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Archive for January, 2017

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I had the privilege this morning of preaching on John 20:30-31. what follows is a summary of my sermon in the space of one sentence: John wrote his Gospel in order to lead us to faith in Jesus Christ and strengthen our faith in Jesus Christ.

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Vince Lombardi, legendary coach of the Green Bay Packers in their early years, is said to have begun training camp by gathering all of the players around him and, while holding up a football, said, “Gentlemen, this is a football.”

There wasn’t one of those men who didn’t know what a football was, but that wasn’t Lombardi’s point. He wanted all of his players and coaches to know that the fundamentals of the game were important and would be stressed. If you forget the fundamentals, you’ll lose games – lots of them.

In the epistle he wrote to Titus, the apostle Paul laid down fundamental truth. He said,

Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed, to malign no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men. For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another. But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy statement; and concerning these things I want you to speak confidently, so that those who have believed God will be careful to engage in good deeds. These things are good and profitable for men. (Titus 3:1-8)

Two bedrock truths are emphasized in this paragraph:

First, sinners are saved by grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone. We can never be right with God through our own efforts or good deeds. The only hope we have is God’s grace extended to us through the finished work of Jesus Christ. That’s the gospel we preach.

Second, salvation by grace alone through faith alone produces good works or deeds. When God justifies us by His grace, the inevitable result will be good deeds. One of the evidences of true faith in Christ is the presence of good works. As the Reformers put it, we’re saved by faith alone, but never by a faith that is alone.

Both faith and works have a part to play in the life of Christian. We aren’t saved by works, but they are part of the proof that we are saved. In other words, we don’t do good works in order to get saved, we do them because we are saved.

Gentlemen, this is a football.

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I had the privilege this morning of preaching on John 20:24-29. Here is a summary of my sermon in the space of one sentence: The risen Lord Jesus gives certainty to His doubting disciples.

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The goal is not conformity to a standard; it’s loving the standard.

Those are the words of Doug Wilson as he gives advice to parents wrestling with the question of whether or not to give their children smart phones (and at what age).

He’s not against standards (no Christian should be). We all have standards to which we must conform. Those include “house rules,” the laws of the land, and ultimately the Law of God. The issue (and this is what I liked so much) is deeper than simply obedience versus disobedience, conformity on the one hand and non-conformity on the other. The issue is where does this conformity of obedience to the standard come from?

We all know how easy it is to obey on the outside and be in complete raging rebellion on the inside (in our heart). To put it another way, obedience can be external without the heart being “in it,” so to speak.

The goal – the deeper goal, the goal that makes the most difference in the long run – is to love and delight in the standard. If that happens, conformity to the standard will follow. If the heart (from where delight springs) is right, actions will follow.

Psalm 1 begins like this: How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of the scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night (vv. 1-2).

Psalm 40:8 takes it one step further, as it says, I delight to do Your will, O my God; Your Law is within my heart. A delight in the Law of God produces obedience to it.

If, in our hearts, we delight in God’s Law (and love it), and in the One who gave it, we’ll conform to the standard. Delighting in God’s Law/Word means that we desire it, and derive great pleasure and joy from it. We love God’s Law and delight in it because we know that God always has our good and His glory in mind, and that He knows exactly what He’s doing.

Here’s a question for dads and moms: Do your children know the reasons behind God’s Law and your house rules? Do they know that both standards (yours and God’s) are meant to help the household operate in a way that’s orderly and glorifies God? Are they (and you) aware that it’s dangerous to confuse God’s Law with your house rules? Something to think about.

Here’s a question for churches: Are we simply telling God’s people to “conform to the standard,” or are we urging them to “love the standard”? Another thing to think about.

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Just before his seventieth birthday, missionary to India William Carey wrote,

I am this day seventy years old, a monument of Divine mercy and goodness, though on a review of my life I find much, very much for which I ought to be humbled in the dust; my direct and positive sins are innumerable, my negligence in the Lord’s work has been very great, I have not promoted his cause, nor sought his glory and honor as I ought, notwithstanding all this, I am spared till now, and am still retained in his Work, and I trust I am received into the Divine favor through him.

