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.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Christianity, Cults, & Religions (7th Edition)

Because Abby and I have previously donated to the Center For Apologetics Research [I was asked to mention our donation and encourage others to donate], I was recently sent an advance copy of the 7th edition of Christianity, Cults, & Religions. This booklet helps readers compare 20 religions and cults with Biblical Christianity based on eight distinct categories: (1) key person or founder, date, location; (2) key writings; (3) who is God?; (4) who is Jesus?; (5) who is the Holy Spirit?; (6) how to be saved; (7) what happens after death?; (8) other facts, beliefs, or practices. This booklet would be extremely helpful for anyone interested in discovering the most important differences between the various religions. I plan to reference this booklet in preparing to clearly communicate the good news of Jesus Christ to people influenced by the teachings of different cults and religions.

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Monday, June 28, 2010

A Brief Reflection on the Proper Context for James 2:18-26

This past weekend, I heard James 2:18-26 referenced in two very different ways. Yesterday, I heard a great sermon on this passage of Scripture from my pastor, Tray Earnhart, which can be heard HERE. The day before that- on Saturday morning- my friend John Heuglin and I were talking to a Roman Catholic gentleman who made reference to this passage of Scripture in order to defend the idea that we are made right in God's sight on the basis (at least partially) of our own good works.

In studying James rather thoroughly, I believe that a large part of the confusion over his statements in 2:18-26 concerning faith and works comes from the fact that we read this section of the book in isolation from what James wrote in his first chapter. Because in 1:16-18, James had already written:

16 Don't be deceived, my dear brothers. 17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. 18 He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first-fruits of all he created. (NIV)

If "EVERY good and perfect gift is from above," then both the faith and the works to which James refers come from God. If "HE CHOSE to give us birth through the word of truth"- along with every other good and perfect gift- then our right standing before God cannot be understood to be due our own righteous desires or noble efforts.

So James 1:16-18 is entirely in line with Paul's statement in Romans 9:16, "So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy." (NASB) And this common understanding shared by James and Paul concerning God's sovereignty in salvation should form the basis for how we interpret James' later words in 2:18-26.

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Thursday, June 24, 2010

Late notes on the SBC

As anyone who cares about the Southern Baptist Convention probably knows already, Vance Pitman won the vote over Troy Gramling to become the next president of the SBC Pastors' Conference. I take full credit for this development due to my previous article. [The last sentence is a joke, because probably about 5 people read that article, and I'm not sure how many of them went to Orlando.]

Also, Bryant Wright won a run-off vote over Ted Traylor for President of the Southern Baptist Convention. To the best of my knowledge, both men fully support the biblical convictions expressed in the Baptist Faith & Message, and both men are committed to evangelism and world missions. I think I agree with the sentiment that a run-off vote between such men is a good thing, indicating that the SBC is not controlled by any sub-group within the Convention.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Flyer for the Thursday Pre-Work Prayer Meeting at UPS

[The following is the informational flyer I've been handing out for the Thursday Pre-work Prayer Meeting at UPS. It is patterned on and borrows from the flyer used by Lanphier in the Businessmen's Revival of 1857-1858.]

Side 1:

How Often Shall I Pray?


As often as the language of prayer is in my heart;


as often as I see my need of help;


as often as I feel the power of temptation;


as often as I sense any spiritual weakness,


or feel the aggression of a worldly, earthly spirit...


In prayer, we leave the work of time for that of eternity,


and conversation with men for conversation with God.


Pray

without

ceasing

(1 Thessalonians 5:17)



Side 2:

A Prayer-Meeting is held every Thursday, starting an hour before start time at the MacDonald’s nearest to our Hub. This meeting is intended to give unloaders, loaders, small-sort workers, sorters and package handlers of all kinds an opportunity to stop and call on God amid the troubles that are common to our respective jobs. The Prayer-Meeting will continue for about 40 minutes. There will be a brief Bible devotion to fix our minds on God, but most of the time will be taken on lifting up our various needs to God in prayer. With our busy lives, it will be a blessing to stop and lift our voices to the throne of grace in humble, grateful prayer.

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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Trinity

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

Summary of the biblical doctrine of the Trinity:

Within the one being that is God, there exists eternally three co-equal and co-eternal Persons: namely, the Father (Matt 6:9), the Word or Son (John 1:1-2; 17:5; Col 2:9), and the Holy Spirit (John 14:26; 15:26; Acts 8:29; 13:2), each with distinct personal attributes (Isa 48:16; Matt 3:16-17; Rom 8:26-27; Heb 9:13-14), but without division of nature, essence or being (John 10:30; 14:9; Acts 5:39).

