Saturday, December 15, 2007

Christian Smith's staggering findings among *conservative* Christian youth

Dr. Curry pointed these things out to us in his lectures on the subject:

Contemporary sociological research on the nature of adolescent religion, from Christian Smith's book: Soul Searching


I. Smith contends that there is a fair number of adolescents who claim that relig-ion is important in their lives and they engage in fairly regular religious practices, such as church attendance, prayer and devotional reading. Even though this is the case, adolescents don’t seem to be very aware of the character and nature of the religious commitments they claim to prize. He is dismayed by the overwhelming ignorance of teens and especially of those from conservative contexts.


A. “If there is indeed a significant number of American teens who are serious and lucid about their religious faith, there is also a much larger number who are remarkably inarticulate and befuddled about religion.” (27)


B. Conservative protestants seemed to fall short of any consensus on em-bracing historic conservative beliefs. Page 44 lists some of the confu-sion. “Likewise, significant portions of conservative Protestant youth are not assured about the existence of angels (21 percent report maybe or not at all), miracles (23 percent), life after death (38 percent), or the ex-istence of evil spirits (43 percent report maybe or not at all). On the other hand, 33 percent of conservative Protestant youth may or defi-nitely believe in reincarnation, 33 percent in astrology, 31 percent in communicating with the dead, and 21 percent in psychics and fortune-tellers. For a tradition that has strongly emphasized the infallibility or inerrancy of the Bible, the exclusive claims of conservative Christianity, and the need for a personal commitment of one’s life to God, some of these numbers are astounding.” 44


C. Smith points out some alarming trends among conservative protestant teens with regard to pluralism. “About half of their teens say that many religions may be true; more than one-third say it is okay to practice mul-tiple religions; more than one-quarter say it is okay to pick and choose one’s religious beliefs and not accept the teachings of one’s faith as a whole; and nearly two-thirds say a person can be truly religious and spiritual without being involved in a church…it certainly does appear to represent a large current-day gap between what most conservative Protestant pastors and leaders want their teens to assume and believe and what many conservative Protestant teens actually do assume and believe.” (77)


II. Smith contends that parents play the central role in the religious beliefs and practices of teens. That is teens are most likely to adopt the religious convictions and practices of their parents and hence the religious ex-pression of teens coincides with that of parents. The weaknesses in teen religious understandings most likely parallels the significant adults in their lives.


A. “…for a significant number of U.S. teens, religion and spirituality are not simply compartmentalized in church, synagogue, mosque, or temple, but are also expressed and shared in the family life of the home…For better or worse, most parents in fact still do profoundly influence their adoles-cents–often more than do their peers–their children’s apparent resis-tance and lack of appreciation notwithstanding…Most teenagers and their parents may not realize it, but a lot of research in the sociology of religion suggests that the most important influence in shaping young people’s religious lives is the religious life modeled and taught to them by their parents.” (56) “By normal processes of socialization, and unless other significant forces intervene, more than what parents might say they want as religious outcomes in their children, most parents most likely will end up getting religiously of their children what they themselves are.” (57) Religious teens tend to have many friends who share their religious values. (58) School does not seem to be a venue in which religion oc-cupies an overt place. (59) The authors suggest evidence that adults other than parents provide some religious connection and support for teens in their religious lives. (61)


III. The authors of the study find little evidence for teens who are spiritual seek-ers but who are not religious.


A. “Overall, therefore, our general conclusion based on these data remains the same: the phenomenon of spiritual seeking recently discussed by many observers of American religion is, according to the best available nationally representative evidence…very limited in the extent of its in-fluence among American teenagers. There clearly are some teenagers who think of themselves as spiritual but not religious and who behave in various ways like the new spiritual seekers that writers have discussed in recent years. But they appear to be a very small percentage of all U.S. teens. And even among them, it is not easy to find one who is clear and articulate about what it all means. It appears to be much more an amorphous feeling or sensibility than a specific idea or experience cata-lyzing a significant cultural or religious movement.” (83)


IV. Moralistic therapeutic deism appears to be the majority of teens whether from conservative or mainline denominations.


A. Smith summarizes moralistic therapeutic deism, what he calls the de facto religion of most teens, thusly: “1. A god exists who created and orders the world and watches over human life on earth. 2. God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions. 3. The central goal of life it to be happy and to feel good about oneself. 4. God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when God is needed to resolve some problem. 5. God peo-ple go to heaven when they die.” (162, 163) He further notes these characteristics that moralistic therapeutic deism: “is about inculcating a moralistic approach to life…about providing therapeutic benefits to its adherents…about belief in a particular kind of God: one who exists, cre-ated the world, and defines our general moral order, but not one who is particularly personally involved in one’s affairs–especially affairs in which one would prefer not to have God involved.” (163, 164) Smith compares his moralistic therapeutic deism to Bellah’s notion of American Civil Religion, see 168-170.


B. Smith concludes that although many think teens are distinctive in their re-ligious views they share the views of most adults. “For it appears to us, another popular religious faith, Moralistic Therapeutic Deism, is colo-nizing many historical religious traditions and, almost without anyone noticing, converting believers in the old faiths to its alternative religious vision of divinely underwritten personal happiness and niceness…But we can say here that we have come with some confidence to believe that a significant part of Christianity in the United States is actually only tenuously Christian in any sense that is seriously connected tot he ac-tual historical Christian tradition, but has rather substantially morphed into Christianity’s misbegotten step cousin, Christian Moralistic Thera-peutic Deism.” (171)

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Ryle's 100 year old antidote to a "vague, dim, misty, hazy kind of theology"

This is from page 12 of J.C. Ryle's classic book Holiness:

