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Archive for September, 2012

Sermon in a Sentence

This morning I had the privilege of preaching on  Genesis 14:1-24 (Abram rescues Lot and gives a tithe to Melchizedek). Here is a summary of my sermon in one sentence: True faith, which Abram exhibited, takes wise action.

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“What are your thoughts on Genesis 6:1-5, the sons of God marrying the daughters of men”? That was the question asked of R.C. Sproul, Jr. which became the subject of one of his “Kingdom Notes.” The answer he gave is good, not just because I agree with it, but because of the implications he drew from it.

Genesis 6:1-2 reads, “Now it came to pass when men began to multiply on the face of the land, and daughters were born to them, that the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful; they took wives for themselves, whomever they chose.” Verse 4 reads, “The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came into the daughters of men, and they bore children to them.” 

Sproul rejects the view that “the sons of God” were fallen angels (or demons) who had sex with women and produced a half-breed race, as do I. Then he explains what he thinks is going on in this episode:

When we consider the context of this text we can better understand what Moses is explaining. In previous chapters we are given a glimpse of two competing lines, the godly line of Seth and the wicked line of Cain. Having established the antithesis in the garden, after affirming that there would be a constant struggle between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent we are given snapshot pictures of each of these armies. We see Seth’s line about the business of exercising dominion, in submission to the Lord. We see Cain’s line dishonoring the law of God and making names for themselves. But the future is not mere coexistence between the two lines. The drama builds toward the great crisis of Noah’s flood right here in chapter 6. The great change, what creates the great downward spiral of humanity on the earth is that the two lines come together as one. That is, the godly line of Seth, the sons of God, seeing how attractive are the daughters of men, the wicked line of Cain, decide to take them as wives. The end result, however, isn’t mere dilution. It’s not that the now joined lines becomes morally lukewarm, but that evil spreads, grows, deepens. This shouldn’t surprise us for as Chuck Swindoll reminds us, if you drop a white glove in the mud, the mud doesn’t get all glovey.

What we see is salt losing its savor. We see what becomes of intermarrying not with a different race, but a different covenant, or a different faith. What we see is what happens when we are unequally yoked. Nothing, of course, has changed. When the children of God find the world attractive, when we determine to yoke ourselves to it, calamity comes. The world does not get any better, but the church, no longer a light on the hill, becomes much worse, and darkness falls  upon the land. We are no longer useful for anything and find ourselves trampled upon the ground.

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Sermon in a Sentence

This morning, I had the privilege of preaching on Genesis 13:2-18 (Abram and Lot separate from each other). Here is a summary of my sermon in one sentence: True faith has ultimate allegiance to God.

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You can’t judge a book by its cover. That’s especially true of a series of four very small books called Big Thoughts for Little Thinkers. Joey Allen has cleverly disguised them as children’s books (which they certainly are), but any adult would get a lot out of reading them.

Each book explains a single topic – the Scriptures, the gospel, the Trinity, and the mission to which God has called us. Most pages have Scripture references at the bottom for further study. The illustrations are well done and compliment the text. Allen explains each of these doctrines clearly and simply, which is no easy task.

Take these books and read them to your kids, to yourself, to your Sunday School class, to your Bible study, and to your church. If you do, you, and those who hear, will learn something which will help our growth in Christlikeness.

These books are excellent and highly recommended!

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Did Jesus Have a Wife?

A papyrus from the fourth century has been discovered that seems to suggest that Jesus was married. Was He? Did Jesus have a wife?

No, Jesus didn’t have a wife. He wasn’t married. A document from the A.D. 300’s that hasn’t been authenticated is not nearly enough to support such a claim. We have a vast number of manuscripts written within one  of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus that make no mention of Him being married (those documents carry far more weight than a single piece of papyrus written a minimum of 250 years later).

Stand to Reason has an good blog post on the subject here.

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Parents will readily admit that it’s not a good thing to favor one child over another (think of Jacob in Genesis 37). A theologian will admit that it’s not a good idea to emphasize one of God’s attributes over the others. My dilemma, as a Christian, is related to all of the promises God has made to His people.

The Bible, both Old and New Testament, is filled with “great and precious promises” (2 Pet. 1:4). But could it be that the most important one is found in Exodus 3:12? God has called Moses to deliver Israel from slavery and bondage in Egypt by going before Pharaoh. Moses asks, “Who am I, that I should go out to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt?” (Ex. 3:11) The first part of God’s answer is “Certainly I will be with you” (emphasis added). How could Moses go before Pharaoh and say, “Let My people go”? Because God would be with him.

