Monthly Archives: July 2010
I liken the current election cycle to the World Cup; even if you don’t want to embrace it or like it, you have to care about it because it is everywhere. In some states the streets are littered with signs endorsing a bevy of candidates. If you turn on the television, you get bombarded with an array of commercials. On a side note, I wonder how much good could done with all the money spent on campaigns? Maybe someone could pass a law saying whatever is spent on a campaign must also be applied to paying off the deficit. Many people try to ignore the whole spectacle and they express their apathy or disdain for the political process by not voting. Some say that we should vote because it is a privilege of freedom that has come as a result of the price of brave men and women who died to give us the opportunity to be represented. Currently, there seems to be a trend among Christians, especially among young adults, that politics and faith should have little or nothing to do with each other. One prominent writer expressed it this way, “When you mix politics and religion you get politics.” So what about Bible and politics? Does the Bible have anything to say about voting and what our involvement should be when primaries and general elections force their way into our minds?
It seems to me that the Bible does give us a framework by which we can think about politics and make decisions on how to vote in a way that both honors God and is loving toward others (even when we are voting for “the lesser of two evils”). God and the human authors don’t dismiss politics and government in the Bible as unimportant, because all of life is important. God is not apathetic. The Bible shows that right thinking about God through Jesus leads to right thinking about all of life.
Here are eight convictions that I try to act on as it relates to the Bible and voting. I am willing to critique and change a lot of what I have written below, but the one thing that I am not willing to do is to be brain dead and apathetic about my responsibility as a disciple of Christ when it comes to any part of life, including politics and voting.
- Rights and advantages provided by God through government and politics can be used for the gospel and for justice toward others. Paul in Acts used his Roman citizenship to advance the gospel by appealing to Caesar (Acts 25:11-12). Paul’s goal was to go to Rome and beyond to share the gospel and it was his appeal as a Roman citizen to go to Caesar that God used to get him there. Additionally, Paul is largely silent in regards to slavery, but says in 1 Corinthians 7:21-22 that if a slave is able to become free they should do so. Paul used what was available to him and others when appropriate to his greater mission, the gospel.
- This doesn’t mean we ought to act like idiots. As has been pointed out by others, it is harmful to the cause of Christ and Christians to hold up hateful signs and write hateful notes and rail against politicians and people in the name of Christ. Christ did not do this, nor did Paul or any of the other writers of the New Testament. We can disagree with people strongly, but we ought to do so with love and tact.
- We ought to have a biblical framework of priority by which we vote. We are Christians first and Americans second. We are Christ-followers first and then members of a political party. We are loyal to Jesus not people or political systems or ideas. So again, we ought to vote biblically, but now we encounter a problem because the Bible talks about caring for the alien, the widow and the fatherless. It talks about caring for least of these; it talks about caring for the sick, the old, the poor and the defenseless. There are a lot of people like this in the world today and even in the United States. So how does a person vote when in the U.S. we have two parties and one party says it is more sympathetic to lower income families and those who need “safety net programs” and the other party says it is more pro-family and pro-life. How does a person vote? In short, my own personal conviction is that God values people because they were created in His image and His likeness. People are the crowning achievement of God’s creation. Genesis 9:1-7 says that if a person takes the life of a person his life will be demanded, which shows the importance of life. It shows that life is not trivial. So God as creator values life. The primary purpose of government is to protect people from enemies both domestic and foreign (See also Romans 13:1-7). Therefore, government ought to protect the lives of all people, but since there are those persons who are more vulnerable or poor, namely unborn babies, who have no way of protecting themselves, then I can’t vote for anyone who won’t protect the most vulnerable in society. If a person can’t protect unborn life, then how can I expect they are going to protect my family from terrorist or any kind of lawlessness? So one candidate might be better for the middle-class and the disadvantaged, and they might even be better for the economy, but these are secondary issues for me personally as I try to have a framework of priority based on the Bible and the role of government. (This is a rather over-simplified example that is worthy of more explanation.)
- We should vote as though we weren’t voting. Click on this link to read John Piper’s application of 1 Corinthians 7:29-31 Let Christians vote as though they were not voting.
- Realize the benefit of being politically informed as opposed to politically ignorant. It probably isn’t a good idea to watch hours of FOX News, CNN or CSPAN, but it is a good idea to watch some news and read a little of the newspaper so that the next time you are out “going” and meet someone you can use something popular like politics to talk about the hope you have in Jesus (1 Peter 3:15). A lot of people might not care about Jesus or see him as relevant to an election, but perhaps engaging people where they are will turn into an opportunity for the good news of Jesus to be shared in a considerate and loving way.
