Thursday, May 4, 2017

Eternal Security 1 John 5

Eternal Security in 1 John 5:11-13

(11) and this is the testimony God gave us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. (12) Whoever has the Son has life, whoever does not have the Son does not have life. (13) I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.

John the apostle has a pattern in his writing. At the end of his writing he explicitly tells us the main idea. He does this in the gospel of John and he does this in the letter of 1 John. “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.” The purpose of this book of the Bible is so that Christians can know, with certainty, that they have eternal life. If someone is truly saved they can know that they have eternal life because of Jesus. A true Christian cannot lose their salvation.

GOD Gave
God gave us eternal life. Eternal life is not something we take, it is something that God gives. That is consistent with the rest of scripture. The apostle Paul confirms what John is saying when he makes it clear that we are saved by grace alone(Eph.2:8-9). Grace means gift. A gift is given. Salvation is a gift given by a loving God through His Son the Lord Jesus Christ. Eternal life and heaven is something that is a gift given by God.
The reformation inspired by the great Martin Luther was built on this fundamental. It was a reaction against some who were teaching that salvation is not by grace. The latin phrase that came out of that movement was “sola gratia”…only grace. We are saved by grace alone. There is something else that gift giving grace leads to. You are saved by God’s grace alone, and you are kept by God’s grace alone. If you are not saved by works, you are also not kept by works. We are saved and kept by grace. There are some important reasons for this. If salvation were dependent on your works, no one could ever be saved. This is because our works are never enough to overcome our sin. Our works don’t measure up to God’s infinite standard of perfection.
The same is true after salvation. The standard of God’s infinite perfection doesn’t change. We might think that because I am saved I am doing more and better works, the works of faith. That’s great, and we should. But, we should never think that those works are what keep me in the good graces of the Lord. Those works can be a sign, but they are not what keeps us eternally secure. Eternal life is a gift of God’s grace. God gave us eternal life.

There is a simple sentence here. The action is done by God – He gave. The recipient of the action is “us”—Christians. And the action verb is what God has done – gave eternal life. What is interesting is the tense of the verb. It is in the past tense.
This is amazing. Eternal life is something that has already been given by God to Christians. It is in the past tense. John is writing to a group of believers in the present and the verb is in the past tense. Eternal life is something god GAVE them. It is already something that they possess.
Eternal life is a present reality. Most of the time when we focus on eternal life we think about something in the future. We think of eternal life as that day in the future when we get to experience the glorious reality of God’s heaven forever and ever. Oh, what a glorious truth. Oh, how I long for that day. It is not inappropriate to think of eternal life in that way. That is what scripture is talking about when it talks about eternal life. But, what people often fail to capture is that there is another dimension of eternal life. It is not just a future event, it is also a present reality.
At the moment of salvation, when a person comes to Christ in repentance and faith, that is when eternal life begins. It begins at the moment Jesus comes in. I have eternal life right now. We’ve got this heaven business all mixed up. What makes heaven heaven is the presence of God. What makes everlasting life so wonderful is the presence of God. What salvation does is puts us in the presence of God. Eternal life begins now. It has both a present expression and that future day that we all look forward to. It is both. And 1 John 5 is telling us that God has already given us eternal life. A Christian already possesses eternal life. That means nothing less than the absolute security of our eternity. This is not because we have worked for it. This eternal security is because God gave it!(past tense!)

Eternal Life
The Holy Spirit clearly speaks to us in scripture that eternal life is present at the moment of salvation. That is when eternal life begins. That is not where it ends. Eternal life begins at salvation but it has no ending. It lasts forever. There is something else powerfully significant. Eternal life is eternal. Some translations will say it is “everlasting”. This is repeated throughout the NT.

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish but will have everlasting life.”

Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.”

John 10:28 “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.”

The definition of eternal/everlasting is pretty simple. It is something that has no end. It lasts forever. It is eternal. When someone is truly saved by God’s grace through faith, they are at that moment given eternal life. They are given by God something that lasts forever. They are given something that has no end. IF IT COULD END THEN IT WOULD NOT BE ETERNAL! If you could lose what God has given you then it would not be eternal life, it would be temporary life. If you could lose your salvation then the phrase ‘eternal life is meaningless’. It is not meaningless. Those who are truly saved are given something that they can never lose. They are given something amazing by God. It is a gift of His free grace because of the finished work of Christ on the cross. That gift is eternal life. Eternal life is something that can never be lost, otherwise it wouldn’t be eternal. Words have meaning and eternal means you cannot lose it – ever!

That is eternal security.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Eternal Security From Romans 8

Eternal Security From Romans 8: You Cannot Lose True Salvation

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those are in Christ.” 8:1
“For I am sure that…nothing else in all of creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” 8:39

If someone is truly a Christian, the Bible teaches that they can never lose the salvation that God has freely given to them. God tells us this specifically in many places in the Bible, but I want to focus this article on Romans 8.

