Tuesday, June 30, 2009

In the book of Job, God reveals that He is sovereign over circumstances, people, hardships, and Satan--yes, even everything! Through the various discourses between Job and his three (not-so-good) friends, he wonders how God could have brought all this calamity upon him. Furthermore, in chapter 28, Job seeks for wisdom and recognizes that it is God who is the source and wellspring of all wisdom. Hear what Job asks:

Job 28:20 20 "Where then does wisdom come from? And where is the place of understanding?

Job immediately responds with a remarkable and pithy discourse on the sovereignty of God. Here's how he counsels himself:

Job 28:21-27 21 "Thus it [=this wisdom of v.20] is hidden from the eyes of all living And concealed from the birds of the sky. 22 "Abaddon and Death say, 'With our ears we have heard a report of it.' 23 "God understands its way, And He knows its place. 24 "For He looks to the ends of the earth And sees everything under the heavens. 25 "When He imparted weight to the wind And meted out the waters by measure, 26 When He set a limit for the rain And a course for the thunderbolt, 27 Then He saw it and declared it; He established it and also searched it out.

Job wisely remembers that this wisdom resides in God Himself and it is, in fact, hidden from the eyes of all the living. Verse 23 leaves no one questioning, however, as it states that God knows the way of wisdom and he even knows its place--for, indeed, it dwells within His very being!

Take note of Job's logic:

  • God sees everything under the heavens (v.24)
  • God knows everything about the wind (that which is invisible!) (v.25)
  • God sets limits for the rain--yes, every drop! (v.26a)
  • God determines the course for every single thunderbolt (v.26b)
  • God saw His works which He had sovereignly and powerfully declared (v.27a)
  • God established all His works--from everything under the heavens (v.24), everything about the wind (v.25), the formation of every single raindrop (v.26a), the size, magnitude, and power of the thunderbolt (v.26b), yes, even all his works (v.27).
Indeed, Job wisely deduces the proper response that He must have (*take note--this ought to be our response as well) when considering the ways and workings of God:

Job 28:28 28 "And to man He said, 'Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; And to depart from evil is understanding.'"

The only proper response after recognizing that God sovereignly establishes and carefully ordains everything that happens is to fear the LORD. Herein lies the fact that Job seeks to find--namely, wisdom. The fear of the LORD is wisdom. Very simply, the one who does not fear the LORD does not have wisdom. Consequently, this fearless one is a fool--a stupid fool. And those who do not fear God will one day fear God as they are forced to bow the knee and confess Jesus Christ as LORD before being judged at the Great White Throne (Rev 20:11-15) and violently thrown into the eternal Lake of Fire.

What an important lesson for us to heed this day, fear the LORD and be wise. Trust God's sovereignty and lean on His infinite wisdom and understanding. For here--and here alone--is where divine wisdom may be found.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Yes! Last week, my pastor and I went up into the mountains to pray, read through Scripture, and shoot! What a great combination. Here are some pictures of Geoff (=city-boy) shooting a gun way back in the forests of California.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

the security of the believer’s salvation.

That the individual who has repented of sin, turned to Christ in faith and belief, and evidenced a life of holiness showing a true heart change is safe and secure is a theme which is replete in the Scriptures. The doctrine of eternal security or the perseverance of the saints is absolutely undeniable in the Scriptures and could not be more logical in the doctrine of salvation.

I hope over these next few posts to show why the believer is eternally saved, how the believer is eternally saved, and what the person, work, and character of God has to do in the security of the believer’s salvation. I trust it will be encouraging, challenging, and educational. For those who doubt this doctrine and believe that an individual can go from believing to “not believing” thereby losing or forfeiting salvation is an unfortunate misreading of the Scriptures and is nowhere warranted in all of Scripture. If it were possible or a believer to lose salvation, then the believer would rightly live in constant fear and trepidation over the reality of being separated from the God who “saved him by His mercy and grace.”

In this first essay, I endeavor to show from Romans 5:1 that because the believer has been justified (past and accomplished fact with ongoing and emphatic results), the result of being at “peace with God” is the first proof that a believer in Jesus Christ cannot lose his salvation (5:1).

