Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Centrality of the Doctrine of Sin

Sin - The committing of any act that God has forbidden, or the neglect of any act that God has commanded.

All are sinners.

I came to the realization that my theology is driven by my understanding of sin. My understanding of salvation is based on my understanding of sin. Salvation is by substitutionary atonement because our sin has rendered us guilty and helpless. My understanding of the sovereignty of God in salvation is driven by the fact that our sin has not only left us guilty but dead, unable to save ourselves or respond to God's gracious offers without His supernatural work.

My understanding of who Christ is is driven by my understanding of sin. Jesus came to die for sinners because we are guilty and helpless, we must have a savior, a mediator between we the sinners and God the Holy One. Without understanding sin the Incarnation of Jesus makes no sense, why bother becoming man if there is no grand mission to save sinners. The Cross of Christ makes no sense apart from the Biblical understanding of sin, because what on earth is Jesus doing on the cross if He is not dying for sin, it is simply tragic.

If we give in to our culture that denies the reality of sin, we have not made Christianity more palatable to the world. Rather we have given away the whole store. Without the right understanding and acknowledgment of sin we no longer have an orthodox view of God, and the Gospel descends into simple nonsense. Without the correct understanding of sin, we are still in our sins and will face death and hell as the just judgment for our sin.

So we need to embrace the Biblical view of sin, and let it sink deeply into our minds and hearts. Then we begin pursuing holiness and we carry the Gospel to our sin-sick world.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Nightmare on My Street

Esther has caught a cold, now for most people a cold isn't really all that serious, but with Esther it's a big deal. So last night we put her down to sleep and she is sniffling a little bit, but within the hour she is up crying and miserable. So we know what we have to do. We get the big mouth spoon (when I was a kid mine was an alligator with legs and teeth, it was the coolest way to take medicine) and the little kid cold medicine and the war is on. She sees the thing and completely flips out. Flailing and kicking (I caught a foot to the throat) I tried to hold her to my chest while Edna got the medicine in, but it didn't work and then Esther pulled her favorite I don't want to take medicine trick, she started throwing up (she can almost do it on command now). So now we have to clean the bed and move the battlefield to the bathtub. She throws up twice more in the bathtub. Finally she's exhausted and there is a tiny bit of medicine in her.

I said all that to say this. I was reflecting on last night's nightmare and I realized that we often hate the thing that does us good. We all enter the world as little rebels, hostile to God and lovers of our own way. Then we spend our lives seeking anything other than God to bring us joy and peace, we go to psychologists to get rid of our guilt, when the supreme good, God Himself has provided for all of our needs in the Cross of His Son. Then like Naaman we say it just can't be that easy, surely there is something that I have to do.

We all naturally hate the medicine that cure our biggest problem, the sin problem. Yet God in His grace, makes us alive together with Christ (Eph. 2:5). Praise His marvelous grace.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

A Report on Todd Bentley

The healing revival in Lakeland Florida has left me very suspicious. Not because I don't believe in miracles, I certainly do. But because of some of the oddness that I hear being taught by Todd Bentlley the lead speaker and healer. His fascination and emphasis on Angels is not Biblical and certainly not a main emphasis of the scriptures. He also does not emphasize the Gospel. In the Ministry of Jesus the miracle itself is rarely the focal point, rather it is pointing to a truth about Christ or the new faith of the one healed. So yeah I'm not quite on the Todd Bentley bandwagon. I was given more reason to stay off the bandwagon today when I read an article by William Dembski about his attendance at a service led by Todd Bentley, I recommend reading it


Sunday, July 13, 2008

Guarding the Mental Fortress

Today in an aside I mentioned that we must be careful what we allow to influence us. And as I was reflecting (over-analyzing) over lunch I realized two things. That I wasn't sufficiently clear and that is the central purpose and message of our blog. Everything that we allow to influence us is a seed planted, either for righteousness or unrighteousness. We are delusional if we think that we can numbly soak in the frivolity and sensuality of TV all week and there be no price to pay. We will gradually come to make peace with and then embrace that which we expose ourselves to.

I think for example of the Oprah clip I saw this week where she was explaining her pluralistic ideas. That all ways eventually lead to God and that it is arrogant to think that there is only one way and we know that way. Now how many Christian ladies were watching that show and saw that. Now if those same Christian ladies heard their waiter say that they would simply blow it off, but because Oprah said it comes with a kind of authority. We must be careful what we let inside the walls of our mental fortress.

