.

In fairness, the producers of "Noah" do not pretend this to be a Biblical movie. Director Darren Aronofsky has stated that "Noah" is "the least biblical biblical film ever made." Then why make it? The answer is twofold. One, in order to make a lot of money, and two, to deny our accountability to God. Apparently, in this movie God is not bringing judgment upon humanity because of their sin and wickedness, but because of their abuse of the environment, over-population, and perhaps the eating of meat. Actually, this isn't surprising. As Christians we shouldn't expect Hollywood to understand all of the spiritual ramifications of God's Word. They will often miss the significance of God's redemptive purpose. For example, "The Passion of the Christ" glorified the physical suffering of our Savior while failing to portray the greater transaction as Christ came under the wrath of His Father. The words, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsake Me" cannot adequately be expressed by bleeding flesh on film. Still, the movie tried to express the Biblical account. "Noah," on the other hand, does not pretend to seek Biblical accuracy. It goes far beyond the "artistic license" the film claims in its advisory. It is a denial of the very essence of God's judgment upon the sins of humanity. It also denies the beauty of God's grace in His transforming work upon sinful men. The Biblical Noah is described in Hebrews 11:7, "By faith Noah, being warned by God about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household, by which he condemned the world, and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith." Peter refers to him as "a preacher of righteousness." Aronofsky's portrayal of Noah is apparently less than a description of a preacher of righteousness. And, oh my goodness, talking about artistic license. Instead of Noah and his sons building the ark, Aronofsky has the ark being constructed by giant rock creatures who are supposed to be fallen angels. And to this add Tubal-Cain who is leading an army to hijack the ark for his own survival.

OK, the critics are exclaiming, "It's just a movie." Christians are again being described as "intolerant" or well, "stupid." We are being told to lighten up, "this isn't supposed to be a sermon." On the other hand, the Bible speaks with authority which must be given all due attention. Its words are not to be changed in order to appeal to the masses. I hope few Christians view this movie. What are we willing to sacrifice in order to be entertained? Do we need to be entertained by those who make a mockery of God's Word and deny God's demand for holiness?

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Homecoming for Johnny Farese

It is with sadness and joy that I heard of the passing of Johnny Farese. Having muscular atrophy, he has been confined to bed for years unable to move or even feed himself. And yet, his testimony to the sovereign grace of God remained sure and confident. His directory of reformed churches has been a wonderful tool for those seeking Biblical churches. He is testimony to the reality that every believer is useful in our Lord's kingdom, even one who many would see as useless. He did not use his disability as reason to excuse himself from service to Christ. Instead, he used what he had to glorify Christ. His life should serve to convict those who have far more ability, and yet allow themselves to be consumed with the things of this world and do very little for our Lord's kingdom.

At this moment he is no longer in his weakness. He has seen our Master face to face. "He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away" (Rev. 21:4).

Oh Lord, help us to see this life as quickly fading. Help us to keep our eyes on things above.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Beware of the Sin of Pride

Paul writes in 2 Timothy 4:7-8, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness.” Paul’s immortal words were that he had finished well. He had endured until the end. May these words make an indelible mark upon our hearts. Oh, that we might finish well. There are endless ways to lose our way. The Bible is full of warnings. There seems to be endless examples of men who did not finish well. The common denominator for most failures is pride. We can become swallowed up by our own sense of entitlement.

Our attention is drawn to many of Israel’s kings who were righteous men; the Bible records that they “did right in the sight of the LORD.” But their pride was their downfall. King Asa reigned righteously but in the end he turned his trust away from God. When confronted by one of God’s prophets he became enraged and cast the prophet into prison. The last we read of his otherwise excellent life was, "In the thirty-ninth year of his reign Asa became diseased in his feet. His disease was severe, yet even in his disease he did not seek the LORD, but the physicians" (2Chron. 16:12).

Of Uzziah we read, "But when he became strong, his heart was so proud that he acted corruptly, and he was unfaithful to the LORD his God, for he entered the temple of the LORD to burn incense on the altar of incense" (2 Chron. 26:16). God punished him with leprosy and he remained a leper to the end of his life. 

