Monday, June 11, 2007

The Danger of Gossip

Paul writes to Timothy these words in 1 Timothy 5:13. "At the same time they also learn to be idle, as they go around from house to house; and not merely idle, but also gossips and busybodies talking about things not proper to mention." Paul is discussing widows in this section of 1 Timothy 5, and he associates idleness with gossip and gossip with inappropriateness. Romans 1 associates gossip as an effect of God's wrath of abandonment upon a people because of their persistence in sin.

Gossip is a terrible thing, and it should not be found within the blood-bought body of Christ. As if Scripture isn't enough to testify of this, my personal experience testifies of this as well. Over the past few weeks, much gossip has taken place among my Christian friends. The result has been a church that grows in disunity. There is awkwardness among the beloved. Tearing down of believers has been the result. Gossip is tearing my beloved, redeemed-by-Christ friends into enemies. What a deceptive and destructive devil Satan is.

My desire is the same as it always has been: to see believers grown more into the image of God daily. How does this happen when gossip abounds? The answer is focusing on God. When one seeks to first and foremost please God, one is going to understand the sinfulness of gossip. One is going to see the destruction that it brings. When one seeks to live holy and blamelessly for the Lord, the result is a desire to build up the church, to say things that uplift and edify the body. Selfish ambitions and the desire to know things about other people that are none of your business go away for there is no time for them when pleasing the Lord is your concern.

Brethren, let us love one another. Let us not destroy the very church Christ suffered and died for. Let the gossip stop, and let repentance take place so that the Lord may be glorified in us.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Perseverance of the Saints

One of the more prevailing themes of Scripture that I have thought much about over the past two days has been the idea of the perseverance of the saints. Reading the introduction to Steve Lawson's "Foundations of Grace" along with Tom Nettles "By His Grace and For His Glory" has thoroughly laid out this idea for me. However, the Scriptures from John 13:36-38 really confronted me on this issue.

) Simon Peter said to Him, "Lord, where are You going?" Jesus answered, "Where I go, you cannot follow Me now; but you will follow later." (37) Peter said to Him, "Lord, why can I not follow You right now? I will lay down my life for You. (38) Jesus answered, "Will you lay down your life for Me? Truly, truly, I say to you, a rooster will not crow until you deny Me three times.

In this passage, Jesus tells the disciples that He is going away to a place they cannot come yet. John 14:2 tells us that Jesus is going to the Father, to prepare a place for us. The reason they could not yet go with Him is because the place in Heaven wasn't yet prepared. The death, burial, and resurrection that allowed for the preparation had not yet happened. Even so, Jesus tells these disciples that they will one day go to this place. That is what Jesus says in verse 36.

In addition to telling the disciples that they would go to this place with the Father, Jesus called Simon Peter out. He told Simon that he would deny Him three times. His faith would fail, sin would be the reason, and denial would be the result. Jesus tells these words to Peter AFTER Jesus just told Peter that he would go to the place He prepares through His death, burial, and resurrection.

The point here is that Jesus called out Peter, after Peter had confessed Christ as the Son of the Living God, on future sin. Yet in this, Jesus still says that Peter will go to Heaven, to the Father, to the place prepared even though this sin would happen. The Scriptures remind me that I am called by the Father's grace and that the Father's grace will remain on me to the end as a part of the elect, even though I sometimes sin, all for the end result of His glory. As saints, we will persevere, just like Peter. The words of Christ remain true for us all. Praise be to God.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Experiencing God

Over the past 10 weeks, I have been leading a group of about 5 believers through Henry Blackaby's "Experiencing God" study on a weekly basis. In all honesty, I believe that this study has gone well and has had many edifying effects on these Christians, myself included.
One of the great things that I have gleaned from this study is just how well the Scriptures work together in explaining themselves. I just want to share some of what the LORD has shown me through this study from John 14:23.
John 14:23 from the NASB says, "Jesus answered and said to him, 'If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.'"
What we notice here is first of all that love and obedience are not the same. Love is not obedience. Love is not commandment-keeping. Love exists prior to obedience. Then, as a result of love, Jesus says that the person will keep His word in obedience. Love and obedience are related, but they are not synonomous. Obedience results from a previously existing love.
Secondly, Jesus says that if someone loves Him that this person will keep His word. Jesus doesn't say might or should or even could. He says will. So, if one does love Jesus, obedience must come. It isn't an option. It is a natural response that has to happen.
Thirdly, when this love for Him comes and results in obedience, Jesus tells us that we will experience God. He says that as a result of our loving obedience God the Father will love that person and God will live with that person. God's presence will be with that person. That person will be able to know God as Yahweh, Elohim, Jehovah Jireh, Jehovah Tsidkenu, redeemer, savior, etc. from personal experience as God dwells with him/her in his/her presence.
So all of this then sums up the key to knowing God's will and experiencing Him. It all goes back to love, which according to Jesus is the greatest commandment. If we love Christ, we will experience God. If we love Him, the love will result in obedience, which results in God's abiding presence. It's so simple. Love God, find Him the treasure, and we will know Him.
I love the Word of God.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Desiring God's Holiness: Reflections from the Desiring God Conference

After attending the Desiring God conference February 5-7, I am compelled to confess that understanding the holiness of God is a deadly matter. This doctrine, God’s holiness, should not be trivialized or left only to the seminarians to understand; rather, it should be gripped by all peoples, especially the people of God. It is by far one of the most serious doctrines mentioned in the Scriptures, and it demands our attention.