I saw another clip this week about Billy Graham and his views on those of other religions. Graham says that he believes that people can be saved without ever hearing the Gospel if they know that they need something. I respect Mr. Graham's years of faithfulness in preaching the Gospel, but what he said is simply not the Gospel. And if Oprah has influence what about Billy Graham!

It may seem intolerant and arrogant to say that there is only one way. But we cannot be more tolerant than Jesus, and Jesus said in John 14:6 - "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." We are told that it requires conscious faith in Jesus and His saving work on the cross for us to be saved, we must repent and believe. Without this truth the Great Commission simply makes no sense. We need a new perspective on the "one way" we need to be thankful that there is A WAY, the fact there is a way at all is the pure grace and mercy of God. God did not have to provide a way for us through the life, death, and Resurrection of His Son. He chose to.

These are two respected public figures who have undermined the Gospel in recent days and if you were not careful then your eyes may have be drawn away from the pure beautiful gospel of Christ.

Yet there are also other influences that we must avoid. We must careful of the themes of the movies and TV shows we watch, the ideas presented in the music we listen to and the books we read. We must be careful to always hold before our eyes God as He has chosen to reveal Himself in His word. This is a call to caution and thoughtfulness. We must be on the alert, because no one gains any ground in likeness to Christ without discernment.

Sorry if I still isn't clear. Jamie.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Receiving Christ & His Reward

Some very simple teaching of the New Testament is often overlooked, perhaps because we don't know how to apply it in a manner consistent with other teachings of the New Testament. Matthew 10:40-42 has a simple message, but one which is easy to ignore: Demonstrating one's love for Jesus by receiving His messengers brings reward. It is important to note that this promise follows on the heals of Jesus' warning of persecution and social disruption for those who follow Him.

vs. 40 Whoever receives you Me receives, and whoever receives Me receives the One who sent Me.
The parallelism of these clauses underscores the remarkable parallel between Jesus' identification with His heavenly Father and the disciples' identification with Jesus. Just as Jesus is the authorized representative of the Father, so that to receive Jesus is to receive the Father, so the disciples are the authorized representatives of Jesus, so that to receive the disciples is to receive Jesus. For you theologians I will add the caveat that the parallelism is economical (being sent as representative), not ontological (sharing the same essence). Would you befriend a follower of Jesus even if it came with a social stigma (see v. 35)? If you would receive Jesus despite the social ramifications, then you should also receive His messengers at the same cost: "Whoever receives you Me receives!"

vs. 41 The one who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet's reward, and the one who receives a righteous person because he is a righteous person will receive a righteous person's reward.
Simply put, when you share in another's ministry (even when it hurts) by supporting that person, you also share in their blessing of being on mission with God. A great example of this is found in 1 Kings 17:8-16. God uses a poor widow to provide for Elijah. Because she trusted God and put Elijah's needs before her household's needs they were all provided for during the famine.

vs. 42 And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.
Even the smallest kindness is noted by the Lord Jesus. Note the affection our Lord has for those who follow Him as He calls us "little ones." When you care for a disciple of Jesus you are caring for His precious little ones. Because Jesus knows what a difficulty this can be, He makes the promise emphatic by adding "truly" or "amen" "I say to you." You can take the promise of reward on His authority and veracity. Then He adds a double negative (which is not allowed in English) when He makes the promise "he will not! not! lose his reward!"

How wonderfully seriously the early Christians took this teaching. The author of Hebrews commended the believers for the care they showed to Christians who had been arrested. The only food those prisoners might get would come from the charity of friends and family. The hindrance was that to visit a Christian was to betray yourself as a Christian to the authorities. What would you do? Here is what they did: For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one.

They know they had a better possession and an abiding one because Jesus promised "he will by no means lose his reward!"

How have you shown your love for Christ lately? Have you befriended in a tangible way someone who is serving the Lord?