Even the righteous reigns of Hezekiah and Josiah were marred by the wretched curse of pride. As soon as we think we are immune to this sin we are in our greatest danger. Peter stood boldly and announced, "Even though all may fall away because of You, I will never fall away" (Mat. 26:33). That very night Peter betrayed Jesus.

Our continued prayer must be, “Oh God, help me to finish well. Help me to know my weakness and my great need of your strength.” Paul knew his own weakness. God had taught him, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness" (2 Cor.12:9). Paul admonishes us from the words of Jeremiah, "Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord." (1 Cor. 1:31). May God grant us the grace to walk humbly before Him all the days of our life.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

2013 Expositor's Conference

I've attended the Expositor's Conference from its inception. There are a plethora of conferences with more beginning each year, far too many for any busy pastor to consider attending. I enjoy this one because of the scheduling-- Monday evening and Tuesday, and because I'm always challenged at this conference to become a better expositor of God's Word. The members of Christ Fellowship Baptist Church are always most hospitable in sacrificially serving so that the attending pastors and their wives will be comfortable.
 
This year's Expositor's Conference featured Sinclair Ferguson and Steven Lawson preaching on the theme of the empowering work of the Holy Spirit in Biblical preaching. Sinclair Ferguson's sermons were mainly from the experimental perspective of the Holy Spirit in the lives of God's people. They were a stirring reminder of the glorious gift of the Holy Spirit as we are incorporated into the family of God. Stephen Lawson's focus was more on the power of the Holy Spirit in preaching. On Tuesday afternoon Lawson gave a biographical sketch on the life and preaching of John Knox. After doing a flyby on the life of Knox, his emphasis was directed towards his powerful preaching. In a day when compromise would have been the choice of many, Knox preached with confidence and conviction.
 
A particular blessing at this year's Conference was the Truth Remains Bible Exhibit and a message on the lives of William Tyndale and John Rogers presented by the Truth Remains founder, David Parsons. It was convicting to hear once again of the unwavering commitment of these two men to produce the English translation of the Bible, eventually leading to their martyrdom. At the exhibit they actually had one of the six remaining original editions of 1534 Tyndale Bible, called the Matthew Bible. It was published by John Rogers after Tyndale's martyrdom. Rogers was converted from Roman Catholicism under Tyndale's ministry. He published this complete edition of the Tyndale Bible under the pseudonym of Thomas Matthew, thus the Matthew Bible. We were actually allowed to touch it! The photo is of my hand on this amazing gift to the English speaking world. Also on exhibit were an original edition of the Geneva Bible and a 1611 King James Bible. Being among these Bibles was a reminder of God's rich providential blessing of His Word and of the great sacrifice of faithful men in preserving it for us.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Hope for the Homosexual

I read an article this morning in our local newspaper about an interview with Pope Francis aboard the papal aircraft. When asked about homosexuals he stated, "If someone is gay and searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge." It is mind-boggling how in the past 20-30 years homosexuality has become a normal and accepted life-style. Few see it as a sin issue. The recent Supreme Court action has basically declared homosexuality to be a moral good in need of constitutional protection. It would seem that few are willing to stand up and declare that this behavior is wrong.

We live in a day when sin, condemnation, and judgment are words so vile and hateful that they should never be uttered. The PCUSA recently rejected the Keith and Kristyn Getty song, "In Christ Alone" from its new hymnal because of the words in the third stanza, "Till on the cross as Jesus died, the the wrath of God was satisfied." They wanted to replace the words with, "The love of God was magnified." The word wrath is too offensive for this denomination to utter. When you live in a society where sin and judgement does not exist and everyone does that which is right in their own eyes all of the fences are removed. Why not pedophilia? Why not incest? Why not kill fourth trimester children (that would be after birth)?

Pope Francis' statement, "Who am I to judge" seems to be at the core of modern thought. As long as you are sincere, as long as you have good will, as long as you are searching for the Lord you are doing OK. And in a world void of absolutes, searching for the Lord takes many forms. The Bible tells us there is only one way a person searches for the Lord--through the Gospel of Christ.

