Archive for March, 2013

I had the privilege this morning of preaching a sermon on the resurrection of Jesus Christ called “Peter: Before and After.” Here is a summary of my sermon in one sentence: The resurrection of Jesus Christ changed Peter from a man full of bravado and cowardice to a man full of boldness and courage, and it can do the same for us!

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“What’s the best translation of the Bible? Which one do you recommend?” I hear those questions fairly regularly as a pastor and teacher. Here’s how I usually answer.

The most important feature of any Bible translation is how close it is to the original. If we’re to know what to believe and how to behave, it’s crucial that we have an accurate translation of the Word of God in our language. Translating the very words of God from one language to another is serious business and we want to make sure we’ve gotten it right.

For that reason, essentially literal translations of the Bible are best by far. The New American Standard Bible (1995 Update) probably the most literal of all modern English versions. The English Standard Version is a close second in my opinion. The New King James Version and the Holman Christian Standard Bible are also good.

Slightly farther away from the original meaning of God’s Word are translations that attempt to translate thought-for-thought instead of word-by-word. These would include the New International Version and the New Living Translation.

Versions of the Bible that are farthest away from essentially literal are paraphrases such as The Living Bible and The Message. 

Paraphrases sacrifice accuracy for the sake of readability ans simplicity. Thought-for-thought translations are readable, but often miss important nuances in the original languages. Essentially literal translations are the most accurate and faithful to the original, but sacrifice readability at times.

I recommend the English Standard Version for both its accuracy and readability. I love the New American Standard Bible, but it doesn’t read as smoothly as I would like (even after the 1995 update).

Having said all of that, my answer is this: The best translation of the Bible is the one you actually read. If you have the most accurate translation of God’s Word ever produced, it doesn’t do you one bit of good if you never open it up and read it.

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This morning, I had the privilege of preaching on the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem (or Palm Sunday as we know it) from Matthew 21:1-11. Here is a summary of my sermon in one sentence: Jesus is the King we need and the King we have, may we submit to and obey Him.

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I couldn’t watch the TrailBlazer game live last night because I was working on my sermon (some things are more important than my beloved basketball team), so I decided to record it on the DVR. I heard the score before I had a chance to watch the game even though I tried hard to avoid it. The Blazers beat the Atlanta Hawks fro the second straight road win!

Knowledge of the result of the game changed the way I watched it. When the Blazers fell behind by double digits, I wasn’t worried, nervous, or anxious because I knew that, in the end, they’d win. I enjoyed the rookie-of-the-year play of Damian Lillard, the thunderous dunks of J.J. Hickson, and the hot shooting of Wesley Matthews, knowing it would end in a victory. Neither Meyers Leonard getting elbowed upside the head (hard) nor some questionable officiating could shake my optimism. I could watch with a sense of calmness because I knew how the game would end.

Shouldn’t it be the same with my Christian life? I know how it’s going to end, don’t I? Yes, I do! In this life, we know that “God causes all things to work together for good for those who love Him and those who are called according to His purpose (Rom. 8:28). In the next life, we know that, as Christians, we will be with the Lord – “So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:6-8).

Whether in this life or the next, I know the result or the outcome – God works all things for my good in order to conform me to the image of Christ His Son (Rom. 8:29), and I will be with Him not because of my works or goodness, but because of His grace and mercy in Christ. Knowing how things end should change the way I live before the face of God (Coram Deo).

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I had the privilege of preaching this morning on the subject of biblical conversion. Here is a summary of my sermon in one sentence: Conversion, brought about by God’s initiative brings forth the following fruits – a love for Jesus, a hatred for sin, a love for God’s Word, a love for truth, and a love for God’s people.

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Actors ask the question, “What’s my motivation?” when they’re researching the character they’ll be playing. They want to know what makes the character “tick” – why do they do what they do.

We need to ask ourselves the next question as disciples of Jesus Christ. What’s our motivation? Why do we do what we do? What makes us tick?

