Thursday, December 29, 2016

What the Church Needs: Ezra & Nehemiah

What the Church Needs: Ezra & Nehemiah

      There are many examples in Scripture of godly men fulfilling their call and glorifying God. They serve as models; albeit, they are imperfect ones. However, they can teach us many truths both by their positive and even their negative actions. We look to these men only in an effort to project their emulative characteristics back onto us, realizing all the time that they are mere men, and sinful men at that (except, of course, Christ Jesus). We can learn; we must learn from those who have gone before. We look at these men and examples of the past in order to reform the present. Ultimately, however, we must look to Christ. We know looking back throughout the Bible that Christ was active within his people. As we look back on them, we are actually focused on Christ and his work then to better our now. So, what do we need?
Ezra and Nehemiah (Nehemiah 8:1-8)
     We need an Ezra and Nehemiah-like devotion and commitment to expositing the word of God. It sounds so simple—preach and teach the word of God. Not only preach and teach it, but do so expositionally. It is God's word, so we preach that and not merely what is popular, exciting, and inoffensive. Men should never preach part of a text, only what they want, always topically, never entire books, etc. The word of God should be read and explained verse by verse. This ought to be done throughout entire books in the Bible along with the occasional topical or theme study. What message are preachers sending to the congregation when they hold the word of God in contempt? What does it say when they only preach and talk about select scriptures? When this happens, so many themes and subjects will never be addressed because they are being purposely avoided. If the whole counsel of God is not expounded, how will the people learn and grow? How will they hear from God? How will they be challenged, convicted, transformed, held accountable, fed, led, and convinced of God's truth and glory? They won't!
     Cases where preachers do not preach the actual text are prevalent. Why? It may be because of tradition or ignorance; it may be that it was how they were taught and mentored, or because it is less offensive. It could be due to the fact that people enjoy it, it is popular with the lost, low standards yields higher results, the preparation is faster, and there is safety in numbers (everyone is doing it). This subject has already been addressed elsewhere, so we will not rehash it here. However, it is a key symptom to what ails the church. Sheep cannot grow if they are not being fed, and they must be fed the proper diet. What we see, more often than not, are wolves in shepherd's clothing. They care nothing about the sheep. Wolves seek only to scatter and devour!
     In the book of Nehemiah, there is an example of expository preaching. Thousands of years ago in the Old Testament, God had men who knew and understood the importance of preaching his word to his people and doing it in a manner in which they could understand. Godly men stood on a wooden platform (built for such an occasion) and read the Law in the hearing of the people. These “preachers” faced the people and taught them. They not only read the word of God, but they explained it. They interpreted God's word; they “gave the sense” so that the people not only heard, but they also comprehended what was spoken.
     How astonishing. The book was opened, the people stood, Ezra prayed, everyone worshiped, the Law was read, the teaching was applied, the people were discipled, and they understood. This went on for hours. A perfect picture of expository preaching exists in the Old Testament. Isn't this what ought to be happening in our churches? Doesn't this make sense? We have platforms and pulpits, we pray and worship, the word of God is read aloud, so why isn't it exposited? Many churches do things correctly but forget the most important part—preaching and teaching God's word verse-by-verse and applying it to the needs of the people or the current state of the world and culture. Just because something is done almost right does not mean that it is right. A half-truth is not the whole truth; therefore, it is an untruth.
     What is needed is for men to stand before the people and preach God's word. We need courageous men who will not back down. We need men who will proclaim the whole truth, and nothing but the truth; we need men who will preach grace, faith, and repentance. Ezra preached the Law; that terrible tempest that stirs up iniquity and blows strength into man in order to sin. Remember, we have Christ; we have his grace. We have the gospel; Christ and his gospel calms the storm. Christ rebukes the waves and declares, “Peace, be still!”
     Preach the word! Preach it in season and out of season. Preach it as a dying man to dying sinners (Baxter). Preach it as if hell depends on it. Preach the word in order to snatch sinners out of the very grip of hell's relentless grasp. Heaven and hell hang in the balance; souls are progressing down the wide path. Preach the word; call them to turn, repent, and follow Christ. We have felt the flames, smelled the smoke, heard the cries, saw the unmitigated wrath of God—now, warn the hell-bound. It is not too late; preach the word!
     We have been washed in blood, raised from the dead, adopted by the King, created anew, and bought with a price. We have been given a message; we are ambassadors. We must now proclaim this message. Preach it with every breath. Proclaim the gospel to those who slumber. Tell them who are awake. Warn them who remain comfortable. Exhort those who appear apathetic. Appeal to them within and without. Go into the hedges and byways; preach the gospel at home and abroad. Oh, God, please raise up preachers who will proclaim your word; those who will raise your gospel in its entirety.

