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
Human Dignity in a Post-Human World

Human Dignity in a Post-Human World

Yesterday, our church observed Sanctity of Life Sunday (a bit early due to our church’s involvement with the G3 Conference this week).  For the 2017 Sanctity of Life Sunday, we welcomed Scott Klusendorf, president of Life Training Institute to our church and our pulpit.  You can hear his full sermon as he pointed out the biblical, logical, and moral fallacies of the pro-choice movement.

+Full manuscript / notes

DBG Weekend Spotlight (1-13-17)

DBG Weekend Spotlight (1-13-17)

If you have never heard James Montgomery Boice, this would be a good starting point.  It would also serve as a good reminder of where the evangelical church was in his day and the present trajectory of the evangelical church, as he calls — “mindless times.”

‘Worst Year Yet’: The Top 50 Countries Where It’s Hardest to Be a Christian – A look at Christianity around the world.

Polity – If you don’t have Polity, an excellent resource for church government, church discipline, and a guide for how to conduct church life, you need this book.  It’s free on the 9Marks website.

Trembling Before the Holiness of God – The best work of R. C. Sproul through the years has been on the subject of God’s holiness.  Watch this and you will understand why.

Why Do We Give Up on Bible Reading? – Read why, and then keep up the work of reading through the Bible in 2017.

Hebrews 13:21- True worship & the true church – Jesse Johnson explains how true worship intersects with the local church.

Trump and the prosperity gospel – In case you haven’t already heard, President-Elect Trump is surrounding himself with a host of religious advisors, and many of them are from the prosperity gospel movement.

The Reformation in 60 Seconds – This is a really good video that quickly gets to the point of the Reformation.

Simplicity in Preaching – Kevin DeYoung provides some helpful advice for preaching from J.C. Ryle’s work titled, Simplicity in Preaching.

Theology Word of the Week:  Salvation

Salvation. ‘Salvation’ is the most widely used term in Christian theology to express the provision of God for our human plight. The word-group associated with the verb ‘save’ has an extensive secular usage which is not sharply differentiated from its theological usage. It can be used of any kind of situation in which a person is delivered from some danger, real or potential; as in healing a person from illness (Mk. 5:28), from enemies (Ps. 44:7) or from the possibility of death (Mt. 8:25). The noun ‘salvation’ can refer positively to the resulting state of well-being and is not confined to the negative idea of escape from danger. In the OT the verb ‘save’ expresses particularly God’s actions in delivering his people; in the context of his saving Israel from their enemies, the noun can be translated as ‘deliverance’ (Ps. 3:8, rsv). But it is also used in a very broad sense of the sum total of the effects of God’s goodness on his people (Ps. 53:6). Thus the OT understanding of salvation is quite concrete and often covers more than spiritual blessings.

In the gospels the word-group is used of the mighty works of Jesus in healing people from disease. But the terminology developed a distinctive sense which was based largely on the OT understanding of God and his gracious action towards his people. By the time of the later writings of the NT it was common to give both God and Jesus the title of ‘saviour’. (1 Tim. 1:1; 2 Tim. 1:1), and it would not be unfair to say that this title summed up the Christian doctrine of God in relation to his people. The name ‘Jesus’ is etymologically ‘Yahweh is salvation’, and this meaning must have been known to Christians (Mt. 1:21). But salvation is now understood in a new way. The sense of rescue or deliverance is still uppermost, but the reference is to deliverance from sin and from the wrath of God as the ultimate fate which awaits the sinner (Rom. 5:9–10). Christians are those people who are certain that they will be saved, and it has sometimes been held that this concept of a future salvation is primary in the NT (Acts 2:21; Rom. 13:11; 1 Cor. 5:5; Heb. 9:28: 1 Pet. 1:15). However, Christians are also described as ‘those who are being saved’ (Acts 2:47; 1 Cor. 1:18; 2 Cor. 2:15) and indeed as ‘those who have been saved’ (Eph. 2:5, 8). Thus the moment of conversion is regarded as the moment of salvation (Tit. 3:5).

The use of the term in itself indicates that the thought is of an action from the outside by God who is the saviour; human beings cannot save themselves by their own efforts (Tit. 3:5). Thus salvation is dependent on the grace of God. It is effected through the action of Jesus Christ whose incarnation and atoning death took place in order that he might save sinners (1 Tim. 1:15). It is revealed in the Scriptures (2 Tim. 3:15), and it becomes effective for individuals through the preaching of the gospel (1 Cor. 1:21), provided that they respond to the gospel message with faith and repentance; those who call on the Lord are saved (Rom. 10:9–10). Thus the word becomes a technical term in NT theology to describe God’s action in rescuing people from their sins and their consequences and in bringing them into a situation where they experience his blessings. Salvation is then understood comprehensively as the sum-total of the benefits bestowed on believers by God (Lk. 19:9; Rom. 1:16). Although it will not be fully realized until the consummation of the new age, nevertheless it is a real experience in the here and now (2 Cor. 6:2; Phil. 2:12).

