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
DBG Weekend Spotlight (6-24-16)

DBG Weekend Spotlight (6-24-16)

Derek Thomas’ sermon, A Book In His Hand, A Burden On His Back from the 2015 Ligonier regional conference is well worth your time.


And now …– Jeremy Walker explains the importance of Britain’s decision to leave the EU.

Ugly Stain, Beautiful Hope: My Response to Mika Edmondson – Albert Mohler responds to Mike Edmondson regarding the “Black Lives Matter” movement.

Nathan Finn on Church History and the Pastor – If you’re a pastor and you’ve ever asked yourself if church history really matters, listen to Nathan Finn on this subject.

The Trinity debate in 200 words – Jesse Johnson provides a brief overview of a very important modern debate on the Trinity.

James White on the Trinity Debate – Commenting on the modern debate on the Trinity, James White offers helpful clarification.  His comments on the subject begin at 53:15.

Protecting Our Children Is More Important Than Seeking Their Approval – Randy Alcorn provides helpful advice for parents who should want to protect their children.

Prayer . . . For the Purpose of Godliness

Prayer . . . For the Purpose of Godliness

This summer, we are reading Don Whitney’s book Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life together.  With certain goals for us as individuals, we all desire to grow in grace and personal holiness.  The purpose of this study is to help us make necessary adjustments in our spiritual lives that will enable us to achieve such goals by incorporating the use of spiritual disciplines.

In the previous two chapters, Don Whitney made the point that the most important of the spiritual disciplines is Bible intake.  In this chapter (chapter 4), he takes a good look at the discipline of prayer.  In the opening words of this chapter, Don Whitney writes, “Despite the penultimate importance of prayer, however, statistical surveys and experience seem to agree that a large percentage of professing Christians spend little time in sustained prayer” (79).

Prayer Is Expected

Jesus expects His children to pray.  This point is made abundantly clear as Whitney cites several passages (Matt. 6:5, 6, 7, 9; Luke 11:9; Luke 18:1).   He goes on to suggest that Jesus’ words in the Bible are personal expectations for us as His children.  Not only does Jesus expect us to pray, but the totality of God’s Word makes it clear that followers of Christ are to be praying people.

  • Colossians 4:2 – Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:17 – Pray without ceasing.

Don Whitney writes, “When our awareness of the greatness of God and the gospel is dim, our prayer lives will be small.”  These words are true and helpful as we consider the foundational reasons behind the prayerlessness that plagues a large percentage of God’s people.

Prayer Is Learned

Just as Whitney pointed to poor methods that prevent people from memorizing the Bible, in like manner, he makes the claim that that people are not praying more is based on the fact that they’ve never been taught to pray.  Don Whitney writes, “If you’ve ever learned a foreign language, you know that you learn it best when you actually have to speak it” (85).  He does a good job of pressing the point that we must learn to pray.  The best way to do this is by consistent practice.

Whitney goes to the Puritans and provides several good quotations to demonstrate the need to meditate upon the Scriptures as a good way of praying through God’s Word.  He quotes William Bridge who said, “Reading without meditation is unfruitful; meditation without reading is hurtful; to meditate and to read without prayer upon both, is without blessing” (88).

Prayer Is Answered

Not only are we called to pray and to learn to pray better, but we are to trust God by faith to answer our prayers.  Psalm 65:2 says, “O you who hear prayer.”  What did Jesus teach us in Matthew 7:7-8?  The point is clear, God answers prayer.  This is not only a great comfort to our souls, but a true blessing to God’s children.  God wants us to pray and God desires to answer His people who pray.

Catch up in this series:

Opening Article
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3

Questions to Consider:

  1.  Because prayer is expected, will you pray?
  2. Since prayer is learned, will you learn to pray?
  3. Since prayer is answered, will you persistently pray?

J.C. Ryle once said:

What is the reason that some believers are so much brighter and holier than others?  I blieve the difference, in nineteen cases out of twenty, arises from different habits about private prayer.  I believe that those who are not eminently holy pray little, and those who are eminently holy pray much” (98),

Next Week: Next week, we will turn to chapter 5 and look at the subject of worhship. Read ahead and think through the content of that chapter, and we will gather here next week to discuss what we’re learning.