Friday, December 23, 2016

The Humanity of Christ (Part 2 of 2)

The Humanity of Christ (Part 2 of 2)

Son of Man
     Just as the title the Son of God points to Christ's deity, the title Son of man emphasizes his humanity. The New Testament continually refers to Christ using both terms, thus cementing the truth in our minds that Christ is God and man. This truly remarkable truth is undeniable, unless, of course, one is blinded or hardened. The average believer has no difficulty in seeing the veracity of these doctrines. It is only the non-believer or skeptic who challenges, ignores, or attempts to debunk what is obvious to most.
      This is not to say that Christians have all the answers or understand how the two natures of Christ are joined together. We do not have to understand the mystery. Christians are called and commanded to believe. We do not know how Christ is fully God and man in one person, but we are eternally grateful that he is!
     The scriptures are clear- Christ is the Son of Man. “And Jesus said to him, 'Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head'” (Matt. 8:20. “But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins- he then said to the paralytic- 'Rise, pick up your bed and go home'” (Matt. 9:6). “Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, 'Who do the people say that the Son of Man is?'” (Matt. 16:13). “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28). “For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels” (Mk. 8:38).
     “And he said to him, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man'” (Jn. 1:51). “For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man” (Jn. 5:26-27).
     All of this would be pointless and futile if Christ sinned. Only a perfect and spotless substitute could propitiate the Father. Yet, he remained pure. Christ Jesus did not sin either by commission or omission. Christ went to the temple, but we have no record of him ever offering a sacrifice. Why? He needed none. Nothing had to die in his place to atone for sin- he had no sin! Jesus prayed, but we have no example of him ever asking for forgiveness. Why? He needed none. He never sinned, so he never had to ask for pardon. Likewise, Jesus never repented.
     Christ never did anything sinful. Not only that, but he also did everything possible to completely and fully obey the Father. He did all things right. We wish that we could go back in time and do something that we should have done or not do something we knew was wrong. Not so with Christ. He is perfect. He never once disobeyed, had a sinful thought, or said a sinful word.
    “Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth , why do you not believe me” (Jn. 8:46)? “I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me, but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father” (Jn. 14:30-31). “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2Cor. 5:21).
      “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15). “For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens” (Heb. 7:26). “For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purity our conscience from dead works to serve the living God” (Heb. 9:13-14).
      We have been ransomed “with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot” (1Pet. 1:19). “He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth” (1Pet. 2:22). “You know that he appeared to take away sins, and in him there is no sin” (1Jn. 3:5).
      So many throughout church history have deviated from the truths that have been outlined. This is called heresy. Souls hang in the very balance. If Christ was not God, he could not save. If Christ was not man, he could not atone for sin and propitiate the Father. If Christ was not the God Man, we are hopeless and without salvation. Our eternal salvation, rest, hope, and joy depend on it!
      I will close the chapter by quoting from some important sources that combated these falsehoods. I do this only because they are both scriptural and strengthen the points that I have made.
     The Nicene Creed states that they believe “in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made. Who, for us men for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holt Spirit of the virgin Mary, and was made man...”
     The Athanasian Creed: “Furthermore it is necessary to everlasting salvation that he also believe rightly the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. For the right faith is that we believe and confess that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and man. God of the substance of the Father, begotten before the worlds; and man of substance of His mother, born in the world. Perfect God and perfect man, of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting. Equal to the Father as touching His Godhead, and inferior to the Father as touching His manhood. Who although He is God and man, yet He is not two, but one Christ. One, not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh, but by taking of that manhood into God. One altogether, not by confusion of substance, but by unity of Person. For as the reasonable soul and flesh is one man, so God and man is one Christ.”
     The Baptist Confession of Faith (which echos very closely The Westminster Confession of Faith) chapter 8:2 says, “The Son of God, the second person in the Holy Trinity, being very and eternal God, the brightness of the Father's glory, of one substance and equal with Him, who made the world, who upholds and governs all things He has made, did, when the fullness of time was come, take upon Him man's nature, with all the essential properties and common infirmities thereof, yet without sin; being conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary, the Holy Spirit coming down upon her, and the power of the Most High overshadowing her, and so was made of a woman, of the tribe of Judah, of the seed of Abraham and David, according to the Scriptures; so that two whole, perfect, and distinct natures were inseparably joined together in one person, without conversion, composition, or confusion; which person is very God and very man, yet one Christ, the only mediator between God and man.”
     These extracts from creeds and confessions may seem wordy and outdated, but they are very precise. They had to be this way to defeat the errors they were fighting. Each word was chosen carefully in order to uphold and maintain biblical clarity, doctrinal accuracy, theological precision, and to achieve the maximum effect against the heretics- their utter defeat and frustration. They articulate truth- God's truth, as found in God's word. May God be praised for raising up men to defend the precious doctrines of the person of Christ and his glorious gospel against the hoards of Satan and hell!

