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Feasting on the Lamb

April 24, 2017

“But when the Christian gets the blood sprinkled, that is not all he wants. He wants something to feed upon. And, O sweet thought! Jesus Christ is not only a Saviour for sinners, but he is food for them after they are saved. The Paschal Lamb by faith we eat. We live on it. Is not Jesus Christ thy daily food? And even with the bitter herbs, is he not sweet food? Some of you, my friends, who are true Christians, live too much on your changing frames and feelings, on your experiences and evidences. Now, that is all wrong. That is just as if a worshipper had gone to the tabernacle and began eating one of the coats that were worn by the priest. When a man lives on Christ’s righteousness, it is the same as eating Christ’s dress. When a man lives on his frames and feelings, that is as much as if the child of God should live on some tokens that he received in the sanctuary that never were meant for food, but only to comfort him a little. What the Christian lives on is not Christ’s righteousness, but Christ; he does not live on Christ’s pardon, but on Christ; and on Christ he lives daily, on nearness to Christ. Oh! I do love Christ- preaching. It is not the doctrine of justification that does my heart good, it is Christ, the justifier; it is not pardon that so much makes the Christian’s heart rejoice, it is Christ the pardoner; it is not election that I love half so much as my being chosen in Christ ere worlds began; ay! it is not final perseverance that I love so much as the thought that in Christ my life is hid, and that since he gives unto his sheep eternal life, they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of his hand. Take care, Christian, to eat the Paschal Lamb and nothing else. I tell thee man, if thou eatest that alone, it will be like bread to thee—thy soul’s best food. If thou livest on aught else but the Saviour, thou art like one who seeks to live on some weed that grows in the desert, instead of eating the manna that comes down from heaven. Jesus is the manna. In Jesus as well as by Jesus we live. Now, dear friends, in coming to this table, we will keep the Paschal Supper. Once more, by faith, we will eat the Lamb, by holy trust we will come to a crucified Saviour, and feed on his blood, and righteousness, and atonement.”
– Charles Spurgeon

Are You Expecting?

April 20, 2017

In the middle of the first century the apostle Peter wrote a letter to Jewish Christians to encourage them to persevere through intense persecution. Persecution drove the believers out of their homes and across Asia Minor. These Jewish beleivers endured some of the worst persecution in the earliest decades of Christianity. The book of 1 Peter offers comfort and strength for their time of trouble.

In the course of his letter Peter instructs believers how to live in this world, how to interact with fellow believers and how to guard their testimony for Christ. Peter tells them to live this way because “the end of all things is at hand.” His words were not the warning of a sidewalk prophet nor the woes of a despairing apostle. The words of 1 Peter are not words of doom and gloom. The message that the end of all things is for the Christian a wonderful promise of victory and hope.

“The end of all things is at hand” is very similar to the encouragement “there is a light at the end of the tunnel” . The time of darkness and difficulty is limited. There is an end to sorrow.  The trial will come to an close. A conclusion to suffering is coming and, for the child of God, that conclusion will be wonderful. This is not the empty hope of escapism. This is the expectation of a promise to be fulfilled. The words of 1 Peter do not encourage troubled Christians to run away from their troubles. 1 Peter is an exhortation to endure because the time of their trouble is brief and alomst at an end.

The impending demise of all things should continue to fill the Christian with great expectation. This age is coming to an end. The certain end of this world should change the way the Christian lives in this world. Following the promise, “the end of all things is at heand” 1 Peter gives a list of four things that the waiting Christian should be doing.

The expectant Christian should live a self-controlled life regulated by the power of the Holy Spirit. The expectant Christian should live a life guarded by prayer. Above all else, the expectant Christian should love others with fervency. The loving, expectant Christian will be generous towards other believers and diligent in the use of the spiritual gifts within the church. The believer who knows the brevity of this earthly existence will respond to the troubles of this life with a renewed commitment to live for the life to come.

The promse that the end is near is not intended to promote monasticism, hermitism or communalism. Hiding away from the world does not produce genuine godliness. The expectation of the return of Jesus teaches us to live in this world for the One to come. The Christians is called to be a pilgrim in this world traveling through from the promses of God to the promises of God, from glory to glory, by the power of the Holy Spirit.

The Power of the Resurrection

April 17, 2017

Jesus is God, the second Person of the Godhead. Jesus became fully human without losing one bit of His Deity. Jesus is the Savior God promised to the world. Jesus purchased salvation for men through His death on the cross. He was buried and three days later was restored to life again by the power of God. These basic truths are the foundation of the Christian life.

