Welcome to the DBG website for Christian blogs and articles written by Josh Buice.

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Providing Christian blogs, articles, and sermons on various topics from a biblical perspective.

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DBG Weekend Spotlight (10-21-16)

DBG Weekend Spotlight (10-21-16)

Voddie Baucham said, “The home is the place where leaders of the church are forged.” In this sermon, Voddie Baucham addresses the subject of marriage from Ephesians.

Happy Daddy, Happy Home – There are many good nuggets to chew on here.

Albert Mohler talks about Trump candidacy on CNN – This is a helpful little clip from Albert Mohler as he engages the subject of presidential politics on CNN.

The Preacher’s Legacy – Every preacher has a legacy and it matters – good or bad.

Family Ministry: Caring for Your Pastor’s Children – I found this to be helpful and worthy of consideration.

Theology Word of the Week:  Creeds

Creeds. A creed (from the Lat. credo, ‘I believe’) is an authoritative statement of the main articles of the Christian faith to which believers are expected to assent. Broadly speaking, biblical religion has always been credal. Biblical and post-biblical Judaism confessed Yahweh’s absolute unity and uniqueness by the Shema‘: ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one’ (Dt. 6:4). The genesis of the church’s symbols (as creeds have been called from early times) resides in protocredal statements of faith and worship embedded in the NT (see Confessions of Faith). With the confession, ‘Jesus is Lord’ (Rom. 10:9; 1 Cor. 12:3) early Christians acknowledged that the Nazarene was to be spoken of in the same terms as Yahweh of the OT. The text interpolated at Acts 8:37, ‘I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God,’ represents a primitive Christian baptismal affirmation. Other NT credal formulas affirm Christ’s incarnation, saving death and glorious resurrection (Rom. 1:3–4; 1 Cor. 15:3–4; 1 Jn. 4:2). The great Christological passage Phil. 2:6–11 may have been sung at early Christian baptismal services. 1 Cor. 8:6 affirms the unity of God and the co-ordination of the Father with Jesus Christ. Finally in the NT a Trinitarian confessional pattern emerged (Mt. 28:19; 2 Cor. 13:14; see Trinity), which became the paradigm for later credal formularies.

The apostolic fathers reflect what J. N. D. Kelly calls ‘quasi-credal scraps’, and the apologists a growing corpus of teaching that distils the essence of the Christian faith. What scholars refer to as the Old Roman creed (c. 140, Harnack) was an expanded Trinitarian baptismal formula: ‘I believe in God the Father Almighty and in Christ Jesus his Son, our Lord, and in the Holy Spirit, the holy Church, and the resurrection of the flesh.’ In the writings of Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian and Hippolytus is found the ‘rule of faith’, or ‘the tradition’, which was an informal corpus of teaching provided to catechumens. The so-called Apostles’ Creed, while not apostolic in authorship, is nevertheless apostolic in content. Its present form (8th century) represents a lengthy development from simpler Trinitarian baptismal formulas, particularly the Old Roman creed. The Apostles’ Creed indirectly refuted various heresies (e.g. Ebionites, Marcion, Gnostics, docetists) and was widely used in the West for instruction and worship. ‘The Creed of creeds’ (P. Schaff), it contains the fundamental articles of the Christian faith necessary to salvation.

The Creed of Nicaea (325), which was probably based on earlier creeds from Jerusalem and Antioch, was drafted to refute the Arian claim that the Son was the highest creation of God and thus essentially different from the Father. The Nicene Creed as we know it today represents in effect an enlargement of the teaching of the Creed of 325, probably approved by the Council of Constantinople (381). It affirms the unity of God, insists that Christ was ‘begotten from the Father before all time’, and declares that Christ is ‘of the same essence (homoousios) as the Father’. Thus the Son is God in every respect. The Creed also upheld the divinity of the Holy Spirit and his procession from the Father. In the West the phrase ‘who proceeds from the Father’ was later altered to read, ‘from the Father and the Son’. This so-called Filioque clause, that affirms the double procession of the Spirit, followed the teaching of Hilary, Ambrose, Jerome and Augustine and appears in the Athanasian Creed, but was rejected by the Eastern Church. It became the major doctrinal issue in the schism between East and West that came to a head in 1054.

The Athanasian Creed, or Quicunque vult (from the opening words of the Latin text), was written by an unknown author in the Augustinian tradition in Southern Gaul about the mid-5th century. It contains a clear and concise statement of the Trinity and the incarnation of Christ, both of which must be believed for salvation. Concerning the Trinity, the Creed affirms that ‘the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God; and yet there are not three Gods but one God’. The articles on Christ uphold his eternal generation from the substance of the Father, his complete deity and complete humanity, his death for sins, resurrection, ascension, second coming and final judgment. The East never recognized the Athanasian Creed.

The Chalcedonian Definition was prepared by over 500 Greek bishops at the Council of Chalcedon in 451. In response to erroneous interpretations of the person of Christ advanced by Apollinarius, Nestorius and Eutyches (see Monophysitism), the Definition states that Jesus Christ is perfectly God and perfectly man, that he is consubstantial with God as to his divinity, and with mankind as to his humanity. Moreover, humanity and deity are joined in the God-man ‘without confusion, without change, without division, without separation’. Chalcedon represents the definitive statement, albeit in Greek ontological language, of how Jesus Christ was God and man at the same time.

Creeds have served a variety of functions in the church. Initially elemental creeds were used in a baptismal context. By responding to questions or reciting certain formulas which later became fixed, the baptismal candidate made confession of faith in Christ. Moreover, creeds were used for catechetical purposes, i.e. for instructing new Christians in the essentials of the faith. The creeds (especially the ‘rule of faith’) were also employed for confessional purposes, that is, to refute and expose the heretical teachings of the docetists, Gnostics, Monarchians, Arians and others. And finally, the creeds served a liturgical purpose as they were recited at various places in the worship services of the churches.

