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)

My Photo

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

Friday, March 30, 2012

Jimmy Carter: Why the Conservative Resurgence was Necessary

Albert Mohler's recent interview with Jimmy Carter amply demonstrates why the Conservative Resurgence within the Southern Baptist Convention was absolutely necessary.

Carter is, it seems, the living embodiment of the kind of moderate theological forces that were prevalent in the leadership of the Southern Baptist Convention previous to the monumental work done by those committed to inerrant Scripture, beginning with the election of Adrian Rogers to the SBC presidency in 1979.

Carter, who was until relatively recently affiliated with the SBC and who has now publicly repudiated the Convention on a number of occasions, spoke to Dr. Mohler on the basis of convictions that he had held while still within the Convention. Carter explicitly rejected the idea of inerrancy; he also was forthright in the fact that he actively rationalizes away the biblical teaching concerning the exclusivity of Christ and God-ordained gender roles [Carter actually uses the word "rationalize" twice during the interview].


Monday, March 26, 2012

Outline of "Pilgrim's Progress," chapter 15

The 5th and 6th grade boys Writing & Literature class I am tutoring is reading John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress. In preparation for teaching this class, I am re-re-reading the book and constructing a detailed outline for each chapter as I read. The following outline is for Chapter 15 (in the 1991 Tyndale House Edition).

I. Hopeful Tells His Story

A. Christian asks Hopeful how he first began to care about his soul's welfare.

B. Hopeful had previously delighted in all kinds of worldliness.

C. From Christian and Faithful, Hopeful had heard about the wrath of God against the disobedient, but Hopeful had tried to shut his eyes to the light of truth due to:
1. Ignorance;
2. Desire for sin;
3. Relationships with old friends;
4. Fear of conviction.

II. Attempted Reforms and Renewed Conviction

A. Hopeful had turned away from his sins and his sinful friends, and he had turned to a life of good religious deeds.

B. From certain "sayings" he had heard [Hopeful quotes several passages of Scripture], Hopeful realized that his good deeds were not enough to gain him peace.

III. The Debt and Power of Sin

A. New good deeds cannot erase old debt.

B. Even the best deeds are yet tainted with sin.

IV. A Savior is Needed

A. Hopeful had poured out his heart to Faithful.

B. Faithful had told Hopeful that he needed the righteousness of one who had never sinned.

C. Due to despair over how his moral reformation had fallen short, Hopeful had been forced to accept Faithful's opinion.

D. Faithful had told Hopeful of the living Lord Jesus, who is Man and Mighty God, and who had died for sinners.

V. An Invitation Extended

A. Hopeful had objected that Jesus would not be willing to save him; Faithful had responded that Jesus is willing to receive any who come to him.

B. Faithful instructs Hopeful to call out to Jesus for mercy.

VI. Hopeful's Struggle

A. Hopeful cries out for mercy again and again.

B. Hopeful does not perceive that he actually has faith in Jesus, but does not stop crying out to God, because he is convinced that he will be damned without Him.

VII. He Receives a Revelation

A. Hopeful comes to see Jesus with the eyes of his understanding.

B. One believes in/comes to Jesus when his "heart and affections pursue Christ and His salvation."

C. Hopeful can scarcely believe that Christ would accept him, since Hopeful had been such a terrible sinner.

D. Hopeful realizes that He must look to Christ alone for righteousness.

E. Hopeful realizes that due to the work of Christ, God can justly pardon any sinner who comes to Him, and Hopeful is filled with gratitude and a desire for a holy life.


Saturday, March 17, 2012

"The Way(s) of the Master" from the Shepherd's Conference 2012: An Appreciation and An Observation

At this year's Shepherd's Conference, Jesse Johnson (adjunct professor of evangelism at the Master's Seminary) gave an address: a large part of which was dedicated to a critique of the Way of the Master method of evangelism. [I listened to Johnson's address on-line today; the address may be heard HERE.]

The critique was focused on two main points. One of the points involved the idea that the Way of the Master can become an overly-scripted "cookie cutter" approach to evangelism. On this point, Johnson strove for accuracy and balance in his critique, noting that having something like a script may be beneficial to those who are new at and thus nervous about sharing their faith, and saying that-- to some degree-- the leadership of Way of the Master does not intend their approach to result in everyone speaking the same words regardless of the situation. I appreciated this critique inasmuch as it is easy for Christians to fall into a "cookie cutter" approach, disregarding the fact that the examples of evangelism in the New Testament do not use the same words each time. When witnessing, we must all take seriously the person before us, and his particular circumstances.