Homosexuality is clearly an issue of sin, but sometimes the church has been so zealous in declaring the sinfulness of homosexuality, they have forgotten the Gospel. Through the Gospel of Christ the worst of sinners have been transformed--murderers, adulterers, robbers, drunkards, and yes, homosexuals. The Gospel is good news! It holds out forgiveness, reconciliation, and hope. Our duty as the people of God is to look upon sinners with compassion and mercy. We must never look upon those trapped in sin as if we have never been in their condition. Sin has corrupted every human being upon the earth. It manifests itself in endless ways. Homosexuality is just one expression of the depravity of the human heart.

In one sense I have to agree with Pope Francis. "Who am I to judge." Christ is the ultimate Judge before whom all men shall stand. On the other hand, the Bible is a clear revelation of the nature of sin and the condition of the human heart. God commands that all men forsake their sin and fall before the rule and reign of Jesus Christ. We must trust His perfect atoning sacrifice upon the cross where He bore the sins of His people and suffered the condemnation they deserved. We must receive His perfect righteousness to meet the perfect demands of the Law. But there is glorious hope. The homosexual can be changed. By God's Spirit he can forsake his sin and experience the love of Christ which is beyond compare. He can be restored to a right relationship with his Creator. The wrath of God can be removed. "That if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved" (Romans 10:9).

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Count it All Joy

 
The following is from Pastor Robert Shelby, one of our pastors at Trinity Baptist Church. July 3, 2013 marks the one year anniversary of his paralyzing injury. He shares how he has followed the Biblical mandate, "Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials (James 1:2).






