DBG Christian Blogs and Sermons
Welcome to the DBG website for Christian blogs and articles written by Josh Buice.
Enjoy the following resources:
- Christian Blogs
- Christian Resources
- Theology Articles
- Preaching Resources
- Audio and Video Sermons
- Family Worship Recommendations
Providing Christian blogs, articles, and sermons on various topics from a biblical perspective.
- Expository Preaching
- The Exclusivity of Christ
- Dangers of the Health, Wealth, and Prosperity Theology
- Biblical Manhood and Womanhood
Christ’s way is first to wound, then to heal. ~ Richard Sibbes
This morning at 4:30am, my phone rang. It was my mother. She was calling to inform me that my grandmother was hospitalized in the middle of the night. She was calling to ask me to pray.
What is the purpose of prayer? Isn’t God in control of all things? Why do we, as weak humans need to pray? Does God really hear us praying to Him? How is that even possible when potentially millions of people are praying at the same time around the world? All of these questions are worthy of a response. However, let’s consider the subject of prayer from two main vantage points – the privilege and purpose of prayer.
The Privilege of Prayer
In ancient times, to go before a king would be a privileged opportunity of a lifetime. Many people would live their entire lives without having the privilege to speak to the king or to stand before his throne. As we look back at Esther, she revealed to us the point that if a person was not summoned to stand before the king, to just enter into his presence unannounced would be a death sentence (Esther 4:10-11).
As we survey the worship practices of Israel in the Old Testament, we see that God provided the people with specific instructions regarding the construction of the mobile tabernacle. The book of Exodus contains the detailed instructions of this tent-like structure that was used for the purpose of worship. God desired for His people to worship Him and to worship Him in a specific manner. However, as we look at the tabernacle, it’s obvious that certain restrictions and boundaries were set in place. Only the Levite priests were called to enter the holy place to carry out the rituals of their worship practice and interact with the furniture that was inside. Behind the second veil was the most holy place and that’s where the Ark of the Covenant was located. Only the high priest could enter there into the direct presence of God and this was only on the day of atonement – Yom Kippur. All of Israel had to stand back from the presence of God.
After Jesus’ death on the cross, the temple veil was ripped in half (from top to bottom). Obviously God tore the veil and made a statement in the process. We have access to enter the presence of God through Jesus Christ. This is what the writer to the Hebrews explained in Hebrews 10:19-22:
Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus,  by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh,  and since we have a great priest over the house of God,  let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.
We can now enter the holy places with confidence by the blood of Jesus. Jesus has opened for us the curtain – through his own flesh. What would have been a death sentence to rush before the presence of God in the holy of holies is now a privilege that God has granted to His children. It’s not that we must pray or that we have to pray. The right attitude towards prayer is that we are privileged to pray.
The Purpose of Prayer
God doesn’t need us. Sometimes we get the wrong picture of God. He is self-existent and self-reliant. He doesn’t get board and He doesn’t need companions or friends. He created humanity and all of the expanse of the universe simply for His glory. Therefore, when we pray, we aren’t informing God of anything. He doesn’t need to read the USA Today or New York Times. God possesses perfect knowledge at all times – without depending on the newsfeed from any Apple device. So, what’s the point of prayer?
The main foundation of prayer is to demonstrate our need for God. Simply put – we are needy people and our greatest need is not air to breathe or food to eat. Our greatest need in this life and the life to come is God. In one of his sermons on prayer, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said, “Man is at his greatest and highest when on his knees he comes face to face to God.”
The right posture of prayer is humility as we consider the transcendence of God and His sovereign control over our small brief life. Wayne Grudem, in his Systematic Theology, defines prayer by saying, “Prayer is personal communication with God.” While this is a rather broad definition, it’s true. We communicate with God and this communication involves praise, needs, worship, and confession of sin. John Bunyan, the puritan preacher from England, wrote I Will Pray With the Spirit and With the Understanding Also- or, A discourse touching prayer while he was in prison in 1662. He defines prayer as follows:
“Prayer is a sincere, sensible, affectionate pouring out of the heart or soul to God, through Christ, in the strength and assistance of the Holy Spirit, for such things as God has promised, or according to the Word of God, for the good of the church, with submission in faith to the will of God.”
As we consider the big picture of life, we immediately come to realize that we can’t meet the multifaceted needs of our world. We can’t even meet the diverse needs of our own small life. In prayer, we beseech the throne of God in humility and confidence to ask for His will to be done. We ask for the need to be met. We pray in the early hours of the morning for our church family. As I prayed for my grandmother this morning, I’m trusting in my sovereign God to heal her body and restore her health. I can’t do that. I need God.
