Saturday, December 19, 2009

Personal Holiness

There is much to be said this day and age about personal holiness though few of our church leaders ever touch the topic. Our churches are often filled with people that may nod and shake hands with church members during the greeting time, but who will then speak awful slanders towards those very same people once outside the church walls. We are a people of unclean lips amongst a people of unclean lips. We don't have to go very far outside the four walls of church - down the pew, or in the mirror for that matter - to see the perverting effects of sin.

Though we are capable of identifying sin where it stands, we dare not label it out loud for that would mean we would have to separate ourselves from playing in it. Though the Spirit has enlightened us, our flesh continues to suppress the Truth in unrighteousness. We must die daily to the flesh and daily be renewed by the Spirit; moving from glory to glory, constantly renewing our minds and being washed by the water of the Word.

Our whole existence has been marked by rebellion. For most children one of the first words they learn is "NO!" Or it is at least the most used word of every toddler. When your mother said to chew with your mouth closed, you began to once again chomp like a cow when she wasn't looking. She said sit up and when her back would turn, you slouched. You wore your mother out and if you were anything like me perhaps a couple of wooden spoons too. We are told to arrive to class at a certain time and we come late. We are told to raise our hands, and we blurt out. We are told to brush our teeth, comb our hair, and wash our faces, and we just splash a little water on our cheeks. "Make sure you scrub behind your ears," your mother says, and we don't even grab the bar of soap.

For most of us, only the bare minimum was what we were willing to put forth as children. Unfortunately that rebellious attitude is coupled to our flesh and has followed us into adulthood and even into our new birth. It must be brought under the submission of Christ (Col 3:5). The Scriptures are clear that we are save by Grace and sanctified by Grace. In fact all that we are or are allowed to do is wholly by the Grace of God (Eph 2:8-10). Yet we are still personally accountable for everything we do (good or bad) even as believers (Rom 14:12).

There is a balance that the Word calls us to. God's sovereignty is always coupled with man's responsibility such as in the passage Phil 2:12-13, " out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure." God is the reason why we desire good and the only reason why we can do any good, yet He commands us to work at this thing called personal holiness. "Put to death therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry." (Col 3:5)

I am currently reading through Jerry Bridges The Pursuit of Holiness in which he gives some guidelines to apply when questioning whether or not to partake in certain activity based on a few passages of Scripture.

  • "Everything is permissible for me--but not everything is benificial" (I Cor 6:12). Question 1: Is it helpful - physically, spiritually, and mentally?
  • "Everything is permissible for me--but I will not be mastered by anything" (I Cor 6:12). Question 2: Does it bring me under its power?
  • "Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause him to fall" (I Cor 8:13). Question 3: Does it hurt others?
  • "So whatever you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God" (I Cor 10:31). Question 4: Does it glorify God?
Hopefully by asking yourself and others these 4 simple questions we might all continue to grow in the likeness of His great Son. But first we must pray to God for the courage to confront the fact that we even have a problem with personal holiness.

May the Grace of the Lord be with you as you continue to wage war over sin.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Lift Up Your Voices!!!

It has been said that an open air preacher can reach more lost people in one short sermon than the average church can reach in a year. However true that statement truly may or may not be, there are lost people everywhere and the typical Sunday morning service is not the place for evangelism. Soul-winning is to be done primarily in the streets, at the neighbors house, in the laundromat, or the local grocery store.

Like most people, I fail in every aspect of evangelism in part if not in whole. There are those occasions however, that I get to go out with a friend and share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with the lost. With the colleges and universities back in session, we have been able to go out on Friday nights and witness to students wandering around on campus. This has been a wonderfully rewarding experience and we have seen some great professions of faith being made in those situations, but as the Lord saw it fit, he began working on my heart last May to do some open air.

The first time that we decided to do open air we were not prepared or really planning on doing it. We simply went out on our normal Friday night outing and saw a crowd gathered around Old Thompson Field (the old football field) at SRU. We immediately grew excited in seeing so many people in one location that were simply walking around the track. They were all participating in the Relay for Life event being held at the school and were planning on walking through the greater part of the night. We had in our midst a captive audience.