The other point of the critique focused on the use of the 10 Commandments as a summary of God's Moral Law in order to confront non-Christians with their sin. Johnson believes that this use of the 10 Commandments is improper, because the 10 Commandments were only given to national Israel and not to the Gentiles. As to this point of critique, I would simply like to observe that the Way of the Master style of evangelism, with its particular use of the 10 Commandments, is much more readily compatible with Reformed belief than with Dispensationalism or so-called "New Covenant Theology." For example: as soon as a witness begins asking a non-Christian about the 10 Commandments, he has implied that the 4th Commandment is still-- in some sense-- in effect.


Thursday, March 15, 2012

Evangelism Advice: Just Do It, Forget "Cool"

The Hardest Part

When I've talked to Christian friends about personal evangelism, and have asked the question, 'What is the most difficult part of talking to non-Christians about the gospel?' I've consistently heard the response, 'Beginning the conversation.' This has been my experience as well: it is akin to 'stage-fright.' I have specific things that I want to say about who Jesus is and what He has done; in fact, I have, at times, thought out a whole perfect conversation in my head. But in the actual workplace or public square, the ideal situation never occurs.

What we would like is for an evangelistic encounter to occur organically: for an ordinary conversation with a non-Christian to develop in such a way that the non-Christian himself raises the issue of Christian belief, or in such a way that he-- at least-- does not feel like talk about Jesus is a complete non sequitur. Now, if a Christian is up-front with his belief, then such 'organic conversations' will occasionally occur. If your non-Christian friend does have a religious question and you are one of the few people he knows who takes religion seriously, then he may naturally bring up a topic related to Christian belief. Far more often, however, you will find that no such golden opportunity presents itself, and then you must be prepared to proclaim the Word 'out of season' (cf. 2 Tim 4:2).

A Recent Example

This coming Lord's Day, I plan to continue teaching through Revelation 1-3 in Sunday school at Kosmosdale Baptist Church. So, this week I have been looking for an opportunity to follow through with my commitment to utilize my text (Rev 1:4-8) in sharing the gospel. (Last week, I had the opportunity to street-preach Rev 1:1-3.) No opportunity seemed naturally apparent, so finally, as I was talking with a co-worker in the faculty workroom at my job, I just said, "Hey, I'm teaching Sunday school on this text at my church this weekend; check it out," then, I showed him the text and talked with him about how it was a summary of some of the most key teachings in the Bible. And this kind of abrupt introduction of the gospel is how many of my evangelistic encounters go: if I'm talking to somebody, I might just ask, "Hey, has anyone ever explained the gospel to you?" If they say, "Yes," then I try to ask them some questions about it; if they say, "No," then I ask if they mind if I tell them about the gospel. This evangelistic method (if it can even be called a "method") isn't too smooth, but I've found that giving up on the idea of being cool has allowed me to speak about the good news of Jesus to many more people: unless someone has had a particularly negative experience with a professing Christian in the past, they're usually not just going to 'shoot you down' if you say you want to talk to them about something important.


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Dear Preacher/ Bible Teacher: Before You Preach/Teach that Text, Evangelize with It!

Steps in Sermon Prep

Dear Preacher/Bible Teacher,

What are your steps in sermon/teaching preparation? Hopefully, you pray fervently about the text on which you are going to preach, you look carefully at the text (first in the original languages, if possible) and compare translations, you see how the text is mentioned/developed in the rest of Scripture, and you see how the text directly relates to Christ and His gospel. Then, you look to sound commentaries to see how other faithful preachers/teachers have understood the text throughout history. Finally, you consider how the text applies to your particular audience: what are the most likely concerns/misunderstandings/areas of disobedience that confront your congregation or class?

May I suggest an additional step in preparation?

Before you preach/teach the text, evangelize with it!

Takin' It to the Streets

You want your congregation/class to 'put feet to their faith:' don't just tell them, show them!

As a regular part of your sermon/teaching preparation, I would encourage you to make use of the text you're studying in evangelism [that is, OUTSIDE the walls of the church-building]. This may be done in several different ways, such as:

1. Street preaching (if you live in Louisville, you may be encouraged in street preaching through looking up the "Unplugged Gospel" group on Facebook).

2. Speaking with friends about the text (especially if you are bi-vocational, you can discuss the text with friends/co-workers who are not Christian: you may get some blank stares at first, but hopefully it will promote some good questions/conversation).

