The Testimony of the Cemetery

29 06 2006

I was driving today in between meetings in a particularly older section of Omaha and saw the sobering testimony to sin. The cemetery was decorated with headstones marking the lives of the individuals who occupied the bodies that are now occupying the dirt below the signs.

The headstones mark the individual testimonies of the pervasiveness of sin. Sin has been destroying and taking lives since the garden…the cemeteries proclaim this.

As I drove I was reminded of the transitory nature of life through the reality of death. We indeed are dying people who need to like the Psalmist in Psalm 90, need to pray that we ‘number our days’ in so doing live with the divine mission on our forehead and in our hearts.

While cemeteries remind me of the faithfulness of God’s promise to punish sin with death (natural, spiritual, & eternal), I am also greatly encouraged and my heart is enflamed with thanksgiving to the Lord Jesus Christ who tasted death on my behalf (Heb. 2.9), knowing that the one who is in Christ will never taste death (John 8.52).

What blessed providence to remind me of grace through the morbid headstones and the legacy of sin. Sin is morbid, but grace is beautiful, for Christ is beauty!

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The Dangerous Legacy of Spiritual Indifference

28 06 2006

In 2 Kings 17 the Scripture encapsulates generations in just a matter of verses. And in so doing, the Holy Spirit shows us the importance of being faithful stewards with our individual days and in specific application here, with our children.

In the context, Assyria comes in and takes control of Samaria. The Samaritans fall into intense idolatry. One of the priests from Bethel comes to the people to instruct them of how they are to fear the LORD (v.28). The critical word in verse 30 pierces the heart: ‘But’. The Scripture says: “But every nation still made gods of its own and put them in the shrines of the high places that the Samaritans had made…”

As a result their idolatry inflamed. And as is so often the case, they measured themselves by their environment rather than the word of God. For if you live and play with a bunch of spiritual harlots, and then of course your prostitution of the glory of God will not appear as sickening. For everyone is doing it!!

These guys actually appointed for themselves teachers and priests in accordance with their own desires (vv.32-33). And in the end the testimony of Scripture, in response to their rebellious avoidance of revelation is painfully sobering:

2 Kings 17:40-41 However, they did not listen, but they did according to their earlier custom. 41 So while these nations feared the LORD, they also served their idols; their children likewise and their grandchildren, as their fathers did, so they do to this day.

Do you see the devastating result of spiritual negligence? They “did not listen”. They had the truth but did not listen, AND as a result their children and grandchildren walked in the same idolatrous footsteps as them.

I read a passage like this and ask myself what I am doing to prevent my children from wandering? What am I doing to instill the fear of the LORD in them? It is a lack of fear of God that produced such irreverent negligence in the first place. This is why the text emphasizes the need for such a recovery of fear (vv.37-39). It is so important for parents to be delivering truth to their children’s hearts daily, and in so doing molding a heart that genuinely fears the LORD.

But this can never be done without first having our own hearts impressed with God enough to fear him ourselves! The need for a daily trembling in view of the character and testimonies of God is in order. This must be done by coming freshly to the fountain of eternal delights to bend our twisted minds straight! If we try to calibrate our spiritual bearings by those around us we’ll be in Samaria in no time. However, if we by the grace of God, renew our minds by the unchanging word of God we’ll be on our way to further sanctification. It is through this exercise that we work out our salvation with fear in trembling, and in so doing, model faithfulness and fear for our children and their children.





Introducing Rev. Raven

27 06 2006

raven.jpgI heard an impressive sermon this morning as I was running. The preacher was not in my MP3 but instead on top of the ledge at the bank around the corner from my house.

As I was providentially detoured by the wet sidewalks from the sprinklers, I cut through the bank parking lot, only to be encountered by a raging raven with much to say to me.

No doubt I startled the bird as he comfortably sat upon his ledge at o’dark thirty.

 

What followed was a terrific and timely reminder of the pervasive effects of the fall of man.

This bird squawked and flapped his wings with enough passionate urgency to make any ask, “man! what is that bird’s problem!?” But for the biblically literate his message is painfully relevant.

This bird freaked out because he knows something of the sinfulness of sin. He has an accurate and biblical harmartiology (the study of sin) and anthropology (the study of man).

It is as if this bird said, “Whoa, son of Adam! That is far enough! Don’t you come running up here on me with that evil, perverted, and contrary heart of yours! Do you not know that that which gives you life is the cause of death in all of the earth!! Your heart is more deceitful than anything else!!”

