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.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

David vs. Goliath Plotline

[This morning I had the privilege of teaching Sunday school at New Georgia Baptist Church. The text was 1 Samuel 17. Here is the outline for the text, which I distributed to the class.]

Exposition (vv 1-25)
¨    The Philistines arrive (vv 1-3)
¨    Introduction of Goliath (vv 4-10)
¨    Saul and the Israelites are in fear (v 11)
¨    David is re-introduced (vv 12-25)

Rising Action (vv 26-40)
¨    David, offended by Goliath, asks about him and is rebuffed by his brother, Eliab (vv 26-30)
¨    David is brought before Saul (v 31)
¨    David volunteers to fight Goliath (v 32)
¨    Saul seeks to dissuade David (v 33)
¨    David gives his resume`: the story of the lion then the bear (vv 34-37)
¨    Saul attempts to place his armor on David (vv 38-39)
¨    David arms himself for battle (v 40)

Climax (vv 41-51)
¨    David and Goliath meet for battle (v 41)
¨    Goliath disdains and ridicules David (vv 42-44)
¨    David rebukes Goliath in the name of the LORD (vv 45-47)
¨    The combatants meet, and David kills Goliath (vv 48-51)

Falling Action (vv 52-54): The Israelites route the Philistines.

Resolution (vv 55-58): Saul takes notice of David.


Saturday, March 29, 2014

Salvation by Grace Alone Through Faith Alone in Christ Alone

[As part of an application for a local Christian school, I was required to respond to the prompt-"Comment on the assertion 'Lost sinners are saved by Grace alone, through Faith alone, in Christ alone'"- in no more than two paragraphs. What follows is my response.]

People are rightly considered “lost sinners” in need of salvation because, due to the fall of Adam–our federal head according to God’s original creation–we have inherited a nature corrupt and wholly opposed to God and His Law, and we are under condemnation. As soon as people become capable of moral action, we become actual transgressors. (Gen 3:4-7; Rom 3:23; Eph 2:1-3) Due to our radically corrupt nature, we can in no way contribute to our own salvation, but we are entirely dependent upon grace alone: God’s contra-merited favor. Due to our sins, we deserve nothing from God except His anger and judgment. But, though justice would consign every sinner to Hell, God has chosen to extend love and mercy.

Sinners receive God’s mercy as we are justified–counted right in God’s sight–through faith alone. Saving faith is a gift from God, which consists of knowing the gospel, assenting to the truth of the gospel, and trusting in the gospel. The gospel is the good news of what the Lord Jesus Christ did on our behalf. He lived the perfect life that Adam and all others failed to live. He died upon the Cross as an act of penal substitutionary atonement, He was buried, and He rose from the grave on the third day, conquering sin, death, and Hell. Jesus is the only divinely appointed mediator between God and Man (1 Tim 2:5) and has been established as the federal head of the new creation that God is bringing about by His grace. For these reasons and others, salvation is in Christ alone.


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

"Behind in His Reading"

[I'm posting this just because I read it today, and I think it's funny.]

Junior bit the meter man,
Junior kicked the cook.
Junior's antisocial now
(according to the book). 
Junior smashed the clock and lamp,
Junior hacked the tree.
(Destructive trends are treated
in Chapters 2 and 3.) 
Junior threw his milk at Mom,
Junior screamed for more.
(Notes on self-assertiveness
are found in Chapter 4.) 
Junior tossed his shoes and socks
out into the rain.
(Negation, that, and normal:
disregard the stain.) 
Junior got in Grandpop's room,
tore up his fishing line.
That's to gain attention.
(See page 89.) 
Grandpop seized a slipper and
yanked Junior 'cross his knee.
(Grandpop hasn't read a book
since 1923.)

[The above poem, author unknown, appears in James Dobson's The New Strong-Willed Child (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2004), 139-140.]

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Horrific Beyond Belief: Aborted Babies Burned to Heat Hospitals

They built the high places of Baal that are in the valley of Ben-hinnom to cause their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire to Molech, which I had not commanded them nor had it entered My mind that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin. (Jeremiah 32:35 NASB)

I owe several of my Facebook friends an apology. When you posted status updates about aborted babies burned to produce electricity in order to power hospitals, I rolled my eyes. I assumed that you had fallen for another Facebook urban legend and that you had erred in not checking your sources. The story was too outrageous to be true.

But I was wrong.

As The Telegraph reported yesterday,

"The remains of more than 15,000 babies were incinerated as 'clinical waste' by hospitals in Britain with some used in 'waste to energy' plants."

There has, apparently, been significant public outcry in Britain over this practice. But, as Dr. Albert Mohler reminded listeners this morning on The Briefing webcast, there is a fundamental inconsistency in a worldview that would allow killing babies to be considered acceptable but certain methods of cremating their remains to be considered unacceptable.