3. Personal evangelism (whether door-to-door, visiting people who have visited your church, or conversations with strangers on the sidewalk, don't just use a scripted conversation from someone else, 'write' your own 'script,' starting with the passage you have been studying).

Additional Considerations

Now, obviously, if you are a full-time pastor and preach 3+ distinct sermons a week, there may be some texts that you honestly don't have time to employ in evangelism outside the church before you preach them, but let this be the exception, rather than the rule.

Also, if you are preaching through books of the Bible verse-by-verse (or section-by-section/chapter-by-chapter depending on the type of literature): an excellent idea, there will be some verses/sections/chapters that do not lend themselves so easily to evangelism, but these parts of Scripture are, of course, organically connected to texts that are excellent for evangelism. Commit to evangelize with the text, and then skip a little ahead if you must!


In addition to the most obvious benefits--glorifying Christ in gospel proclamation, the possible eternal salvation of the person you are evangelizing, and your own reward in Heaven for being faithful in evangelism-- [worthy enough motives indeed!], there are numerous other benefits to using your text in evangelism before preaching/teaching the text, such as:

1. Urgency in your message. You may know that most of your congregants/class members are fellow believers, and it may be easy to become complacent about the fact that the words in Scripture are the necessary words of life. Speaking with those outside the church about the text may give you a sense of urgency about the vital matters either in your text or related to it.

2. Clarity in your message. Communicating with those who may not be used to a church environment will help you to communicate in such a way so as not to assume a great deal of background knowledge on the part of your hearers: knowledge that is increasingly uncommon in our biblically illiterate culture anyway.

3. Christ-focus in your message. On the road to Emmaus, Christ taught His unwitting disciples about Himself from "Moses and all the Prophets" (Luke 24:27). It is the job of the preacher/Bible teacher to not only teach concepts, but to point people to the living Lord Jesus from whatever text is studied. Using your text in evangelism outside the church will force you to examine how your text leads people to Christ and His gospel.

4. Anticipating objections to your message. "The Bible says it, that settles it:" for the preacher/Bible teacher who trusts in Christ, who Himself taught the infallibility of every letter of Scripture (Matt 5:18), this statement is-- in a real sense-- our creed. But for those who are outside of Christ, there are many parts of Scripture that are offensive or objectionable (i.e., virtually everything except Matt 7:1 and 1 John 4:8b). Your congregation/class will be influenced by worldly attitudes toward Bible teaching and/or regularly encounter those who are hostile towards right doctrine. If you are regularly using the texts you teach in evangelism outside the church, you can gain first-hand knowledge of how non-Christians react to those texts, and you can better consider how to equip your congregation/class to deal with objections.


Monday, March 12, 2012

Calvin on Oaths

Recently in the Scripture Memory exercises at Sayers Classical Academy, my Writing & Literature class came upon the following words from Christ:

33 “Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but keep the oaths you have made to the Lord.’ 34 But I tell you, Do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. 36 And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. 37 Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one. (Matthew 5:33-37 NIV 1984)

In our discussion of these verses, several students had some excellent questions about whether the Lord Jesus intended to forbid all oaths, including swearing to testimony in court, politicians taking oaths of office, wedding vows, etc.

In this regard, I found the following thoughts from John Calvin [from Institutes on the Christian Religion 2.8.26-27] to be extremely helpful.

Calvin mentions God Himself swearing an oath, as taught in Hebrews 6:13, then he writes:

[Some], not content with this moderate use of oaths, condemn all, without exception, on the ground of our Saviour's general prohibition, "I say unto you, Swear not at all:" "Let your speech be Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil," (Matth. 5: 34; James 5: 12.)

Calvin goes on to note that, in the Old Testament, God commands His people to take oaths. (Calvin gives the example of Exodus 22:11, but also observe Deuteronomy 6:13 in this connection: “Fear the LORD your God, serve him only and take your oaths in his name.”) Rhetorically, Calvin asks: “What then? Will they make God contradict himself, by approving and commanding at one time, what he afterwards prohibits and condemns?” Calvin assumes that no Christian would wish to suggest that God contradicts Himself.