Why didn’t the bird just tip his beak and raise a feather to me in a similar manner to the elderly man who was walking his dog? It is because all of creation is groaning in eager anticipation of the redemption of this earth, having been subjected to a sub standard earth due to the pollution and plague of Adamic rebellion that has long since beset our world.

I love to explain sin to my children in this manner. It is so illustrative to instruct my 4 year old daughter to go over and pick up the bunny rabbit in the yard or the little robin on the driveway. So of course she, being the cutest 4 year old ever, runs over, pig-tails flying, calling the animal by some sweet name only to see the birds and rabbits flee like she was wielding a hatchet.

When my daughter asks why they run I can tell her that it is because she is a sinner. That God created the world good, with animals and humanity ‘playing together’ with man ruling (Gen. 1.28) them. But instead of ruling animals, we all wanted to rule God, we were not happy with the crown he gave us, we were only content with taking his crown.

There is a day coming when the animals will again trust man. This of course comes when the Second Adam reigns on the throne of David, in his glorious kingdom. It is on that day when Jesus Christ shall reign where the little boy may play with cobras and vipers without fear, for the righteous judge will reign! (cf. Is. 11)

It does not matter how cute or good we look on the outside the heart of man is more deceitful than all else (Jer. 17.9). Therefore, I wonder why I hear a better sermon on the sin and rebellion of man from a bird on a bank than I would if I walked into an average evangelical church today. Sin is downplayed, conciseness are comforted, and Christ’s powerful crosswork is, regrettably, devalued.

There is a day coming when sin will be dealt with finally and swiftly. And birds will be there feasting and watching as those who would never submit to the gospel of the Savior are destroyed and fed to the hungry birds (Rev. 19.17-18).

If you are a believer, remember that you would be bird feed if it were not for the grace of God, arresting your unwilling heart to make you a child of God to the praise and glory of divine grace in accordance with the kind intention of his will. If you are not a believer find comfort and grace in the pierced Savior who demonstrated God’s unwillingness to compromise over sin and instead punished Jesus in the place of sinners, so that he could justly forgive sinners like me and you.

 

 





Blessed by God (Ephesians 1)

26 06 2006

[Included here are sermon notes & application questions from this past Sunday morning at Omaha Bible Church you may listen or download the message here=>ListenDownload]

Ephesians 1 is a man-humbling, Christ-exalting run-on sentence that serves to distill the praise and power of God. It is interesting to note that it is the theological truth of this chapter is the catalyst for this exemplarily praise.

What has God done? He has blessed us (believers v.1) with every spiritual blessing. This is why his praise is so ardent.

Well, why has he done it? What is the basis for giving believers every spiritual blessing?

The first basis point of why and how God can give us these blessings:

1. Election v.4:

Verse 3 ends with the reality of this grand blessing, and flowing into verse 4 is the causal statement of why…”just as he chose us” You could render this, since, or because, he chose us, or elected us.

When did he do this choosing? The text says before the foundation of the world! God brought this about, and he did it not only before we were born, but before the world was even formed!! Notice he did not do this when we believed, but before not only when we believed, but before the formation of the world!!

Some say if you believe election you will be prideful. Where is the pride so far in this text? Who chose who? God sovereignly apprehends sinners who are dead (Eph. 2.1-3). There is nothing but man humbling God exalting theological realities.

Some say that election is unloving. Notice the word that is so closely affixed to this sentence: love. Election is done in love. The tender mercies of God, lovingly preventing those who are running headlong into hell, even electing them unto eternal life; this is done to the glory of God according to his good pleasure.

2. Predestination v.5

Paul is excited based upon unconditional love. Notice who predestines? It is God. The elect (v4) have a destination, namely to sonship. The sinner is unholy and blameworthy and God predestines them. This is not about odds or probability but about certainty!

What does he predestine believers to? Sonship. It is a good to eradicate the feminist mindset here, there are no daughters of God…in the Greek culture that Paul was writing in, the son was the heir. Do you want the inheritance? You want to be a son!!

If someone says they do not believe in predestination, I would ask them, do you believe in grace? Do you believe in Christ? It is in the Bible! AND the predestination is tied directly to the inheritance. How do you know you have an inheritance? It is because the sovereign God has predestined this to occur. So when people want to take away predestination, know that it is time to roll up your sleeves and fight, because they are attacking your inheritance! Don’t you dare touch my inheritance!! The inheritance that Christ has bought and sovereign grace has applied. This is in accordance with the divine will and agenda.