After getting into some on-on-one conversations, my friend Mike suggested that we do some open air. Given that the purpose of the event was to raise awareness for cancer, we hesitated as many people there were morning the death of important people in their lives that had been taken by cancer. We didn't want to be inconsiderate toward those who were hurting and needed that time to heal. We spent much time in prayer in deliberation and then finally felt no hindrance from the Lord about going forth. We then spent some time shaping our message. Mike was the only one who was supposed to preach that night. After more prayer and spotting the best location to lift up our voices over the crowd, Mike began to preach. Chad and I held him up in prayer on and off as we eagerly peered out among the people to see the crowds response. Immediately a few young ladies protested and threatened to call the police. I attempted to speak to the kindly and assured them that we had every right to be there as this was a public campus. I then spoke to the ladies about our motives and that I too had a father taken by cancer. They let me return to my post after that but began to hurl insults and cuss words at us.

I soon leaned over to Chad and whispered "what were we so afraid of." Just then Mike stepped off of the box and said, with a slap on my chest and a smirk of satisfaction on his face, "you turn brother." I moved into position and tried to speak but nothing came out. I then took a deep breath and said another prayer and began to preach. It was thrilling. There were times that felt as if the Lord was guiding my tongue and then there were times when I liked hearing the sound of my own voice. It was a battle staying on track and shunning away fear. Toward the end I simply began preaching as if to myself.

After I was done, we ventured back into the crowd to see what people had to say. Surprisingly we were able to spark up quite a few conversations. Many people were curious as to why we were there. We were able to witness to a few small groups of people. In the short time of evangelism that night, we were able to share the Gospel with about 500 people in the open-air.

Since that experience, we have proclaimed the Gospel in the open-air on two other occasions, of which I will write about in the near furture...Lord willing.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Reader Response vs. Authorial Intent

Okay, so I have been posting a lot of videos. At least I'm posting. What are you doing with your life?

But seriously, this video clearly displays the state of our culture here in America. This is often how the argument goes from the "spiritualist," "new-ager," agnostic, or atheist. There are even those that call themselves christian that would argue with me this kind of empty-minded thinking. The encouraging part here is that though these kids are young, they are capable of defeating such bogus arguments of pseudo-intellectualism.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Why we preach the Gospel

This is why we are called to preach the Gospel to every creature. This is why I care so deeply about true theology and making the Gospel known to others. This is why I can't get off of the subject of the Gospel. I have met so many people living the way this man described he once lived. I once lived like this man once lived. But glory to God, He saved me and cleansed me and caused me to walk in his ways. I hate the sinner's prayer and perhaps you will see why after watching this video. How many people have you met that can share this testimony?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

It's Not My Money!

Back by popular demand....It's Every Man's Gospel time!!!

Just kidding. Only two people have asked me about my blog (my wife and her friend that likes to pick on me sometimes). Since you are the only two people that read my blog, I'll just get into it and we can chat later.

As you may already know, I enjoy evangelism. I would devote my whole life to it if I had another way to earn a living. Recently I have had the opportunity to link arms with a missions plant in Butler called "Pressing On Ministries" run by a dear brother in Christ named Dan. My favorite fishing hole is the SRU campus on a warm Friday night, but I gotta tell you, Butler is a unique place to evangelize. At college everyone seems to wear their identity on their sleeves, but in Butler it seems that people are trying to hide who they really are. Butler is a dense, over-grown town that qualifies as a small city. It is infested with drugs and all of the dark practices that go with it. Because of a failing economy and drugs many people are hurting physically and mentally. But like any other people group, they know nothing of their spiritual need. No matter what you've heard, the Bible is clear on the issue; "There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God" (Romans 3:11).