Romans 5:1 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,

Because the believer has been justified by faith alone in Christ—which is the very theme that Paul labored to argue and illustrate from Romans 3–4—the first consequence that Paul lists for us here is that “we have peace with God.”

If we now have peace with God as a saved Christian, the obvious and undeniable reality is that before we were all enemies with God while unbelievers and unregenerate. Hear Scripture prove this fact:

Psalm 5:5-6 5 The boastful shall not stand before Your eyes; You hate all who do iniquity. 6 You destroy those who speak falsehood; The LORD abhors the man of bloodshed and deceit.

Psalm 9:7-8 7 But the LORD abides forever; He has established His throne for judgment, 8 And He will judge the world in righteousness; He will execute judgment for the peoples with equity.

Psalm 11:5-6 5 The LORD tests the righteous and the wicked, And the one who loves violence His soul hates. 6 Upon the wicked He will rain snares; Fire and brimstone and burning wind will be the portion of their cup.

Ephesians 2:1-3 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. 3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.

Romans 5:10 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.

It is clear from the aforementioned Scriptures that all the unregenerate are enemies of God. They are at war with God. There is no hope for them apart from Jesus Christ. All who die without Jesus Christ as their advocate will reside under the mighty, fierce, and eternal wrath of God forever—without end.

Therefore, if we, as Romans 5:1 states so plainly, are at peace with God because of our justification, how can we ever be enemies of God again? How can we move from being on God’s side to being abandoned by God? This is completely opposite of what Romans 8 teaches:

Romans 8:35 35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?

And again…

Romans 8:38-39 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

These are encouraging verses for the believer. Once the sinner has placed saving faith in Jesus Christ and His sufficient, sacrificial, and substitutionary death on Calvary’s cross he has become a friend of God—yes, even a Son of God. The believer has been enveloped into the “family of God.” How could God—who promises that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ (Rom 8:35, 38-39)—abandon us and forsake us to be his enemies after being at peace with God?

If almighty anger and wrath and fury has been subsided because of justification, then the peace with God that the believer has is inevitably safe and secure.

Listen to the remainder of Ephesians 2:

Ephesians 2:4-7 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

If the believer, who now has peace with God, has been “made alive together with Christ” and is “raised up with Christ,” and is “seated in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” then how could that person ever move from the state of being at “peace with God” back to the original state of being at war, enmity, hostility, hatred of God? It is inconceivable and impossible!

Therefore, because the saved sinner is at peace with God through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and His perfect righteousness that has been attributed to the account of the believer, the regenerate individual who is now at peace with God cannot ever be at war with God again—period.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

My goal in the next few weeks consists of explicating on the doctrine of eternal security. I hope to show why this doctrine is so absolutely imperative for the Christian to understand, believe, and rejoice in. I have the firm conviction that to doubt one's salvation is a sin and I will endeavor to elucidate this statement as well.

I pray and trust that as we, who have placed our faith in Jesus Christ and have repented of our sins, delve into some Scriptures, theology, and the character of God that we all together come to recognize and rejoice in our security!

I will work through the character of God and Romans 5 in the study. . .

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Should a Christian Fear God?

I heard someone say in the not too distant past that the New Testament Christian ought not to fear God because He is our “Abba Father.” To be sure, I concur with all my heart to this statement. The reality that the NT declares that God is the “Abba Father” is, in fact, found in the NT (Rom 8:15; Gal 4:6; cp. Mark 14:36).

But where does the fear of God fit in? Should the Christian fear God? Is it right for him to ever tremble before God? Be afraid before God? Stand in awe of God? Revere God? I recently preached from Psalm 25 and in the psalm, David asks for the one who fears the LORD for this (i.e., the one who fears the LORD) is the one whom Yahweh will lead. I asserted that it is appropriate and proper for the NT believer to bathe, marvel, enjoy, and revel in the reality of an intimate relationship with God the Father through Jesus Christ the Son. This ought certainly to be the case. And, we could go so far as to say that the Christian need not fear or tremble before God in the sense of worrying about falling under God’s wrath. Scripture often affirms that, for the believer, God’s wrath has been turned away (Rom 5:9; 1 Thess 1:9; and 5:9-10).