Discussion: Post your comments, thoughts, and questions in the comments section. I will engage with you at times, but the purpose is to allow everyone to have a conversation regarding what we are learning and considering through this book. I do hope you will be encouraged.


DBG Spotlight (6-22-16)

DBG Spotlight (6-22-16)

A good questions & answers session from the 2010 Ligonier National Conference. You will find the questions and interaction from the speakers encouraging and helpful.

Donald Trump announces new religious advisory board – Denny Burk lists the entire advisory board for Donald Trump that includes several heretics.

Online Friendships Are Not Enough – Phillip Holmes explains why we need more personal and less digital friends and he goes to the heart of the matter which is rooted in the church.

Air Force vet kicked off base over speech that mentioned God – Air Force Master Sgt. Charles “Chuck” Roberson’s retirement was forever marred because of a mention of God.

The Trinitarian Beat Goes On – Mike Riccardi writes, “As I was interacting with Jesse’s post, I began writing a comment in response. Before too long, that comment was blog-post length, so I thought I’d just give it its own post. He graciously agreed.”

Praying in Elders’ Meetings – A post worthy of attention – especially if you’re trying to figure out how to pray with intentionality with your fellow elders.

Seven Biblical Truths That Can Bring Us Great Happiness – Randy Alcorn provides 7 truths that lead a child of God to happiness that’s rooted in God.

Want to Practice Apologetics?  Be Negative

Want to Practice Apologetics? Be Negative

Today we continue a three-part series (posted each Tuesday) that will focus on the positive side of being negative.  Today’s subject is centered on the need to be negative in the work of apologetics.  Last week the focus was evangelism and next week will be focused on the work of pastoral ministry.  We’ve all heard the line, “Don’t be negative, you will push people away.”  Is that true or is that merely the tagline of an ultra tolerant inclusive culture that demands positivity and tolerance at any cost?

We live in a culture that paints an improper picture of Jesus as the “nice guy” on the right side of the Bible rather than the wrathful God on the left side.  Perhaps people should read all of the right side of the Bible – especially the first four books of the New Testament along with the last book of the New Testament as a fitting assessment of the true Jesus. Jesus was often straightforward and He placed a great deal of emphasis upon defending the truth of God and the sacred Scriptures.

Defining Apologetics

Apologetics is not the practice of giving an apology.  It’s the act of defending the faith.  Cornelius Van Til once defined apologetics as “the vindication of the Christian philosophy of life against the various forms of the non-Christian philosophy of life.” [1]  One of the key words in his definition is the word, “against” which points to the negative focus that must be included in the work of apologetics.  Perhaps the key verse in the New Testament regarding apologetics is 1 Peter 3:15, which says, “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.”

The Greek term translated, “to make a defense” is ἀπολογία – from where we derive the word – apologetics.  The fact that we must defend the faith once delivered to the saints is clearly laid out in the Scriptures, and it’s clearly practiced by the early church.  The New Testament is filled with apostolic examples of apologetics from Peter’s sermon at Pentecost to Paul giving a defense of the faith before Agrippa.  Likewise, we see the early pastors being mandated to practice the work of apologetics in their pastoral ministry (Titus 1:9).  In short, all Christians are apologists at some level.  In the home as Christian parents, at your place of employment, or on social media.  You don’t have to be called to full-time vocational ministry before you engage in apologetics.

Practicing Apologetics and Being Negative 

False teaching often lurks in the realm of evangelical circles.  It’s one thing to refute the false teaching of Joel Osteen, but what about the individual who has crept into the church of Jesus Christ and is leading people astray?  A.W. Pink once said:

False prophets are to be found in the circles of the most orthodox, and they pretend to have a fervent love for souls, yet they fatally delude multitudes concerning the way of salvation. The pulpit, platform, and pamphlet hucksters have wantonly lowered the standard of divine holiness and so adulterated the Gospel in order to make it palatable to the carnal mind. [2]

According to Jude 3-4:

Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.

Notice two specific statements in these verses.  First notice that Jude says, “contend for the faith.”  The word contend is translated from the Greek term ἐπαγωνίζομαι meaning “to extert intense effort on behalf of something, contend.”  The command to contend for the faith with intensity does not always mean with a positive tone nor does it demand tolerance.  The idea that Christians are to tolerate false teachers and false teaching within the church is on the same level as a momma bear tolerating wolves entering her den where her babies are sleeping.