We need God, therefore we pray. As we continue through life, we must avoid the idea that we need Apple devices more than we need God. A person who doesn’t pray is saying – “God – I don’t need you.” May we all avoid such self reliance. When you and I battle with prayer and what to say as we pray, turn to Psalm 73:25-26 and start off your prayer with this text:
Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.  My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
What is abortion? It’s an alternative word that we use in our culture to describe the act of murdering babies. Similar to the way we redirect the shame of adultery by calling it an extramarital affair. For many years since Roe v. Wade, the United States of America has openly supported, legalized, and flaunted baby murder under the tag line of “women’s rights” and “reproductive freedom.” Once again, rather than dealing with the issue of life, our nation and political leaders have bought into the idea of radical feminism that has popularized the idea of choice – no matter what.
Consider the Shame of Abortion Statistics
The abortion statistics in our nation are staggering. Abortion numbers for the United States are generally available from two sources—the Guttmacher Institute (AGI) provides private statistics and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) offers public research statistics. Over 1 million abortions occur each year in America. Planned Parenthood facilitated 327,653 abortions in 2014. Just through Planned Parenthood, the abortion stats are enormous: approximately 37 lives are snuffed out with the approval of mothers every hour or 1 every 90 seconds. Planned Parenthood is a government funded organization in America.
Since Roe v. Wade, over 57 million babies have been murdered under the idea of a “right to choose.” The problem is, the baby wasn’t given the right to choose. The mother was given the right and her right was slanted and dependent upon many factors such as marital status, age, reproach, shame, money, school, career, and a variety of other considerations. The baby had zero choice and the rights of babies have been violated through the act of abortion from the beginning.
Consider the Shame of Abortion Procedures
Abortion procedures are not sterile and clean as some organizations such as Planned Parenthood try to suggest. No matter how clean or sophisticated the abortion seems to be in the doctor’s office, the painful death of the small baby is nothing less than terrorism in the womb. Abort73 is a website that provides information on the different abortion procedures and other helpful statistics regarding abortion. For someone considering abortion, it would be beneficial to take a good look into the actual practice and procedures of abortion before making that final choice. Abort73 points out the fact that abortion violates the main goal of all physicians:
“The Hippocratic Oath, which also vows to “never do harm,” it is a reminder that the physician’s role is to heal, not to harm. While many surgical procedures carry the risk of harm, their intent is to provide healing for the patient. The explicit intent of abortion, however, is to harm the embryo or fetus to death.”
Consider the Shame of Abortion Ethics
Let’s be clear on the issue of abortion. It’s murder. There is no other way to define it. Abortion consists of taking the life away from a living baby in the mother’s womb. No matter what our nation, politicians, scientists, or the women’s liberation movement desires to label abortion, it’s murder. We are a nation of inconsistencies. We have instances on the books in recent years where a pregnant mother has been involved in an automobile accident and her baby’s life was taken, and the driver of the other automobile was charged with vehicular homicide.
A university study in England has produced some troubling images of babies in the womb covering their faces and eyes as their mother smoked. This has caught the attention of liberals in America. Apparently smoking while pregnant is a violation of rights for the baby, but taking the life of the baby through abortion (and there are various methods) is not a violation of human rights, because we all know it’s just a mass of cells - right?
In keeping stride with the radical feminist agenda, Carafem, a Washington, D.C. clinic has produced a 30 second advertisement that seeks to normalize abortion. Carafem is dodging the shame of abortion with pink heels, a youthful look, and modernity. With a mixture of old and new, Carafem puts away the idea of a young girl taking a trip out to the countryside or a sudden bout with appendedicidis. As their advertisment makes clear, they want to point out the pink elephant in the room and they’re not ashamed of it. In fact, their advertisement clearly says, “Because there’s no shame in it. Abortion. Yeah, we do that.” They’re seeking to turn the abortion clinic into an “abortion spa” with a modern look, hot tea, coffee, and a comfortable feel.
I find it interesting that as this article was being written, the Carafem advertisement had been viewed over 202,000 times and had 45 likes and 409 dislikes on YouTube. No matter how much money is spent on advertisement campaigns, abortion is shameful. The act of abortion is one of the most unnatural acts of depravity. For a mother to kill her own child is unnatural. For a grandfather to pay for his grandchild to die by abortion is unthinkable.
The ethics of humanitarian care in America are inconsistent and politically driven. If a terror group wants to blow up our buildings, we will become outraged. If a mother drives her SUV across a beach with her children inside and plunges into the ocean, we will protest. If an inner city gang performs a drive-by shooting and kills small children in the process, we will insist that justice is carried out on the gunman. If smoking harms babies, we will consider placing restrictions upon the act of smoking while pregnant. We live in a nation that often cares more about trees and the wellbeing of animals than unborn babies. A large population of people in America focus upon preserving nature, recycling aluminum cans, and protecting the whales while their bumper sticker on the back of their car reads, “Support Women’s Right to Choose.”