The resurrection is the Divine testimony that Jesus is exactly who He claimed to be. The resurrection proves Jesus was God the Son and the Savior of men. (Romans 1:4) The resurrection is the Divine certification that Jesus’ sacrifice was acceptable to the Father. Those who believe are made righteous because Jesus rose from the dead. (Romans 4:25) The resurrection declares that Jesus has defeated death, conquered Satan and vanquished sin.

The resurrection of Jesus is the single most important event in the history of the world. The creation of everything is the supreme display of God’s Divine power. The Exodus from Egypt was the greatest Old Testament display of God’s power on behalf of His people. The resurrection of Jesus is the greatest display of God’s power on behalf of His people. The world has changed because Jesus rose from the dead. Civilizations, science, philosophy, great leaders and brilliant thinkers have been profoundly shaped by the resurrection. Even those who deny the resurrection or who claim to be atheists have been impacted by the resurrection. Our calendars have been changed because of the resurrection. Years are measured from the birth of Christ. If He had not risen from the grave would we measure the time since his birth? Or would He be just another obscure name in the history of Israel?

The resurrection of Jesus has a specific and powerful impact on the believer. Because of the resurrection the gospel is true and salvation is certain. Without the resurrection there is no Jesus, no gospel, no salvation and the God of the Bible is a fraud. Christianity crumbles without the resurrection. Yet the effects of Jesus’ resurrection extend beyond the doctrines of the gospel. The resurrection of Jesus transforms and empowers the Christian life.

  • Because Jesus is risen your eternal life is certain (1 Corinthians 15:19-23; 1 Peter 1:3-5)
  • Because Jesus is risen a life of sacrificial service to God is worth it (1 Corinthians 15:30-33)
  • Because Jesus is risen your service of others is never in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58; Luke 14:12-14)
  • Because Jesus is risen you should be striving to put away the sins of the flesh (1 Corinthians 15:53; Romans 8:10-15)
  • Because Jesus has risen you death has been turned into victory (1 Corinthians 15:55-57)

Your Lord Who Was Dead Is Alive

April 13, 2017

“But the proof of the resurrection of Christ, does not depend upon arguments and historical evidence, with which multitudes of true Christians are unacquainted; but is, in its own nature, equally convincing in all ages and equally level to all capacities. They who have found the Gospel to be the power of God to the salvation of their souls, have the witness in themselves. And are very sure that the doctrine which enlightened their understandings, awakened their consciences, delivered them from the guilt and dominion of sin, brought them into a state of peace and communion with God, and inspired them with a bright and glorious hope of eternal life, must be true.

“They know that the Lord is risen indeed, because they are made partakers of the power of His resurrection, and have experienced a change in themselves, which could only be wrought by the influence of that Holy Spirit which Jesus is exalted to bestow. And many believers, though not qualified to dispute with philosophers and sceptics, upon their own learned ground, can put them to shame and to silence, by the integrity and purity of their conduct, by their patience and cheerfulness under afflictions; and would especially silence them, if they were eye-witnesses of the composure and elevation of spirit, with which true believers in a risen Saviour welcome the approach of death.

“But let those who love His name be joyful in Him. Your Lord who was dead, is alive, and because He lives, you shall live also. If you be risen with Him, seek the things which are above, where He is seated at the right hand of God. And, when He, who is our life, shall appear, then shall you also appear with Him in glory.”
– John Newton

The Resurrection

April 10, 2017

If doctrine of the resurrection is lost the gospel is lost. In 1 Corinthians 15 Paul defines the gospel for the church. That gospel contains four major parts: Christ died. Christ died for our sins. Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures. Jesus rose again according to the Scriptures.

The resurrection is integral to the gospel. The resurrection of Jesus was a key component in the preaching of every apostle. In Acts 1 when the disciples sought for one to replace Judas they looked for one who could be a witness to Jesus’ resurrection. In Acts 2 when Peter preached on the day of Pentecost a key theme of his message was that Jesus had been raised again to life. The truth of the resurrection is found in Peter’s messages in Acts 3 and Acts 4. The vision of the resurrected Jesus in heaven is the climax to Stephen’s powerful message in Acts 7. Paul was saved in Acts 9 after running headlong into the resurrected Jesus. When Peter preached to Cornelius in Acts 10 he preached the resurrection of Jesus. When Paul preached the gospel in Antioch in Acts 13 he preached the resurrection of Jesus. In Thessalonica Paul preached the resurrection of Jesus. In Athens Paul preached the resurrection to the Greek philosophers though it earned him scorn and rejection. The gospel message always included the truth of the resurrection of Jesus.

The resurrection must be believed to be saved. In Romans 10 Paul teaches two things necessary for salvation. Confession of Jesus and belief that God raised Him from the dead. Romans 10:9 is a wonderful promise, but it is also a prescription. Confession of Jesus and belief in the resurrection are necessary to be saved.