During the history of the church since NT times the doctrine of salvation has constantly been in danger of misunderstanding and corruption. Most commonly, salvation has been thought of as something that people must earn or merit by doing actions that please God and win his favour. At the Reformation, the Protestants insisted that the doctrine of justification by faith is the indication of whether the church is standing or falling from the truth of the gospel. They realized that salvation is the gift of God and that the church must not usurp his place in declaring who can be saved, even if it is true that the church is appointed to proclaim the gospel. More recently other errors have arisen. Salvation has sometimes been separated from the person of Jesus, who is then regarded as little more than a teacher of morality; the recognition that God was in Christ to reconcile a sinful world to himself has been lost, and salvation has been thought of as exclusively deliverance from ignorance of God and not also as cleansing from sin and its guilt.

The scope of salvation has also been a matter of dispute. The OT usage of the term to express God’s action in saving his people from their enemies has been taken as normative, and salvation has been understood as freeing people from hunger, poverty and the threat of war so that they may live a whole life in this world; the thought of spiritual salvation has retreated into the background. But while there can be no doubt that Christians should be working for these desirable ends, the unfortunate effect can be that the distinctive theological emphasis of the term, which lies at the centre of the NT message, is lost. People fait to realize that the major need of humanity is for reconciliation with God, and that it is only when there is peace between God and humanity that lasting peace between the peoples of the world is possible; in other words, spiritual salvation is not simply a small and dispensable part of a broader ‘salvation’ but is the basis of a new attitude between people. Granted that the task of the church is to care for the spiritual and the physical needs of people, the NT sees the spiritual task, which is inseparable from material concern, as fundamental.

  1. Sinclair B. Ferguson and J.I. Packer, New Dictionary of Theology (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 610–611.

Does Church Discipline Prevent Church Growth?

Does Church Discipline Prevent Church Growth?

The present evangelical church culture that we live in is, in many ways, hitched to the train of pragmatism.  Whatever works is what the church practices because it brings about results.  What if a church grows larger and looks successful from the outside, but did it all without any functional church discipline taking place in the congregation?  It would be like an athlete growing really large by eating something other than protein and lifting weights.  If an athlete takes steroids, he can bypass the normal way of growing muscles, but in the end, it’s very unhealthy.

In some church circles, the practice of church discipline has been relegated down to the level of an ancient method of church life that’s been placed next to the old river baptismal services where the church gathered down by the river because they didn’t have a modern baptistry.  In those same circles, the idea of practicing church discipline is not even a consideration, because it’s believed that church discipline somehow prevents a church from growing.  Is that a helpful way of looking at church discipline?

The Purpose of Church Discipline

Although some cases exist in church history of people abusing authority and misusing the practice of church discipline, the real purpose of discipline is reconciliation.  This is the loving thing to pursue in the life of the church.  Contrary to popular opinion, church discipline is not a means of retaliation against someone who has wronged you.  The overarching purpose of church discipline centers on the goal of reconciliation.

  1. Reconciliation between the church member and God.
  2. Reconciliation between the church member and the body of the church.

Therefore, as the church sees this practice taking place on a regular basis, it causes the church to grow.  What type of growth comes from the practice of church discipline?  First, the church will grow spiritually as sin is confronted and properly dealt with.  Next, the church will grow in unity together as sins that have caused divisions are properly exposed and disciplined.  Last of all, numerical growth will take place as the healthy church demonstrates a passion for God, a love for one another, a hatred for sin, and a love for their community.  The church will be known as a genuine church in the community rather than a “bunch of hypocrites” as the world often labels the local church.  Church discipline is not antithetical to church growth.

The Necessity of Church Discipline

If we read theologians and scholars from church history, we will see that the common belief among the church in former days was that if a “church” didn’t practice church discipline, it was not a true church.  It may have a steeple and stained glass, but it can’t be a true church if regular, biblical, and functional church discipline isn’t being practiced.  Gregory A. Wills who is a professor of Church History at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and noted historian commented, “To an antebellum Baptist, a church without discipline would hardly have counted as a church.” [1]

In the early church, Jesus commanded church discipline to be practiced in Matthew 18:15-20.  Paul urged the church at Corinth to practice it.  A man was sexually involved with his father’s wife and the people of the congregation knew about it. Paul told the church at Corinth to “purge out” and to “deliver his soul to Satan for the destruction of the flesh that the spirit may be saved” (1 Cor. 5).  We see similar language in 2 Thessalonians 3 and in Titus 3 regarding the need to separate from those who persist in sin.  In other words, church discipline is not an item on a spiritual buffet that we can choose if we believe it to be appealing.  It’s an absolute necessity.