Scott Klusendorf, in his helpful booklet, Pro-Life 101, writes:
“Elective abortion unjustly takes the life of a defenseless human being. The rationale for that argument is clear and to the point:
- Intentionally killing an innocent human being is a moral wrong.
- Elective abortion is the intentional killing of an innocent human being.
- Therefore, elective abortion is a moral wrong.”
Often America wants to lead the charge in humanitarian efforts around the world. We demand that other nations protect children and keep them from becoming slaves in factories as young children. We stand against genocide attacks in third world nations all while promoting the woman’s right to kill her own baby.
There is hope for those who have made the choice to fund abortion and perform abortions on the unborn. Jesus died for sinners and took the wrath of the Father on Himself as He was nailed to the cross. For the person who has chosen abortion, there is forgiveness available in Jesus. As Scott Klusendorf writes in his article, “Clarity Not Gadgetry: Pro-Life Apologetics For The Next Generation” – “Like all sinners, post-abortion men and women need this gospel. With it, they live each day assured God accepts them on the basis of Christ’s righteousness, not their own. Without it, they perish.”
Repentance, as we know, is basically not moaning and remorse, but turning and change. ~ J. I. Packer
Years ago, I was handed a CD of a sermon (for the young readers, that was a round disc that you played before the rise of .mp3) by Paul Washer. I listened to it, but I was not impressed at all. I discarded the sermon and If the truth were known, I didn’t plan on listening to it again. Years would pass by and someone else introduced me to another sermon by Paul Washer. This time, I was greatly moved by the Lord. From that point forward, I started listening to Paul Washer preach the Word on a regular basis. The Lord has used him in my life to encourage me and to challenge me. For that, I am extremely grateful.
Many people have come to know the Lord through Paul Washer’s preaching. The overwhelming majority of people that I meet tell me they came to know of Paul Washer through the sermon that went viral on YouTube titled, “The Most Shocking Youth Sermon.” In fact, Tim Challies once told me at the G3 Conference that several men in his church came to Christ through that online sermon. That’s just one church with that testimony.
As I have heard Paul Washer preach on different texts and different subjects, I have not heard him preach better than he did in the G3 Conference in January of 2015. The sermon is titled: “The Essential Elements of the Great Commission” from Matthew 28. As you will see, Paul Washer preaching Matthew 28 is a wonderful example of an expository sermon preached in the power of the Holy Spirit. I hope you will take time to watch / listen. You can find the full archives of the 2015 G3 on the G3 Conference website.
Beware of the False Gospel of Prosperity Theology
Does God want you to be rich and healthy? Christianity stands upon the firm foundation of justification by faith alone in Christ alone for the remission of sin. Prosperity theology (otherwise known as the prosperity gospel or by the tag line, “health, wealth, and prosperity”) stands upon the sinking sand of good health, increased wealth, and your best life now. What many people fail to realize is that prosperity theology is bankrupt. That’s right – it has nothing to offer your soul. It’s a cloud without rain or a well without water. It’s an empty dream that people chase with fervency only to find themselves in utter disappointment in the end.
Prosperity teachers are a dime a dozen in our modern culture. These preachers and teachers harness the modern technological advances (radio, television, Internet, and applications for smart phones) to spread their message of health, wealth, and happiness to a wide viewing audience. Some of the most common prosperity theology teachers include Joel Osteen, Creflo Dollar, Joyce Meyer, Benny Hinn, and T. D. Jakes (I believe naming names is important. See why in this article: “Calling Out Wolves Dressed In Wool“).
The Bankruptcy of Prosperity Theology
The premise of prosperity theology is that it’s possible to thrive in this world as God’s child and be lavished with blessings so that you can literally have your best life now. At the heart of this message is the idea that if you are strong enough in your faith, courageous in your giving, and truly believe – God will supply you with health, wealth, and prosperity.
The prosperity preachers have developed their own religious vocabulary in order to get you to “sow seed gift offerings” into their ministries. Joel Osteen wrote to his congregation in 2005 and stated, “God wants us to prosper financially, to have plenty of money, to fulfill the destiny He has laid out for us” [Source: The Washington Post]. Recently Creflo Dollar, a well known prosperity teacher in Atlanta has made national news as a result of his open campaign to raise $60 million dollars to purchase a luxury Gulf-Stream jet. According to the website for Creflo Dollar’s ministry, they were requesting “200,000 people committed to sow $300 or more (to) help achieve our goal to purchase the G650 airplane.” This is not the message of the gospel of Jesus. In fact, it’s antithetical to the gospel of Jesus and should be condemned by Christians.
When I spent time in Africa in 2014, Conrad Mbewe told me that the major obstacle in his ministry in Zambia was prosperity and faith healing ministries that have swarmed the entire continent of Africa. You could not drive more than a couple of blocks in the city of Zambia without seeing an advertisement for a faith healer or prosperity preacher. One reason for this growth in Africa and Asia is due to the extreme poverty and lack of good health conditions. As a result, these faith healers and prosperity teachers will seize the minds and consciences of these people and cause them to think that if they will give up what little they have in faith – God will open the windows of heaven and pour out a blessing upon them in the form of better health and increased wealth. Their audacity is startling, their message is corrupt, and the end result is tragic.