Secondly, notice that Jude says such false teachers had crept inside unnoticed.  Jude then argues that such false teachers should be noticed and the work of making people aware of such individuals is part of the work of apologetics.  Anytime light shines in darkness, it reveals error.  The best teacher in the New Testament who consistently revealed error is Jesus.  In His earthly ministry, Jesus consistently put false teachers on notice and it wasn’t always positive.

One such example is found in Mark 12:18-27.   In this text, the Sadducees approached Jesus with a theological question.  They wanted to know Jesus’ position on the marriage law mentioned in Deuteronomy 25:5-6 – or did they?  Actually they were setting a trap for Jesus regarding His position on the resurrection of the dead.  That was their real issue.  Their question wasn’t exactly sincere, it was more of a theological trap.

Jesus fielded their question and then point by point exposed their false religiosity.  Jesus wasn’t about to allow these false teachers off the hook.  Why didn’t Jesus just remain positive in hopes of gaining new followers from the community?  Why didn’t Jesus merely tolerate their different interpretations on the Scriptures?  Jesus responded with a catastrophic bomb, “Is this not the reason you are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God” (Mark 12:24)?  The reason Jesus exposed them was because of their danger to God’s people.  Notice, Jesus exposed their ignorance of the Scriptures.

Negative is not Automatically Nasty

To be clear, as I stated in the first article on evangelism, I’m in no way insinuating that Christians should go around being rude, hateful, and harsh with everyone they come in contact with.  All Christians are commanded to love sinners and treat people with respect – even people we disagree with.  However, Christians are not to be spineless pushovers who allow anyone to say anything they want – especially as it pertains to the gospel.

The Christian community is often quick to press fellow Christians on the idea that we need to follow Jesus’ example of love, but what about His apologetic?  Are we to employ the WWJD principle in the area of love only, or should we actually defend the gospel too?  According to 1 Peter 3:15, we are to defend the faith “with gentleness and respect.”  I can recall times when I wasn’t as gentle as I should have been in my attempt to defend the faith.  There is a difference between gentleness and negligence.  Exposing error necessitates negative facts, but it always has a positive goal rooted and grounded in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The very moment we claim that pluralism is wrong, we aren’t doing so with the goal of being negative.  We speak with the goal of pointing people to the exclusivity of Christ.  When we call out the errors of LGBT inclusivism, we aren’t doing so with the goal of being a hater of LGBT people.  To the contrary, we do so with the goal of pointing people to faith in Jesus Christ and protecting the church from such false teachers who would press the church into an inclusivist position.  Apologetics involves exposing negative error with the positive goal of pointing people to Christ and guarding the gospel from perversion. Vance Havner once said, “The early Christians condemned false doctrine in a way that sounds almost unchristian today.”

Next week, we will look at the need to be negative in the work of pastoral ministry.

  1. Cornelius Van Til, Christian Apologetics (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1976), 1.
  2. A.W. Pink, Sermon on the Mount (Lafayette, IN: Sovereign Grace Publishers, 2008), 344.

Roles and Responsibilities for the Father

Roles and Responsibilities for the Father

Yesterday I preached from Ephesians 6:1-4 as we looked at the roles and responsibilities of the father.  On our annual Father’s Day sermon, I sought to encourage and equip men to do the work of fatherhood – leading, nurturing, disciplining, and instructing.  Our culture persistently seeks to dethrone God and belittle men, and the church of Jesus Christ needs to arise with faithful, humble, godly, and courageous men who will not back down to a God-hating society.

The Children are Commanded to Obey and Honor

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to notice it, but we are an anti-authoritarian society. That mindset continues to grow in our culture and it likewise spreads to the church. Today, we see it in the way people approach rules and regulations. It’s almost as if they’re optional.  The culture doesn’t arrive at such a place suddenly.  It begins with children who are not taught to obey and honor their parents at a young age.  When rebellious children grow older and move out of their parents’ home, they will approach other authority figures in a similar manner.