Having walked through painful situations of public church discipline and having seen it work as Jesus intended it to, I can firmly state that not only is the practice mandated by Christ, but it’s for the good of the church and the glory of God.

What if my church is not practicing church discipline?  Don’t become a rogue church member who seeks to lead the church by usurping authority that was never given to you.  Take time to sit with your pastors and discuss the subject and ask healthy questions.  Try to work through the need for discipline in the life of your church by starting with your pastors.  Don’t be divisive over the subject of church discipline.

What if I’m looking for a church, but the church we feel led to doesn’t practice church discipline?  The simple answer is—don’t join it.  Perhaps you “feel” led to the church for some other reason, but if they aren’t practicing church discipline, the health of the church has been greatly compromised over time.  It will only be a matter of time before things compile and become much worse.

Albert Mohler has written, “Without a recovery of functional church discipline-firmly established upon the principles revealed in the Bible-the church will continue its slide into moral dissolution and relativism. Evangelicals have long recognized discipline as the ‘third mark’ of the authentic church. Authentic biblical discipline is not an elective, but a necessary and integral mark of authentic Christianity.” [2]

  1. Gregory A. Wills, Democratic Religion: Freedom, Authority, and Church Discipline in the Baptist South 1785-1900 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997), 12.
  2. Albert Mohler, “Discipline: The Missing Mark” In Polity (Center for Church Reform: 2001, 43-62), 2001.


DBG Spotlight (1-11-17)

DBG Spotlight (1-11-17)

One of the great expositors of recent church history is Martyn Lloyd-Jones, known as “The Doctor.” In this sermon, he preached on the doctrine of election, and you will find it helpful and powerful. If you are tempted to listen only to a few minutes, listen all the way to the end if time permits.

What Is the Regulative Principle of Worship? – “The Word, then, contains all we need in order to know how to worship; therefore, we reject all human-made laws or elements of worship.”

John MacArthur on the Legacy of Martin Luther – This is how the article begins, “Much of the discussion about Martin Luther these days seems to focus on his flaws rather than his faith, and that’s a pity.”  It’s worth reading and taking to heart.

Get Alone with God – Being alone with God is important—and necessary.

John 6 for Roman Catholics – James White is preparing to debate Trent Horn, a Roman Catholic, as a pre-conference to the G3 Conference next week.  The issues discussed in his coverage of John 6 is key to the upcoming debate.

President Trump, Therapist in Chief? – Carl Trueman never sugar coats his speech.  Here is one good example worthy of your time.

The Exponential Growth of Classical Christian Education – You may find this interesting and helpful, especially if you’re involved in a classical Christian education model.

Teach Your Children How to Deal With Conflict in the Church

Teach Your Children How to Deal With Conflict in the Church

As I watch my children grow up in the life of the church, I often find myself having conversations with them in order to prepare them for “real life” (as if they’re not already experiencing it).  That’s the role of parents in this life.  We teach, instruct, and prepare our children to live life for the glory of God.  This time of preparation involves having awkward conversations with our children, honest conversations, and at times—serious conversations that will help them navigate the journey before them.

Why do we prepare our children for adversity on the basketball court, intense opponents on the soccer field, and difficult battles on the football field, but we fail to teach our children to deal with conflict and disappointment in the church?  Maybe that’s why so many young children are growing up to be really good ball players—but not very good church members.

It’s essential to prepare your children for disappointments in the church.  Your children need to know that people will disappoint them in the life of the church.  It happens.  It will happen.  It’s just a matter of time before it happens again.  The cycle of life involves both encouragement and disappointment, but all of life in the church is not “vanity of vanities.”  I don’t want my children to learn about life at the ball field, in the school lunchroom, or on social media.  I want my children to learn about life and experience life through the church.  This involves both encouragement and disappointment, but they must be prepared for both the highs and lows.

Disappointments and conflict in the church can produce:

  1. Opportunities for learning.
  2. Opportunities to learn how to handle conflict.
  3. Opportunities to see the fruit of real repentance.
  4. Opportunities to see good examples of faithfulness to God.
  5. Opportunities, perhaps, to see bad examples of unfaithfulness, compromise, and sin.
  6. Opportunities to see the true value of church membership.
  7. Opportunities to see the functionality and value of biblical church discipline.

As a father and pastor, I wear both hats for my children.  I always want my children to love the church and to grow up and have their lives rooted and grounded in the local church.  This Sunday evening, as we were riding home from church, I had an honest conversation with my children.  I told them that I wanted them to always love the local church.  I also warned them of the disappointments that will come their way at times.  They need to know that people will fail them.  People will disappoint them.