The bankruptcy of prosperity theology is that the entire focus is on the temporal rather than the eternal. Prosperity theology is focused on money rather than Jesus. The fact remains, the only people getting rich in the world of prosperity theology are the liars. Jesus warned about focusing on your “best life now” by saying, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.  For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?” (Matthew 16:24-26). Many people go to hell each year while being very committed to prosperity theology. Their faith was in the god of gold rather than the God of grace. John MacArthur rightly stated, “this is your best life, if your next life is in hell.”
The Riches of Christ
The heart of the gospel is that fallen sinners are reconciled to God through the death, burial, and resurrection of King Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). The sinner comes to God in faith that His Son has died in the sinner’s place and that through faith in His finished work, the sinner can receive the forgiveness of sin. What is more costly than salvation? Peter explains in 1 Peter 1:18-21:
Knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold,  but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.  He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you  who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.
The message of the gospel is that we lose our life in this life for Christ and as a result – we find it in Him. In other words, there is a better life awaiting us in Christ than anything this world has to offer us. The writer to the Hebrews describes Abraham’s faith and says, “For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God” (Hebrews 11:10). The message of the gospel is that we press on through this life in order to make Christ known as His ambassadors. We are heralds who proclaim the riches of grace that are laid up for us in heaven.
Jesus made it abundantly clear in His famous sermon popularly titled, The Sermon on the Mount. Jesus said in Matthew 6:19-21:
Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal,  but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
The real pointed question that all prosperity teachers should answer is: What is your ultimate treasure in this life and the one to follow? Is it earthly riches? Is it the wealth to come in heaven? Is it Jesus?
Do you know someone who is entrapped by prosperity theology? Urge them to find their joy in Jesus. Ask them to evaluate their faith and theology on the basis of the following questions:
- What is the basis of your joy – the pursuit of happiness in prosperity or in Jesus alone?
- What is the basis of your faith? If you stood before the throne of God today, why should He allow you into His heaven?
- What if you never achieve better health, increased wealth, or worldly prosperity – what does that say about your faith?
- Is your financial commitment to the prosperity teacher on television or to God through your local church?
- Do you realize that many of the greatest Christians from the early church (the apostles and early church disciples) and modern church history (missionaries and preachers) have suffered greatly under trials, poverty, and martyrdom? What does that say about their faith in God?
Prosperity theology is a lie. It’s a false gospel. Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money” (Matthew 6:24). God’s plan for your life may never be good health. It may be God’s will for you to live in extreme poverty. It may never be God’s will to lavish you with worldly prosperity. However, the heart of the gospel is focused on this reality – we came into this world with nothing and we will likewise leave this world with nothing. It matters not how much wealth we accumulate in this life. What matters most is how we leave this world. It’s not about the cars we drive or the houses we can afford. It’s about Jesus. As we leave this world we must be clinging to Christ alone. In the words of Augustus Toplady from 1776:
Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to the cross I cling;
Naked, come to Thee for dress;
Helpless look to Thee for grace;
Foul, I to the fountain fly;
Wash me, Savior, or I die.
What Role Does Evangelism Have in the New Birth?
A re you discouraged in your efforts of evangelism? Jesus spoke of the necessity of being born again in His conversation with Nicodemus (John 3). Many books have been written on the subject of the new birth and evangelism throughout church history. Born again is a phrase coined by Jesus to reference salvation. When you hear people talk about being saved – what they’re referring to is their past conversion and present commitment to be a follower of Jesus.
Evangelism is the process of explaining the gospel to people and helping them see their need for Jesus. Today, we have popular seminars and conferences devoted to the subject of evangelism. Throughout the recent history of the church, we have witnessed the rise and fall of programatic evangelism through Evangelism Explosion and other similar approaches. What must happen for a person to be born again? What are the basic essentials in the salvation of a lost soul? What role does evangelism have in the new birth?
1. Evangelism Essential: The Gospel Must be Presented
Many people form their philosophy of evangelism by the popular phrase, “Preach the gospel at all times. Use words if necessary.” The statement is often attributed to St. Francis of Assisi, but the source is highly questionable. No matter who spoke the phrase and popularized it, the fact remains, that type of evangelistic philosophy is antithetical to the Great Commission given by Jesus (Matthew 28:18-20). We must use words to present the gospel. The gospel is made up of words and sentences.
God’s exclusive plan of salvation is the gospel of Jesus. Without the gospel, no person can be saved. People can come to the reality of God’s existence through the reflection of God in creation. The entire universe points to the existence of God, but that is as far as the created world goes. No tree, bird, deer, or rock has preached the gospel. Without the gospel, all people would perish.