Nevertheless, I still find a plethora of references—even in the NT!—speaking to the issue of the believer in God fearing God (2 Cor 7:1; 1 Pet 2:17; cp. Ecc 5:7; 12:13). Though the fear in the NT is not a trembling sourced in bewilderment wondering if the Sovereign King is going to eternally Judge the individual for sin. Rather, the fear in the NT—though, I’m still convinced, it DOES contain a notion of holy terror and holy trembling—mostly denotes a sense of awe or reverence toward a great Sovereign King.

Consider this reality. How do you find your conduct when you’re in the presence of the Sovereign King of the universe? Do you stroll into church on Sunday mornings as if it were just another day? Do you open and read your Bible as if it is the duty you must fulfill simply to check it off the list? Do you pray with wandering thoughts waiting for that long-winded person to finish praying so you can get home and attend to your duties?

I think we have, all too often, neglected to consider the presence of Him Whom we claim to worship. May we approach the throne of grace with boldness and access (Rom 5:1-2) yet these wonderful truths that we now have ought not to crowd out a holy awe and reverence for the royal and Sovereign King in Whose presence we find ourselves.

Consider the author of Hebrews, who notes this same reality, as he speaks to the believers: Hebrews 12:28 Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe (de,oj, fear, awe).

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Who comprises the Church?

That seems to be the question many people cannot give a solid and direct answer to these days. Is the church comprised of all those who attend a weekly meeting or Bible study? Is the church made up of those who are part of ‘community’ (however that may be defined)? Is the church made up of those who were baptized—earlier in life or as an infant? Is the church defined as comprising of only those who have been regenerated by means of the working of God the Holy Spirit?

The answer to this question will affect the way church is done, that is, the methodology of our ecclesiology. If the church is comprised of those who are a part of community, those who attend weekly church services, and those who are in the covenant fold of God, then the church is quite a large community of people (and, frankly, the church would necessarily be comprised of both true believers and unbelievers).

But in the Scriptures, I find the reality that the church is comprised of only those who have been washed, sanctified, and cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ—this refers to true believers.

Take, for example, the book of Romans. Paul’s argument in this book is deliberately laid forth to give the gospel of God’s righteousness and man’s sinfulness in chapters 1-3. Beginning in chapter 4 and continuing to chapter 5, one reads how the sinful human can be right with God—namely, justification by faith alone. Chapters 6-8 then deal with the progressive growth in the life of this new believer—known as sanctification (becoming “more holy” and “more Christlike”). All this is necessary before chapter 12 hits—the practical Christian living section. How can one be commanded to live a godly life and, furthermore, be expected to live a godly life if they are totally incapable of pleasing to God (i.e., according to Romans 8:9, the nonbeliever is not able to please God)?

Ephesians 4:12 notes that the purpose of the church is to equip the saints. Saints are not those who are made up of community or those who are part of the covenant of Abraham. Saints are those to whom God has sovereignly made perfectly righteous through the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to their account by means of faith in Jesus Christ.

Therefore, our ecclesiology must be correct if our methodology is going to be correct. If we’re going to take church and reshape and refashion it to reach the culture and nonbelievers, then there seems to be a flaw somewhere in the grid of who comprises the church and what the church is to do. But if we recognize that the church consists of regenerate believers in Jesus Christ, then we recognize that the purpose of the church is to build up the saints so that they can go out and do the work of the ministry—evangelize, fellowship, preach, etc.

Colossians 1:28-29 8 We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ. 29 For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

"A lofty, transcendent view of God is the most important thing about a Christian. As a person's vision of God goes, so goes his life. One's life will never rise any higher than his thoughts about God. A high view of God will lead to high and holy living. On the other hand, a low view of God will lead to low living. No one can live any higher than his proper understanding of who God is.

Spurgeon said: 'The highest science, the loftiest speculation, the mightiest philosophy, which can ever engage the attention of a child of God, is the name, the nature, the person, the work, the doing, and the existence of the great God whom he calls his Father'" (Lawson, Psalms 1-75, HOTC, 136).