What is the focus of the divine predestination? Verse 5 tells us that God is the focus of this predestination. Since God is God this makes perfect sense. If he was not God then this would be ridiculous…but he is God therefore it is perfectly sensible. God being supreme in his person and actions is perfectly eligible to receive the ultimate honor and glory.

What is the basis of the election? Verse 5 tells us that he does this according to the kind intention of his will, or as in other passages translating this Greek word, this is done in accordance to his own good pleasure. God gets pleasure in predestination, why are people so upset about it? God receives pleasure in this grand doctrine, why don’t you? At the end of the day God does this for his own pleasure because he likes it. God predestines because he likes to. If you do not like predestination then know that you are fundamentally disagreeing with that which explicitly gives God pleasure.

So why is anyone saved? It is clear that it is not because we choose God but that he chooses his sheep, even before the foundation of the world. There is no free will. Free will is as much of a fictional truth as the fictional movie Free Willy! We have a bound will. Read Romans 6. We love sin and find so many creative ways to sin. If anyone is saved it is because of the sovereign elective grace of God. If there is no election there is no salvation.

Part II will be continued next week.

Application Questions………………………………………………..

-1- Ephesians 1 is one of the supreme explosions of praise in the Bible. However, it is also one of the most theological. Why must biblical praise be connected with correct doctrine?

 

-2- In light of Ephesians 1 and Paul’s response, what would you say to someone who stated that theology is not practical? In other words, what is the practical application of the theology expressed here.

 

-3- In verse four of Ephesians chapter one we see that God has actively chosen his saints. What reaction does this reality bring in your heart? Do you like the doctrine of divine election? Why or why not? How do your preferences line up with God’s?

 

-4- Could any ever be saved (holy & blameless v.4) if God did not elect and predestine sinners to salvation? Why or why not?

 

-5-There is little doubt that Paul’s understanding and appreciation of these theological truths fueled his praise. What can you do to enhance and sustain your own amazement and delight in the God who gave his only Son to redeem sinners like yourself?





The Fruit of Preaching

21 06 2006

red-sign.jpg

This past weekend we moved into a new church building. God has seen fit to grow Omaha Bible Church through various stages, in which we met in homes, high schools, community centers and most recently a former K-Mart. During our recent move we had hundreds of folks working tirelessly in coordinating and accomplishing the transfer of the ‘stuff’ from the old church building to the new. It was so encouraging to consider that every drop of sweat and every box that was packed was initiated by God’s goodness and brought about through the faithful exposition of the word of God.

As Ephesians 4 tells us pastor-teachers are to edify, or build up believers for the work of service. The means by which this is done is the preaching and teaching of the word. We are motivated to serve because of the intentional presentation of the truth of Scripture as applied to the affections by the Holy Spirit. We serve because we want to be more like our Master, who defines true greatness as wearing the apron of humility (Mark 10.43-45; cf. also 1 Pet. 5.5).

I love the preaching of the word, not the preaching about the word, or the preaching around the word…but the faithful exposition and unpacking of the divine syllables. To faithfully hold forth the words of God to the children of God is to endeavor to make them more like the Son of God. What a glorious privilege it is to sit under the preached word to have it spoken by one who has studied what God has himself spoken! When these words of God are preached believers begin to look more like Christ.

Join me in thankfulness to God for the privilege of having our hearts affected to love and serve Christ more through the medium of preaching. Keep your eyes peeled for fruit and rejoice in God’s goodness and wisdom.





Unity in the Church

19 06 2006

[Included here are sermon notes & application questions from this past Sunday morning at Omaha Bible Church]

It is good to talk about unity. Not so much because we are experiencing disunity, but because we are experiencing the evidences of grace in our midst. The reality of things is that if you are around other believers, specifically here at Omaha Bible Church, you will be wronged and will probably wrong others, because as saved as we are, we still are not living in the perfection that is coming when we are glorified.

So in this section we’ll consider four conclusions concerning Christian unity from the book of Philippians.

1. Unity is a biblical mandate (V.27)

Here is a bold strong charge from the Scriptures to get along, to conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ (v.27). This is a charge to not allow small, insignificant, inconsequential disagreements hinder the prominent charge of the passage to pursue the furtherance and amplification of the glory of God.