Let us look at Leviticus 10:1-7. “Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu each took his own firepan, put fire in it, placed incense on it, and presented unauthorized fire before the LORD, which He had not commanded to them to do. Then flames leaped from the LORD’s presence and burned them to death before the LORD. So Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the LORD meant when He said:

I will show My holiness
to those who are near Me,
and I will reveal My glory
before all the people.”

But Aaron remained silent. Moses summoned Mishael and Elzaphan, sons of Aaron’s uncle Uzziel, and said to them, “Come here and carry your relatives away from the front of the sanctuary to a place outside the camp.” So they came forward and carried them in their tunics outside the camp, as Moses had said.

Then Moses said to Aaron and his sons Eleazar and Ithamar, “Do not let your hair hang loose and do not tear your garments, or else you will die, and the LORD will become angry with the whole community. However, your brothers, the whole house of Israel, may mourn over that tragedy when the LORD sent the fire. You must not go outside the entrance to the tent off the meeting or you will die, for the LORD’s anointing oil is on you.” So they did as Moses said.” [HCSB]

First of all, notice the problem presented in verse 1. Nadab and Abihu put unauthorized fire and unauthorized incense in their respective firepans and presented it before the LORD. God had neither commanded their offering, nor had God authorized their offering. And this was sinful. Their sin was their disobedience in their methodology of presenting the fire offering to God, rebellion against God’s ordained method if you will.
Now God’s response to this unauthorized offering is staggering. Look at verse 2. “Then flames leaped from the LORD’s presence and burned them to death before the LORD.” God killed them on the spot. God didn’t rebuke them. God didn’t chastise them. God didn’t tell them to do better next time. God destroyed these men on the grounds that their offering was sinful before Him. Their offering was vile in the sight of the Holy One. And because of this, God consumed these men.
And we see in verse 3 that Aaron remained silent. Aaron didn’t run around questioning God. He didn’t ask God why all this had happened. He didn’t question the judgment of God on his own sons. In the presence of the holiness of God, Aaron shut his mouth. When Aaron realized that the Almighty, Holy God was in his presence, Aaron had no response. There was absolutely nothing in his life worthy of being presented in the presence of the Holy One. He shut up.
Lastly, we see in verses 6 and 7 that the LORD told Aaron, Eleazar, and Ithamar not to tear their robes nor let their hair hang loose. Understand that tearing the robes and letting the hair hang loose was a sign of mourning. God told these men to not mourn over the death of Nadab and Abihu. Do not mourn over the judgment of sinners in the hands of a holy God for mourning over these men would represent sympathy with their vileness. These men were not worthy of being mourned.
If you don’t see that personal holiness and the holiness is God is of utmost importance, you are blind. This is a serious matter. It is a matter that brings death to all who do not adhere. God does not take sin lightly, especially among his people. Scripture is filled with many example of this same idea. Look at Uzzah who died because he touched the ark. Even the mud of the ground in its obedience to make mud when dirt and water are combined is more holy than man. Look at Ananias and Sapphira. God demands holiness and demands honor lest we die.
This is a very serious matter. May the church of today understand and meditate on the holiness of our God and the holiness that He demands of us lest we be like those in Scripture whom God destroyed. Church, understand that we serve Elohim, the unknowable God who is supreme to humanity for His holiness. God is holy. May we never forget.

