Thursday, June 22, 2017

Scripture: Inerrancy

Scripture: Inerrancy
    Inerrancy means that the Bible does not contain errors or contradictions. This applies only to the original autographs. Put simply, when God moved authors to write, they wrote what God willed them to write, and since the Lord is perfect and cannot ere, what was written originally was without error. The word of God is always true. The Bible is never false in anything it affirms, whether it be doctrine, ethics, or science (such as social, physical, or life science).
    Inerrancy extends only to the original manuscripts. Copies and copies of copies may contain errors because they were copied by fallible humans who make mistakes. These errors or inaccuracies are always minor. They are usually copying errors and do not change or affect doctrine or anything of importance. Other errors may be in translations. Words or phrases may be interpreted or translated incorrectly (the Latin Vulgate is an example of this).
    However, God in his providence has overseen thousands of copies and their transmission. What we have today, since the originals have been lost to time, is what God desires his church and children to possess. When manuscripts are compared to older manuscripts (which have less copyist errors because they are older and have been copied from copies closer to the original source), errors can be detected and corrected. It is believed that the copies of Scripture we possess today are 99% accurate in comparison to the originals. The more copies that are compared, the more errors are discovered. The more errors that are discovered, the more errors that can be fixed in order to get that much closer to the original manuscript.
    The Bible itself argues for inerrancy. In fact, inspiration requires inerrancy (2Tim. 3:16). If the word of God is breathed out by God, then it follows that since God is indeed perfect, his word is without mistakes or errors. Divine messages are absolutely true and trustworthy. But, what is false fails. God explained this through Moses in Deuteronomy.
    “If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or wonder that he tells you comes to pass, and if he says, 'Let us go after other gods,' which you have not known, 'and let us serve them,' you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams. For the LORD your God is testing you, to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. You shall walk after the LORD your God and fear him and keep his commandments and obey his voice, and you shall serve him and hold fast to him. But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has taught rebellion against the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you out of the house of slavery, to make you leave the way in which the LORD your God commanded you to walk. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.” (Deut. 13:1-5)
    “But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name that I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die.' And if you say in your heart, 'How may we know the word that the LORD has not spoken?'- when a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him.” (Deut. 18:20-22)
    If what was said happened, it was from God. If the words failed, the prophet was false. The main thing to see is that God gave his people a way to test the message and messengers. This would not be possible if the words of God contained errors. Since they were given criteria to distinguish the true from the false, it follows that God's word is always true.
   The Bible is also authoritative which requires inerrancy. Matthew 5:17-20 and John 10:34-35 demonstrate that the law's authority hinges on the fact that it must be fulfilled. “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 5:17-20)
    “Jesus answered them, 'Is it not written in your Law, 'I said, you are gods'? If he called them gods to whom the word of God came-and Scripture cannot be broken...'” (Jn. 10:34-35)
    Scripture cannot be broken and is, therefore, binding and authoritative. In order for something to be absolutely authoritative it cannot contain errors. The trustworthiness and inerrancy of Scripture derives from the character of God. God cannot lie, make mistakes, or communicate errors (Num. 23:19; 1Sam. 15:29; Tit. 1:2; Heb. 6:18). He is perfect.
    What cements the inerrancy of the word of God is 2 Timothy 3:16-17. “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” As was already discussed, the Scripture is exhaled or breathed out by a perfect God. He has given the church his word in order to equip her for good works that result in God being glorified. Also, the word of God is central to the life of the church. God's words are profitable. They teach, reprove, correct, and train. This would be impossible, however, if the word of God contained errors.
    Remember, God gave his church his word. It is to grow and glorify God by following his word. How would this be possible if his word contained errors? If it misled? If it taught something that was wrong? If it could not be trusted? The word of God is inspired, and as a result, the word of God is inerrant. Scripture can be trusted because our great God is trustworthy and able to communicate truthfully and accurately his will to his church.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Scripture: Inspiration

Scripture: Inspiration
     The word “inspiration” literally means “breathed out” or “exhaled.” The word of God, the Bible, is breathed out or exhaled by God. The inspiration of Scripture, therefore, is the supernatural influence by the Holy Spirit which resulted in the biblical writer's writings being trustworthy, authoritative, inerrant, and the very words of God. God is the author of Scripture. Scripture is the creation of God's creative breath. Yet mysteriously, he used fallen human beings to communicate and record his words.
     There are several theories of inspiration. The last of these is the classical view and is the most accurate and biblically sound. First, some believe that the Bible is not inspired as we have defined above, but only inspirational. The Bible is just like other books in that it inspires people. Second, some teach that the Bible is only partially inspired. The theological parts of Scripture are inspired, but not the scientific or historical. The Bible, then, is only a record of God's saving acts. It contains the words of God but is not the word of God. Obviously, this is flawed for many reasons. To mention only a few, if this was the case, who determines what is inspired and what is not? Can we even trust the Bible? Can we trust the God of this Bible if he cannot even give us an inspired word? Who determines what is the word of God from the words of man?
     A third theory is that the Bible is inspired without the use of human authors. This view is explained by insisting that the writers only wrote what was dictated to them. This is often called the mechanical dictation theory. This fails because the Bible is clearly written in the styles of the authors. The Spirit “carried along” the authors and used their backgrounds, words, experiences, gifts, and own styles to accurately record the word of God (2Pet. 1:21). There is no evidence of dictation; Scripture is the word of God written by living personalities, and those personalities come out and shine throughout Scripture. This is why the word of God is so amazing- God used sinful men to pen his word to sinful men!
     The fourth theory, and the most logical and biblical, is that the Bible is the divinely inspired word of God because he concurrently acted on and with human agents to produce the written words he desired. The authors were not mere robots or secretaries recording dictation. God sovereignly acted upon, guided, and carried along the authors in such a way that they wrote what God wanted them to write, but it was from them- their minds, hearts, personalities, etc. What this means is that God used men to pen his words, but because God is sovereign and providentially guides all history to his desired end, the authors wrote exactly what God wanted and only what God wanted. Yet, they were not infringed upon. God orchestrated this in such a way, that the authors were driven to write but they desired to write because their hearts overflowed with the glory of God, and hearts as these naturally obey and do the works of God because of his supernatural work within them.
     Is this indeed scriptural? Two passages will be quoted and briefly commented on to demonstrate the biblical teaching of inspiration. “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness...” (2Tim. 3:16). This passage teaches that all Scripture is breathed out by God. Scripture, then, is inspired and is the very words of God. This means much more than the idea that the Bible inspires readers or the fact that the authors of Scripture were inspired. This verse shows that Scripture is inspired, Scripture is the word of God- all of it. The Bible is what God desires for man to possess. It is his word of redemption to fallen humanity.
     “For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, 'This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,' we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2Pet. 1:17-21).
    These verses teach that humans were instruments used by the Spirit to communicate God's word, but the origin of Scripture is God himself. Men were carried along by the Spirit. This means more than merely guiding and directing. The Spirit determined, constrained, and influenced the writers. The Spirit achieved this by using the human agent, as well as his style, personality, abilities, experiences, vocabulary, strengths, weaknesses, etc. The end result was the actualization of the divine initiative- the inspired word of God.
     The words of Scripture are God's words. Old Testament passages identify the Law and the messages of the prophets as God's words (1Kng. 22:8-16; Neh. 8; Ps. 119; Jer. 25:1-13, 36). The New Testament views the Old Testament as the very oracles of God, prophetic, and written by men carried along by the Spirit (Rom. 3:2, 16:26; 2Pet. 1:21). Christ and the Apostles quoted Old Testament passages not merely as what men said, but as what God said (Mk. 7:6, 12:36; Rom. 10:5, 20, 11:9; Acts 4:25, 28:25). And, Old Testament statements that were not made directly by God are quoted in the New Testament as God's words (Matt. 19:4; Heb. 3:7; Acts 13:34, citing Gen. 2:24; Ps. 95:7; Is. 55:2).
     Scripture, therefore, is the inspired word of God. As such, it is profitable. Believers need to hear the word of God proclaimed and taught, read it themselves, know it, memorize it, treasure it, pray it, believe it, follow it, and praise God for it. It is the word of God that sanctifies us, equips us to do the works of God, convicts us when we sin, guides us, soothes us, comforts us, corrects us, and penetrates our souls with the very words of our great God. God gave us his word. We have the privilege of reading of his glory and grace, his salvation, his plan of redemption, but most of all- Him. We get to read about God!