As for the authority of the creeds, the Eastern Orthodox churches ascribe authority to the decrees of the seven ecumenical councils, from the First Council of Nicaea (325) to the second at Nicaea (787). The Eastern churches have not accepted the Western doctrinal creeds and reject the Filioque addition to the Nicene Creed. Rome, on the other hand, claims infallibility for all the pronouncements of the magisterium. Traditionally the Apostles’, Nicene and Athanasian creeds were known as ‘the three symbols’. According to Rome the ancient credal formulas contain truths revealed by God and thus authoritative for all time. The Protestant Reformers accepted the Apostles’ Creed and the decrees of the first four councils by virtue of their agreement with Scripture, the only rule of faith and practice. Luther said of the Apostles’ Creed: ‘Christian truth could not possibly be put into a shorter and clearer statement’ (LW 37, p. 360). Calvin said of the formulas of the ecumenical councils: ‘I venerate them from my heart, and would have all of them held in due honour’ (Institutes IV.ix.1). The main branches of Protestantism value the four creeds discussed above as faithfully embodying the teachings of Scripture. Beginning with A. von Harnack critical scholarship has attacked the classical creeds for their reliance upon an alleged alien Greek philosophical system and an outmoded cosmology. Thus Protestants such as Tillich, Bultmann and J. A. T. Robinson claim that the ancient creeds possess little cash value in the modern world. Even Roman Catholics such as H. Küng and the Dutch compilers of the New Catechism (1966) claim that the creeds are human statements formulated in cultural contexts foreign to our own and are thus beset with serious limitations and even errors.

Orthodox Protestantism views each of the above-mentioned creeds as a norma normata, i.e. as a rule that is ruled by the final authority of the word of God. In general terms, the creeds expound ‘what has always been believed, everywhere, and by everyone’ (Vincentian Canon; see Catholicity). But ultimately even the best human formularies must be ruled by the infallible word of God. In sum, by virtue of their general agreement with Scripture, the orthodox creeds provide a valuable summary of universal Christian beliefs, refute teachings alien to the word of God, and are serviceable in Christian instruction and worship. [1]

  1. Sinclair B. Ferguson and J.I. Packer, New Dictionary of Theology (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 179–181.

The Means of Grace are in My Hand — An Interview with Matthew Robinson

The Means of Grace are in My Hand — An Interview with Matthew Robinson

Thank you, Matt, for taking time to have this conversation today. I first came to know you through our mutual friends at HeartCry Missionary Society as we were in the planning stages for the first G3 Conference. It has been a joy to get to know you over the years and to watch how the Lord continues to use you and your gifts for His glory.

What I would like to discuss with you is the idea of teaching history and theology through the advanced media technology that’s available to us today.

First of all, tell us how an old skateboarder and punkrocker named Matthew Robinson came to love Jesus Christ and have a passion for healthy churches.

Robinson: I suppose a person with my background doing what I do is a bit enigmatic, and if you ever see me out of a suit and tie you may wonder, “Who let this guy in here?” Haha. I don’t like making much of my past (Romans 6:21 comes to mind) but I’ll give a quick flyover. The Lord has allowed me to pass through so many different “neighborhoods” on my journey. I grew up in a conservative PCA church in Tupelo, Mississippi where I was catechized and taught the basics of the Reformed faith from a youth. At the same time, I went to the only Christian school in the area, which was an Independent, Fundamental, King-James-Only Baptist operation where I learned that Jesus don’t like your hair to touch your ears, rock and roll is devil music, and you have to ask Jesus into your heart again every time you sin. I really wasn’t all that interested in learning theology from either place, though. The truth is, I was a particularly rebellious “bad kid” from the very beginning.

Somewhere in the mid-to late-eighties, I set my heart to run after the world, and that’s what I did for fifteen or so years. Somewhere around 98 or 99, I started really feeling the destruction that kind of lifestyle leads to. We weren’t just going to jail on the weekends anymore, people started getting sentenced to prison. We weren’t just waking up with hangovers, etc., but people were becoming junkies, overdosing and dying. That kind of lifestyle had promised so much freedom and happiness, but it led to pure misery. I’d tried to get it together to one degree or another many times, and just never could do it. I mean, I wasn’t homeless. I owned a skateboard shop, took trips all over the southeast to skate and film with the crew, etc., but I was just always in self-destruct mode. There’s no reason to get into the particulars of those years. It’s not all that impressive. One author called it “a banquet in the grave,” and that’s a pretty apt description.

The people I knew who seemed to be good at “keeping it between the ditches” all happened to be Christians. There were my parents and the people I knew from my childhood who were church folks who were good examples of living right, but there was also this whole group of young people in my town who were meeting in this warehouse on Sunday afternoons for this really unstructured worship service kinda thing. I knew them because they’d asked me to come and build skateboard ramps in their warehouse so they could reach out to kids on the weekends, and I skated there a good bit. One of my best friends from childhood, Jon Yerby, (who, many years later, did the soundtrack for the Behold Your God: Rethinking God Biblically study), was hanging out with these guys, and Ron Brandon (who now works on conference and filming trips with Media Gratiae). I’d thought of myself as an atheist for years and was very antagonistic toward Christianity. But I started reading the Bible, especially the Gospels, and trying to look more and more into what it was about this religion that actually helped people. I think I was trying to hack Christianity, find the code or something. But it didn’t take long reading the words of Jesus before realizing, “Never has a man spoken the way this man speaks.”

Around that time, I was working in a gas station on these long shifts and reading a ton to pass the hours. I remembered that, years before, someone—Yerby I think— had given me a book that was still out in my glove box. It was Mere Christianity by CS Lewis. Just about the time that I was ready to grant that Jesus was a “good teacher” from whom we could learn some life principles, I encountered Lewis’ Trilemma and was disabused of that notion. Turns out, Jesus never gave us that option. He was either a lunatic, a liar, or exactly who he says he is—the Lord. This rattled around in my head for some time. When I reached out to the friends in the little group I mentioned earlier about it, I remember them asking, “What do you think this means?” and to my great surprise I replied, “I think this means that I’m Christian.” None of us really had a very Biblical understanding of the new birth at that time, so the reaction from the group was basically, “Welcome to the family of God, brother!” I started hanging out with this totally new crew of people. They were young, cool, clean, happy, mostly sober, and always having a good time together. Basically what most church websites look like—haha. It was such a healthier scene than the one I had been in for so long, and even though it was shocking to so many people, I completely reinvented myself from a very outspoken atheist to a Christian.

