Call To Die

Then [Jesus] said to them all, "If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will save it. (Luke 9:23-24, HCSB)

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Follower of Christ, husband of Abby, member of Kosmosdale Baptist Church, and tutor/staff member at Sayers Classical Academy.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Life and Death

[I preached the following short sermon this morning outside the abortion clinic here in Louisville. Please pray that the Holy Spirit would use the preaching done by me, John, Chad, and Jerry to save souls and lives.]

There is a God: a Sovereign Creator and Sustainer of the universe. He spoke the world into existence and holds everything together by His powerful word. We see evidence of God in the world around us- the creation of His hand- we see evidence of God in the love that we feel for our family and friends- the affection, loyalty, and self-sacrificial commitment that can't be explained by mere "naturalistic" evolutionary processes- and we see evidence of God in life.

Many of you are probably familiar with the band LIVE. A few years ago LIVE recorded a song called "Heaven." In this song were the words:

I don't need no one
to tell me about heaven:
I look at my daughter,
and I believe.

I don't need no proof
when it comes to God and truth
I can see the sunset
and I perceive.

In a way, this song makes a good point- the evidence of God is all around us- in the beauty of nature and in the lives of our children.

Since God created all matter and all life, He has an absolute right to require His creation to behave in accordance with His will.

First and foremost, we honor God by recognizing that He alone is Lord over life and death, and that no matter what the laws of the land say, we have no right before God to take innocent life.

Life is a gift from God: a gift given by God in the mother's womb. When we disregard life and make ourselves guilty of murder- either through involvement with abortion or through unjust anger- we forfeit our own right before God to live. As the Word of God says, "the wages of sin is death" [Romans 6:23a]. We will, at the end of our lives, stand before God; He will judge us, as He has the absolute right to do since He is our Creator, and if we are guilty before Him, we will face His judgment, and our lives will be forfeit.

The good news is that Life has come into the world in the person of Jesus Christ who said, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life" [John 14:6a]. Jesus died on the Cross as the substitute for all who will believe on Him. Jesus never committed murder in thought or in deed, but on the Cross God the Father accepted Jesus' self-sacrifice and punished Him in the place of us: we who have had murderous thoughts or who have participated in the murder that is abortion. Jesus willingly took the Father's just wrath against sin, Jesus died and was buried, then on the third day He rose from the grave, showing His victory over sin and death, and offering Life: eternal life to all who repent and believe in Him.

Turn from your sin today- turn from your murderous thoughts and actions- and follow Jesus, trusting in Him. Find the Life that is offered in Christ alone.

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Monday, May 24, 2010

God Is The Merciful Redeemer And Lord of His People

[The following is the devotion I delivered at last week's pre-work prayer meeting I had with my friends from UPS.]

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight,

O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer. (Psalm 19:14)


As we have seen from Genesis 1:1, which says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,” as we have seen from John 1:1-3, which says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God; He was with God in the beginning; all things were created through Him, and apart from Him not one thing was created that has been created,” and as we have seen from Hebrews 1:3[b], which says, “He sustains all things by His powerful word:” God is the Sovereign Creator and Sustainer of all things, whereas we– as seen in Genesis 3 and in our own experience– have become rebels against His rule. As we have seen from Exodus 20, where the Ten Commandments are given through Moses, and Acts 17:30-31, where the Apostle Paul talks about the judgment to come, God is the Holy Lawgiver and Judge over the world, whereas we– as our consciences confess– have broken God’s Law.


We’ve read about the self-centered rich man that Jesus spoke of in Luke 16:19-31, and that upon dying this rich man faced torment– thirst, anguish, flame, frustration, and rejection. As rebels and lawbreakers, we are all deserving of this same kind of punishment: our sin has earned God’s wrath. THIS IS JUSTICE, and it is good.


But God is rich in mercy and has provided a Way for us to escape the Hell that our sins deserve. This is why Jesus was sent into the world. The name Jesus means “God saves”– as we see in Matthew 1:21, Jesus came to save His people from their sins. This salvation was costly, for God’s justice against our sins had to be satisfied: Jesus, who committed no sin, took God’s just wrath against our sins, experiencing Hell upon the Cross, so that we may be justified– made right in God’s sight [SEE ROMANS 3:23-26]. Jesus rose from the dead and offers eternal life to everyone who trusts in Him. This is the gospel– the “good news”– proclaimed by the apostles [SEE 1 CORINTHIANS 15:1-4].

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Thursday, May 20, 2010

Are Any Roman Catholics Christian?