Friday, June 9, 2017

Scripture: Why Preach the Bible?

Scripture: Why Preach the Bible?
    The Bible is at the center of Christianity. Indeed, it should be at the center of the Christian life. Believers ought to immerse themselves in word of God. After all, it is just that, the very words of the living God! We should read it, know it, believe it, live it, sing it, memorize it, trust it, meditate on it, preach it, teach it, hear it, and obey it. In a word, Christians need to feast on the scriptures. The Bible is our food, light, guide, and drink. The Bible reveals to us our great God, his amazing salvation, the Son, the Spirit, the work of the Trinity, the glory of God, and a myriad of other life-shattering and eternal truths.
    The word of God is to be preached. Why? Because of the examples of teaching that have come before us. Here are many examples of preaching and proclamation throughout Scripture.
  1. God preached (Ex. 33:19, 34:5; Is. 62:11)
  2. Moses preached (Deut. 31-33)
  3. Joshua preached (Josh. 23:2-16, 24:2-27)
  4. David preached, proclaimed the message of God in his Psalms (8, 9, 16, 22, 24, 34, 68, 75, 89, 93, 105, 110, 119, 136, 145, 1, 23, 32, 37, 40, 46, 50, 66, 78, 92, 100, 104, 106, 118, 128, 150)
  5. Solomon preached (Prov. 1:2-3; 2 Chron. 6:1-42; Ecc. 1:1, 1:12-13, 12:9-10)
  6. Prophets proclaimed the word of God (Is. 1:2-31, 6; Dan. 9; 1 Sam. 12:23; Is. 30:9; Jer. 32:33; Mal. 2:9)
  7. Kings preached (2 Kin. 22-23; Ecc. 1:1)
  8. John the Baptist preached (Matt. 3:1; Jn. 1, 3:22-30; Mk. 1:4; Jn. 1:15, 29)
  9. Christ preached (Mk. 1:14-15; Matt. 5-7; Lk. 4:16-30; Matt. 9:35)
  10. Disciples preached (Mk. 16:20; Lk. 9:6; Acts 2:14-36, 15:14-21)
  11. Paul preached (Acts 17:16-31, 28:31; 1 Cor. 1:23, 2:1-2, 15:1-3; Col. 1:28)
  12. Scripture preached (Gal. 3:8)
  13. Preachers are to preach (1 Tim. 4:13, 6:2; 2 Tim. 4:2-5)
    The next question is, what do I preach? Well, you preach the word of God. To begin, preach Christ. Christ is at the heart of the Bible and the Bible's message of God's great works of creation, providence, and redemption. Proclaim Christ. After all, there are many examples in the New Testament of this very thing...
  1. Jesus preached himself (Matt. 7:21-23, 11:28-30; Lk. 4:16-21, 24:27, 24:44-47; Jn. 3:14-15, 3:16-18, 6:35-40, 8:12, 8:31-36, 10:9, 10:11, 11:25-26, 14:6, 15:1, 17:3)
  2. Apostles preached Christ (Acts 8:5, 8:35, 9:20, 10:36, 17:3)
  3. Paul preached Christ (1 Cor. 1:23, 2:2, 15:1-5; 2 Cor. 4:5; Eph. 3:8; Col. 1:28)
  4. Author of Hebrews preached Christ (Heb. 1:1-13, 4:14-16, 9:11-14, 10:12-14, 12:2, 13:12-15)
  5. James proclaimed Christ (Jms. 1:1, 2:1)
  6. Peter preached Christ (1 Pet. 1:3, 1:19-21, 2:5-8, 2:21-25, 3:18; 2 Pet. 1:8-11, 1:16-17, 3:18)
  7. John preached Christ (1 Jn. 1:1-3, 1:7, 2:1-2, 3:16, 5:1, 5:20; Rev. 1:5-8, 5:9-14)
  8. Jude proclaimed Christ (5, 14-15, 21, 24-25)
    Preachers ought to proclaim the truth. We preach truth because Jesus is truth (Jn. 14:6). Failure to love and preach the truth results in disaster (2Thess. 2:10). Salvation depends on the proclamation of the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ (2Thess. 2:13). Also, Christian living is grounded in the truth of God's word (Rom. 6:1-16; Jms. 4:4). With this being said, preachers, then, must preach the word of God to the minds and hearts of their people (Rom. 12:1-2; Eph. 4:23; Col. 3:10; Acts 2:37; Rom. 10:9-10).
     Preaching should have goals. What are the goal preachers should have in mind when proclaiming the word? They are...
  1. The glory of God (Rom. 9:17, 11:33-36; 1 Cor. 1:18, 21, 31; 2 Cor. 4:1-6; Col. 1:27-28; 1 Pet. 2:9)
  2. Christlikeness (2 Cor. 3:15-18; Col. 1:28)
  3. Conversion (Mk. 1:14-15; Acts 3:17-21, 10:42-43, 11:20-21, 20:21; 1 Cor. 15:14; 2 Cor. 5:16-21)
  4. Edification (Eph. 4:11-16; 2 Tim. 3:17)
  5. Instruction (Acts 20:27; Eph. 4:11-14; Col. 1:28)
  6. Application (Lk. 3:3-14; Matt. 5-7; Acts 2:37-39; Rom. 15:4; 2 Tim. 3:16-17)
    Did you know that preaching is worship? Believers are to worship God alone. Christians learn about God in Scripture. Believers also hear from God through the Bible when it is read, taught, and preached. It follows that, believers who know God and are known by God naturally desire to worship God. Scripture, then is to be at the center of worship (private and corporate worship). Scriptures are to be read, expounded, taught, sung, preached, prayed, discussed, understood, memorized, known, loved, searched, devoured, applied, lived out, cherished, contemplated, desired, and heard. How can a believer possibly worship apart from the Bible? It is impossible. It is only in the Bible that we find what God desires of his people, how he is to be approached, the ordinances, sacred duties, how a believer is to live to the glory of God, and the good news of Christ.
   The scriptures are to be preached and heard. The best way to achieve this is to preach expositionally. This means that the message has Scripture as its sole source. The message is taken from Scripture through careful study and exegesis. Preparation includes correctly interpreting the passage in its normal sense and in its context. Good exegesis explains the original, God-intended message. Then, the passage is to be applied to the current context of believers. This is preaching. This is the proclamation of God's word.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Scripture: Why Teach the Bible?