Unity is a major artery in the biblical philosophy of ministry. It is critical that we are willfully devoted to standing firm, striving together for the gospel.

2. Christian unity is not an end in and of itself (V.27d)

It is not just that we are united for unity’s sake, but when you read the passage, the emphasis is not upon just getting together and not arguing, but rather, the emphasis is upon being united for the furtherance of the gospel!

If we find ourselves focusing on unity as the main objective and end then we find ourselves in the marginalization of the cross of Jesus. The unity that God demands here is unity that huddles around the cross only to promote and defend the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Unity that is not centered upon the cross will promote passivity in ministry. Disengaged passivity promotes grumbling and discontentment, which will bring about division! There is something about being so fixed upon the cross and its promotion that tends to drown out the rivaling agendas who would compete with the gospel.

3. Christian Unity is never at the expense of the gospel

In chapter 3.1ff the Apostle warns the believers who were just called to unity to watch out for the dogs! These guys here are those who compromise the gospel, they are false teachers who put confidence in the flesh (Phil. 3.3ff) and so therefore undermine Christ. Here believers are exhorted to be unified against such folks. The Christian unity that is prescribed is not at the expense of the gospel. We are about promoting and defending the gospel, this is our goal!

There is a religious unity that is sinful (2 Cor. 6.14). If we are uniting ourselves with folks who do not believe the gospel of Christ then we are in sin. Christians are not to join in spiritual endeavors with unbelievers, they are to evangelize unbelievers!

4. Christian Unity is built on Christ like Humility

In chapter 2 of Philippians the Apostle Paul pleads with his hearers to apply this truth of striving together for the gospel, specifically to: be of the same mind, maintain the same love, be united in spirit, intent on one purpose (which would be the gospel (1.27ff), be selfless, while humbly considering the interests of one another as more important than yourself!

And what is the basis? It is all of Christ!! The illustration here is of the greatest promoter of the gospel, the gospel himself, the evangel himself, the Lord Jesus Christ! He was wronged by others, those close to him, he was rejected and betrayed, and he still loved and saved his people!

So therefore we as Christians are called to follow their master in setting aside rights, wearing humility, magnifying obedience even unto death for the sake of the glory and magnification of God!

Application questions………………………………………………………..

-1- According to chapter Philippians 1, what are Christians to uniquely and supremely strive together to promote & defend?

-2- Why are Christians to unite and “lock arms” for this purpose?

-3- What is the inevitable result of neglecting the gospel as your main focus?

-4- Identify ways in which you are actively striving together for the main thing as identified in v.27.

-5- What is the providential affect of fixing Christ in our minds as the measuring stick of humility and faithfulness in ministry?

-6- How was Jesus committed to the gospel in his earthly ministry?

-7- In the upcoming days, how can you be more like Christ in your interaction with others (cf. Phil. 2.1ff)?





Worship God Live

15 06 2006

worship-god.jpgI recently received a copy of Worship God Live a cd put out by the music ministry of Sovereign Grace. The cd is a live recording of two day celebration at Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, MD.

If you are a fan of Sovereign Grace’s previous releases you will enjoy Worship God Live. The cd maintains its commitment to biblically sound, Christ-exalting, heart stirring lyrics. Consider the following exerpts:

from “Endless Praises”:

Look upon this wondrous sight

Foul sinners clothed in white

With the righteousness of Christ

All our guilt is washed away

Every debt we owed is paid

How astounding is this grace

From “Jesus Thank You”

The mystery of the cross

I cannot comprehend

The agonies of Calvary

You the perfect Holy One

Crushed Your Son

Drank the bitter cup

Reserved for me

Additionally, Bob Kauflin and company have updated the sound of some great songs from yesteryear. God our Help in Ages Past by Isaac Watts and God Moves by William Cowper are both well done.

worshipers.jpgAs a Christian I love the truth, so therefore, I love music that exalts the truth. I can remember studying to preach on Romans 3 and just having the lyrics of songs like Jesus Thank You floating around in concert with the text. This was simply awesome. Songs that sing truth serve as an able auxiliary in our meditation and devotion. The Worship God Live cd is a musical friend that comes to encourage saints to love the Savior with increased zeal, delight and devotion each day. I am thankful that the Lord is pleased to give the church gifts such as these to stir genuine affections for Christ.