Here are some thoughts that I gave in response to this question in an email conversation earlier this week:

I'm sure that many Roman Catholics are Christian in the same way that many Evangelicals are not- in that many people do not follow the teachings of their churches. In that a condition of the heart is what God requires, rather than a formal adherence to a creed, I'm sure that there are many Evangelicals who would give assent to proper gospel teachings, and who yet do not have true faith; likewise, there are probably many Roman Catholics who would say that they believe the grace of justification is administered through the sacrament of baptism, and yet some of these-in their heart- may be trusting simply in Christ for their salvation. Roman Catholic teaching is certainly anti-gospel, and anyone within the Roman Catholic communion is certainly in a dangerous position as the gospel- that "message of Christ" through which faith comes- is being systematically obscured through their doctrine.

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Friday, May 14, 2010

No one does evil for evil's sake: quotes

"The interesting thing about evil is, the people who commit it do not often think of it as evil. Other people think of it as evil. Ceausescu and PolPot and Mao Tse-Dong and Hitler and Stalin: they are responsible in the last century for killing millions and millions of people, but they did not think that they were doing evil." Michael Stone, forensic psychiatrist.

I heard the above quote on the special features of The Thin Blue Line. Which reminded me of the following quote from C.S. Lewis:

"If Dualism is true then the Bad Power must be a being who likes badness for its own sake. But in reality we have no experience of anyone liking badness just because it is bad. The nearest we can get to it is in cruelty. But in real life people are cruel for one of two reasons - either because they are sadists, that is, because they have a sexual perversion which makes cruelty a cause of sensual pleasure to them, or else for the sake of something they are going to get out of it - money, or power, or safety. But pleasure, money, power and safety are all, as far as they go, good things. The badness consists in pursuing them by the wrong method, or in the wrong way, or too much. i do not mean, of course, that the people who do this are not desperately wicked. I do mean that wickedness, when you examine it, turns out to be the pursuit of some good in the wrong way. You can be good for the mere sake of goodness : you cannot be bad for the mere sake of badness." -Mere Christianity

I think that these quotes are insightful and are helpful evangelistically. When we tell people of the gospel- the good news of the redemption in Jesus Christ- most people do not think that they need it- they do not need redemption from sin- because they do not see themselves as being that bad. Most people have had enough wrong done to themselves or to the people that they love that they do not imagine evil people DON'T EXIST- despite how obscured these categories may be- rather, they think that the "evil people" belong to another category than themselves. Most people will easily admit that no-one is perfect, but they think themselves to be GOOD deep down, whereas there are some people who are just evil and do evil things for evil's sake.

But thoughts like those expressed in the quotes above may cause people to rethink these categories. Because if we are all alike in seeking to do things for the sake of some good- each according to his own understanding- then the fact that so much evil results requires explanation.

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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Response to a Comment on My Last Post Re: Troy Gramling.

[Read the last post HERE.]

My friend Chris West posted a comment to "Four Reasons to Vote NO re: Troy Gramling As President of the SBC Pastors' Conference," and I felt that his statements/questions were important enough to merit a post of their own.

Chris' comment:
I'm not as well informed in SBC politics as I could be, so I'm not trying to pester you. How do you know this guy is going to be nominated? Do you know who the other guys are that will be nominated.

I'm with you, logically, why would you vote for him if he's not that into the manifesto.

But, if I'm going to vote against something I'll have to vote for something. Is there a candidate that you like?
My response:

Chris,

Re: "I'm not as well informed in SBC politics as I could be,"

-Most people aren't: that's why it's important to discuss these things, so that those elected to influential positions within the SBC will be held accountable to members of Southern Baptist churches.

Re: "How do you know this guy is going to be nominated?"

-Usually, because Southern Baptists desire humility in their leaders, which precludes people from campaigning for these positions, the person nominating someone to leadership will announce it to the Baptist Press or to a state paper. In this case Pastor John Cross told the Florida Baptist Witness, that he would nominate Gramling.

Re: "Do you know who the other guys are that will be nominated."

-I have not heard any other names mentioned as potential nominations, and that was part of my intention for this post. As of yet, I have seen very little mention of Gramling's nomination on blogs or Tweets. If a majority of SBC pastors are unaware of specific objections to Gramling, there will be no reason for another candidate to be nominated.

Re: "why would you vote for him if he's not that into the manifesto."

-"Manifesto" usually (though not always) seems to have negative connotations for conservative Christians: i.e., "Communist Manifesto," "Humanist Manifesto," "the Unabomber's manifesto published on the Internet," etc. The Baptist Faith & Message is intended to be a statement summarizing what the great majority of Southern Baptists believe concerning the Bible's basic, clear teachings. As such, it is useful in determining who Southern Baptists should approve as leaders, teachers, and missionaries supported by the Convention.

Re: "But, if I'm going to vote against something I'll have to vote for something. Is there a candidate that you like?"

