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
- Why the Church of Christ Will Prosper in an Age of Sexual Perversion
- Removing the Shame of Abortion
- Is Ignorance a Doorway to Heaven?
- Don’t Waste Your Worship
- Christian Persecution: The Danger of Following Jesus
- Rob Bell’s World and Why Inerrancy Matters
- The Duck Dynasty Gospel
- More Than Community: We Need The Church
In 2008, William Paul Young wrote a book titled The Shack that was instantly a best-seller. It ascended to the top of the best-selling lists (including the New York Times and Amazon), and like many successful books often do, it has now morphed into a movie. The book originally written as a Christmas gift for a family has sold over 20-million copies and become one of the top 70 books in the history of printed books.
Recently the trailer for the movie based on Young’s book was released. The movie itself is set to be released in 2017, but the hype and anticipation has already started to build. That’s to be expected when you have people like Eugene Peterson making statements such as, “This book has the potential to do for our generation what John Bunyan’s “Pilgrim’s Progress” did for his. It’s that good!”  To be honest, the trailer for the movie was greatly appealing and demonstrated a high quality that will likely be very successful. Why should Christians be concerned? What lessons can be learned from the success of The Shack that might help us all moving forward?
A Word About the Book—The Shack
The book itself demonstrates the fact that William Young is a good writer. Through the use of written language, Young captivates the reader with masterful descriptions of mysterious theological subjects and doctrines. This is always a wonderful way to teach the Bible and has long been employed by men like John Bunyan and C. S. Lewis, but in the case of The Shack, the teaching is sub-par, or to use the language of Albert Mohler in his review of the book back in 2010—”sub-biblical.” 
The book is based on the story of a man named Mackenzie (goes by Mack) and his encounter with the godhead following a horrible tragedy where his daughter (Missy) was brutally murdered in an old shack after being abducted during a family vacation. Although Young tackles some very difficult subjects related to human tragedy, in his attempt to point people to God, he instead points people to an African-American woman named Papa (who transformed at one point into a gray-haired man), a middle-aged man named Jesus who was of a Middle-Eastern descent, and a small woman of Asian descent named Sarayu. This is where things derail from the biblical theology tracks in an epic train wreck.
Like many books that become popular in evangelicalism (such as Heaven is for Real), when people are captivated by the emotion of hardship or tragedy, they’re often willing to accept the false teaching that walks through the open gates of their heart like a Trojan horse. Although William Young is a gifted communicator, what he communicates about God in his book The Shack is simply not true and it’s heresy. Therefore, no matter how his skill is with the English language and his ability to captivate his audience, if what he speaks isn’t true and if it violates the God of holy Scripture, we must avoid it. Although the movie can’t be reviewed, what can be accurately predicted is that no matter how well the acting and production of the movie is—the stench of heresy is already detectable from a distance.
A Call for Christian Discernment
Heavenly tourism books have become widely popular within the evangelical community in recent years. It seems that if one wants to be successful in the area of fiction and non-fiction, if a story can be captured about a person’s trip to heaven (or in this case – to a shack) where he or she interacts with God and returns to tell the vivid story with eye-popping details, it’s a sure recipe for success. This is a lamentable fact, and one that the evangelical church must come face-to-face with (Prov. 15:21).
As the psalmist declared in Psalm 119:66, we as God’s children should long for clear, controlled, and robust discernment. Since the Scriptures are God’s Word and the church is “a pillar and buttress of truth,” we must be able to “guard the good deposit” that has been entrusted to us (1 Tim 3:15; 2 Tim. 1:14). Therefore, laziness when it comes to biblical truth has no place in the church of Jesus Christ. There’s no reason a book like The Shack should find its way to the top of best-selling lists by the help of the Christian community.
Lessons to be Learned
Early in 2016 I was preaching in a conference held on the campus of a large Southern Baptist Church. Between sessions, I was given access to their library and coffee shop area where I could read and pray. As I browsed around the bookshelves, the paradox of evangelicalism was apparent on the shelves of this church’s library. On the same shelf separated by just a few books were two very different books by two very different authors—Sara Young’s Jesus Calling and Paul Washer’s The Gospel’s Power and Message. This is where we are as evangelicals, so long as Jesus’ names is used or the title contains Christian vocabulary, it’s readily received and granted access to the local church’s library.
Lessons to be learned from The Shack and other heavenly tourism books that fall into this same category are numerous. There are far too many lessons to learn than I have time and space to mention, but one noteworthy lesson is—doctrine matters. If we attempt to teach the Bible with stories, illustrations, anthropomorphism, and humor, that’s wonderful, but those stories, illustrations, anthropomorphisms, and humor must be communicated with theological precision. We don’t want a surgeon operating on us who has been guilty of medical malpractice, and that same principle is true when it comes to those who teach us the Bible.