Thursday, December 22, 2016

What the Church Needs: Josiah

What the Church Needs: Josiah
     There are many examples in Scripture of godly men fulfilling their call and glorifying God. They serve as models; albeit, they are imperfect ones. However, they can teach us many truths both by their positive and even their negative actions. We look to these men only in an effort to project their emulative characteristics back onto us, realizing all the time that they are mere men, and sinful men at that (except, of course, Christ Jesus). We can learn; we must learn from those who have gone before. We look at these men and examples of the past in order to reform the present. Ultimately, however, we must look to Christ. We know looking back throughout the Bible that Christ was active within his people. As we look back on them, we are actually focused on Christ and his work then to better our now. So, what do we need?
Josiah (2 Kings 22-23)
     We need a Josiah-like reformation. Another reformation? Yes. We should always be reforming. What the church needs is a reforming; we need a “getting back to the basics.” There is a great need to improve and remove abuses. How should this be done? Go to the scriptures. Return to God and his word. There is a remarkable example of reform in the Old Testament. We can learn much from Josiah and his reformation.
     Apparently, it was a dark time in the days of Josiah. Idolatry was rampant, the temple was unkempt and needed repairs, the word of God was unknown and disobeyed, men sinned willfully and remained unrepentant, the priests were false, cult prostitution abounded, and the Passover was not celebrated. Darkness was over the land, but Josiah sought to obey the Lord and purify his kingdom. He eradicated the land of the godless and false worship that prevailed. He tore down idols and altars. The pagan priests were removed and the true worship of God was re-instituted in their place.
A pattern of reformation was set by Josiah thousands of years ago. We would do well to follow it today. The word of God has lay buried for too long. It needs to be read and obeyed. Where is the godly sorrow that accompanies the reading and hearing of the word of God? How and why do we remain unrepentant and untouched? Where are the pastors who will preach and teach the whole counsel of God and not pick and choose passages to tickle the ears of the self-absorbed pew fillers?
     There are many idols today. Who will step up and tear them down? Who will cry out against these imposters that seek to dethrone our great and glorious God? Will anyone break apart the altars dedicated to sacrifice the very sheep we are called to love and serve? People need to be warned. Most are ignorant of the dangers of false religion and the idols they promote. They are sheep in need of a shepherd. These sheep are blindly following wolves in shepherd’s clothing.
Just as Josiah introduced the Passover, we need a renewed excitement and commitment to the penal, substitutionary atonement of Christ. When idols and false worship rule the day, then Christ and his work is pushed aside. We need resurgence; we need a revival of sorts. We need the Lord to rekindle the fire inside and burn in our bones. May he add fuel and fan the flames in order to ignite a passion within us; may it be a white-hot passion for Christ, his work, and true worship. Hopefully, it will burn uncontrollably and consume us, our churches, and the world.
     We ought to be constantly reforming. There is always room for improvement. It begins with leaders feeding on the word of God, digesting it, and being nourished by it. Then, they must repent, look for opportunities to reform, and feed their people. They must expose sin, warn the people, admonish them, lead them to still waters, and urge them to seek the Lord repentantly and wholeheartedly. We have not arrived yet; we are all pilgrims trying to progress. In other words, reform is necessary. Without it, we grow cold and stagnate. With it, we are warmed and animated.