- Remember that God is sovereign and supreme over everything, including politics. I often say things like this and then wonder how it is true, but the Bible is clear that God reigns over the good and the bad and that somehow he uses undesirable things to bring about good things. In Romans 12:14-13:17 Paul gives instruction to bless those who persecute you (12:14) and then in 13:1 says that God establishes governments and there is no authority except that which is from God. These statements give me cause to pause because historically we know that it is the government that does the persecuting. Tradition holds that Paul was executed by Nero, the emperor of Rome. God put or allowed Nero to be in power and Nero killed Paul. We may not like what we get on election day, but God is in control and we ought to respond and live like it is true, because it is, lest we resist God himself (Romans 13:2).
- God will one day right every wrong by every person, including politicians. Paul tells us that it is not our place to carry out vengeance because that is God’s to do because He alone is just (Romans 12:19). I must trust God and His promises by living responsibly and warning people about the wrath to come for those who are not in Christ Jesus (Revelation 19:11-16). No politician or government can save a person from their sin, so let everyone of us who believes in Jesus use politics as an opportunity to advance the kingdom of God as is fitting and to love others with the truth that Jesus died for all who would call upon the name of the Lord while they are sinners.
- Morality can be imposed outwardly by law but it can’t change a person’s nature. I think this is what William Wilberforce (1759-1833) meant when he said,
The fatal habit of considering Christian morals as distinct from Christian doctrines insensibly gained strength. Thus the peculiar doctrines of Christianity went more and more out of sight, and as might naturally have been expected, the moral system itself also began to wither and decay, being robbed of that which should have supplied it with life and nutriment.
Wilberforce was right to think that a person’s righteous behavior is the outflow of a changed heart and right thinking. We can tell people they ought not to kill babies or steal from the poor, but until they know why and are changed from the inside-out, morals will only wither and decay. Lasting morality is the result of a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17), and unless God changes the hearts and minds of people we are only delaying the inevitable reality of eternal separation from God.
But let us not think that the fight for justice and morality is wrong or unwarranted. We certainly would not write off the efforts of a man like Wilberforce as stupid or pointless. After all, Wilberforce gave his life to the abolition of the slave trade in Great Britain from 1787 to 1833. He was defeated in this attempt eleven times and only gained the decisive victory three days before he died in 1833. But he is right, low morality comes not from lack of laws but from not having the heart changed by the power of the gospel.
So vote. Exercise rights and privileges that so many in this world long for in the ability to vote, but foremost put your hope in God through Jesus. He is the one the brings lasting change and justice to every person who believes.
This is my best effort for now to create a quick help sheet for the lay person to help interpret the Bible. Some of it may not make sense because it is a summation of a six week class that I taught at the church, but some of it may help immensely as you seek to rightly divide the precious word of truth (2 Timothy 2:2).
“And when they arrived in Berea, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.” Acts 17:10-11
1.) Necessary and Helpful Resources
- The Holy Spirit – Unsaved and Spiritless people will not understand the Bible.
- John 16:12-15; Ephesians 1:13; 1 Corinthians 2:14-16
- A good Bible translation – It is helpful to have a good word-for-word Bible.
- NASB; ESV or NKJ
- ESV Study Bible and www.bible.org (Net Bible)
- An Expositional Preacher. A pastor who preaches through the word of God instead of around it will model for you how to interpret the word of God.
2.) A Necessary Start
- Pray – rightly understanding and applying requires dependence on God.
- Psalms 119:18; Ephesians 1:18-19
- Discipline yourself to make Time. Being Godly doesn’t just happen.
- 1 Timothy 4:6-10 (keep disciplining yourself).
- Wrap your life around the Bible, not the Bible around your life.
- Read the Bible Passionately. God wants to be known, so read like it.
- Psalm 119:1-176
- The Bible is the only revelation unto salvation Rom. 10:14-17
3.) Narrow the possibilities
- Does my interpretation and application result in God being glorified through Christ? God is the end. 1 Corinthians 10:31; Matthew 5:16; Peter 4:11
- Does my interpretation fit the meta-narrative (big picture from Genesis to Revelation) of God redeeming a changed people for the praise of His glory? Ephesians 2:8-10
- Would my interpretation offend the Holy Spirit and the human author?