This successful book that boasts of Christian theology presents an inaccurate view of the Trinity, reverses the masculinity of God into feminism, denies Jesus of His sovereignty as a member of the godhead, and maligns the proper understanding of the Holy Spirit. One of the core errors of the book is the improper understanding of submission and a rejection of Trinitarian hierarchy. It seems that there is a constant imbalance and misunderstanding of the roles and relationships between the members of the Trinity throughout the book and certainly will be played out in the movie. Tim Challies concludes in his thorough review of The Shack back in 2008, “Overall, I had to conclude that Young has an inadequate and often-unbiblical understanding of the Trinity.” 
In one scene, Jesus poked his head into the dining area to inform Papa that he had put the tools they would need just outside the door. Papa thanked Jesus, who kissed him on the lips and left out the back door. Where do we ever see Jesus informing the Father of anything in the Bible? In another scene, Jesus communicates the following to Mack:
Papa is as much submitted to me as I am to him, or Sarayu to me, or Papa to her. Submission is not about authority and it is not obedience; it is all about relationships of love and respect. In fact, we are submitted to you in the same way.
If that’s not bad enough, Jesus goes on to communicate another ancient heresy to Mack by saying, “Those who love me come from every system that exists. They were Buddhists or Mormons, Baptists or Muslims, Democrats, Republicans and many who don’t vote or are not part of any Sunday morning or religious institutions.” Jesus continues by saying, “I have no desire to make them Christian, but I do want to join them in their transformation into sons and daughters of my Papa, into my brothers and sisters, my Beloved.”
Mack responds to Jesus, “Do all roads lead to Christ?” Jesus then provides an answer that points to universalism—“Most roads don’t lead anywhere. What it does mean is that I will travel any road to find you.” The answer to Mack’s question is an obvious rejection of verses such as John 14:6 and Acts 4:12 that teach the absolute exclusivity of Christ. Jesus doesn’t travel down the road of Mormonism to find people. Sure, Jesus can find lost sinners anywhere, but to suggest that “those who love” Jesus come from every system that exists is a tragic error. To communicate that Jesus doesn’t want to make anyone a Christian is a tragic mistake, and to teach people that Jesus wants to “join us” in our transformation into sons of Papa is a reversal of roles. Jesus is sovereign and we respond to Him. We love because He first loved us (1 Jn. 4:19). This book, although celebrated by many Christians is an anti-Christian book and will subsequently become an anti-Christian movie.
One final take-away that we must learn from such books and movies is that God has one primary method of delivering His revelation to us and it’s through holy Scripture. To bypass the Bible and learn about the Trinity through The Shack is to do yourself a great injustice and the results will be catastrophic. God has a proper and fitting revelation of Himself, and He has unveiled that glorious revelation in the pages of sacred Scripture—not The Shack or any other book like it. Ancient mysticism has crept back into the church in our day, and unfortunately it’s widely popular. Why not just come to know God, true Christian theology, and a proper response to the deepest human suffering by reading God’s book—the Bible?
Indictments to be Received
The success of The Shack is a true indictment on the shallowness of mainstream evangelicalism. The church is not only called to evangelize the world with the gospel, she is also called to have biblical discernment. That lack of concern when it comes to understanding the Bible and the core essential teachings of Scripture among many evangelical Christians should bring about great concern. When bookstores, even Christian bookstores, are willing to peddle books like The Shack and other sub-Christian titles, we should be greatly concerned. Albert Mohler writes:
The Shack is a wake-up call for evangelical Christianity…The popularity of this book among evangelicals can only be explained by a lack of basic theological knowledge among us — a failure even to understand the Gospel of Christ. The tragedy that evangelicals have lost the art of biblical discernment must be traced to a disastrous loss of biblical knowledge. Discernment cannot survive without doctrine. 
A further indictment must be centered on the pulpit in the evangelical church today. Christians, if taught properly each Lord’s Day from the pulpit, would detest such books as The Shack. If robust teaching was the common diet, books like The Shack would be so unsuccessful that a movie producer wouldn’t give it a second thought—because in his mind he needs the evangelical church to buy tickets to watch it. Therefore, when the pulpit is shallow, dysfunctional, and sub-Christian—you can expect the people to crave that same type of entertainment.
Pastors guard your people by telling them the truth. Brothers and sisters in Christ, please make the movie version of this heretical book far less successful by staying home.
- Statement by Eugene Peterson can be found as a glaring endorsement written on the front bottom of the paperback version in most cases.
- Albert Mohler, “The Shack — The Missing Art of Evangelical Discernment” [accessed 12-4-16]
- Tim Challies, “The Shack” by William P. Young [accessed 12-5-16]
- Mohler, “The Shack — The Missing Art of Evangelical Discernment” [accessed 12-4-16]
Yesterday I had the privilege of preaching Ephesians 3:7-13. The text serves as the second half of a lengthy thirteen verse section where Paul is unveiling the mystery of God’s saving plan to save both Jew and Gentile in Christ. In doing so, Paul likewise unveils the purpose of his ministry and the distinct purpose of the church of Jesus Christ. As we read and consider these truths, we must never forget that God has a purpose for us and that purpose is not disconnected from the church.