Friday, December 16, 2016

The Humanity of Christ (Part 1 of 2)

The Humanity of Christ (Part 1 of 2)

     Christ is the God Man. He is fully God and fully man in one person. That is, he has two whole and perfect natures united in one person. Yet, they are inseparable and without conversion (change), composition (compromise), or confusion.
Virgin Birth/Incarnation
     The Son, the second Person of the Trinity, was incarnated and born of a virgin. This means that he took on flesh; his divine nature was united with a human nature. This happened by the power of the Holy Spirit overshadowing Mary, Christ's mother. Since Christ had no earthly father, he remained free from original sin. Therefore, he did not inherit a fallen sinful nature; he was without sin. He was not depraved. Christ was impeccable.
      This is important because there is no salvation if Christ was not fully human (or had sinned). Man offended God. Man deserves the wrath of God. It is man that must be reconciled to God, but man cannot do this work. We are imperfect. Everything we touch is contaminated with and by sin. Nothing we offer God is good enough.
     But Christ is the God Man. He offered the perfect sacrifice for sin. What we could never do, Christ did. So, the Son was incarnated and lived and died for sinners. He paid the price for sin, turned away the wrath of the Father, and reconciled us because he perfectly represents both parties- God and man.
     Scripture is replete with passages that prove Christ's humanity. The genealogies of Christ found in Matthew and Luke show the humanity of Christ by tracing his human lineage. “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham” (Matt. 1:1; reference also Luke 3:23-38). Then the language used in Matthew 1:18-25 uses very human terminology when discussing the details of Christ's conception and birth. Luke uses even more vivid language. One only has to read Luke 1:26-35 and 2:7 to get an understanding that Christ has a human nature.
     A few other verses will solidify this point. “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Gal. 4:4-5). Christ “made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men” (Phil. 2:7). “By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God” (1Jn. 4:2-3).
Fully Human
     Christ is fully and completely human. He is just like us, excluding sin. He is not partly human or half-human; no, he is one hundred percent human. We know this because the gospels describe him in very human terms.
     Christ grew; “And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom” (Lk. 2:40). He got tired; “Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well” (Jn. 4:6). Jesus slept; “And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he [Jesus] was asleep” (Matt. 8:24). He experienced thirst and hunger; “A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, 'Give me a drink'” (Jn. 4:7; see also Jn. 19:28) and “In the morning, as he was returning to the city, he became hungry” (Matt. 21:18; see also Matt. 4:2).
     In addition, Jesus had a physical body. “And he said to them, 'Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have' (Lk. 24:38-39). “When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord... Then he said to Thomas, 'Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side'” (Jn. 20:20, 27). Consider also John 21:9-13, Acts 1:9, 1 Timothy 3:16, and Romans 1:3.
     Jesus, like all other humans, had emotions. “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? 'Father, save me from this hour'? But for this purpose I have come to this hour” (Jn. 12:27). “After saying these things, Jesus was troubled in his spirit, and testified, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me'” (Jn. 13:21). “Jesus wept” (Jn. 11:35). “And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, 'My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me'” (Matt. 26:37-38).
     One final piece of scriptural proof for the full humanity of Christ- he died. Jesus, his human nature, died on the cross. God cannot die. But, Jesus' human nature could. “And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit” (Matt. 27:50). “And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last” (Mk. 15:37). “Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, 'Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!' And having said this he breathed his last” (Lk. 23:46). “When Jesus has received the sour wine, he said, 'It is finished,' and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit” (Jn. 19:30).
Permanently Human