Why was I having this conversation?  We had just shared a meal with our church family and held a member’s meeting to discuss the state of the church and goals for 2017.  There was no public church discipline discussed in the member’s meeting.  It was a good night, but as I reflected and thought about my children growing up so quickly, I wanted to encourage them and warn them at the same time.  In short, I was seeking to prepare my children for real church life.

Hiding the disappointments from your children in the life of the church is like changing the story line of Bambi to avoid dealing with death.  Your children shouldn’t grow up thinking that the church is perfect.  Children need to be taught that all churches are made up of sinners—imperfect people who must learn daily to cling to Christ.  Paul Daivd Tripp writes:

The goal of parenting is to work yourself out of a job. The goal of parenting is to send young adults out into the world who are prepared to live as God’s children and as salt and light in a corrupt and broken world. [1]

When you hear of disagreements or experience them head-on in the life of the church, take such opportunities to shepherd your child’s heart.  Depending on the ages of your children, you may want to withhold such information.  You certainly don’t want to demonize a fellow church member in the life of the church.  However, if your children are able to think clearly and with maturity, you would do well to point out the disagreement or situation of controversy in order to use it as an opportunity to disciple them in righteousness.  Alexander Strauch writes:

There is nothing wrong with Christian disagreeing with one another or trying to persuade another of the rightness of a particular position. What is wrong, however, is loveless conflict that ends in hate and bitterness. [2]

Each week in the life of the church, the children are watching us.  They’re listening to our conversations.  They’re watching us interact in person, in private, and in the pixelated world of social media.  It’s vital that we deal with conflict in a biblical manner.  Sadly, many 8 year olds watch their parents behave like 8 year olds when dealing with conflict in the church.  Children need more than lessons from Jesus’ preaching in the Sermon on the Mount.  They need to see their mother and father living out that doctrine that was taught in the Sermon on the Mount.

  1. Paul David Tripp, Age of Opportunity, (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 1997), 192-193.
  2. Alexander Strauch, Leading With Love, (Colorado Springs, CO: Lewis and Roth, 2006), 166.

Paul’s Prayer for the Church

Paul’s Prayer for the Church

Yesterday, we continued our study through Ephesians on Sunday morning.  I had the privilege of preaching Ephesians 3:14-21 which is a prayer that the apostle Paul prayed for the church.  Paul approached the throne of God in humility as be bowed before the God of glory and lifted up petitions of prayer for the church.

Paul’s Prayer for the Church

When we read the prayers of Paul and we see his deep love for the local church and how he often prayed for them, it should cause us to examine how we pray for the church.  Notice the components of Paul’s prayer.

  1. Paul prayed for the church to have the strength of the Spirit of God
  2. Paul prayed for the church to have the fullness of Christ dwelling in their hearts by faith
  3. Paul prayed for the church to grasp the knowledge of God that would fuel their mission

The children of God need the Spirit’s power to serve God.  Without the power of the holy Spirit, we will fail in our mission.  Likewise, Paul pointed to the need for Christ to dwell, or take up residence, in the hearts of the believers by faith.  The point Paul understood was that if Christ dwells in a person’s heart, He will rearrange, reorder, and reprioritize the lives of His people.

The last request is centered upon the need for knowledge among God’s people.  If this was true in Paul’s day, it’s drastically worse in our present day.  In many circles of evangelicalism, the church is suffering from a severe lack of knowledge.  Many churches are a mile wide and only an inch deep.  In many cases, pragmatism has replaced theology—leaving the people spiritually ignorant and unable to even discuss theology and the overarching components of the faith.  This is tragic, but it’s real.  And just as Paul was writing and praying about real problems that he was witnessing in his day, so must we in ours.

Paul uses two Greek words here in this text to point to the need for knowledge.

  • Comprehendκαταλαμβάνω – “To lay hold of, to seize, detect catch.” The idea here is to grasp something.
  • Knowγινώσκω – “To know, come to know, gain knowledge.”

When it comes to the Christian faith, feelings must never replace knowledge.  If our mission for Christ is fueled by how we feel, we will certainly run out of gas in our journey.  Our worship, our service, our giving, our praying, our preaching and teaching—the totality of ministry must be built upon a firm foundation of knowledge.  Yes, love is important, but without knowledge, you can’t love properly.  Without knowledge, the mission and entire focus of the church is off center.

Like two wings of an airplane, knowledge and service for God are both important.  If you’re all focused on doing, going, serving, working, and laboring for Jesus but you’re not even able to spell the word “gospel” much less define it—you will come crashing to the ground.  The same thing is true with knowledge.  If the doctrine you learn doesn’t produce a passion to serve Christ, you should examine yourself and see if you’re in the faith.

