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Archive for December, 2013

Obey God’s moral will; trust and accept His sovereign will; make wise and moral decisions that will glorify God, and trust Him for the results.

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This morning I had the privilege of preaching a Christmas sermon called “O Come, Let Us Adore Him!” (well over half of which was simply the Scripture itself). Here is a summary of my sermon in one sentence: We should adore and worship Jesus Christ the Lord because of who He is and what He’s done.

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A Good Name?

Proverbs 22:1 says, “A good name is to be more desired than great wealth, favor is better than silver and gold.” 

Do we believe that? Have we organized our life (and lifestyle) based on that piece of wisdom from God? We know it’s true, but it’s not that easy to live out. Just about everything in the world and all of our fallen nature tries to pull us in the direction of great wealth, silver, and gold. We seem to think that earthly wealth will give us the significance and the security we crave. Our deeper problem is that we conflate the two and equate great wealth, silver, and gold with a good name.

A good name is better because it can be developed and maintained whether riches are present or not.

May the Lord give us the eyes to see that a good name (good character – character that reflects His) is far better than riches. We’re so easily distracted by that which is shiny and new.

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What are we telling people when we take them a meal? The Responsible Father blog’s piece called “Seven Messages in Meals” explores that question. Taking meals to those who are sick or bereaved is a simple yet very meaningful act. It’s a demonstration of God’s love and concern. You can read the post here.

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Sermon in a Sentence

I had the privilege of preaching on 1 Peter 1:22 this morning. Here is a summary of my sermon in one sentence: The mark of a Christian is sincere and fervent love from the heart.

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downloadI had the privilege and honor of baptizing four people last Sunday. I’m thankful that one of the benefits of being a pastor is being able to share in “milestone moments” in people’s lives, such as births, marriages, deaths, conversions to faith in Christ, and baptisms. I’m grateful that God has graciously allowed me these experiences.

Along with the preaching of God’s Word, communion, prayer, worship, and several others, baptism is a means of grace. “The means of grace are any activities within the fellowship of the church that God uses to give more grace to Christians,” according to Wayne Grudem (Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, p. 950). In other words, God uses baptism, among other things, to encourage and strengthen His people on their journey with Him.

So, how does God use baptism to strengthen and encourage His people? 

  1. The one who is baptized is encouraged and strengthened in their own faith. In the process of obeying the command to be baptized, commitment is strengthened and made more real.
  2. The gospel is proclaimed, certainly by the pastor as baptism is explained, and usually by those being baptized as they give their testimony of their conversion to faith in Jesus Christ.
  3. It reminds us of the meaning and symbolism of baptism. According to Romans 6:3-4, baptism is a picture of the reality of our union with Christ. We died with Christ. We were buried with Christ. We rose to newness of life with Christ. Going down into the water and coming back up out of it is an illustration of baptism’s meaning.
  4. We see our brothers and sisters in Christ obeying His command to be baptized. Their public obedience in this step of discipleship is encouraging to the rest of us. It’s encouraging when people seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matt 6:33).
  5. We see that God is still at work saving and sanctifying people. God is still building His church and His kingdom; He’s still giving life to spiritually dead people; He hasn’t stopped drawing people to Himself; He’s still forgiving sins and changing hearts! Not only that, but He’s still transforming His people into the image of His Son (Rom 8:28-29)! God is still keeping His covenant promises. If that doesn’t encourage us, I don’t know what will.
  6. We see and hear that God uses different methods to draw people to Himself. As we hear the testimonies of those being baptized, we realize that the Lord doesn’t save us in the same way. There are important elements in each story that are the same in every testimony, but there are also some significant differences.
  7. For those who have been baptized, we’re reminded of our own baptism. We were raised to newness of life, too. Is our life new? Is it different?
  8. We’re reminded of what’s real and permanent (God and His kingdom) as opposed to what’s fading and temporary (this world and all it offers).
  9. We’re reminded that we’re not of this world – we don’t belong anymore and never will. I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back!

I was encouraged and strengthened last Sunday by the baptism of my two brothers and two sisters in Christ!

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Tuesday Links

imagesHere are some interesting and thought-provoking links for your perusal. Enjoy!

Erik Raymond gives insight on how people move toward apostasy in this article – “The Road to Apostasy.”

Al Mohler provides a thoughtful treatment of Nelson Mandela in his article called “Nelson Mandel and the Ironies of History.”

Joel Belz of World Magazine recently found a previously lost interview with theologian J.I. Packer. You can read it here.

Joe Holland expatiates on Christmas carols in his article “My Favorite and Most Hated Christmas Carols.”