Carey, the father of modern missions, recognized two important truths: on the one hand our sin, sinfulness, and guilt before God, and on the other hand the matchless, incomparable, and invincible grace of God offers to us in and through Jesus Christ. Carey didn’t “fall off the horse” on either side by giving emphasis to one over the other.

Believers in Jesus Christ are at one and the same time sinful (see Isaiah 64:6; Jeremiah 17:9; Ecclesiastes 7:20; Romans 3:10-18; 3:23) and justified (Rom. 3:21-26; 4:1-8; Gal. 2:16).  It’s honest and truthful to admit it.

Jerry Bridges, in The Discipline of Grace, wrote, “We should always view ourselves both in terms of what we are in Christ, and what we are in ourselves, namely, sinners.” If we don’t, we become either paralyzed by our introspection or proud in our self-righteousness.  Open-eyed candor, honesty, and humility is what should characterize us.

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5 Good Podcasts

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The last decade or so has seen an explosion of podcasts. They may number in the tens of thousands, but I’m not certain. There are many, many good ones that would be worth our time. The antithesis is also true – there are many, many that are clearly not worth any of our time.

Here are five good podcasts. Undoubtedly there are more, but I’ll limit it to five (all of which I listen to regularly). Radio or television broadcasts aren’t included.

  1. The Dividing Line with James White. White is an elder at a Reformed Baptist Church in Arizona, debater, apologist, and author. White knows his stuff. There’s also a video of the podcast available. Podcasts are usually one hour long, and sometimes longer.
  2. The Briefing with Albert Mohler. Well-known Southern Baptist leader Mohler comments on the news from a biblical worldview. It’s well-done and thought-provoking. Podcasts are usually about 20 minutes in length.
  3. Apologia Radio with Jeff Durbin and friends. Durbin pastors Apologia Church in Tempe, Arizona. He has an interesting background, but don’t let that get in the way of what he’s saying. His commitment to Christ is contagious. Podcasts are usually one hour and fifteen minutes long.
  4. The Worldview in 5 Minutes. A roundup of the day’s news written by Pastor Kevin Swanson and presented by Adam McManus. The length of the podcast is five minutes, which should be obvious.
  5. 5 Minutes in Church History with Stephen Nichols. Nichols, the President of Reformation Bible College, presents a brief look at the people, places, and events that God has used to shape the church and history.

Take a listen to each of these podcasts!

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One of the most precious, and possibly memorized, passages in all of Scripture is Proverbs 3:5-6 – “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths.”

The positive command is to trust God, and that with all of our mind, affections, will, and our bodies. In other words, we trust God with everything we are, our whole being. This is the main point of these two verses.

The other side of the coin – the negative command – is not to trust ourselves. The point is that we can either trust (lean on) ourselves or we can trust (lean on) God. In our sinfulness and fallenness, we don’t have all the facts and we don’t know what we don’t know.

The commands of verse 5 are followed by the promise of verse 6. If we acknowledge God as we trust Him, He promises to direct our paths. He’ll give us wisdom if we trust Him rather than ourselves.

In His Word, God gives us a number of negative examples, like Abram. Genesis 12:10-20 records Abram (before God changed his name to Abraham) going to Egypt with his wife Sarai to escape a famine. To keep themselves safe, they came up with a scheme: they’d tell everyone they were brother and sister, not husband and wife. They leaned on their own understanding, didn’t trust God, and didn’t acknowledge Him (until the end). They thought their plan was better. It clearly wasn’t. Abram and Sarai sinned in their lying and deception. Yes, God used it in His providence, but they sinned by not trusting God with their circumstances.

God’s promise remains firm and reliable – He will direct our paths and give us wisdom in any and every situation we face. God’s command remains firm and reliable, too – Trust Him with all your heart, not yourself, and acknowledge Him. We need to look no further than our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who exemplified Proverbs 3:5-6, for ourselves and for the church. We trust God for His glory and our good!

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