Paul pointed out this truth in his letter to the Christians in Rome. In Romans 10:14-17, Paul writes:
How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?  And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”  But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?”  So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
Often people in the church will argue that people who have never heard the gospel and been given an opportunity to repent will die and go to heaven. That is merely an argument from sentimentalism rather than theology. Suppose a person grew up in a remote jungle and only knew to worship a carved image in a piece of wood that was handed down to his tribe from his ancestors over 100 years ago. When that person dies, if he goes to heaven, three very important things must be understood:
- The man’s sin was overlooked by God. What does this say about God’s justice system at this point?
- The death of Jesus is overrated and unnecessary to save fallen sinners. So, why did God crush His Son (Isaiah 53)?
- Christian missions is a tragic waste of time and money. Why does the church send missionaries to the nations?
The fact is, the tribesman who never hears the gospel dies and goes to hell because he has transgressed the law of God. Only through the gospel can this man be rescued. As Paul makes clear, he cannot have faith in Jesus if he has never heard of Him. Therefore, the gospel must be presented before anyone can be born again.
2. Evangelism Essential: Call for Repentance
Repentance is necessary for a person to receive the forgiveness of sins and to be reconciled to a holy God. If our evangelism does not make this clear, we are not properly evangelizing. This is abundantly clear in the pages of Scripture. Jesus said, in Luke 13:3, “I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” What exactly is repentance?
First, we must make it crystal clear that repentance is more than external rituals. Repentance begins with an internal acknowledgement of guilt and a commitment to turn away from sin. This internal work is not an anonymous act, but is fixated upon the work of Jesus Christ on the cross. Repentance is the point where the sinner calls out to God for mercy and trusts that Jesus’ work on the cross is enough to satisfy God’s holy justice.
The acknowledgement of guilt brings a person to hate the things he once loved and love the things he once hated. The well known English preacher from church history, Charles Spurgeon, defined repentance by saying:
Repentance is a discovery of the evil of sin, a mourning that we have committed it, a resolution to forsake it. It is, in fact, a change of mind of a very deep and practical character, which makes the man love what once he hated, and hate what once he loved. [HT: Desiring God]
There is much controversy in some evangelical circles surrounding the use of the “sinner’s prayer” in evangelism. The fact is, a sinner must call upon the Lord for salvation and this is clear from what Paul said in Romans 10:13 as he quoted from Joel 2:32. In evangelism, we must urge people to respond to God and this involves turning from their sin and clinging to their singular hope in God through Jesus Christ.
3. Evangelism Essential: Trust God
Through the years, I have witnessed some really bad examples of evangelism programs and gospel presentations. Some were due to a lack of preparation and proper training, but others were unmistakably the work of prepared manipulation. I once witnessed a preacher give an alter call at the end of a sermon where he asked all of his trained counselors to wait to come to the front until he called for unbelievers to come to the front to receive counseling. This would “prime the pump” and allow people to freely respond.
Techniques like this have been used in the church for many years, and unfortunately, that’s why we have such a large percentage of lost church members scattered out through many evangelical churches. Evangelism techniques that manipulate man as opposed to trusting in God to bring about a response should be condemned by the church of Jesus Christ. It is not the job of the evangelist to manipulate a sinner to respond to God. Paul was a passionate evangelist who understood his responsibility was “to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins” (Acts 26:18). However, we don’t see Paul “priming the pump” as he preached the gospel in various cities. He called people to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.
Paul spoke of this truth in his letter to the church at Corinth. In 1 Corinthians 3:6, Paul wrote, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.” When we share the gospel with unbelievers, we must rely upon the sovereignty of God to bring about the new birth. It’s not the cleverly constructed clichés of man nor is it the power of the presentation. The power is in God’s message and the new birth comes as the wind blows, and we can’t control the wind. We see the evidence of it, but we can’t control it. This is a direct illustration Jesus used to educate Nicodemus about the new birth in John 3.
Only God can bring about a spiritual resurrection (Ephesians 2:1-5). Sinners are dead in their sins, and we must rely upon God to raise the dead. Evangelism is like standing in the middle of a cemetery and as you present the gospel you trust God to raise people from their spiritual grave. It is possible to get people to respond through tricks, schemes, and manipulation techniques. However, those converts are not genuine and will eventually fall away as they experience pressures for following Christ or as the cares of this world tempt them to walk away (Mark 4:1-20).