God’s Purpose for the Apostle Paul
Paul was made a minister by God’s sovereign initiative. He didn’t wake up one day and determine to be an apostle. Just as grace is sovereignly dispensed, so is the calling to serve in the gospel ministry. We are all ministers of the gospel as the children of God, but we all have different callings. Paul’s theology was consistent as he looked at the working of God in salvation in the first two chapters, now he points to the work of God in calling him into the ministry of proclamation.
Paul was not only made a minister by God’s will, he was also called into a ministry of preaching. As verse eight makes clear, Paul understood that he was to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ to the Gentiles. Paul was not called to be gospel ventriloquist, juggler, magician, power lifter, soloist, or comedian. Paul was called to be a preacher. What would happen to our churches today if the worship services were more sober minded and full of robust preaching instead of little talks full of half baked jokes and skits?
Paul makes it clear that the grace of God in Christ is indescribable. He calls it the “unsearchable riches of Christ.” As Paul would go down into the deep wells, into the deep mines, he would continue to come back to the surface with the jewels of God’s saving grace. In doing so, he would point to the fact that God was saving a people for His glory from every tongue, people, tribe, and nation. This brought great anger to the Jews and for that reason he was imprisoned. In fact, as Paul wrote this very letter he was in prison.
God’s Purpose for the Church
The church is not something good for our consideration, but it’s the absolute perfect will of God for our lives. The will of God for us individually will never be distinctly disconnected from the church. It is God’s will for us to bloom for Him through the local church. God has a plan and purpose for the church in this world and that includes gospel missions (the Great Commission) and as Paul points out here—to make the wisdom of God known even to the angels who are watching. In his sermon on this text, John MacArthur said:
The angels can see the power of God in creation. The angels can see the wrath of God at Mt. Sinai. The angels can see the love of God at Calvary, but God says they’re going to see my wisdom in the church.
Therefore, as the angels watch us worship, serve, pray, and interact with one another – do they see the manifold wisdom of God on display in our lives? Is God’s wisdom evident in the functionality of our church? A divided church is an oxymoron. A church without joy is hypocrisy on display. A church without love is nonsense. A lazy church is paradoxical. Therefore, we must be “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” (Eph. 4:3-6).
As we live out Christianity for the world to see, we can expect to be mistreated in the same way the world mistreated Jesus. Paul reminds the church at Ephesus of this truth as he encourages them to not lose heart of his ongoing suffering for Christ. The world is quite happy to sing about Jesus at Christmas so long as they’re not forced to bow their knee and submit to Him. The world is not threatened by a harmless baby in a manger, but once the church points to the sovereign ruling King Jesus the world is immediately hostile toward us. Beware and don’t lose heart.
Mark Dever answers the question, “Is Capitol Hill Baptist Church a replicable model of church life?” His answer is full of wisdom and worthy of your attention.
Oldest Living Human Prepared to Turn 117 – Italian Emma Morano was born in the 1800s and her life now spans three centuries.
Hillsong & Man – The series regarding Hillsong continues with a look into their doctrine of man.
A Plea to Pastors: Don’t Cancel Church on Christmas – This is a really good one from Kevin DeYoung. And yes, people really do cancel church on Christmas.
Are Chip and Joanna Gaines ‘Cultural Heretics’? – Once again, the cultural police are out to get the dangerous Christians.
Maximize Logos 7 with Our New Library Expansions – Another way to make Logos 7 better.
Are Non-Staff Elders Biblical? – A good thing to consider when thinking through biblical eldership.
3-Day Sale: 50% Off Reformation Study Bibles – Take advantage of these good deals from Ligonier.
Jesus accepts my true self – For those who think that Jesus just accepts us “as we are” with no strings attached.
Theology Word of the Week: Who is John Bunyan?
Bunyan, John (1628–88). A Bedford pastor and author, Bunyan may well have been the most influential English religious figure of his time. Some twelve and a half years in Bedford’s damp county jail awarded him the martyr’s laurel. His courageous refusal to accept freedom in exchange for silence placed him in the lineage of the apostles. The opportunity to prove himself came after his conversion and call to the ministry as he joined a non-conformist church which was congregational in polity and Baptist in its ordinances.
Bunyan is completely Calvinistic in his theology and is a prime exemplar of the Puritan marriage of doctrine with life. He is concerned in his sermons and writings to present the truth experimentally (i.e. experientially). Bunyan as a Spirit-led theologian had the gift of interpreting evangelical truth to the masses. His many and varied writings and sermons purposefully applied Scripture to everyday living. His biblical and often earthy preaching was Christ-centred, powerful, practical and life-changing.
