Saturday, December 29, 2018

Geoffrey R. Kirkland
Christ Fellowship Bible Church

I love the gospel. But I have a tremendous burden pressing upon my soul. I wonder how many professing Christ-knowers and Jesus-lovers actually know and believe the biblical gospel. Just what is the real good news of salvation? What really took place at the cross? What did God do? I believe that Galatians 3:13 is one (of many!) clear statement that strikes at the very heartbeat of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Galatians 3:13 says that “Christ became a a curse for us.” Here, I will summarize Gal 3:13 with the phrase: "Christ our Curse for our gain! And in this writeup, I'll provide 6 components to this phrase in understanding the gospel.

1. Know the BIBLICAL CHRIST  (Christ…)
For Christ to save, one must possess the saving Christ. Lots of religions have a Jesus where he may fill the role of a teacher, a wise sage, a miracle worker, a prophet, or something else. The question then must be: what does the Bible say? How does the Word of God describe this Christ? He, being fully and truly God, descended from heaven, born of a virgin, he lived a perfect and righteous life obedient to Law of God. Never having sinned, he was rejected by men, delivered to death, and crucified a horrifically public and shameful death. More than that, on the cross, God crushed Him under the weight of the divine fury of righteous wrath in being the sin-bearer for His people. That means that the biblical Christ became the propitiation of HIs people. He appeased and satisfied the Father’s just wrath by taking all the sins of His elect upon Himself on the cross. Then when he drank that “cup” in full, he exclaimed in triumph: It is finished! This Christ was buried, then He rose up from the grave showing Himself alive for forty days to many hundreds of people. Then he ascended physically and visibly into heaven to be with His Father where He is seated at the right hand of the Father in glory where He intercedes for His own. Is this the Christ you know? Do you trust in this substitute? Do you know Him? Own Him as your own Savior? Trust His blood to shield you from God’s wrath?

2. Know the GREAT EXCHANGE  (Our…)
The text says that Christ redeemed us! What a glorious phrase! The very heart and soul of the gospel message is that God punished Jesus for my sin in my stead. He died for me, meaning in my stead, for me, in my place! He redeemed us by being our curse! To think of the almighty arrows of divine rage that were aimed and ready to fire at our fully-deserving and wholly-defenseless souls and then at the perfect moment, Christ the divine Son steps in, receives the fulness of all the blows of all the arrows and all the divine punishment and hatred so that you are shielded and spared and safe hiding in Him. He took it all! He paid for it all! Your life is found in His death. His death results in your everlasting gain! Never see the substitution as old and outdated news. Never get past the phrase: Jesus died for me. In this great exchange, God’s wrath is satisfied and your life is spared! In Him, you live! Rejoice!

3. Know the DIVINE CURSE   (Curse…)
The Holy Spirit guided Paul’s hand to write down that Christ became our “curse.” He became a curse for you. Paul says that the one is cursed who does not abide by all things written in the Law to perform them (Gal 3:10, 13)! How impossible it is to attain our own standing of righteousness before God! When Israel was on the doorstep of entering the Promised Land, God declared that if Israel did not obey the Lord God, to do all His commandments, that all these curses would come upon them and overtake them (Deut 27:15). The rest of Deut 27 (the long chapter!) surveys the many (!) curses that God Himself would bring upon Israel if she faithlessly disobeyed God’s covenant and rebelled. Paul’s point comes into focus here. Just as Israel of old failed to obey the covenant and received the covenant curses, so we too, have disobeyed God and have sinned against Him and thus sit under the everlasting curses of this covenant-God who will -- and must! -- punish sin. Behold the power and righteousness of God. God brings extraordinary plagues on sinners. There is no remedy, no hope, no abatement, no rest, and no mercy for those who persist in willful sin and unbelief and who die in this unregenerate state. O what an awful & infinite curse!

