Rockport Sermon

Thursday, November 20, 2008

True Christianity

Someone asked me recently what the Bible says about a person who claims to be a Christian, and yet continues to live in sin. My answer, pretty much off the top of my head is as follows:

Matthew 7:15-23 is very clear. The fruit of conversion will be evident. The person who merely claims to know Jesus, but does not bear the fruit of a changed life is simply fooling themselves. They are inwardly wolves, not sheep. v 18 says that a good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. The fruit of the life will give evidence to whether or not the heart has been changed by grace

Romans 8:5-8 makes clear that those who are still "in the flesh" cannot please God, indeed they do not know God. Here he is speaking again of the genuine change brought by the new brith which changes a person. Without that change and the new life it brings, those who profess themselves to be Christian are merely fooling themselves.

John in 1 John goes even further as he says that those who are truly born of God (ie, have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit into faith and new life) will give clear evidence of that fact. They will desire to keep his commandments (1 Jn 2:2-4), walk in a lifestyle that follows after Christ (2:5-6); love his fellow believers (2:9f); does not love this world (2:15f); and does not practice sin as a lifestlye (3:4-10). In fact the whole book of 1 John exists to provide tests for true, as opposed to a false conversion (see 5:13). John more than once says that the one who claims to know Christ, and yet lives in continuing sin is a liar and the truth is not in him. (2:4; 4:20).

Indeed, someone who believes that a person can "accept Jesus" and continue to live in sin yet still go to heaven simply betrays the fact that the do not understand the nature of salvation at all. Jesus said "unless a man is born again he cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven" (John 3). By that he means, there must be a radical, God-wrought change of the whole heart and mind evidenced by repentance (a turning from sin) and an embrace of a new life in Christ. Anything short of that is not Christian.

The ultimate definition of such gracious conversion is found in Ezekiel 36:25-29 where God says he will take away the heart of stone (that did not respond to God) and replace it with a heart of flesh (that does) so that those who are saved are made clean and begin to walk in all God's ordinances and observe His way. (There are passages in Jeremiah that say the same thing).

I could go on and on since there is so much that needs to be said here. This is so much a part of the "meat" of the Bible's teaching that it really astounds me when people miss it. We live in an age where so many have come to believe that salvation is a merely human decision, rather than understanding that it is a gracious work of God upon the human heart that brings a real and lasting change.

My friend Paul Washer gives a good summary here, let me just pass this short video along.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

MUSIC AND SUCH

There has been much discussion lately concerning worship, and I am so glad that our little congregation seems to have grown in this area and there is a sweetness in our fellowship that I have been longing for. But the subject of worship does come up periodically, and there is nothing wrong with that. We reformed people ought not to exclude worship in our examination of truth. Having said that, I hasten to add that there are always differences of opinions as to what is "best". Let me begin with just a few thoughts on the choice of music in our services.

We simply can’t insist that we have the inside track on what kind of music God likes. That would be a very arrogant assumption indeed. We are left then with the type of music we think is best, which opinions are very subjective.

We should strive hard to understand one another and prefer one another. What does this mean in a corporate worship setting? I will try to struggle through this. First of all, preferring one another would mean that I am not thinking about myself first. But that doesn’t mean that I am thinking about others first. In corporate worship, I ought to be focused first and foremost on what God thinks. Since all I have to go on is God’s word, the songs that we sing ought to be centered on the truths that we find revealed in scripture. Secondly, what happens in our worship services should reflect something of what happened in worship services we see in scripture.

Now, it has been said by some reformed leaders that our worship should reflect what we see in New Testament modes of worship and not Old Testament. But is this fair? I have to raise that issue because in every other issue that reformed people discuss, they would only expect dispensationalists to arrive at their interpretation of scripture that way. Why is the subject of worship any different? Is it because, God forbid, these reformed leaders have a prejudice to one type of music? Why would any reformed teacher attempt to arrive at a conclusion on the issue of worship by the same methods they accuse dispensationalists of? Now, we may be arriving at an important point. Good theology! But we will save that for later discussion
Of course I am being facetious, but you get my point.

So, in preferring one another, we certainly must learn to understand that the things that happen in our worship services ought to be subject to biblical guidelines, and those guidelines must be subject to the same rules of interpretation that we use to discuss every other issue. That is, that if the plain, literal, grammatical, historical sense of the words make sense, then we ought to interpret them literally.
So, as we examine the subject of corporate worship, we should strive to make scripture the standard, if I can call it that, by which we allow our thinking about this subject to be molded. Here again, I hesitate to use the word molded, because we are all different and ought to have no desire to make anyone else like us. But in discussing any subject, believers must always bow to scripture if scripture speaks, and yield our thinking to God’s Word.