I say, then, in the first place, that a scriptural view of sin is one of the best antidotes to that vague, dim, misty, hazy kind of theology which is so painfully current in the present age. It is vain to shut our eyes to the fact that there is a vast quantity of so-called Christianity nowadays which you cannot declare positively unsound, but which, nevertheless, is not full measure, good weight, and sixteen ounces to the pound. It is a Christianity in which there is undeniably "something about Christ, and something about grace, and something about faith, and something about repentance, and something about holiness"; but is it not the real "thing as it is" in the Bible. Things are out of place, and out of proportion. As old Latimer would have said it is a kind of "mingle-mangle," and does no good. It neither exercises influence on daily conduct, nor comforts in life, nor gives peace in death; and those who hold it, often awake too late to find that they have got nothing solid under their feet. Now I believe the likeliest way to cure and mend this defective kind of religion is to bring forward more prominently the old scriptural truth about the sinfulness of sin. People will never set their faces decidedly towards heaven, and live like pilgrims, until they really feel that they are in danger of hell. Let us all try to revive the old teaching about sin, in nurseries, in schools, in training college, in universities. ... We may depend upon it, men will never come to Jesus, and stay with Jesus, and live for Jesus, unless they really know why they are to come, and what is their need. Those whom the Spirit draws to Jesus are those whom the Spirit has convinced of sin. Without thorough conviction of sin, men may seem to come to Jesus and follow Him for a season, but they will soon fall away and return to the world. ... It is thought grand and wise to condemn no opinion whatsoever, and to pronounce all earnest and clever teachers to be trustworthy, however heterogeneous and mutually destructive their opinions may be. Everything forsooth is true, and nothing is false! Everybody is right, and nobody is wrong! Everybody is likely to be saved, and nobody is to be lost! The atonement and substitution of Christ, the personality of the devil, the miraculous element in Scripture, the reality and eternity of future punishment, all these mighty foundation-stones are coolly tossed overboard, like lumber, in order to lighten the ship of Christianity...

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Video I used as inspiration for a sermon illustration about the beauty of the planets

I love the Bach piano piece with this. Enjoy the absolutely astounding beauty of all that God made:

Click this to see the Video of Planets

Why God’s People Continue - sermon on Psalm 124

Why God’s People Continue

I. Introduction
In the 5th chapter of the book of Joshua, we read a remarkable story. Joshua 5:13-15, “Now it came about when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing opposite him with his sword drawn in his hand, and Joshua went to him and said to him, "Are you for us or for our adversaries?" [14] He said, "No; rather I indeed come now as captain of the host of the Lord." And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and bowed down, and said to him, "What has my lord to say to his servant?" [15] The captain of the Lord's host said to Joshua, "Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy." And Joshua did so.”
One the eve of the first step in Israel’s conquest of the promised land, Joshua, their new leader, comes to take a look at the city of Jericho and sees a man with his sword drawn. Joshua walks up to him and asks him an either-or question: “Are you for us or for our adversaries?” The answer that comes back is, “No; rather I indeed come now as captain of the host of the Lord.” Joshua falls down and worships – an act which would have elicited a quick rebuke had this been merely a man or an angel. Joshua knows this is Yahweh, his God. And at this point in the story, it has already been made quite clear that God is “for Israel.” God had delivered them from Egypt and sustained them through their wilderness wanderings. But for the moment, Yahweh is telling Joshua, “I’m on my own side for the time being.” Joshua asks Him if He has anything to tell Him, to which Yahweh responds, “Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy” and Joshua obeys.
This is directly relevant to Psalm 124. God is under no obligation to take anyone’s side. While all mankind should be abandoned to eternal judgment, the greatest of miracles is that God would choose to bind Himself to a certain group of sinners and be “for them” when He has every reason to be “against them.” God is a side-taker. There is a human history in progress because God has chosen to rescue a group of undeserving sinners to glorify His graciousness. Ephesians 1:6 gives us the reason we have been chosen and predestined unto adoption as God’s sons. And that reason is: “To the praise of the glory of His grace by which He has made up accepted in the Beloved.”
Psalm 124 is divided into two sections. Verses 1-5 are What would have happened. Verses 6-8 are All Praise be to God that it didn’t happen.

II. Verses 1-5 – What would have happened
Psalm 124:1, “A Song of Ascents, of David. "Had it not been the Lord who was on our side," Let Israel now say,”
Let all who have come to know God’s grace say these words together. The thought begun in verse 1 stops midway to interject, “Let Israel now say,” and then the thought begins again in verse 2. During times of peace, we forget so quickly and easily the calamity from which we have been delivered. The statement, “Had it not been the Lord who was on our side” is repeated because of the tendency we have to forget the height from which we fell and how great God’s rescue is. Ingratitude is perhaps the chief sin believers commit. Recall that the wrath of God itself is revealed from heaven because men fail to thank God – Romans 1:21, “they neither glorified nor thanked Him…”