If the doctrine of the resurrection is lost the beleiver’s power is lost. In 2 Timothy 3 false teachers are described as “having a form of godliness but denying the power thereof.” The power of Godliness is God’s power that was displayed in the resurrection. In Ephesians 1:19 Paul prays the believers will know “what is the exceeding greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power, which He wrought in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, and set Him at His own right hand.” In Hebrews 13:20-21 the letter to the Jews concludes with a marvelous benediction, “Now the God of peace that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, make you perfect in every good work to do His will, working in you that which is wellpleasing in His sight, through Christ Jesus, to whom be glory for ever and ever.” The power of God to resurrect is connected to the power at work to transform believers. The power of God that brought Jesus alive from the grave is the power of God that is actively at work in the Christian transforming and enabbling him to do that which is pleasing to God. The Christian can serve God because Jesus lives.

Jesus is risen. The Christian must never lose sight of this precious, powerful truth.

Sin Covered and Sin Confessed

April 6, 2017

“He that covereth his sin shall not prsoper; but whose confesseth
and forsaketh them shall have mercy.”

Proverbs 28:13

Two persons are introduced; two opposite courses are ascribed to them; and two correspondingly opposite results are predicted. The one covers his sins, and therefore shall not prosper; the other confesses and forsakes his sins, and therefore shall have mercy.

Few people know what sin is; and those few do not know it well. Sin is common to all men, but it is not well or widely understood. Men cover their sins because they know little of them, and then the covering prevents them from learning more. Sin is a man’s most familiar intimate and greatest stranger. There is nothing which he practices more, or knows less. Although he lives in it– because he lives in it– he is ignorant of it.

Beware of the old, stolid, atheistic blunder, of counting that nothing exists which cannot be seen. Moral evil is invisible as the human soul, or God its maker; yet it exists and its effects are great. God unseen rewards the search of those who seek Him; sin unseen punishes the neglect of those who seek it not. If you diligently seek for God your friend, He will be your rewarder; if you diligently seek for sin your foe, it will be your destroyer. Because sin is so close to man he fails to observe it. A scratch on the skin is more easily discovered than a poison circulating in the blood. Alas! We know better every trifling accident that occurs in the world, than the enmity to God which reigns in all the lost and troubles disciples to the last.

But the knowledge of sin, difficult by the nature of the thing, is rendered still more difficult by positive effort to conceal it. Criminals are not the only ones who strive to hide their deeds from the sight of men. Reputable Christians expend much of their energy in the task of making themselves seem better than they are. But after covering his sin from his neighbor the hypocrite must take up the more difficult task of concealing it from himself. Nowhere is man more cunningly employed than in his efforts make the worse appear the better. No effort is spared to hide the ugly side of sin and point out as virtuous its more seemly parts. The imaginations of man’s evil heart are like clouds of artisans constantly employed in weaving webs to cover sin.

But “he shall not prosper” in this effort to cover his sin. God cannot be so mocked: His laws cannot be so evaded. Although sin in its spiritual nature cannot be seen by human eyes and weighed on material scales, it is as real as the objects perceived by the senses. Although it’s essence is not palpable, its power is great. If it be not destroyed, it will be the destroyer.

Great iron castings have been ordered for a railway-bridge. The thickness has been calculated according to the length of the span and the weight of the load. The contractor constructs his molds according to the specifications, and when all is ready pours in the molten metal. In the process of casting, through some defect of the mold, air creeps into the heart of the iron and cavities like those of a honeycomb are formed in the interior of the beam. A whole skin covers all the surface and the flaws are effectively concealed. The artisan has covered his fault, but he will not prosper. As soon as it is subjected to a strain the beam give ways.

Sin covered becomes a rotten hollow in the human soul, and when the strain comes the false gives way. If the hypocrite be tried and tested in this life the fair appearance will collapse. But “whoso confesseth and forsaketh (sin) shall have mercy.”

Adapted from Arnott’s “Laws from Heaven for Life on Earth”

A Healthy Pastor

April 3, 2017

Charisma, vision, speaking skill and a winning personality are qualities prized in a pastor. Many churches seem to require the pastor be a world class motivational speaker with the innovative ability of an Apple exectuive. But what modern Americans value in a pastor is not always what God values in a pastor.

The Bible never requires a pastor have a winning personality, the ability to cast a vision or a powerful presence in the pulpit. The Bible requires those who would shepherd the flock of God to serve selflessly, possess Godly character and hold to sound doctrine.