Sadly, it didn’t take many years for the “new” to wear off of that little scene, and it busted up. Most of us—including myself—were not born-again, and that showed itself in time. Some of the people from those days have gone on and grown in the Lord a great deal, but many of them would be just as embarrassed of their “Christian phase” they went through in the late 90s as they are the JNCOS they wore back then. I’m ashamed of the stuff I did when I was a full-blown heathen, but not nearly as ashamed as I am of the things I did over the next 10 years as a lost religious person, carrying Jesus’ name through the dirt with me.

I did meet my wife, Meagan, during those days, and that is one of many evidences of God’s relentless kindness to me. After we got married some folks from the original crew got really excited about this preacher guy out in Seattle who cussed a lot in his sermons and was doing a lot of “down and dirty” church planting, supposedly reaching thousands of unchurched people in his city. It was decided that we should “plant a church,” which was terminology that was brand-new to me, but seemed to be the air everyone was breathing at the time. This was around 2004, I think. So our little group morphed into a “church plant” downtown. We had the rock band, the candles, the really relevant movie clips in sermons, the whole Open and Affirming / Belong Before You Believe thing going on. We heard that this group called Acts 29 was getting started, and our “core group” flew out to Seattle and actually met with the pastor I mentioned earlier for several days. It was nuts. I remember it being a Church Planting seminar that bordered on being a game show in the sense that there was a prize which consisted of lots of money and a bunch of “mature families” who would literally move to your town and help you get your church plant to the next level or something. He chose our little group out of this whole conference of Church planter dudes to be the recipients of all this Acts 29 support. I was just this tattooed, proud, foulmouthed kid—not really a leader in the thing at all, more of an observer—but part of this team nonetheless, and we “won.”

Anyway, the little church plant wound up busting up before any of that could ever come together, and the people just went their separate ways. I was pretty much over it with Christianity by then. What I thought was going to be a real life-changing thing was really just built around this false idea of a Cheers-like community and everyone’s felt needs being met, and when all that failed to be what I hoped it would be, I felt like Christianity was kind of a sham. But something else weird happened around that time too. I started listening to Christian radio. I don’t mean the music—I’ve never been a fan—I mean the talk shows. I just thought that’s what Christians were supposed to do. I started becoming more politically focused and “informed” by this radio station in my town that was pumping out the so-called “Christian perspective” on current events, culture, politics, foreign policy, etc. I guess you could say that Christian talk radio was kind of like “the gateway drug” for me to get more and more sucked into right-wing politics and culture. All the rhetoric about “They’re destroying our country! They’re destroying our way of life!” really started getting to me. I mean, just a few years before I was living in warehouse, hosting gutterpunk shows, and had grown up with an anti-racist, anti-fascist mentality, but now I’m a new husband and a new dad and I have this new sense of “Christian worldview” about everything that is, unbeknownst to me, completely divorced from the person of Christ, and I’m looking at the people around me going, “Don’t yall hear what he said?! They’re going to destroy our country! They’re going to destroy our way of life!” All growing up I had a “Them vs. Us” mentality, only now the “them” had shifted from being “the man” or whatever to being democrats, or people pushing any number of diabolical “agendas” through the educational system and the media, or people from other countries, and religions and backgrounds, people who didn’t look and talk like me, etc.

I think I started to believe that the source of my problems was that I’d been on the “left” for so long— as a heathen, and even in the kind of Christianity I was initially involved with—and that the solution was to go further and further to the “right.”

Even though the Christian radio guys had introduced me to this whole system of thinking, they ultimately weren’t willing to go far enough to the right in order to match their rhetoric with what I felt was the only appropriate reaction. I mean, you’re screaming about people coming to destroy our way of life, and the solution you’re offering is that we should all go dutifully vote for the “R” side of the ticket? C’mon, man! So I began to seek out more conservative “Christian” news sources and personalities and ideologies on the internet. That led down a massive rabbit hole into a really dark season in my life. I moved my family out into the woods, pretty much completely isolated from everyone else, and was staying up all night researching everything from conspiracy stuff to survivalist / Y2K stuff, into hardcore rightwing identity politics and even what I now see as outright racism wrapped in Christian words. I was getting all of this ideology from places that were pretty much the armpit of the internet back then, but it scares me to death to see how mainstream it all is in the current election cycle.

I was just as miserable as I’d ever been. Only now instead of a burnout kid skating around the city and fighting rednecks with my crew of ne’er-do-wells, I was turning into this wanna-be rural, xenophobic, neo-Alt Right “patriot” guy who sat behind a keyboard and spewed anger and vitriol at people for not thinking, doing, looking, and hating the same way I did. The most shameful thing about it all is that it was done in Jesus’ name. The main reason I don’t mind exposing myself to the shame of telling this part of my story is because it is so important to me to let people know what I was then was NOT a Christian at all, but a jaded, hurt, disillusioned, afraid, paranoid, sinful, selfish, and ultimately lost religious person who desperately needed to meet the Jesus that I foolishly thought was approving my way of thinking.

I was the most Christian person I knew, even though we hadn’t been to church much at all in a few years. None of them were hardcore enough for me. They wouldn’t talk about the issues that mattered, and, as they say on the radio, that was why we’re losing our country. We “home churched” with some likeminded families in another town from time to time, but I was only interested in Christian stuff—Christian politics, Christian culture, Christian education, Christian family dynamics, etc.—not the least bit interested in Jesus Christ himself. But you know the most dangerous thing about being self-deceived is that you’re the last one to know it.

Some friends had been going to a church called Christ Church over in New Albany, MS and they were starting to act a little funny. They weren’t nearly as interested in the things we had in common for the last several years. When we got together now they were talking about Christ, and books by a bunch of Puritan names I’d never heard like Flavel and Owen and Rutherford. They invited me to come to their church for a long time, but church just wasn’t a high priority for me. We eventually visited a few times, and I was underwhelmed to say the least. I thought the pastor, Dr. John Snyder, was a liberal. He was obviously a Yankee, and even though a lot of homeschool families did go to the church, he never preached about homeschooling or the government or any of the other hobby horses I was interested in. He just talked about Jesus all the time, and I already knew all about Him. I was bored with Him. I slept through the sermons, looked for things to be offended by, and eventually found a big enough one that I felt justified in leaving for good. After a visit from one of the dear friends who had originally invited us, urging me to reconsider my decision to take my family back out of church, I was persuaded that we really should be in church somewhere, and this was as good a place as any, so we went back.