Examples of Triadic passages:

Matt. 28:18-19
II Cor. 13:14

Origin of the doctrine of the Trinity:

C.S. Lewis notes that the Church’s understanding of the Trinity first started to become clear due to the experiences of Jesus’ early followers: The disciples knew of God in a vague way, they met Jesus Christ, and they found God living in them (i.e., the Holy Spirit).

Similarly, Bruce Ware notes that the Church’s understanding of the Trinity first started to become clear due to the Person and Work of the Lord Jesus Christ: The nature of Jesus’ claims and actions verifying those claims drives us to the inevitable conclusion of His deity [see Mark 2:1-12], yet He is shown as distinct from the Father by His prayers and human nature.

Biblical evidence of the Trinity:

Our knowledge of God comes from what He has revealed about Himself in Scripture.
We know that the Father and the Son [also called God and the Word] are two distinct Persons, yet one God, due to Bible passages such as John 1:1. In John 1:1, we see:
  1. The Word was with God; language describes a face-to-face relationship (indicates intimacy and distinction).
  2. The Word was God; language indicates reversibility; God was the Word.
The Old Testament focuses on the LORD as one in His being, as we saw from Deuteronomy 6:4, though it points forward to Jesus Christ by prophesies and types. The New Testament focuses on the Person of Jesus Christ. Therefore, we have less direct information about the Holy Spirit. But we do see that the Holy Spirit is considered a distinct Person– in Matt. 28:18-19 and II Cor. 13:4 that we already read, and in passages such as John 14:26 and 16:7, which are extremely important for other theological reasons as well– and He is considered to be God, as we see, for example, in a comparison between passages such as I Cor. 2:11 and Rom. 11:33-34.

The importance of the doctrine of the Trinity:

We must believe in God as He has revealed Himself to us, not inventing a God from our own imaginations, for that would be idolatry. Though non-Trinitarian presentations of God sometimes seem to make sense considered in themselves, the doctrine of the Trinity is the only understanding of God that reflects all the Bible has to say concerning the nature of God. The doctrine of the Trinity is not something that could have arisen based on human reasoning alone: we only know God as Triune based on what He has revealed. And so the doctrine of the Trinity, properly understood, drives us to faith in His Word.

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Saturday, June 05, 2010

Life and Responsibility

[I preached the following before the doors of the abortion clinic at 2nd and Market here in Louisville this morning. There were some times of profound silence this morning, but while I was preaching there was a great cacophony and I admit that I may not have communicated as clearly as I intended. I do think, however, that I was able to clearly articulate: 1. the command, "Love your neighbor as yourself;" 2. the fact that the abortion and the industry related to abortion stand in direct violation of this command, and; 3. the good news that Jesus has dealt with our violations of His command through His death, burial, and resurrection. My prayer is that someone was given ears to hear this message.]

In Luke 10:30[b]-37, the Bible records that Jesus told the following story:

"A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among robbers, and they stripped him and beat him, and went away leaving him half dead.

31"And by chance a priest was going down on that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.

32"Likewise a Levite also, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.

33"But a Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion,

34and came to him and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn and took care of him.

35"On the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper and said, 'Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I return I will repay you.'

36"Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers' hands?"

37And he said, "The one who showed mercy toward him." Then Jesus said to him, "Go and do the same." [NASB]


Imagine that you throw a party this weekend. Things get a little wild. You wake up the next morning and your house is trashed out and all your guests are gone. To your surprise, however, one of the guests has left a one-week-old baby on your couch. You think to yourself, “Who on earth brought this little baby to my party?” You start to think of which of your friends– or friends of friends that crashed the party–might have recently given birth. Meanwhile, the baby has started crying for some food. What is your next move? Certainly, you are going to call the police and do everything in your power to find the parents of the child. You may call Child and Human Services to try to take custody of the child until the parents can be found, but this is a weekend, and it may be hard to get in touch with them. Meanwhile, the baby is still screaming her head off. What are you going to do? Are you going to lock her in a closet and hope she doesn’t starve until the police or someone comes by to take her off your hands? Though it’s an inconvenience to you, isn’t the natural solution for you to get a friend to watch the baby while you go down the street and buy some formula (you know: getting the safest kind you can) and try to feed the child?



What if your solution is this:

You think, “This is my house. This baby is an invader here, inconveniencing me and using up my resources. In the privacy of my home, I have the right to do what I want.”

