That Marvelous Book

31 05 2006

image.jpg2 Timothy 3:16-17 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.

I have been impressed recently in considering the grace involved in the disclosure of God through the written word. Consider what you know about God, everything that is in fact true about his character and actions. Now consider how you know it? It is by the word of God. Consider also everything that others know. How do they know what they know? Ultimately it is because of the merciful self-disclosure of God.

When I consider all of the great teachers, past and present, and add their accumulative knowledge together, Calvin +Luther + Owen+ Edwards +Ryle +Spurgeon +Warfield +Machen +Hodge +Murray +Boice +Sproul +MacArthur….where do they ultimately get their knowledge? Is it in themselves? No, of course not. Anything that is true about God is ultimately derived from the revelation of God as recorded in the Scripture. This is amazing and motivating.

I am amazed because the oft neglected book is the source of knowledge and understanding of who God is. The moment we shelf it in favor of something else we have shelved God in favor of something else (namely our own self-authority).

I am motivated to study this book for it contains the divine DNA. I could learn about God from nature yes, but I cannot know him apart from his word. The Scripture then is the final and ultimate authority, the supreme and unique revelation of God, bearing the stamp of divine approval with each of its God-breathed characters.

Join me today at marveling at the gracious condescension of God through his revelation, knowing that apart from this self-disclosure of God we would be worshipping the god that our minds and hands have created.

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Jesus: Unrivaled & Unflinching

30 05 2006

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“No one has ascended into heaven, but he ho descended from heaven: the Son of Man” John 3.13

Isn’t it encouraging and affirming Christian to read these words afresh from the mouth of the Son of Man? For in them Christ distinguishes himself as the only one who is uniquely qualified for the exegetical unpacking of the divine will and character (cf. also Jn. 1.18). For it is Christ Jesus alone who comes down from heaven. Who else can claim such an exclusive and prestigious identity?

These are fresh words for us today in our culture; while so many seem to be exclusively lobbying for the increased tolerance of inclusive thought and decreased tolerance of exclusive thought. Jesus, in effect, claps his hands with a thunderous clap and disqualifies any and all perceived competition for his unique position.

In this context Jesus is rocking a religious leader’s world with exclusive assertions that are contrary to his religious thinking. For instance Jesus tells him that he must be “born again” (vv. 3, 5, 7). He also tells him that this cannot happen apart from the Spirit working in his life. And further that he (Nicodemus) is unable to bring this to bear by his own exertion, but rather by the Spirit’s conception and birthing (3.3-7).

It is quite encouraging to me in terms of my own evangelism to know that Jesus is not discouraged to proclaim his exclusivity or to confidently correct misconceptions concerning the divine agenda; in fact, it appears to be quite the opposite, he seems to passionately promote the divine agenda. This is good for me to consider and apply. I do not have to shrink back from who Christ is, nor do I have to put myself in some defensive posture in effort to mitigate these exclusive claims by the Savior. Instead, I am to dig in confidently and passionately amplify the words of Jesus. For it is the Spirit that conceives and brings about this new birth (3.5-6).

Further, it is a great motivation to remember that with all of the perceived “competition” to the gospel there is in reality no competition. The ever increasing philosophy of relativism and pluralism within a post-modern culture are not to discourage our evangelism but compel it! These false gospels serve as providential stimulants for those who have actually been born again to get busy proclaiming, but not before they are thoroughly impressed and convinced of the exclusivity of divine grace as procured through the one Son of God and applied by the one Spirit of God.

Nicodemus stood before Jesus as a skeptic and received the truth. Christians need to be reminded of who they have believed! He is the Son of Man, the only one who has descended from heaven. Everyone else is trying to get up there, but Jesus comes down here to tell us how to get there. Let believers be encouraged by this Jesus, even stirring genuine affections for his person and work by meditating on this reality, knowing that it is all of grace that you know the answer to the question of “how can these things be?” (John 3.9).





