When Christ calls us to follow Him, He really does have us die to everything we hold dear, every expectation, every dream, every desire. He will not leave any room for our own idolatries, no matter how noble they seem to us.
It matters not what the dream or desire may be, even when those dreams or desires are within the scope of biblical Christianity. This is because we have a tendency to take even noble callings, noble desires, and noble responsibilities and turn them into idolatries.
The most obvious example is the single who desires to be married despite God’s slowness in fulfilling that desire. The single then exalts “being married” to an unhealthy level and comes to the conclusion that he/she cannot be complete in Christ without a spouse. It’s at that point that the single needs to die to the dream and desire, and trust in God’s providential hand with their singleness.
This is merely an example, but it plays itself out in our vocations, families, homes, and even the country in which we live. If we exalt anything over and against Christ, there will come a point in which He works in us to help us see our need to die to the idolatry. He will not share the throne of our heart with anything.
But given all that, many times He does bring us to the point of dying to those dreams, and then provides for us in way that does fulfill them. I believe He does this to remind us that He will not share the throne with any other entity, but also to show in the midst of this reality, He does care for us and loves us. So our dreams and desires are fulfilled. Yet in being fulfilled, we are reminded that He remains on the throne.
The story of Louis Zamperini is that he was a man that would not be broken by his captors. In the movie, the climactic scene is when Louis is made to lift a large log over his head and hold it with the prospect that if he drops it, he will be beaten. Louis, in his grit and stubbornness, holds the log over his head for 37 minutes. It’s a remarkable feat of strength and determination.
This act shows Zamperini’s resolve in not being broken by his captors. The problem is that they did eventually break him, only he was no longer a POW when it finally happened. Zamperini was home in the states, married with children when he would finally came to the end of himself. But it was more than the captors that would break him, ultimately it was actually God who would break him.
This man who was exalted for his grit and determination would finally come to an end of himself and turn to Christ. This is exactly what happens to most people who come to Christ late in life: they have to come to the end of themselves. Zamperini was no different. Neither are we.
I finished reading Unbroken to our boys last night. Both of them loved the story, even though at times it was hard for them to follow with the Japanese names, some of the technical terms, and the multiple characters involved in the story. But we got through it, all 416 pages of it.
The hardest part of reading it to them, was the detailed abuse that Louis Zamperini endured while a POW. The book was far more graphic than the movie, and the boys got a real taste for the ugliness of war. (I told Heidi at one point that I don’t think I could ever read the book again as it was so gut wrenching.)
In the Gospel of Luke, we find the following parable:
“When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when he comes, he finds it swept and put in order. Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first” (Luke 11:24-26).
In this parable, Jesus gives us insight into the life of a counterfeit believer. A counterfeit believer is one who is deluded into thinking he or she is a Christian, but is, in reality, not. Jesus is showing us what is taking place in that person on a spiritual level. It’s an insight only He can give us.
Every Veterans’ Day, Memorial Day, and Independence Day, churches all across the country bring out the flag and patriotic tunes in a show of solidarity for God and country. But should they?
To many, it seems harmless to sing such tunes and wave the flag. After all, what could be wrong with showing pride in our country and in recognition of all those who have died in the preservation of this great nation? But when we worship, we enter into the presence of a holy God who is a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:29). This requires that we enter with reverence and awe, and with holy fear.
William Gurnall writes:
If the provisions were left in our own hands, we would soon be bankrupt merchants. God knows we are weak, like cracked pitchers–if filled to the brim and set aside, the contents would soon leak out. He puts us under a flowing fountain of His strength and constantly refills us. This was the provision He made for Israel in the wilderness: He split the rock, and not only was their thirst quenched at that moment, but the water ran in a stream after them, so that you hear no more complaints for water. This rock was Christ. Every believer has Christ at his back, following him as he goes, with strength for every condition and trial.
The truth is that out Father often brings us to a sense of need before He provides. He wants us to feel the want of not having, so we can see that He is the One who supplies our need. He wants us to ask Him to meet our need and trust in Him to do so. He may not answer our prayer immediately, but may use the need to keep us coming back to Him. He would much rather have His children returning to Him for their daily needs instead of blessing them with riches, and have them fall away.
On Facebook, a fellow pastor pointed out the what celebrity pastor Andy Stanley was teaching about the Old Testament was “really wrong.” Of course, this brought out all kinds of comments from the enemies of truth implying how unloving, mean, and wicked the pastor was for doing so. Given Andy Stanley’s track record, of winking approval at homosexual couples in his congregation, and declaring that we need to un-hitch ourselves from the part of the Bible that Jesus, Peter, and Paul all preached from, every orthodox pastor in America should be warning their flocks against Andy Stanley.