As we think about the new birth, we must be reminded that Jesus Himself said that only those who have “ears to hear” would comprehend the gospel. Only God can provide ears to hear the good news of the gospel. Until He works in the heart of an unbeliever, the gospel will be a foolish message (1 Corinthians 1). J. I. Packer, in his excellent book titled, Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God, writes:
Can you or I by our earnest talking break the power of Satan over a man’s life? No. Can you or I give life to the spiritually dead? No. Can we hope to convince sinners of the truth of the gospel by patient explanation? No. Can we hope to move men to obey the gospel by any words of entreaty that we may utter? No. Our approach to evangelism is not realistic till we have faced this shattering fact, and let it make its proper impact on us…We can preach, and preach clearly and fluently and attractively; we can talk to individuals in the most pointed and challenging way; we can organize special services, and distribute tracts, and put up posters, and flood the country with publicity-and there is not the slightest prospect that all of this outlay of effort will bring a single soul home to God. Unless there is some other factor in the situation, over and above our own endeavours, all evangelistic action is foredoomed to failure. This is the fact, the brute, rock-bottom fact, that we have to face.1
What role does evangelism have in the new birth? Evangelism is the process of delivering the mail to someone’s address. We are not responsible for how they respond to the mail. The one presenting the message of the gospel is not responsible for saving the sinner.
As we come to this earth shaking reality that we can’t save sinners and that it’s the responsibility of God to bring about the new birth, it provides us great freedom in the Christian life. This freedom helps us become bold in our proclamation and sleep well at night. This doesn’t mean that our evangelism should be cold or that we should not weep for sinners. We must pray earnestly and weep for sinners to be saved, but where is our weeping and praying directed? It is directed toward God. It is God who saves sinners.
As we disciple young Christians and reeducate older saints, let us be committed to teaching them the proper method of biblical evangelism.
1. J. I. Packer, Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God, 108-109.
I had the privilege to attend The Gospel Coalition conference this week in Orlando. As you know, buying books at conferences is usually a good idea in order to take advantage of big discounts. As I was browsing through the bookstore, I started a short summer reading list that I thought I would pass along. As you think about this summer, you should set goals in order to help you read what you want and what you need at the same time. Now is the time to start thinking about your summer reading plan.
Openness Unhindered by Rosaria Butterfield. I plan on reading this book this summer as I continue to think about how to reach those who are not like me. Often our bubble is so closed off to people who are quite different than we are, and Rosaria Butterfield helped me think through that in her book, Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert. According to the publisher, “Rosaria Butterfield, once a leftist professor in a committed lesbian relationship and now a confessional Christian, but always the thoughtful and compassionate professor, has written a followup to The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert. This book answers many of the questions people pose when she speaks at universities and churches, questions not only about her unlikely conversion to Christ but about personal struggles that the questioners only dare to ask someone else who has traveled a long and painful journey.”
Who Is Jesus by Greg Gilbert. I received a copy at The Gospel Coalition conference in Orlando, and after reading, I plan to give it away to someone who doesn’t know Jesus. Although this book is not intended to be a deep theological study, it will be a great resource to help introduce friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers to who Jesus actually is.
Rejoicing In Christ by Michael Reeves. If you are unfamiliar with Michael Reeves, he is an author, theologian, historian and professor who teaches at Wales Evangelical School of Theology (WEST) and is the director of Union, a WEST initiative that puts the theological academy back in the local church context. His book, The Unquenchable Flame was very good, and I intend to give Rejoicing In Christ a read this summer as I desire to know more about Jesus and His work as God who took on human flesh.
What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality? by Kevin DeYoung. This book is designed for a diverse group consisting of the skeptic and the Sunday school teacher. What does the Bible actually say about this lightening rod subject that has swept across our culture. Kevin DeYoung is a gifted author and I plan to read this book this summer as I continue to think critically about how I should engage and evangelize the homosexual with the gospel of Christ in a manner that honors God. I am worlds apart from the homosexuality in many ways, but I’m not unlike the homosexual in the sense that I’m a sinner too. Therefore, I desire to continue thinking about this issue that all Christians here in America need to spend time thinking through.
One God in Three Persons edited by Bruce Ware and John Starke. This book consists of several contributors who help provide precise theological clarity upon the doctrine of the Trinity. As I plan and prepare for the 2016 G3 Conference on the Trinity, I will be reading this book in my preparation time this summer. This book provides a biblical view of the Trinity and rejects the egalitarianism that often comes through the lens of the liberal feminist culture.
Inheritance of Tears by Jessalyn Hutto. As a man and husband who has been through this with my wife several times, miscarriage is a difficult pain that only those who experience it can relate. After walking this path with my wife, I have come to know many people who have likewise experienced the confusion and discouragement of miscarriage. This book would be a great resource for the church library and anyone who knows someone who has gone through the complexities of miscarriage. ”When a woman becomes pregnant, miscarriage is usually the furthest thing from her mind. Such was the case for Jessalyn Hutto when she became pregnant with her first baby. But as is all too common in our post-fall world, the life she carried came to an abrupt end. Death had visited her womb, and the horrors of miscarriage had become a part of her life’s story.”