Shakespeare is No Monkey Business

29 05 2006

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Perhaps you have heard the evolutionary theory that given an infinite number of monkeys and appropriate time monkeys would produce the works of Shakespeare. A bizarre (and quite humorous) experiment by a group of students has found that quite the opposite is true… http://www.bbc.co.uk/devon/news_features/2003/monkey_words.shtml

“What a peice of work is man!” –From Hamlet (II, ii, 115-117)





Lying to Death

28 05 2006

[Included here are sermon notes from Sunday morning at Omaha Bible Church. Also included are applicational questions for further review and meditation (Col. 3.16)]

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There is a prevailing burden for me as a Christian and especially as a pastor for the truth of the gospel. Make no mistake about it the truth of Christ’s gospel is constantly under attack. Many are promoting and accepting lies cloaked in religious clothing which are the stepchildren of the “doctrines of demons” that Paul warned Timothy of in 1 Timothy 4.1.

Today we’ll look at the first of two lies that too many people believe. These lies are particularly heinous because they strip the cross of Jesus Christ of its power and glory.

In addition, these lies fill people’s lives with confusion and burdens. So many folks follow what others teach while not believing what the Bible says.

If you believe these lies, my burden is for you. If you do not believe such lies, join me in feeling the burden and attempting to eradicate these lies. They are serious and destructive. These lies have been plaguing people throughout history, and will continue to plague until the Lord returns to straighten everything out.

The first perilous lie that plagues humanity-

1. You can be in a right relationship with God apart from the Complete GRACE of GOD

Many believe that they are inherently good…enough good to be ok w/God.

Some others believe that it is the combination of my good with God’s gift.

Historically this is the heresy of Pelegianism & Semi-Peligianism (respectively)

This is contrasted by what the Scripture says, even painting us as so bad that we are completely unable to earn his favor. The biblical account paints us as hopeless and without God, as we stand relying upon ourselves, unconverted (Ephesians 2.12). The picture could not be clearer:

Ephesians 2:1-3 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. 3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.

The reality is that we are not ½ bad, but all bad! This is the death nail to the heresies of Pelagianism and Semi-Peligianism. We don’t need a boost or a little help, but instead we need a new heart, given all by grace! If you do not agree that everything about salvation is all of grace then you must agree that you are not as bad as God thinks!

Consider the depths of God’s loving grace:

The most famous Bible verse in history: Jn. 3.16… God loved the world in this way (the verse emphasizes the nature and expression of divine love, rather than the breadth of the love!) God loved the world, and he gave his son, for salvation!

Well how do we appropriate the grace?

Some say by sacraments or works…we are busy working to appropriate grace. This can’t be, look at Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. the text is clear that it is not of works, but faith, dependence!! This brings the spotlight to God and off of us!

This has always been God’s way of doing things. Romans 4.1-4 tells us that Abraham was justified (declared perfect) by faith, even stressing that this was apart from works!

Why is the application of grace so important? Is it just theological minutia?

NO! It is the difference between exalting the work of the cross and its power and insulting the cross and promoting the sinner’s power. Even Paul came out swinging over this issue, not mincing words concerning the gospel:

Galatians 1:8 8 But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!

The accursing is the Greek word anathema. This is referring to the damnation of souls without the possibility of salvation…The Scripture could not be more harsh!!

To have saving grace be combined somehow with something that you can do, 1) overvalues your own merit, 2) undervalues Christ’s work, 3) underestimates the justice of God 4) underestimates sin.

Consider sacramental baptisms and confirmations, even stating that they are dispensing the grace of God through these works for salvation. Omaha is filled with churches who are proclaiming this message even today, giving out false assurance of salvation based upon things that you can do.

But this lie is not just restricted to Sacramentalists, but what about those here today in Omaha Bible Church, why do you think you are going to heaven? Is it because you go to a Bible church? And the Bible is preached here? C’mon?! You coming here where the Bible preached does not save you any more than getting sprinkled by a priest or slapped (confirmed) by a bishop. If you are trusting in anything other than the complete grace of God, then according to the Bible, you are an unbeliever!

Evangelicals somehow think that God has done everything, but I just have to believe. As if I am somehow smart enough and moral enough then I can be saved. NO! Look at Phil. 1.29: For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake,

Here we see that God grants belief, literally graces (charizomai) belief. God gives the faith to believe. If you are thinking today that you figured this stuff out on your own apart from grace you are just as guilty as the Sacramentalists who undermine the glory of Christ’s power and merit!

This is not a narrow line between faith and works, but a Grand Canyon shaped line between the two.