Children are to learn to submit to their earthly authority figures (mother and father) at an early age, and with a goal of helping them submit to God.  Children who refuse to obey and honor their parents and other governing authority figures will likewise refuse to submit to God.  The word translated obey in this text is the Greek term, ὑπακούω.  This particular Greek word comes from two other words – under and to listen.  Literally speaking, this word means to listen under.  The word pictures a person who is listening with a goal of submission and obedience.

Just as God designed from the beginning and as He put on display in the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:12), we see Paul repeating this command here to the church at Ephesus.  As in the days of the Exodus, children are commanded to obey parents for their good. God will bless through obedience. However, children who disobey parents can expect to be cursed rather than blessed by God.

The Father is Commanded to Lead the Family

Fathers are commanded to lead the family.  This is God’s design and it’s rooted in the creation order.  Before men become prideful in their authority, they must first learn to be submissive to God’s authority.  Paul points out that fathers are not to provoke their children to wrath.  Provoke comes from the Greek word, παροργίζω, meaning “to rouse to wrath, to provoke, exasperate, anger.”

The picture in this text is that of a faithful father who nurtures his children with faithful leadership.  When Paul says, “bring them up” that phrase emphasizes tender care of the little ones.  John Calvin translates bring them up as “let them be kindly cherished.”  Like a tender plant in the early stages of development rising from the soil needs tender care, water, and sunlight, in like manner the little children must be cared for with tenderness and love.

Paul doesn’t end at that point.  He likewise points out the need for faithful discipline.  It’s essential for a father to learn balance.  He must not be a soft pushover and he cannot be overbearing with intense authority.  At the same time, Paul puts the spotlight on the father’s responsibility to lead in the instruction of their children.  Not only is it the responsibility of the father to lead physically, but it’s also his responsibility to lead spiritually.

The present day church culture in most mainline evangelical churches do not know what a catechism is.  If the word catechism is a foreign term, we are led to believe that family worship is a foreign practice.  Long before the father teaches his children how to shoot the basketball like King James he must teach his children the gospel of King Jesus.  In his book, Family Driven Faith, Voddie Baucham, warns us all that, “70-88% of teens, who profess Christianity, walk away from their faith by the end of their freshman year of college.”  Something must be done about this tragic trend.  The fact is, something can be done.  May God raise up faithful fathers who preach Jesus to their children and who refuse to bend their knee to the false gods of this age as they disciple a new generation to love God with all of their heart, soul, mind and strength.


DBG Weekend Spotlight (6-17-16)

DBG Weekend Spotlight (6-17-16)

In this sermon by Voddie Baucham, he explains the duty of the preacher from Titus 1.



The Recent Trinitarian Debate – Michael Riccardi summarizes and weighs in on the current Trinity debate.

10 Thoughts on Speaking (and Not) In a Digital World – Kevin DeYoung does a good job of explaining the art of knowing when and when not to speak.

Why J.D. Greear Is Withdrawing His Name from Contention for the Presidency of the Southern Baptist Convention – Justin Taylor explains why Greear pulled out of the race at the end of a historic election in the SBC – leaving Steve Gaines as the last man standing.

Custom ESV Bibles for All – Crossway is offering custom ESV Bibles – which might be a great outreach tool.

Reflections on the SBC Annual Meeting, Tuesday, June 14, 2016 – Alex Duke provides a review of the 2016 SBC.

Why I Am Not Paedobaptist – Tim Challies is continuing a great series explaining why he isn’t various different things, but in essence, he’s explaining what he really is and what he really believes.  The most recent article is on the subject of baptism and it’s worthy of your time.

2017 G3 Conference – One unique aspect about the G3 Conference is the number of women who attend each year.  This year, the G3 Conference will be held at a new venue in Atlanta, but they will also be bringing in Rosaria Butterfield to speak as well.  Just one more way to invest in women and the church as a whole.

Bible Intake (Part II)

Bible Intake (Part II)

This summer, we are reading Don Whitney’s book Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life together.  With certain goals for us as individuals, we all desire to grow in grace and personal holiness.  The purpose of this study is to help us make necessary adjustments in our spiritual lives that will enable us to achieve such goals by incorporating the use of spiritual disciplines.