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“Knowing that you were ransomed (or redeemed) from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot” (1 Peter 1:18-19).

J.H. Jowett made these comments:

The apostle now turns to another expression of the holiness of the Father, and finds it in the character of our redemption. Now, link to this the previous word which forms a vital part of the apostle’s reasoning. “I am holy.” He immediately unites the concept of holiness with the ministry of redemption. To keep that holiness in mind I am to reflect upon the character of redemption. I am to gaze into the mysterious depths of redemption, and I shall behold the holiness of my Father. Now, that is not our common inclination. We look into redemption for mercy, forgiveness, condescension, love. We look for the genial flame of love; have we been blind to the dazzling blaze of holiness? We have felt the warm, yearning intimacy of love, inclining towards the sinner; have we felt the fierce, burning heat where holiness touches sin?

Redemption is more than the search of Father for child; it is a tremendous wrestle of holiness with sin. Have we felt only the tenderness of the search, and partially over looked the terribleness of the conflict? The fear is that we may feel the geniality of the one without experiencing the other. I proclaim it as a modern peril. We do not open our eyes to the holiness that battles in our redemption, and so we gain only an enervated conception of redemptive love. Is not this characteristic of many of the popular hymns which gather round about the facts of redemption? They are sweet, sentimental, almost gushing; the light, lilting songs of a thoughtless courtship: deep in their depths I discern no sense of a bloody conflict, nor do I taste any tang of the bitter cup which made our Saviour shrink. And so, because we do not discern the majestic crusade of holiness, we do not realize the enormity of sin. If we look into the mystery of redemption, and do not see the august holiness of God, we can never see the blackness of the sovereignty of sin. Dim your sense of holiness, and you lighten the color of sin. Now see what follows. Obscure the holiness and you relieve the blackness of sin. Relieve the blackness of sin and you impoverish the glory of redemption. The more we lighten sin the more we uncrown our Redeemer. If sin be a light thing, the Redeemer was superfluous.  And so, with holiness hidden and sin relieved, we come to hold a cheap redemption, and it is against the conception of a cheap redemption that the apostle raises and eager and urgent warning – “There was nothing cheap about your redemption. It was not a light ministry which cost a mere trifle. Ye were redeemed, not with corruptible things, as silver and gold, but with precious blood, sen the blood of Christ.” Reason from the cost of redemption to the nature of the conflict; reason from the nature of the conflict to the black enormity of sin; reason from the enormity of sin to the glory of holiness! A lax God could have given us license and so redeemed us cheaply! A cheap redemption might have made us feel easy; it would never have made us good. A cheap forgiveness would only have confirmed the sin it forgave. If we are to see sin we must behold holiness, unveiled for us as in “a lamb without blemish and without spot.” And so in the sacrifice of Christ, the apostle discerns something of the holiness of the Father, and thus apprehends the unspeakable antagonism of holiness and sin. To him redemption is more than a search; it is a conflict. It is more than a tender yearning; it is the mighty bearing of an appalling load. Between the Incarnation, when Christ was manifested, and the Resurrection, when God raised Him from the dead, the powers and holiness of sin met face to face in mighty combat, and in the appalling darkness of Gethsemane and Calvary sin was overthrown and holiness was glorified. When I move amid the mysteries of redemption, I never want to become deaf to My Saviour’s words, “If it be possible, let this cup pass from Me.” I never want His cry to go out of my life, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” So long as that cry sounds through the rooms of my life I can never have a cheap Redeemer, and I shall be kept from the enervating influence of a cheap redemption.”

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This morning I had the privilege of preaching on Romans 6:1-4 and baptizing four people! Here is a summary of my sermon in one sentence: Baptism is a beautiful illustration of our union with Christ – we died with Him, were buried with Him, and raised to newness of life with Him.

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The wrath of God, as awful as it is, doesn’t terrify me. I deserve it. It’s only because of the amazing grace of God through Jesus Christ that I won’t experience it.

What is terrifying to me – deeply terrifying – is God’s love. His love for His children is so complete, so fervent, so zealous, so pure, so loyal, and so faithful that He’ll do whatever it takes to accomplish His purposes in us. He’ll do whatever it takes to save us; whatever it takes to sanctify us; whatever it takes to discipline us; whatever it takes to keep us; and whatever it takes to conform us to the image of His Son, Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:28-29).

“Whatever it takes” means just that – God will use anything at His disposal (which is everything) to accomplish His purposes in us. We may not like “whatever it takes.” God might use pain, loss, isolation, grief, the loss of a job, the death of a loved one, persecution, or failure as tools to get his job done.

That’s comforting, but terrifying at the same time.

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