Our Opposition – Men
Psalm 124:2-3 "[2]Had it not been the Lord who was on our side when men rose up against us,[3] Then they would have swallowed us alive, When their anger was kindled against us;”
Verses 2 and 3 introduce us to our opposition: Men. Specifically, angry men. What is it about man that would make him such a threat to us that a Psalm would be devoted to praising God for deliverance from Him? Consider the creativity of our God. We see it all around us. The wonders of animals, planets, mountains, trees, stars, and galaxies are unspeakable. Think of the fact that God Himself is the creator of human creativity. Our ability to write music, paint, craft sermons, build things, and invent are themselves the offspring of God’s creativity.
Consider the planets in our solar system. In the early 1970s, a young scientist discovered that once every 175 years, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune are aligned in such a way that something almost unthinkable would be possible. Rocket power can only get you as far as the planet Jupiter. But if you launched a probe toward Jupiter at just the right trajectory, when it ran out of fuel it would get caught in Jupiter’s gravity and would slingshot toward Saturn at just the right trajectory. Saturn’s gravity would then catch it and slingshot it toward Uranus at just the right trajectory. Uranus’ gravity would then catch it and slingshot it toward Neptune. This was the only chance we would have to see those planets up close for the next 175 years. When NASA heard of this, they quickly started work on the Voyager probe. Up to that point in time, we could only see fuzzy pictures of Jupiter, very fuzzy pictures of Saturn, a blurry blob on a screen of Uranus, and a blue pixel or two as Neptune. The interference from our atmosphere made getting a good look at any of those planets from ground-based telescopes impossible. The notion that we could have a probe right up next to them got people really excited. It took the probe 12 years to reach all the way to Neptune, but during its journey it took hundreds of beautiful pictures which people would crowd into theaters all over the world to see in the late 1970s and 1980s. Prior to the Voyager expedition, scientists believed the outer planets and their moons would be relatively simple in their composition and features. I’ve watched a number of DVDs wherein scientists were interviewed to get their reactions when they saw the crystal clear pictures being returned to earth from Voyager. One in particular said, “we all had our pet theories about what we were going to see, but the planets and their moons fooled us all… what we saw were far more complex situations than we could have ever imagined…” The scientists went on to describe how even to this day the way cloud formations work on Jupiter is not understood, how the variety of moons they found shocked them all (Io and its volcanoes, Europa and its covering of ice, and even a moon, Triton, which revolves around Neptune backwards). My reaction to the shock of the scientists was, “Of course! Think about who made all these things. Thing of the wondrous variety we see all around us in all the different types of animals, trees, mountains, clouds, stars, etc.” God is a God of wondrous variety and creativity. And the crowning glory and the greatest creative achievement of all that God made is: you and me – man. Man was created for fellowship with God. Man alone was created in the image of God. Man alone was given great gifts and talents to be used to subdue the world to God’s glory. Man is endowed with abilities given to him directly by God. As such, man is capable of amazing feats and deeds.
Think of the greatness of man. Think of the musical compositions of Beethoven, Mozart, Wagner, Tschaikovski, and Chopin, the works of art by Rembrant and Michelangelo. Man has cured numerous diseases, created anesthetic to alleviate pain, figured out how to transplant hearts and other organs, and on we could go. We’ve even walked on the moon. God himself recognized the danger of sinful man having only one language: Genesis 11:6, “The Lord said, "Behold, they are one people, and they all have the same language. And this is what they began to do, and now nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them.”” I’ve wondered how long ago we would have walked on the moon if God had never confused our languages. God saw that a free exchange of information would make our collective gifts able to accomplish almost anything we purposed to do.
The problem of course is that these great gifts exist in the hearts of sinful men. Perverted and corrupted evil, man is a force for great destruction. When you combine a sinful heart with a hatred with the intention to kill towards God’s people, unbelieving man is quite an adversary.
Man’s anger and rebellion stretch all the way back to infancy. In his Confessions, Augustine speaks of infants taking vengeance upon their parents by screaming and yelling when they cannot control them. I’ve seen this myself many times. Three out of my four children really preferred to have their diapers changed and were glad to lay still while you did it. But one of them was content to wallow in it all day – it didn’t bother him a bit. Tracking this one down and forcing him to lay still so you could change him was a marvelous illustration of the rebellion and anger that is inherent in sinners. He would kick and scream and yell and try to escape literally the entire time you were trying to change him. It got to the point where it was almost comical. I would hold him down with my left and work on the clean diaper with my right hand and just chuckle at him. I would watch him and think, “Wow, look at that.” As soon as a child is able to assert its own will and desires, it will do so. And even a 9 month-old thinks he has better things to do than submit to the will of someone else. That basic rebellion against authority extends toward God and will be a force to reckon with throughout the entirety of the child’s life. This rebellion will finally express itself in unbelief and hatred of God, His truth, and most relevantly to Psalm 124, His people.
Why are non-believers angry at believers? Why did Cain kill his brother, Abel. Did Abel provoke Cain? Did Abel steal something from him? Did Abel insult him? No. What made Cain so angry? God accepted Abel and his offering but rejected Cain and his offering. Cain was angry at Abel because of his right relationship with God. God looked favorably at Abel and not at him and this really bothered him. Something about seeing people at peace with God makes those who are not at peace with God very angry.
Anger is at the heart of much evil in the world. Wars begin because of anger. Murder is committed because of anger. Friendships are destroyed because of words spoken in anger. Anger brings out the worst in all men – believer and unbeliever alike.
I once wrote a letter to a friend my senior year in high-school while I was angry. Word to the wise, do not ever give anyone anything you wrote while you were angry. My friend gave the letter back to me with comments written in the margins and as I reread what I had written, I could hardly believe I actually wrote it. When you’re blood is hot with anger, it’s better not to say anything because angry words can cut and ruin people.
Anger leads to cruelty. I once read an autobiography of a Russian pastor named Haralan Popov who was arrested during the 1920s, taken away from his wife and two children, and imprisoned for 13 years. During that time he was brutally tortured and saw many fellow Christians die. At one point, after watching a man be beaten to death, he wrote, “no being is capable of sinking lower than a man – not even animals kill and torture for the thrill of it.”
Why is man this way? Because neutrality towards God is not possible. Jesus said everyone is either for or against Him. One either does conquest for Christ or for Satan. Men are born worshippers. Men’s hearts are incapable of remaining empty. They will either be filled with God or idolatry. Every man you meet has a heart filled either with God or idolatry. This religious impulse is consuming and it nags at his heart and makes him restless. Man without God is a miserable creature. God created man to long for Him. Because of sin there now exists a profound hatred of God. Man is constantly at war with Himself. He hates his greatest need and most intense inward desire.
On top of this, man’s rebellion against God is irrational. There is no shortage of evidence that God exists and that man is accountable to Him. God has also graciously given His book, the Bible, to the world – unsurpassed in its textual accuracy, historical reliability, cogency, and life-changing power – and yet many read and scoff at it. Jesus Christ lived, died, rose from the dead, and changed the entire history of the world. And men still reject Him. Man lives in unbelief of what he knows in His heart to be true. The final result of this: anger. Anger against God, against themselves, and most of all against the seed of the woman – the ones who enjoy the very peace which eludes them. The need to come to God in repentance coupled with the inability to do so haunts them.
Man hates what he is longing for.

With this arrayed against us, how long would we last without God on our side?
Psalm 124:3, “Then they would have swallowed us alive, When their anger was kindled against us;”
In verse 3 we learn of the speed with which we would be destroyed if God were not for us. “Swallowed alive” is the phrase used. Some predators must first kill their prey before they eat them. Others are designed in such a way that they swallow their prey while they are still alive. That’s how quickly the church would cease to exist if God did not protect it and restrain its enemies.

Key difference between us and them – method of conquest
Why would we be wiped out so quickly if God were not for us? The key difference between us and our enemies is the method with which we do conquest. The seed of the serpent, unbelievers, do conquest by murder. We, on the other hand, are called upon to do conquest by persuasion. We differ in the way we do warfare: 2 Cor. 10:3-5, “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, [4] for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. [5] We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.”
Picture two armies coming against one another. One is armed with a book, arguments, sermons, and sacraments. The other has tanks, grenades, machine guns, and artillery. Psalm 124:1-3, "Had it not been the Lord who was on our side," Let Israel now say, [2] "Had it not been the Lord who was on our side When men rose up against us, [3] Then they would have swallowed us alive, When their anger was kindled against us;” That’s the situation set before us. We are in a war and a battle. We don’t aim for casualties, but want to take prisoners and make them part of our army. Brothers only God can change the human heart – only God can take one of them and make them one of us.

