Encouragement to Persevere in Well Doing

And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff.  30 But passing through their midst, he went away.  31 And he went down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee. And he was teaching them on the Sabbath, – Luke 4:29-31

We learn, from this passage, how diligently we ought to persevere in well doing, notwithstanding discouragements. We are doubtless meant to draw this lesson from the conduct of our Lord, after His rejection at Nazareth. Nothing moved by the treatment he received, he patiently works on. Thrust out of one place, he passes on to another. Cast forth from Nazareth he comes to Capernaum, and there teaches on the Sabbath days.

Such ought to be the conduct of all the people of Christ. Whatever the work they are called to do, they should patiently continue in it, and not give up for want of success. Whether preachers, or teachers, or visitors, or missionaries, they must labor on and not faint.

There is preparatory work to be done in many a part of God’s vineyard, which is just as needful as any other work, though not so agreeable to flesh and blood. There must be sowers as well as reapers. There must be some to break up the ground and pick out the stones, as well as some to gather in the harvest. Let each labour in his own place. The day comes when each shall be rewarded according to his work.

The very discouragements we meet with enable us to show the world that there are such things as faith and patience. When men see us working on, in spite of treatment like that which Jesus met at Nazareth, it makes men think. It convinces them that, at all events, we are persuaded that we have truth on our side.

– J. C. Ryle (Expository Thoughts on the Gospel of Luke)

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The Importance of Jesus’ Two Natures

This past Sunday (September 2nd) I preached on Luke 3:23-38 which is the genealogy of Jesus. If you want to hear the message you can check it out here. In the sermon I worked to answer some common questions about the genealogy such as:

  1. Why were genealogies so important to the Jews of Jesus’ day?
  2. Why are there differences between the names listed by Matthew and Luke?
  3. What is the theological significance of Jesus being introduced through this genealogy?

That last question was a major focal point of the message and since I promised to post my notes, here they are.

One of the most important theological points of this section  is that Jesus belongs both to humanity and to the Godhead. Luke points out to the reader that Jesus was the (supposed) son of Joseph, which is to say that He is the actual Son of God (Divine). But at the same time, the list of human names that Luke gives us draws attention to the fact that Jesus is also a son of man (Human). In this passage, we see one of the most profound truths found in all the Scriptures which is that Jesus was both God and man, two natures unmixed resting perfectly and completely in the one person Jesus Christ.

But why is this such an important theological point? Why is it important to understand that Jesus came to us as one man with two natures: Divine and Human. Or maybe the question could be posed this way, “What is the relevance of both natures being present.” To answer this question it seems best to break it up into two parts.

Continue reading

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Chicago Statement on Biblical Innerancy

This past Sunday I preached a sermon introducing the Gospel of Luke, which will soon be posted here. In that introductory sermon one of my goals was to address some of the questions regarding the reliability of the New Testament documents. What I offered was just a small piece of the massive amount of evidence in favor of the historical reliability of the gospels but I also mentioned the Chicago Statement on Biblical Innerancy as a good summary statement of what I believe about the nature and transmission of God’s Word to us.

Here are the five main points that comprise this statement. If you would also like to read about the affirmations and denials that go along with this document you can find them here.

     1. God, who is Himself Truth and speaks truth only, has inspired Holy Scripture in order thereby to reveal Himself to lost mankind through Jesus Christ as Creator and Lord, Redeemer and Judge. Holy Scripture is God’s witness to Himself.
2. Holy Scripture, being God’s own Word, written by men prepared and superintended by His Spirit, is of infallible divine authority in all matters upon which it touches: It is to be believed, as God’s instruction, in all that it affirms; obeyed, as God’s command, in all that it requires; embraced, as God’s pledge, in all that it promises.
3. The Holy Spirit, Scripture’s divine Author, both authenticates it to us by His inward witness and opens our minds to understand its meaning.
4. Being wholly and verbally God-given, Scripture is without error or fault in all its teaching, no less in what it states about God’s acts in creation, about the events of world history, and about its own literary origins under God, than in its witness to God’s saving grace in individual lives.
5. The authority of Scripture is inescapably impaired if this total divine inerrancy is in any way limited of disregarded, or made relative to a view of truth contrary to the Bible’s own; and such lapses bring serious loss to both the individual and the Church.

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A Test of True Religion

James 1:26 – 27 If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.  27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

Religion is a word that has the ability to conjure up both positive and negative ideas when it is used. Some church leaders use it in a negative sense almost exclusively and they are no doubt referring to the empty religious formalism that is so prevalent in the church. When the word religion is used in this sense it can be helpful to point out that devotion to religious practice apart from an ongoing relationship to God is in fact dead.

But this is not the only way the word can be used. Religion is also a word used with the best of intentions to convey true, heartfelt, gospel-driven service to God. This is the way that James is using the term in James 1:26-27, in the positive sense of genuine service to God. But even in James’ mind the distinction between the two uses of the term is an important one, so he provides a few tests for us to help us determine whether or not our religion is genuine or false.

The first test involves how we use our words. He asks, “So you think yourself genuinely devoted to the laws of God? Then answer me this, how well do you control what comes out of your mouth and how it comes out of your mouth?”