God repeats the promise to Joshua: “No man will be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you; I will not fail or forsake you” (Joshua 1:5 – emphasis added).

God gave this promise to Gideon in Judges 6:16 – “But the LORD said to him, ‘Surely I will be with you, and you shall defeat Midian as one man” (emphasis added).

The promise is repeated by David in the Shepherd’s Psalm (23) – “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me” (v. 4 – emphasis added).

In the Great Commission, Jesus commanded the church, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:18b-20).

God promises to be with me when I fail and when I succeed. God promises to be with me in the midst of pain and disappointment. God promises to be with me when I’m afraid. God promises to be with me when I don’t understand. God promises to be with me when I obey Him even when it’s hard. God promises to be with me in all of the mundane and routine things in life. God promises to be with me when I preach His Word, even though I am inadequate to do so.  God promises to be with me whenever and whenever, no matter what.

For me, that may be God’s most important promise. What do you think?

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This morning I had the privilege of preaching on Gen. 12:10-13:1 (Abram goes to Egypt due to a famine and tries to pass off Sarai as his sister). Here is a summary of my sermon in one sentence: True faith sometimes stumbles.

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I Surrender…?

Maybe you’ve read the list of hymn titles that have circulated on the Internet suggesting that they should reflect what we really mean when we sing. Some of them are funny, some are thought-provoking, and a few are downright convicting.

As we sang “I Surrender All” last Sunday at church, I was convicted of my own sin and lack of surrender to the Lord. The first verse of Judson Van DeVenter’s hymn reads:

All to Jesus I surrender/All to Him I freely give/I will ever love and trust Him/In His presence daily live.

The refrain reads:

I surrender all/I surrender all/All to Thee, my blessed Savior/I surrender all.

Do I really surrender all to Jesus? All of my desires? All of my plans? All of my past, present, and future? All of my possessions? All of my money? All of my time? I’m afraid that quite often, what I mean when I sing “I Surrender All” is actually “I Surrender Some.” I don’t want it to be that way, and as the Holy Spirit shapes and forms me into the image of Christ it won’t be. Come, Lord Jesus!

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This morning, I had the privilege of preaching on Genesis 12:1-9 (God calling Abraham to forsake everything and follow Him). Here is a summary of my sermon in one sentence: True faith hears, obeys, and worships God.

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Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matt. 16:24-26)

Chris Donato, in the July 2008 issue of Tabletalk, illustrated this passage by referring to Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a young Lutheran pastor in Germany during the rise of Hitler and the Nazis. He was especially concerned with the church not understanding the cost of following Jesus. Donato writes,

Hitler’s Germany posed a threat to the world and a challenge to the Christian church. History sadly records how badly the established church in Germany did in facing the challenge. After the Reformation, Bonhoeffer argued, the church again cheapened the preaching of the forgiveness of sins, and this has seriously weakened her witness: “The price we are having to pay today in the shape of the collapse of the organized church is the only inevitable consequence of our policy of making grace available to all at too low a cost. We gave away the Word and sacraments wholesale, we baptized, confirmed, and absolved a whole nation without condition. Our humanitarian sentiment made us give that which was holy to the scornful and unbelieving…But the call to follow Jesus in the narrow way was hardly ever heard.” Thus the collective consciousness of the country went on with business as usual, baking their bread, selling their goods, with a prison camp like Flossenburg just a few miles out of town.

It was in the Flossenburg concentration camp, incidentally, that Bonhoeffer met his untimely death in April 1945, just as the American forces were approaching. The account is true gruesome to describe here. Suffice it to say that it was slow and painful. Thus Bonhoeffer understood well the difference between what he called costly grace and cheap grace: “Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline. Communion without confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ.” Or, to put it even more clearly it is to hear the Gospel preached as follows: “Of course you have sinned, but now everything is forgiven, so you can stay as you are and enjoy the consolations of forgiveness.” If the Gospel made no such demands for discipleship, then Bonhoeffer could and should have happily joined the ranks of the organized church in Germany. And we too can happily join the church in America at those precise points where it baptizes the injustices of its culture (like abortion, for instance).

Nazi Germany, however, is an easy target. Wading through the subtleties of idolatry and calling them out in America is another matter. Where do we begin? How do we avoid both extremes of baptizing anti-Christian or withdrawing to the point of quiet inaction. The cost of discipleship in these United States doesn’t seem all that costly. Or have we missed what it means to be a disciple?

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