Next Sunday Pat will consider the second great and perilous lie that is promoted by opponents of the gospel: A Person who is Genuinely Saved by Grace Alone through Faith Alone in Christ Alone will not necessarily live a life of good works.

Applicational Questions…………………………………………………………….

  1. Define grace:
  2. Why does the understanding of the depth of personal sinfulness demand that sinners be saved by grace.
  3. What are we saying about God’s character, specifically his holiness and justice when we cling to a salvation that contains our works in cooperation with Jesus’?
  4. Read through Ephesians 2.1-3, why does God have to ‘gift us’ or ‘grace us’ with the faith to believe? (cf. v.8-9; also Phil. 1.29).
  5. Consider your own attitude towards unbelievers. Do you ever find yourself looking down your spiritual noses at them because they are not ‘godly’?
  6. -In light of grace, why is thinking unbiblical? (1 Cor. 4.7)

    -What is the proper perspective towards those who are unbelieving? (Rom. 10.1-3; Mk. 6.34; 2 Cor. 5.11, 20)

    -What is the proper action towards them? (cf. Mark 6.34; Col. 1.28)

6. What are some good practical ways to intentionally remind yourself of the grace that has been given you?

    Think not just in terms of justification, but also the sustaining grace of sanctification and the prevailing grace of glorification!

    -Read through Titus 3.1-10 to first hand practical apostolic instruction for training hearts to esteem grace.





Tickle Me Evangelical!!

26 05 2006

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Recently I was at a garage sale with my children when I was impacted by a sobering and effective illustration. My two-old daughter pulled a stuffed animal out of the “10 cent pile” and was calling me with tremendous excitement. She had stumbled upon a used Tickle Me Elmo doll. Perhaps you remember the craze that surrounded this doll a few years back as parents stormed the toy stores in effort to secure the prized Christimas gift. Elmo was indeed the thing at one point. But now, where is he? He sits at the bottom of box ( a discount box no less) in a garage sale in Omaha, Nebraska.

As I walked up to the garage sale lady with my dime in hand to purchase the prized find, I was struck with the similarity between the consumer mentality of the evangelical church and that of the world. It seems as though evangelicals are just as caught up riding various waves that come along as their worldly cousins.

From The Prayer of Jabez, to The Passion of the Christ, to Promise Keepers, to promoting the Republican right, to Purpose Driven Life, and now The DaVinci Code, evangelicals seem to be painfully addicted surfing various and sundry cultural waves. Even the pop-evangelical pope Rick Warren boasts that you must be adept at “surfing spiritual waves”. But is this surfing distracting and distorting the Christian purpose and message? Or even worse, are evangelicals surfing waves that bring them further and further away from the shore of truth and more and more into the choppy waters inhabited by demonic sharks?

truth-extraction.jpgFor the second straight year, while attending the Shepherds’ Conference at Grace Church, I was able (forced) to attend service at Warren’s Saddleback church. In listening to Warren talk I was so utterly impressed with the theological content of his message. Some say that Warren ignores theology, I say they are wrong, he does teach theology, it is just heretical! I heard Warren tell me and thousands of others that Jesus died for me to show me how good I am. I heard him tell me that it was not important how many days it took God to create the earth. I heard him tell me that I was the reason for God creating the earth. His statements were hitting me in the side of the head like bricks in light of Ephesians 1 & 2 which tell me that God does everything for his own pleasure and exaltation. And that my sin rendered me helplessly dead and unable to extricate myself from my miserable and disgraceful plight! However, when I looked around at those present, they were not cross checking his paraphrased translations with the Bible, instead they were sitting in an almost euphoric glee as Warren masterfully tickled their ears with his soft words.

Why?

Evangelicals are distracted, deceived and disinterested.

All of the “stuff” has distracted evangelicals from his job. The Satanic spam comes fast and furious and unfortunately it is working. Churchianity is distracted; wandering down paths it should not be while avoiding the path brings the good news of Christ. It would not even know the gospel to even defend it! Justification is seen as some dusty old doctrine that Calvin or somebody made up instead the truth by which the church stands or falls. And you know what? Satan loves it. It is so demonically becoming to distract, blur and otherwise deceive the professing followers of God from their mission.