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

A few weeks ago my dad was in town and he sparked the idea to teach on the Parable of the Soils (Mark 4, Matt 13, and Luke 8). So, tonight I'm teaching on this wonderful parable at church from Mark's account.

One discouraging note is that many commentaries seem to think that Mark 4:13-20 (Jesus' explanation of the parable of the soils) is not an authentic "Jesus saying" simply because it is an explanation of the parable. But after my frustration with many of the critical commentaries, I kept progressing in my study of the wonderful passage of Scripture which our Lord taught on the shores of the Sea of Galilee.

One striking feature of this parable consists in the reality that all four of the different "kinds" of hearers are similar in many ways. Note some of these similarities:
  • They all are along the road (i.e., in some "religious setting" venue to hear the Word)
  • The text is unambiguously clear that they all hear the Word (repeats it 4x in the passage)
  • Outwardly they all looks the same, they go to the same place to hear the Word, they hear the same Word taught.
  • They are all dry, parched land apart from the seed of the Word giving life
It is amazing to me just how similar these hearers are until you get to their specific responses. Then they differ dramatically. Three of the hearers end up in hell. One proves that salvation and belief is genuine because the Word of God affects the way he lives. In reality, this parable ought to startle the reader because going to the religious venue to hear the Word and even a constant dose of the Word is insufficient in and of itself to save a person's soul (this is diametrically opposed to much ecclesiastical thinking today).

How marvelous our Lord is when he states that the true believer hears the Word, but he receives it (the verb form is in the forefront = emphasis) and he bears fruit (again, the verb is in the forefront = emphasis). The one who hears the Word--even repeatedly--and yet fails to receive it with a willing and humble heart and bear fruit is an unsaved person regardless of how religious he thinks he may be. This passage contains some startling truths and some principles that need to be addressed to the church--especially in today's cultural church setting. Lord willing, God will soften the hearts of those who will be there tonight to hear His Word that the Word may not fall upon hard, preoccupied, or impulsive hearts, but rather that the Word would fall upon the soft, humble, and ready hearts already prepared by God resulting in much fruit to the glory of God.
Listen to the sermon on Mark 4:13-20 here.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Book Review.
, Tim and Steve Timmis. Total Church: A Radical Reshaping around Gospel and Community. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2008.

by Geoffrey R. Kirkland | associate pastor | christ community church

proves to be compelling and carefully crafted so as to bring about the two main themes of the book, namely, a gospel centered and a community centered church. To be sure, these are both important—indeed, foundational—aspects of the local church as Scripture defines it. In no less than five times in the Introduction, Chester and Timmis state the phrase: “If only there were a different way of doing church” (13–20).

The recurring statement in the introduction in seeking to find a “different way of doing church” immediately alarmed me as I began to read the book. I have heard that this book is a hot-button book now-a-days. With the up and coming newer “missional” and “community-centered” churches, Total Church fronts the parade as far as impact and influence in the Christian community.

But as I read, questions erupted in my mind such as: Why must there be a different way of doing church? or What is so radically different about a community-centered approach to “doing church?” or Should “community” really be the main focus in the local church when the local community may be comprised of both believers and nonbelievers? Questions such as these must be answered . . . and answered honestly and biblically.

To briefly summarize Total Church, the first main part of the book contains two chapters, the first speaks to the issue of the gospel and why this must be first and central in the life, body, and ministries of the local church. The second chapter in the first part of the book summarized community by defining it, giving some clear illustrations of its implementation, and some helpful results from a “community-based” ministry.

The second part of Total Church focused around gospel and community in practice. Chester and Timmis related gospel and community to various aspects of church-life such as: evangelism, social involvement, church planting, world mission, discipleship and training, pastoral care, spirituality, theology, apologetics, children and young people, and success. No doubt Total Church covers a broad spectrum of aspects relating to church and does a fairly good job at keeping the book gospel centered and biblically saturated.

With that said, however, I have a few critiques regarding the methodology of Total Church. I’m not attacking Chester and Timmis, nor am I specifically attacking Total Church per se. What I endeavor to do is to examine and evaluate the methodology and the practical outworkings of a church focused around gospel and community.