-As mentioned above, I know of no other candidates at this time. I will not be able to attend this year's Convention (because it is too close to Abby's due date), so I cannot directly nominate anyone. There are, however, many possibilities for nominations, and almost any potential nominee would be superior to Gramling (in the sense that I think Gramling's vision for pastoral ministry- as evidenced in the activities of his church, mentioned in my former post- is so devastating). For example: Mark Dever certainly has experience in helping to organize pastors' conferences; Johnny Hunt is finishing out his last term as SBC President, so he would potentially be available as President of the Pastors' Conference; Pastor Al Jackson of Lakeview Baptist Church in Auburn, AL is a leader in international missions and pastoral training and would be a great candidate. The list could go on.

Update 5/12: Since posting yesterday, I've learned that on May 4th the Florida Baptist Witness reported that "Vance Pitman, pastor of Hope Baptist Church in Las Vegas, Nev., will be nominated president of the Southern Baptist Pastors’ Conference" [read the article HERE]. I know nothing about Pitman other than what's written in the article, but I'm guessing that those nominating him perceive him as the more conservative candidate.

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Saturday, May 08, 2010

Four Reasons to Vote NO re: Troy Gramling As President of the SBC Pastors' Conference

The annual Pastors' Conference of the Southern Baptist Convention will be held on Sunday evening, June 13, and Monday, June 14, in Orlando.

According to the schedule, voting for the officers of next year's Conference should take place on Monday at 2:30 PM. I urge all Southern Baptists reading this blog to go to the Pastors' Conference and to vote AGAINST Troy Gramling, the pastor of Flamingo Road Church, who will appear as a nominee for the President of next year's Conference.

There are at least four reasons I would plead with fellow Baptists to vote NO to Troy Gramling:

1. Under Gramling's leadership, Flamingo Road Church has surrendered the Baptist distinctive of local church autonomy in favor of an extreme "multi-campus" approach. Baptists have historically held to the belief that each congregation is under the direct lordship of Jesus Christ, with no external human organization over the congregation (see the Baptist Faith and Message 2000, article 6). We have held to this belief due to a variety of New Testament texts in which each congregation is seen to elect its own officers (Acts 6:3-6) discipline its own members (Matt 18:15-17; 1 Cor 5:1-13), etc. Under Gramling's leadership, Flamingo Road Church has established dependent congregations (Gramling refers to them as "satellite campuses"), rather than helping to plant independent congregations. Flamingo Road Church has "satellite campuses" in three Florida locations as well as one in Lima, Peru, and even one that exists only on the Internet!

2. Internet baptisms.
[View a video HERE.] Obviously there are some good intentions behind this, but why does Flamingo Road Church feel the need to add "members" in this way rather than caring for people who want to become Christians by directing them to a local congregation which can love them, minister to them, discipline them, and deliver the ordinances to them in a more proper, orderly manner?

3. Women pastors.
Flamingo Road Church has at least one woman on staff with the title of "pastor," who engages in preaching. [A sermon from "Pastor Heather Palacios" can be heard HERE.] This is a direct contradiction of the Baptist Faith and Message, which states, "While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture," based on New Testament passages such as 1 Timothy 2:11-15; 3:1-7.

4. Negligible Cooperative Program Giving.
According to Peter Lumpkins, based on information found in the Florida Witness, Flamingo Road Church only gives 0.18% annually to the Cooperative Program, which is the Southern Baptist mechanism for funding missions and education.

Of the reasons listed above, numbers 2 and 4 by themselves would raise serious questions concerning Gramling as a candidate to lead the SBC Pastor's Conference. But numbers 1 and 3 should automatically disqualify him as they place him at odds with the Baptist Faith and Message. Taken together, these reasons make it hard to imagine a worse candidate in post-Conservative Resurgence Southern Baptist history.

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Thursday, May 06, 2010

The Intermediate State (Part 3)

[Part 1]


[Part 2]


The Self-Centered Will Receive Torment


But notice the words that are used to describe what the proud, compassionless rich man experiences when he dies [Luke 16:23-31]– words like “thirst,” “anguish,” and “flame.” This wicked man experiences extreme discomfort and pain, he experiences frustration in that he can apparently see Abraham and Lazarus, but he can take no part in their joy, and when he addresses Abraham, he receives only righteous rejection. This is the fearful future that can be expected for all who fail to follow Jesus.

What Makes the Difference in How We Experience the Intermediate State?


Jesus’ teaching indicates that, immediately after death, a person will experience either joy or anguish. What makes the difference: is it simply whether a person is poor or rich? Is it whether a person is humble or proud? Is it whether a person is charitable or selfish?


Jesus expected His hearers to do more than simply agree with His teaching: nodding your head as you read Luke 16:19-31 is not enough.