This should remind Christians that we cannot take our cues on right and wrong from this utterly-confused world. Sinners can justify the most terrible sins- even murder- not allowing their consciences to kick in until way too late. We must call out sin for what it is and call all people to Christ, the only Savior from sin, death, and Hell.


Monday, March 24, 2014

Individualism: Improper and Proper

[Bearing some relation to my last post...]

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.

“Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you....

16 “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 17 But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (Matthew 6:16-18 ESV)

The narrow application of Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18 is rather straightforward. Jesus gives very specific information on how His followers are to engage in certain devotional practices and His followers are to faithfully obey His teaching in these areas. But we must also explore how this passage applies more broadly in our current cultural context.

In some academic circles it has become popular to speak against the “individualism” of Western culture. Joel B. Green and Mark D. Baker, for example, decry, “The individualism and self-centeredness so characteristic of our social environment.”[1] Some of the criticism against an over-individualistic reading of Scripture has certainly been helpful; for example, in Pierced for Our Transgressions: Rediscovering the Glory of Penal Substitution Steve Jeffrey, Michael Ovey, and Andrew Sach demonstrate that the idea of “corporate moral responsibility” is “pervasive in Scripture,” and that it is foundational to a right understanding of the gospel, yet the idea of “corporate moral responsibility” is neglected in “our individualistic age.”[2] Also, it should be noted that most every church could benefit from a careful study of the many “one another” passages in the New Testament (John 13:34-35; 1 Cor 1:10; Gal 5:13; 1 Thess 4:18; Rom 15:14; etc.), or other passages that speak of life together in the body of the church– passages that would certainly confront selfish ‘hyper-individualism.’

But the campaign against “individualism” can be carried too far. In Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18, Jesus speaks of individuals before God. In the secret acts of devotion outlined in this passage, followers of Jesus are specifically limited in the ways in which they can interact with others. In fasting, the Christian may go into a public setting, but he may not put his act of spiritual devotion on display– he must keep his fasting hidden. In prayer, the Christian is to become utterly secluded away from others. In giving charity, the Christian is to remain anonymous. Only the Christian and the “Father, who sees in secret” are to regularly know the details of the Christian’s devotional practices.

The secret aspect of the Christian’s devotional life, along with Jesus’ talk of reward before the Father, serves as a reminder that “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Cor 5:10 NASB). In speaking out against the selfish ‘hyper-individualism’ in our culture, Christians must remember that the culture will not be changed by any social agenda or church program, but only as individuals repent, come under the teaching of Christ (trusting in Him for who He is and what He has done), and begin to seek the reward of God rather than the praise of men.

[1] Joel B. Green and Mark D. Baker, Recovering the Scandal of the Cross: Atonement in New Testament and Contemporary Contexts (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 213.
[2] Steve Jeffrey, Michael Ovey, and Andrew Sach, Pierced for Our Transgressions: Rediscovering the Glory of Penal Substitution (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2007), 245-248.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Public Worship > Private Worship? Two Concerns

Recently, a friend of mine published the following quote on Facebook:

Public worship is to be preferred before private. So it is by the Lord, so it should be by His people.

This was followed by his own expansion of the quote:

Public worship is to be preferred before the spiritual disciplines. So it is by the Lord, so it should be by His people.

While I appreciate what my friend was trying to do in posting these quotes (i.e., stir up the people of God to consider the importance of public worship), I do have two concerns about these quotes:

1. These quotes set public worship against private worship (and the spiritual disciplines). I understand that these quotes are likely given in response to people who would minimize the importance of public worship, while ostensibly asserting that private worship is sufficient. But the remedy for a mindset that denigrates public worship must confront the attitude that would set public and private worship at odds. I have personally spoken to people who have said that they don't need to go to church because they can worship God just as well at home. But invariably, when further probing questions are asked, it comes to light that those who regularly neglect public worship don't have much in the way of private worship going on in their lives either. On the other hand, those who neglect private worship are invariably hamstrung in their service to the church. Sure, they may show up at church meetings, they may have their co-members fooled into thinking that they're doing fine (if their particular congregation fosters a low-accountability environment), but if any spiritual examination comes into play then it quickly becomes evident that the "one another" commands of the New Testament (and the exercise of the spiritual gifts within the church, which are dependent upon the individual members of the church obeying the commands concerning life in the Holy Spirit, Gal 5:16, 25; Eph 5:18; 1 Thess 5:19; Eph 4:30) are not obeyed by those who regularly neglect private worship. Public worship and private worship are mutually interdependent. This is illustrated in the words of Christ to the churches in Revelation 2-3, as Jesus speaks to the churches as a whole, then concludes each letter with a word to the individual: "Let he who has an ear [a singular phrase] hear what the Spirit says to the churches."