Paul’s Confidence in God’s Power

Paul concludes his prayer by focusing on the power of God.  Paul is certain that God can do far more than we think or imagine.  However, as he prays and points to the Father’s power, we must note that he isn’t pointing to some disconnected sovereignty that is detached from the church.  Paul is confessing that God is able to do, in the church, far more than we could think or imagine.  The power of God on display in the world through the church is what Paul is praying for.  That’s what the world needs to see.

As we see Paul’s love and dedication to the church in his day, what does our dedication to the church look like?  As we see Paul praying for the church in his day to grow in knowledge and grasp the understanding of God in his day, what does the depth of our church look like today?  May the Lord grant to us the power of His Spirit, the knowledge of His Word, and the passion to serve Him faithfully.

DBG Weekend Spotlight (1-6-17)

DBG Weekend Spotlight (1-6-17)

When people ask me to name preachers that I enjoy listening to and learning from, the name of Alistair Begg always comes up in the conversation.  This clip from a Ligonier conference will demonstrate why Alistair Begg is such a good preacher and one that I commend to you.

Why You Should Consider Living Near Your Church – There is some good wisdom in this article.  What would happen if more people found a church before finding a home?

Best of 2016: Tabletalk Magazine – Enjoy some of these great Tabletalk articles.

Piper, Carson, Packer & More: Save on Your Favorites in the Crossway Publisher Spotlight – Some really good books are included in this Logos bundle.

What Is Time? – Paul Tripp looks at the subject of…time.

What Is Effectual Calling? – This is a good explanation of a doctrine that’s often misunderstood.

Why is the Reformation Still Important? – James White explains why the Reformation is still important and why it isn’t over.

Passion With No Discernment Is Deadly – My friend, Chad Everson, takes an interesting approach as he points to the problem of Carrie Underwood’s performance at Passion 2017.  He writes, “If one were to save 10,000 girls from being sex slaves but miss the Gospel they have still done irreparable damage.”

GoPro wants the moments you capture on the internet instantly – The digital world continues to advance, and this will likely be a big game changer or boost to what’s already trending.

Theology Word of the Week:  Worship

Worship. Man’s sense of awe in the presence of the magnificent, the frightening or the miraculous illustrates something of what is meant by ‘worship’. His response may be one of speechlessness, paralysis, emulation or dedication.

Revelation and response

At the heart of Christian worship is God himself. In order truly to worship two fundamental elements are needed: revelation, through which God shows himself to man, and response, through which awe-stricken man responds to God. Martin Luther claimed that ‘to know God is to worship him’. In so saying, he succinctly embraced both aspects of worship. He also insisted that worship is not an optional extra for the godly person, but an essential symptom or expression of that knowledge.

God makes himself known in a number of ways: through his works in creation (Ps. 19:1); through his written word (Ps. 19:7); supremely, through Jesus Christ (Jn. 1:18); and through the Holy Spirit (Jn. 16:13).

Christian worship will depend on that revelation. It is therefore founded on theology—the knowledge of God. The shortest route to deeper and richer worship is a clearer theology. This will enable the worshipper to know who, and how great, God is. Further, it will inform the worshipper how God wants worship to be expressed.


The biblical words used for worship convey significant insights into its nature. One of the most common Heb. words comes from the root ’eḇeḏ, meaning ‘servant’. This contains the idea of service of every kind, acts of adoration as well as doing the chores (e.g. Ex. 3:12; 20:5; Dt. 6:13; 10:12; Jos. 24:15; Ps. 2:11). The occasional use of hištaḥa (prostrate, religiously or in the course of duty), refers exclusively in OT to ritual acts (Gn. 27:29; 49:23). The Gk. equivalent, proskyneō, is used more extensively in the lxx and in the NT (e.g. Mt. 4:9–10; 14:33; Mk. 15:19; Acts 10:25).

The two most important words for worship in the NT are: 1. latreia, meaning ‘service’ or ‘worship’. Its exact translation depends on the context (see particularly Rom. 12:1 and commentary discussion; also Mt. 4:10; Lk. 2:37; Acts 26:7; Heb. 8:5; 9:9). 2. leitourgia, a word taken from secular life, means service to the community or state, frequently without charge or wage (Lk. 1:23; 2 Cor. 9:12; Phil. 2:30; Heb. 9:21; 10:11). The implication is that Christian worship and service are essentially one.

According to the Bible, God alone is to be worshipped or served (Ex. 20:1–3). He is to be served with man’s whole being (Dt. 6:5; Lk. 10:27). Mind as well as emotions, physique as well as feelings are to combine in God’s praise. The very nature of God, overwhelming in his attributes, demands everything of man. Personal, individual worship is practised (e.g. Psalms) and corporate acts are described (e.g. 2 Ch. 7). Wesley’s ‘O for a thousand tongues to sing/My great Redeemer’s praise’ reflects this fact: that God is so great that no one person can adequately worship him.