Application from this
The success of our preaching ministry and the survival and expansion of the church is entirely dependant upon the Lord. The day He ceases to be on our side is the day we cease to exist! Our giftedness, talents, knowledge, and persuasiveness can accomplish nothing apart from God. Without God for us, we are doom, defeated, and undone – in an instant – “swallowed alive” the text says. Why are we still here? Why haven’t the waters engulfed us, the streams swept over us, and the raging waters swept over our souls? Because God chooses to be on our side, and for no other reason.

III. Verses 6-8 – All Praise be to God it didn’t happen.
Psalm 124:6-8, “[6] Blessed be the Lord, Who has not given us to be torn by their teeth. [7] Our soul has escaped as a bird out of the snare of the trapper; The snare is broken and we have escaped. [8] Our help is in the name of the Lord, Who made heaven and earth.”
There is no sharing of praise or glory for the life, peace, and existence we enjoy. When God gives the church great men who move it in the right direction, those men were molded, raised up, and prepared by God for the tasks He used them for. All glory be to God that we aren’t trophies on the walls of our enemies. Praise be to God that He restrains the anger of unbelievers so they don’t ransack our churches and put all of us to death. God has delivered us out of their snares and traps. Jesus dealt with men trying to trap Him constantly. We can expect the same. Only God can get us free from the snare like the bird caught in the snare of the trapper. God protects us from being torn by their teeth. Our help is in the name of the Lord who made heaven and earth.

Application from this
Just as the church abides to this day because God is for it and protects it, we who are Christians and justified before God have no one to praise for that great salvation but God. All of the praise for our salvation is to be directed to God. It’s fitting this time of year to quote the great Luther. In his volcanic blast of a response to Desiderius Erasmus in The Bondage of the Will, Luther wrote the following words, “If any man would ascribe even the smallest part of his salvation to his freewill, he knows nothing of grace, and has not learned Jesus Christ.” If God were not for me and did not change my heart, will, and affections, I would eventually find myself on the parapets of hell itself continuing to shout my hatred of God all the way into the pit. I love God because He first loved me. I said yes to Jesus and His gospel because God alone is the one who terrorizes the soul over its sin, God is the one who breaks the human will, God is the one who draws men to Himself, and God alone is able to make men alive in Christ. If Jesus had not come, we would be swallowed alive by sin. If Jesus had not died, the waters would have engulfed us. If Jesus had not risen again, the raging waters of sin would have swept over our soul. If Jesus did not intercede for us before the Father, we would have been torn by their teeth. If Jesus hadn’t saved us, we’d remain stuck in the snare of the trapper. Our help is in the name of the Lord who made heaven and earth. Why did I believe when I heard the gospel of Christ and my neighbor didn’t? Certainly not because I’m more righteous, spiritually sensitive, intelligent, or pious. God chose to be for me.
If the church’s existence, the success of our preaching, and even our salvation itself depend entirely upon God, what are we to make of relying upon our preaching and teaching gifts in our ministries in the church?
The pastor of the church my family attends was the pastor there for all 37 years of his pastoral ministry. He retired about 4 years ago. In one of his final sermons, he made a confession to the church of a sin he had committed in those last few years. He said there had been times recently when he had failed to pray adequately and seek God’s face during his sermon preparation because he knows he’s a good enough speaker for us not to know the difference. Weigh that carefully.

Conclusion
I titled the sermon: Why God’s People Continue. Recall the sections of the Psalm. Verses 1-5 tell us what would have happened if God were not for us. Verses 6-8 say all praise be to God that it didn’t. Remember this when you begin to feel confident and comfortable in your ministry. When thoughts of building spiritual empires come into your mind – complete with a Bible college, seminary, and school – remember that all ministry is God’s doing. We are the instruments through whom He works. Develop your gifts knowing that even your discipline to develop those gifts comes from God. You were created to bring recognition to the greatness of God, not yourself. We do not prevent the gates of hell from prevailing over the church – the Lord Jesus does. Be a man of humility and prayer. Don’t feel like everyone needs to know how much respect you deserve because of how gifted you are. Have a heart that longs to die and be forgotten so that the name of Jesus will be exalted in your life. If all we’re remembered for is how well we spoke, how passionate we were, and how marvelous our gifts were, then what have we really accomplished. No one will care that any of us were ever here 200 years from now. But if we work to direct people to the greatness of God, then our brief lives will have been well spent. When you attempt anything in this life remember verse 8 – “Our help is in the name of the Lord, Who made heaven and earth.” Without Him, you’d be swallowed alive.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

more kids at pumpkin patch

Kids at the pumpkin patch


No, we didn't adopt another one... this is a girl from a group at a local church Abigail has been going to.

Friday, October 5, 2007

A cool-looking critter the kids found



Take a look at this frog the kids caught:

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Overall Update and Report

Greetings everyone. We already miss all of you a ton - the kids break down in despair regularly wanting to go back to Cincinnati. Now, that may have had something to do with the fact that the temperature was triple digits here for the whole first two weeks. But the locals told us they were setting record highs even for way down here. The move went relatively smooth. Other than the UHaul overheating a little just over the Tennessee border, everything went very well - thanks be to God. Our apartment is very nice and comfortable. Outside of the fact that our a/c has broken at least 10 times (no, that's not an exaggeration) since we moved in, it has been a really nice place to live. They finally got it fixed (so we think). But thankfully, the heat has broken a little recently and we even got a whole bunch of rain (something I hear you haven't gotten any of in Cincinnati) which was the leftovers of a hurricane or something like that.

On a sad note, the apartment unit building right next to ours completely burned to the ground. No one got hurt, but everything was destroyed. In fact, the bulldozers came yesterday to knock what was left standing down so they can rebuild. I woke up at 5:00 Sunday morning and heard the commotion outside. When I looked, I was really rather terrified - flames shooting 15-20 feet into the air - the entire building was ablaze. There were three firetrucks there and they were putting water on that building for the next 9 or 10 hours before they got it all out. Here are links to a couple of news articles about it (the unit we are in is to the right of the one that burneddown):

Article 1

Article 2

Article 3

Article 4

School is rigorous. I had actually finished Hebrew 1 through RTS' "Virtual Campus" a week before class started, but Dr. Van Pelt wanted me to audit Hebrew 1 (not for credit) this semester so I would learn it the same way everyone else did when I go into Intermediate Hebrew. Well, his approach is so different from what I got in the Virtual Hebrew that I'm really having to treat Hebrew 1 like another class. So, this makes my workload the equivalent of 20 hours (yikes). I will get through it, but I am definitely being pushed like never before. My eyes hurt from all the reading... but it is all good stuff. So, if you count Hebrew, here are all the classes I'm taking right now: 1. Hebrew I, 2. Greek Exegesis, 3. Johannine literature, 4. Educational Ministry of the Church, 5. Pastoral Counseling, 6. Principles of Sanctification, 7. Preaching I, & 8. Folk Religion.