Most of us would agree that as a child of God we should be concerned with our manner of speech. As a religious person I would agree that what I say and how I say it matters, but how has such knowledge impacted/changed/directed my actual speech? That’s the more appropriate question for us to meditate on? If my only step is to affirm that speech matters but I do nothing to bridle my tongue, my affirmation only condemns me.

Matthew Henry is helpful on this,

When men are more concerned to seem religious than really to be so, it is a sign that their religion is but vain; or as James says here, “Your religion is worthless.

The first test of whether or not our religion is pure has to do with how we use our tongues. Do we speak the truth in love? Do we commend ourselves or the strength and power of Christ? Do we guard our mouths from unwholesome (rude, disrespectful, careless, biting, sarcastic) words? Or do we use our mouths to grant grace to our hearers?

Colossians 4:5-6 Conduct yourselves wisely toward outsiders, making the best use of the time.  6 Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.

Ephesians 4:29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.

There is a second test and it has to do with how we care for the fatherless and the widows among us? James is emphatic that this is the true test of pure devotion. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.  (Jam 1:27)

The word “visit” is one that means to make careful inspection with helpful intent (BDAG). It implies a very vigilant and continual scrutiny with an intention toward gracious care. This is a whole-hearted devotion to the well-being of others.

Once again I consider myself religious in that good and proper sense but James will not let me be content with my own opinion of myself. He says, “You consider yourself religious, how well do you lovingly watch over and care for the widows and fatherless children under your care?”

As I have asked that question of myself I have been reminded that some of the things which I consider to be of the utmost importance, God sees as distractions from the real work of pure religion. It is easy for all of us to forget about our widows and the few fatherless children we have among us; but I want us to check our hearts in this and challenge one another to understand what such oversight means to God.

In our care for one another and in our zeal to share the gospel, we must not forget those whom God elevates in ministry importance.

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Puritan Prayers: God’s Cause

From the Valley of Vision – pg. 320-321

Sovereign God,

Thy cause, not my own, engages my heart, and I appeal to thee with greatest freedom to set up thy kingdom in every place where Satan reigns; Glorify thyself and I shall rejoice, for to bring honour to thy name is my sole desire.

I adore thee that thou art God, and long that others should know it, feel it, and rejoice in it.

O that all men might love and praise thee, that thou might have all glory from the intelligent world! Let sinners be brought to thee for they dear name!

To the eye of reason everything respecting the conversion of others is as dark as midnight, but thou can accomplish great things; the cause is thine, and it is to thy glory that men should be saved.

Lord, use me as thou wilt; do with me what thou wilt; but, O, promote thy cause, let thy kingdom come, let thy blessed interest be advanced in this world!

O do thou bring in great numbers to Jesus! let me see that glorious day, and give me to grasp for multitudes of souls; let me be willing to die to that end; and while I live let me labour for thee to the utmost of my strength, spending time profitably in this work, both in health and in weakness.

It is thy cause and kingdom I long for, not my own. O, answer thou my request.

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Sharing the Love of Christ on Halloween

For year my wife and I have sought to find ways that our family could redeem Halloween for the sake of gospel advance. We have led our church in Reformation Day carnivals, we have handed out candy with Scripture attached, we have gathered together with believing friends to host community group reformation parties; but we are always on the lookout for creative ways to redeem cultural celebrations for the sake of the gospel.

Last night as we were watching game 6 with our neighbors and a few families from our Community Group we got in the discussion about what we were going to do this Halloween. During this discussion someone brought up a blog post by Jeff Vanderstelt where he outlines several ways that families and singles can be missional during Halloween. He has some great ideas so take a look.

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Reflecting on the Death of Steve Jobs

The death of a brilliant man (or woman) is always a difficult pill to swallow. For many, Steve Jobs changed the way they viewed life; for others, he changed the way they interacted with it. The man made amazing and beautiful things. He gave us the first fully computer animated feature film (Toy Story). His ideas have shaped the way we interact with our world and with one another. But the man, any man, is more than simply the sum of all his accomplishments, “One’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” – (Luke 12:15) 

I don’t want to be insensitive to the grief that so many people feel over the death of Steve Jobs. Their pain is real and his death is truly a loss. But for those of you who are still reading I simply want to suggest that our grief and compassion is incomplete, even shallow, if it only focuses on the treasures that rust and not on the state of a man’s soul before God. Jared Wilson’s thoughts on this are sober and helpful…

It is a hollow compassion to mourn the loss of a man’s products and creativity and set aside the potential loss of his soul as not as important, even if what we just mean is that it’s not as important at this time. Nobody I have seen is denying Jobs incredible impact and artistry. But Jesus’ words in Matthew 16:26 point us in the direction of greater grief, deeper grief.

A grief that mourns the loss of a man’s worldly accomplishments but feels no anxiety for his eternal destiny is upside down. A man’s worth lay not in his achievements or success but in his being made in the image of God. Setting aside for the moment the state of Jobs’s eternal destiny — because none of us can really know for sure — let us just be real about what is at stake in this life. It’s not fame and renown, it’s not the fulfillment of our gifts and talents, it’s not the altruistic good we can do our fellow man — it is eternal life and eternal death. All else is treasure that rusts.

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