The dark thunderclouds break as the gloriously blinding rays of sunlight burst in as Paul says that Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law having become a curse for us (Gal 3:13). Christ became our curse for our gain. Something happens to us at the moment of salvation. The Scripture declares that for those for whom Christ died, He took their sin. But the Word also testifies that those who believe in Jesus Christ alone are counted righteous in Him. Our sin is reckoned to and put upon Him. And His righteousness is reckoned to and put upon us. Our lawlessness is given to Him and His righteousness is given to us. Our transgressions and heinousness is imputed to Christ on the cross and His obedience and holiness is imputed to us by faith. This is the splendid reality of double-imputation. It’s the glorious and heart-stirring truth that the Bible speaks of frequently. Through the obedience of the One man (Christ) the many will be made righteous (Rom 5:19). Through faith in Christ, we are found in Him, not having our own inherent righteousness derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, namely, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith (Phil 3:9). God made Christ to be our sin so that we may be the righteousness of God in Him (2 Cor 5:21). Behold the comforting assurance that when God looks upon one of His children, He beholds them through the righteousness of Christ -- indeed, the festal robes of Christ Himself are shrouded over us!

5. Know the INFINITE GAIN  (Gain…)
Jesus Christ became your curse so that you can receive infinite gain! Paul speaks of it in these terms: “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” is yours in Christ (Eph 1:3). Amazingly and almost incomprehensibly, Paul declares that for those who suffer the loss of all things and count all self righteousness to be heaps of trash and filthy garbage, these believers gain Christ (Phil 3:8b). What an unspeakable reality to gain Christ! To lose everything in all the universe and yet to gain Christ is to have all! Christ is all in all. To have Christ is to have everything! What infinite gain comes to the child of God (even the weakest saint and the most newborn child of God!) who possesses Jesus Christ as His own! Salvation is not only about gaining the glory of Christ in the future (2 Thess 2:14) and dying is “gain” (Phil 1:21). It’s about possessing Christ and living all out for Him now (Phil 1:21a) and rejoicing in this ever-flowing spring of infinite love and joy welling up in our souls as children of God. To have Christ is to have gained everything. Never lose sight of the wonder of having Christ live in you -- the hope of glory! Immeasurable gain!

The text in Galatians says that Christ became a curse for us (Gal 3:13). The work of salvation is always a complete work. Always does God perfect redemption for all of His elect and never does God go back on His work and come up short with an incomplete work of salvation. For God to save, He saves completely -- to the uttermost. When Christ became our curse, He took all our sin and bore it all in full on the cross. Those who are His, by repentance and faith in Him alone, have the guaranteed promise that this divine curse that once loomed over our necks has now been satisfied on Christ and now there’s nothing but grace, glory, love, security, and promises that are ours! Rest in this security. Focus on this fixed standing you have in Christ. Never does God lose one of His children. When He begins a work in a soul, He will carry it on to completion till the day of Christ Jesus. Nothing, no one, ever could separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ! Find comfort in your soul in the procured, promised and perfected salvation that Christ effectually achieved for you! Stand in awe of His glory as you stand in this grace robed in His righteousness! Rejoice and be glad. Your everlasting glorification will come! Your curse-bearer is your everlasting protector and He will carry you, as a Father would his own children, safely home to behold His face everlastingly!

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Leading in Family Worship During Conflict.
Geoffrey R. Kirkland
Christ Fellowship Bible Church

I’m a great sinner who has been redeemed by a greater Savior. But I still am a sinner! Recently, I lashed out in anger at my children. I raised my voice pointed my finger at them in selfish anger and scolded them. In moments like these, how can I, even in such a moment of sinful conduct, lead my family to the presence of God in family worship? Someone might say: isn’t that hypocritical? Aren’t you being two-faced in sinning and then leading in family worship?

How do we as sinful parents still lead in family worship even in those moments when we’ve sinned (right in front of our kids!)? How can we lead well? How can we model godliness, practice repentance, and obey the Lord in bringing the family (the little Church) into God’s presence in family worship? I will provide 5 suggestions to lead in family worship during moments of conflict.