Why can’t we just be content with the Bible and its shameless exaltation of the crucified messiah? Why can’t we just have our hearts stirred by the grace that brought in and through the gospel? Why can’t we just study God’s attributes and by so utterly amazed by his gracious stooping to rescue us from ourselves? Why can’t we just join the angels in their holy befuddlement in view of grace?

It is because there is a regrettable pursuit of “spiritual elmos” rather than the glory of Christ. It is more flattering to be sitting in the crowd and be told how wonderful you are by the mouth of a well respected author than it is to be told how disgustingly sinful you are via the mouth of God in the Scriptures.

It is time to shake evangelicalism and let the chaff go lest we find ourselves in a fad museum with the other spiritual Elmos. As John MacArthur once said concerning such fads, “they are lessons in obsoleteness!” May God be pleased to resuscitate evangelicalism from its stupor and use it for his glory.





Keeping Your Way Pure (Psalm 119.9-16)

25 05 2006

[As a church we are reading through the book of Psalms each Sunday morning. As a result Thursday postings will be geared toward a devotional look at the respective Psalm for each week in effort to kindle genuine affections in heart of the child of God through the word of God to the glory of God.]

compass-at-sea.jpgThe 119th Psalm continues to prevail as the hymnbook for revival. If we cannot agree with the Psalmist in the words he pens then our heart needs to change…and this is good! It is encouraging for all who fear God and in so doing know themselves, to know that there is an able auxiliary in purifying and perfecting folks…in the 9th verse we see that it is by keeping the way according to the word of God. Faithful obedience to the word of God is the only compass towards gaining and maintaining purity!

I find myself in the Psalmist’s sandals in the prayer for a restrainer to keep the heart that is prone to wandering from its ungodly desires: “Do not let me wander from Your commandments” how often have we recognized our propensity to wander away from truth? How often do we pray for divine help to aid us in fidelity? This is a good prayer, knowing that it is God’s desire that we are faithful, so too us, having sought God with all our heart, find it our desire to not wander but remain.

The great key for the believer is found in verse 11: “Your word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against You” Something will be treasured in our hearts, either us or God! If we are the treasure of our hearts then we will be caught up in the idolatrous pursuit of self-exaltation through self-supremacy trusting in our own self-sufficiency…this indeed is self-worship…unseating the heavenly King for our own perceived glory. But the Psalmist cries out to God to imbed in him the means by which to defend against this unholy insurgency in his heart…”I have put the great fortress of divine truth in my heart…it is good…it is powerful….it is precious…it therefore is my delight and so I will not delight in myself, but in God!”

Look what follows from this gracious treasuring of truth…a special divine tutoring of truth (v12) and then the Psalmist cannot contain himself…look at the fertility of the word of God in the child of God:

-Proclamation (v.13)

-Exaltation (v.14)

-Meditation (15-16)

When the believer sees the wretchedness of his own heart and the infinite value of the Word of God to meet the need of his own disfunctionality, he cannot but run to it!

The Psalmist esteems the word; he values it, because he needs it. The word is necessary in light of his goal—keeping his way pure! Therefore, there are not meal supplements in this divine diet, the believer must drink from the fountain of living waters having his mind and heart refreshed with the truth that he may come away dripping with eternal satisfaction and delight in the character and commandments of God.

How can we neglect personal time in the word?

How can we neglect corporate time in the word?

How can we neglect the necessary response to the word? (rejoicing and meditation)

These are all integral in our pursuit of lives that are pleasing to our gracious Father who has demonstrated himself as faithful by giving his own Son as the substitute for sinners. Let us constantly kindle afresh this passionate pursuit of divine glory in our hearts, becoming increasingly impressed with our eternally loving and holy Jehovah.





Recovering Biblical Meditation

24 05 2006

Pat Abendroth of Omaha Bible Church preached a message this past Sunday entitled “Recovering Biblical Meditation” which was particularly helpful and edifying. It is edifying as it helps the believer to understand the spiritual discipline of meditation without divorcing it from its objective source: the Scripture.

This is a timely message in light of the contemporary criticisms levied at evangelicals by those in the Emergent Church. They claim that evangelicals have abandoned meditation all together in favor of a fascination to the objective. They of course swing the pendulum the other way and cut off any strings to the objective truth while wading in the sometimes swampy and always murky waters of total subjectivism. This message is a thoughtful and biblical treatment of the topic.

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Enjoy!