Scripture: Why Teach the Bible?
     The Bible is at the center of Christianity. Indeed, it should be at the center of the Christian life. Believers ought to immerse themselves in word of God. After all, it is just that, the word of God! We should read it, know it, believe it, live it, sing it, memorize it, trust it, meditate on it, preach it, teach it, hear it, and obey it. In a word, Christians need to feast on the scriptures. The Bible is our food, light, guide, and drink. The Bible reveals to us our great God, his amazing salvation, the Son, the Spirit, the work of the Trinity, the glory of God, and a myriad of other life-shattering and eternal truths.
The word of God is to be taught. Why? Because of the examples of teaching that have come before us. Here are many examples of teaching throughout Scripture.
  1. God taught (Ex. 3:15; Deut. 4:36; Ps. 25:12, 32:8; Is. 2:3)
  2. Christ taught (Matt. 5:2, 7:28-29; Lk. 24:27, 44-49; Eph. 4:21)
  3. Holy Spirit teaches (Neh. 9:20; Lk. 12:12; 1 Cor. 2:13; 1 Jn. 2:27)
  4. Creation teaches (Ps. 19:1-6; Rom. 1:20)
  5. Old Testament priests taught (Lev. 10:11; Deut. 24:8, 33:8-10; 2 Kin. 17:27-28; Ez. 7:10; Neh. 8:7)
  6. Kings taught (Ps. 34:11, 51:13; Prov. 1:1-7; 1 Kin. 4:32-34; Ecc. 12:9)
  7. Prophets taught (1 Sam. 9:27, 12:23; 2 Chron. 17:7; Mic. 5:2)
  8. Parents are to teach their children (Deut. 4:10, 6:7; Prov. 22:6; Eph. 6:4; 2 Tim. 3:15)
  9. Disciples taught (Matt. 28:19-20; Acts 2:42, 4:2, 6:2-4)
  10. Paul taught (Acts 11:26, 20:20; Col. 1:28; 1 Tim. 2:7)
  11. The church and its teachers are to teach (Col. 3:16; Acts 13:1; 1 Cor. 12:28; Eph. 4:11; Tit. 1:5, 9)
  12. Pastors are to teach (1 Tim. 3:2, 4:11; 2 Tim. 2:24, 4:13; Tit. 2:1)
  13. Older women are to teach younger women (Tit. 2:3-4)
     Teaching, as we can see, is essential. Teaching is ministry. But, what is to be taught. Obviously, the word of God, but what does one teach?
     First, teach Christ. He is at the center of the Bible. Teach Christ to the lost (Acts 8:35, 17:3, 18:25-28, 28:23-24). Teach Christ to believers (Acts 5:42, 15:35, 28:31). The lost and found alike both need to hear about Christ.
     Second, teach spirituality. Teach what the Bible teaches on any number of subjects. Christians need to know what God expects of them- how they are to live, grow, and most importantly, how to honor and glorify God. Teach...
  1. To the immature (1 Cor. 3:1-3, 14:20; Heb. 5:13-14)
  2. To the mature (1 Pet. 2:2; 2 Pet. 3:18; 1 Jn. 2:14)
  3. Read Scripture (Acts 17:10-11; 2 Tim. 3:16-17; Col. 3:16)
  4. Follow Christ (Col. 3:1-2; Heb. 12:2)
  5. Prayer (Lk. 18:1-8; Eph. 6:18; Phil. 4:6; Col. 4:2; 1 Thess. 5:1)
  6. Self-control (Rom. 6:12; 1 Cor. 9:24-25; Gal. 5:23; Tit. 2:2; 2 Pet. 1:6)
  7. Holiness (Lev. 11:45; 2 Cor. 7:1; Eph. 4:24; 1 Pet. 1:16; 2 Pet. 3:11)
  8. Patience (Rom. 12:12; Gal. 5:22; Col. 3:12; 2 Tim. 2:24; Jms. 5:7)
  9. Love (Jn. 15:12; Rom. 12:10; 1 Cor. 13:1-13; Eph. 5:2; Col. 3:14; Heb. 13:1)
  10. Perseverance (Matt. 10:22; Jn. 8:31-32; Gal. 6:9; Eph. 6:18; Col. 1:22-23; Heb. 3:14; 12:1)
  11. Joy (Rom. 5:2-3, 11, 14:7; Gal. 5:22; Phil. 3:1, 4:4; 1 Pet. 1:8)
  12. Peace (Rom. 5:1, 8:6; Gal. 5:22; Col. 3:15; 1 Thess. 5:13; 2 Thess. 5:16)
  13. Faithfulness (2 Cor. 5:7; Gal. 5:22; 1 Jn. 5:4)
  14. Put away sin (1 Cor. 5:7; Eph. 4:26; Col. 3:5; 1 Thess. 5:22; Heb. 12:1)
  15. Forgiveness (Matt. 5:39-41; Rom. 12:20; 1 Cor. 6:7; Col. 3:13)
     Third, teach ethics. The word of God is replete with instruction on ethical issues. Believers need to know how to live in this world. Teach...
  1. Faithfulness (1 Cor. 4:2; Rom. 14:12)
  2. Holiness (Lev. 19:2; 1 Pet. 1:16)
  3. Love God and neighbor (Matt. 22:37-39)
  4. Golden Rule (Matt. 7:12)
  5. Forgive (Matt. 6:12-15, 18:21-35; Lk. 12:13-34)
  6. Submit to God's law (Rom. 8:7)
  7. Submit to government (Rom.13:1-5; Tit. 3:1)
  8. Submit to leaders (1 Cor. 16:16)
  9. Gossip and busybodies (2 Thess. 3:11; 1 Tim. 5:13; 1 Pet. 4:15)
  10. Murder (Ex. 20:13; 1 Jn. 3:15)
  11. Divorce (Matt. 5:31-32; 1 Cor. 7:27)
  12. Homosexuality (Rom. 1:26-27; 1 Cor. 6:9-11)
  13. Miscellaneous (Matt. 5:21-6:4; Eph. 5:3-5; Col. 3:5-14; Heb. 13:4-5)
     Fourth, teach the word. This sounds so easy, in fact, everything that has been said thus far has to do with the word. It must go beyond that. Teaching cannot and must not remain on the surface- it has to be taught in order for the word of God to penetrate the minds and hearts of God's people in order to change their wills and desires.
  1. Teach doctrine (Eph. 4:11-16; 1 Tim. 1:3-5; 2 Tim. 3:16-17; Tit. 1:9, 2:1)
  2. Contains the promise of the gospel (Lk. 24:27, 44-47; Rom. 1:2, 3:21; 1 Cor. 15:1-4; Tit. 1:2)
  3. Testifies of Christ (Jn. 5:39; Acts 10:43, 18:28)
  4. Guide (Prov. 6:23; Ps. 119: 105; 2 Pet. 1:19)
  5. Make wise unto salvation (2 Tim. 3:15; Jms. 1:21)
  6. Profitable for doctrine and practice (2 Tim. 3:16-17)
  7. Living and powerful (Heb. 4:12)
  8. Perfect, pure, and true (Ps. 19:7, 12:6, 119:140, 119:160; Jn. 17:17)
  9. Written for the believer's instruction (Rom. 15:4)
  10. Regenerates (Jms. 1:18; 1 Pet. 1:23)
  11. Illuminates (Ps. 119:130)
  12. Revives the soul, makes the simple wise, brings joy to the heart, enlightens the eyes, warns (Ps. 19:7-11)
  13. Sanctifies (Jn. 17:17; Eph. 5:26)
  14. Produces faith, hope, and obedience (Jn. 20:31; Ps. 119:49; Rom. 15:4; Deut. 17:19-20)
  15. Promotes growth (1 Pet. 2:2)
  16. Builds up, admonishes, and comforts (Acts 20:32; Ps. 19:11; 1 Cor. 10:11; Ps. 119:82; Rom. 15:4)
  17. Works effectually in believers (1 Thess. 2:13)
    The Bible, the very words of God, ought to be at the center of our lives as believers. Our lives ought to conform to God's standard. In order for this to be achieved, the Bible has to be taught. Scripture should be...
  1. Standard of teaching (1 Pet. 4:11)
  2. Believed (Jn. 2:22)
  3. Read (Deut. 17:19; Is. 34:16)
  4. Read publicly (Deut. 31:11-13; Neh. 8:3; Acts 13:15)
  5. Searched (Jn. 5:39, 7:52; Acts 17:11)
  6. Heard and obeyed (Matt. 7:24; Lk. 11:28; Jms. 1:22)
  7. Loved and delighted in (Ps. 119:97, 113, 159, 167; Ps. 1:2)
  8. Meditated on (Ps. 1:2, 119:99, 48)
  9. Memorized (Ps. 119:11; Matt. 4:1-11; Col. 3:16)
  10. Trusted and obeyed (Ps. 119:42, 67; Lk. 8:21; Jn. 17:6)