Monday, January 22, 2007

For the Love of the Saints

Sunday January 21, 2007 was a very memorable Sunday for me. I was in Washington D.C., and I attended Capitol Hill Baptist Church. Some people may recognize this church because of its pastor, Mark Dever. I walked into this old, old church building and was immediately greeted by a church intern named Kevin. We talked for twenty minutes off and on between introductions as he introduced me to many members of the church. What a blessing it was to be greeted by another brother and to be placed in a situation where you feel loved and at home.
In addition to meeting Kevin, I sat through an hour of discipleship training. A couple of things should be noted here. First of all, discipleship courses were offered in multiple areas and anyone within the church could attend. There was no singles class or college class. There was no marrieds class or youth group class. Each discipleship course was open to any member regardless of age unless of course the class was strictly for men or women. This is a unique concept. The idea was to promote unity without limiting it to age. What a wonderful concept. Secondly, the discipleship class was intense. I've never been to a church that goes through Systematic Theology (Grudem's version) as a discipleship class. We spoke for an hour on the works of the Spirit. There was such a distinctive maturity here that I have only experience on a seminary campus.
Now of all things that blew me away, the gathering of all the saints together was awesome. We sang about six hymns. And when I say hymns, I mean hymns that I've never heard before. And we sang with a piano and a guitar you could barely hear. There was no praise band. It definantly was not "cool" by today's standards. We also pray for no joke, twenty minutes, in the two hour service. The sermon was so edifying as well. Dr. Michael Lawrence preached from Matthew 25 about those who will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Christ tells the parables of the virgins in which we see that the prepared will enter the kingdom. Christ also tells the parable of the talents in which we see the faithful will inherit the kingdom. Finally, Christ tells us the parable of the sheep and goats in which we see that the merciful will inherit the kingdom. What was so edifying to me was that in the last parable, the one with the sheep and the goats, Christ looks at us for what we do to His brothers, i.e. His disciples. Christ loves His Church. He loves His people. He died for us. He bought us with His blood. Therefore, as brethren bought with the blood of Christ, we should love one another as the ransomed simply because of Christ. It's all about loving the brethren and edifying the brethren.
When the preaching finished, there was a time of reflection in which the body prayed about how the Lord spoke to them that day. And they left the service challenging and praising God for what He had shown them that day.
After the service was over, I was invited to lunch with the college department. I met so many people. I even met a fellow from Franklin, KY, which is twenty minutes away from where I grew up. I was invited to hang out with the church interns all afternoon at their house. They gave me food. They gave me a place to stay that was warm. They even introduced me to Pastor Dever, which I must say was awesome yet oh so humbling. And they do this for all people who come to this church. They do so for the love of the saints.
Folks, this church was amazing. They exemplify a Biblical church body. I thank God for them and for their leaders who continue to direct the church in a very biblical way. I'm thankful for their strict membership policy. I'm thankful for their quickness to church discipline for through these I see a very serious and matured body of believers focused on God and on growing to be like Him. Note that the average age in this church is 29. I've never seen anything like this outside of a seminary. What a blessing the Lord has given me in worshipping with Captiol Hill Baptist Church this weekend.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Christmas Eve

This morning, the pastor at my home church came with it this morning in one of the best Christmas messages I've ever heard. He spoke on Joseph, that guy who always seems to get left out when compared with Mary or Jesus or the wise men or anybody else involved in the story. The pastor called our attention to Joseph's character and how Joseph was a man of great character. He was compassionate in that in light of Deuteronomy 22, which says he could have had Mary stoned, he was going to quietly divorce her. Scripture called Joseph a righteous man. Prior to Christ, Joesph had found favor in God's eyes in order to be called righteous. Joseph was a stud. Pastor went on to talk about Joseph's call, which included the revelation of a person (Jesus), the revelation of a purpose (Christ to save people from sins), and the revelation of a plan (Joseph will name the baby Jesus). Lastly, Pastor spoke on Joseph's conduct of humble and obedient submissiveness. If men today could just be somewhat like Joesph amidst our time of crisis, as no doubt this was for Joseph, what work God would do in the church. I was blessed to be in the presence of Jehovah today.

Candlelight Service
On a sad note, I realized that of my graduating class at church only three of us are still involved at church. I was deeply saddened.

During our candlelight service this evening, a little girl said the funniest thing. The Pastor had just finished praying, so the sanctuary was quiet. And this little girl, maybe 4 years old, said, "Mommy. Time to go pee." The entire church heard this, and burst into laughter. It was really funny. Praise God for laughter.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

A Dilemma

As a Christian student at the University of Kentucky, it is my formeost desire to see the campus come to know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. All the time I hear people say that there are thousands of people on UK's campus and few of them are Christians. Heck, I think I've even said it since I've heard it so much. But after this semester, I am confused.

All my friends graduated in the Spring 06 semester, and I decided to stick around another year to get a Master's degree. Sticking around has placed some very interesting people in my life, people I did not know prior to this year. Now meeting these people from day one left me thinking my new friends were lost. They cussed, they drank to get drunk, they partied, etc. Yet, after getting to know them better, they claim to be Christians. They talk about going to church. They talk about reading the Bible. And, they claim Christ is their Lord. However, no fruit is produced in their lives. And the more I talk to them, the more adamant I find them to claim Christ, yet no one seems to want to change to produce fruit.

Now, prior to this year, I would have just assumed these people were lost. I mean to live in complete rebellion with no fruit, only lip service, would tend to make me believe they were lost regardless of what their words are. But, the man I look up to the most has said several times that people can live in rebellion and still be saved. According to his interpretation of Hebrews 6, one can be saved and fall away and still go to Heaven. Their lives could be lived like the worldly, and because of their rebellion, God would kill them and bring them home since salvation is something we cannot lose (John 6).

So, that being said, how do I go about talking to these people. Do they need the gospel expained to them, or do they need to be held accountable? Does the Bible really say they can live like this and be saved, or does this prove them to be lost? It's difficult because I want them to know Christ, and I want them to be obedient to Him if they know Him. It's very difficult to talk to someone who may have a wrong understanding of who he/she really is in Christ.

I know for sure that out of this semester, there may be a lot more believers on this campus than I expected, believers extremely weak in their faith who need to be challenged and held accountable by the Church as they are out making decisions on their own in a sinful college world. So I challenge you who read this to talk to people and find out their situation. Maybe you could be the accountability partner and edifier they need to be drawn back to God. Invest.