Amy is homeschooling Abigail and Seth this year. That has definitely been a challenge for her, but she is really doing well with all of it. The kids are adjusting. Life down here is a bit different. There are more "critters" all over the place. There are lizards everywhere, very large crickets, grasshoppers, and a bunch of other large bugs that I don't recognize. Oh, and there are millions of these little bugs that look like normal ants but are really warrior, tribal, evil ants - they bite and it hurts bad. I took the kids to ride their bikes and stood in the grass while they rode on the blacktop. I felt an itch on my foot (I was wearing sandals) and looked down to see my feet and lower ankles crawling with those little monsters. I must have looked downright charismatic there for a couple of minutes. I don't know exactly how many times they bit me, but my feet were a mess there for a while.

My job at Pearl Presbyterian Church is going well thus far. I have been teaching the youth group (8 or 10 kids each Wednesday night), an adult Sunday school class, and they'd like me to lead worship too (which I'm going to start doing this Sunday). There are probably 125 or so on a given Sunday. It is a wonderful group of people - very down to earth and they have been so kind to all of us. And they love to eat. And these people really know how to cook. They have dinner together every Wednesday night before their activities - people just bring whatever and they eat together at 5:30 and start activities at 6:00. Pretty good idea, eh? Oh, I also had to preach two Sunday evenings ago - they realized *after the morning service* that no one was scheduled to preach... so, I volunteered. I had 2 hours to prepare something. I pulled my John 3:16 notes, grabbed myself by the seat of my pants, and just went for it. Pastor Tim told me to never turn down an opportunity to preach - ever. So, Pastor, I made you proud :-) (I think... you'd have to ask them).

Pray for us - We're all still adjusting a bit to being down here - It's hard to be so far away from home and to not know anyone. I'm meeting some great people down here, but I really really miss all of you very much.

Your servant,

Patrick Hines

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Assignment: Write a 15 mintue evangelistic sermon - well, here it is

Redemption from the Law’s Curse

Submitted by: Patrick Hines, August 28, 2007

Scripture passage:

Galatians 3:10-14 (NASB-U)

[10] For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law, to perform them." [11] Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, "The righteous man shall live by faith." [12] However, the Law is not of faith; on the contrary, "He who practices them shall live by them." [13] Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us—for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree"

Sermon

While the depth, height, and magnitude of God’s love and grace dominate the content of preaching today, neither God’s love nor His grace have a context in which they can make sense to the unbelieving ear apart from a full discussion of what this passage identifies as “the curse of the Law.” The all-holy God of heaven and earth, the Sovereign King of glory, the giver and taker of life, and the one who (as Isaiah 45:7 says) “forms the light and creates darkness” and who “makes peace and creates calamity,” is also the unchanging Law-Giver. The God who made all men has sovereignly placed them under the obligations of His law. All men are accountable to God for the lives they live because God made them and has absolute authority over them. Although men continuously and universally, with no exceptions whatsoever, suppress what they know in their hearts to be true of God’s existence, His divinity, and His coming judgment (Romans 1:18 and following), they nevertheless stand before God obligated to keep not just some but all of His commandments perfectly and perpetually. This is what God demands of men.

God cannot be unchanging and at the same time lower the standard of what He requires of men. When God issues a commandment such as: “You shall have no other gods before me,” or “You shall not commit adultery,” or “You shall not steal,” these commandments are unchangeable and allow no room for failure of any kind. When God placed Adam under the obligation of His law, it was understood that what was expected was obedience – perfect and entire. No allowances were made for occasional breaches of the command not to eat of the forbidden fruit.

Even apart from the direct knowledge of God we have in Scripture, anyone living in the world today knows without question that something is desperately wrong with men. Man, who is made a little lower than an angel, is capable of both remarkable good and insidious evil. Because of the blindness caused by pervasive sinfulness, men consistently flatter themselves by hiding their faults and overemphasizing their meager virtues. Vast multitudes of people the world-over unknowingly sit on the edge of hell itself, dangling their legs over its side like children sleepily fishing off the dock in the noonday sun thinking a small sunfish is about to bite the worm on their hook. They don’t realize in the midst of their absentminded daydreaming that a great white shark is just below the surface of the water right in front of them ready to cut them in half in an instant. So it is with all who delude themselves into thinking they can withstand the severity of the Holy God’s terrible and awful judgment clothed in the tattered rags of their own woefully flawed obedience to His law.

The false teachers who provoked Paul to write such a scathing letter evidently believed the giving of the Law of Moses had changed the foundation of human salvation. God had admittedly made an unconditional promise to Abraham which he believed and was thus “reckoned as righteousness.” But now, so these teachers taught, we have obedience to the Law of Moses added to this simple act of belief. These teachers believed the giving of the law meant the giving of new conditions of salvation which must be met by the believer. Paul’s response to them and anyone else who would add conditions to faith in Jesus Christ as the means of justification before God is the following:

[10] For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law, to perform them."

Paul explains that anyone who relies upon their own works, their own faithfulness, their own moral character, or anything else other than or along side of Jesus Christ is “ under a curse.” All who rely upon observance of law to get them into heaven are accursed and will go to hell. Deuteronomy 27:26 is cited as a summary statement coming at the end of God’s law as laid out in the Pentateuch. Clearly Paul believed and taught that the Law of God allows no room for partial obedience or failure of any kind at all. The man who does not abide by all that is written in it and fails to perform it is under the curse of God. Nothing worse could possibly be imagined than to be accursed of God. All who disobey the Law of God are accursed.

[11] Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, "The righteous man shall live by faith."

Paul now sets forth the point that it was already clear that no one is justified by the Law before God because even the Old Testament itself asserts that the “righteous man shall live by faith” (Habakkuk 2:4). The fall of the race of men into sin made attaining heaven by obedience cease to be a possibility. All mankind sinned and died in Adam. Every man without exception is born with a sinful heart which is itself damnable in the sight of God and further renders his every action stained with sin. Men are in a desperate and hopeless position unless the merciful and gracious God chooses of His own freewill to bestow mercy, pity, and grace upon them. And He is under no obligation to do so.

[12] However, the Law is not of faith; on the contrary, "He who practices them shall live by them."