Now, I have not answered the question as to what type of music God likes. According to scripture, there is a variety. They are called Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. I have briefly discussed my opinions on these before and may again at a later time, but suffice it to say for now, that there ought to be a variety of scripture based songs. Underlying my discussion also are the various expressions we see in different worship settings, but again, scripture is to be our guide.

We will continue to strive for this variety, and allow freedom for a variety of expressions in our worship experience. We are not even allowing. We are simply being who we are and yet exhorting one another to in honor, prefer one another. Each member should pray about what that means as they yield themselves to the sweet influence of God’s Spirit.

Monday, November 17, 2008

We've updated our website

We've finally updated our church website. It's not done yet, but we're making progress. You can find it here.

Thanks, John, for you all your hard work.
SSL

Thursday, November 13, 2008

the Unfailing Love of God for sinners

Communion with God involves receiving His love, and loving Him supremely.
Many Christians carry issues with themselves because they have never fully received the Love of the Father. I struggled with this for years, because I could not fully believe that God could fully love someone like me. What arrogance.
So, I empathize with those who are yet failing to comprehend such grace as we have from our Father.
It is as if they feel that to fully receive the complete love and forgiveness of the Father would be an act of pride. They don’t deserve it, so they feel that they will carry a measure of guilt and remorse around with them. They have never fully accepted the grace of God for themselves and thus feel that no one else deserves it either. And they are correct in that. But they are victims of a strange disease. The health of others. I know... I was there once. I understand. Give it up. None of us are worthy, but God is very gracious and has extended His mercy to the worst of us.
It hurts such people to see others full of joy because they themselves could never be full of such joy. It bothers them that others are not as miserable in their Christianity as they are. They feel that everyone should suffer continuously as they do. Never living in the vitality of such invitations as to come boldly before the throne of grace. So they meander through the mundaneness of their ordinary existence, never attempting to believe enough to pray that God would reveal His glory to them, for their faith is not in the completely finished work of Jesus Christ, but rather a combination of sorts involving self-flagellation or self-pity. It is an attempt of kinds at meriting goodness from God. And at the bottom of it all is..PRIDE. This is something that all of us sooner or later have to come to terms with and repent. There is nothing that we could do to make God love us any more than He does, and there is nothing that we could do to make Him love us any less.
You simply cannot share intimacy with Christ unless you are secure in His love for you.
He has loved us with an everlasting love.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A Post-Election Prayer (Or how to survive an Obama presidency as a conservative)

1 We give thanks to you, O God; we give thanks, for your name is near. We recount your wondrous deeds. 2 "At the set time that I appoint I will judge with equity. 3 When the earth totters, and all its inhabitants, it is I who keep steady its pillars. 4 I say to the boastful, 'Do not boast,' and to the wicked, 'Do not lift up your horn; 5 do not lift up your horn on high, or speak with haughty neck.'" 6 For not from the east or from the west and not from the wilderness comes lifting up, 7 but it is God who executes judgment, putting down one and lifting up another. 8 For in the hand of the LORD there is a cup with foaming wine, well mixed, and he pours out from it, and all the wicked of the earth shall drain it down to the dregs. 9 But I will declare it forever; I will sing praises to the God of Jacob. 10 All the horns of the wicked I will cut off, but the horns of the righteous shall be lifted up.
Psalm 75:1-10


Like most conservatives, I am greeting the Obama presidency with a great sense of dismay. It has nothing to do with his racial heritage. I'm honestly glad to see that barrier broken. It has to do with his policies. I am honestly concerned about the direction such a liberal politician will take this country. That being said, however, I am willing to pray for him as he takes his new place of office, and to seek the Lord for the good of our nation. That, I believe, is my civic (and Christian) duty according to Romans 13.

But how does a dyed-in-the-wool political conservative, who is also a believer and follower of Jesus Christ survive the next few years? Psalm 75 gives me direction as well as a great deal of encouragment that I'd like to share with you.

(1) Rivet your eyes on the Supremacy of God v 1 says, We give thanks to you, O God; we give thanks, for your name is near. We recount your wondrous deeds. So here is the question I must ask myself. Is God just as near today as he was yesterday...or last week...or 12 months ago? Is He not just as Sovereign? Psalm 90:2 says "Before the mountains were born Or You gave birth to the earth and the world, Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God." Knowing that, as I fix my eyes on Him and look back over his proven track record of faithfulness, I am encouraged about the future!