- At that time, what did the author mean and readers understand?
4.) Some Basic Rules of Interpretation
- Context. Did I consider the context of the whole book and the surrounding text?
- We must have a relentless pursuit of the big picture to see the small details.
- Backgrounds. What can be known about the imagery, history and audience of a text?
- Study Bibles, Commentaries and seasoned Bible students will help here.
- Purpose. What is the author’s overall purpose for writing? Ex. John 20:30-31
- Conjunctions. These little words are the glue and clues that hold God’s word together.
- Scripture interprets Scripture. We should never build a doctrine on an obscure verse.
- We should take the clearest meaning with most scriptural support.
- Back up to Certainty. If we can’t come to a clear interpretation, we should back up and say what we can say for certain about the meaning of the text. Don’t force your hunch.
- Interpreter Awareness and Humility. A good interpreter knows they have biases and presuppositions.
- Interpret for transformation. God’s Spirit uses God’s word to transform, not just inform.
Someone once asked me, “Do we really need to be taking so much time to know whether or not someone is a Christian? If someone says they are a Christian shouldn’t we affirm that and preach the gospel to the lost? Isn’t that what Jesus came to do, was seek and save the lost?”
Yes, of course that is what Jesus came to do and we should therefore preach to the lost too, but if the lost are the ones who think they are Christians, then we have a responsibility to preach to the lost “Christian” as well. Jesus preached to those who looked like the real deal. In Matthew 7:21-23, Jesus surprises us by saying that people who look like Christians are people He never knew. These posers call Jesus Lord, proclaim truth (prophesy) in Jesus name, cast out demons and perform miracles. Few churches today would walk away from a pastor or lay person who did extraordinary things like these. This passage is a warning to us that hypocrisy is so deceitful that we might even fool ourselves into thinking we are something we are not. There will be people who will emphatically call out to Jesus, “Lord, Lord!” and it will bring them no benefit. There is a context to this passage, but the fact remain that looks can be deceiving, and superficial assumptions can be forever deadly.
That is a scary and sobering thought.
Paul affirmed that professing Christians should be careful not to assume their standing before God when he implored the Corinthians to examine themselves to see whether they were in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5).
We might even say that a person who does not examine their life is likely spiritually dead since they have no concern for their own soul. Maybe this is one of the reasons that so few people attempt to share the gospel, after all, why would a person share the gospel with another soul when they don’t care about their own?
Given our cultural Christianity, I think the question as to whether a person is really a Christian or not is one of the most important considerations of our time and place. Almost every one in Oklahoma is a self-professed Christian. I’ve met very few people who don’t think they are going to heaven. Additionally, the unqualified statement of “once saved, always saved” has only proven to exacerbate the danger of this deadly deception. I absolutely believe in the security of the obedient and persevering believer (John 10:22-30). But I don’t believe it without evidence that the Spirit indwells and empowers a person to produce fruit that verifies a person’s standing before God (Galatians 5:22, 1 John 3:23-24).
Here is an article about Jonathan Edwards and 5 ways to know that you have the joy of being a true Christian. We can know that we are Christians (1 John 5:13) because the Bible tells us so, but it doesn’t mean we need to be naive or presumptuous about something so important. We need biblical check points like the ones in this article. Read it and examine yourself. Your soul hangs in the balance. 5 Ways to Know……
Sunday was an exciting day for our church. The youth were back from Fall’s Creek and many of them experienced some sort of gospel stimulus, and hopefully growth, as they were a part of a very intentional and intense week. Also we started a new sermon series called, “Why the Church Matters”.
Against the Flow – Let the Fight Begin
Fall’s creek isn’t always an easy week. For some students it is painfully hard as they cling to sin and rebellion against God and His moral standard. For the youth leaders it can also be a very trying week as they go non-stop, sharing their lives and time with students to make the most of every moment. Fall’s Creek and camps like it can be very useful in saturating students with the word of God so that the Holy Spirit can operate on their unbelief.
But Fall’s Creek isn’t real life. I’m not saying the experience of Fall’s Creek wasn’t real, but real life is going home to the day in and day out environment that cultivates the distractions and attitudes and actions that keep us from loving God and obeying His word. Emotion and the good feelings of having a good week will only take you so far in obeying Jesus. Obedience is an act of the will that results in emotions such as joy. Waiting to feel the right thing or action based on feelings will only lead to denying the clear moral standard of God. We must commit to see that God always has our best in mind in calling us to obey His commands and once we see that and obey, the Spirit will produce in us the fruit of joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, etc (Galatians 5:22). But we must walk in step with the Spirit. How do you do that? You obey the commands the Spirit inspired in the word of God.