And so what you do is you hire someone to come over, to crush the head of the child, to dismember the child, and to take the child out of your house.



Now, even if your solution wasn’t illegal– even if there had been a court ruling the week before saying you could do whatever you want to the children in your home– everyone here knows that killing the child would be immoral.



Contrary to a pure, selfish, ‘give-me-my rights’ way of reasoning, the fact that a truly helpless person is in your house, using your resources, inconveniencing you doesn’t decrease or lessen your responsibility to that person, but it increases your responsibility to that needy person.



In the study of Ethics, this is called the Principle of Moral Proximity.



Jesus’ story of the loving Samaritan points to this Principle of Moral Proximity. When we hear the story of Jesus, our immediate response isn’t that some citizen in Rome should have gone down to the Jericho road and searched all over until he happened to find someone in need of help. Instead, our immediate response is to feel indignation at the priest and the religious person for avoiding the person in desperate need: the person right in their path.



Jesus told the story of the loving Samaritan as a parable to show how we should fulfill God’s command” “Love your neighbor as yourself.” We are to love our neighbor by self-sacrificially helping those in desperate need whom God has placed in our path.



A woman walking into this abortion clinic may feel desperate or helpless. On the other hand some women walk into the clinic feeling empowered or self-righteous in their decision. Either way, within the walls of this abortion clinic there are truly needy and helpless lives that are being systematically disregarded and torn to shreds.

To kill a child is to disobey the command to: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

To encourage or help someone who is making a decision that involves killing a child is to disobey the command to: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”



In truth, we have all, at times, disobeyed the command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” We have all, at times, selfishly chosen our own convenience or our own imagined “rights” and allowed those truly needy people whom God has brought into our path to remain in their suffering.



The only one who never disobeyed this command is the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus lived a life of self-sacrificially helping those who could not help themselves. He said, “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 ESV]. Having fulfilled all of God’s commands, Jesus died on the Cross in the place of sinners: taking the punishment that we deserve. Jesus was buried, and He rose from the grave on the third day, showing that He is victorious over sin and death, and offering eternal life to all who turn from their sins and believe in Him.



Trust in Him today!

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Friday, June 04, 2010

God Is One

[The following is a devotion I delivered at our pre-work prayer meeting yesterday.]

In previous weeks, we've discussed who God is, and who we are in relation to God.

We've seen from th Bible that God is the Sovereign Creator and Sustainer of all things, whereas we are God's creation- made in His image and dependent on Him for everything, yet we have, beginning with the first man (Adam), become rebels against His sovereignty.

God is the Holy Lawgiver and Judge over His creation, whereas we have become lawbreakers, liable to punishment under His judgment, and our sins have made us unholy in His sight.

God is the Merciful Redeemer and Lord of His people. In the Man Jesus Christ, God met the righteous requirements of His Law and took the judgment for sin upon Himself so that He might remain holy and just while extending mercy and eternal life to all who follow the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ in repentance and faith.

All these things we've seen about God- that He is the Sovereign Creator and Sustainer, that He is the Holy Lawgiver and Judge, and that He is the Merciful Redeemer and Lord- are true about God in regards to His creation.

In the next couple of weeks, I hope to help us consider truth about who God is in Himself.

Next week, I plan to speak on the Christian doctrine of the Trinity, but today I want us to think about the singularity of God in His being.

Deuteronomy 6:4 says, "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one!" (NKJV)
This verse, by the time of Jesus, had become a confession of faith for the Jewish people, recited twice daily by devout Jews. The essential oneness of the LORD is foundational to the teaching of the Old Testament and to the teaching of Jesus.

In arguing against the idols of other nations, the Prophet Isaiah received a word from God in which the LORD said to him, "I am the first and I am the last, and there is no God besides Me" (Isaiah 44:6b NASB), and, "Is there any God besides me, or is there any other Rock? I know of none" (Isaiah 44:8 NASB). In the strongest terms, the LORD Himself rejects the idea of multiple gods.

Recognizing that God is one is vital so that we may know the nature of our Creator, Judge, and Lord, and so that we may focus our love and devotion on Him alone. But mere recognition that God is one is not sufficient to put us into a position to receive His blessings (including, first and foremost, eternal life in Him) rather than His curses. As the Bible says in James 2:19, "You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that- and shudder" (NIV). The demons know for a fact that God is one, but their right theology does them no good. They shudder, knowing that they are rebels against God and that they will face His judgment.

You have the opportunity to find peace with God today in Christ Jesus. Turn from your sin and trust in God's mercy through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.

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