Why this is important?
There are those who differ with me and think that it is possible for someone to lose salvation.(They are more than entitled to their view and still deserve complete love and respect). This position is called “conditional salvation”. That basically means that there is a condition for someone to keep their salvation. Inevitably this “condition” is based on something that has to be done by the person. The person has to do certain things in order to stay saved. The reason that this is a big problem is that it logically leads to salvation by works. This false position might grant that a person does nothing to bring them into salvation, but they have to meet the conditions to keep that salvation. When this is reasoned out it leads to the conclusion that a person does something which earns them being kept in salvation. That person does certain works which earn him the credit of keeping his salvation. This is really the only logical conclusion. And, this is why this is so important. It devolves very quickly into works based salvation which scripture clearly rejects(Eph.2:8-9). It logically leads to the conclusion that Jesus’ work on the cross might be enough to get me started but it is not enough to keep me going – I have to add the “conditions/works” in order to keep my salvation. Far be it from me to ever lessen the finished work of Christ’s blood on the cross.
Now, works for Christians are important. I am no antinomian who thinks that a Christian doesn’t need to do acts of obedience. But, there is a big difference. We are not to do works to keep salvation. We are to do works BECAUSE I have been secured eternally in salvation. The former leads to a type of legalism. The latter is graced based obedience. I obey not because I am afraid I will lose my salvation if I don’t. I obey because I have been secured by Christ’s grace for all eternity.

Now, to Romans 8

The entire book of Romans is about justification by grace alone. When Romans 8:1 says that those in Christ are no longer under condemnation, it is talking about the issue of justification. Verse 30 makes it clear that justification is something that has been completed in the past by the sufficient work of Christ alone on the cross. Justification is when God imputes(gives) righteousness to a sinner(through faith) based on the work of Jesus. It is a done deal. This, in and of itself, leads to the doctrine of eternal security. We cannot add anything to the work of Christ on the cross for our salvation. No works necessary to secure, obtain, or keep our justification through Jesus alone.

No condemnation
The wording of verse number 1 is very strong and emphatic. The construction seems a bit clunky to us in English, but the Greek is doing something intentional. It is not only emphasizing the negative, it is a strengthening of it. “There is, therefore, now NO condemnation for those in Christ.” The meaning of this construction is that a Christians is not under any condemnation and never will be EVER again. Thus, we have a strong statement for eternal security. If one could lose their salvation they would be under the condemnation of God. But, we have been justified fully by the work of Jesus alone. Therefore, there is no condemnation – Jesus didn’t take part of it. Jesus took all of our condemnation.

Indwelling of Holy Spirit
Verse 9-11 makes it clear that to be a Christian means that the Holy Spirit comes and makes His home in our hearts. At the moment of salvation the Holy Spirit “indwells” the Christian. The word used here is very significant. It means to make a permanent dwelling. There are other words in the Greek language to describe a temporary residence. The most common one would be the word “tent” or “tabernacle”. But, the metaphor that God uses is with the word of a permanent residence. The Holy Spirit comes into a Christian to stay permanently – forever. To lose salvation would require the Holy Spirit to set up a temporary tent, so He can move out and move on if the person doesn’t do the right things. That is not what the text tells us. He moves in for good, never to leave. (He will never leave nor forsake us. Heb.13:5).

Heirs of God, fellow heirs of Christ – promise of inheritance and our adoption 8:15-17
The Holy Spirit is one of the biggest proponents of eternal security. The Bible tells us in many different places that the Holy Spirit in us “guarantees” our eternity with God.(Eph.1:14) Through His incredible grace, God has saved us, adopted us as His children which makes us heirs of a great inheritance. The Holy Spirit is the sealing of that promise from God. That inheritance is our future glory with God in His heaven. God has promised this inheritance to His children. God never goes back on His promises. That means our eternity is secured by His faithfulness to keep His promises.
There is another incredible statement of our absolute security in Christ. We can never lose our salvation because we have been adopted by God the Father through the work of Jesus. The metaphor of adoption used of salvation carries the idea of permanent relationship. In the legal law of the times, once a father signed the legal papers adopting a child it could never be undone. It didn’t matter what that child ever did, the adoption could never be undone. So, some might think that they could do something to “dis-inherit” themselves from God’s promise. The idea of adoption removes that false thought. We did nothing to deserve our adoption as God’s children and we can do nothing to keep it. It is all based on God’s justification and promises. We cannot lose our status as God’s children—because we have been adopted.

Predestined, justified, glorified
Verse 29-30 contains a list of vocabulary words. There are some deep subjects that crop up in this list of words. I am not going to branch off to discuss all of those deep topics. There is something incredibly powerful in these words. They are all verbs in the past tense (aorist active in greek). This is stunning. We have been predestined by God. Because we have been predestined by God we have been justified by Christ. Our justification is finished in the completed work of Christ on the cross. Those are stunning statements in and of themselves, but the last word is very curious. We have been glorified. How can that be past tense? Our glory is something that is coming in the future.(see vs.17-18,24-25). How can something in the future be applied to us in the past tense? The only way this past tense verb makes sense is because of eternal security. Our salvation, which leads to our future glory, is so secure God can talk about it in the past tense. God views our future glory as an absolute certainty. So much so, that this future reality can be talked about using a past tense verb! Amazing! If we could lose our salvation it would make much more sense to use a different type verb, “Those whom He justified MIGHT one day be in glory.” But, that is not what the verse says. We are assured of our glory.

Nothing can separate us
The conclusion of the chapter doubly reinforces our security in salvation because of the work of Christ. Paul asks a series of rhetorical questions. These serve to add emphasis to his point. Can anything ever separate the love of the Father from His children? Nothing, absolutely nothing, can separate us from the love of God. No condemnation inevitably leads to no separation. There are no forces on this earth, no forces in the spiritual realm, no situations, nothing in all of creation that will ever separate a child of God from the love of the Heavenly Father. That is eternal security in the love of Jesus!
Some might raise the possibility that we can remove ourselves from the love of Christ in salvation. But, the verse says that nothing in all of creation can ever do that. We are a part of creation. So, if we are truly saved by the justifying love of Jesus, we cannot separate ourselves from that love.

Eternal security is true ONLY for those who are truly saved. There is such a thing as false conversion. There is such a situation as people who assume they are in Christ, but they have never truly repented and believed. There is no eternal security for those who are not truly saved.