In the previous chapter, Don Whitney made the point that the most important of the spiritual disciplines is Bible intake.  In this chapter (chapter 3), he places great emphasis upon different methods of Bible intake.

Memorizing God’s Word—Benefits and Methods

Many times we hear excuses on why people can’t memorize the Bible.  Often people claim that they have a bad memory and can’t memorize the Bible.  Don Whitney asks, “What if I offered you one thousand dollars for every verse you could memorize in the next seven days?  Do you think your attitude toward Scripture memory and your ability to memorize would improve” (39)?

We as Christians require strength for the journey of life, and Scripture memory provides spiritual power and enables us to use the Sword of the Spirit as the weapon to withstand temptation, a means of increased faith, tools for evangelism and counseling, and a means of guidance in life.  Just as Psalm 119:24 states, “Your testimonies are my delight; they are my counselors.”  The more we memorize the more we will meditate upon the Word of God.  Psalm 119:97 reads, “Oh how I love your law!  It is my meditation all the day.”

Don Whitney provides several different methods and suggestions for Scripture memory.  He encourages everyone to have a plan, to practice writing out the verses, draw pictures to use as visual reminders, to memorize word-for-word (including the reference), and to find a method of accountability.  All of this will enable a person to memorize Scripture on a more frequent basis.

Meditating on God’s Word—Benefits and Methods

Don Whitney writes, “One sad feature of our contemporary culture is that meditation has become identified more with non-Christian systems of thought than with biblical Christianity” (46).  He does a good job in this section of explaining that true Scripture meditation is not yoga, transcendental meditation, relaxation therapy, or some New Age practice.

Don Whitney makes the point that Christian meditation is never an emptying of your mind; but rather, it’s a filling of your mind with God and His truth.  According to Whitney, meditation is defined as deep thinking on the truths and spiritual realities revealed in Scripture, or upon life from a scriptural perspective, for the purpose of understanding, application, and prayer (46).

In this section, Whitney connects different key places in the Scriptures where meditation is related to success and the promises of God.  He then provides 17 different methods of meditation to enable the reader to consider different approaches to Scripture meditation.

Applying God’s Word—Benefits and Methods

Often the Bible is difficult to understand.  We see in the Scriptures that Peter described some of Paul’s writings as “hard to understand.”  According to Don Whitney, “Despite our occasional struggles to understand parts of Scripture, however, understanding the Bible isn’t our chief problem.  Much more often our difficulty lies in knowing how to apply the clearly understood parts of God’s Word to everyday living” (69).

Before a person can apply the Bible to their own setting, they first have to grasp the true meaning of the text.  Perhaps that’s why it’s so difficult to apply the Scriptures personally.  However, as we read the Bible, we must do the hard work of understanding the meaning in attempt to apply the text to us personally.  Whitney suggests that we should ask good questions to the text, and he provides a good list to consider.

One great benefit from such work in application leads to a response to God through His Word.  In other words, after we read, memorize, meditate, and apply the Bible – we should have some response to God in this process.  We can’t possible remain in neutral.  All of this work builds to the end goal of sanctification – the movement of increased holiness whereby we become more conformed to the image of God’s Son (Rom. 8:29).

If you’re like me, I often fail to slow down enough to do proper meditation.  I can read and think on the go, but I often struggle with slowing down.  For me, life is busy and fast.  As you read through this chapter, look at your own life and evaluate your weaknesses.  If we expect to grow stronger in Christ this summer, we must admit failure and commit ourselves to change for the sake of Christ.

J.I. Packer, “If I were the devil, one of my first aims would be to stop folk from digging into the Bible” (quoted by Don Whitney on page 77).

Catch up in this series:

Opening Article
Chapter 1
Chapter 2

Questions to Consider:

  1. How can I carve out time to memorize the Bible?
  2. What plan do I have to memorize verses from God’s Word?
  3. If the Psalmist put emphasis upon Bible memory and Bible meditation, why does the modern church often neglect these practices?
  4. What can a person learn from Psalm 119?
  5. Understanding the meaning and applying the meaning to us personally is essential to sanctification?

Next Week: Next week, we will turn to chapter 4 and look at the subject of prayer. Read ahead and think through the content of that chapter, and we will gather here next week to discuss what we’re learning.