This is, the pastor’s job to do so.
The lie that continues to be repeated from Genesis 3 that still plagues us today is the words spoken to the woman by the serpent: “Indeed, has God said…?” At the heart of his question is doubt. The serpent convinced the woman to doubt God’s goodness, His word, and His provision. In doing so, she then led Adam in eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and for the first time in human history, mankind knew what evil was from an experiential level. Before the fall, they knew only goodness. But after the fall, they knew evil in a real way and because of their transgression, we know evil as well.
What makes it difficult for us is that we have trouble knowing true goodness. It is only when we come to God’s word, and know God Himself, that we know and experience true goodness. This is why the serpent, known as Satan, is still using the same lie “Indeed, has God said…?” in our day. He doesn’t use those exact words, but we have all heard them used over and over again. The question is the same, only phrased differently.
Except pastors retain this end in view, it can by no means be that they will in good earnest proceed in the course of their calling, but will, on the contrary, become often faint; for there are innumerable hindrances which are sufficient to discourage the most prudent. They have often to do with ungrateful men, from whom they receive an unworthy reward; long and great labors are often in vain; Satan sometimes prevails in his wicked devices. Lest then, the faithful servant of Christ should be broken down, there is for him one and only one remedy,–to turn his eyes to the coming of Christ.
From John Calvin’s commentary on 1 Peter 5, specifically verse 4: and when the Chief Shepherd appears.
A very good article on the True Israel of God by R. Scott Clark. He shows that the hopes of Dispensationalists, who are hoping for the constitution of a national Israel, are misguided and not the purpose of God at all. In other words, they tend to think the warp and woof of the Bible is about national Israel, as opposed to being about Christ. While Clark doesn’t say it, I see this same thing when it comes to their view of the rapture. They are so transfixed on this supposed view of future events, that they fail to see they have made an idol out of an event, the Second Coming, instead of looking to Christ alone.
Here is Clark’s premise:
Jesus the Israel of God
It is the argument of this essay that Jesus Christ is the true Israel of God and that everyone who is united to him by grace alone, through faith alone becomes, by virtue of that union, the true Israel of God. This means that it is wrong-headed to look for, expect, hope for or desire a reconstitution of national Israel in the future. The New Covenant church is not something which God instituted until he could recreate a national people in Palestine, but rather, God only had a national people temporarily (from Moses to Christ) as a prelude to and foreshadowing of the creation of the New Covenant in which the ethnic distinctions which existed under Moses were fulfilled and abolished (Ephesians 2.11-22; Col 2.8-3.11).
You can read the rest here.
At a site on Facebook, the author put up the suggestion that when we go out to eat dinner at a restaurant, we leave a healthy tip, and a gospel tract. He suggested that even when the service is horrible, leave a bigger tip and a tract.
This seems like such a righteous thing to do. But alas, this is contrary to what the Bible says when it comes to the spread of the gospel. No where are we told to share gospel tracts. The Scripture is quite clear that we are to preach the gospel.
We see this in Romans 10:14-15
How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? 15 And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written:
“How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace,
Who bring glad tidings of good things!”
There is a theological reason that God has chosen preaching to reach His elect. It goes back to the Garden of Eden when the temptation of Adam and Eve took place. Satan tempted the first couple through the spoken word. Satan had no power over Adam. All he could do is use words to tempt them. Sadly, it was enough.
Surprisingly, it is through the spoken word, or preached word, that God has chosen to undue the work of Satan. We are to be the people of God, who are of the preached word. This is why the Scriptures says So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. It is also why the word says, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
By hearing Satan’s claims, Adam fell into sin. It is through the hearing of the work of the Second Adam that we will be saved. Given that, let us support those faithful preachers who proclaim God’s word, and quit depending upon the inventions of men to do what God has not told us to do, which is preach the Word (2 Timothy 4:2).
One more point. The author of the site came back with the rebuttal that his uncle was saved through reading the Bible, and another person was saved through reading a tract. The author was appealing to the exception clause of the rule, thereby making it the rule. The rule is that we preach God’s word faithfully. The exception is that GOD MOVES when and where and how He pleases. Yes, God can use the tracts we pass out. Yes, God can use the reading of God’s word for ourselves. But this is not what He has CALLED us to do. He has called men in the body of Christ to preach the word and teach it. He has also called some to be evangelist (Ephesians 4:11-12). Through those offices, He operates through the ordinary means of grace. He can use any means He has chosen. But it up to us to be obedient in the use of the means He has given us.
I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.
Paul tells us in Galatians 5, to walk by the Spirit. He is instructing us how it is that we are to conduct our lives, and the simple solution, as a Christian, is to walk by the Spirit.