Bunyan’s skill with the pen is surprising; though without formal education he produced some sixty-six works. These were widely circulated in cheap editions, few of which survived, for they were read until they disintegrated. Bunyan’s very human spirit and allegorical style contributed to the popularity of his books. The volumes with the greatest appeal are Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners (1666), which recounts his conversion, and Pilgrim’s Progress (1682), which describes spiritual warfare. It was not merely Bunyan’s astounding allegorical expression which ensured his popularity, but rather his clear insight into mankind’s desperate plight and God’s redeeming, sovereign grace. For Bunyan justification, regeneration, mortification and sanctification are not theological pigeon-holes, but the substance of Christian experience.
We are impressed by Bunyan the preacher, pastor, evangelist and author but we are most moved by Bunyan the pilgrim, a man wrought upon by God, making his way to heaven’s gate.
- Sinclair B. Ferguson and J.I. Packer, New Dictionary of Theology (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 117.
What differentiates one word from another – making one word a profane word while another is considered normative? Why is one “four letter word” different from another one? It’s not always based on the precise definition of a word. Instead, it’s based on how that word has been used in the culture.
Profanity Abuses Vocabulary
Grammar matters. How we employ vocabulary is important in spoken word conversations, social media conversations, and in more formal written forms. The use of profanity often involves ripping a word out of its context and intended usage. For instance, it’s possible to take a word intended to convey a really dark and horrid meaning and use it for something that’s far less worse than its original context. This happens when people use the word hell in the improper manner. When people say, “I had a hell of a time last night at the party” they’re intending to mean that they had a really good time. We can be sure of one thing, hell will not be a fun or delightful place for anyone to find themselves.
To be damned is a really horrible thing. To consider what it means to be damned by God is a bit overwhelming just by looking at the vocabulary words often associated with the judgment of God in Scripture (agony, darkness, fire, smoke, punishment, torment, weeping, gnashing of teeth, pain, and more). To be damned by God is to be cut off and sentenced to the eternal flames of hell where a sovereign God unleashes His holy wrath upon guilty sinners. Therefore, to use the word damn in a slang manner in response to accidentally spilling your glass of water at the supper table is to completely miss the true meaning of the word. This misuse takes something like the damnation of sinners which is so woefully beyond comprehension and raises it up to the level of spilling a glass of water at the supper table.
One additional example would be the way in which people use the name of God in vain through common everyday conversations. This is a common error that occurs when a person takes the name of God and flips it so that it’s used in a negative manner. People do this often with the name of God. When someone is frightened and they exclaim, “O Jesus, that scared the life out of me”— that individual is usually speaking to someone other than Jesus when making that statement. In other words, when one friend makes that statement while speaking to another friend, the name of our Lord (a glorious name that’s above every name – Acts 4:12) is being improperly substituted as a slang term. This same type of thing can show up in the use of text messages where people use OMG to refer to something really bad or really funny, when that certainly isn’t the proper usage of God’s name (Ex. 20:7).
Whatever your opinion is regarding the use of profanity, it’s clear that profane words often distort the proper definition and intended use of a word. It would be wise to make sure we’re using vocabulary properly in order to preserve the true meaning of such words.
Profanity Provides a Cultural Identity
Beyond the abuse of vocabulary is the cultural identity that’s attached to the use of profanity. This is where we move beyond morality to Christianity. The followers of Christ have been called out of darkness and into the marvelous light of God’s grace (1 Pet. 2:9). We should strive to base our lifestyle decisions on Scripture and move beyond the realm of cultural morality. Therefore, when we teach our children to refrain from using swear words (cuss words, profanity), we typically try to teach them why based on Scripture—not just because mom and dad said it.
- Christians should seek to be identified with Christ rather than the world. Romans 12:2 says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
- Christians should not be people who use filthy or foolish language. Notice that Paul places this this warning in the same context where he issues warnings against sexual immorality. Ephesians 5:4 says, “Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.”
- Christians should maintain a certain appearance that honors Christ. Titus 2:10 says, “not pilfering, but showing all good faith, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.” On this subject, see also 1 Thess. 5:21-22.
- Christians should not be rude people. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 reads, “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
- Christians are called to build people up with language rather than tearing down with corrupt word choices. Ephesians 4:29 says, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”
In our home we have a profanity filter on our television that (most of the time) prevents foul language from entering our living room. It’s not that Kari and I are seeking to be overly protective of our children or sheltering them from the real world. In fact, the propensity to use foul language is certainly in our children from conception, they simply haven’t learned the grammar until they grow and develop their vocabulary.