But, for those who are truly saved, they can never lose that salvation. God’s children are eternally secure because of the work and love of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen and hallelujah!!

Other scriptures/issues:
Eternal life – John 17, John 3:16 (God gives us eternal life at salvation. If we could lose that then it wouldn’t be eternal.)
1 John 5
John 10

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Pastoring and Political Endorsements

Should a Pastor Endorse a Candidate for President?

This is an election year. This year, as every election year, will determine the President of the USA and the direction our country will be heading. Should a pastor, should I, be political? Should a pastor make a political endorsement of certain candidates?

There are some churches and pastors that openly, even from the pulpit, endorse polticians. I think this is wrong. Even if it is allowed and was legal, I don’t think a pastor should go so far as to endorse particular candidates. I think this is an issue of wisdom and priorities. Let me break this down into a few different lines of thought: offense of the gospel, Biblical issues inform political ones, and shepherding people from all parties.

#1 The offense of the gospel.
A pastor and church should never shy away from the offense of the gospel. The gospel will offend. That is a non-negotiable. But, we must be careful not to offend with things that are optional or secondary. By making an endorsement of one political candidate or party, we run the risk of offending those people who are for the other guy or other party. A pastor needs to make sure that the gospel is the first priority, not an election. The good news of Jesus is the primary proclamation that should come from the pulpit of a pastor. Everything a pastor chooses to say is also excluding something else he could be saying. To be overly political runs the risk of lessening the gospel of Jesus Christ.

#2 Biblical issue inform political ones
Don’t get ahead of me yet. While I think it is unwise of a pastor to endorse a particular political party or candidate from the pulpit this does not mean that he should not address issues and values. A pastor absolutely has a responsibility to preach the whole counsel of the Word of God. The Bible gives believers many mandates that are relevant to modern social issues. A pastor should never shy away from faithful proclamation of the Biblical view of these social positions.
For example, it is critical necessary for a pastor to preach sound Biblical messages on the horror that is abortion. The Bible is unequivocal on this issue. We can’t let politics hijack our courage from preaching the Biblical truth that abortion is wrong. Obviously, that Biblical position should be used by the wise Christian to guide us in who to vote for.
I think the wise course of action would be for a pastor to defend the sanctity of life without saying, “Don’t vote for so and so candidate.” Preach the Biblical truth unashamedly, but don’t mandate a particular vote. This is true for other important issues of the day that are addressed by scripture.

#3 Shepherding All
The pastor must shepherd, minister, and teach all different types of sheep and church members. Some are more mature in their faith, some are not. Some are from one political party, some from another, some from no party affiliation at all. The church is not an arm of the Republican National Convention. It is the body of Christ. As a pastor I lessen my leadership ability by being overly political from the pulpit. I need to teach the Biblical issues and lead the people no matter what party that they might prefer. It is my opinion that this philosophy is the wisest course for a pastor.
I do not think that this means a pastor cannot have a personal opinion. He does, and he does have a vote. I do and I will. I will not endorse a candidate from the pulpit, but if it comes up on a personal level I have no problem voicing my political opinions.

One more note. I hope this serves as a good example for others. As followers of Jesus, our home is not this world. We already belong to a political party – it’s called the kingdom of God. No human president is going to usurp the throne and power of our God. In fact, scripture is clear == God allows whoever is president to be president. So, no matter how this election turns out, Jesus Christ still rose from the dead and will return with the sound of a mighty trumpet. Let’s serve Him above anything else.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Book Recommendations

These are books that I have read that have made an impact in my life in one way or another. I have tried to include some books from different categories. Some of them are books that I think every believer should read. If you are looking for something to read I hope this can give you some helpful direction in something to choose.

These are in no particular order:

Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis (Amazon)
This is a classic that I have used over and over again.

Knowing God by J.I. Packer (Amazon)
This is another classic book. This is about the Biblical theology of knowing and being known by God. Every believer should be familiar with this book. (IMO)

Gospel: Recovering The Power That Made Christianity by J.D. Greear (Amazon)
Greear is a youngish pastor and this book is a great book on what the gospel is and the place it should be in our life. (hint: the center)

Radical: Taking Back Your Faith From The American Dream (Amazon)
This is a great book that identifies some common misconceptions about the gospel. We must look at the gospel from the pages of scripture and not through the lens of our western, american culture or we will distort that gospel.

To The Golden Shore: The Life of Adoniram Judson by Courtney Anderson (Amazon)
This is my favorite missionary biography. If you have never heard of Adoniram Judson you should read this book. It always challenges me and encourages me to courageously engage in the great commission of Christ.

George Mueller of Bristol: His Life of Prayer and Faith by A.T. Pierson (Amazon)
This is another one of my favorite missionaries. Mueller's life and story inspires me to strengthen my faith and be a man of prayer.

The Insanity of God: A True Story of Faith Resurrected by Nik Ripken (Amazon)
I read Ripken's book last summer and couldn't put it down. Some of the stories in this book are absolutely stunning and evidence of the work of God among persecuted people groups. I challenge to read this book.

Can Man Live Without God by Ravi Zacharias (Amazon)
I love Ravi Zacharias. He does Christian apologetics. He will make you think. I love to read apologetics but not because it helps me witness to atheists. It does that, but I like to read them because it makes me think deeply about my faith and strengthens it along the way.

Stealing From God: Why Atheists Need God To Make Their Case by Frank Turek (Amazon)
This is another book on apologetics. I started reading it last summer and couldn't put it down either.