This is the fight that our students have come back to. They must fight everyday to believe that obedience to God’s word is for God’s glory and their joy.
As the body of Christ, let’s pray that our youth will latch on to, and anchor their hearts and minds on one biblical truth they heard at Fall’s Creek, so that they can fight to obey because they know that God spoke to them and changed them through His word.
Do You Beat Yourself Up?
Yesterday in episode one of “Why the Church Matters”, we began talking about the church by understanding what Jesus had to say about the church. In Matthew 16:13-20, and especially verse 18, we saw that the church is God’s plan to advance the Kingdom and His plan will not fail. We also saw in the text that the church is Jesus’ possession. Jesus said, “On this rock I will build “my” church and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. Why is the church Jesus’ possession? Because He bought it with His blood. This has many implications about how we think about the church and treat the church. Do we see the church as our possession, or as belonging to Christ? Do we have an entitlement mentality, or do we seek to serve each other the way Christ served us with His life and death? Do we have a deep sense of humility knowing that God, through Jesus, has chosen the church as part of his plan to get the gospel to every tribe, tongue and nation.
Do we beat Jesus up when we slap the church around because we don’t like something about the people that make up the church?
The church is the body of Christ (Ephesians 5:31). We are His body and we are connected to Jesus who is the head. If we are truly in Christ we are connected to others who are in Christ. When we beat up others who are in Christ, we inflict pain and suffering on ourselves and those who Christ bought with His own blood. When we beat up the body of Christ, the church, we also beat Christ up. To trash the church is a no-win situation, and we ought to ask, “Hasn’t Christ suffered enough?” Didn’t Christ endure enough suffering on the cross when He bought us with His blood so that we would be His own possession for the praise of God’s glory. Do we really need to ridicule Christ more by ridiculing our brothers and sisters in Christ when we don’t agree with them on church matters? Why are we so slow to forgive as Christ forgave us, but so quick to be critical of others. Honestly, this is something I need to constantly ask myself. I’m guilty of bludgeoning myself and Christ with my hasty and critical words about those he died to save. Do you take the time to consider the church from this perspective? If I did and if we did, maybe we would be a lot slower to inflict pain on others in Christ because the light bulb would come on that we are hurting ourselves and Christ – again. And sadly, when we do this we restrict unbelievers from seeing Christ. Jesus said that one of the ways that we display the value of following Jesus is by loving each other. By this all men will know that we are His disciples (John 13:35).
This Will Be A Challenging Sermon Series
The topic of the church is more complex than I first thought, which only affirms in my mind why we need this sermon series. We must think biblically about the church to live obediently toward the church and as the church. We might think rightly and live in disobedience, but we will never think erroneously about the church and live obediently to God’s command. We must think right to live right and pray that God gives us the strength to do what we know we ought to for God’s glory and our joy. After all, the church most certainly matters because it is God’s plan that will not fail and the church is Jesus’ possession and body. I hope we come away with a clear idea about what the church fundamentally is and therefore what it does.
My Wife is on Mission to the Nations
I am so thankful for my wife’s (Lacey) example to go to the nations. I said Sunday, “We will not be fully invested in the mission of Jesus until we go to the nations on mission for Jesus.” I pray her example, and the example of the other three women who she went with, will challenge all people to go and give at least one week to Jesus away from Stillwater.
I admit I was momentarily resistant to the original thought of Lacey going to a place that is eleven and a-half hours away. But God holds my wife in His sovereign hand and no matter what happens, He is good and knows what is best for Lacey, my children and me. Lacey is in the grasp of a good and sovereign God (John 10) and that is all I need to know to be glad in Jesus.
A Statement I Like
Today I was in a meeting from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. I listened a lot and learned a lot about many things. Most people in ministry have certain sayings they are fond of repeating. One sister in Christ said today that she regularly says, “Every revelation is an invitation to adjust.” I like that. It is true, every time we read or hear the word of God, it is an invitation/opportunity to the obey for our Joy in Christ. When you read the Bible and hear the Bible taught, do you think of it as an invitation by God to let the Holy Spirit teach you and empower you to obey for your joy – for your good? The Bible is joy waiting to happen as we read it and hear it and obey it.