     An amazing truth that often goes unnoticed or unknown is that Christ, once he took on flesh and joined his divine nature with a human nature, will always be God and man. When he stepped out of heaven and was born of a woman, it was forever. He is right now in heaven, in flesh. His natures will never be separated. He is and always will be the God Man. Praise God!
     What do the scriptures say? “He asked life of you; you gave it to him, length of days forever and ever” (Ps. 21:4). “I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom” (Matt. 26:29). If Jesus did not have a human nature and physical body, then he could not drink wine. “When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, 'Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades'” (Rev. 1:17-18). Ponder also Acts 1:9-11, 9:5, Romans 1:4, 1 Corinthians 9:1, and 15:8.
Necessarily Human
      It behooved us that Christ became man. Without this, we could not be saved; we could not be delivered from the wrath of God due our sin. The unification of Christ's divine nature with that of humanity was necessary to procure our eternal redemption. It was man who sinned and rebelled against God, and it is man who must pay the price. Sinful man, however, could never offer anything remotely good enough or pure to a holy and perfect God. Besides, we cannot even approach God in the first place- how could we ever offer the perfect sacrifice to finally atone for our sin. WE CAN'T!
But, Christ can. He took on flesh in order to die as the perfect, atoning sacrifice. What we could never do, Christ did. The offended party, God, was reconciled to the offender, man, by One who came and stood in the breach. Christ is the Second Adam who propitiated the Father and is our Representative, Substitute, and Mediator.
      Christ is the Second Adam. He came to undo what the first Adam did. The Lord took on flesh in order to obey perfectly the law of God and reverse the Fall. Where Adam failed, Jesus triumphed. Adam succumbed to temptation; Jesus utterly overthrew the tempter. Adam disobeyed. Jesus obeyed the Father and submitted to his will impeccably.
     “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned... Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous” (Rom. 5:12, 18-19). This passage is comparing Adam and Christ. Notice that Paul refers to Christ as man, and not just man, but an obedient man.
     “For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive” (1Cor. 15:21-22). Later, Paul quotes from Genesis to further his point (he is teaching on the resurrection and comparing life and death, hence the similitude of Christ to Adam), “Thus it is written, 'The first man Adam became a living being'; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit” (1Cor. 15:45). So, it was necessary for Christ to come in the flesh to accomplish and reverse the work of Adam.
     Christ is the propitiation. This is a big word. Oh, but it is an important word. It means to turn away wrath- to pacify. Christ, as our propitiation, turned aside the wrath of the Father for sinners. He did this, of course, by bearing our sin and punishment. The Father poured out all of his fury and righteous indignation for our sin on his Son. Therefore, Christ turned the Father's wrath away from us. The Father is propitiated; satisfied; appeased.
     Christ is our Representative. As our representative, Christ stands for us and acts in our place. He is our advocate- our proponent. Praise God that he does, because as we have seen, we need him. We could never represent ourselves before a just and holy God.
     “For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could never do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (Rom. 8:3-4). “And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him” (Col. 1:21-22).
     Christ is our Substitute. Many of these truths about Christ overlap, so we have alluded to this point already. But, it does deserve fuller treatment because of who we are talking about and his amazing work. Christ took our place. Let that sink in for a moment. Christ, the infinite, all-powerful, majestic, sovereign, holy, transcendent, Lord of all came to earth to die in our place. He substituted himself for sinful, selfish, God-hating, evil wretches.
     “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God” (2Cor. 5:21). “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed” (1Pet. 2:24).
     “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people” (Heb. 2:14-17).
     Christ is our Mediator. He mediates, or intervenes, between God and man. He, being God and man, represents both sides and can bring reconciliation. “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time” (1Tim. 2:5-6). “Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant” (Heb. 9:15).