This is why it is vital that when we open up our mouths about our great and glorious Savior, that we spend some time explaining to people their specific need for coming to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. The moral law of God is a great way to show individuals that they have a sin problem that spills into every arena of their lives. We are not a people that have just told a few lies. We cannot count how many lies we have told or how many times we have stretched the truth and embellished a story in order to deceive people. We are a people that pursue sexual thoughts and so surround ourselves with sexual images that we don't even realize the impact. We harbor hatred in our hearts and lash out in verbal and physical aggression toward others (just think about the last time someone cut you off in traffic). We are a people of unclean lips, living amongst a people of unclean lips. The greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with all of your heart, with all of your soul, with all of your mind, and with all of your strength. Yet with these very lips I have cursed God on numerous occasions in my unregenerate state. No one has ever for one moment fulfilled the greatest commandment. Believer or not. We are full of sin and wicked rebels that care very little, if at all, about the glory of God.

After addressing the issue of sin, I like to use a courtroom scenario to address the sense of God-given justice that has been pressed in the hearts of each of us. If we are found absolutely guilty before a human judge for breaking the law, he will see to it that the law is applied and justice gets carried out. That is, if the judge is a good judge. Could you imagine the outrage that we would have if a judge, having all of the evidence of a rapist before him, let the criminal go? We would call for the removal of that judge from the bench. Many of us would even seek that the judge be tried for wrong-doing. Yet somehow we expect that a holy and perfect God would do right by overlooking our sin. When we ask the judge to set us free or not uphold the law in carrying out the proper judgement, we are actually asking for the judge to commit a crime himself. God is perfect and holy and just and will in no way overlook sin on behalf of the sinner's plea. If we plead with God to relent, He can only relent in forbearance. Justice will ultimately be carried out. We creatures are on borrowed time from God and don't deserve yet one more breath.

The law of the Lord is perfect and exact. You can be sure that your sin will find you out. Every secret thing done in the cover of night, that you don't want your closest friend or worst enemy to know, will go before the Lord as if you did it while standing before Him. For you are always before Him. There is no where that you may go to hide from the presence of the Lord. His eyes go everywhere and see everything. Neither by any means can you convince God that you were really trying to be good, but your circumstances would not let you. There is no amount of good that you can do in order to please God or make up for your sins. God is perfect and we are sinful and wicked. Pure justice has no personal preferences and reaches far beyond outward manifestations of sin. We find that in Matthew chapter five, Jesus describes lusting as adultery and hatred as murder.

When I took the time to make sense of all of this with some teenagers in Butler the most interesting thing happened. They got it. They understood it better than most modern theologians. Let me explain. I know that I have run a lot of rabbit trails thus far, so I will try to keep it simple. I used the courtroom scenario in the following way:

Imagine that you are standing before a judge guilty of a serious crime. The judgment is one-million dollars or a life-time in prison. You don't have the money to pay, so the judge says, "Off you go then. Bailiff, cuff him and get him out of my sight!" All of a sudden a man enters the courtroom and offers to pay the fine on your behalf.
"Your honor. I have raised the money for this man's release. Here it is one-million dollars in the full. Will you accept the money on his behalf?"
The judge agrees and sets you free based on the fact that your fine has been paid and not based on anything that you have done.

I then took the time to explain that God in the flesh, Christ Jesus, paid our fine of death and damnation when He died and suffered under the wrath of God on the cross. Payment in full for sinning against a perfect, infinite God. I then asked if they knew how to get that payment accredited to their account. Then it happened. One of the young boys blurted out, "I can't! It' not my money!" I was taken back a bit but kept on going. I then gave them the command to repent and trust the Savior. They were grateful for the Word and so was I. It never hit me so hard as it did when that teenager had said it. But then it happened a second time about 30 minutes later with another teenager who said almost the same exact thing. God was taking me deeper. Not only did these kids need to hear from Him, but so did I.

It's not enough to say that we must repent in order to be saved, but the fact is that we will repent if we are being saved. I can stand at the bedside of a paraplegic and command him to walk, but nothing will happen. It would be absurd for me to say that if he wanted to be healed, then he needs to stand up. He cannot and will not because his body is completely unresponsive. And so it goes with conversion. We can call people to repentance but they are totally incapable of it unless a regenerative work is first started in their hearts. God does the first work that enables them to respond properly to the call. Without it, we are merely commanding dead men to stand up and walk. These boys got it and that night I too got it in a much deeper way.