2. Christ promises rewards for private worship. In Matthew 6, those who properly exercise private "acts of righteousness"- unknown to others, but only to God- are promised rewards from the Father. To my knowledge (and I am certainly open to correction on this, if someone else can provide scriptural examples), Christ makes no such promises of rewards in regard to public worship.


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Last Steps: Sermon Notes from Luke 24:50-53 (Sermon by Dr. James R. Burdette)

[The following are sermon notes from the 3/16/14 morning worship service at New Georgia Baptist Church.]

50 And He led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them.51 Now it came to pass, while He blessed them, that He was parted from them and carried up into heaven. 52 And they worshiped Him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, 53 and were continually in the temple praising and blessing God. Amen. (NKJV)

I. The Event (v. 50)
A. Forty days passed between the resurrection and ascension (Acts 1:3).
B. Bethany was significant in Jesus' ministry, being (for example) the place where He had raised Lazarus from the dead.

II. The Miracle (v. 51)
A. Previously, Enoch and Elijah had been taken up into Heaven.
B. Following His resurrection, Jesus had been able to travel in a supernatural way.
C. The ascension occurred in full view of witnesses.
D. We look forward to Jesus' return in like manner.

III. The Significance (vv. 52-53)
A. Jesus' work on Earth is accomplished.
B. Jesus is unlimited.
C. Jesus is exalted.
D. The Holy Spirit is here (see John 16).
E. Our everlasting dwelling is prepared.
F. We have the responsibility to evangelize.
G. We have an Advocate in Heaven.
H. Jesus will return.


Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Gospel is Transformative, Global, Christ-centered, Personal, and Supernatural: Sermon Notes from Luke 24:47-49 (Sermon by Dr. James R. Burdette)

[The following are sermon notes from the 3/9/14 morning worship service at New Georgia Baptist Church.]

47 and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 And you are witnesses of these things. 49 Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high.”

(Luke 24:47-49 NKJV)

I. The Gospel is Transformative (v. 47)
A. We are called to proclaim His message.
B. We are to call all people to repentance: a change of direction from the world to God.

II. The Gospel is Global (v. 47)
A. "All nations" indicates Gentiles.
B. The idea of the gospel going to the Gentiles would have been offensive to the Jews of Jesus' day.

III. The Gospel is Christ-centered (v. 48)
A. The entire Bible proclaims Christ (see v. 44).
B. "His name" is key.

IV. The Gospel is Personal (v. 48)
A. You must receive the gospel.
B. "Witness" differs from "testimony"
1. "Testimony" is about our experience of grace.
2. "Witness" is about what Jesus has done.

V. The Gospel is Supernatural (v. 49)
A. "Promise" and "power from on high" refer to the Holy Spirit.
B. The power of the Holy Spirit is specifically connected with Him enabling us to witness of Christ.

Conclusion: Remember the men on the road to Emmaus (vv. 13-35). Jesus taught them from Scripture, but that was not enough in itself. He had to give them understanding.


Sunday, March 09, 2014

What does it mean that God is "sovereign"?

God's Sovereignty Defined

I believe that there is only one God (Deut 6:4). God is revealed as the Sovereign Creator and Sustainer of all things (Gen 1:1; Acts 17:24-28; Rom 1:18-25).

In addition to the passages cited above, God's sovereignty is seen in verses such as Psalm 33:11, Ephesians 1:11, and Romans 9:14-18.

When thinking about what it means that God is sovereign, I think that I tend to over-simplify and say, "God's sovereignty means that God is in control." Researching what the Bible says about God's sovereignty, Dr. Anees Zaka expands this definition significantly, writing in his book, Ten Steps In Witnessing to Muslims: "'Sovereignty' indicates ownership, authority, and control."

These concepts are, I think, tied to the roles of God in relationship to the universe, mentioned above: God is the Creator and Sustainer of all things; because He created everything, He owns everything and has absolute authority to order everything in accordance with His will, and because He sustains everything (nothing having independent existence apart from Him), He exercises control over everything.

God's Sovereignty and Man's Sovereignty in Contrast

When seeking to understand God's sovereignty, it is helpful to contrast the sovereignty of God and the sovereignty of Man. Because, like God, Man exercises sovereignty, though in a limited sphere. And so we can speak of a king being the sovereign over a nation. Or we have the old saying that each man's home is his castle (the idea being that a man is sovereign over his own household). But God is sovereign over the whole creation.

We can see God's sovereignty contrasted with Man's sovereignty in terms of the defining elements of God's sovereignty.