What the Church Needs: David

What the Church Needs: David

     There are many examples in Scripture of godly men fulfilling their call and glorifying God. They serve as models; albeit, they are imperfect ones. However, they can teach us many truths both by their positive and even their negative actions. We look to these men only in an effort to project their emulative characteristics back onto us, realizing all the time that they are mere men, and sinful men at that (except, of course, Christ Jesus). We can learn; we must learn from those who have gone before. We look at these men and examples of the past in order to reform the present. Ultimately, however, we must look to Christ. We know looking back throughout the Bible that Christ was active within his people. As we look back on them, we are actually focused on Christ and his work then to better our now. So, what do we need?
David (Psalm 63)
We need a David-like thirst for God, heart of praise, joy and soul-satisfaction in God, and the attitude that God himself is better than life. This is a tall order, but thankfully, our God is a God of grace that desires the hearts of his people to extoll and glorify him. As we seek God and learn about him, we grow fonder of him and desire to worship him. The more we learn and seek, the more we worship and praise. The more we worship and praise, the more we want to learn about our great God. This is the sweet circular cycle of the Christian life. We commune with God and learn about him. As a result, we worship God. In turn, this drives us to seek him more. When we seek, we learn. When we learn, we humbly bow and worship.
     Psalm 63 is a beautiful testimony and guide into the heart of David. It is rich with picturesque language. We are at once captivated and whisked away; we are elevated to heights of worship and praise that leaves us craving more of this God. It is God that we want. He has arrested us, and we now live, breathe, eat, drink, work, and sleep to his glory. We cannot commune too much with our Lord. Oh, but we know what it is like to fellowship too little with him. We simply desire God.
     We would do well to emulate David in our pursuit of God and the endeavor to know him better. David sought God earnestly, and he did this early and often. He had a thirst for God that only God could quench. The soul of David yearned for the Lord. Nothing would satisfy this craving except his God. David was not content with idols or a man-made religion which sought to only please self or feed the flesh. He wanted God! He cared nothing for substitutes or diversions. David wanted to love, worship, fellowship, and commune with the Living God.
     David understood that the love of God was better than life. Everything could burn, but if he still had the love of God, then David was content. He could even lose his life (he came close on several occasions), but the love of God surpassed even that. David knew that it was God who gave him life, so David would praise and serve God with his life. Everything that we have is from God. All of our gifts, talents, blessings, and opportunities are from him. Are we using them to praise him? Do we take what has been given by our generous and good God and glorify him with them, or do we selfishly or stubbornly hold on to them and bury them in the sand?
     Another aspect of David's heart and desire for God was his mind. David remembered all that God had done for him and meditated upon his mighty works. This produced praise and adoration. David could look over his life and worship God because of who he is and what he did in his life. God is good and gracious. He is loving and patient. God is merciful and forgives the penitent. As a result of bygone grace and mercy, David is confident that his God will remain steadfast and faithful so his soul clings to him. Because of who God is and what he has done in the past, David's faith is strengthened and he seeks God all the more. God is his source of joy; David is satisfied in God alone.
     We need hearts like David. We too often seek joy and satisfaction in things other than God. We look to people, worldly success, numbers, and money. We rarely seek God, and when we do, it can hardly be called earnest. If at all, we seek him on our terms and according to our sinful whims. Oh, that we would thirst for God, seek him, serve him, obey him, desire him, and long for him. Why can't we love him more than our lives? Why don't we remember him and the great things that he has done? Why do our souls cling to everything but God? Why do we desire to be satisfied by temporal things? Have we stopped learning about God? If we have, remember that this is the fuel that drives our worship.
     Maybe we are too busy learning about growth strategies or corporate techniques and not the God of the universe. We are not in awe because we are not on our knees. We are not on our knees because we are not in the word. We are not in the word because we are busy putting out fires. We are putting out fires because we are not preaching and teaching the word. We are not preaching and teaching the word because it is not popular or suitable for church growth. We are not growing the church because God will not bless where he and his word is held in contempt. The word is held in contempt because it offends the people. The people are offended because their hearts are hard. Their hearts are hard because they have never been softened by the gospel. They have never been softened by the gospel because it is never proclaimed. The gospel is not proclaimed because the preacher has never been gripped by the power and glory of God. He has never been awed by God because he has been too busy trying to please the people. He has been consumed with pleasing the people because their opinion holds greater weight than God's. The opinion of the people outweighs God's because they pay the preacher’s salary. We could go on, but the point has been made— seek God and be satisfied in him. This is done by being in the word of God. When we are in the word, we learn of God. When we learn about God, we cannot help but to worship him.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