Thursday, May 11, 2017

The Gospel

The Gospel
    The gospel is important. So important, in fact, souls hang in the balance. It is the message of life. The gospel is important to the lost and Christian alike. The lost need the gospel in order to hear the soul-saving message of Christ. Christian's need the gospel in order to grow, continually repent, praise God, be assured, be filled with joy, and be humbled. The gospel needs to be studied so that it can be appreciated and shared. It needs to be heard and treasured. It humbles and exalts. Humbles the sinner and exalts the Savior.
    I write on the gospel because I love the saving message of Christ. I love the Savior of the gospel. The God of the gospel is astounding. What demonstrates the glory and grace of God more than his plan of redemption? The gospel is glorious, life-changing, God-honoring, breathtakingly complex, yet simple enough for a child to understand. What is the gospel?
Gospel Begins with God
    Lest we over complicate matters, let us keep the gospel simple. The gospel begins with God. God is the righteous Creator who purposed to save fallen sinners by grace through faith in Christ. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1). “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8). God is holy and filled with wrath; he will punish them who do not trust his Son. “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him” (Jn. 3:36).
     Why did God send his Son? Why does man need saving? Because man is sinful; mankind is unholy, ungodly, lost, unrighteous, rebellious, and spiritually dead. “[F]or all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked” (Eph. 2:1).
God Sent His Son
    But God sent his Son. Christ joined himself to the nature of man. He obeyed the law perfectly to satisfy the justice of God because we perfectly disobey. He then died upon the cross, bearing the curse of sin and the wrath of the Father toward that sin. He was buried but rose to life on the third day, thus vindicating himself and testifying to the world that the Father accepted his work. “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law” (Gal. 4:4-5). “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us” (Gal. 3:13).
Repentance and Faith
    Sinful man is now commanded to repent and trust Christ alone for salvation. This is the only response that sinners could have toward God's good gift. “[T]estifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21). “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death” (2Cor. 7:10)
    Allow me to quote two passages at length which will explain the gospel. The gospel is not neatly packed into a convenient summary, but it is spread throughout the Bible. There are a few very enlightening verses, however, which do explain the gospel very thoroughly. They are Romans 3:19-26 and Ephesians 2:1-10. I will simply reproduce them here. I will not offer commentary or elaborate on them. Read them for what they are- the very words of God that reveal his amazing salvation by grace through faith in Christ for his glory. Read and ponder what has been read. Repent and trust Christ; search out his unsearchable riches.
    “Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by the works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it- the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Rom. 3:19-26).
    “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience- among whom we all once lived in the passions of out flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, eve when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ- by grace you have been saved- and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:1-10).