God, transcendent and immanent

The tension between God’s transcendence (his wholly otherness) and immanence (being at hand) has frequently brought dissension. In both testaments these attributes are explicit (Ex. 19:10; Jb. 38–41; Ps. 8; Is. 40:12ff.; Jn. 1:1–14; Heb. 1–2; and Gn. 3:8; Dt. 7:21–22; Ps. 23; Is. 43:1–2; Mt. 1:23; 28:20; Phil. 4:19). From the OT it is clear that sin cuts people off from God, but through sacrifice he brings about a new oneness (Gn. 3; Lv. 16; cf. Redemption). With the ultimate atonement made by Jesus’ own sacrifice, the rituals of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy are no longer relevant; but their careful exposition is still important since they reveal abiding principles of worship. For example, sincerity, purity and holiness are constant requirements, as is the offering of what is best to God (e.g. Ex. 24–40; Lv. 1–10; 16; 21–27; Nu. 7; 15; 28; 2 Ch. 3–4).

In the NT the commands of Jesus embrace a comprehensive understanding of worship and service (e.g. fellowship, Jn. 13:34; ordinances, Mt. 28:19–20; 1 Cor. 11:23–24 and evangelism, Mt. 28:19–20). The fulfilment of these commands is worship—‘in the beauty of a holy life’ (Ps. 96:9, rsv).

With the giving of God’s Spirit in fulfilment of prophecy (Joel 2:28–32; Jn. 14:26; 16:7) at Pentecost upon all who believe in Christ (Acts 2), the church was empowered as a ‘kingdom and priests to serve … God’ (Rev. 1:6; Ex. 19:6). From time to time in its history, the church has been engaged in divisive controversies about the nature of the gifts of the Spirit, but without exception Christians agree that the Spirit’s enabling is vital to worship-service.

Worship in history

From the outset the Christian church recognized herself as a people who worship and not so much a place of worship. In the early church Christians normally worshipped in homes (Acts 2:46; 11; 12:12), public halls (Acts 19:9), synagogues (Acts 13:14ff.; 14:1; 17:1–2) and at the Temple (Acts 2:46; 3). Evangelism was conducted in those places and in the open (Acts 16:13–14; 17:22–23). The conversion of emperor Constantine (ad 312) brought greater freedom to build basilicas for corporate worship.

Music and singing were an important part of the worship of biblical Judaism (e.g. Pss; 1 Ch. 16:7ff.; 25). Together with the reading and explaining of the Scriptures and prayer, this constituted the heart of synagogue worship and stood alongside the sacrificial aspects of Temple worship (1 Ch. 22:17–19; 2 Ch. 6:12ff.; Ne. 8:1–8). The early Christians included music and singing in their corporate gatherings (Col. 3:16; Eph. 5:19) as well as in personal devotion (Acts 16:25), though history shows considerable differences of opinion about the place of music and other creative arts in worship.

The division between the Church of the East and that of the West in the 11th century reflected tensions in approaches to worship, to which the stronger mystical element of the East and the rational element of the West contributed.

With the Reformation in the West, religious practice was largely released from superstition, and from what had become merely ceremonial or ritual. The Reformation’s emphasis on the word as central to worship led to the Protestant emphasis on preaching as the royal sacramant and as the highest raison d’être of corporate worship. In the context of mind-stretching, relevant and passionate exposition of Scripture, the liturgy of music and prayer become simpler and less ritualistic. Together with an emphasis on the need for the Holy Spirit to enliven preacher and congregation, this emphasis has undergirded evangelical worship until today. Tensions continue between those who look for a common liturgy, uniting churches wherever they meet, and those who depend on the spontaneous expression of faith. Many have found the need to be free to use both forms. What is central to Christian worship is not ‘forms’ but the presence of the triune God, who through his word, the Bible, and by his Holy Spirit, enlivens, enlightens and enables all who believe in order that they may worship-serve him in spirit and in truth. [1]

  1. Sinclair B. Ferguson and J.I. Packer, New Dictionary of Theology (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 730–732.

Passion Without Knowledge Is Deadly

Passion Without Knowledge Is Deadly

This week, Passion 2017 was held in Atlanta.  The Passion Conferences are aimed at the 18-25 age bracket and have impacted many people over the years.  The present day Passion Conferences are connected to the One Day event held in Memphis, Tennessee in 2000 where I was confronted with my sin in a sermon by John Piper.  Over the years, the conference has stood against sex trafficking and sought to encourage young adults to find their ultimate passion and joy in Christ.