From time-to-time, my children will tell us that one of their friends used a “bad” word. We as parents try to explain why this is not wise and then point them in the right direction from a biblical context. Our goal is not straight and narrow moralism. Many people go to hell everyday who were morally decent and spoke with a clean tongue. We want so much more for our children than acceptable morality. We want them to grow to love Christ and to reflect the love and glory of Christ – not just with their worship and service, but also with their choice of vocabulary. We want our children to pursue holiness rather than the crudeness of our culture. While we know that the tongue cannot be tamed (Jm. 3:8), it’s our duty as Christians to exemplify a life that honors Christ, and that includes the way we speak. We must remember, our choice of language reveals much about the contents of our heart (Lk. 6:45).
Philippians 4:8 – Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
In the 2015 G3 Conference, Dr. Steven Lawson preached on the subject — “The God Breathed Word” as he explained how the Word of God came into existence.
How God Used Facebook to Give Me a Second Chance – “We only have a little more time left on earth, let’s strive to be the ones talked about in Romans 10:15; the ones with beautiful feet.”
U.S. Christians Brace For Brutal Onslaught Of ‘Happy Holidays’ Attacks – Worthy of a good laugh.
Interview: The Christmas Playlist by Alistair Begg – “This new book from Alistair Begg takes a look at the very first Christmas songs sung with joy and awe by Mary, Zechariah, the Angels, and Simeon. It gives a fresh glimpse of the greatness of God this season.”
Was Jesus Married to Mary Magdalene? Revisiting a Stubborn Conspiracy Theory – Michael Kruger takes on an old nagging heresy that continues to pop up from time to time.
Hillsong & God – “At best, Hillsong’s God is a pale and incomplete shadow of the fullness described in Scripture. At worst, he’s a fraudulent idol, made in man’s image and incapable of providing the redemption and transformation that sinners so desperately need.”
A Congregant’s Guide to Preaching – Kyle Borg does a good job of explaining how the congregation should view the preaching of God’s Word.
The Lord’s Table is not only one of the most intimate and exhilarating times of worship for the local church, it’s also one of the most controversial. As we look back through church history, we see that John Rogers and other Puritans were burned at the stake for their view of the Lord’s Supper. Jonathan Edwards was fired because of his position on the Lord’s Supper that caused a rift in his church. Doctrine matters.
As we look back to Paul’s day, we see people in the church of Corinth who were suffering under the judgment of God (sickness and death) as a result of their perversion of the Lord’s Table (1 Corinthians 11:29-30). Doctrine matters, but so does our practice of doctrine. This history can sometimes move people beyond self-examination to self-excommunication from the Lord’s Table. This self-excommunication should not be viewed as a badge of honor. The practice of self-excommunication from the Lord’s Table should be resisted.
Self-Examination is Essential Prior to Observing the Lord’s Supper
The Lord’s Supper is one of the most intimate times of worship among the gathered church. We should never approach the observance of the Lord’s Supper in a flippant and loose manner. This high view of the Lord’s Table begins with the pastors of the church. How the Lord’s Table is fenced and how the elements of the Lord’s Supper are distributed sets the bar for the rest of the church. Any proper fencing of the table will encourage the congregation to engage in a time of self-examination in preparation for worship.
In Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth, he writes, “Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup” (1 Corinthians 11:28). The word translated examine is the Greek term, “δοκιμάζω” carrying the meaning “to make a critical examination of something to determine genuineness, put to the test, examine.”  In the examination process, we should look at our lives vertically, horizontally, internally, and externally.
- In a vertical manner, we examine our relationship with God. Are we in real intimate communion with Him or do we see a separation due to sin (James 4:8)?
- In our horizontal examination, do we find any division between us and fellow brothers and sisters in Christ (Ephesians 4:32)?
- In our internal examination, do we find unconfessed sins, idols of the heart, or private sins that we keep hidden from the public (1 Corinthians 11:28; 1 John 2:15)?
- In our external examination, do we find anything that’s preventing us from engaging with our church to reach the neighborhoods and the nations with the gospel (Matthew 28:18-20)?
James Montgomery Boice writes:
At the heart of the present significance of the Lord’s Supper is our communion or fellowship with Christ, hence the term “communion service.” In coming to this service the believer comes to meet with Christ and have fellowship with Him at His invitation. The examination takes place because it would be hypocrisy for us to pretend that we are in communion with the Holy One while actually cherishing known sin in our hearts. 
Self-examination is demanded of God’s children, but this examination must accomplish its intended purpose which is repentance and unity that leads to the observance of the Lord’s Supper rather than self-excommunication.
Why Self-Excommunication from the Lord’s Supper is a Bad Idea
When the Reformers were coming out of the Roman Catholic Church, they insisted that the Church at Rome was not a true church. Their passionate preaching and writing resulted in a very important question: What then constitutes a true church? The response to this question, although varied to some degree among different theologians, resulted in three essential marks of a true church. Those marks are:
- The right preaching of the Word of God.
- The right administration of the sacraments (ordinances).