Monday, July 7, 2008

Monday Memory Verse - July 7, 2008

Philip. 3:8 - Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ

this is an amazing passage and over the next couple of Monday's we are going to be memorizing the next three verses as well.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Worship Attire

I recently went through a period of study on the theme of worship in the Bible. The conclusion that is eminently clear is that worship is not something we do for an hour on Sunday morning, rather it is the sacrifice of an entire life to God (Rom. 12:1-2). So I've been trying to flesh out how this applies to all of our lives and one of the areas that I would like some help with is the issue of clothing worn to our time of gathered worship. There seem to be three views that I will outline. If you know of another position please feel free to enlighten me, or if you can help me to see which of these views best fits with the Bible's teaching on worship please help me.

First, is the Sunday Best position. Those who hold this view say that it dishonors God and the special time of Sunday worship to wear any old thing. That we must dress our best to show our reverence for Him. To commend this view is the Biblical evidence that entering God's presence is a special time and should be treated with reverence. However, on the other side of the coin is the fact that if worship is all of life then all of life is lived before Him to honor Him, so why dress up on one occasion. Also there is the teaching that we must be careful not to alienate the poor brothers and sisters in our midst who would be put off or ashamed of their clothing.

Second, is the Casual position. This position says that we should wear what we wear all week. This position has the benefit of seeming to take most seriously the truth that worship is all of life. Yet it seems to be a stumbling block to many who are already Christians. This is very subjective but it seems that this most often goes with a seeker-sensitive model that I feel is very unhelpful in the life a local church.

Third, is the No Distraction position. This position says that we should simply dress in such a way that we simply blend in and there is no attention drawn to ourselves at all. This position takes the truth seriously that worship is about God and that our attention must be placed on Him, therefore we should not dress in a way that distracts from the focus on God. So if your church is more casual you should dress casually so that no attention is drawn to you. And vice versa with a Sunday Best crowd. I am leaning toward this position to be honest, but I fear that it may be a position of compromise (maybe cowardice).

I would love to hear from any of you, I am willing to take correction and wise counsel. Let me know what you think.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Thank You on Independance Day

I just want to offer my appreciation on this day for all the men and women who have and are still serving our nation in the Armed Forces. It is your courage and strength that keep me and my family safe. Your sacrifice is not forgotten by me and it is not taken lightly, you spend time away from your families and in harms way. These sacrifices should never be forgotten and certainly never taken lightly.

I fear that the talk here in the State's is offensive to those who are currently serving and those who have served in the past. I want you to know that although the liberal elites who control most of the media may not celebrate your work, many of us are deeply thankful.

So on this Independence Day, thank you.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Patriotism & Church

As pastor of a church in a military town I often wrestle with the question of the appropriateness of displaying patriotism in the context of worship. Let me say that I love my country. I served in the 82nd Airborne Division during the 90s. While I was never sent to war, like so many of our soldiers now, I was willing to kill and be killed to protect our liberty and to liberate those oppressed by the tyranny of corrupt governments. I continue to be personally involved in politics at all levels of government as a concerned citizen. I encourage my church to be responsible Christian citizens by voting and by letting their voices be heard concerning important social issues, though I do not endorse candidates or parties.

Yet the church is not an American institution. It was not founded for the propagation of American ideals. The church is to be an expression of the reign of God in this present evil age. The celebrated fact of the New Testament is that people from every nation and tribe and language and people have been called together to be a kingdom and priests to God.

Thus I struggle with holidays like July 4th that have been made integral to the life of the church, at least in my area. I readily and publicly thank God for the freedoms we enjoy, but I just as quickly remember my brothers in Christ who are suffering for their witness in places closed to the gospel. I seek God's blessing for America, yet I feel compelled to confess that I have been complicit in national sins, if in no other way than by my inaction (for example, abortion). I am comfortable singing songs that beseech God to shed His grace on America, but I shy away from songs that simply extol the greatness of America in the context of worship.

I believe these holidays can afford us an opportunity to consider the Christian's role as a citizen and to tackle the issues of Christ and culture. I abhor the anti-American rhetoric that we've recently heard broadcast from certain pulpits. Yet, just as appalling are the rosy pictures of America that downplay the moral downgrade our culture is experiencing.

How do you handle these holidays in the church? What do you deem as appropriate expressions of patriotism in the context of worship?

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Joshua Owen For President 2008

As many of you may now know, one of our blog contributors, Josh, is making a run for the White House this year. While I question his motives and could not vote for someone with his liberal agenda, I believe his wife would be a great first lady, so I will definitely vote for him in November. Check out this news report that explains his surge in the polls that is surprising so many. Josh, you have my vote!!! ;)