Scripture: Special Revelation

Scripture: Special Revelation
     Special revelation is initiated by God and is about God. It is very specific, as opposed to general revelation. Truths about God are disclosed, as are humanities sinful condition, and God's desire to call a people to himself. The Bible is the word of God- the source of God's special revelation. The Bible identifies God, his will, his mighty works, his plan of redemption, and everything a Christian needs for faith and life. Unlike creation, the Bible is very understandable and particular.
     Special revelation is available to specific people at specific times and in specific places. Not everyone had the word of God revealed or available to them. God revealed himself to certain people and had these encounters preserved in Scripture.
     God chose to reveal himself in a more specific manner than he did previously through creation, providence, and conscience. General revelation unveils truths about God through what can be observed with the senses. Special revelation uses words to communicate more accurately the truths of God. It is a more accurate and faithful mode of informing man what God wants them to know.
     Special revelation was progressive. God did not reveal himself all at once, but through stages. He made his will and truth known slowly over a period of time. The words of God were recorded, preserved, and handed down. They can now be read, studied, taught, proclaimed, and treasured.
     The primary focus of special revelation is God and his redemption. God chose to reveal himself in a direct way to fallen humanity. The truth is, God did not have to make himself known. He is under no obligation. Not to mention, sinful man is undeserving. God does not owe his creation anything. And he especially doesn't owe anything to sinners, except of course his judgment and wrath. But, praise God, he has revealed himself and his amazing salvation. That is grace!
    God spoke and acted in space and time. At certain times and to specific individuals, God revealed himself, taught his ways, thundered his laws, and proclaimed his salvation. The special revelation of God culminated in the sending of the Son, the Word (Jn. 1:1, 14). The special redemptive word of God is that Christ, the Son, took on flesh, came and bore the curse of sin and the wrath of the Father on the cross for all those who would repent of their sin and trust in him alone for salvation. This is the gospel. This is the most special of all God's revelation.
     The incarnation of the Son is the pinnacle of God's special revelation. It is the most complete mode of God's revelation to mankind. God spoke, and still speaks, through the life, actions, miracles, teachings, death, and resurrection of Christ (Heb. 1:1-3). Christ fully reveals God (Col. 1:15-20, 2:9). This was the message of the Old Testament (veiled in prophesies, types, and shadows) and the New Testament (unveiled precisely).
    God's special revelation centers around the person and work of Christ. Thankfully, the Lord saw fit to preserve his message in written form- the Bible. Now, his word, his saving truth, can be known, understood, and trusted. The glorious God of the universe has made himself known.
    In revealing himself in all his glory and grace, God has also revealed the truth about humanity. We are fallen. Broken, corrupted, and dead in sin. We are not like God; the serpent, the devil, lied in the garden (Gen. 3). God is holy, we are unholy. God is truth, we love lies. God is righteous, we are unrighteous. But, thanks be to God, his word contains the message of our salvation. Christ is the Savior. Man is now commanded to repent and believe on Christ for deliverance from the just punishment due their sin (Acts 17:30-31, 20:21). This is the message of the Bible. This is God's special revelation.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Scripture: General Revelation

Scripture: General Revelation
    What is revelation? The word “revelation” means to unveil, uncover, or to manifest. God reveals or manifests himself to his creation. In other words, God makes himself known. God does this in two ways. The first is generally (general revelation), which will be discussed here, and specific (special revelation).
    General revelation usually refers to creation. Along with creation, the image of God in man and the human conscience are proofs of general revelation. These reveal that there is indeed a God.
Creation manifests certain aspects of God and some of his attributes. This revelation is only general; it is not specific, nor is it salvific (it does not save or offer forgiveness to sinners). Universal in scope, general revelation means that God has revealed himself in a general way to all people, in all places, at all times. Since it is universal, general revelation excludes precision and details.  It has limitations. 
     What does God reveal about himself generally through creation? God reveals his goodness. This is seen in that he causes the sun to rise and the rain to fall on the just and unjust alike (Matt. 5:45). Of course, this is God providing for his creation. Creation reveals the care and provision of God. He gives rain, fruitful harvests, food, and all things that cause happiness (Acts 14:15-17).
     The heavens and earth reveal the glory of God to man (Ps. 19). These are a theater where God puts his glory on display. We see his power and divine nature (Rom. 1:19-20). Creation demonstrates the wisdom, power, and sovereignty, among other attributes already mentioned.
     Acts 17:22-31 teaches the truth of general revelation. Paul's audience knew about God. Notice, they knew about God. They did not know him. There is a world of difference between knowing about someone and knowing someone personally. They served an unknown deity. Granted, they served many gods, but they did not want to offend a god they were unaware of. The very fact that they were worshiping something points to the fact that God has made himself known in a general way. Mankind is inherently religious (Rom. 2:14-15). All civilizations worship or revere something.
     Paul used the fact that they served an unknown deity to make the one true God known. He proclaimed that God is the Creator and is sovereign (vs. 24). God is also self-sufficient (vs. 25), the source of life and all that is good (vs. 25), intelligent and determines all things (vs. 26), immanent (vs. 27), and the source of human existence (vs. 27). Paul used what was known through general revelation to launch into the truth of the actual God.
     The image of God in man teaches us about God (Gen. 1:26-27). God is sovereign and gave mankind dominion over his creation. He is intelligent and reasonable and imbued man with the ability to learn and reason. God is a relational being and created humanity with emotions, the desire to fellowship, and the ability to communicate. God is also good and just and created man with a sense of right, wrong, and justice.
     When God made man, he blessed them with a conscience. God has revealed himself in a moral sense. Humanity knows the difference between right and wrong. Our conscience tells us when we or someone else does something wrong. There is a sense of justice within each one of us.
     Remember, general revelation only manifests God in a non-specific manner. It tells that there is a God and reveals certain characteristics of him. However, mankind is fallen and therefore suppresses the revealed truth about God (Rom. 1:18). We are born sinful, corrupt, and separated from God. The true God is hated, avoided, or denied, while false gods are erected and worshiped in his place. As a result, humanity is turned over to their sinful and carnal desires (Rom. 1:24-28). General revelation only condemns and proves man to be unworthy and guilty before a holy God (Rom. 1:20). Man is without excuse. God is known, yet this knowledge is smothered, redirected, and ignored.
     There are several implications from what has been written. First, truth is present in God's creation and can be seen in human experience and culture. Truth exists and can be known. Second, the moral law is implanted in the conscience, or written on the heart, and accounts for the distinguishing between good and evil, right and wrong. Hence, we have laws and government which provides any number of benefits. Third, since humanity has a basic knowledge of God, Christians can witness and share the truth of God being assured that the notion of God is known and therefore not meaningless. Fourth, general revelation provides the basis for and is foundational to God's saving revelation through Christ and the written word (special revelation will be handled in my next blog).
     God has made himself known. That is astonishing. God, who needs nothing, created and manifested himself to his creation. One only has to look around to see the majesty, beauty, and glory of God. Everything testifies that there is a God. The entire universe declares this message. God is real.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Practical Teaching on Stewardship