At some point after returning, the Lord began to do what the old writers called a “Law work” in my heart. The sermons started keeping me awake—not just in church, but in my bed at night. John was preaching through a three-year series on the character of God, (much of which would go on to become the content in the Behold Your God series, years later). The way he talked about God, it was like He was a real Person. And little by little I realized that I didn’t know that person at all. Not only did John talk of Christ all the time, but the people in the church did too. I would overhear conversations at the lunchtime meal on Sundays where regular folks would be describing in very real and tangible ways how Christ had been precious to them that week. There was a verse that I’d never seen before, and it wouldn’t leave me alone: 1 Peter 2:7. Now, to you who believe, Christ is precious. Christ was useful to me, I mean, He’s the way you get to heaven, right? Lots of things were precious to me. I was precious to me. But Christ… precious? I knew it wasn’t true.

Around this time someone also gave me a CD of this guy who lived in Alabama preaching a sermon that somebody had titled, “A Sermon That Has Angered Many.” I listened to it over and over again. I was beginning to see so much about God and His Christ that I had never seen before, and in light of it all, I saw myself as what I really was—a fake, who had molded a god in my own image, fitting all my own views on everything, and calling it Jehovah. I was certain that the God who truly does exist was real, and that His wrath abided on me.

The thing is, I had asked Jesus into my heart a million times over the course of my life. I also had a basic understanding of the mechanics of the gospel—double imputation, justification by grace through faith alone—so there was no new, secret knowledge that I needed to learn in order to become a Christian. I’d turned over a new leaf almost a decade ago and gone from being a druggie to a pretty cleaned up guy, so I knew it was more than just another new leaf that I needed. The question that was burning inside me was, “How can a man be right with God?”, and the answer came to me in every sermon I heard—Look to Christ.

The Lord brought me to an end of myself, humbled by what I’d seen and heard in His word and humiliated by my years of false profession and ugly self-worship, and I did not know what to do apart from calling out to Him… have mercy on me, a sinner… and He did. I’d like to say that the clouds parted and the glory of God fell on me, etc., but that’s not really what happened at all. God allowed me to see the beauty of Christ in light of the ugliness of my sin. He gave me eyes to see the preciousness of Christ in light of the direness of my need. Christ became precious to me indeed, and I repented of all the false things I’d put my hope and identity in for so long. I was lost, but now I was found, in Him.

I think there are some commonalities in issues of authenticity and identity in all the crazy neighborhoods I drove through, so to speak, on my way to being brought to Christ. I was always looking for something real, something authentic, something that isn’t fake, and whatever I determined to be authentic was what I took my identity from. Whether that was in the skateboarding and punkrock culture of my youth, or the “I’m a cool kind of Christian” era of my early 20s, or the “I’m telling it like it is!” rightwing political phase of my late 20s / early 30s, I took my identity from whatever I thought was really authentic. When I met Christ, I realized that my identity is in Him. He is my culture now. I have more deeply and genuinely in common with the person from the other side of the world who has been united to Christ than I do with my own flesh and blood who sits across the table from me drinking sweet tea and holding Christ at arm’s length. The Father has given Christ a people for Himself from every tribe, tongue, and nation. He has accomplished their redemption on the cross, and the Spirit of God is now going out across this earth with the word of God in the mouth of his preachers, and He is applying that redemption to them as they hear and believe the gospel. And I get to be part of taking that great message of redemption to the world. Whether it’s through preaching and teaching myself, or by using media to capture and replay the preaching and teaching of others, it’s amazing. Christ is all and in all, and eternal life is knowing Him.

You are now the Director of a nonprofit multimedia ministry — Media Gratiae. Explain the name and purpose of your ministry.

Robinson: Media Gratiae is a Latin phrase for “the means of grace.” We are a small, independent film studio and publishing house that is focused on creating and publishing media that is, as our name indicates, focused on the means of grace: the Word of God, prayer, singing, fellowship with the saints (via biographical works), etc.

A few years after I became a Christian I became aware of a sense of calling into ministry. I spoke with my elders about it, and they advised that I should consider going to seminary. To save money, I took a job as a graphic artist in a very unlikely place: this very culturally conservative “Moral Majority” type of organization in the next town over. They had a newly launched video department who had reached out to John Snyder about creating a video-based teaching series several times in the past, and he had declined. “We don’t even have a place to show a video in our church, I don’t think you guys have the right guy. Thanks, but no thanks” was his response. After I’d been working there for several months I was moved from being a graphic designer to what they called a “Project Manager.” My first “project” was to go and talk my pastor, Dr. Snyder, into making the video series they’d been hounding him to do for over a year. I was told that we could do whatever we wanted to do, work with whoever we wanted to work with, etc. They were even willing to offer him a contract that gave him control over how the material was marketed. It started to become apparent to Dr. Snyder and myself that maybe the Lord was initiating something here, and to continue to say “no” would be disobedience.

We planned out what would eventually become known as the Behold Your God: Rethinking God Biblically study. Dr. Snyder wanted to take God’s self-description in the Bible and apply it to some very foundational areas of the Christian life. I wanted to introduce people to some of the many people from church history that I had been introduced to at Christ Church New Albany. We also wanted to let people hear from contemporary ministers and historians we know and love, like Paul Washer, Conrad Mbewe, Richard Owen Roberts, Anthony Mathenia, and others. So we made a laundry list of all the things we would do if we could do anything we wanted to do, and amazingly they basically handed me a credit card and told me to go for it! I’d never made a movie or directed/produced a video project on that level, but growing up in the skateboarding world instilled a DIY ethic in me, and we did the whole thing on a shoestring budget. We cruised around the UK for three weeks in a borrowed red minibus, sleeping in hostels and friends’ homes along the way. It was a blast. I had a great crew, and I learned on the fly, but the Lord’s kindness to us at every turn is just undeniable.

As we were preparing to release the project, I was frankly having more and more hesitation about connecting the content of the study with the ideology and methodology of the organization who funded it. I suggested that we release it under the name Media Gratiae in order to provide a degree of separation in both directions, and they were into it. Nobody thought much would come from it, me included. We launched the study with a conference in Memphis, Tennessee in late January 2013, and the next day Paul Washer, Anthony Mathenia, and I got on a plane and flew to Atlanta to a brand new thing called the G3 Conference. It was the first place I ever exhibited the study, and the response was really good. We made a lot of friends that week who have been dear to us ever since. We call them all our G3 Family to this day.