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand (Amazon)
I know this came out as a hit movie last year. If you have seen the movie, you need to read the book. There is so much more to the story. It is thrilling and has a great message about the power of the gospel that the movie leaves out.

That is probably enough to get you started. If you finish these, let me know and I can recommend some others.

Friday, January 23, 2015

The Question of Solomon's Authorship of Ecclesiastes

“The words of the Qoholet (Preacher), the son of David, king in Jerusalem.” Ecclesiastes 1:1

“In short, both the tenor of the book and the language in which it is written render IMPOSSIBLE the indentification(of Ecclesiastes) with Solomon or any Hebrew. (Word Biblical Commentary, Ecclesiastes, p. xxi, by Roland E. Murhpy).

The quote from the scripture above and from the commentary are in conflict with one another. This highlightS the difficult question of who actually authored the book of Ecclesiastes. This book of the Old Testament has always faced much criticism, rejection or has just been ignored. For those of us who believe that every word of the Bible is God’s Word we must take every page with the gravity it deserves.
So, did Solomon write the book of Ecclesiastes? What are the arguments for and against? Does it matter?
First, the identity of the author does NOT change the message of the book. Knowing whether it was Solomon or not does not impact the message of the book of Ecclesiastes. The message is clear; without God life makes no sense.
That being said, I do think that it makes a bit of difference who the author is. I believe that it is Solomon and think there is ample evidence to draw that conclusion.

Arguments Against Solomonic Authorship
The denial of Solomonic authorship is actually relative knew on the Biblical studies landscape. Much of the Bible and it’s authorship was thrown into question with the advent of the Higher Criticism movement that began in the late 18th and early 19th century. The couple of thousands of years before that, the book of Ecclesiastes was almost universally attributed to Solomon. Roland Murphy acknowledges that truth, “David’s son, in the superscription is the basis for the long standing tradition of the book’s Solomonic authorship.” (ibid) The main problem with Higher Criticism are the presuppositions carried into the research. It begins with a presupposition that the Bible is not the Word of God, that it is not authoritative, that it is not the truth of God. I, obviously, begin with the opposite starting point.
Most of the rejection of Solomon’s authorship of Ecclesiastes is based off of the type of language used in Ecclesiastes. This is a complicated issue. The Hebrew and Aramaisms found in the book are difficult to find correlations that match a certain time period that would be associated with the timeline of Solomon. I admit, that one would need a Phd in Hebrew and Aramaic to be able to dive in to the issues of language found in this ancient book. I do not have that Phd. But, scholars who do, have come down on both sides of the debate. I think Walt Kaiser’s investigation bears a longer quote:


Furthermore, many of he 29 alleged Aramaism are actually of Canaanite-Phoenecian vintage, according to Mitchell Dahood. In fact, it is almost impossible to avoid the conviction that Ecclesiastes is of such a unique and special genre that it currently fits into no known period of the history of the Hebrew language. Archer and Dahood both repEat Jastrow’s and Margoliouth’s judgment that it is impossible to explain the peculiarities of Qoholeth’s grammar, syntax, and orthography on the basis that it is late Mishnaic Hebrew or late Aramaic.
But, if the internal evidence, with its similarities to the phrases, style of life, and experience of the Davidic King Solomon depicted in 1 Kings 1-11, and the external linguistic evidence argue for orthography, lexicography, and even syntax that reaches back into the 10th century BC, THERE IS NO REASON WHY WE SHOULD NOT CONCLUDE THAT THE WRITE AND SPEAKER WAS SOLOMN, SON OF KING DAVID. (emphasis mine)

End Quote (Walt Kaiser, Ecclesiastes: Total Life, p. 28-29)

For Solomon
The best starting place for authorship is the text itself. Similar to NFL review, I think there needs to be “indisputable” evidence to overturn the witness of the text itself. The internal evidence in Ecclesiastes is strong for Solomon.
If one were to simply, without prejudice, read verse 1 the author that immediately jumps to mind is Solomon. The verse says that this Preacher is the son of David and the king in Jerusalem. Look at verses 12-13. There is another reference to being King in Jerusalem. Now, the ESV reads, “He WAS king in Jerusalem.” The English seems to indicate a past tense. That this author was, or used to be a king, but no longer is the king. That doesn’t fit with the record of Solomon’s life. The problem is that “WAS” is in the perfect tense. That is not the equivalent of our English past tense. The perfect indicates a past occurrence with ongoing present results. He was and is king in Jersulam as he is writing this book.
Ecclesiastes also tells us that this king in Jerusalem applied his heart to search out wisdom. What was Solomon known for? His wisdom. In fact, turn to 1 Kings 3:10-14 and see how that matches up. The author of Ecclesiastes also mentions other things about his life. The author had much wisdom and wealth, he applied himself to work, he had honor and power, he gave proverbs of wisdom and foolishness. All of those fit perfectly with what the Bible tells us about Solomon.

Does This Make a Difference
As a young adult Solomon wrote Song of Songs. That book is a book of passion, faithfulness, and love between a man and woman. It details their heart to remain faithful to the Lord. In the middle of his life Solomon wrote the book of Proverbs. This would happen after God gave Solomon more wisdom than anyone else. That book not only gives insight in how to live, but it details that the greatest wisdom is in knowing God. The book of 1 Kings details most of Solomon’s life. In those details we learn that Solomon was the king of Jerusalem during the glory years of the Israelite empire. It was a glorious time for Solomon and Israel. There was immense wealth and prosperity. And 1 Kings also details the fall of Solomon. With much wealth and prosperity comes much temptation. And Solomon gave in. It was a ruinous downfall to his life. But, that was not the last chapter of Solomon’s life.
Like the repentant Manassah, I believe Solomon came back around. I believe that the book of Ecclesiastes is the final message of a man who has been to the mountain top, and then fell down to the bottom of the valley. Ecclesiastes is Solomon’s regretful retrospective on his life. His message is, “I’ve done it all. I’ve tried it all. I had all the glory, all the blessing. I have also blown it big time. I have tasted the life of sin and chased the after the pleasures and sin this life offers. I’ve been up, I’ve been down. Here is what I discovered. Learn from my mistake. Here is the conclusion of the matter.”