In the mind of Paul, no mixture of faith in Christ with obedience to law is possible when it comes to being justified before God. One is either justified by perfect, lifelong, and uninterrupted obedience to Law, or one is justified by faith in another, namely, Jesus Christ – the righteous one. Only the person who “practices” the law shall live by it. Since no one practices it or abides in all things commanded in it, no one is or can be justified by it. God’s law was not given to man to save us but to slay us, to condemn us, to show us how hopelessly lost we are, to cause us to despair of any hope of standing before God in our own obedience in order that we might seek salvation in the righteousness of another, in the only one who ever did abide in all things written in the book of the Law, the one who alone “practiced” the law and lived by it – Jesus Christ.

[13] Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us—for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree"—

And now the tremendous announcement of the Good News. Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us. All who will repent and put their trust in Christ alone will have Christ as their curse-bearer. In the agony of His passion, Jesus Christ became the focal-point of the full and unrestrained wrath, judgment, and anger of the Holy God. The one who knew no sin became sin in our behalf. Jesus, the sinless Son of God, was treated by the Father as if He had lived the life of a prostitute, an abortion doctor, a thief, a liar, and an idolater. The one who knew no sin was nailed to the cross for lies He never told, lust He never entertained, lives He never took, adultery He never committed. The one who fulfilled all righteousness with His whole life of humiliation was “crushed for our iniquities” and had “the iniquities of us all” laid upon Him by His Righteous Father. God’s character as holy demands that sin be punished. It is essential we understand that all our sins will indeed be punished by God. Christ was cursed that believers in Him would be blessed and taken to God as His own dear children. That penalty, that debt, that curse must be paid if any of us sinners are to see the halls of heaven. The Father did not spare Christ in order that He might spare even the vilest and most wretched of sinners. Those who are often so bold in sinning in the theater of their minds, those who have committed adultery, those who have murdered unborn children, those who are addicted to internet pornography, and those who have killed human beings in occult rituals, can be made clean by the shedding of Jesus’ blood. Jesus came with a mission which He succeeded perfectly in accomplishing – the redemption of all those entrusted to Him by the Father. In John 6:37-39 Jesus said, "All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day.” Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the Law – it is an accomplished fact.

All who repent and come to Jesus will find Him to be a perfect and faithful Savior. Only come, only believe – if you are willing, He never was otherwise. Abandon all hope in yourself and embrace Christ’s righteousness as your righteousness and His cross as the satisfaction to the Father’s justice for your sins. Edwards said it best when he remarked that your righteousness has as much of a chance of withstanding the judgment of God as a spider’s web has of stopping an avalanche. Don’t be so foolish as to deceive yourself into thinking there is no God and no judgment to face. In your heart you know there will be a day of reckoning. To the unrepentant and unbelieving in that day, Christ will be the wrathful, vengeful judge who will bring them down in humility and make His arrows drunk with their blood. They will bear their own curse. But to those wearied by their sin, to those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, to those who groan under their sin and long to be made clean, I invite you to believe that what Jesus did He did for you. And believe that what He did is by itself sufficient to save you. The sins that haunt you, the ones that infiltrate your dreams, and the ones you hope no one but you and God will ever know about are no match for the saving blood of the Lord Jesus. His shed blood is more than enough to make you clean before God, and the seamless robe of His righteousness will never run threadbare. The salvation offered to the world in Jesus Christ is full, free, perfect, and eternal. If you worry that your sins are too great, that you are too far gone into sin’s grip, that you’ve fallen and stumbled one too many times, remember what one of the Puritans once said, “God will never be the patron of a lost cause.” If your faith is in Christ alone, you have been redeemed from the curse because the Lord Jesus became that curse in your stead. Thanks be to God for choosing to show us grace instead of fairness.

Five of God's greatest gifts to me




Friday, August 24, 2007

Getting ready to ride bikes


This is Paul's bike - it says "The Screamer" on it. And that's what he called it when he first started riding it. He would say, "Dad, the screamer is so fun, it's so fast," or "Dad, can you help me get the screamer going, please?" because it's just a tad bit tall for him. He actually thought everyone's bike has a name. I guess that's understandable since they all have catchy little names on them - Abigail's says "Firefly" on it and Seth's says "Tekton." Actually, given that it was 104 yesterday, I don't know why they don't want to just sit inside in the a/c.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

pics from Western-Southern party



Sermon Notes on 2 Timothy 4:1-5

Even the men discipled directly by the apostles themselves faced severe temptation to compromise their basic convictions and commitments. Paul knew this all too well. He himself on one memorable occasion withstood and publicly reprimanded the apostle Peter for fatally compromising the truth of the gospel itself - Galatians 2:11-14. Nearing the end of his life (4:6), Paul is giving Timothy his final charge. Here, on the heels of explaining to Timothy that "All Scripture is God-breathed and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work," Paul then gives him a most solemn command and exhortation - preceded by one of the most compelling prefaces in all of Scripture:

2 Timothy 4:1-5 -
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1 - I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom:
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Think of the life led by the man who wrote this: A once-deceived, zealous Pharisee. A despiser of this new Christian movement who had a face-to-face encounter with the risen Lord Jesus on the road to Damascus (a town in which he hoped to imprison more of the church) - a man with fists of iron who hurled anathemas at opponents when it came to the defense of the gospel of a free salvation through faith alone in Christ alone / and a heart of gold when it came to patience, forgiveness, and love among the brethren - a man imprisoned, tortured, stoned, beaten, ridiculed, shipwrecked, mocked, loved, and hated - a man weather-worn by constant traveling and hard work - a man whose gratitude to Christ for his own salvation caused him to regard himself as nothing... Here is the preface to his final charge to his disciple, Timothy.

"I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom:"

He wants Timothy to understand this with such seriousness and force that He invokes the very presence of God the Father and God the Son - specifically God the Son as the One who will judge the living and the dead.

Why?

The fear of men faced by ministers and preachers of God's Word may at times seem more immediate and intense than even the fear of God, but Paul here is exhorting Timothy to focus his attention upon the One to whom he will give an account for what he said, did, and taught in His name. The temptation to be "men-pleasers" will always be intense. Paul realized this, so did Jesus himself.

Luke 6:26 - "Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for so did their fathers to the false prophets."

The desire for the approval of men and of the world tempts all of us.