God does not require us to lead in family worship only after we’ve got it all together. Amazingly, God uses broken and humble vessels for His glory. We must veer away from the mentality that we’ve gotta ‘have everything put together nice and neat’ and then we’ll be adequate to serve! No! Our sufficiency and adequacy comes from the righteous robes of Christ reckoned to us, not from our performances in self-cleansing. Come to God humbled and come before your family humbled.

God is near to the broken-hearted. Turn to God and return to Him (as the prophets so often preached!) and He will hear from heaven and bring blessing. Repent of your sin to God (first) and to the family members you’ve sinned against, and to the family as a whole if they observed your sinful action. A repentant disposition is one of the greatest pedagogical tools a father has in the home. The children should not perceive the parents to be sinless or too good for repentance. Rather, let them see your repentant heart and repentant prayers to God! That’ll teach!

In your repentant heart, you come to your family and specifically (and humbly!) acknowledge your own sin. This requires, however, you cannot blame-shift. You cannot minimize the sin and say it was a mistake or mess-up. You can’t make excuses about it. Own it. Acknowledge your own sin and then specifically ask the family members to forgive you for your own sin against God and against them. Wait for your family to hear your request for forgiveness and then let them answer and affirm their forgiveness of you. Remind them (everyone, even the kids) that forgiveness is a promise of pardon where you actively choose to not hold the sin against the person, you won’t bring it up to others, nor will you dwell on it repeatedly). Use this as a God-given, grace-filled shepherding moment to teach about forgiveness -- and God’s greater forgiveness to big sinners like us (yes, even to big sinners like dad and mom!).

Lead. Yes, lead in family worship. Again, God does not require perfection in his worship leaders. But he does require humility and faithfulness to Him. So, in these moments of sin and humiliation before God and before the family, let this not drive you away from doing your duties in leading at home, but rather let it drive you to the oft-receiving embrace of an adopting Father who loves His elect with a preserving and undiminishing love. Lead. Sing. Read. Teach. Pray. Seek to be obedient to God even if you don’t feel like it. Even if you feel like an inch tall and your sin is plastered across your forehead, remember to gaze upon Christ’s cross and remind yourself (and the family) of the marvelous grace of our loving Lord -- indeed, grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt! Praise the Lord!

Parenting consists of a massive trust in God’s sovereignty. In our blunders and in our sins, we trust God that He will use us and our inadequacies to shine the spotlight on His grace and mercy all the more! We pray that our children would see that the same grace that we call them to embrace is the same grace that we as the parents need -- daily! We humble ourselves, repent of sin, ask for forgiveness, and dutifully and joyfully lead in family worship trusting that God Himself will use His Word not because of us but in spite of us as we teach His powerful and living Word in our homes on a daily basis. May God use our sins and the moments of conflict to result in bringing Him glory and great teaching moments in the home for our children to see the manifold riches of God’s love & the mercies of His gospel!
Desiring Eldership! It’s a Good & Blessed Thing!
Geoffrey R. Kirkland
Christ Fellowship Bible Church

God’s Word states in 1 Timothy 3.1 that if any man aspires to the office of an overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do! It’s good to desire eldership! How noble it is for a man to aspire to serve and shepherd the flock of God! It’s not a desire to hide or be ashamed of, but rather we should speak of the good and blessed and God-given desire to serve as an overseer.

In speaking on this, I want to help us understand a number of related items to this great desire!

1. Understanding the Gift.
The Bible teaches that God has given those to lead the Church and that includes pastors/elders and teachers (Eph 4:11). Elders are God-given gifts to His church. They are to serve as God’s stewards and His representatives. So, the call to be an elder comes gloriously and graciously from God for the well-being and maturation of His Church.

2. Undertaking the Call.
An elder is far more than a ‘job’. The office of elder is an all-consuming and joyfully-embracing ministry of humble service and servant leadership that God places deep within the soul of a man. An elder/shepherd is more than a task-accomplisher or a charismatic personality. The office of eldership requires a man to undertake a most blessed call & a consuming responsibility to serve God with integrity, to model holiness for the saints, and to teach sound doctrine!