I spent the next year on the road, exhibiting at conferences like Desiring God/BCS, Ligonier, and a ton of smaller conferences, etc. and the study just took off. This little video Bible study that was kind of supposed to fly under the radar became the best-selling thing that the organization I worked for at the time had ever produced, and they wanted to know what I wanted to do next. I told them I wanted to make I documentary about a dead guy they had never heard of, and amazingly, they said “go for it.” So over the course of 2014 I worked with Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ family, members of the MLJ Trust, Iain Murray and a host of friends at the Banner of Truth Trust, and a truly stunning cast of contributors to create the documentary project Logic on Fire, the Life and Legacy of Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones.

I got to personally announce the film via video at T4G in 2014, We filmed at T4G in Louisville, Kentucky, the Banner of Truth Ministers Conference in Leicester, England, and a few dozen places in-between. I did Q&A panels about the film on the main stage at the 2015 G3 and Desiring God/BCS Conferences. I gave a talk and showed a teaser from the film at the Ligonier Conference that year, and then we held the World Premiere of the film at the TGC conference in Orlando in April of 2015. I suppose Dr. Lloyd-Jones is quite the calling card! Ha! But there has just been a tremendous amount of open-armed acceptance and support for the work we do with Media Gratiae from so many people and organizations and conferences and publishing houses and retailers and bookshops, it’s just truly overwhelming.

Running Media Gratiae had been my full-time gig as sort of a “division of a division” of the organization I’d gone to work for in 2011, but some ever-present and unavoidable internal conflict grew there as Media Gratiae continued to grow and enjoy the support of so many conferences, organizations, and ministries that are pretty far outside of their theological and methodological wheelhouse. It became obvious that Media Gratiae had outgrown the seedbed that God used to sprout the work, and I was able to sort out an amicable parting of ways with them just six months after Logic on Fire was released.

In October of 2015, Media Gratiae became an independent nonprofit multimedia ministry and publishing house under my continued direction and with a board of directors made up of men from our local church and a sister church in Radford, VA. To say that 2016 has been a “building year” would be quite the understatement. I went from having a shipping department, online store department, website and IT department, accounting department, customer service department etc. who handled all the day-to-day business side of operating Media Gratiae to suddenly having all those things and more fall squarely into my lap. We had to throw some processes in place very quickly to make things continue to run, and we are honestly still building and repairing some of those processes.

However, over the course of 2016, we have managed to publish a new series of Bible study workbooks by our friend Paul Washer, build a brand-new studio and office space in our home base of New Albany, Mississippi, and line out a few major and minor projects for 2017. In many ways it has been the most challenging year of my life, but we have always operated on the principle that God’s work done in God’s way will never lack God’s supply. Looking back to the very beginning, we can say before the Lord that we did not even initiate this work with Media Gratiae—He did—and He will have to continue to bless and sustain it for as long as He wants it to continue. We can’t do it. Even if we had unlimited staff and resources, we are powerless to make the material spiritually beneficial in the life of one single person. We are cast upon the Lord for His good pleasure.

There is a hymn by John Berridge that really sums up our approach to the work here at Media Gratiae. My favorite two stanzas from it go:

The means of grace are in my hand,
The blessing is at God’s command
Who must the work fulfill;
And though I read, and watch and pray,
Yet here the Lord directs my way
And worketh all things still.

Prepare my tongue to pray and praise,
To speak of providential ways,
And heavenly truth unfold;
To strengthen well a feeble soul,
Correct the Wanton, rouse the dull,
And silence sinners bold.

That has been my constant prayer for the last five years since I started Media Gratiae, and He has shown Himself to be “all sufficient” time and time again.

Media Gratiae recently released a new Bible study – what’s it called and what do you hope it accomplishes in the lives of those who use it?

Robinson:  It’s a series of Bible study workbooks by Paul Washer called Biblical Foundations for the Christian Faith. These are Bible studies in the most literal sense. Paul put them together in such a way that it is impossible to progress without an open Bible in front of you. As much as we love Paul, there is very, very little of Paul Washer in these studies. What I mean is, the books are really just a guided tour through your Bibles on five of the most foundational areas of the Christian Faith. We begin where everything has to begin—with God. Book One is on the Biblical witness to the character or the attributes of God. Book Two is on the gospel—what does the Bible say that the gospel message is? Book Three is on the state of mankind apart from God. Book Four is on Fasting and other spiritual disciplines, and Book Five is on what the Scriptures have to say about themselves. They are tremendous resources for people to use for personal devotions and even as homeschool / Christian school curriculum, but we really love to see them used within the context of the local church in small groups, Sunday schools, etc.

I’m hoping that these studies will drive people to derive and develop their Theology directly from the Word of God. With all due respect, it really doesn’t matter what your favorite preacher or theologian says about who God is or what the gospel is or what the condition of man is, etc. What matters is, ultimately, what does God say in his word about this? “To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn.” (Isaiah 8:20).

You can watch an overview video where Paul introduces the series on this page, and there are videos introducing each of the individual books as well. Take a look there for more information.

Have you always had a love for history or is that something that was birthed in your heart after you became a Christian?

Robinson:  At some point I realized that all this that we see around us didn’t start with us, and that to understand it we had to come to terms with where we are in this timeline of history. I think that realization started when I was trying to sort out political and cultural problems pre-conversion, but it certainly blossomed in a healthy way post-conversion. I love Iain Murray. He is the truly the People’s Historian, and his biographies can and should be read by everyone. Praise God for that brother and the work that Dr. Lloyd-Jones set him out to do on Wednesday nights at Westminster Chapel all those years ago!

What preacher has influenced you the most from church history?