Timothy, In the presence of God, I give you this charge. It is as if God were right here present with me. And I must put it to you this way because the temptation to compromise will be that great. Remember the one to whom you will answer!
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2 - Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.
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Preaching is what God has ordained as the means by which His Word is to be communicated. Not dancing, drama, videos, etc. - preaching. It is not just the message of the gospel itself that is foolishness to those who are perishing, the means by which it is communicated is likewise seen as foolish. The temptation to dare to be wiser than God is so powerful now-a-days. What about the use of DVD clips as sermon illustrations? We had a lively discussion about this in a class I took on worship in Orlando. It was myself and a couple of other individuals against the rest of the class. These young Reformed people were insisting that we can successfully communicate the intention of our text quite well using movie clips - and that it is good to do this because it is meeting people where they are. After all, ours is an image-based, not a text-based culture. People learn from pictures and images better than from words on a page, so we were told. I raised my hand and asked the most outspoken individual advocating this, "If, as you say (I completely disagree of course), our culture learns better from images and pictures, and we can, as you say (I completely disagree of course) successfully communicate the intent of Scripture through movies and pictures, why not get rid of the sermon altogether." He said, "well, we don't want to throw the baby out with the bath water..." to which I responded, "But why not given what you've said? You said you are communicating the word of God through the movie clip - if it does that so well - why not just show movies instead of preaching...? Preaching is so outdated and boring anyway, ya know?"

God commands the preaching of His Word. God didn't reveal Himself in a comic strip, in pictures, or in movies, but in words and sentences on pages - the Bible. If the culture has moved from text to images, then we must bring them back to the text. People prefer images and moving pictures because they do all the work for them. Reading requires discipline, reflection, and attention - that is the type of revelation God has given us. Reading forces us to think - it forces our minds to be active and engaged. It is no accident that we speak of "vedging-out" in front of the TV. The TV does all the work for you - it supplies the words, the images, and the sound - no imagination required at all. Your mind shuts down and your senses do all the work.

We must be a generation of Bible readers. And Timothy, you be a Bible-reader and a Bible-preacher. You've known it from infancy, it makes you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus, it is God-breathed and establishes doctrine, it reproves, corrects, trains in righteousnses, and will equip you for *every* good work!

1 Tim. 4:13
Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.

"Be ready in season and out of season"

Be ready - this takes time, discipline, study, and preparation. Soldiers do not go into battle without being taught how to use their weapons. Doctors do not operate on someone's body unless they've gone to school and have been taught how to do so. The dentist doesn't drill your teeth simply because he "felt led" to do so one day - no, he goes to school and studies and learns how to do it. The preacher of God's word must be "prepared" for this great task. And he must do it "eukairos" - when convenient, and "akairos" - when not convenient.

I'd like to suggest that we are in a period wherein it is no longer "in season" to preach the Word. Today, it is in season to soft-pedal, modify, water-down, or outright ignore the Word. After all, we want huge churches with lots of people, loud music, and happy/shiny-faced, beautiful, upscale people.
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3 - For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers;
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Here is why, Timothy, you must be ready in season and out of season to convince, rebuke, and exhort. Every kind of false doctrine and false teaching is going to come into the fray. Sound doctrine will disappear entirely and become unpopular or dismissed as boring. People's ears will "itch" for falsehood. People prefer lies to the truth. People prefer to be lied to when it comes to spiritual reality - they want to be told they are ok.

What is “sound doctrine?” It is theology. What is theology? It is sound doctrine.

The rejection of sound doctrine will be done on the basis of "their own desires." You see, people bring many biases and agendas, i.e. "their own desires," to what the Bible actually says. They know there are millions of people all over the world who revere the Bible as the Word of God, and hence they try to use it to promote "their own desires." They "no longer endure sound doctrine" but will still use the Bible to try to promote their program. You see, very few people would listen to someone speak on their own authority about a world-changing ideology. But if there is some way I can twist Scripture into sounding like it fits my agenda, given the vast numbers of people who claim to follow its teaching, I will use it if it is possible to do so. Many men who do this are published churchmen who masquerade as believing Christians and are often lettered scholars who wield much credibility in what they say.

But the Christian who is armed with constant Bible-reading and study will not be led astray by their mumblings. Some recent, major "desires of their own" which false teachers are "no longer enduring sound doctrine" for are the following:

1. Some think the primary concern of all life is social justice, social unity, etc. and lo and behold, they read the Bible and walk away thinking the gospel of Jesus Christ is primarily a social message instead of a message about individual salvation and redemption from sin and its eternal consequences. Does the gospel, when believed and embraced, effect those issues? Of course. But are those issues what "the gospel" itself specifically addresses? No. And can the gospel be said to be *primarily* a social message? Absolutely not.

2. Others think the primary concern of all life is making the world a more moral place - they read the Bible and lo and behold, they find a message whose center is nothing more than, "be nice to each other and all will be well with you."

3. Others think the primary concern of all life is the spreading of a particular political ideology. They read the Bible and lo and behold they tell us: “the gospel is politics.”

4. Still others think that personal prosperity and health are the primary concern of Scripture. Lo and behold, we have the health and wealth, name it / claim it prosperity gospel.

But you, Timothy, are to guard, keep, preach, explain, and teach the "doctrine" I, Paul, delieverd to you. The theology, teachings about God, man, sin, Christ, justification that we find in the rest of Scripture – Timothy, that is what you are to preach and teach – that “sound doctrine” these false teachers cannot “endure.” Listen to Paul's words to Timothy about this and then tell me Paul wasn't interested in doctrine or theology:


1 Tim. 1:3
charge some that they teach no other doctrine,

1 Tim. 1:10
[BE SURE THERE IS NOTHING] contrary to sound doctrine,

1 Tim. 4:6
nourished in the words of faith and of the good doctrine which you have carefully followed.

1 Tim. 4:13
give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.

1 Tim. 4:16
Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.

1 Tim. 5:17
Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine.

1 Tim. 6:1
so that the name of God and His doctrine may not be blasphemed.

1 Tim. 6:3
If anyone teaches otherwise and does not consent to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which accords with godliness, he is proud, knowing nothing, but is obsessed with disputes and arguments …

2 Tim. 3:10
But you have carefully followed my doctrine

2 Tim. 3:16
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine

Titus 1:9
holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict.

Titus 2:1
But as for you, speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine:

Titus 2:7
in all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works; in doctrine showing integrity, reverence, incorruptibility,

Titus 2:10
not pilfering, but showing all good fidelity, that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things.


Why all this admonition about doctrine?