- The practice of biblical church discipline.
Much emphasis is often placed on the right preaching of the Word while less emphasis is placed on the not-so-right practices of the Lord’s Supper. Sometimes you see the Lord’s Supper observed at weddings, in college dormitories, and even among volunteers in the church nursery—and sometimes you hear about people who bar themselves from the Lord’s Table due to a guilty conscience. When considering the responsibility and privileges of the Lord’s Supper, we must refrain from barring ourselves by becoming an intentional absentee (not attending the evening service if it’s observed in the evening services) or by intentional excommunication (due to a guilty conscience regarding our sin). Consider the following points.
- Refusing to eat the Lord’s Supper and worship Christ is sinful (Luke 22:19; 1 Corinthians 11:25).
- We are members of a local church under authority – not self-autonomy (Hebrews 13:17).
- We are commanded to eat and remember (1 Corinthians 11:28).
- We are never called to excommunicate ourselves (notice that in Matthew 5:23-24 the man left his offering emphasizing that he would return shortly).
- The Lord’s Supper demands examination and restoration rather than excommunication (the idea of examination is designed for the opportunity of immediate repentance rather than a delayed response. This is perhaps the closest thing we have to an altar call in the entire Bible).
- The devil is the accuser of the brethren and we can expect him to remind us of our past sins which should never be the cause of self-excommunication. The devil delights in dividing the church from worship at the Lord’s Table (Revelation 12:10; 1 Peter 5:8).
Consider the words of J. C. Ryle as he comments on Matthew 26:26-35:
Let us leave the passage with serious self-inquiry as to our own conduct with respect to the Lord’s Supper. Do we turn away from it, when it is administered? If so, how can we justify our conduct?—It will not do to say it is not a necessary ordinance. To say so is to pour contempt on Christ Himself, and declare that we do not obey Him.—It will not do to say that we feel unworthy to come to the Lord’s table. To say so is to declare that we are unfit to die, and unprepared to meet God. These are solemn considerations. All non-communicants should ponder them well. 
The next time you enter the sanctuary of your local church and see the Lord’s Table ready for distribution, just remember, this is one more opportunity to unite with your church family in an intimate time of worship. This is likewise one more precious opportunity for repentance given to you by the Lord Himself. If you feel unworthy and inadequate to observe the Lord’s Supper, that’s normal and it’s one of the goals of the ordinance. Anyone who feels worthy and adequate is one who should not partake because that person is most likely not a true child of God. We approach the Lord through the Lord’s Supper as unworthy sinners who cling to Christ alone as our only hope now—and forever.
Therefore, the Lord Himself commands that we eat and drink and remember His work – His sacrifice – our salvation that comes through Him.
- William Arndt, Frederick W. Danker, and Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 255.
- James Montgomery Boice, Foundations of the Christian Faith-Book I, (Westmont, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1986), 603.
- J. C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Matthew (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1860), 360.
Yesterday, I preached from Ephesians 3:1-6. Often times when statues are unveiled, it brings about a great deal of excitement among the people who are there for the ceremony. In cases of military leaders or royal figures, family members or perhaps close intimate people are there to see it unveiled and witness the standing memory of their father, husband, or friend. In the case of the church and the mystery of the Gentiles being included in the salvific plan of God, it was met with the opposite of enthusiasm. It was met with fierce opposition.
Paul had been saved on the Damascus road and commissioned as the apostle to the Gentiles. Now, while in prison, he was writing a letter that would be used to clear up some massive problems between Jews and Gentiles that was creating division among the church. In this section of verses, Paul pointed out his ministry and the mystery of the Christ and His church.
The Ministry of Paul to the Gentiles
Paul had been commissioned as the apostle to the Gentiles and as a result, the Jews hated him. Paul had been arrested as a result of two false accusations made against him which is recorded in Acts 21-22. Paul was accused of violating the Gentile boundaries in the temple and he was falsely accused of preaching against the Jewish law. Both were not true. He had not taken any Gentile into the temple area reserved for Jews and he had merely told the truth about Jesus tearing down the wall of division between Jew and Gentile. For that, he was the prisoner of Jesus Christ on behalf of the Gentiles as the first verse of chapter three records.
It should be pointed out that Paul believed that Jesus was sovereign over all things – including imprisonment. Not only is He sovereign over disease, weather, and eternal life – but he’s also sovereign over the imprisonment of His children. Paul was not the prisoner of Nero, but he was the prisoner of Christ. This not only brought Paul comfort, but it likewise clears up some issues pertaining to the present day false teaching of Benny Hinn and Joel Osteen known as the prosperity gospel. How much more dedicated and strong in the faith could anyone be in comparison to the apostle Paul?