He then contrasts that with those who walk by the flesh. He gives a list of all manner of sin that these people engage in when they walk by the flesh (see below). In other words, Paul shows us what to do by showing us what not to do. We are not to live by the flesh and its evil desires.
But here is a danger that many miss in his instructions: many believe that when walking by the Spirit, we are walking by our emotions, our inclinations, or the gentle desires of our hearts. That is not walking by the Spirit. That is what people do who walk by the flesh. To walk by the Spirit means to die to the flesh and its desires, and live according to the word of God.
As anyone who has walked by the Spirit can attest, following the word of God doesn’t always feel good. It means we have to take stands against sin that are uncomfortable. Dying to sin is never easy, nor comfortable. But that is how the Spirit would lead us if we are walking with Him.
I know, nothing new here. At least if you know where to look. The entire New Testament is full of books that were written because the church is broken. The Apostle James showed us that there was trouble early on, writing only 30-40 years after the ascension of Christ, he penned the following: Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war.
Thomas Watson helps us understand just how great Adam’s fall was, in pointing out that Adam had a power not to fall. This is important when you understand the doctrine of original sin. Because of original sin, we are all born sinners. We don’t have the ability to not sin. Yet, Adam, being made good by God, was created good and without sin. Not only that, he had the power not to sin or to fall. I hope you can see how hard this is to fathom, given our own fallen natures.
In this cross, we find the ultimate evil and the ultimate good side-by-side.
The cross of Christ was the ultimate evil because mankind took their very Creator, hung Him on a cross and put Him to death. They took One who was innocent of all charges, innocent of all sin, and made Him suffer the death of a common criminal.
There has been no greater act of evil done to anyone on earth, ever. The death of Christ was far more evil than the holocaust. It was far more evil than 9/11. It was far more evil than Andrea Pia Yates drowning her six children in a bathtub. It was far more evil than the death of Princess Diana. It was far more evil than any of the school shootings we have had over the past 25 years.
In my previous post, Exit Strategy: How One Church Left the PCA, I showed how easy it is for a member church of the Presbyterian Church in America to vote to leave. It’s really quite simple. But what about the pastor? The pastor of that church is not a member of the church, but a member of the presbytery. Given that, when a church leaves the PCA, the presbytery can become (and some have) vindictive and try to bring the pastor up on ecclesiastical charges. How is the pastor to avoid such a mess when he is simply trying to faithfully shepherd the flock God has given to him?
Pastor Jared Olivetti writes:
To fight the danger, let’s hold onto this truth: If there was never another conference, retreat, podcast or seminar, God working through your faithful, local congregation would be everything you need to grow to spiritual maturity. Such events are much like special meals. Perhaps a few times in your life you’ll have a meal you could never forget. Maybe it will be a special feast or a date night at a restaurant you really can’t afford. Those meals are blessings to be enjoyed–but they aren’t what sutains you. You are physically alive because of the normal, everyday meals you eat at home. Even if you don’t remember what you made last Friday for dinner (or what was made for you), you were fed and nourished and sustained by that meal. Such it is with our church family.
Read the rest of the article here.
There they were, talking theology again. It seemed like every time I went upstairs to the second floor of Lincoln Hall, I would find those four guys discussing theology. Travis Campbell was one of them. You can see him here discussing 10 Undisputed Facts About Jesus. As they would discuss theology, I would stand there and listen as long as possible. But truth be told, most of it was over my head.
They discussed things like predestination, the sovereignty of God, election, and man’s free will, or lack thereof (depending on how you define free will). I had a great deal of respect for the men who were in those debates, many have gone on to fruitful ministries.
I applaud the men of Reformed Presbyterian Church (GRPC) in Greeneville, Tennessee. They recently led their church out of the PCA with a congregational vote that was unanimous. They recount the reasons why they did so in an article on The Aquila Report where they answered Honorably Retired pastor Larry Ball’s article about their departure. TE Ball wrote saying that the church should have consulted with the presbytery before doing voting to leave the denomination. The elders of GRPC reported that they did consult with other members of the presbytery, but did not consult with the presbytery itself. Then they gave their reasons for leaving.
I love the simplicity of this church building. It’s nothing fancy. It’s on the same road where my dad lives outside of Brenham, TX, in Washington County. You can see that the paint is peeling, and the parking lot is mostly grass. The building doesn’t have central air, given the window units on the side you cannot see. I’m sure it has that old-church smell to it like a lot of churches do. You may know the smell I speaking of. Most members of old churches don’t notice the smell. They have grown use to it. It’s the smell of “old.” It shows that they haven’t updated anything in many years, no new paint, no new carpet, nothing new at all.