Why, then, does it seem that Christ forbids all oaths? Calvin explains:

[Christ’s] purpose was, neither to relax nor to curtail the Law, but to restore the true and genuine meaning, which had been greatly corrupted by the false glosses of the Scribes and Pharisees. If we attend to this we shall not suppose that Christ condemned all oaths but those only which transgressed the rule of the Law. It is evident, from the oaths themselves, that the people were accustomed to think it enough if they avoided perjury, whereas the Law prohibits not perjury merely, but also vain and superfluous oaths. Therefore our Lord, who is the best interpreter of the Law, reminds them that there is a sin not only in perjury, but in swearing. How in swearing? Namely, by swearing vainly. Those oaths, however, which are authorised by the Law, he leaves safe and free. Those who [absolutely] condemn oaths think their argument invincible when they fasten on the expression, "not at all". The expression applies not to the word swear, but to the subjoined forms of oaths. For part of the error consisted in their supposing, that when they swore by the heaven and the earth, they did not touch the name of God. The Lord, therefore, after cutting off the principal source of prevarication, deprives them of all subterfuges, warning them against supposing that they escape guilt by suppressing the name of God, and appealing to heaven and earth.

Calvin’s explanation fits with Deuteronomy 6:13, mentioned above. The activity prohibited by Jesus is swearing falsely, and then trying to assuage one’s conscience concerning false swearing through another direct violation of the Law! This explanation of Matthew 5:33-37 is in keeping with Jesus’ words recorded later in Matthew:

16 “Woe to you, blind guides! You say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.’ 17 You blind fools! Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred? 18 You also say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it means nothing; but if anyone swears by the gift on it, he is bound by his oath.’ 19 You blind men! Which is greater: the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred? 20 Therefore, he who swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. 21 And he who swears by the temple swears by it and by the one who dwells in it. 22 And he who swears by heaven swears by God’s throne and by the one who sits on it. (Matthew 23:16-22 NIV 1984)

In guiding my students concerning how to think about Scripture, it is my hope that they will neither ignore the commands of our Lord, nor take His commands out of context and thereby make them contradict the rest of Scripture.


Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Significant Books Read This Past Year

Recently, I was required to answer the following question:

Name three books (either personal or professional) you have read in the last year and explain why they were important to you.

The following was my answer:

 The Prodigal God by Tim Keller. We were required to read this book for Dorothy Sayers Classical School. Direct application was made from this book as to how we deal with students; the application was based on how the Father in the parable of the “prodigal son” treated his two sons. We were encouraged to seek redemption for students who are “prodigal” AND for students who tend toward legalism.

The Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan. I re-reread this book in order to teach from it at Dorothy Sayers Classical School. I was surprised how much of it I had forgotten, and what a great help it is to my daily spiritual walk.

Enlightened Democracy: The Case for the Electoral College by Tara Ross.  I was not required to read this book, but I chose to read it in preparation for teaching Political Science at Daymar College. The clear, logical thinking that Ross demonstrated in this work greatly impressed me.


Monday, March 05, 2012

Comment on Revelation 1:9

[Below are a couple of paragraphs from what I've been working on this weekend.]
 I, John– your brother and co-fellowshipper in the hardship and kingdom and perseverance in Jesus– came to be on the island called Patmos due to the message of God and the testimony of Jesus. (Rev 1:9)
John wrote Revelation from the island of Patmos, having been exiled there due to his testimony for Christ. Of Patmos, Aune notes: “Patmos (now Patino), one of the Sponades Islands, is thirty miles or forty-five kilometers in circumference and is located thirty-seven miles west-southwest from Miletus, fifty miles from ancient Ephesus.”[1] Thomas adds: “It was the last stopping place when traveling from Rome to Ephesus and the first stopping place on a return trip to Rome.”[2] This geographical connection with Ephesus most likely explains why Ephesus is mentioned first in the list of “the seven churches.” 

John, writing to churches that are experiencing various degrees of difficulty or persecution, is himself no stranger to suffering for Christ; rather (as demonstrated in his then-current unjust exile), he is their “co-fellowshipper” in “hardship.” But this “hardship” is not alone; the present experience of hardship is a means used by God to bring His disciples into the full experience of His kingdom. Notice the striking similarity of the language used in this verse and in Acts 14:22, in which it is declared that “[it is] through many hardships that we must enter into the kingdom of God.” The “hardships” faced by followers of Jesus occur for a purpose, and this purpose will certainly be fulfilled, which is why John encourages his readers with the term “perseverance.” Hardship, kingdom participation, and perseverance are seen as inseparably connected in Revelation (and in the NT as a whole), and the truth of this connection is seen in the language of this verse as well; the terms are introduced with a single article (“the hardship and kingdom and perseverance,” as facets of one experience in this earthly existence, rather than “the hardship and the kingdom and the perseverance”).