Although some really good things have come out of the Passion movement, there have been some questionable things emerge through the years as well.  This year, another strange thing happened at Passion that’s causing people to ask important questions.  No matter how passionate we are, if our passions are unbridled and not submissive to the Holy Spirit, it will lead to sin.  Passion without knowledge is deadly.

On Monday evening, a special guest appeared on the stage at Passion 2017.  Previously unannounced, Carrie Underwood, the extremely popular country music star emerged onto the platform and performed her song titled, “Something in the Water.”  She was invited by the Passion staff to sing a song that’s full of false doctrine to thousands of young impressionable college students.  What’s even more sad is the fact that the entire Georgia Dome erupted with applause.  They loved it.  Were they applauding the performance?  Were they applauding the doctrine of baptismal regeneration (a false gospel)?  What exactly were they applauding?

College Students Still Need Parents

If you have a college student, remember that it wasn’t so long ago that you were assisting your child in the basic functions of life such as putting on their shoes and brushing their teeth.  Just because your son has graduated from high school, that doesn’t mean it’s wise to let him navigate life all on his own.  He still needs you.  He is still under your care.  You still have a responsibility to disciple him in truth and lead him in the right direction theologically and biblically.  He still needs you to lead him to a sound church and to help him formulate sound biblical doctrine.

If your son or daughter was at Passion 2017 this week, it would be good to have an honest conversation about the music and the preaching.  Your college student needs to know that Carrie Underwood is not a good example to follow.  Regarding practical living, you don’t want your daughter to imitate her dress attire.  Regarding theology, Carrie Underwood has openly supported the agenda of homosexual marriage.  When asked about her position, she said:

“I’m in favor of acceptance…And I am a Christian person, and I do love the Lord, and I feel no matter who you are, what you believe, how you live your life, it’s not my place to judge.”

To hold the applause is not to be a killjoy as a parent.  It’s necessary at times.  Not everything is worthy of applause.  This decision by Passion is one that must be addressed by parents in order to help college students avoid disastrous mistakes in practical living and theological formation.

College Students Need Faithful Pastors

We must not fool ourselves into believing that the entire Georgia Dome was full of college students and their pastors had absolutely no idea that event was taking place.  The college students, in many ways, were organized and assisted by pastors in order to get to the event.  Not everything that happens at a conference would be advocated by every speaker at the conference or embraced in a worship service.  I get that.  I understand that conferences have their place, but they must not be left unchecked.

College students are forming their doctrine of God, their doctrine of salvation, and their doctrine of ecclesiology (the church) at a rapid pace while moving through their college years.  It’s essential for faithful pastors to shepherd them with care.  College students need to hear pastors teach and preach with a certain discerning eye to the culture and a faithful tongue that speaks truth.  The truth is, Carrie Underwood sang heresy to thousands of college students and the students let everyone know that it was acceptable.  College students need to know why it’s really not acceptable.  The lyrics to Carrie Underwood’s song, “Something in the Water” point to an age-old heresy—baptismal regeneration.  A repetitive line in the song states:

There must’ve been something in the water
Oh, there must’ve been something in the water

Many pastors may have supported their students in going to the Passion 2017 event, and all of this was a complete surprise.  There’s nothing wrong with wanting to see college students have a greater passion for God, but there is a need to make sure that passion is rooted and grounded in the pages of Scripture.  College students need to be taught the book of Galatians and learn that any additive to the pure unadulterated gospel is a damnable heresy (Gal. 1:8-9).  That’s exactly what Paul taught and it’s what we must teach and preach in our present day.

Passion for God is needed in our day, but passion without biblical truth will lead to disaster.  That’s exactly what Paul once said about Israel as he wrote Romans 10:1-4.  College students need diligent and faithful pastors to stand for truth and hold the applause at times, and this is one of those critical moments.  When a country music star sings to the tune of baptismal regeneration at a Christian conference, it’s proof that the Reformation isn’t over.

DBG Spotlight (1-4-17)

DBG Spotlight (1-4-17)

In only 15 days, the 2017 G3 Conference will be held in Atlanta.  If you would like to join us, seats are still available (registration).  Take time to listen to Paul Washer as he encourages younger men to be faithful pastors.

Reveling in Wrath – Tim Challies writes, “As we look at a society that is demanding the right to practice every evil deed, a society that is rejoicing in what the Bible describes as the darkest evil, we see evidence that God is loosening his grip, pushing the boat away from shore.”

90,000 Christians died for their faith last year – “Christianity is the most persecuted religion in the world, according to a European study.  In 2016, 90,000 Christians were killed because of their faith. This, however, was an improvement over 2015, when 105,000 Christians were martyred.”

Taking Back Christianese #7: “America is a Christian Nation” – Wise words from Michael Kruger that we should take to heart.

Avoiding Theological Anarchy – R. C. Sproul defends the need for confessions and creeds as he writes, “Without such confessions, theological anarchy reigns in the church and in the world.”