Discussion: Post your comments, thoughts, and questions in the comments section. I will engage with you at times, but the purpose is to allow everyone to have a conversation regarding what we are learning and considering through this book. I do hope you will be encouraged.

DBG Spotlight (6-15-16)

DBG Spotlight (6-15-16)

One of the best parts of a good conference is the questions & answers session.  I enjoy watching, listening, and learning.  The following panel discussion is from the 2000 Ligonier conference, and while the speakers look a bit younger, their conversation over important theological issues is one you will want to take in with a good cup of coffee.  The questions and answers session includes John Piper, Albert Mohler, R.C. Sproul, and Douglas Wilson – moderated by Paul Sailhamer.

Christian, Do You Love God’s Law? – Sinclair Ferguson answers a very important question.

Leadership Lessons from Billy Graham – Kevin DeYoung provides a succinct review of Grant Wacker’s new book on Billy Graham.

A Hope That Cannot Die – Nathan Busenitz writes, “Fox’s Book of Martyrs is a must read for every Christian. Written by John Fox over 350 years ago, it catalogs the lives of hundreds of believers who, throughout church history, were willing to give their lives for the cause of Christ.”

Controversy on the Doctrine of the Trinity – Recently, Carl Trueman and Liam Goligher wrote articles that called out well respected theologians Wayne Grudem and Bruce Ware.  Following their articles, both men have responded (Grudem | Ware).  Hold on to your seats and read slowly as you consider the nuances of theology that are being critiqued and debated.  As you read, don’t think this subject isn’t important – it’s worth your time and consideration.

Should I Finish School Before I Marry? Six Options to Consider – John Piper provides some good advice worthy of consideration.

Want to Lead People to Christ?  Be Negative

Want to Lead People to Christ? Be Negative

Today we will begin a three-part series (posted each Tuesday) that will focus on the positive side of being negative.  Today’s subject is centered on the need to be negative in the work of evangelism.  Each Tuesday for the next two weeks, I will address the need to be negative in the work of apologetics and pastoral ministry.

We’ve all heard the line, “Don’t be negative, you will push people away.”  Recently, I published an article that openly criticized a popular figure in evangelical circles.  What I wasn’t prepared for was all of the negative responses from people who were accusing me of being negative. I do understand the point that many people expressed as they accused me of hindering the gospel.  While I’m generally a happy, optimistic, and positive person who enjoys spending time in laughter, when it comes to the gospel, there is more to it than, “Smile, God has a wonderful plan for your life.”

We live in a hashtag happy culture that demands positivity and tolerance.  The hashtags #DontHate and #DontJudge are popular statements in our society.  Is it true that a perpetual positive tone will automatically lead people to faith in Jesus?  The idea that being positive leads people to Christ while being negative leads people to hell is flawed on several different levels.  While it’s certainly not Christlike to be rude, hateful, and arrogant in sharing the truth, we must realize that in order to share the gospel, a certain amount of negativity is required.

The Problem of Sin is Negative

The fact that everyone has sinned against God is not a positive message (Rom. 3:23).  John Calvin once remarked that the heart is an idol factory. In fact, the truth that a person has sinned against God and that their heart is wicked (Jer. 17:9) is the most negative thing a person could ever hear.  Although the message is negative, the purpose is positive.

Sin must be treated like a poisonous viper rather than a family lap dog.  It must be approached with an urgency that requires immediate action.  To allow sin to grow like cancer is detrimental to a person’s soul.  We take our cues from Jesus, and as we examine His preaching, we see that He was straightforward and honest with people.  Consider the woman at the well in John’s gospel, Jesus pointed out her sexual sin directly without attempting friendship evangelism.  When we look at the preaching of Peter in Acts, we see him pointing out the sin of the multitude.  In Paul’s preaching, he was consistently thrown in jail for his preaching, because he pointed out the negative reality of sin.

Sin is horrible and the end result is even worse.  We must not walk in the footsteps of Joel Osteen who refuses to deal with the root of sin.  We must not be like the doctor who treats the symptoms of cancer rather than the cancer.  We must follow in the footsteps of Jesus and His apostles.  If we want to lead people to Christ, we must address their sin and this will require us to be negative.