Of course, you do have to read it and hear it. We often can’t respond to the invitation because we don’t know about the revelation.
Christianity Today tweeted a link to this article, “Undercover Among the Evangelicals”, that summarizes and critiques the story and conclusions of an unbeliever who posed as a Christian for a year at Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Virginia. In the Land of Believers tells the story of Gina Welch who began her investigation of evangelicals in 2005 by being baptized, and she even led someone in “the sinner’s prayer” on a mission trip to Alaska.
I was fascinated and intrigued having read the article about Welch’s discoveries, but after a moment of contemplation I decided that I was not surprised. Welch thinks that evangelicals are nice but don’t know how to think. I am not surprised at all that she would think that. To begin with, I don’t expect an unbelieving person who is without the Holy Spirit to understand the necessity or the power of the cross of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:10-16). However, she is probably right that most evangelicals don’t know how to think, and unfortunately they don’t know how to think about life through the lens of the Bible as the Spirit guides them-if they are in fact sealed by the Spirit at all, since they care so little to think about and understand the message of Jesus.
Besides telling an intriguing story by which we as Christians can see the sense in some of her conclusions, we must also realize that she clearly doesn’t understand all of which she writes about, and maybe this in itself is a helpful take away. Christians have some serious flaws that create stigmas and barriers to the gospel (Read the article to see what I mean), but we can’t expect the world to help us understand why we seem so backward when the fact is that we are always looking back 2000 years to a piece of wood on which the Son of God bore our sins in His body. We have to look back to the cross before we can look forward to the hope of heaven. Francis Chan is right, “Something is wrong when our lives make sense to unbelievers.” And after all, why would I expect my thinking and life to make sense to an unbeliever when an unbelievers life makes no sense to me. As a Christian I wonder, “How can they not see their wretched sin against a holy God and their need for the mediator, Jesus Christ?”
So read the article and learn what you can about the way unbelievers see true Christians. Surely there are some ways that all of us individually can contextualize our thinking and lives without adjusting the gospel, but you shouldn’t be surprised to learn that that no matter what we do as those who believe in Christ, unbelievers will still say that we don’t know how to think.
All sin is a perversion of God’s goodness. That means that evil can, and often does look good. Responsibility for instance, is a good thing. In the beginning God gave the first humans a garden to cultivate; a job to do. But what if Adam would have decided to plant his own garden outside of the garden God had graciously given? The message Adam would have been sending would have been that he doesn’t really need God and the goodness of God’s provision because he can do it on his own. (The real creation story and fall is not so different than this hypothetical story.) At first that looks like initiative and being responsible for his own livelihood. It looks like he is growing up and thinking for himself. If this would have actually happened, at least some of us would have applauded Adam’s “you can do it” attitude.
No one can do it on their own. No one can make their own goodness a part from God. God is the source of all that is good and right in the universe and in His goodness, He often has to rescue us from ourselves because left to our sinful desires we take the good things of this world and make them idols. We take created things and make them the end of our affections. So often we worship the created and the means, and not the creator.
How do we avoid this deceptive perversion?
We must see our condition and the world through the lens of God’s word. In the third Psalm (Ps. 3) David is crying out for God’s provision to deliver him from his adversaries. Crying out to God is vintage David and we are used to it and so there is cause for pause to be reminded why this is remarkable. Let’s grab some perspective by reflecting on some of the life of King David. Isn’t David an accomplished warrior who has killed bears and lions as a shepherd boy? Isn’t this the same David who slew a giant with a sling and stone as a young man? Isn’t this the man that the Bible describes as a person who is after God’s own heart? Isn’t this the man who won many battles against many armies and in doing so extended the territory of Israel?
It is in fact the same David, and yet, we read that he cried out to God in verse 3 and acknowledged that it is God who is his shield of protection and the one who lifts his head. In verse 5 David says it is God who gives him the protection to sleep. David exclaims in verse 7 and 8 that it is God who strikes his enemies and ultimately gives him blessing and salvation.
After all the ways that God has blessed David, it would be easy for David to say, “I got this one and I can handle whatever comes.” If we are to keep from perverting the good things that God has instilled in us we must first realize that there is no good thing a part from God. We can’t do it on our own. We can’t pull ourselves up by our boot straps. Before God can deliver us from our sin and enemies, He must first deliver each one of us from ourselves and the pride that is the root of all the evil that springs from our thoughts and actions.