3. Unashamed of the Desire.
Men must never be ashamed of the desire to serve as an elder. I wonder if men of God earnestly desire to serve the local church but in humility are ashamed to verbalize their desire to lead. They don’t want it to be perceived as an arrogant ambition to rule over people. But let it be humbly stated: the desire to lead is good, noble, lofty, God-given and one that should be pursued and cultivated through serving the church and communicating with your leaders!

4. Unrelenting in Passion.
In Thessalonika, the Apostle Paul said that he labored relentlessly among the believers. With the Ephesian elders, Paul testified that night and day for three years he admonished the brethren passionately. All men do well to remember: the work of an elder is just that: work! It is a fine work he desires to do! God’s man to lead as an elder must have an undying commitment to God, an unswerving commitment to truth and an unrelenting passion for Christ’s glory!

5. Unflinching in Courage.
The brilliant wiles of Satan and his masquerading messengers passionately hunger to infiltrate the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ from without and from within! Elders must be vigilant. They must watch and stand as guardsmen to sound the alarm when danger is near. Elders must be men of courage to stand face to face to oppose what is evil and to guard the church from false teachers, dangerous doctrine and sinful living! Christian men are courageous men.

6. Unswerving in Faithfulness.
The great demand for God’s men requires that they be found ‘faithful’ and steadfast to Christ and His calling. They don’t need to be popular, wealthy, or successful. A man of God strives to be faithful to God even if it means upsetting the standard, the norm, the tradition, or the popular opinion. He would rather suffer at the hands of men than sin against God. He will shepherd souls, preach truth, defend against error, live purely, pray importunately and lead with integrity. An elder is a man who will be unflinching, undeterred, & unswerving in faithfulness to God and to His Word.

7. Unilateral in Ambition.
A question that men who aspire the office of eldership need to be asked is this: why do you aspire to the ministry? What’s the goal? Why do you want this? The ultimate aim and ambition must be for the glory of God and for the good of Christ’s church. Too many men have fallen (privately or publicly) to the sin of self-promotion or raw domination over people in the church. But a man of God says: I want to honor and glorify God as I serve Him and serve His people in this particular local church. Notoriety or not, he wants to please His Savior and His King!

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Spiritual Battles of a Minister.
Geoffrey R. Kirkland
Christ Fellowship Bible Church

Before any minister is a shepherd, he first is a sheep. A man may be a leader in front of a congregation of believers but he is foremost a servant who must bow low before the Lordship of Jesus Christ.  That reminds us that leaders do not stand immune to temptation and to struggles. Leaders wage war on the spiritually grueling and relentlessly intense battlefield daily. No greater calling exists than that of being a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ! To serve God by studying His Word, preaching His gospel, praying for His people, and shepherding Christ’s blood-bought sheep comprises the most gloriously exhilarating gift God could give to a man. But nevertheless, he is still a man. And he still engages in daily struggles. But what are they? What is unique to the pastor of a church? What are the hardships that godly leaders face?

In this brief essay, I’ll present 8 battles that every faithful minister of the gospel battles with so that you can pray for your pastor and care for him diligently and faithfully.

1. Carelessness
One battle that can invade a minister’s life is that of carelessness. With enough time and with the passing of years, a man may grow to be a bit careless in his care for his own soul and for the souls of those he shepherds. Negligence can creep in. Inattentiveness can describe a busy man who has served for a while. Pray that your pastor would guard from carelessness about the work of the Lord and the sheep of God that he is called to care for.

2. Ineffectiveness
Another spiritual battle that wages war frequently in a minister’s heart is the perception of his own ineffectiveness. And to be sure, all men in and of themselves are ineffective and unable to accomplish spiritual good. However, pastors have desires and ambitions and when those don’t appear to be met, he can feel the strong weight of ineffectiveness and inefficiency. He may grow to feel useless, purposeless, and even that his labors are futile. Pray for your shepherd to be on guard against the subtle battle of and wrong thinking concerning ineffectiveness.