Ecclesiastes 12:13-14
"The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil."

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Render to Caesar: Whose Image Are You?

Matthew 21:15-22
15 Then the Pharisees went and plotted how to entangle him in his words. 16 And they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are true and teach the way of God truthfully, and you do not care about anyone's opinion, for you are not swayed by appearances.2 17 Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” 18 But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why put me to the test, you hypocrites? 19 Show me the coin for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius.3 20 And Jesus said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” 21 They said, “Caesar's.” Then he said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.” 22 When they heard it, they marveled. And they left him and went away.

I love this story. It shows the absolute brilliance and wisdom of Jesus. It also leads to a radical conclusion for all of humanity. I recently listened to Ravi Zacharias recount this story from the Bible. It went something like this.

A man comes to test Jesus about paying taxes. The man is trying to catch Jesus saying something that the crowds would find objectionable. Taxes, then like today, are a hot-button issue. So the man comes and asks Jesus, “Should we pay taxes to Caesar?” Of course I wish that Jesus would have answered that question differently. I wish he would have said, “no”. Then I could be rebellious and godly. When April 15th rolls around I can refuse to pay my taxes and be godly at the same time. But, that is not what Jesus said. Jesus said, “show me a coin.” They bring Him a coin. Jesus says, “Whose image is on this coin?” They said, “Caesar”. To which Jesus replied, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s”. The man walked away. The man was thwarted by Jesus’ answer but he missed the greater point. He should have asked another question. The man should have asked, “What belongs to God?” Then he hears, “What image is on you?”

Let that sink in for a minute. The Bible says that humanity is created in the image of God. The Roman coin is stamped with the image of its owner – Caesar. The human life is stamped with the image of it’s creator and owner – the Lord God. So, give to God what is His --- your life.

That is the greatest calling, responsibility, and purpose of your life --- to render to God that which is His --- you!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Glory Lord Jesus - Keith Green

The story of Keith Green made an impact in my life. His music was from the 70's-80's. He was one of the first musicians that I was introduced to shortly after I came to faith in Christ. Of course, Keith is not perfect, but his story and music made had a lasting impact on my walk with Christ.

This song is titled, "Glory Lord Jesus". It is really good. It is Christological, eschatological, and exalts Christ. I found myself encouraged to give glory to Jesus by this song.

Here are the lyrics to the song:

Glory, Lord Jesus, glory to Your Holy Name
Glory, Lord Jesus, Your blood, it has removed my shame
When the Son of Man returns, will He find faith on the Earth?
Well, I hope so, I want to be found ready

Holy, Lord Jesus, holy is Your righteous throne
Holy, Lord Jesus, my praises go to You alone
Worthy art Thou Lord our God
To receive all glory honor and power
For there is none beside Thee

Faith is believin', faith is for overcoming
And if I'm going to love You, sure got to trust You

Glory, Lord Jesus

Faith is believin', faith is for overcoming
And if I'm going to love You, sure got to trust You

Glory, Lord Jesus, glory to Your Holy Name
Glory, Lord Jesus For evermore You'll never change
When the Son of Man returns, will He find faith on the Earth?
Well, I hope so, I want to be found ready

I wanna be found ready
I want to be ready, Lord, help me be ready
Please let me be found ready, I wanna be ready
Oh, Lord, help me be ready
I wanna be found ready, I wanna be ready
Lord, help me be found ready

Glory, Lord Jesus, glory to Your Holy Name
Glory, Lord Jesus, Your blood, it has removed my shame
Glory, Lord Jesus, glory to Your Holy Name
Glory, Lord Jesus, for evermore You'll never change

Glory, Lord Jesus, glory to Your Holy Name

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

What The Church Needs In A Pastor

The church in general is in dire need. Our church particular is in dire need. There are many things that the modern American church has, that it doesn’t need. There are things that she has that are superfluous. The church does not need a pastor to be a celebrity. The church does not need a pastor who is a brilliant CEO and business leader. The church doesn’t need a pastor who is a brilliant scholar. The church doesn’t need a pastor who is an eloquent speaker able to capture the attention of large crowds. The church doesn’t need a pastor who is wrapped in the perception of perfection.
So, what does the church need in a pastor? The church needs a pastor who is godly. The church needs a pastor who lives out the faith, not in absolute perfection, but in sincerity and integrity. The church needs a pastor who is devoted to the scriptures. It needs a pastor who feeds himself on the Word of God and is content to feed the sheep of his flock a steady diet of the Word of God. No parlor tricks or rhetorical masterpieces necessary. The church needs a pastor who is consistent in pursuing intimacy with God in prayer. The church needs a pastor who is passionate about the gospel. He understands, explains, and lives out the gospel. The church needs a pastor who, because of the gospel, is mission minded and evangelistic.
If the pastor is the not the John Mazwellian leader, or a world renowned orator, or a mastermind executive, she can manage. But, if the church doesn’t have a godly, devoted, passionate, committed pastor, she will be in trouble.
I am praying that my church will have such a pastor. The man they have now is not quite there, but God isn’t finished working on him yet. I am praying that God will make me into the pastor that my church needs on a daily basis.