Reasons We Miss Church (But May Not Need To) – The next time you skip church for some selfish reason, bookmark this article and reread.

Did Tolkien Waste His Life? – “Investing life in creating fantasy that results in pointing real people in the real world to true hope in the true evangelium is not a waste, but well done.”

Rethinking the Order of Worship in 2017

Rethinking the Order of Worship in 2017

Recently in our elders’ meeting, we discussed the need to rethink and restructure our order of worship early in 2017.  What’s the reason for such a move by the pastors within our church?  The goal is to craft the most healthy worship service that makes the best use of the time given to us each week.  As we rethink the restructuring of our order of worship, certainly this must be approached with care and doctrinal precision.  Some things are certainly optional elements, but other things must never be tampered with.  Front and center is the idea that our worship must be God-centered, Christ-exalting, and built upon the firm foundation of God’s sufficient Word.  When was the last time you honestly looked at what’s included in your worship service?  Why are specific elements included, or in some cases why are some elements excluded?

Young Pastor—Don’t Overlook Old Traditions

One of the first things I did when I was called to serve a small country church in Kentucky was to change the decorations in the church building.  This particular church had many cheap pictures of Jesus hanging on the walls that I immediately removed.  Although I had a biblical foundation to stand upon for removing the pictures, I didn’t have as much of a theological foundation to support my removal of the “number” board from the front wall of the sanctuary.  This board was used to report the weekly attendance and offering.  I felt as if it was a distraction, so I removed it.  It was not a popular decision.

I stand by those decisions to this day, but I also made other decisions that I’ve been forced to rethink over time.  As a younger pastor, I once looked at the responsive reading as an awkward time in the service because I witnessed it being done in a less than edifying manner.  In the same way, we once had a prayer of confession at the beginning of the church that was accompanied by other unhealthy practices that I replaced with Scripture reading.  However, I never replaced the prayer of confession or restructured it.  Just because it looks like an old tradition, before it’s removed, perhaps a younger pastor should think twice (maybe three times) before scrapping it.

Make Preaching Central in Your Order of Worship

That may seem like a strange appeal, but we in our local church want to continually ensure the primacy of preaching in our church.  That should be something that is revisited and evaluated among elders on a yearly basis.  Most of the time churches don’t drift miles away from biblical worship overnight.  It’s typically a slow progressive trend that moves a church to replace preaching with drama, or at least place preaching on a lower level of importance.  It was D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones who soon after going to serve as pastor in Sanfields, instructed the church leaders to heat the church by using the wooden stage used by the dramatic society in his church as fuel for the furnace.  Preaching, as Lloyd-Jones would remind us, must be central.

Pastor—Music Is Your Business

Worship matters, and singing is a central aspect of weekly worship among the church.  Not only is the order of songs important, but the selection of the songs and the number of songs are likewise important for worship.  Not all old songs are good songs, so the age should not determine the usefulness of songs.  Not all new songs are worthy for use in the gathered worship service of the church.  Some songs may be full of sound biblical doctrine, but the arrangement and tempo is not conducive for singing among the church.  Pastors should honestly speak to this and exclude certain songs on the basis of doctrinal impurity and congregational usefulness.  It is the duty of pastors to think, examine, pray, and make wise choices for the weekly singing of the church.

We Need More Scripture and Prayer

I recall visiting a Roman Catholic worship service when I was in seminary.  It was a required subject for my semester.  I walked into the building expecting that they would get everything wrong, but I walked away humbled.  While they did get worship wrong in many ways in the mass that day, they got some things right.  The preaching was not good and certainly not expository.  The Lord Jesus was blasphemed through their doctrine of transubstantiation, and I did not participate in the observance of the Lord’s Supper for that reason.  However, they had more Scripture reading and more intentional prayers than we typically have in the average evangelical worship service.

As 2017 begins, we are rethinking how much Scripture we will have read in our worship services and the intentional place of those Scripture readings.  We want to establish the primacy of God’s Word in our worship, so the placement matters.  Likewise, we don’t want to appear to be using prayer as mere transitional pauses in the worship service.  As we rethink and craft a new worship service, we want to have planned and intentional prayers on a weekly basis that will be led by the elders of our church.

As we think honestly about our corporate worship, specifically the order of worship, we must strive to craft the worship service that best honors and magnifies our God.  As Sinclair Ferguson points out, “The foundation of worship in the heart is not emotional (‘I feel full of worship’ or ‘The atmosphere is so worshipful’). Actually, it is theological. Worship is not something we ‘work up,’ it is something that ‘comes down’ to us, from the character of God.” [1]

  1. Sinclair Ferguson, A Heart for God, (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1987), 110.

Social Connections

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