One year ago today, several of my children and I headed out the front door on our way to our neighbors swimming pool for an early morning swimming lesson. Far from my mind was any notion that this day would be marked by a “life changing event,” as the doctor would later announce to my wife. About a half hour later or so, I began noticing the less than stellar diving skills of one of my boys. I thought that a good example would be all that was needed to improve his skill so, I told him to stand back and watch how daddy could dive into the pool with graceful form.
As I launched into the air, I kicked my feet up high, held them together and pierced the water like an Olympic diver. Suddenly, I felt the tremendous force of the bottom of the pool resisting my head as my head struck the bottom of the pool. I was briefly stunned for a moment much like a boxer who has received a powerful blow to the head, then I collected myself and thought that I needed to swim to the side of pool so that I might shake off such a hard blow.
I began trying to reach out with my hand but my arm would not move. Kicking in my mind, my legs and feet would not move either. I frantically worked through each of the muscle groups in my body trying to find any muscle or appendage that I might move to aid me in coming up from the water and reaching the side of the pool for a breath of air. In that moment it became clear to me that I was going to drown in the bottom of the pool unless someone quickly acted on my behalf. Believing that I was about to die, I prayed for a few moments rejoicing in the goodness of my God who had reconciled me unto himself through the atoning work of his son Jesus and had promised that my trust in him was not in vain.. Then, I began to praise him as I waited entering into his presence through death.
As the time was passing, my sons began to take notice that I had not come up from the water. They began working together struggling to drag my body to the shallow end of the pool and turn my face up so that they could hold my head out of the water. As they approached the shallow end of the pool my eldest son began CPR and was able to revive me until the paramedics arrived.
Later that day, the doctors told my wife, Amy that I had fractured my C5 vertebrae causing paralysis below the level of the fracture and that they could stabilize my neck by performing a surgery. What they could not tell her was whether or not the paralysis would be temporary or permanent.
After the surgery, I spent two weeks OLOL hospital in Baton Rouge and then moved on to spend another two months at Touro Hospital in New Orleans on their rehab floor. After leaving the hospital in New Orleans, I returned home to pick up where I left off two and a half months prior. Needless to say, since the injury each and every day presents a host of trials that God has called me to walk through.
Often during the past year I have considered the exhortation given by James (Jam 1:2) where we are commanded to “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds.” These trials, spoken of by James, are manifested in the life of the Christian in numerous ways, some very obvious and others not so obvious. The trials of recent days, since my spinal cord injury, seem to be much more obvious than those trials endured prior to this life changing event.
As I have thought through this passage contemplating how I might remain faithful and obedient to our Lord, one prevailing consideration continues to stand at the forefront – that is the question, “How is it to be accomplished, the counting it all joy?”
James gives us the answer in the exhortation when he says to “Count” or "Consider."
And how do you consider? The answer is, that we consider with our mind. Counting or considering with the mind stands in contrast to considerations of feelings. In the text, James is more concerned with our thought process than how we might feel about the trial that God has ordained.
James is not saying, "feel joyful," but rather, learn to think joyfully in your trials. This does not come easy to most of us and one might wonder why such difficulty? Several factors are involved some of which can be traced to our fallen nature and dumbed down, hyper-emotional culture which has taught us to feel rather than to think. The reality is that Christians may find it a strong temptation to tackle this imperative found in James’ epistle with “feeling” or “emotion” rather than thoughtful wisdom and consideration.
Many will be inclined to think. “I am walking through a trial and I am commanded to be Joyful, to be happy… so to be obedient to this imperative I simply need to muster up happiness; that will be a faithful pursuit in honoring God. But this is the wrong approach. “Counting” or “Considering” it joy is to be rooted in the thought process. We should think like this, “I am tempted and afflicted – yet – because of the truths that are revealed in God’s word concerning his glory and our good - I will recognize this circumstance as a means of revealing the joy and the love of the father who works in me all good things.”Phil 2:13
Paul tells us that he learned to be content in every circumstance. Whether he was being assaulted from temptations arising from his internal desires or whether he was suffering the temptations to sin from external sources, Paul had learned to be content. If he was being persecuted from within the church or from the outside – Paul learned to be content – to ‘count it all joy.’ That is his own testimony given in Philippians chapter 4.
Philippians 4:11-13 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
“Count it all joy” means to exclude the negative emotions, exclude doubt, exclude feelings and to consider with your mind.
So, how is this accomplished? How do we experience joy in the midst of trials ? How do we engage the mind?
How do we obey the word of God, counting or considering it all joy, especially when it seems so contrary to what we have come to know throughout the course of our life? (i.e. heartache, despair, grief, disappointment, etc)
The answer is - We apply our thoughts to truths that we know, truths that are given to us in the Word of God which are intended for just such a purpose. We fill up our minds with Holy Scripture which renews our mind (as Paul commands in Roman 12:2).
We consider the words of Peter. (1 Pet 4:1) “Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking.”
We count trials as joy as we remember Heb 12:3-4 “Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.” We remember that –“In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.”
 We count Trials as joy as we remember or consider the words in 1 Jn 3:13 “ Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you.”
 We Count it Joy as we remember the words of Paul to the church at Philippi 3:8-10 “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ…..that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
As you consider the trials that God ordains in the life of the Christian recognize that these trials demonstrate to us observable evidences that we are friends and followers of Christ. As we contemplate our calling and response, it will become increasingly clear that we are enduring the same suffering as Christ and striving to advance the same interest, as our Lord. We “Count it All Joy.”
Lastly we recognize that in ourselves – we can do nothing. We are born in sin, our hearts are born corrupt, and there is none righteous…. No one does good, we are born slaves of this world, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God. But by grace we have received a Holy calling and by adoption we have become the children of God.
We count all things as Joy as we consider or remember the words of Paul to the church at Philippi.
 Philippians 2:13-16 “…it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life,…”
Counting it joy means considering that God is working in us and through us for his good pleasure – therefore I have no legitimate cause for grumbling or questioning – only joy in the midst of trials which lead to steadfastness and an unshakable faith.
Remembering these truths has been a great blessing to me as I have walked through the trials of this past year and indeed throughout the course of my Christian life. By God’s grace, I will continue to count it all joy as I face trials of various kinds; every struggle as a father, a husband, a Pastor, indeed every struggle which is common to these bodies of flesh.
I pray that these words of James will find a sweet place in both my heart and in yours as we faithfully follow after our Lord Jesus Christ.