In terms of ownership, people may own many things (I am typing this on my computer), but according to numerous Bible passages, God is the owner of all. (To give one example: "The earth is the LORD's, and everything in it: the world, and all who live in it." [Psa 24:1]) Therefore we are really only stewards, taking care of things that God has alloted to us, for His glory.

In terms of authority, people in general have been created to rule over the lower orders of creation (Gen 1:26-29), and God has established rulers among people (Rom 13:1). But ultimate authority belongs to God, with all human authority being derivative (Rom 13:1-7).

In terms of control, people make all manner of decisions, exercising control over various aspects of our lives (I chose to write this blogpost tonight), but God is ultimately in control of everything and can over-rule our will at any time. (In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps. [Prov 16:9])

God's Sovereignty and Man's Rebellion

In relation to God, Man cannot exercise sovereignty, but he is to act in submission to the divine will. Sadly, we fail to recognize our proper limits and we seek to place our desires over God's commands. Apart from God's grace, we all act as if we are owners rather than stewards, ultimate rather than subordinate authorities, and masters of our fates. This has been the natural situation of mankind from the first sin recorded in Genesis 3 until today.

Dear reader: in your own heart, who do you submit to as your sovereign? Do you seek to serve God, or do you serve yourself? Notice that even when you set standards for yourself that you constantly fall short: in big or small ways, in one area of life or another. How much more have we all fallen short of God's standards of righteousness and His glory (Rom 3:23)! But, in Christ, God has provided a way to be counted righteous and to be re-instated to live the lives we were created for, under His sovereignty. Jesus lived the life that we have not lived: a life of perfect submission to the divine will. He died in our place, to pay the penalty we deserved due to our rebellious attitudes and actions. He rose from the dead, conquering sin, death, and Hell. He now lives, offering eternal life in a right relationship with God to all who trust in Him. Trust in Christ today!

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Two Books That Have Helped Immensely During Trials

For months and months now, Abby and I have been struggling against the sin of anxiety, feeling that we are in a time of trial focused on our finances and direction in my career. Two books that have helped me during this difficult period are C.S. Lewis' The Screwtape Letters and Tony Evans' Between a Rock and a Hard Place.

Neither of these books is perfect: C.S. Lewis' book alludes to both his teaching that Christians may lose their salvation and that some who never trust in Christ will yet find salvation due to their sincere service to their own religion(s); Tony Evans' book is occasionally fuzzy and emotionalistic in terms of the Christian's experience of God (at certain points, the reader almost gets the idea that we should each expect God to appear in some kind of "burning bush" to us individually). However, both of these books contain a great deal of spiritual gold for the hungry soul (to mix metaphors).

Two related truths that particularly blessed me from The Screwtape Letters were: 1) that I should focus on both the present and on eternity, not feeling burdened by the past nor by my (unknown) future in this world; 2) that I should be concerned with what God would have me do in whatever situation I find myself, not being racked with concern over unanswerable questions about what might happen. [NOTE: those familiar with the format of The Screwtape Letters will realize that these truths are taught in reverse; the character Screwtape- a demon- counsels his nephew to distract the person whom he is tempting away from thinking on these and other spiritual matters.]

Abby and I studied Between a Rock and a Hard Place with our Sunday school class at New Georgia Baptist Church, and we were both greatly blessed by this book. Evans focuses on biblical-historical accounts from the lives of Abraham, Moses, and the apostles, and he demonstrates how those who are seeking to follow God are often brought into difficult, soul-wrenching trials by God Himself. God uses these trials to increase our dependence on Him, bringing us into fellowship with Him. In these trials, I am to persevere in faith and to remain thankful for all the many blessings that God has poured out in my life.

I heartily recommend both of these books to any Christian who is feeling overwhelmed by life's circumstances.


Sunday, March 02, 2014

The Gospel is Biblical and Historical: Sermon Notes from Luke 24:44-46 (Sermon by Dr. James R. Burdette)

[The following are sermon notes from this morning's worship service at New Georgia Baptist Church.]

44 Then He said to them, These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.” 45 And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures.
46 Then He said to them, Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, (Luke 24:44-46 NKJV)

I. The Gospel is Biblical (vv. 44-45)
A. Jesus reminds His disciples of His teaching.
B. The gospel is not a matter of opinion: neither individual nor cultural.
C. The concepts in the gospel are defined biblically.
D. Because the gospel is biblical, missionaries are needed.
E. "[T]he Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms [poetic books]" includes the entire OT.
F. Those who reject part of the OT undermine all of Scripture (including the gospel).

II. The Gospel is Historical (v. 46 [see v. 48])
A. German higher criticism sought to undermine the historical nature of Scripture.
B. People such as Lee Strobel, who originally rejected the resurrection, but studied the evidence, have become convinced of the historicity of the Gospel accounts.
C. The gospel is based upon historical fact, not opinion nor the traditions of men.