Jesus expected His hearers to do more than just try to follow His teaching as if it were a list of rules: after all, how could you “obey” Luke 16:19-31 in this sense? Would you try to become like Lazarus by making yourself poor, then having dogs lick your sores?


Jesus expected His hearers to follow Him. In Luke 9:23-24 Jesus said, “If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will save it.” (HCSB)


The first step to following Jesus is to confess that you have sinned against God. In some ways, each one of us has been like the rich man in Luke 16:19, seeking our own pleasure and enjoyment in the things of this world, while giving little to no thought to God or to others. Due to our sin, each one of us deserves the exact same kind of torment– the thirst, anguish, flame, frustration, and rejection– that the rich man received after death. On the Cross, Jesus took the torment that sinners deserve, as seen by the words He spoke from the Cross: “I thirst!” (John 19:28), “My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Mark 15:34), etc. Jesus died the death that we deserve, He was buried, and He rose from the grave on the third day. Jesus now lives and offers eternal life to anyone who follows Him.

My Plea to Anyone Reading These Words

Confess that you are a sinner. Turn away from your sin. Trust in Jesus and in His work on the Cross to save you from your sin and from the agony of death. Follow Jesus today.

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Monday, May 03, 2010

The Intermediate State (Part 2)

[See Part 1 HERE.]


Jesus’ Teaching Concerning the Intermediate State


In Luke 16:19-31, Jesus says:


19 “There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. 20 And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21 who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man's table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham's side. The rich man also died and was buried, 23 and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. 24 And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ 25 But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’ 27 And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father's house— 28 for I have five brothers— so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ 29 But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’” (ESV)


In the above passage, Jesus gives His listeners some important information about what they may expect immediately after they die.


The Humble Will Receive the Loving Fellowship of “Abraham”


In Jesus’ account, Lazarus– the humble poor man– is taken away to Abraham as soon as he dies. The text above says that Lazarus was at “Abraham’s side” – the older translations say “in Abraham’s bosom”– the idea is not just that Lazarus is situated close to Abraham, but that he is (in a sense) embraced by Abraham: he is brought near to Abraham’s heart. Lazarus, who was ignored in life by the rich man and, it seems, by everyone else except the filthy dogs, is now given a place of great honor and he has fellowship with Abraham.


“Abraham” is mentioned because he was a greatly respected example of faith, one who was known as God’s friend (see, for example, Genesis 15:6, 2 Chronicles 20:7, and Isaiah 41:8). When we who trust in Jesus die, we will have the opportunity to have fellowship with heroes like Abraham, but the Bible also indicates that we will find ourselves in the presence of all faithful people who have died before us; this is one reason why the Old Testament frequently speaks of people who die being ‘gathered to their people’ (see, for example, Genesis 25:8; 49:33). When the person who humbly trusts in Jesus dies, he is immediately taken into the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ, he is able to fellowship with heroes of the faith that we read about in the Bible, he is reunited with all his faithful departed loved ones– the Bible’s picture of the Intermediate State is joyful indeed!

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Saturday, May 01, 2010

The Intermediate State (Part 1)

[Some friends at work asked me about what the Bible says concerning what a person experiences when he dies, before the Final Judgment. While we discussed these things to some extent, I wrote a 3 page response to (hopefully) help further clarify the matter. I hope to give this response to my friends on Monday. Below is the 1st page of the response.]


Introduction

The Final Judgment

At the end of this present age (before God establishes the new heavens and new earth) all who have died will be raised from the grave. God will miraculously restore the body of each person, and all people will be judged before His throne. (See Revelation 20.)

The Intermediate State

But before the Final Judgment mentioned above, what will a person experience after death? (To re-state the question in theological terms: what will a person experience in the Intermediate State the mode of existence that occurs immediately after a person dies up until the time of the Final Judgment?)

The Importance of Scripture in Answering This Question

Our source for knowledge concerning what happens after we die must come from God. This knowledge lies outside of any normal human experience, and so we must seek answers from the LORD, who is the Giver of life, and who is Sovereign over life and death. Thankfully, God has given us certain knowledge about the Intermediate State in His written Word, the Bible.

The Christian’s Great Hope in Death: Experiencing the Presence of the Lord

In writing to the church at Corinth, the Apostle Paul teaches that when a Christian is absent from the body, he is present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8). Paul teaches the church at Philippi the same thing, writing that if he were to die he would be “depart and be with Christ” (see Philippians 1:21-23). [Also, note that when He was dying on the Cross, and a thief dying next to Him asked for His mercy, Jesus was able to say to that thief, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43, ESV)]

The Christian can have absolute confidence that if he dies– though his body will be placed in the ground awaiting the Resurrection– his soul will immediately be ushered into the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ, who saves His people from their sins (see Matthew 1:21), as well as from death, which is the consequence of sin (see Romans 6:23).

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