Francis Schaeffer was once asked, “What would you do if you met a really modern man on a train and you just had an hour to talk to him about the gospel?” He replied:

I’ve said over and over, I would spend 45-50 minutes on the negative, to really show him his dilemma – that he is morally dead – then I’d take 10-15 minutes to preach the gospel. I believe that much of our evangelistic and personal work today is not clear simply because we are too anxious to get to the answer without having a man realize the real cause of his sickness, which is true moral guilt (and not just psychological guilt feelings) in the presence of God. [1]

The Reality of Hell is Negative

Our culture uses hell as a word to emphasize the extremeness of an adjective rather than a place of torment where guilty sinners suffer endlessly.  Could it be that the reason the church talks so much about heaven and so little about hell is because many people in the church don’t actually believe in a literal hell?  It may shock some people to know that Jesus actually preached more about hell than He did about heaven during His earthly ministry.  What may come as an added surprise to many in the church today is that Jesus spoke more about hell than anyone else in the Bible.  In fact, if you take all everyone who spoke about hell in the Bible and combine all of their teaching on the subject, Jesus said more than everyone else combined.

The point is clear, Jesus preached about hell and it wasn’t a positive message (Luke 16:19-31; Matt. 13:41-42, 49-50).  The reality of endless torment, suffering, agony, flames, pain, and the eternal wrath of God being poured out upon sinners is not a positive picture.  However, it’s a necessary picture.  The justice of God demands that sinners be judged.  There will be no escape for guilty sinners, and this is not a positive thought or message. If you attempt to divorce God’s mercy from God’s justice, the end result is something other than the gospel.

The Exclusive Gospel is Negative

People do not like to be told they’re wrong.  I recall my wife years ago telling me the story about her upper management at a high end personal training facility schooling her on the art of being positive.  They trained her on how to address people who were overweight without telling them they were….wrong.  She was told to move them to the solution without being negative.  Why was so much effort put into such training?  It was all about money and success.  If you tell people they’re wrong, they might not return and when they don’t return, it will result in decreased sales.

That same mindset has crept into the church today.  The church has lost its prophetic voice.  The pulpit sounds like Veggie Tales rather than the apostle Paul.  The message of the cross is a stumbling block to the world.  The bloody cross is offensive.  However, unless the emphatic exclusivity of Christ is preached and explained without compromise, people will perish eternally.  The church today must be courageous enough in our God hating society to lift up Christ as the exclusive door of salvation.  The church must dare to be negative in the sense of telling sinners that God demands that they repent.

The only hope for sinners is for someone to be bold enough to tell them they’re wrong, they’re guilty, and that there is hope in God through Jesus Christ.  A statement from the children’s movie years ago titled Finding Nemo stated, “All drains lead to the ocean” (Gill in Finding Nemo).  That may be true in the pixelated cartoon world of Hollywood, but it’s not true when it comes to real life.  Our ecumenical culture is confused regarding religion and that has never been more clearly visible than at the recent Muhammad Ali funeral.  All religions don’t lead to the same place.  The moment we point out the errors of such an ecumenical interfaith funeral, we have just become negative.

The church is not called to be rude, prideful, arrogant, and harsh.  The call to preach the gospel is not a license to be ugly.  We don’t need to make the gospel more offensive and negative than it already is.  While the gospel is good news to guilty sinners, it’s also negative at the same time.  To speak the truth in love requires that we speak the truth.  Remember, Jesus loved sinners, but He told them the truth.  The most unloving thing we could possible do is to remain silent about the truth in our attempt to be positive.  A happy church will share a negative message with a positive goal.  Do you want to lead more people to Jesus?  You need to be negative!

J. Gresham Machen once said:

No man is interested in a piece of good news unless he has the consciousness of needing it; no man is interested in an offer of salvation unless he knows that there is something from which he needs to be saved. It is quite useless to ask a man to adopt the Christian view of the gospel unless he first has the Christian view of sin. [2]

  1. Will Metzger, Tell The Truth, (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2012), 118.
  2. J. Gresham Machen, God Transcendent and Other Sermons, (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1949), 34.