Jeremiah 5:31
The prophets prophesy falsely,
And the priests rule by their own power;
And My people love to have it so.
But what will you do in the end?

Every generation of Christians have had to deal with indifference to doctrine. Doctrine is theology, theology is doctrine. God has revealed a system of truth to us in Scripture which is logically consistent and must be understood – the gospel being something we know and believe. This system of doctrines is called, in Scripture, “the faith” – Jude 3. We are to contend for “the faith.” This system of doctrines, teachings, propositions was delivered by Christ to his apostles and then was preached in the world.

Sadly, those not well-grounded in Scripture tend to lean in one direction or the other – intellectualism or emotionalism. People view “doctrine” as a purely intellectual enterprise with no real practical ramifications and hence downplay its importance. Or people view their emotions as the way in which God speaks to them and discard doctrine altogether and end up neglecting the exclusive truth-claims of the faith. We must understand however that it is our theology and doctrine that will shape all of life. For example: When the Reformation doctrine of justification by faith alone in Christ alone through the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to the sinner came to bear upon Europe, the societal changes were massive. Monasteries were closed and turned into orphanages. People turned their eyes off of themselves, off of trying to make sure they secured their salvation by doing enough works, pilgrimages, sacrifices, etc. and turned them towards their neighbor. People believed that all jobs and vocations, if they served their fellow man, were glorifying to God – hence, that marvelous thing known as the “Protestant work ethic” was born. Economies flourished, the quality of life increased, and science progressed. Christ alone is sufficient to save the believing sinner and so now he can stop his selfish preoccupation with his own salvation and look to the good of others – not to try to gain merit for himself, but merely out of love and a thankful heart. What brought these changes about? Theology – the doctrines taught and believed by the people. Anyone who says Christianity is not doctrine and theology obviously, according to this passage, would be one who does not “endure sound doctrine” for the sake of “his own desires.”

Why fences around true doctrine are necessary – without them, we will have no gospel to preach to any or to take to any nation in 50 years. The baton is ours – all who are alive and in the church now – what will we do with the church?

When the liberals (i.e. men who rejected the absolute authority of Scripture, men who rejected the theology of Scripture and replaced it with social and political concerns) came back in the 1920s and 30s, the Christian believers put up with them too long and hence lost control. The liberals took over because those who believed the doctrines of Scripture didn’t take a hard enough stand against them. After all, they reasoned, these are godly churchmen who are highly educated, good speakers, etc. They have the respect of others for their moral family-lives, etc. How can we attack them as being anti-Christs, false-teachers, or heretics? Not only that, every attempt we make to confront them is met by the constant accusation that we’re being divisive, unloving, uncharitable, not giving them the benefit of the doubt, etc…

The apostles of false-gospels always come to us as “angels of light” and “ministers of righteousness” – always – just as Satan himself does. 2 Corinthians 11.

Listen – the teachers of false doctrines always cry-out: “intolerance, you’re unloving, you’re mean and nasty, etc.” because they know they can only survive as long as the Bible-believers and believers in Christian truth remain silent. Well, back then they remained silent too long.

The damage was done and now where are those churches? They’ve died! They have nothing to preach – no gospel – no good news to the person troubled by their sin wanting to know if there is a way to be saved. These men despise the idea that Christianity is about individuals being convicted for their sins, repenting, trusting in Christ and being justified before God by the atoning death and imputed righteousness of Christ. They deride and mock that idea.

How will we do when we are up against, as Paul promised we would be, those who cannot “endure sound doctrine” – sound theology, sound teaching? Are we going to “convince, rebuke, and exhort?” or are we going to stand by, watch TV, and say, “well, they’re good and godly men with the best of intentions… just leave them alone…nobody can really understand them anyway…”

We must “convince, rebuke, and exhort!” That is the apostolic admonition – fight for the faith. Contend for the doctrines of Scripture – as Paul exhorted Timothy and Titus to do over and over again…

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4 - and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.
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Heretics and false teachers, historically, have *always* been very successful. Generally speaking, the Bible-believers and the orthodox lose. Did the Nicene Creed get rid of the Arians who were denying the deity of Christ? No. In fact, that Creed had to fight for 60 years to survive while the vast majority of the church turned Arian… but nevertheless, God preserved His believing church. Were Luther and the Reformers able to reform the Catholic church? No, they lost and were excommunicated and true Bible-believers were slaughtered by the thousands… but nevertheless, God preserved His believing church. Was Machen able to gather a great following of Bible-believing Presbyterians to go into his newly founded Orthodox Presbyterian Church? Hardly. Only a small group left the apostate mainline church… but nevertheless, God preserved His believing church.

What about the laity today? Will they, as the text says they will, “turn their ears away from the truth and *be turned aside* to fables?” If history is an indication of anything, probably a great number will.

Will we have to redo fighting the social gospel, the gospel of therapeutic narcissism, the political gospel, the ever-present gospels of works-righteousness, and all the other false gospels that seem to rear their heads in every generation? Yes, we will. How will we do? Weigh this next verse carefully brothers and sisters in Christ – weigh it carefully – verse 5:

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5 - But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
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Here is what you must do:
1. Be watchful in *all* things
2. Endure afflictions – you will be attacked, ridiculed, made fun of, etc. Endure this.
3. Evangelize – we can’t do this without the evangel (the gospel). And one thing is certain – no question about it whatsoever – those who are re-promoting the political and social gospels today are not engaged in evangelism because they’ve got no evangel, no gospel, to preach! But you, Timothy, you do the work of an evangelist – and what is that gospel Paul preached? Is it “sociology and international relations?” No. Is it politics? No. Is it even about transforming public life and morality? No. The gospel is simply this, as Paul defined it in 1 Corinthians 15 – “That Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, and raised again the third day according to the Scriptures.” Paul said, “We preach forgiveness of sins to you in His name.” He said, “through him a man is justified from all things by which the law of Moses could not justify you.” Our neo-liberals aren’t preaching the gospel – for the simple reason: they despise it.
4. Fulfill your ministry – stay the course, don’t deviate, don’t get sidetracked – your mission: Make disciples of all the nations, preach the gospel unto every creature. No matter how many other voices are squawking on the landscape, no matter how many other agendas people come up with, you be faithful, Timothy to this charge – preach the word! Guard sound doctrine! Refute those who oppose it! Be watchful for false teachers! Do the work of an evangelist – command every creature to repent and believe on Christ to the saving of their souls! And do it from now until the end! Don’t loiter on your heavenly journey!

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Thursday, July 26, 2007