Monday, November 28, 2011

Sunday's Sermons

On Sunday we were pleased to welcome Mike McKinley to the pulpit of Church of the Saviour. Mike's sermon, The Disciple's Marathon can be listened to or downloaded HERE.

Mike is the author of two helpful books:

Mike writes regularly for the 9 Marks Ministries blog Church Matters.

On Sunday evening I preached a message from 2 Corinthians 2:12-17 entitled Conquered By Christ.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Ravi Zacharias reponds to a Muslim's question...

Jesus Saves

Unequivocally, Scripture highlights Jesus' death and resurrection when it speaks of his saving accomplishment. It does, however, paint a fuller picture and mentions seven additional aspects of Christ's saving work.

sinless life
second coming

Brief definitions are in order. The incarnation is the Son of God's becoming a human being by a supernatural conception in Mary's womb. Christ's sinless life is his living from birth to death without sinning in thought, word, or deed. His ascension is his public return to the Father by 'going up' from the Mount of Olives. His session is his sitting down at God the Father's right hand after his ascension. Pentecost, as much Christ's saving work as any other event on the list, is his pouring out the Holy Spirit on the church in newness and power. His intercession includes his perpetual presentation in heaven of his finished cross work and his prayers on behalf of his saints. His second coming is his return in glory at the end of the age to bless his people and judge his enemies.

From Salvation Accomplished by the Son by Robert Peterson

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Gospel of Pragmatism

Check out this edition of the White Horse Inn.

Why do so many contemporary churches or best-selling Christian books focus almost exclusively on practical application rather than doctrinal truth? Why do most Christians prefer to talk about their own testimonies or changed lives, rather than arguing for the truth of the Christian faith?On this edition of White Horse Inn, the hosts take a look at the philosophy of pragmatism and its effects on contemporary Christian thought and practice.

Thanksgiving Parades

Take time to read this excellent article by Michael Horton.

“Sacrifice and offering you do not desire, but you have given me an open ear. Burnt offering and sin offering you have not required; Then I said, ‘Here I am; in the scroll of the book it is written of me. I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart’” (Ps 40:6-8, emphasis added; cf Ps 51:16). Mediating God’s dispute with his people, the prophets repeat the psalmist’s refrain against those who dare to bring their sacrifices while violating his covenant (Hos 6:6; Am 4:4; Mal 1:8). Jesus takes up the theme as well (Mt 9:13). Obedience is better than sacrifice, because thanksgiving is even greater than forgiveness.

Far from downplaying the importance of the sacrifices, the psalmist is pointing to Christ, the one who is not only a guilt offering, but actually renders at last the thank-offering: the covenantal faithfulness that humanity in Adam has failed to yield. That is how the writer to the Hebrews interprets it. No New Testament writer is more eager to highlight the significance of Christ’s sacrifice of atonement—the guilt offering. Yet his point (consistent with the psalmist’s), is that something greater is needed. Not only is a greater guilt-offering required, since the old covenant sacrifices could never take away sins but only cover them over in typological anticipation of Christ; something more than a guilt-offering itself is envisioned. The writer points out that the burnt offering always reminded worshippers, as well as God, of their guilt. Although it made temporary provision, it always highlighted the negative breach that required satisfaction. In other words, we might say, it never transcended the debt-economy. If these sacrifices would have actually remitted all of their guilt for the course of their entire lives, the worshiper would not have to return home after the Day of Atonement still burdened by “any consciousness of sin” (Heb 10:2). “But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sin year after year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (v 4).

This, I maintain, is what the psalmist had in mind when he recognized the weakness of the old covenant sacrificial system. Forgiveness is good, but obedience is better. God delights in forgiving debts, but his deepest joy—in fact, his requirement—is the faithful love and obedience of the covenant servant whom he created in his own image, with the mission of entering into the sabbath day with the whole creation in toe. The old covenant sacrifices did not absolve transgressors of guilt once and for all, so their negative function (forgiveness) was temporary, and furthermore, such sacrifices could not offer to God the positive obedience (justification) that God required of his covenant partner.

In Christ, however, both types of sacrifices converge: not only is he the only qualified substitute for the guilt of sinners; he is the only one capable of rendering the life of thankful obedience in which God truly delights.

That voice you are hearing in your heart is not God...

That little voice in your heart is not God speaking. He does not speak in your heart. He speaks outside of us from His own word. That means the pressure is off! You don't have to strain to hear God's voice in your heart and hope that you're hearing the right voice. God has already spoken outside of us. And that is how God still speaks - through his own perfect and holy word.