The Mystery of the Church
The word used by Paul here is translated – mystery (μυστήριον). It literally means, “The unmanifested or private counsel of God (God’s secret). The word used here doesn’t always translate into English well. When we think of a secret or a mystery, we think of it is unsolved. The word used here that’s translated mystery actually refers to the information about God’s saving grace that was made known – only to a select group of people. In Colossians 1:26, we read the following: “the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints.”
Paul had learned of this truth regarding the Gentiles not by his own investigative skills, but according to divine revelation given to he and the other apostles. According to Ephesians 3:6, the Gentiles are “fellow heirs,” “members of the same body,” and “partakers of the promise of Christ” with the Jews. This was what Paul had been arrested for preaching, but here he writes it again – even risking his life – in order to make this critical truth known.
What lessons can we learn today?
Here we are at the end of eight years of our first African-American president in the history of the United States of America, and yet, we as a people are more racially divided than we were before Barak Obama took office. The divide is not much better in the evangelical church. The most segregated hour in our entire week is 11:00am on Sunday morning.
We need to stop trying to make the gospel a “white” gospel or a “black” gospel for the “white church” and the “black church.” Why do we have so many different types of churches in our cities? Some are devoted to different nationalities and others to certain socioeconomic demographics. And now, a popular thing in rural areas is the “cowboy church.” We would do well to stop trying to make the gospel a “country” gospel or a “city” gospel, because it’s the gospel of God and it’s not reserved for a certain color of skin — it’s the Revelation 5 gospel — and it’s for the whole world.
During the 2003 Ligonier National Conference questions & answers session, Sinclair Ferguson, Robert Godfrey, John MacArthur, Douglas Wilson, and R. C. Sproul engaged in helpful discussions on biblical theology and practical ministry questions.
Black Friday Book Deals:
Black Friday Savings: Get up to 60% off Select Lexham Press Titles – Logos Bible Software has some good deals to offer.
$5 Black Friday: Over 60 Resources on Sale for $5 – Massive deals from Ligonier that you don’t want to miss today.
Kindle Deals – Tim Challies has a page dedicated for special offers for your Kindle. Check it often as it will be updated.
DBG Weekend Spotlight:
How to Actively Serve in Worldwide Missions Where You Are in Your Local Church. – Something good for all Christians to remember.
Do You Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness? – R. C. Sproul points out the need for true believers to hunger and thirst for righteousness rather than the world.
Do You Get Nervous Before You Preach? – H. B. Charles Jr. answers a question that all preachers know the answer to, or at least should.
Are We Overdoing the Anti-Prosperity Gospel Theme? – John Piper addresses this question in an interview.
500th Anniversary of the Reformation Tour – As the 500th anniversary of the Reformation is celebrated in 2017, it’s important to know and appreciate your history. Join me and James White for a tour through Europe next year as we celebrate and learn the important steps of Luther and the Reformers.
Today marks the annual Thanksgiving Day celebration throughout the United States. Many people will cross all diet boundary restrictions, watch parades, visit family and friends, and watch football. As we engage in the annual traditions of our culture and remember the purpose of Thanksgiving Day – we should likewise take a moment to thank God for the church and the many blessings that come to us as members of a local church.
Thankful for Preaching
In an age of confusion regarding the voice of God, we must not forget that our God speaks today. Our God is the speaking God and He continues to speak to us through His Word. If we want to hear the voice of God, we do so clearly through His Word. It’s through the preaching of God’s Word that the gathered church hears the voice of God and submits to Him.
The right preaching of God’s Word that minimizes man’s opinions and elevates the Word of God line-by-line is the key to hearing God’s voice clearly. As we assemble in a long line of God’s people throughout church history, we continue to hear God’s voice spoken to us through His unadulterated Word. It’s not through mystical experiences and strange phenomenons that we come to hear God’s voice. It’s through the faithful preaching, (I believe expository preaching is the truest definition of faithful preaching), of His Word that we hear God speak.
Thankful for Prayer
Prayer is one of the great privileges of God’s people. God’s people have the privilege of prayer and can boldly access the throne of grace in private, but there is something unique and special about the gathered church coming together in prayer. Paul urged the church at Ephesus to be constantly praying for all the saints (Eph. 6:18). Colossians 4:2 speaks of being “steadfast” in prayer. Jesus instructed us on how to pray in Matthew 6:5-15. One of the great truths of the Christian life is that we as God’s children have access to the Father by the Spirit (Eph. 2:18). Alistair Begg has written:
Prayer is an acknowledgment that our need of God’s help is not partial but total… Yet many of our church prayer meetings have dwindled in size and influence. Ultimately, the explanation can be traced to spiritual warfare. If, as the hymn writer says, Satan trembles when he sees the weakest saint upon his knees,” then we may be sure that he and his minions will be working hard to discredit the value of united prayer. The Evil One has scored a great victory in getting sincere believers to waver in their conviction that prayer is necessary and powerful. 