The Top 5 Preachers of all Time

The Top 5 Preachers Of All Time

     History is full of preachers. Some were good while others were not so good. Preachers have proclaimed the word of God for hundreds of years and have been instrumental in the lives of millions. The preached word of God has converted the lost, awakened nations, urged change, called people back to God, and many other things used by God for his glory and his people's good.
     There have been hundreds of preachers. Men like Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Bunyan, Thomas Brooks, John Owen, Richard Sibbes, Thomas Watson, Charles Spurgeon, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, James Montgomery Boice, and so many like them have proclaimed the gospel and heralded the glorious God of the Bible. Your favorite preacher did not make my list. But, that is okay, I do not think that you will disagree with my 5.
5. The Bible
And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, 'In you shall all the nations be blessed.'” (Gal. 3:8)
     How many of you have ever thought that every time you open your Bible, God is preaching to you through his word? Probably not many. But that is exactly what is happening. The word of God preaches the gospel to us!
4. Creation
“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” (Ps. 19:1)
     Not only does the Bible preach, but God's creation does as well. Creation proclaims and declares the glory of God. It reveals to man that there is a God and that he is amazing! So, not only every time you open your Bible is God preaching to you, but every time you open your eyes or look outside, creation is preaching a message to you.
3. The Holy Spirit
“But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me... When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.” (Jn. 15:26, 16:13)
     The Holy Spirit bears witness to Christ and speaks and declares. The Spirit preaches to believers testifying about Christ and his work.
2. Jesus
“Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, 'The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.'” (Mk. 1:14-15)
     Jesus was a preacher. And he was a great preacher. He knew exactly what to say and how to say it. Many of his sermons are recorded for us in the Bible. They are full of doctrine and application. But, notice one thing, Jesus preached the gospel. Actually, Jesus preached himself.
1. The Father
“Moses said, 'Please show me your glory.' And he said, 'I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name 'The Lord.''” (Ex. 33:18-19)
     The Father even preaches. He proclaimed his name to Moses and us!
     There are the 5 greatest preachers of all time. They have many things in common but I will mention only a few. All these preachers focus on God and Christ. That is the message. They also are centered on the word of God. This is very telling to us. Preachers, do you preach God and Christ from the word of God? Christian, do you sit under and desire preaching that is centered around God and Christ and comes directly from the Bible? Beware of substitutes. Beware of not preaching the whole counsel of God. If this type of preaching was good enough for God's word, creation, the Spirit, Christ, and the Father, then it ought to be good enough for us.

Friday, December 9, 2016

What The Church Needs: Isaiah

What The Church Needs: Isaiah
 There are many examples in Scripture of godly men fulfilling their call and glorifying God. They serve as models; albeit, they are imperfect ones. However, they can teach us many truths both by their positive and even their negative actions. We look to these men only in an effort to project their emulative characteristics back onto us, realizing all the time that they are mere men, and sinful men at that (except, of course, Christ Jesus). We can learn; we must learn from those who have gone before. We look at these men and examples of the past in order to reform the present. Ultimately, however, we must look to Christ. We know looking back throughout the Bible that Christ was active within his people. As we look back on them, we are actually focused on Christ and his work then to better our now. So, what do we need?

Isaiah (Isaiah 6:8-13)
We need an Isaiah-like willingness to go and preach despite the blindness and deafness of the people. Oh, to see and hear what the prophet Isaiah experienced. He saw the Lord high and lifted up. He witnessed Christ seated on his throne ruling and reigning; he saw his glory filling the temple. He saw the seraphim and had his sin removed by a coal from the altar. But, all was not well. Isaiah saw this and more; he experienced a dramatic calling and heard audibly from the Lord, but his ministry is not something that we would desire. Why?
      The prophetic ministry of Isaiah was characterized by hardness of hearts and no repentance. God revealed to the prophet that he would not be successful. The people would hear, but they would not understand. They would see, but they would not perceive. The hearts of the people would be made dull, their ears heavy, and their eyes blind. This is not the kind of people that we would want to preach to, but this was Isaiah's calling and ministry. God told Isaiah that the people would be in this state and condition so that they would not see, hear, understand, and turn back to him in order to be healed. It was the will of the Lord for his people to be judged and punished. This is a frightening example of judicial hardening.
     What was the response of Isaiah? He cried and wondered, “How long, oh Lord?” He wanted to know the duration of time that the Lord intended to harden, blind, and punish his people. Notice, he did not complain, question God or his motives, say that God was being unfair, or that the people did not deserve this. No, he knew that they deserved this. He deserved it also, but he received grace from God. This was to be the ministry of Isaiah. It was not successful in the people's eyes or numerically. Isaiah did not win any popularity contests. I am willing to bet that nobody invited him over for dinner. He was hated and despised because of his message.
     Notwithstanding, Isaiah was willing to go and preach. He obeyed God in spite of the circumstances, and he was faithful to his calling. He sought to please the Lord and fulfill his will, so he was successful. Maybe not in the eyes of the world, but in the eyes of his Lord, he succeeded.
     This attitude is needed today. We need preachers to proclaim the word of God simply because that is what he has commanded. We are not to worry ourselves with popularity or try to win the hearts of men. There are plenty of occupations where somebody can be a people-pleaser. A pastor or preacher is not one of them. If you proclaim the truth, not everyone is going to love you for it. People will be offended and cause division and strife. We must remember that it is God's message and not ours. We do not have the right to change it in an attempt to make it more palatable or acceptable to sinful and carnal men. We must not water the message down, shave off the rough edges, sugar-coat it, leave parts of it off, or add to it in any way. As the prophet before us, we have to be willing to go and preach no matter the condition of the hearts of the people in which we are called to minister.