Robinson: I really would have to say Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, for a number of reasons. Even though the Doctor and I don’t agree “right down the line“ on every little thing, He has undoubtedly impacted my little life more than any other figure. As I mentioned earlier, I was converted under the ministry of Dr. Snyder at Christ Church in New Albany where I now live. I wrote in the Director’s Statement to Logic on Fire:

My pastor, Dr. John Snyder, was privileged to sit under the ministry of Rev. W. Vernon Higham at the Heath Church in Cardiff, Wales, for a number of years in the late 1990s. From the time Rev. Higham was a young man, he’d been very close to Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Those who knew their relationship best describe Rev. Higham as being like a son to the Doctor. In very significant ways, the emphasis and ethos of Rev. Higham’s 40-year pastorate at the Heath were shaped by the Doctor’s own ministry at Sandfields and Westminster Chapel. In turn, Dr. Snyder’s time sitting under Rev. Higham was essentially formative of his own pastoral ministry. Dr. Snyder writes that it was in the Heath Church that he “gained a real sense of what a church might be when God is the great and only attraction.” It was there that, week after week, he first saw “the reality that the God we meet in Scripture is more than sufficient for all our needs and desires,” and saw it actually demonstrated that singing, praying, and most importantly, preaching Christ crucified is enough for the Lord to build and grow His church. It is no understatement to say that I have been eternally benefited by the pattern of ministry that Dr. Snyder saw in Rev. Higham, that Rev. Higham saw in Dr. Lloyd-Jones, and that Dr. Lloyd-Jones saw in the pages of his New Testament.

Take for instance, a small town mechanic who’s also a Christian. He has no formal education and no desire or calling to serve in pastoral ministry. Why should he take time to know about Martyn Lloyd-Jones?

Robinson:  Well, in Philippians 3:17, Paul tells the brothers to “join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us.” The Spirit of God speaks through the author of Hebrews in chapter 11, and he points us to an impressive list of imperfect but remarkable men and women whose lives are meant to encourage and challenge our faith. Looking at people who have run the race well according to the pattern we have in the Scriptures is a real means of grace to God’s people, and I think DMLJ is one of the clearest patterns we have in both life and ministry in the last 100 years. The Doctor was much more than a preacher. He was a good husband and a good father, and most of all He was a good Christian. I believe that it is as important to understand why he made the choices he did in both life and ministry as it is to read his preaching—and that is saying a lot. Borrow a copy of Logic on Fire from somebody to whet your appetite, but eventually, you have to work your way through the 2-volume biography by Iain Murray—something I hadn’t even done until AFTER we made the film, (haha).

In your Behold Your God project, what is the most memorable moment of your time filming overseas?

Robinson: This is a hard one to answer, but I do want to be honest. In just under three weeks we visited George Muller’s home and orphanages in Bristol, England; the Met Tab, Spurgeon’s College, and Westminster Chapel in London; the churchyard where Daniel Rowland was converted in Llandewi Breffi and his church and chapel in Llangeitho, Wales; Robert Murray M’Cheyne’s church in Dundee Scotland; the town of Keswick in the Lake District of England; and what felt like a million other places in between. There were some wonderful experiences there—ones that I can see now were God’s kindness in preparing me for what was about to happen—like spending time walking around the ruins of Samuel Rutherford’s church in Anwoth and visiting his grave in St. Andrews. Rutherford and his Letters would become a constant companion to my wife and I in the months just ahead.

We’d just wrapped production and were in Edinburgh on what was meant to be the next-to-last night of the trip. When I got up to my room that night, John was waiting for me. He collapsed into me sobbing, and told me that my 2-year old son, Mobley Joseph, had died that day in a tragic accident back home in Mississippi. I spent the next hour on Skype, praying with my wife with an entire ocean between us, and my crew scrambled to find me a flight home. The next 24 hours was a blur of cab rides and flights back to my family with John by my side for support. Just a few dozen hours later, I was standing in front of my family and a crowd of hundreds of friends from every era of my life, and John Snyder and I preached the gospel at my son’s funeral.

This is worth sharing for at least one reason. We had just made some massive claims about an all-sufficient God in the Behold Your God study. Now I, along with my wife and our three living children, were cast on Him completely. He would have to show whether He really is all that He promises to be to His people, or whether that is all just good religious talk. Almost 5 years later, I want to give an honest report, that He is all that He says He is and more. He is near to the brokenhearted, and His nearness is truly our good.

JESUS, Jesus, all-sufficient,
Beyond telling is Thy worth;
In Thy Name lie greater treasures
Than the richest found on earth.
Such abundance—such abundance,
Is my portion with my God.

Who is the most interesting person you had the privilege to meet during any of your film projects?

Robinson: Oh man, there’s no way to narrow it down. Over the last 5 years I have had the privilege of sitting down across from Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ daughters, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, who are some of the loveliest people I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. We had the most delightful time together. I’ve interviewed pastors and theologians and historians that I look up to so much—just off the top of my head, I think of Iain Murray, Sinclair Ferguson, John MacArthur, Ligon Duncan, John Piper, Al Mohler, Mark Dever, DA Carson, Kevin DeYoung, Ian Hamilton, Eifion Evans, Andrew Davies, Geoff Thomas, Jeremy Walker, Richard Owen Roberts, Paul Washer, Vernon Higham (who just recently passed into Glory), and so many more. Some of those men have become dear friends over the last several years, and I’ll tell you what stands out to me most about every one of them. They are not impressed with themselves in the slightest. These “lions among men,” they are men who have been dealt with by God, and they are humble, gentle, truly Christlike men.

This may not mean much to many people, but there’s another personal connection here for me, having grown up in the whole 80s and 90s skateboarding / DIY / punkrock culture. We didn’t believe in heroes. We didn’t have superstars like Michael Jordan and we didn’t have rockstars like Justin Bieber or Axl Rose or whoever, you know? When you met people who were professional skateboarders back then or the bands that you listened to, they would come to your town, skate your spots, play your skatepark or your little all-ages venue, give it everything they had in them just like they were in front of a million people and getting paid a million dollars, then go eat at your Taco Bell, go back and crash on your couch, and just be so stoked that they had the privilege of doing what they loved for a living. That part of that culture was admirable. When I became a Christian and started doing this work with the men I look up to most in this world, I can’t tell you how happy I was to learn that the same thing is true of them. These men are just men, and they know it. When you’ve come to know the God who truly is, you can’t help but say of yourself, with the Psalmist, “What is man that You take thought of him?”

Can you provide some testimonies of how local churches have benefited from the study materials put out by your company — Media Gratiae?

Robinson: We get so much feedback from churches in the US and all around the world who have somehow stumbled up on the Behold Your God study or the Logic on Fire film or most recently the Biblical Foundations series. It never ceases to amaze us to hear how God has been pleased to use the materials for the good of His church.