God’s Providence Over Jesus’ Death

God’s Providence Over Jesus’ Death

Yesterday, I preached from Mark 14:1-11 in our series through the Gospel of Mark.  The focus of the text was upon the preparation of Jesus for His upcoming burial.  In other words, God used specific people to set the scene for Jesus to be crucified on a Roman cross.  As we approach the cross, we must never forget that it was not an accident.  It was a well planned, foreordained, and providentially guided event.

Jesus was Hated by Many

The New Testament makes it very clear that Jesus was hated by many people.  You either loved Jesus or hated Him, and the masses certainly didn’t love Jesus.  The religious leaders of the Jewish people despised Jesus, for He preached with authority (unlike the scribes) and exposed the errors of the religious leaders (Mark 1:22; John 1:9-11).  The intensity of their hatred for Jesus grew much greater as the week of Passover progressed.

The religious leaders hated Jesus and their plan was to kill him.  It was a calculated plan, one that they were scheming up in order to keep the peace with the people and remove Jesus at the same time.  Their wicked plan fueled by their own depraved hearts was intended for evil, but God intended it for good.

Mark 14:1-2 – It was now two days before the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to arrest him by stealth and kill him, for they said, “Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar from the people.

Jesus was Loved by Some

Although Jesus was hated by the masses, He did have a small group of people who truly loved Him.  As Mark tells this story, he deals with events taking place on Wednesday (the plans of the chief priests to murder Jesus and the betrayal incident of Judas), but in this section of Mark 14:3-9, Mark looks back at an event that took place on the previous Saturday in order to show how Jesus was being prepared for His impending death and burial.

A lady named Mary was having a meal with Jesus in the home of a former leper named Simon.  Although Mark doesn’t reveal her name, the parallel account in John 12 provides her identity.  This is Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus.  At some point she took a very expensive alabaster box of ointment (pure nard) weighing one pound, broke the flask, and poured it all over Jesus’ body.  This was a customary practice in this culture, to anoint someone with oil was something that signified festivity, friendship, and honor.  We can see this language in Psalm 23:5.

What made this uncommon was that Mary used the entire box of ointment.  Scholars estimate this ointment to be worth one year’s salary in their culture, and Mary used it all on Jesus.  Although criticized greatly for her sacrifice of love, Jesus commended her.  Interestingly enough, it was Judas who was criticizing and claiming the anointing of Jesus was a waste of money that could have been used for the poor.

Jesus makes it very clear, Mary had prepared His body for burial (Mark 14:8).  God used her sacrifice to set the stage for the upcoming death and burial that would take place in less than a week’s time.  God used Mary and her sacrifice will never be forgotten.

Jesus was Betrayed by a “Friend”

One of the most troubling statements regarding Judas’ betrayal is found in Mark 14:10 as Mark identifies Judas as one “who was one of the twelve.”  A supposed friend and partner in ministry was preparing to betray Jesus.  A deed that would wound Jesus and his fellow disciples, although intended for evil, God would intend it for good.  The wicked heart of Judas is exposed for us in verse 11 – and forever will be on display as a reminder of this grievous sin. Note the commentary, “And when they heard it, they were glad and promised to give him money…” (Mark14:11). At the heart of Judas’ betrayal was his love of money.

Beware of the trap of money, it has caused many to fall into the depths of depraved sin (Matt. 6:24).

  • Men have abandoned their families for money.
  • Women have abandoned their children for money.
  • People have rejected God for money.
  • People have murdered others for money.
  • People have committed adultery for money.
  • People have sold off children for money.
  • People have broken friendships for money.
  • False teachers preach false doctrines for money.

1 Timothy 6:10 – For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.

In all of these scenes, Jesus is being prepared to die.  In two scenes, the plan is fueled by wicked and depraved sin.  In one scene, Jesus is being loved and appreciated by Mary as she prepares Him for burial.  In all of these scenes, no matter what the intent of the people might have been, God was using them to prepare the way for Jesus to die on the cross for sinners.  His death was no accident and His atoning death is the only means whereby guilty sinners have hope in God.

Who are you most like in this section of verses?  Are you like the religious leaders?  Are you like Mary?  Are you like Judas?  Are you a true disciple or an imposter?

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Featured: Dr. Steven Lawson, from the 2014 G3 Conference