We would do well to admit everyday that we are hopeless left to ourselves. We would do well to pray to God for help and deliverance from our pride. We must see all of life through the lens of scripture and come to grips with the fact that a part from God’s good and perfect provision there is no goodness to be had.
Unless we come to the point of seeing we are nothing and can do nothing a part from God, then we will not humble ourselves and we will not truly value the gospel of Jesus Christ. We will always revert back to: “I can make it.” If we can make it, then what is the point of the life and death of Jesus? Everyday is a day to surrender to God and His ways. Only then can we be delivered from our delusional and hopeless self-sufficiency.
This is my 100th post on this particular blog (Now called A Means to an End). I have written probably over 200 total entries on Facebook and an additional blog that was lost to the great unknowns of Internet Space, but this is somewhat of a milestone for me to have posted 100 web logs as a means to seeing the rule and reign of King Jesus come to earth as it is in heaven.
WHY I WRITE
- I write because it helps me to think and shape my own thoughts for my good and the good of others. Writing sometimes comes easy and other times it is very hard, but either way it helps me to be careful with words and to try to craft thoughts that will encourage obedience to the gospel for myself and those who read what I have written. I have a strong conviction that we are to be very particular with our words, even though I often fail at being word precise. The Bible is a collection of purposeful and carefully chosen words, and I want to model in my writing and speaking that words are important because words are the way that God has chosen to communicate to us that He loves us and has a plan to redeems us through Jesus Christ. Additionally, I was told as an undergrad that those who write well are more prone to speak well. That makes good sense to me. After all, if I can’t put complete and compelling thoughts on paper when I have time to think and edit, how then am I going to speak clearly and persuasively when my mind is in overdrive on Sunday Morning? Writing is practicing to speak.
- I write to model biblical thinking. After much thought I named this blog, A Means to and End, and I did so because I want all that I write to be for the purpose of persuading others to see the Kingdom of God as the end for all of our thinking, living and speaking. I write about many topics, but all that I write about is an effort to try to see life through the lens of the scripture. If any person is ever to die to sin and live to righteousness (1 Peter 2:24) they must be trained to think rightly about God to live rightly for God. I want to model that for others.
- I write to pastor and teach beyond the Sunday Sermon. As the preaching/teaching pastor of our church I have once time a week to preach/teach to our people. I can’t control who reads what is written anymore than I can control who gathers on Sunday, but by writing I am giving people an opportunity to be taught at a time other than our Sunday gathering.
- I write for clarification. As I reflect on what I said on Sunday, blogging helps me to clear up ideas I might have been unclear about in the sermon. Blogging allows me a certain degree of hindsight editing.
TWO CONCERNS I HAVE ABOUT THE COOPERATIVE PROGRAM (CP)
Yesterday we had Sam Porter from the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma come in and talk about the CP and all the good things that God is doing and has done because like-minded churches share resources to advance the gospel. I am thankful for the CP and all that we accomplish together that we would be less likely to accomplish as individual people and churches. However, as with all good things the CP has a couple of ditches that I want to steer clear of when we advertise it and talk about it.
First, I want to make sure that we understand the CP for what is; a means to an end. We must be careful that we don’t make the CP the point of our efforts. God is the point of all our striving. We give to the CP for the advancement of the gospel, not to sustain structures. If the CP does not enable us to advance the gospel, then we should be willing to dismantle it. If we begin to talk like the CP is the only way God is going to reach the nations then we will have made the CP savior and god. Let’ s be careful that we are thankful that God uses the CP without talking and living like it is the glory of God.
Second, I am always concerned that giving to the CP will produce disobedience to the GC (Great Commission). If any person thinks that giving to the CP lets them off the hook to be on mission for God, then they don’t understand the Bible or the CP. Let me be clear, it is not the CP’s fault that people drive into either of these ditches, but they do. Every Christian must constantly be examining their attitudes and motives about good things, because even good things like the CP can become the idols of mindlessness.
“METHODOLOGICAL CONSENSUS IS GONE”
This is something that has been filtering through my mind in response to a conversation I have had with several different people over the last week.