Logic on Fire – The Life and Legacy of Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones by Media Gratiae. Released at The Gospel Coalition conference in Orlando after a world debut presentation, this film does an excellent job of putting the life and ministry of Lloyd-Jones on display in a documentary style. J. I. Packer once commented that the preaching of Martyn Lloyd-Jones came to him with the “force of an electric shock.” Why was this the case? Because Lloyd-Jones had a firm fixed commitment to the preaching of God’s Word by the power of the Holy Spirit. He was not content to allow the culture to dictate the direction of his pulpit. God grew his church without the schemes of man and the entertainment culture. This film would be a great gift to any pastor and a wonderful asset to the church library.
“Peruse a good book several times and make notes and analyses of it. A student will find that his mental constitution is more affected by one book thoroughly mastered than by twenty books he has merely skimmed. Little learning and much pride comes from hasty reading.” ~ Charles Spurgeon
Does God Perform Miraculous Healing Today?
A few weeks ago, my daughter had to be hospitalized for a severe case of dehydration after coming down with the common stomach bug. It was a rare case of extreme dehydration that came on fairly quickly. As I stayed home on Saturday evening with the other three children, my wife took our youngest daughter Kalli to the hospital. We expected her to receive fluids and then be released. However, her case of dehydration was so bad, her blood work revealed some problems that had to be addressed quickly – by specialists. What I didn’t know was that she would spend three days in the hospital in recovery.
During this time at home, I had sent texts to my close friends, posted privately to our church family, and finally I posted an update and prayer request on Facebook to a broader audience. Later that evening, I received an e-mail through Facebook. Part of that e-mail reads:
I’m offended with you. Not long ago you publicly blasted a church for having a healing service. But now you are asking for prayer??? What is the prayer for? Obviously not healing because that would mean you do believe in miraculous healings.
To be fair, this person went on to explain that the purpose of the e-mail was not to slam me or ridicule me. The individual simply wanted an explanation. I would say, it’s a fair request since I had openly criticized the healing services in our community over the last year.
To be clear, I believe in miracles. God is big and sovereign and has the power to heal anyone, anytime, as He chooses. I do think it should be stated that the false claims of fake healers from Christian charlatans should be called out for what they are – aberrant and offensive frauds.
God’s Sovereignty in Miraculous Healing
God has consistently provided verifiable evidence that He has power over disease. He has put His power on display in the ministry and work of His Son – Jesus Christ. Not only did God prove to have power over disease, but He likewise demonstrated His power over death by the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.
As the church is established by Jesus, He made a very specific promise to Peter and the disciples regarding His church. In Matthew 16:18, Jesus said, “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” As Jesus established the church, the gates of hell would literally come against it. Although Jesus validated His ministry and His claim of deity through miracles, wonders, and signs, they still nailed Him to the cross to get rid of Him. They wouldn’t accept His gospel, but they couldn’t explain His power, so they killed Him.
That clearly didn’t work, because Jesus was resurrected from the dead on the third day. Out of all of Jesus’ miracles and signs, the resurrection on the third day was the authentication of Christianity that could never be explained away. Jesus was raised from the dead and appeared to hundreds of people over a 40 day period. As He prepared to ascend to the Father, He prepared His followers to receive the Holy Spirit in Jerusalem.
The skepticism and open rejection of the church by the religious establishment would have been overwhelming for a group of sketchy Jesus followers had it not been for the miracles, wonders, and signs that accompanied their ministry. The early disciples experienced great power from God in order to validate the authenticity of the church. From speaking in tongues (other languages) at Pentecost, to various other signs and wonders, the early church and the message of the gospel was being established by these signs. After the lame man was healed and could walk, the entire city of Jerusalem was in an uproar. The Sanhedrin held council after arresting Peter and John for the miracle. As they talked to one another privately and they could not escape the power of the miracle.
Acts 4:16 - What shall we do with these men? For that a notable sign has been performed through them is evident to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it.
As the church continued to grow, the mounting pressures continued to push back against the followers of Christ. God performed miracles through them to show the world that His church is genuine and the message of the gospel must be heard. The purpose of the miracles was not to make the disciples into superheroes. It was to validate the gospel and the church of Jesus Christ.
Miraculous Healing or Strange Fire?
Are today’s miracles genuine or counterfeit? Are the tongues in today’s Charismatic movement real or counterfeit? We should test the spirits to see if what is being claimed is of God – or strange fire (1 John 4:1). God does not take lightly false worship, and we recall what happened with Nadab and Abihu as they were consumed for offering up to God strange fire upon the alter before the Tabernacle (see Leviticus 10). They were consumed in a fire of God’s judgment.
Does God still perform miracles today? Yes, without a doubt He does. Does God still give miraculous gifts to His church as a normative manner of validating the truth claims of the gospel and the authenticity of the church? We must consider several important facts as we evaluate this question.