One that comes to mind immediately was back in 2013, just after the Behold Your God study was released, I got an email from a lady who was frantic. She said that the study had been a real blessing to her; however, there were some members in her group—including the pastor—that were fighting most of what they were studying. She said that the pastor was particularly upset that Finney’s innovation “the prayer of faith” or “the sinner’s prayer” was being called into question, as they used it almost weekly in her church. She wanted more information on the subject, and was really concerned that there would be discord and confusion in the next meeting. We asked her to pray and ask her pastor to go back over all that he had been learning of God’s character in His word through the study, and ask whether his approach really lined up. A few weeks later, we got an email from the pastor, which read, in part,

“First I want to say how much I appreciate the study, for it has caused me to think about God in ways that I had never thought of before. I have been in the ministry for the past 22 years and I can honestly say I have been going down the wrong road with respect to my thoughts about God. The study has caused me, these past 4 months, to honestly and with all my heart, behold God as He is revealed in His word. Sadly, it has taken me this long to see God for who He really is. In a way I am grieved that I did such injustice to God by thinking He existed to serve me! Thank you so much for all you have brought to light in my life as I seek to serve Him.”

Fancy cinematography, etc. can never accomplish that, but the Spirit of God, working through His word can. That is just one of the many churches we have heard from that have been affected in deep and tangible ways by coming face to face with the God of the Bible through the study. Obviously it doesn’t always have that affect, but it does remind me that God is far more zealous for His own glory than I could ever be.

There’s another story that really serves to illustrate something we Westerners should think about. It comes from a church that uses the study in their Middle-Eastern business hub city that is populated by people from all over the world. They said that everyone was on the same page and really benefiting from the study all the way up through Week Seven, the week on applying the character of God to the way we worship. There was a lady who had grown up in a western nation that was really bothered by the idea that God gets to tell us how He wants to be worshiped, and we are not free to innovate in that area. I don’t know if it was expressive dance or using drama or some other thing in worship that she was defending, but her argument was something along the lines of, “This is how I am comfortable worshiping God. This is how I grew up worshiping God. This is how everyone I grew up with is comfortable worshiping God. I don’t understand why it’s such a big deal!” Finally, a sister who had grown up in an Eastern pagan culture spoke up and said, “Do you know how I grew up worshiping? I placed a little bowl of rice and an orange in front of a statue. That is how I was comfortable worshiping. That is how everyone I grew up with is comfortable worshiping. But when I came to know the God of the Bible, none of that held any meaning anymore. He is God and He has told us how He is to be worshiped. That is enough!” It took someone who had grown up practicing Eastern idolatry to expose the “evangelical idolatry” that is so prevalent in the West, and her point was made loud and clear.

One of the things that most encourages me is when I hear from pastors who have watched Logic on Fire when they are weary, when they are wavering in trusting that God’s word preached in the power of God’s Spirit truly is the hope of the church, and they are encouraged to get back on their knees, then back into the pulpit on Sunday morning with confidence and great joy in the Lord! To me, the greatest measure of success that the film has reached is that I’ve been told it is required viewing for the preaching students in the Master’s Seminary, Reformed Theological Seminary, Bethlehem College and Seminary, the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, et al. If young men will come out of their seminary training with a Spirit-wrought determination to cut themselves off from the arm of the flesh, lash themselves down to the Word of God and to prayer, and preach the word like the weight of eternity is in the balance, and that film played even a small part in that conviction, I am a very, very happy man.

Regarding the use of technology, obviously you have a passion to harness it for God’s glory, but what cautions would you provide to those who lead churches regarding the necessary boundaries of video usage during a worship service?

Robinson:  Very simply put, film and web and print are all just media. The printing press was “new media” at one time, and I’m sure there were people who questioned whether that technology could ever be blessed of God. Obviously I believe that video and other multimedia can be used, or, as you said, harnessed for God’s glory. My caution would come in the form of a challenge: What if you stripped your worship service back to just the things we see in the Scripture—corporate and pastoral prayer, the reading of the word, the preaching of the word, congregational singing, the sacraments / ordinances, and fellowship with the saints—would anyone still come? Is anyone interested enough in Jesus Christ at your church that if you didn’t offer them anything but Him, would they still come?

Matt, thank you for taking time away from your work to talk with me. I look forward to seeing you at the G3 Conference in January.

Robinson: We’re 5 years deep this year, brother! I wouldn’t miss it for the world. See you in Atlanta.


If you would like to learn more about the work Matthew Robinson does with Media Gratiae, head on over to Media Gratiae and check out their work.

DBG Spotlight (10-19-16)

DBG Spotlight (10-19-16)

If you preach the Bible, you likely have a specific way you prepare to preach the Word. Listen to this conversation about sermon preparation that will likely encourage you in the duty.

Anchored in Grace: A 15-Part Blog Series – You don’t want to miss this series adapted from Anchored in Grace: Fixed Points for Humble Faith, by Jeremy Walker.

Is There Such a Thing as Church Authority? – A helpful article by Greg Gilbert.

Why Didn’t the Reformers Unite? – Not all Reformers were in complete unity.

Sermons about Expository Preaching – Alistair Begg’s sermons on the subject of expository preaching.

Heaven is a Person – This is a helpful reminder as we long for the God of glory.

Church Discipline: Mission Accomplished

Church Discipline: Mission Accomplished

Try mentioning the subject of church discipline among fellow Christians in a mixed evangelical audience at a local coffee shop and you’re bound to receive mixed reviews.  The overwhelming majority of churches in my town do not practice church discipline.  If asked to review a history of their membership meetings (business conferences), you would not find one instance of public church discipline on their records for the last 50-100 years—if you found a single record to begin with.

What is the goal of church discipline?  Is it punitive?  Is it revenge?  Is it to demonstrate authority over people in a spiritual manner?  What is the ultimate goal of church discipline and how do you know when you’ve become successful?

Confrontation with a Purpose

The process of church discipline is explained in Matthew 18:15-20.  The entire purpose of confronting someone who is living in sin is to bring the individual to a place of confession and repentance to God.  If the vertical relationship is restored, the horizontal relationship will be a natural fruit of repentance.  The goal is never revenge or punitive damage upon the character of the person being disciplined.