Danny Akin, President of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary had this to say about methodological preferences, “The day of methodological consensus is gone, it is gone and it is not coming back. Can we unite around an infallible and inerrant Bible…….?” To answer his question, “We must!” If we are to escape the trap of needlessly disagreeing and causing generational divisions over what we like as opposed to disagreeing over what is prescriptively true, we must biblically grasp what is thoroughly true and necessary. Once we firmly understand the difference between preference and what is biblically non-negotiable, then we can begin to examine our motives and attitudes to see whether we have legitimate biblical concerns or merely selfish desires for our way. But we must make the distinction of what is Bible and the preference we covet. Liking our music, or order of service, or Sunday morning clothes a certain way is no sin, but liking our way so much that we seek only our own good instead of serving the greater good, most certainly is. There must be a strong desire in every person of every age to make the truth our priority. Then we must decide how we are going to take the truth of the gospel to a changing world. And then each person must decide whether or not they are going to live for the Kingdom by serving others and putting the needs of others first.
There are those who don’t like Mark Driscoll for this or that reason, but you can’t fault him in this video for rightly explaining some very important biblical doctrines. This last Sunday I preached on our need to cherish the righteousness of Christ that is credited to our account in order for us to stand against sin and fight to be free of it. Rightly understanding imputation of righteousness can be used by the Holy Spirit to change our lives in so many ways, as we live to righteousness because of what Jesus accomplished on the cross. In the video Driscoll talks about imputation, but also expiation and substitutionary atonement as it relates to how Jesus cleans us. This is worth the seven minutes.
“Be killing sin or it will be killing you.” John Owen
Sin Is Vicious and Violent
Mike Tyson had a reputation of being vicious person and fighter. Tyson, a former heavy weight champion in boxing, once said about one of his opponents, “I am going to rip your heart out and eat your children.” Sounds vicious, violent and cruel doesn’t it? The Apostle Peter pleaded followers of Christ in 1 Peter 2:11 to recognize how vicious and violent sin can be when he wrote, “Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul.” Mike Tyson might bite your ear off and knock you out as quick as an eye can blink, but as mean and as violent as Tyson was in boxing and in life, only sin against a perfect and infinite God will land you in an eternal place called Hell.
Sin is Horrible Because God is Perfect
If we are to fight the sin that wages war against our soul we must understand how horrible and destructive sin really is. We can only know how horrible sin is by growing in our understanding of how perfect and holy God is. So we must strike the balance in thinking about and dwelling on our sin, but also recognizing that sin is what it is because there is a God who is everything that sin is not.
Sin Violently Assaults Us So We Must Daily Tear It Out of Our Lives
Once we see God for who He is and therefore sin for what it is, we can then recognize that sin will never quit warring against our soul, at least on this side of heaven. Sin is oppressive and persistent. It is tyrannical and it will wrap itself around you like a large snake and squeeze the life out of you. Sin will destroy your life and rob you of your freedom of joy and make you miserable. Sin will keep you from loving God’s glory, which is the best thing for you and others. There is nothing good about sin. You can’t pacify sin or appease it. Sin cannot be treated flippantly or underestimated. If we really want to fight it we must grab it by the throat daily and be killing it so that it does not kill us. I think this violent and aggressive fight against our fleshly lusts is what Jesus had in mind when He said in Matthew 5:29, “If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for your to lose one part of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.” Jesus does not want us to physically hurt ourselves or others, but what Jesus is advocating is a “take no prisoners mentality” when it comes to the fleshly desires that cause us to hurt God, ourselves and others. Tear out your sin and throw it out so you don’t get thrown into hell.
To Fight Sin, Dwell Deep on Aspects of the Atonement
Whether we are fighting the temptation to sin or fighting to overcome the guilt of sin, we never outgrow the atonement of Jesus. By Christ’s atonement I am simply referring to all the work that Christ did in his life and death to earn our salvation. There are many aspects of the atonement but one that has bore much fruit for me in my fight against sin is the imputation of righteousness. When God justifies us by declaring us righteous by our faith in Christ, there is a transaction by which God sees Christ’s righteousness as belonging to us and therefore causes it to be credited to our account and belong to us. Philippians 3:9 (See also 1 Cor. 1:30-31) makes it crystal clear that we have no righteousness of our own, but by faith in Christ, God imputes to us the righteousness of Christ. We did not earn this righteousness, Jesus did with His perfect life (2 Cor. 5:21), but we are the recipients of it and when God looks on us He does not see our sin and guilt, but perfect righteousness. What a life-changing thought!