The book wonderfully and repeatedly emphasizes the centrality of the Scriptures and the utter necessity of God’s supernatural and sovereign intervention through His Holy Spirit in the lives of sinners in order to respond to the gospel, believe upon Christ, and be justified. This is clearly explicated in the book.

But I struggle with community being a fundamental pillar in church life. The simple reason is this. Should we tailor and even “alter” the way we do church in order to bring in nonbelievers? The obvious theme in the book is a “new and different way of doing church” that is more appealing to the world as opposed to the traditional “just go ask your neighbor to go to church with you on Sunday” sort of approach (which they repeat constantly throughout the book). They are unmovable in asserting that going to a pub with a friend after a basketball game and “building a relationship” can be much more effective than simply talking to your friend after the game about Jesus Christ.

The problem is simply this. The New Testament no where tells—or even hints to!—the church to change its method in order to reach more people. Fundamentally, it boils down to the purpose for church. I believe that Chester and Timmis would agree that the overall purpose of the church is to glorify God by worshipping Jesus Christ through the power and joy of the Holy Spirit. Obviously, only born-again, Spirit-indwelt Christians can do this. As Paul says in Romans 8:8 those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (oi` de. evn sarki. o;ntej qew/| avre,sai ouv du,nantai). Therefore, if nonbelievers (lit.) “are not able” to please God, then why should the church go out of its way in changing the format of the church in order to make them feel more welcome to the Christian community.

Certainly, I’m not saying that believers must never seek to go out of their way to evangelize and reach out to nonbelievers. No doubt this must be done—regularly! But, the church is not the primary place to do this. Noticeably, Peter, on the day of Pentecost when the church was founded, spoke as to what the church is: "Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38). Therefore, the church is comprised of those who 1) repent and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, and 2) live godly lives evidencing the heart-transformation (including baptism, Lord’s Supper, fruit of the Spirit, etc.).

The church ought not—indeed, it must not—seek to making reaching unbelievers its primary function. Again, this is a function of the local church, but it’s not the only or primary function of the church.

A simple survey of the book of Acts reveals that the concept of “preaching” is thematic and domineering. “Preach” occurs 6 times in the book; “preaching” occurs 11 times in the book; “proclaim” occurs 4 times in the book; “proclaiming” occurs 6 times in the book, etc. One also finds that the phrase “gathered together” occurs nearly 10 times in the book of Acts also. The primary function of the church is the building up of true, born-again believers to the attaining of Christlikeness (cf. Eph 4:11–12). This maturity inherently involves personal evangelism, but this “new way of doing church” is not the purpose of the church.

Is it accurate then, to conclude with Chester and Timmis that people feel more loved and cared for in the context of “community?” Does a solid “community” have to be present for it to be a solid church? Is it really better to invite the nonbelieving friends to many different BBQ’s, sporting events, hang-out times at home, guys’ night out at the pub, etc. in order to reach out to the lost? I don’t think so.

I am of the strong opinion that the church is mandated to be different than the world. Though living in the world and conducting life amidst a godless culture, the true believer in Jesus Christ must be radically different than the world—not seeking to fit in to the world and do the things that nonbelievers do where the only difference is that there are a Christians at the other “function” or “event” than the other. Is it proper to invite a nonbeliever to a pub to simply “hang out” and build a relationship. Some may argue that it is profitable. I beg to differ. Am I opposed to going to a pub? A movie theater? A bar? Not really. It’s not about the rules. Rather, it’s about the motivation for going to these places. Do I go there to evangelize them and share the gospel of Jesus Christ with them as if eternity were hanging in the balances (as it is!)? Or, do I go there simply to “hang out” and “fit in” and “spark relationships” (community?) with some folks with whom I will at some later point invite them to a church function?

Therefore, I hope it is clear that the main fault of the book, in my opinion, is a wrong purpose for doing church. If we are to reach the community, help people feel more comfortable, that’s fine, but I believe that we should not worry about coming across as too brash and bold in our witness for Jesus Christ. Times are nearing the end. The “judge is right at the door” (James 5:9). The end of all things is near (1 Pet 4:7). Therefore, the hour is urgent and we ought not to take away any opportunities to boldly and clearly proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ.

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