3. Fruitlessness
Going with the previous battle of ineffectiveness, all pastors wrestle with apparent fruitlessness of their ministries. Granted, those with small or big congregations or narrow or broad influences may still battle with this battle of feeling fruitless because they don’t see the visible fruit and results of their own labors. Faithful men can pray and preach, study and speak, evangelize & shepherd, train up and disciple relentlessly and see, by God’s sovereign design, very little visible fruit of his labors. This could cause him to battle greatly in his soul. Pray for your shepherd to retain a proper perspective of being faithful to God and letting Him handle the fruit of his work.

4. Coldness / Lukewarmness
There’s not a Christian who doesn’t battle with times of struggling with a cold heart and feeling lukewarm toward Christ, His gospel and His Word. Truth be told, this also happens with ministers of the gospel. As ironic as it may seem that a man may feast upon God’s Word vocationally and stand to preach its glorious truths, his human heart can still wane and grow cold toward Christ and His glory from time to time. Pray for your minister to prioritize a flaming love for Christ and a zealous pursuit of His Word and prayer devotionally before he steps into the office to do it vocationally. Studying and preaching is great but pray for your minister to do these duties out of a warm heart toward Christ. Pray for him to wage war against lukewarmness. Pray for him to kindle the coal of love for Christ in private before he stands to speak of the love of Christ in public.

5. Weakness
Every faithful minister understands his own weakness and inadequacy. In fact, faithful shepherds who know God’s Word rightly recognize that apart from Christ and the Spirit’s powerful enablement, the preacher can accomplish nothing. Nothing! The Evil one, however, loves to capitalize on this and implant feelings of worthlessness from the man’s own weaknesses. How weak the man is to save and to sanctify, to build and to sustain the church. This truly is God’s work. But a man’s weakness does not mean he is useless. Pray for your pastor that in his weakness he would lean on Omnipotence. Pray that his weakness would launch him to desperate prayer and humble dependence so that in his weakness, God would use him mightily!

6. Unpreparedness
There’s always more commentaries to study. More articles can be read. The sermons could often be better, outlines could be crisper and introductions and conclusions could be tighter. But the minister knows he must take his seemingly pitiful notes to the pulpit and stand and speak for God. Oh he has studied. He’s gone through the text and he knows the meaning and he’s done the adequate sermon preparation-work. Still, a lingering sense festers deep in his soul that he still feels unprepared to stand before God, before God’s people and speak the oracles of God. So much more could be said. Perhaps it could be said better. Maybe a funeral kept him from adequate study time. Perhaps a marital conflict in his own home caused late nights and persistent distractions. Maybe grief over an unbelieving child weighed him down. Pray for your shepherd to study hard and preach the Word even in the busy seasons and unforeseen distractions.

7. Self-promotedness // Over-confidence//self confidence
Men of God affirm and quickly state that the ministry is not about them. True. But the temptation still resides deep in the hearts of pastors to be appreciated, honored and respected. At times, this could lead to self-promotion, self-pity, over-confidence and self-confidence. The temptation to be liked, to mesmerize the congregation, to attain many retweets can be a very subtle battle in the soul of the man of God. The spiritual battle rests in his emptying himself of himself so that he may fill himself with God. Pray for your minister to be confident in the Savior, not himself; to be ravished with God and His glory.

8. Giftedness
The battle of comparing oneself with others is very real in the ministry. Jealousy can quickly creep in and take over a man’s heart. Pray for your shepherd to be thankful for the gifts that God has graciously & sovereignly given to him rather than to be jealous in comparing himself with others whom God also uses in the ministry! The measure of a man’s giftedness has nothing to do with publicity or popularity but it has everything to do with the merciful grace and decreed sovereignty of God. Pray for your shepherd to use his gifts, hone his gifts, thank God for his gifts, minister with his gifts, and glorify God to the fullest with his gifts.