The pastor is entrusted with the leadership of the church. He is the elder who administrates the affairs of the church. He is the bishop who superintends the mission of the church. He is the shepherd who watches over the spiritual well being of its members. The pastor is entrusted with caring for the souls of the church. The importance of the pastor’s work cannot be overstated. A Godly pastor will lead a church to grow in Christ. An unqualified pastor will weaken the church, hinder the spread of the gospel, discourage Christians and dishonor the name of Jesus.

The books of 1 Timothy and Titus each contain a list of requirements of the character, ministry and testimony of a man who would be pastor. These lists are daunting. The temptation is to attempt to lessen their force by explaining them away as not being really requirements. If a man seems like a good guy who tries then it doesn’t really matter if his character is blameless. The temptation is to view the qualifications as a pick and choose list. If he has the most important ones (whatever you consider those to be) and most of the others then a failure in one or two of the “lesser” qualities can be overlooked. God’s requirements are not multiple choice, suggestions or general guidelines. They are His prerequisites for pastoral ministry. A church that attempts to lessen God’s requirements makes a terrible mistake.

God requires the shepherds of His church to be men of the highest Christian character. The pastor will not be perfect, but the pattern of his life must match all that God requires. His character must possess the positive virtues and must not have the forbidden elements.

The Christian’s expectations of the pastor must be shaped by God’s requirements. The Christian should never expect that which God forbids. The Christian should be careful to not treat his expecations as more important than God’s instructions. While everyone desires a pastor with great speaking ability, the Bible only requires the ability to teach. Be wary of elevating personal desires overs God’s desires. Be careful the world’s idea of a model leader does not become the church’s standard for a pastor. American Christianity has already suffered too many times because of unfit pastors. Eloquence and charisma are always poor substitutes for integrity, humility and orthodoxy. Remember that what God requires of a pastor is wisest and best for His church.

A Wee Little Man and A Whole Lotta Grace

March 23, 2017

Zacchaeus was a wee little man. Sunday School has driven this bit of trivia into our minds with all the force of a 20 pound sledgehammer. Zacchaeus was a rich little man. Zacchaeus was a hated little man. Zacchaeus was a man considered by much of Israel to be the lowest scum in the whole Roman empire. Zacchaeus was a traitor to Israel who worked collecting taxes for the Roman oppressors. Zacchaeus was an extortioner and embezzler, increasing his riches by every denarius he collected from his own nation over the amount demanded by Rome. Zacchaeus was a villain, backed by the power of the state to perpetrate his villainy among his own people.

Zacchaeus heard Jesus was coming through Jericho. He hurried to see Jesus, but because of the crowd and his world famous diminutive height he could not see. Well, he climbed up in a sycamore tree, for the Lord he really wanted to see. As the Savior passed that way He looked up into the tree and He saw a miserable wretch of a man. He saw a man hated and despised. He saw a man in desperate need of Jesus. Jesus went to Zacchaeus’ home. Zacchaeus did not chafe at the Lord’s imposition, he rejoiced. When Jesus entered Zacchaeus’ home, the vile little man declared his repentance, promising to give half his wealth to the poor and restore four times as much to any he had falsely overcharged.

Zacchaeus was marvelously saved. He received the grace of God that brings salvation. He received the peace of God that is beyond comprehension. Zacchaeus was saved because Jesus came “to seek and to save that which was lost.” (Luke 19:10)

Grace. Five letters that encompass a wealth of blessing.

Grace, the gift of God given to those who deserve it least. Grace, the great riches of God given to the believer to live the Christian life. Grace is an incomparable gift. Grace is always freely given never purchasable at any price.

Grace begins with salvation, but it does not end there. The Bible is “the word of His grace.” (Acts 20:32) Grace is that which enables the Christian walk and gives the ability to obey the commands of God. Grace equips the believer to walk in Godliness and maintain a good testimony in this world. Grace is the strength that enables the child of God to continue to fight and war against sin in this life. Grace is that which overthrows the bondage of sin and gives the ability to live victorious lives. Grace is responsible for the dispersion of spiritual gifts to the believers.

God makes His grace overflow to His children so the Christian will be overflowing in every good work. God’s grace is sufficient in every need and trial. God’s grace makes the Christian’s service pleasing to Him and makes His former enemies acceptable before His throne as members of the body of Christ. God has given to the Christian all these things, and more, according to His wealthy grace.

Healthy Leadership

March 20, 2017

“Everything rises and falls on leadership.”

Good leadership is crucial to any successful endeavor. This is true of secular endeavors. This is especially true of the church. The importance of Godly, Biblical leadership for a healthy church cannot be stressed strongly enough. A church without the right kind of pastor will not be healthy.