- We know that the apostles were given as gifts to the church in the beginning to establish the early church and organize it for growth. The apostles are now dead and they are in the presence of God rather than the presence of God’s church. Therefore, we can say assuredly that the gift of the apostle was a temporary gift for a season in church history.
- Speaking in tongues was a manifestation of the Holy Spirit and as the early Jesus followers spoke in tongues, the text of Acts 2 reveals that they were other known languages. The gibberish that is often called tongues by the modern Charismatic movement does not align itself with the power of the Holy Spirit and the tongues of Acts 2. Linguistically, the modern tongues movement does not line up with Scripture.
- By the closing of the New Testament, the miraculous gifts are starting to fade away. As the apostles were dying, the miraculous gifts that were given by God to validate His church and His gospel message were likewise fading off of the scene with the apostles. By the time the close of the New Testament is complete, the miraculous gifts are not prevalent among the church throughout church history.
- Consider the need for the gift of prophecy. To have a divine Word from God during the Old Testament was necessary because the full and completed Word of God was not in place. This gift continues into the New Testament age as the church was being validated and established, but once the canon of Scripture was closed by God, there would no longer be any need for a divine Word from God to be given. God’s Word is sufficient. Therefore, modern prophecy ministries deny the validity and sufficiency of God’s Word.
- The modern faith healers that have come to us through a long line of religious charlatans dating back to the magicians who stood before Pharaoh. They are aligned with Balaam and Simon the Sorcerer rather than Peter and the apostles. Benny Hinn and others like him have been proven as false prophets. They do not have the validating power of the Holy Spirit upon them as we see in Acts and the early church.
- Can the modern miraculous gifts be mimicked, mocked, and explained away? That seems to be the case. The false prophets of our age abound through the media of television and the Internet. Many of these false teachers hold miracle crusades where they ask for those people who need to be healed to come up on the platform to be healed. However, at the front there are screeners who separate certain people from the large crowd and only a privileged group of people are granted access to the stage. In the majority of the cases, the crusades are more about money than miracles and when you contrast and compare the miraculous gifts of the early church from those that we see paraded across the television screen today, the differences are more than the similarities.
We must be committed to exposing the fraudulent practices of false faith healers. Their work is not for God. Their message is based on health, wealth, and prosperity rather than the true gospel of Jesus Christ. In Atlanta, where I live and minister, the entire city is swimming with these prosperity preaching false faith healers.
Can miracles be performed today? Is there any evidence that miraculous healing takes place today? I think the answer to both of those questions is in the affirmative. However, I do not believe that God is gifting His church with a normative practice of miraculous gifts. The age of the prophets has passed from us. The age of the apostles has faded off into the sunset. The canon of Scripture is closed. The Word of God is completely sufficient. God is sovereign and He does still perform miracles and that’s why we pray! We trust God to do the extraordinary. The focus of our prayers is upon His power. Rather than focusing on a prayer room, a crusade, or a certain group of gifted people in the local church, the entire church comes together to pray to God who can perform a miracle for His glory.
I’ve actually heard preachers claim that they blow the Holy Spirit upon people in the local mall as they walk around shopping with their family. Those same preachers hold miracle crusades and devote themselves to a ministry of miracles, wonders, and signs. Anyone who claims to have the power to control the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Trinity, is very confused. Miracles are real because God is real. From creation to the resurrection of Christ, we see God consistently performing miracles. One day, He will bring this present world to a final culmination that aligns with His sovereign purposes. The return of Christ will be a miracle. Until then, we can trust that our sovereign God continues to rule over all things at all times and we can call upon Him and plead for the His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. As we think through these issues, we must not allow hucksters to deemphasize the miracle of Jesus’ resurrection and the miracle of the new birth by peddling false miracles in the name of Jesus.
B.B. Warfield has written, “[Miraculous gifts] were not for the possession of the primitive Christian as such; nor for that matter of the Apostolic Church or the Apostolic age for themselves; they were distinctively the authentication of the Apostles. They were part of the credentials of the apostles as the authoritative agents of God in founding the church. Their function thus confirmed them to distinctively the Apostolic Church, and they necessarily passed away with it.”1
1. Counterfeit Miracles, Banner of Truth, 1918, p. 6.
2. Charismatic Chaos - John MacArthur
4. Strange Fire Conference - Grace Community Church
In his famous work titled, Of The Mortification Of Sin In Believers, John Owen writes, “Do you mortify; do you make it your daily work; be always at it whilst you live; cease not a day from this work; be killing sin or it will be killing you.”
Relevant Article: The Uncommon Practice of Killing Sin
The Avengers Movie Review By Russell Moore
Russell Moore is the president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. On his blog – “Moore to the Point” he writes, “But what surprised me the most was the jarring centrality of the family in this film. And by family, I don’t mean the elastic, redefined concept of ‘families’ but an undercurrent of pining for the stability of the natural, nuclear family.”