Thankful for Singing
The true child of God has a reason to sing. Consider what happened immediately after the children of Israel were brought across the Red Sea. They sang a song (Ex. 15:1-18). Then Miriam sang, “Sing to the LORD, for he has triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea” (Ex. 15:21). The church is pictured as a singing church in Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16. The church assembled will sing – not based on preference and style – but based on truth and genuine desire to exalt Christ. One of the most important things a church does is sing the gospel. David penned these words in Psalm 9:11 – “Sing praises to the Lord, who sits enthroned in Zion! Tell among the peoples his deeds!” Something unique happens when the gathered church sings the words to Isaac Watts hymn, When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.
When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.
Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ my God!
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.
See from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?
Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.
Thankful for the Ordinances
The ordinances of the church are intended for two purposes—praise and worship of our God. We praise Him through the waters of baptistry as we identify with Christ as our Savior and proclaim His resurrection to those who witness. We praise God through the Lord’s Supper as we remember the very body and blood of Christ that was given as a substitutionary atonement in order to satisfy the holy justice of God. These ordinances are designed to be observed with the assembled church – not as fragmented groups on the beach, in a dorm room, or with a single family in an empty room. We gather together as a church to worship God and He has designed the ordinances to serve that unique purpose of praise.
Thankful for Discipline
Any church that refuses to practice biblical church discipline as mandated by Jesus in Matthew 18:15-20 forfeits the title of a biblical church. Contrary to popular opinions, biblical discipline is the loving thing to do. Jonathan Leeman writes, “Churches should practice discipline for love’s sake: love for the sinner, love for weaker sheep who can be led astray, love for non-Christian neighbors who need to see a holy Christian witness, and love for Christ and His reputation.”  The idea of discipline being a necessary mark of the church is rooted in Jesus’ words and historic confessions such as the Belgic Confession from 1561. Beware of any church that allows people to live loose lives of sin under the banner of “love” and a refusal to be judgmental. That’s not true love.
Thankful for Fellowship
God’s people need the church. For people to view the church as a burden, apparently they have no idea what it means to be a member of a local church. God never intends his people to be “lone ranger” believers who sail out on the high seas alone. God intends for His children to be identified with a group of people who live life together, worship together, engage in mission together, pray together, serve together, and fellowship together. God’s very best place on planet Earth is the church of Christ. It’s within the realm of the church that we should have our deepest relationships and it’s within these friendships that we laugh, weep, eat, and sharpen one another in the faith through biblical discipleship (Acts 2:42-47; Titus 2; Prov. 27:17; Heb. 10:24-25). Charles Spurgeon once said, “Some Christians try to go to heaven alone, in solitude. But believers are not compared to bears or lions or other animals that wander alone. Those who belong to Christ are sheep in this respect, that they love to get together. Sheep go in flocks, and so do God’s people.” 
As we spend our time thanking God for all of the blessings of this life, don’t forget the enormous blessings that God showers upon us as members of His church manifest through our membership in a local church. Thank God for the church!
- Alistair Begg, Made For His Pleasure, (Chicago: Moody Press, 1996), 52.
- Jonathan Leeman, Reverberation, (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2011), 188.
- Charles Spurgeon, Sermons, 30.597
In the 2007 Ligonier National Conference, Contending for the Truth, Albert Mohler preached on the subject of the “Authority of Scripture.”
Francis Schaeffer’s ‘How Should We Then Live?’—40 Years Later – Mohler writes, “How should we then live? That question which troubled Schaeffer so much in 1976 troubles all of us now. We’re about to find out if Christians in this generation are going to believe and to live authentic biblical Christianity. How will we live now?”
What Is Thanksgiving Day? – “Thanksgiving is an American holiday that stretches all the way back to a time long before America became a nation. The Pilgrims landed in 1620. They faced brutal conditions and were woefully unprepared. Roughly half of them died in that first year. Then they had a successful harvest of corn. In November of 1621 they decided to celebrate a feast of thanksgiving.”
Made for Another World: Remembering C.S. Lewis – “For a growing number of us, Lewis occupies a class to himself. Few, if any, have taught us so much about this world, and the next, save the Scriptures…His writings are pervasively thoughtful, engaging, provoking, and rewarding. He will not disappoint.”
9 Things You Should Know About C. S. Lewis – Another reminder of the influence and value of C. S. Lewis’ writings.
Why Christian Kids Leave the Faith – This article from Tim Challies is a must read for all parents.
Parents: It’s Time to Wake Up About Pornography, Sexting, and Your Children – Much wisdom here from Randy Alcorn.
8 Theses That Helps Us Think Biblically about Transgenderism – Michael Kruger writes, “I am thankful for RTS Charlotte’s Dr. James Anderson, associate professor of theology and philosophy. In the video below, Dr. Anderson addresses our students at a lunch-time conversation on the issue of transgenderism. It is a wonderfully clear and concise treatment of this important subject.”