Friday, December 2, 2016

What The Church Needs: Moses


     That is the question for the ages. What is needed? If we knew the answer and everyone followed suit, then the church and Christianity would not be in the shape that it finds itself. But, we are imperfect. We sin, cannot agree, and contaminate everything with are selfish preferences. Alas! God is on his throne. He is ruling and reigning from on high. God's will is being fulfilled and carried out as he sees fit; it is not our will. I do not know about you, but God never asked me for my opinion or what I thought. We do, however, have a responsibility to reform the church, purge impurities, tear down idols, call the people to repentance, preach and teach the whole counsel of God, and urge growth in grace and sanctified worship.
      There are many examples in Scripture of godly men fulfilling their call and glorifying God. They serve as models; albeit, they are imperfect ones. However, they can teach us many truths both by their positive and even their negative actions. We look to these men only in an effort to project their emulative characteristics back onto us, realizing all the time that they are mere men, and sinful men at that (except, of course, Christ Jesus). We can learn; we must learn from those who have gone before. We look at these men and examples of the past in order to reform the present. Ultimately, however, we must look to Christ. We know looking back throughout the Bible that Christ was active within his people. As we look back on them, we are actually focused on Christ and his work then to better our now. So, what do we need?
Moses (Exodus 33:12-34:8)
We need Moses-like intercession and desire to see the glory of God. Exodus chapters 32-34 are some of the most theologically rich and revealing portions of Scripture in the entire Old Testament. The Israelites had been delivered from Egyptian captivity by the mighty arm of God. He decimated the land and rescued his chosen people. They saw and heard things that make us envious. God revealed himself to this group and gave them laws and sacrifices. Yet, they disobeyed and committed idolatry continuously.
     These chapters in Exodus have Moses on the mount with God while the people danced around a false god. Moses was receiving the law; the people were breaking it. Moses was before God's face; the people were spitting in it. Moses desired to see God's glory; the people were content with metal fashioned in the shape of an animal. After all that had transpired up until this point, they rejected God and served themselves and their own carnality. How deplorable!
     Still, Moses interceded on behalf of those sinful and rebellious ingrates. God had every right to destroy the people. He did not; he could not. He is God and he cannot lie. He made a covenant to deliver this people and they were to occupy the Promised Land. He cannot fail. Instead, God forgives and rains down grace upon the undeserving and mercy on them who merit judgment.
     We need pastors who spend the week on the mountain with God while their sheep are in the valley dancing around other gods. They need to be interceding; they must be pleading to God to have mercy and beg God for grace. We need leaders who desire to see more of the glory of God. Then, they are to come down from the mountain and tell the people about God; they should tell them of his grace, mercy, judgment, and holiness. Remind them to repent and hide in the cleft trusting Christ alone for everything. Preach the law, and then apply the healing balm of the gospel.
     Moses was jealous for the glory of God. Where is that today? He was zealous for the truth and proclaimed it. Prayers were offered on the behalf of sinners who deserved death for worshiping false gods. Moses knew God, and he knew the hearts of the people. He knew that there had to be someone to stand in between them. That someone was him. Moses stood between God and the people. He interceded; God spared them. Moses accomplished this because he knew that God could not fail or deny himself. He knew that God was jealous for his glory; he would not defame his name by destroying the people he delivered. What would the nations say? The God of the Hebrews was able to lead them out of Egypt but could not get them through a desert? May it never be!
     Pastors, climb that mountain and get alone with God. How can you preach to your people about a God you yourself don't know? Pastors and leaders, you must seek the glory of God in all that you do. Do not settle for imitations. Do not fall prey to the whims of the people as Aaron did. You lead them; you teach them the truth about God. Do not let them dictate what you preach and teach. Intercede for your sheep. They are weak and are prone to wonder. They follow others and get entangled in idolatry. Rebuke them. Teach them. Charge them to repent. Lead them away from idolatry. How? Show them the glory of God! They will never be the same. Their faces will shine and everyone will know that they have been with the Lord.