Practical Teaching on Stewardship
    What is stewardship? Stewardship is the godly and proper managing of what God has given every believer. The stunning truth is that we own nothing. Everything we have is God's. He blesses and expects his children to take care of what he gives and use his gifts for his glory and the good of others. What this means is that every aspect of life is given as a gift from God. We are not only talking about material things or possessions. Christians are to be good stewards of these, but also time, money, talents, the truth, the body, the mind, the environment, and the gospel.
Time
    Believers are to be good stewards of time. Time ought to be used wisely to draw thoughts toward heaven (Col. 3:2). Christians need to take advantage of the time they have to prepare for eternity (Ps. 90:12). Prayer, Bible study, and communion with the Lord are indispensable to this end. Remember, time is fleeting. We need to take advantage of the short amount of time we have on this earth to glorify God and serve mankind (Eph. 5:15-16; Jms. 4:14). Time is passing away. We cannot save time, buy more time, or make up time. Once it is gone, it is gone. Time is also uncertain (Prov. 27:1). We do not know how long we have.
     What are some other truths about time? Believers are held accountable for how they spend the time allotted them (Rom. 14:12; Heb. 5:12). Time is easily wasted, taken for granted, lost, and even ignored. Time is owned by God (Ps. 31:15). Eternity gives meaning and purpose to the temporal (Rom. 13:11; 2Cor. 4:18). Opportunities must not be wasted; they may not present themselves again (Ecc. 8:5; Col. 4:5). How believers spend their time is a reflection of their priorities (Matt. 6:19-21, 34). Be wise with your time. Budget the use of your time. Allow and schedule time for Bible study, prayer, family, worship, relaxing, work, ministry, etc. What are your priorities? What occupies most of your time? Is this pleasing to God?
Money
     God, the Creator, owns everything (Ps. 24:1; 1Cor. 10:26). Our money is included; it is God who blesses financially. How Christians use their money is an act of worship. When believers give, they are reflecting their faith in the provisions of God. Of all people, Christians ought to be sacrificial and generous with what God has given. It is their responsibility to support the ministry of the local church, church leaders, the needs of others, and the spread of the gospel around the world (missions). Giving should be done cheerfully (2Cor. 9:7). We do not give to receive but to be a blessing to others. Also, we ought to be content with what the Lord has provided (Phil. 4:11; 1Tim. 6:8; Heb. 13:5).
     What motivates you? Why do you give? Why don't you give? What do you spend the majority of your money on? How do you spend extra money? Beware of greed or being to preoccupied with money. Trust the Lord and his provisions. Be thankful for what God has given. Do not let money become an idol. How can you better serve God with what he has given?
Gifts and Talents
     Believers are to use their gifts and abilities to glorify the Lord and serve others (Rom. 12:6; 1Pet. 4:10). Some believers are gifted musicians, artists, singers, athletes, doctors, farmers, speakers, educators, administrators, businessmen, etc. There are many other gifts and abilities given by the Lord. Whatever they are, use your gifts and aptitude to worship the Lord and benefit man. It is also important to trust the providence of God. He has gifted you and placed you exactly where he desires. He has a plan and a purpose.
     How do you use your talents? Are you glorifying God with your abilities? Do not measure yourself to others? Beware of always comparing yourself to other people. Be content and thankful for your unique gifts and talents from God. Do not covet another's gifts.
Truth
     Christians are to be good stewards of the truth. This begins by being a serious student of the word of God. It is the responsibility of every believer to be in the word and sit under the: word. After all, believers have a part to play in their growth (Jn. 8:31-32, 17:17). Believers are born again by the word of God and are called to receive and apply it (Jms. 1:18-25). The importance of Bible study cannot be overstated. The word must be read, studied, and meditated upon in order to mature and become equipped for good works (2Tim. 3:16-17). God is a God of truth. His children should love the truth and be good stewards of it for the glory of God and good of others.
    Do you desire the truth? Do you recognize error? Do you hunger for the word of God? Are you part of a Bible believing and preaching church? How do you share the truth? Are you changed by the truth?
Other Areas of Stewardship
     Christians are to be good stewards of their bodies (Rom. 12:1; 1Cor. 6:19-20). We are to take care of ourselves, get plenty of rest, eat healthy foods, exercise, work hard, be safe, and worship God with our bodies.
     The mind must not be neglected. We are to be stewards of our minds (Rom. 12:2; 1Pet. 1:13). Worship God with your thoughts. Beware of negative and sinful thoughts. Beware of what you are feeding your mind. Take time to think. This is often neglected or ignored in our fast-paced world today. Slow down and meditate on the word of God and things of God.
     Believers should be good stewards of their environment (Gen. 1:28-30). We should be responsible and not wasteful. Look for ways to clean up around you. Recycle.
     Finally, be a good steward of the gospel (1Cor. 9:16-17; Col. 1:25; 1Thess. 2:4). Be thankful for the gospel. Share the gospel with others. We have a responsibility. Witness for Christ. Live out the gospel. Preach the gospel to yourself daily. Repent and trust in Christ. Support missions. Look for ways to evangelize and disciple. The gospel is the greatest gift God has given mankind! Don't be a bad steward of God's gift.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Practical Teaching on Worship