Monday, March 3, 2014

The Gospel Response to the Issue of Homosexuality (a sermon)

This is a sermon transcript that I preached on March 2, 2014 to the congregation I pastor at First Baptist Church of Southlake Texas.

The Gospel Response to the Issue of Homosexuality

Paul writes in Galatians 6:14, “May I never boast in anything except the cross of our Lord.” The cross is not the physical instrument or shape, it is in reference to the gospel—the good news of Christ. Paul had many credentials in his life, but his number one priority was the gospel of His Savior. The same should be true of us. We need to make sure that above all else, we are gospel promoters, gospel lovers, gospel thinkers, gospel people.
This means that we cannot allow anything else to become more important to us than the gospel. This includes politics. Like all of you, I have political leanings, thoughts and ideas. Some I am very passionate about. Others, not so much. But, I cannot allow politics to take the place of what should be my number one priority—the gospel. This doesn’t mean that I can’t have an opinion, voice my opinion, or vote. I can and should. But, we need to make sure that we have the order right. The gospel is our main priority.
I say this because today I am discussing an issue that has become very political. But I am a preacher of the gospel not a politician. I am not concerned today about your political affiliation, I am concerned about your gospel affiliation. I am not going to give a stump speech on a political issue, I am going to preach a gospel message from the Holy Scriptures. The issue is a gospel issue. Yes, people take this issue into political areas—that is what free people can do in a democratic society. But I want us to frame our discussion in the context of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
This requires precision and humility. The gospel in a nutshell is that we are all sinners. As sinners every single one of us deserve the hell of a just God. Our best effort and greatest deeds will never make up for our sins against this Holy God. In His love He sent His son, Jesus, who died in our place for our sins. He rose from the dead. Any who repent and believe in Jesus receive the grace and forgiveness of God Almighty.
That gospel message gives us great clarity when it comes to the issue we are looking at today. The first point of clarity is a call for humility. Every single one of us are sinners against a loving, holy God. Your sins might be different from mine. Their sin might be different from ours… but that doesn’t matter. We are all sinners in need of a Savior.
Understanding and receiving the gospel should remove the arrogance of thinking we are better than anyone else. Just because my sins are different than yours does NOT make me better than you. Just because you and I are not committing the sin of homosexuality does NOT mean that we are any better than them. There is not an “us” and a “them”. We are all in the same boat--the boat of sin. We are all sinners in need of a Savior. The gospel has to be our starting point when we come to this issue.

The Issue
And it is a huge issue. Every day last week there was another article about the issue of homosexuality, gay rights, or gay marriage. Every day. The issue of homosexuality has gone nuclear. The bomb has gone off and the blast radious has engulfed the entire globe several times over. It is inescapable and unavoidable.
The acceptance of homosexuality has crossed over from a reasonable discussion to an emotional outburst. It has infiltrated every area of life. It has infiltrated into schools, churches, government, and oreos. There are gay oreos. It has recently had big headlines in sports. I love sports. I love to watch NFL football. To be honest, I don’t care if a player is gay or not, as long as he is good. But, that is not enough. Michael Sam is entering the NFL draft and declared that he is gay. He is the first openly gay player to be drafted. This was the headline discussion on ESPN and even non-sports related news sites. Commentators have had a field day. Opinions have been poured out like water. The only opinion not tolerated is any opinion opposed to homosexuality. Everything is tolerated except and one who opposes homosexuality and has any opinion contrary to acceptance of homosexuality.
Things have changed. Things have changed radically and fast. Homosexuality has almost always existed in one form or another. But, up until about 40 years ago there was something that all of humanity and all cultures had in common with this issue. Homosexuality was never an accepted part of society. Regardless of location, nation, religion, or people groups; homosexuality was not accepted until about 40 years ago. Since that time there has been a fast rate of change.
Six years ago President Obama was against gay marriage. Two years ago he changed his mind and was for it. Ten years ago there were no states that allowed homosexual marriage. Today there are 17 states that do allow it, with more and more on the verge.
It has even found it’s way into the church world. In an effort to be more culturally engaged some churches are tossing aside the scriptures and church history to accept homosexuality.
Some times people reference the “culture wars”. In my opinion, for our culture, this issue has won the day. It is over. Those of us who actually believe the Bible have lost on this issue. We need to get used to the fact that we are on the outside when it comes to this issue. We have lost.
The question we have to consider is, how do we respond? I want to break that question down into two questions. What does the Bible teach about homosexuality? How are Bible believing, gospel loving followers of Christ to respond?(what are we to do?)

Step 1: What Does the Bible Actually Say about Homosexuality/Homosexuals
The Bible does specifically address this issue. It is clear that homosexuality is a detestable sin. That is not my opinion, that is God’s. We are going to do a brief survey of both the Old Testament and the New Testament in regards to the issue of homosexuality.

Old Testament and Homosexuality
1. Genesis 19:1-11 – Sodom and Gomorrah
God reigned down judgment on these two groups of people. The just judgment of God was because of their heinous sins. In this story these people had a multitude of sins. The headline sin was the sin of homosexuality. God condemned them for this sin.