(2) Keep Listening to His Sovereign Word of Promise vv 2-5 continues as God speaks, "At the set time that I appoint I will judge with equity. When the earth totters, and all its inhabitants, it is I who keep steady its pillars. I say to the boastful, 'Do not boast,' and to the wicked, 'Do not lift up your horn; do not lift up your horn on high, or speak with haughty neck.'"

Men boast in small things – like elections! But men do not utlimately determine the course of this world, nor it’s final outcome! God alone remains the judge! And He tells us that He has set a day when all the earth shall be judge by His Son. Acts 17:31 declares
"He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead."
God has set the day. God will determine the outcome! Nothing has escaped, or can escape his eye. Justice will indeed be done.

And then, I love v 3, "When the earth totters, and all its inhabitants, it is I who keep steady its pillars." It seemed like that on election night, at least for me. And yet, I see God's steadying hand underlying all things. And I see the promise of vv 4-5 as well,
"I say to the boastful, 'Do not boast,' and to the wicked, 'Do not lift up your horn;
do not lift up your horn on high, or speak with haughty neck.'"
The proud and arrogant boaster of this world, whether Republican or Democrat, have their day. But it is God who gets the final say. The "horn" in Scripture almost always refers to someone's "strength", especially when they boast about it. When Republicans were in charge, they made many boasts, and yet accomplished very little they promised. Now the Democrats are in charge, having flooded the world with their promises -- most of which they will not fulfill. Man's best attempts at societal self-remedy will continue to fall short. God's purposes alone cannot fail, and therefore neither can His promises. It is to these I now cling.

(3) Remember that God is still in control vv 6-7 For not from the east or from the west and not from the wilderness comes lifting up, but it is God who executes judgment, putting down one and lifting up another." God willed this outcome! Can you doubt that? Now I don’t know if God has willed it for our blessing, or as an aspect of judgement. That’s not my call, right now. But I know this – “He works all things after the purpose of His will” Eph 1:11. And "in all things He is working for good, for those who love Him" Rm 8:28.

Thus v 8 continues...
For in the hand of the LORD there is a cup with foaming wine, well mixed,
and he pours out from it, and all the wicked of the earth shall drain it down to the dregs.
There is a righteousness in God that will hold every person to account for their sin -- not just the politicians, and not just liberals or conservatives -- but you and me as well! We are responsible for our actions. We will be held accountable for our words, for those things we have done, and those we've left undone. Rm 2:5 says that on account of our evil behavior we are “storing up wrath” for ourselves. And a day is coming when God will pour out his judgment on all mankind for the things we've done. You and I will face that judgment, unless it has been poured out on another in our place -- God's own Son whom He sent to be a propitiation for our sins (Rm 3:25; 1 Jn 4:10). A propitiation means "a sacrifice that takes away wrath." That's what Christ has done for his people, he has satisfied the wrath of God against our sin, by taking it upon Himself!

You may remember Jesus' prayer in the Garden just before He was crucified. He says, ”Father take this cup from me!” (Lk 22:42). What was in the cup? It was the cup of God’s wrath against our sin! Christ was about to drain it down to its dregs for his people. And he has now done so! He has taken the wrath of God for all who will be saved. But those outside of Christ, still have a cup to drink. God’s justice will be done.

Knowing that frees me to let the outcome of recent events remain in God's hands not mine. And not with bitterness, as if I want bad things to happen to those now in power. Not at all. For the sake of this nation I pray they govern well. But even if they don't. I know that God is still in control and -- in a nation like ours -- another elections cycle is coming. That allows me the joy of this final thing....

(4) Keep Praising and Trusting God for His Sovereign Grace vv 9-10 But I will declare it forever; I will sing praises to the God of Jacob. All the horns of the wicked I will cut off, but the horns of the righteous shall be lifted up.

The day is coming, when God will right every wrong, and punish all sin. Evil will be forever dethroned and righteousness forever exalted. And Christ's redeemed from every nation tribe and tongue of all the earth will praise Him forever and ever, to the praise of the glory of His grace.

It is to that day I am looking with hope!

Soli Deo Gloria,
SSL


Monday, November 3, 2008

Bob's Dream Season

Brother Bob Schembre, our "Football Playin' Preacher," has made it through his dream season of playing football for Westminster College! We're glad to have him back at Rockport safe and sound and leading worship as he begins to serve with us again. For those of you who missed Bob's Dream Season, here is a news report from a Columbia, MO station. Bob, as soon as you get the time, why don't you give us a wrap-up of what you've learned from this season and what it's meant to you?

Grace and peace


video