Practical Teaching on Worship
     There are a few things to remember when worshiping our great God. The focus of worship must be the triune God. God has revealed himself as a Trinity. The Father, Son, and Spirit are the one God of the Bible. Since this is the case, all three persons in the godhead deserve worship.
What is worship? Worship is ascribing worth to God, acknowledging the glorious attributes of God, magnifying and praising God, thanking and appreciating God, responding in awe and joy to God, and approaching God in humility and reverence. Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created” (Rev. 4:11).
     The Bible is at the center of worship. Worship must be biblical. The word of God is to be taught, proclaimed, heard, sung, obeyed, read, and prayed. This naturally (or supernaturally since we are discussing born again believers) leads to worshiping the God of the word. When God's words are spoken and heard, the result is worship. How can a believer not adore God after hearing his word? How can a Christian not humbly bow before the holy God of Scripture?
     Biblical worship includes several things. Prayer, praise, thanksgiving, and giving are worshipful (Acts 2:45; 1Cor. 8-9). Confession is pleasing to God (Neh. 9; Ps. 51; Jms. 5:16). Preaching and teaching are acts of worship (Neh. 8:7-9; Acts 2, 5:42, 8:4, 14:7; 1Cor. 14:26). We worship God when we read Scripture (Neh. 8:1-6; 1Tim. 4:13). It is also worship when believers exercise discipline (Matt. 18:15-20; 1Cor. 5:1-5), observe baptism (Matt. 28:19; Acts 2:38-41) and the Lord's Supper (Lk. 22:19; 1Cor. 11:17-34).
     Worship encompasses the entirety of the Christian life. There is no area of life that is not affected by the worship of God (Rom. 12:1; 1Cor. 10:31; Col. 3:17). Most would assume that worship is limited to our actions. True worship must not end there; our minds and hearts must be engaged when we worship the Lord (Mk. 12:30). Worship is done in spirit and truth (Jn. 4:21-24). This ties together everything that has been discussed thus far. Our entire beings are involved in worshiping God, but it must be biblical- it must be anchored in the truth of God's word.
     Worship is to be private and corporate (Heb. 10:25). We worship God individually, but must also come together with other believers. It is when we are among other Christians, that we grow, learn, hear, etc. We worship God privately, but this then overflows into corporate worship.
Something that has been lost to the last few generations is family worship. This, however, is found throughout Scripture. Genesis 18:17-19 tells that Abraham was to command his children and household in the ways of the Lord. Deuteronomy 6:1-8 instructs parents to teach their children the things of the Lord consistently. Joshua 24:15 reveals that households are to serve and worship the Lord. Psalm 78:1-8 admonishes the teaching of the next generation. Ephesians 6:4 encourages families to worship purposely and consistently in order for children to be disciplined and instructed in the Lord. And 1 Timothy 3:4-5 shows that elders must lead family worship in order to be qualified to lead worship in the church.
     All of this goes to show that families ought to worship together. This is to be done corporately in the church, but also in the home. There are many ways to do this. The important thing is that God be glorified. What follows are some suggestions.
     A set time would be a good place to start. It may be everyday before dinner or a couple of times a week. The idea is to be deliberate and consistent. Read a chapter of Scripture. Briefly discuss the word of God and seek to apply God's truth to your family and situation. I would suggest reading through whole books of the Bible one chapter at a time. You may begin by reading an Old Testament book and when that is finished, read a New Testament book. You may also choose to supplement Bible reading with the reading of a sound, biblical, trusted book.
     Personally, my family and I have a devotion at a set time three times a week. This is in addition to worshiping corporately with the saints in our local congregation on Sundays and Wednesday nights. We read a chapter of Scripture and pray. We also read a chapter or section of another godly and edifying book. Some examples of books that we have read are: John Bunyan's Pilgrims Progress, 50 Reasons Why Christ Came to Die by John Piper, and a theology book written for children.
Pray together. Pray for your family, the salvation of your children, the lost, missions, your local church, your pastors, known needs, etc. Allow your family members to pray if they desire. Pray the Scripture that was just read. Talk about what God is doing. Give God the praise for answered prayer. Families may choose to sing as part of their worship. Another suggestion may be to utilize a catechism to instruct and disciple your family. These are composed of questions and answers that teach key doctrines of the Bible. There are many different catechisms to choose from.
     It is biblical that the father lead their families in worship. This may not be the case for any number of reasons. If the father is unable or unwilling to lead, the responsibility is then shifted to the mother. This is not to say that if the father leads, the mother has no role. It is to say that fathers are the leaders of their families. Mothers definitely have a role to play in teaching their children.
     Worship comes naturally to the born again believer. We worship to glorify God, but worship changes us. Believers become more like the God they worship. We are being transformed- we are to be godly. Part of growth in the Christian life is to worship God and be Christlike. The more we read, pray, and praise, the more God is glorified and we are further sanctified.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Practical Teaching on Self-Examination