[1]Aune, Revelation 1-5, 76-77.
[2]Thomas, Revelation 1-7, 87.


Sunday, March 04, 2012

Sermon Notes from Philippians 1:9-11. Sermon by Jim Scott Orrick.

[The following notes are from the 10:45AM service this morning at Kosmosdale Baptist Church. The entire sermon should soon be available to hear on-line HERE.]

Philippians 1:9-11.

I. Introduction: "What is most necessary?"

II. Prayer for Abounding Love: Our love grows as we consider truth.

III. Fruit from Abounding Love

A. Approving What is Excellent: Love dictates the best course of action.

B. Purification

C. Filling with the Fruit of Righteousness

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Saturday, March 03, 2012

How does a person become a Christian?

Recently, I was required to give a brief answer to the following prompt (given in the context of teaching at a Christian school):

If you were asked by a student to explain how to become a Christian, how would you respond?

Below is my response:

I would respond that a person becomes a Christian when he or she turns away from sin and self and trusts in the living Lord Jesus, who died for our sins and was raised from the dead so that those who believe in Him will be counted as sinless before God.

Normally, a person will only turn away from sin and self after he or she has come to understand that he or she is a sinner before God, so I would most likely ask the student to explain “sin,” and then I would ask the student to consider a few of the Ten Commandments (as a summary of God’s moral law) to demonstrate how we are all sinners. Then I would urge the student to call out to the Lord Jesus Christ for mercy, forgiveness, and life.

I would also strongly encourage the student to talk over these matters with his or her parents, and I would contact the parents myself to let them know of the conversation.


Friday, March 02, 2012

My Personal Testimony

Christians have always told the Good News of Jesus to people who are not Christians in two different but connected ways. Christians have focused on: 1. telling others about the teaching of the Bible; 2. speaking about their own personal relationship with Jesus.

We see examples of how the very first Christians told the Good News of Jesus through the teaching of the Apostle Paul. In Acts 17:22-31, we read how Paul told the Good News of Jesus by explaining teaching based on the Bible. In Acts 22:6-21 and 26:4-23 we read how Paul also told about his personal relationship with Jesus in order to share the Good News about who Jesus is and what He has done.

Recently, I was re-visiting the story of my personal relationship with Jesus. I would like to once again recount that story below:

From the time when I was a small child, I have always gone to church meetings with my parents and most people thought that I was a good person. When I was nine years old, I came to understand that I was not a good person: that I had broken God’s Law and my life needed to be changed or I would face God’s wrath forever. I had heard that if God was angry with me and I died, my soul would go to place of pain and fire called Hell. I talked to the preacher at the church I went to about what I needed to do to stay out of Hell. The preacher asked me some questions about Jesus and I gave him all the answers that he wanted to hear because I knew many facts about Jesus from having gone to church for so long. The preacher told me to repeat a prayer after him and to completely believe what I prayed. I prayed this prayer and wanted to believe what I prayed. Still, there was no basic change in my life. It was difficult to be certain in my mind that I had completely believed the prayer that I had prayed, so it was difficult to be certain that I was not headed for Hell when I died.

On one Sunday morning when I was thirteen years old, my Sunday school teacher, Russell Jones, spoke about how Jesus is Lord: how He is completely good and He is King over everything. The teacher said that if we had not called out to Jesus to take control of our lives and to take away our badness– and give us His goodness– then God was still angry with us for our sins and we would go to Hell for breaking His Law.

I then understood that I was someone who lived only for my wants and that I had not submitted to the Lord Jesus. I called out to Jesus to take control of my life. I asked Him to take away my badness and to give me His goodness.

Since that day, it has often been difficult to live for the Lord Jesus. I have often wanted to follow plans that I have made for myself rather than the plans that Jesus has for me, as found in His book, the Bible. Every day, I call out to Jesus to give me understanding from the Bible of how to live in a way that pleases Him. I believe that Jesus is in control of everything that happens in the world. I believe that Jesus became my friend when I called out to Him. I believe that everything that happens in the lives of Jesus’ friends is for our good, even if some things seem bad at first. I believe that anyone who calls out to Jesus to take control of his or her life, trusting in Him alone, can be certain that God will never be angry with him or her, that he or she will never go to Hell, and that he or she will live as Jesus’ friend forever.