A HELPFUL PURITAN PRAYER [from the Valley of Vision]:
…My end in preaching is to know Christ, and impart His Truth;
My principle in preaching is Christ Himself, whom I trust,
for in Him is fullness of spirit and strength;
My comfort in preaching is to do all for Him.
Help me in my work to grow more humble…
to pick something out of all providences to that end,
to joy in thee and loathe myself,
To keep my life, being, soul, and body only for thee
to carry my heart to thee in love and delight
to see all my grace in thee, coming from thee
to walk with thee in endearment.
Then, whether I succeed or fail, naught matters but THEE ALONE.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Geoffrey R. Kirkland
Christ Fellowship Bible Church

Believers love God and love the people of God. True Christians take great joy in worshiping together with the saints. But, how should you attend your church? What should mark your deliberateness in attending corporate worship? Perhaps we would do well to take a step back, ponder deeply and think about six descriptions on how you should attend church.

1. regularly  
Attend your church regularly. This may seem obvious but in our extraordinary-busy, priority-confused culture we do well to hear the simple call from God to not forsake the assembling together with the saints. It does the Christian much good to gather often and sit under and hear divine truth proclaimed in the local church. Christians love and long for the regular occasions to meet with God and with His people and to fellowship, to worship, to engage, and to serve one another.

2. hungrily  
Attend your church hungrily. When you’re hungry, you eat. When you’re really hungry, sometimes all you think about is food. How much more should this be true of the believer. We should attend worship with the saints with a great appetite. We should attend hungry to hear from the Lord. We should go eager to feast upon His Word. We should go longing to fill our mind and heart with the glories of Christ. Prepare and plan and attend your church hungry to receive God’s glorious Word.

3. preparedly  
Attend your church preparedly. You’re thankful when a pilot comes to work and he’s prepared, studied, and able to fly your plane! If this is true of a pilot, how much more should the people of God prepare themselves to minister before the Lord and with His people as prepared as possible. This demands preparation in prayer and preparation in Bible reading. It calls for preparation in leaving the home early enough and arriving early. It beckons you to pray for visitors, for your church family, for your preacher, and for the power of the Word to thunder forth with divine power! Attend your church prepared and ready to meet with the living God!

4. prayerfully  
Attend your church prayerfully. O how common this is thought of but how uncommon this is practiced! Every Christian knows that it’s important to pray. But attend your church prayerfully and deliberately with an attitude and a proactive mindset to serve those whom God brings your way. Pray ahead of time for your fellow church members. Pray for your elders. Pray for your children in the church. Pray for the lost. Pray for the visitors. Pray for the struggling and suffering. Pray for the discouraged and distressed. Pray for the rebellious and profane. And go in a spirit of prayer asking the Lord to help you to go and serve, meet and greet, and encourage and edify.

5. unifyingly  
Attend your church unifyingly. Interestingly, when you gather with like-minded believers you are confessing -- together! -- the same gospel truths and Christian doctrines. When you stand with your congregation and sing gospel-drenched songs pointing to Christ’s gospel, the character and essence of God, the duty for holiness, and the love for the Church, you are uniting and confessing together these truths in lyrical form. When you stand and read the Word corporately, you are affirming with like-minded folks the authority of Scripture. When you hear the Word preached and resolve to submit to it, obey it, follow it, and cherish it, you are uniting together with believers around the same truths of the gospel. This produces joy and unity!

6. purposefully  
Attend your church purposefully. What would happen if your church was comprised of 75 believers who all attended with a purpose to serve, to encourage, to engage, to edify, and to build up the flock of God. It’s easy to go and get. It’s easy to just sit and hear the sermon and leave quickly. But what if you had the purpose to attend your church to speak a word of encouragement to someone, to reach out to a young child and speak a bible verse to them, to thank your pastor for one specific thing he mentioned in the sermon and how it showed you more of God’s glory? May the Lord graciously cause you to attend your church with great, deliberate and intentional purpose -- for His glory and for the saints’ edification!
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