Practical Teaching on Self-Examination
     Self-examination is what a believer should do in order to make salvation sure, to reveal sin or negative trends, and to promote growth and maturity. Christians ought to make sure of their salvation because death awaits (Heb. 9:27, Ecc. 3:19), consequences for a life lived are eternal (Rom. 2:9-10, Matt. 25:31-46, 2Thess. 1:9-10), and because the soul is precious (Ps. 49:7-8, Gen. 2:7, Mk. 8:36).
     Self-Examination also promotes growth and maturity in the Christian's life. When believers examine themselves, areas that need improvement are revealed, sin and the need for daily repentance is discovered, joy of salvation is increased, God is honored, and it leads to assurance. Some areas for improvement might include: a renewed mind (Rom. 12:2), increased desire to pray (1Thess. 5:17), the need for humility (Jms. 4:10), mortification of the flesh (Rom. 6:5-14), the necessity of reading and meditating on the word of God (1Pet. 2:2), a closer walk with Christ (Ps. 42:1-2), and the need to grow in Christlikeness (Rom. 8:29).
     The daily need for repentance will also be revealed when a believer examines himself. Self-examination unveils tendencies and sin (Rom. 7:7), unmasks temptations and weaknesses (Rom. 7:13-25), heightens the awareness that believers are to die to sin (Rom. 6:11), develops hatred of sin (Rom. 7:17), teaches to treasure the grace and forgiveness of the Lord (1Tim. 1:12-17), and leads to cherishing the imputed righteousness of Christ (Is. 61:10).
     The joy of God's amazing salvation is increased upon examination. A Christian learns to enjoy Christ, his person, and his work (Rom. 5:11, Jn. 15:11, 1Pet. 1:8). When salvation is assured and believers are growing and repenting, then even trials and hardships can be endured because of the joy they produce and the lessons they teach (1Thess. 5:16, Col. 1:11-13). This leads to worship. Reflecting on God and his gifts moves one to worship and praise (1Pet. 2:9, Eph. 1:6, 12, 14).
     When a believer examines his life, and sin is revealed and repented of, and growth happens, and joy is increased, God is seen as worthy. After all, it is God who is at work. It is God who saved us. It is God who is keeping us saved. It is God who is sanctifying us. It is God who is causing us to grow and who is filling our hearts with praise. It is God who gives assurance, guides through the difficult times, teaches us during those times, and fills us with joy.
     Is self-examination taught in Scripture? It is. It is actually commanded and assumed. “Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall” (2Pet. 1:10). “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?-unless indeed you fail to meet the test” (2Cor. 13:5)!
     If the word of God instructs believers to examine themselves, then why don't most Christians practice it? There are any number of reasons. It may be that some believers are self-righteous. They may not see the need for looking at themselves, measuring themselves according to God's standard, and repenting. This happens often when people compare themselves to other people instead of God and his word. Some are simply legalistic and hypocritical. They do not need to examine themselves because they are “following all the rules.”
     Others who do not examine themselves may be deceived by sin. Self-deception reigns in the hearts of many today. Some people are just deceived about their condition. They do not think of themselves as sinful, or “as bad as everyone else.” They may also be deceived about the consequences of sin. Since their sin is not that bad, there are not any devastating consequences that need to be feared, so all is well. Even more sad, and perhaps heart wrenching, may be the fact that some people are deceived about the way of salvation. It may be that a person accepted Christ and then led to believe that that is it. Once a person gets “saved,” it is smooth sailing. Or so they think.
     Other reasons for the lack of self-examination may be self-flattery, they simply have never been taught or shown the need for looking at one's life and fruit, they may be lazy or apathetic, or pride may be involved. Self-examination is humbling and difficult. It takes time and effort to examine and criticize oneself.
     With all this in mind, how do you examine yourself? Prayerfully. Christians ought to be bringing everything to the Lord in prayer. Ask God to give you grace, to illumine you, and to speak to you through his word. Read the word of God and apply the text to your life. Beg God for conviction and sorrow for sin and then the grace to repent.
     Look at your life and ask a series of questions. Be willing to change. Am I bearing fruit? What kind of fruit am I bearing? What motivates me? Are these proper motivations? Am I growing in Christlikeness? Am I convicted when I sin? Do I quickly repent of sin? Do I desire communion with the Lord? Do have a desire to love and fellowship with the people of God? Do I long to be in the word? Is my hatred of my sin growing? Do I have joy? What robs me of my joy? Do I have goals? Are these goals being obtained? Can I worship the Lord no matter the circumstances? Do I recognize pride in my heart? Do I see the ever increasing need for the grace of God? Am I growing in humility? Am I a good steward of the many gifts and blessings that the Lord has given? Do I depend on myself or the Spirit and word of God? Do I pray? Do I have a desire to pray? What am I praying for? Our my prayers selfish and one-dimensional? Do I witness for Christ? Do I have a zeal to glorify God in all things. Am I evangelistic? Am I accountable to another mature believer? How do I treat other people?
     These are just a few of the many questions that believers can ask themselves. This is a good place to start. The main point is this- Christians are saved from the penalty of their sin by the person and work of Christ, but it is our responsibility to grow more like Christ. To do this, we must look at ourselves. We must examine our lives, motives, speech, desires, etc. according to Scripture. When we find something that does not align with the word of God, we are to repent, thank God for revealing this to us, ask God for forgiveness, pray for grace and strength, be more discerning, and learn from our sin and mistakes. Praise God- he has given us his word and Spirit. He does not give up on us. He even has a plan in all of this. Examine yourself and give God the glory.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Practical Teaching on Discipleship

Practical Teaching on Discipleship
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matt. 28:19-20)
     What is discipleship? Discipleship is the growth of Christians in Christlikeness by the grace of God, through the word of God, for the glory of God, in order to replicate themselves for the good of families, churches, communities, and the world. Jesus met with Peter, James, and John and taught them valuable lessons that echoed into eternity (Mk. 1:29, 5:37, 9:2, 13:3; Matt. 17:1, 26:37). So, discipleship is biblical. It is also commissioned, as the verses quoted above demonstrate. Jesus sent his disciples into the world to make disciples. Discipleship, therefore, is not optional. Believers are expected to be discipled and then to disciple others. Disciples are made, they are not born!
     Discipleship is walking with Jesus. There is a purpose, direction, and a destination. It is personal and intimate, instructional and intentional. Something of this magnitude takes effort and discipline. Make no mistake, discipleship takes time, patience, and endurance.
     Discipleship is necessary. It empowers and enable believers to do the work of the ministry (Eph. 4:11-12). Cultivating a deeper and closer walk with the Lord and developing mature and faithful believers who can multiply are other results. That is the goal of discipleship, Christlikeness. Christlikeness manifests itself by growth and maturation, doing the work of the ministry, and growing in faithfulness.
     There is a cost. Discipleship is an investment. It takes time and resources, sacrificing and giving, in order to lead, teach, mentor, and train others. Nothing that is worth it in the end ever comes easy. But, there is the reward of glorifying God, growing yourself, and the satisfaction in knowing that the Lord used you in the life of another Christian.
     What does discipleship look like? When sinners are saved, they need to be taught and nurtured. They are spiritual babies and need to be fed a steady diet of the word of God. They need to be encouraged and taught in order for them to grow and mature in Christ. New believers are dependent on the church and other believers. Discipleship is vital and must not be ignored.
     The church is only one place where discipleship takes place. Obviously, believers will grow sitting under the preaching and teaching of God's word from the pulpit and in Sunday School or small groups. But, it must not end there. Discipleship is not confined to the church. It may take place anywhere and in any number of situations and circumstances. It may be structured meetings over a period of time, or encounters at different times and locations. Whatever it is, it is to be intentional, scriptural, edifying, purposeful, and fruitful. Praying and reading Scripture is a must. Outside of these, discipleship is not overly complicated. It is simply teaching believers how to live and act as believers.
     The key is to be intentional. Look for opportunities to teach someone something. This could be done through a phone call, having lunch, shopping together, watching a game, hunting, driving in the car, etc. Be aware of teachable moments. Look for ways to disciple friends and family. It never ends- there is always room for growth!
     Discipleship is not about programs, steps to success, or curriculums. It is about building relationships with other believers centered around Christ in order to aid them in their growth in Christlikeness. This then is a process. It takes time to build and cultivate relationships. Growth takes time. It is ongoing. Discipleship is exposure to other believers, the development of spiritual disciplines, and encouragement. It is also teaching. This includes: the gospel, authority of Scripture, a biblical worldview, contentment, how to deal with suffering and trials, how to read and interpret the Bible, doctrine, how to resist temptation, functions within the church, and many other things.
     The importance of biblical discipleship cannot be overstated. The lack of it in churches today is evident and reveals why the church is in the shape that it finds itself. Biblical ignorance and illiteracy seems to be at an all-time high. Why is this? Perhaps, it is because the church has dropped the ball when it comes to discipleship. It seems that the church, at least at one time, was only interested in numbers. People were rushed through the doors, told to recite a prayer, declared believers, and then allowed to walk right out the back. This is a generalization, but there is some truth to it.
     Believers, churches, need to get back to the Bible and biblical discipleship. It is imperative. We are commanded to make disciples. Again, this must be intentional. Disciples are made. They do not make themselves!