In his outstanding new book Good News for Anxious Christians, Phillip Cary has an excellent chapter entitled "Why You Don't Have to Hear God's Voice in Your Heart OR, How God Really Speaks Today. Dr. Cary writes:

[The] place to look for God's word is not in your heart but in the gathering of God's people for worship, prayer, preaching, and teaching.

That is why the apostle says, "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs" (Col. 3:16)...This happens when the people of God gather together as a congregation in the name of Christ, teaching and admonishing and singing God's word to one another...

[Nothing] has changed in this regard since biblical times. The Spirit has always spoken through external words. Biblical prophets, for instance, never talk about hearing God in their own hearts. That's just not what they say about their own experience. They often tell us about their dreams and visions, but they know nothing of the practice we have been taught today where you try to quiet yourself and hear God's voice in your heart.

That's not how the Spirit speaks, because that's not why the Spirit speaks. He does not come to give people private instructions - that's not what prophecy was ever for - but to join them to the community of God's people. So the best place to hear him now is in a gathered congregation of the Body of Christ, where he is present to teach, comfort, warn, and guide all who believe. His speaking is not an inner experience but a shared event, just like the teaching and admonishing that happened when the New Testament church was filled with the Spirit...

When I talk about this biblical view of the Spirit with my students, they often ask, "But are you saying God doesn't speak today?" Now you know my answer. Of course God speaks today! His speaking today in the word of Christ is what saves us and makes us Christians, and that is what the Holy Spirit is all about. He speaks when the words of the prophets and apostles found in Scripture are preached and taught and sung and prayed, especially in the gathering of his people for worship. He speaks whenever the gospel of Jesus Christ dwells in us richly.

What my students' question shows is that they have never thought of this as God speaking. For them, the only way God can speak today is in the privacy of their own hearts. That's the only way they have ever heard of God's speaking - the only way they have ever heard it talked about, even in church. They have literally not been taught to hear the gospel as God's word.

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Thursday, November 24, 2011

S. Lewis Johnson

Your one-stop shop for S. Lewis Johnson resources HERE.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Books for Pastors...

Pastoring and pain go together. If you are involved in pastoral leadership then you will experience the barbs of criticism, the grief of your own sin, and the loneliness of leadership. Biblical counsel from wise brothers, therefore, is essential.

If you are a pastor then you ought to have the following books on regular rotation for your yearly reading:

New Life in the Wasteland by Douglas Kelly

The Cross and Christian Ministry by D.A. Carson

Pastors Under Pressure by James Taylor

The Roots of Endurance by John Piper

The Call to Joy and Pain by Ajith Fernando

Under the Unpredictable Plant by Eugene Peterson

Keeping Snakes out of the Garden

Typically good stuff from Carl Trueman on the vital role of elders:

Greg Beale has a fascinating section on elders in his new A New Testament Biblical Theology, pp. 819-23. Here he underscores the importance of the office for protecting the church from false teachers, especially those who arise within her ranks. It is this internal struggle which is part, a significant part, of the tribulation of the church since the inauguration of the last days. This is one reason why elders are necessary: they are the bodyguards of the flock; and the flock more often than not needs to be protected from the wolves in sheep's clothing who have sneaked in under the fence.

Two questions flow from this. First, what implications does this have for those who play with false teaching or false teachers within a churchly context, be it a church conference, a Sunday service or a presbytery meeting? I do not mean those who appear on seminar panels with atheists and heretics outside of the ecclesiastical realm. I mean those who bring these people into things such meetings of the church as the church or platforms where all are proposed as believers. It surely means that they have failed to fulfill their role as elders and have become part of the problem, not part of the solution. Alleged open-mindedness, curiosity or outward-looking geniality are no excuse. The office of the elder is to keep the serpent out of the garden. It is that simple. And if you cannot stand the social stigma and cultural marginalisation that goes with the task -- inevitably goes with the task, one might stress -- that is OK; you simply need to step down from your position and do something for which you are better equipped.

Second, why do evangelicals, who claim to be people of the Bible, so often try to solve the problems of the church by looking to non-ecclesiastical confederations as the primary platforms to make their stands for the truth? Faced with blasphemy and false teaching in Ephesus, Paul does not develop a strategy of setting up parallel organisations above and beyond the church to solve the problem; rather he instructs Timothy to appoint qualified men as elders. Not a perfect solution -- these men were presumably fallible and sinful like the rest of us -- but it is the biblical solution. That should surely count for a lot in any context where the Bible is taken with appropriate seriousness.

Upcoming Sermon Series...