2. Leviticus 18:22
You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination. (Leviticus 18:22, ESV)

3. Leviticus 20:13
If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them. (Leviticus 20:13, ESV)

4. Judges 19:16-24 – Gibeah
Similar incident to Sodom and Gomorrah at a different period in Biblical history.

Some object to these Old Testament passages. The reason might sound like this, “That’s the OT. We can’t take all that stuff from Leviticus as legitimate. If so, then eating shrimp is a sin. All that OT stuff is done away with. We don’t have to follow all of that.”
But, that is faulty for several reasons. That position belies a basic misunderstanding of the book of Leviticus and the Old Testament. Leviticus does contain some ceremonial type laws that became obsolete when the theocracy and Temple ceased to exist. But, some parts of moral law and are binding in nature. How do we know that homosexuality is in the group of laws that are binding? One reason is the continued witness of scriputre that homosexuality is a sin. It is treated the same way in all the Bible.

New Testament and Homosexuality.
1. Romans 1:18-35
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God's righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.” (Romans 1:18-35, ESV)

2. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11
“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10, ESV)

3. 1 Timothy 1:8-11
“Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine, in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted.” (1 Timothy 1:8-11, ESV)

4. Jude 7
“just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.” (Jude 1:7, ESV)

Other Bible Passages: Sexual Immorality
The previous verses of scripture were ones which directly referenced homosexuality. There are many other verses of scripture that cover the issue of homosexuality indirectly. This is seen specifically when the Bible condemns sexual immorality. 1 Thessalonians 4:3 says, “this is the will of God…that you abstain from sexual immorality.” There are many stories and examples of God’s judgment on sexual immorality in the Old Testament as well.
The command of Thessalonians to avoid sexual immorality is broad in scope. Sexual immorality covers any sexual experience outside of God’s standard. God’s standard is one man and one woman in a marriage. Anything outside of that is classified as sexual immorality. That would include: homosexuality, fornication, sex before marriage, sex outside of marriage, lust, and pornography. Homosexuality is included when the Bible prohibits sexual immorality.

God’s Creation and Jesus’ Confirmation
God’s standard regarding human sexuality is important. God clearly verbalized it in the creation account. In Genesis 2:24 the standard of God is one man and one woman for life.
But, what about Jesus? Did he say anything about this issue? Yes, he did. In Matthew 19:1-6 we have Jesus discussing the wrongs of divorce. In the statement of Jesus he quotes and confirms Genesis 2:24. Jesus confirms that God’s standard is one man and one woman. That statement by Christ, eliminates acceptance of homosexuality and gay marriage(which is not really marriage anyway).

Main objection: rejection of the authority of scripture
There are some within the Christian sphere who are accepting of homosexuality. They have attempted to refute the common understanding of what scripture teaches on the subject. I have read their arguments and listened to their reasoning. They are very unconvincing. If we boil the reasoning down, it really comes to a question of the authority of scripture. These advocates think that scripture is not to be taken word for word. They want to reduce the message of the Bible from the actual words to a theme. To them the theme is “be loving because God is loving”. So, what they do is plant themselves on the position that one isn’t required to believe what the scriptures clearly teach about homosexuality. You just ignore that part of scripture. In essence, they deny the authority of scripture.
We differ on that crucial point. We actually believe what Jesus and Paul did. We actually believe that every word of the Bible is the inspired Word of God. We do not have the option to cancel out things that we may not like.

The Bible is not unclear about the issue of homosexuality. God declares that homosexuality is a sin. Period. Isaiah 5:20 “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil.”

Step 2: How Do We Respond
So far we have discussing homosexuality. Now, we are going to talk about homosexuals. That is different. The former is a subject. The latter is a person. We cannot miss that. Like all sins, they are committed by people—sinners. That means the following discussion can be applied to any sin, not just homosexuality. How we respond to liars, thieves, haters and other sinners should be exactly the same. We are not to treat homosexuals different than any other sinners. We live in difficult times, and this is a difficult issue. How do we respond? The answer is simple to find in scripture—be Christ-like. Let truth and compassion be our hallmark.

Speak Truth and Love
Ephesians 4:15 Speak the truth in love
That is our plan of response. It is clear. The gospel mandates us to do two things: speak the truth, and to be loving while we do it. That is not just what Ephesians proclaims it is what Jesus modeled. We must do both.
When Jesus encountered the woman at the well, she was a sinner. Jesus showed incredible compassion. He also did not ignore her sin. He actually confronted her in her sin. Time and again Jesus does the same thing. He proclaims truth, loudly at times. And he does so while being completely loving and compassionate.
These are our marching orders as followers of Christ.

A. Speak and Stand for the Truth
Some might say, “O.k you believe homosexuality is a sin, just be quiet about that. You don’t have to say anything about that.” Well, yes we do. Another verse out of Ephesians 5:11 says that we are to expose sin. We are to speak out against sin. We are to tell people that they are sinners. But, do not forget that this is in the framework of the gospel, not politics. Our motivation for calling out sinners is the gospel. It is the loving thing to do. People are not going to come to Christ to be saved from their sins if they are not confronted with the reality that they are sinners.
Secular society is engaged in a full court press to silence Christians when it comes to the issue of homosexuality. And, they are winning. We must, by the very command of the scriptures we believe in, stand firm on the truth. This is a truth issue. Our silence would be a sin against God.

B. Love
We must speak. But there is a wrong and a right way to speak. The wrong way to approach is anything devoid of Christ-like love. This is where the Christian world’s biggest failures have come. We like to point out sins, but we don’t want to do the messy work of actually loving people at the same time. (show pictures on screen)
If you cannot love a sinner, even a homosexual, you are not being Christ-like. What does that mean to be loving? It means to be kind, nice, hospitable. It means to actively serve, the way Jesus served all of us sinners. This requires engagement. You cannot be loving from a distance. Therefore, you need to know gay people. You need to befriend gay people. You need to help them when their car breaks down. You need to help them when they find themselves in some crisis. When their gay partner is in the hospital, you need to send flowers and tell them you are praying for their well being.