An essential quality of a Godly pastor is his relationship to the Bible. The pastor must hold firmly to the Word. The pastor is not an innovator of new doctrines. He is communicator of old truths. The pastor must be committed to the truth of the Word. He must not be bound to a particular tradition nor should he be enamored by every theological fad. The pastor must be always wrestling with Scripture. He must examine every teaching in the light of the Bible. The pastor must examine everything he is taught and everything he teaches to ensure all is the teaching of the Word.

The pastor must preach the truths of the Word to combat false doctrine. The church does not need new doctrines. The unsaved do not need new doctrines. Through sound doctrine the pastor protects the church from false doctrine. The old doctrine that has stood firm throughout the centuries is the doctrine that is relevant to the needs of the church today.

Biblical doctrine is healthy doctrine. Biblical doctrine produces sound churches and strong Christians. By preaching sound doctrine the pastor who remains faithful to the Word calls believers to join him in embracing the Word. The pastor’s task is to remember the truth of the Word that he has been taught so he can call others to truth by the clear presentation of right teachings.

Doctrine is maligned by some, but doctrine is unavoidable. Every author, preacher and speaker holds to a body of doctrine. Not every preacher uses the language of seminary and systematic theology. Some preachers cry out against doctrine. But teaching against doctrine is itself a doctrine. Doctrine is nothing more than teaching. The Bible has a set of teachings. The teaching Christianity needs is the teaching of the Word.

The pastor’s ministry is not all a positive declaration of what is believed. Sometimes the pastor holds to the Word by rebuking those who oppose right doctrine. Careful pastoral teaching declares truth and rebukes error. In the current cultural climate the calling out of error is often greeted with outrage. Even churches that have sound doctrine are often reluctant to hear preaching against false doctrine. This simply must not be. The preaching of truth contains both positive and negative elements. The pastor who holds to the Word will preach both.

The church cannot be healthy without an unwavering commitment to Scripture. A pastor cannot lead a church into spiritual health if he does not hold fast to the Word. The pastor is entrusted with a grave responsibility. The ministry requires much care, diligence, prayer, study and wisdom. He must be a man of the Word.

A Standard of Truth

March 16, 2017

The churches in the New Testament all held to a common body of doctrine. Though false teaching began to appear almost simultaneously with the spread of the gospel, the apostles all preached the same basic truths. These truths are called “the faith.” The New Testament refers to “the faith” in a way that indicates a recognized set of teachings that was the standard to which Christians were expected to adhere. The New Testament faith was larger than the doctrines of the gospel. Unfortunately, in the years since the writing of the New Testament the clarity of the apostles teaching has become confused.

The local church’s doctrinal statement summarizes the Biblical doctrines providing a “faith” to which all who are part of the church should adhere. No church should imagine that its doctrinal statement perfectly or completely captures all crucial New Testament doctrines. The local church should recognize that it is not a perfect receptacle of truth. The local church should be fully convinced of the truth of the doctrines it holds while humbly recognizing other orthodox Christians can, and do, reach different conclusions on important doctrines. The doctrinal statement is the local church’s attempt to give a summary statement of the New Testament faith.

The doctrinal statement is a boundary for church membership because it summarizes those beliefs which one must hold to be recognized as an obedient brother in Christ. Other Christians are still recognized as brethren in Christ, but fellowship is limited because of disagreement over significant doctrines. The boundary set by the statement of faith does not assume willful sin, nor does it presuppose antagonism with those who disagree. A wise use of the doctrinal statement strives to be as charitable as possible by viewing many doctrinal differences as well-intentioned errors. The doctrinal statement should be applied as honestly as possible by recognizing well intentioned error as genuine error that cannot be overlooked.

The New Testament teaches the body of doctrine necessary for unity, growth and protection in the church. Ephesians 4:13 says that God gave leadership gifts to the church to equip believers to do the work of the ministry. The aim of the work of the ministry within the local church is to bring believers into the “unity of the faith”, the “knowledge of the Son of God” and “unto a perfect man”. Maturity in Jesus is evidenced by doctrinal stability and the ability to speak truth in love. A well written doctrinal statement provides the church with a clear guide to promote spiritual maturity within its members.

God has entrusted the church with the responsibility to uphold truth in this world. The statement of faith offers a concise recitation of those truths which the church upholds. The doctrinal statement establishes a written baseline to which the doctrine of all members, teachers and preachers will be held accountable. The confession of faith answers ahead of time difficult questions of the faith, presents a definite stance on doctrinal controversies and helps protect against well-meaning compromises that would ultimately prove destructive to the unity of the church. The statement of faith protects the doctrinal integrity of the local church.