Beginning in January (Lord willing) will I will launch a series of sermons through the book of Philippians. I have been spending some time outlining the epistle and the following is what I have come up with:

Partners in the Gospel
A Study of Philippians
1 - Servants, Saints, and the Savior (1:1-2)
2 - Gospel Partnership (1:3-8)
3 - A Knowing, Discerning Love (1:9-11)
4 - Capturing Calamity for Christ (1:12-14)
5 - So Long as Christ is Preached (1:15-18)
6 - How to Live When Dying is Gain (1:18b-26)
7 - Living Worthy of the Gospel (1:27-30)
8 - Have This Mind (2:1-11)
9 - The Song of the Savior (2:5-11)
10 - Of Working and Willing (2:12-13)
11 - The Fruit of Paul's Labors (2:14-18)
12 - Worthy Ministers (2:19-30)
13 - Rejoice in the Lord (3:1)
14 - When Loss is Gain (3:2-11)
15 - Restful Striving (3:12-16)
16 - Following The Right Example (3:17-4:1)
17 - The Agreement that Trumps Differences (4:2-3)
18 - Living in Light of the Nearness of God (4:4-7)
19 - What Do You Think? (4:8-9)
20 - Strengthened for Contentment (4:10-13)
21 - Gospel-Driven Giving (4:14-23)

Monday, November 14, 2011

Sunday's Sermon

On Sunday I preached part 5 in our current series on the Great Commission, The Mission. It is entitled "For All The World" and can be listened to or downloaded HERE.

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Power of God

Outside of heaven, the power of God in its highest density is found inside the gospel. This must be so, for the Bible twice describes the gospel as "the power of God" [Rom 1:16; 1 Cor 1:18]. Nothing else in all of Scripture is ever described in this way, except for the Person of Jesus Christ. Such a description indicates that the gospel is not only powerful, but that it is the ultimate entity which God's power resides and does its greatest work.

Indeed, God's power is seen in erupting volcanoes, in the unimaginably hot boil of our massive sun, and in the lightening speed of a recently discovered star seen streaking through the heavens at 1.5 million miles per hour. Yet in Scripture such wonders are never labeled "the power of God." How powerful, then, must the gospel be that it would merit such a title! And how great is the salvation it could accomplish in my life, if I would only embrace it by faith and give it a central place in my thoughts each day!

From A Gospel Primer by Milton Vincent

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Church Revitalization: Costly but Worth It...

I have been deeply encouraged and challenged by Pastor Andrew Davis' testimony of God's faithfulness to reform First Baptist Church of Durham, N.C. Leading a church from unhealthy to healthy is a costly endeavor. The stress can be overwhelming. The attacks from the enemy can feel unrelenting. And certainly, apart from God's grace, church revitalization is impossible.

Take time to read the story of First Baptist Durham. It is a harrowing story but profoundly encouraging.

Rehearsing the Gospel

There is simply no other way to compete with the forebodings of my conscience, the condemnings of my heart, and the lies of the world and the Devil than to overwhelm such things with daily rehearsings of the gospel.
Milton Vincent from A Gospel Primer (p. 14)

Adam and the Gospel

Al Mohler led a helpful discussion on the importance of an historical Adam to the Gospel narrative. In addition to Dr. Mohler, the panelists were Jim Hamilton, Tom Schreiner, Chad Brand, and Steve Wellum. Download it audio HERE and video HERE.

On saying "No."

The Church of our day needs above all else men who can say "No"; for it is only men who can say "No," men who are brave enough to take a stand against sin and error in the Church—it is only such men who can really say "Yea and amen" to the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
- J. Gresham Machen

HT: Dan Phillips

Sunday's Sermon

On Sunday I preached part 4 in our current series The Mission. The sermon is entitled "Our Gospel Imperative" and is based on Matthew 28:16-19a. You can listen to or download it HERE.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Enns, Evolution, and Al Mohler

Dr. Jim Hamilton has written two helpful posts (here and here) responding to some recent comments from Peter Enns on evolution and the reliability of the Bible. Along the way Dr. Enns takes issue with Al Mohler's commitment to the reliability of the biblical record of origins.

Luther and the Word

An outstanding address from Dr. Timothy George (a Southern Baptist) on Martin Luther's life and legacy. Excellent...

HT: Justin Taylor

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Nine Marks Journal

The latest edition of the Nine Marks Journal is outstanding. The theme is church revitalization and will be particularly helpful for those who help to lead churches struggling with a significant need for greater health or even reform.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Sunday's Sermon

October 30 was Reformation Sunday. In light of that I preached a message entitled "Justified" which explores the doctrine of justification by faith from Romans 1:16-17. You can listen to or download it HERE.