Some Examples:
Nowadays, it seems that everyone knows someone who is gay. What should you do? Love them and speak the truth. But, remember the goal is not to save them from homosexuality. The goal is to see them saved from their sin by the gospel of Christ. Then when they come to faith in Christ, the process of discipleship and sanctification brings them out of their specific sins. Your relationship to them should always have the gospel as the ultimate goal and prayer of your interaction.
Now, you don’t need to start the relationship like this, “Hi. I’m Scott. I hear that you are gay. That is a sinful abomination against God, you want to go get some coffee?” No. no. no. Bad strategy.
By speaking the truth, I do not mean that you need to go around announcing your beliefs to everyone you meet. You don’t have to wear a shirt that says, “Being gay is a sin.” No. But, you do need to be prepared to speak to that issue when it comes up and not take the easy road out and deny the faith.
The way you start out is the same way you do with anyone who needs Jesus. You befriend them, invite them to church, share the gospel with them, or whatever else you do when you start a relationship with someone who needs Jesus.
In my trips to Estonia the missionary there has doing a great job at reaching out to the gay population in Christ’s name. He is intentionally trying to put into action truth and love. We were talking with him about this one time as it was approaching the lunch hour. He began telling us about this gay club. During the night time it is a typical club, but during the afternoon it is a restaurant that serves lunch. He had gotten to know some of the employees and was building bridges to share Christ with them. We had a great idea, why don’t we go there for lunch today? And we did.
When we walked into that gay establishment I didn’t jump on the table and say, “Hey, gay people, Jesus loves you, you better trust Him or you are going to hell.” No. We sat down, we ordered food, we left a really good tip. We were introduced to a few people and we were nice. That was it. But, hopefully, that was another step for them to come to Christ. Maybe when we left they thought to themselves, “Those Americans were nice.” And through that a door might be opened to share the gospel. Because that is the goal.

Practical Suggestions Regarding This Issue
TS – We are never to shy away from Biblical truth and we are to always be selfless, loving and compassionate. We could spend a lot of time going through specific situations and issues that arise when we discuss homosexuality. Time doesn’t permit us to be exhaustive. I do want to give you a short, but not complete, list of suggestions.

1] Friendship
It is o.k. to befriend someone who is gay. You should. You should be friendly and nice. If you can’t speak about this issue and still be friendly and nice, you are the one with the problem. Look for ways to be someone’s friend.
Do proceed in that friendship with a gospel centered caution. Everyone has different levels of friendship. Some people we are very close and intimate to while others might be just a friendly acquaintance. It is unwise for a Christ follower to have an unguarded heart in a relationship with someone who is not living for the Lord. The reason is because you will be the one influenced and not the other way around.

2] Don’t normalize homosexuality.
This is what our society is pushing. Society wants everyone, including Bible believing Christians, to accept homosexuality. We cannot allow our minds to be won over. We must not normalize something that God explicitly says is not normal and is unnatural.
You need to make sure that you reinforce this with your kids. Do it privately at home, you don’t have to wear the t-shirt. But, make sure that you teach your kids that someone having two mommies, or the gay guy on t.v. is not normal.

3] Be prepared to be hated.
We are going to be called names. There are two reasons why we might be hated and called names. The first reason is because we deserve. We are doing something hateful and bigoted. Like the people holding up these awful signs. Society views and calls them bigots and homophobes—because they are.
But, be prepared. If you stand for the truth and you are perfectly loving, just like Jesus, they are still going to call us bigots and homophobes. They don’t see a difference. We do and we must be prepared. How do we react? We respond with love and kindness. We do not respond with anger and reprisal.

4] Don’t be surprised
The Bible is clear that this downgrade of society was going to happen. It is a sign of the times, the end times. I do not think that things are going to get better. I think that they are going to get worse. Don’t be surprised but be prepared.

5] Rejoice
What? That’s right, rejoice! We should rejoice for the gospel. It is a privilege to suffer for the sake of the gospel. And know this; the gospel thrives in such conditions. That is good news.

6] Be about that gospel. Keep the gospel front and center. The gospel is the road map for how to navigate through life in this fallen, twisted, perverted world.

I heard Dr. Patterson speak on this issue. He told a story about when Dr. Criswell was going to preach a message on this same topic when it was first making headlines in the late 1970’s. He was at First Baptist Dallas which is a very large church. In Dallas there was a large pro-gay activist group whose leaders got word about what Dr. Criswell was preaching on. So, they organized a protest ralley. Dr. Patterson got permission to be in charge of how the church would respond to the protest ralley.
Sure, enough that Sunday rolled around and the protesters gathered outside the church. Have you ever seen someone picket a church? That is exactly what happened. Dr. Patterson had some things arranged. When the protestors showed up his team went into action. They went out to meet the protestors. They didn’t go out with bullhorns and pepper spray. They went out with breakfast. They took out donuts and coffee and set up tables so that the protestors could get some refreshments while they were standing there on that cold day. Dr. Patterson had assigned church members to go stand beside each protestor to see if they needed anything and as a message to the rest of the congregation not to retaliate.
It wasn’t long before the organizer came over and told Dr. Patterson that the group was leaving. The gay leader was impressed with the hospitality they received. A few months later, at a regular Sunday church service Dr. Criswell gave a gospel invitation. Several people responded. That morning up at the front praying and giving his life to Jesus as Lord was the gay activitist leader. He has been a faithful servant of the Lord in that church ever since.
We need to be gospel people and approach this issue in a Biblical, Christ-like, gospel focused manner.