In the closing moments of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said,

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophecy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.'” (Matt. 7:21-23)

Those to whom Jesus is referring thought they were doing His will. They looked like they were doing His will, too. But they weren’t. The Lord says that they were actually “workers of lawlessness.” How could that be? Prophesying in His name, casting out demons, and do many mighty works, and even saying “Lord, Lord” are things that would be God’s will – it seems obvious.

So why did the Lord Jesus tell them to depart and that He never knew them? My best guess is that these people did what they did for the wrong reasons – their motivation was wrong. They did the same things as faithful disciples of Jesus, but they did them for themselves and not for the Lord. In other words, they may have prophesied in Jesus’ name so that other people would notice them; or cast out demons in order to take the credit for themselves; or do many mighty works in the hopes of drawing their own following. I’m not saying I know why these people did what they did – I’m saying that whatever they did was for the wrong reasons (for themselves and not for the Lord). The biggest reason I say this is because I know myself, and my motivations aren’t always right (and never pure).

What’s my motivation? Why do I do the will of my Father who is in heaven? Do I preach, as God has called me to, because I want people to see how smart or “spiritual” I am? Am I a pastor-teacher so that people will notice me and give me applause? Do I read and study the Bible because I want to put a sermon or study together? Do I teach Bible to the 7th graders because I want to be liked? I have to examination my motivations. Am I doing it for me or for God?

The only acceptable motivations are these: Love (“If you love me, you will keep my commandments” – John 14:15); Pleasing God (“So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him” – 2 Cor. 5:9); and Glorifying God (“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” – 1 Cor. 10:31). I should do what I do because I love God and want to please and glorify Him – that’s may motivation. To put it another way, I want to do the will of my Father who is in heaven for Him and not for me. I want to preach and pray and study and teach and talk and eat and drink and feed the cat and writhe this blog post with my only motivation being a love for God, and a desire to please and glorify Him.

Living Coram Deo – before the face of God – means I have to know my motivation.


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Here are two articles that are worth reading and thinking about:

Check Your Jesus by Dan Phillips. Which “Jesus” are you following?

The Gospel-Centered Everything by Tim Challies. Reflecting on the benefits and concerns of the “gospel-centered” movement.

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This morning I had the privilege of preaching on the subject of conversion. Here is a summary of my sermon in one sentence: Biblical conversion is God-enabled turning from sin and self and trusting Jesus Christ alone for forgiveness of sin and eternal life.

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The apostle John wrote:

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” (Revelation 7:9-10)

The Lord Jesus Christ gave John a vision of heaven and those who would be gathered around the throne worshiping God. Who’s there? People whom God has redeemed from every nation, all tribes and peoples and languages. How many are there? A huge number that no one could count. When did God save all of those people? In time, space, and history. In other words, He didn’t save them after they got to heaven, but during their lifetime here on earth.

Is there any reason to believe that God will redeem one and only person from every nation, tribe, people, and language, and then announce His job is finished and the curtain on history can finally come down? I don’t think so. Is there any reason to believe there won’t be millions or even billions of people converted to faith in Christ before the end comes? I don’t think so. Remember, we’re dealing with God here – the One with whom nothing is impossible!

As far as I’m concerned, that’s cause for optimism! God will continue to redeem a people for Himself and build His kingdom, and He will be victorious!


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The apostle John described the scene in heaven in Revelation 4 as follows:

“And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say, ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come.’ And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying, ‘Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created'” (vv. 8-11, emphasis added).

Out of this amazing outpouring of worship to God, something leaps off the page – the twenty-four elders, whoever they may be, take their crowns and cast them  back to God who sits upon His throne. Most likely the crowns are the rewards they had earned by their obedience to God according to several passages in the New Testament. As they worshiped God around his throne in heaven, they took the rewards they had earned – and that God had given them – and gave them back to Him. Amazing!

But why did they do it? Yes, they earned those crowns, but they realized something crucial – the only reason they could obey God (or love Him or praise Him or glorify Him) is because He was gracious to them and gave them the ability to do it in the first place. In reality, God didn’t owe them any rewards, and the rewards He gave them were because of His grace alone.

The only One worthy of a crown is God Himself. The twenty-four elders knew it, and I need to learn it. He is worthy and I’m not.

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