If we would only dwell on this and sink the roots of our faith in Christ deep into his life and work on the cross, we would find a firm foundation to stand on in our fight against sin. For example, as we continue to trust in Christ for the forgiveness of our sins we would realize that there is no longer any condemnation for those in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1) because we are righteous in Christ with His righteousness. Additionally, when we realize what we have in Christ, how could we sin against the King of Universe who has done and given us so much. How much more would we love Him if we understood the depths of what Jesus accomplished for us on the cross. Yes, He saved us, but the intricacies of that salvation have so many applications for our fight against sin. So when we fall, we repent, but we stand on Christ the solid rock knowing that we are righteous in Him. You were completely unrighteous with no hope of earning righteousness (Romans 3:9-18), but by grace through faith in Christ, you are righteous to stand before the throne of God above with a strong and perfect plea.
For more on the various aspects of the atonement, watch this video: “Atonement Q & A”
A Comment About the 4th of July and The Litany of Other Holidays We Observe
Did you know that the day after the 4th of July is, “National Turnover Day and Work-a-holics Day”? Every day is some sort of commemorative day. Some are national holidays that the government recognizes, which means that the bank and post-office are closed, among other things. Here is a list of days that usually get some sort of attention at churches when they roll around. Many of these days even get a sermon.
- New Year’s Day
- Sanctity of Life Sunday
- Valentine’s Day
- Easter (Resurrection of Jesus Christ Day)
- Graduation Day (High School and University)
- Mother’s Day
- Memorial Day
- Father’s Day
- Independence Day
- Labor Day
- Thanksgiving Day
- Christmas Day
That’s 12 days. 12 is a nice number when talking about the twelve tribes of Israel and the 12 apostles, but not for topical preaching. If I did a sermon for everyday that meant something to someone, I would have to give up 12 sermons a year – Not going to do it. We mentioned 4th of July yesterday and I am thankful, because we should be thankful for our nation’s freedom. But I am not doing a patriotic Sunday (unless there is very special reason to do so). I am committed to a sermon for Christmas, Easter and Sanctity of Life Sunday. I am thankful for my country and the men and women who have served, I love my mom and dad, I hope for the best for graduates, and I hope everyone finds and keeps that special someone, but I am committed first and foremost to the kingdom of King Jesus. We have 52 weeks a year to gather and I want to give those weeks to the most important person in the universe while being secondarily thankful for all the other good things we celebrate. Jesus is first, everybody else and thing is second. That’s a memo.
If you have it and understand it, imputed righteousness will change your life and keep changing your life.
Definition: Imputation of righteousness means that the righteousness of Christ is seen as belonging to us, or credited to our account. So a justified person by faith in Christ alone is viewed by God as being completely righteous because Jesus is righteous. It is called an alien righteousness because it is a righteousness that comes not from us but from another person, namely Jesus. It isn’t a righteousness we have earned but the righteousness that Christ has earned that is seen as ours, though not ours.
Importance: This is monumentally important because our main problem before a holy and righteous God is that we have NO righteousness (Romans 3:9-18; Romans 3:23; 1 Peter 2:25). I’ll type it again. We have no righteousness! Martin Luther, the reformer, said he hated the word righteousness because he knew God demanded it and he was not. All of our righteousness or good works are ruined because we are fundamentally sinners and have violated the moral standard of an infinitely holy God, therefore making our sins infinitely sinful toward God. For this reason, we need a perfect and infinite righteousness that satisfies the perfect and infinite standard of God. Thanks be to God for Jesus.
Application: Because of imputed righteousness you are not under the eternal wrath of God because you are seen by God as righteous. If you are justified by faith, then you are righteous. (2 Cor. 5:21) When you sin, you should feel conviction and remorse but you can read Romans 8:1 with great joy and know that God doesn’t hate you and you will therefore be spared the wrath of God that Christ absorbed. Imputed, alien righteousness helps you both fight sin and gives reason for joy because though you sin you are not condemned. So when you fall, confess it (1 John 1:9) and be glad and ask for strength to live to righteousness (1 Peter 2:24, Romans 8:1-17) that is seen as yours because Christ bought you with his body on a criminal’s tree.
Scriptural Support: Romans 4:3 and Genesis 15:6, Romans 4:6, Romans 5:17, 1 Cor. 1:30, Romans 3:21-22, 2 Cor. 5:21, Philippians 3:9
How is it that so few people in the church can articulate that they have salvation because they are righteous in Christ and are therefore no longer under condemnation.