If we examine Matthew 18, we see that Jesus is the One who has given us our marching orders regarding church discipline.  This overarching purpose is for the purity of the bride of Christ.  Contrary to the opinion of most evangelicals, church discipline is not harsh and mean-spirited.  It’s done out of love.  Consider the words of Alexander Strauch:

Love is not just happy smiles or pleasant words. A critical test of genuine love is whether we are willing to confront and discipline those we care for. Nothing is more difficult than disciplining a brother or sister in Christ who is trapped in sin. It is always agonizing work – messy, complicated, often unsuccessful, emotionally exhausting, and potentially divisive. This is why most church leaders avoid discipline at all costs. But that is not love. It is lack of courage and disobedience to the Lord Jesus Christ, who Himself laid down instructions for the discipline of an unrepentant believer (Matt. 18:17-18). [1]

Excommunication with a Purpose

It’s one thing to confront someone in sin, but it’s quite a different thing to go through the steps to a final and divisive decision of excommunication.  It seems so harsh and antiquated to the modern evangelical church.  Would we really put someone outside of our church membership?  That seems so counter productive to church growth – right?  However, the purpose is to protect the purity of the bride of Christ and to demonstrate a desire as a local church to honor Christ with our lives.  It’s one thing to claim to be a Christian, but quite another thing to live as a Christian.  Too often evangelical churches put more emphasis on the words rather than the actions.

The entire goal of excommunication is to protect the purity of Jesus’ bride, to honor God, and to cause the people in the church to have a healthy fear of God.  All of us should take heed of our own lives, because none of us are beyond a similar fall (1 Cor. 10:12; Acts 5:11).  The goal is never revenge and it’s always with a goal of restoration.  However, local churches cannot become local community clubs.  In order to prevent a church from mission drift and becoming a community club, church discipline must be practiced.  John MacArthur, in a blog post from February of 2003, wrote the following:

[Church discipline is] vital to the spiritual health and the testimony of the church. Ignoring church discipline is the most visible and disastrous failure of the church in our time, because it conveys to the world that we’re not really serious about sin. [2]

Mission Accomplished—Almost

This past week we had a members’ meeting (business conference) on Sunday evening.  We typically gather as a church and enjoy a meal together and then the elders of the church speak to the business and ministry of the church.  During our recent meeting, a particular gentleman came before the church at the end of the meeting during the allotted time for church discipline and addressed the entire church.  His goal was to explain himself publicly and ask for forgiveness.  He was excommunicated from our church almost two years ago for committing adultery on his wife.  After restoration between himself and God and restoration between he and his wife, he came before our church to ask for forgiveness and to request that his membership be reinstated.  In my opinion, this is mission accomplished—almost.

It was a great thing to watch the disciplined member come back full circle and be accepted back into the membership of our church family.  It was good for the young married couples to see this testimony of forgiveness, covenant keeping, and Christ honoring restoration.  It was healthy for our church to see church discipline work as Christ designed.  Too often, within evangelical churches, we see people who are held accountable simply move on and press the restart in another church where they’re allowed to harbor without any question or concern.  That was not the case with this couple.  After many months of difficult conversations, prayer, and ultimately a miracle from the Lord—their marriage was salvaged.

When I left the church campus and reflected upon the entire meeting, I was reminded that we’re not home yet.  We must wake up tomorrow and fight the good fight of faith and persevere for the glory of God.  We can’t slack off.  We can’t afford to be lazy for one single moment in the journey of faith.  It’s in those lazy moments that we find ourselves making catastrophic mistakes.  We must keep fighting sin and work to become more conformed to the image of Christ until we arrive home.

  1. Alexander Strauch, Leading With Love, (Colorado Springs: Lewis and Roth, 2006), 152.
  2. John MacArthur, “The Disciplined Church,” (Grace to You, February 5th, 2013).

What is the New Birth?

What is the New Birth?

Yesterday I preached from Ephesians 2:1-6 on the subject of the new birth.  What exactly does it mean to be born again?  Paul answers this question with precision in the second chapter of Ephesians.  As we look at the first ten verses of chapter two, it’s apparent that Paul defines the new birth in verses 1-6 and he points out the purpose of the new birth in verses 7-10.

The Misery of Life without Christ

In verse one, Paul uses three key words that provide us insight to the natural man before he comes to faith in Jesus Christ.  These three words not only point to the misery of the unconverted life, but to the helpless condition of spiritual death.

  • νεκρόςDead = “being in a state of loss of life, dead… being so morally or spiritually deficient as to be in effect dead.”
  • παράπτωμα – Trespasses = “a violation of moral standards, offense, wrongdoing, sin.”
  •  ἁμαρτίαSin = “To miss the mark.”

Although unbelievers are very much alive and have a will to make decisions on a daily basis, they are dead spiritually.  They trespass against God and willfully choose to sin.  That comes natural to them.  However, when Paul points out their spiritual death, he is pointing to their complete inability to choose God on their own volition.  They would never come to faith in Christ on their own, because by nature they are rebels who love to sin and are controlled by the prince of the power of the air.

Our culture today is consumed with a love and affection for zombies.  Why is it that adults are driving around in pick-up trucks in Atlanta that have been customized and prepared as zombie hunting vehicles?  We turn on the television and find shows dedicated to zombies.  What exactly is a zombie?  A zombie is a figurative creature that’s a walking dead person with putrifying flesh, rotting flesh, and horrid smells.  Although the corpse is dead, in many ways, it’s pictured walking around on a mission.

Before we came to faith in Jesus Christ, we were like zombies.  We were the walking dead.  We had a life full of everyday decisions to make, but those decisions were made out of a will in bondage to sin.  Therefore, they were selfish decisions and sinful decisions—never did we make a decision to obey God and love Him out of our own natural state.  That would be an utter impossibility as John 6:44 clearly teaches.  Charles Spurgeon once said:

I might preach to you forever. I might borrow the eloquence of Demosthenes or of Cicero, but you will not come unto Christ. I might beg of you on my knees, with tears in my eyes, and show you the horrors of hell and the joys of heaven, the sufficiency of Christ, and your own lost condition, but you would none of you come unto Christ of yourselves unless the Spirit that rested on Christ should draw you. It is true of all men in their natural condition that they will not come unto Christ.” [1]

The Miracle of the New Birth

As Paul continues to describe the new birth, he points to the motive of God’s mercy.  The whole idea that God looks through a vast tunnel of time to see the decisions of man in order to choose specific individuals to himself and then ultimately bring those people to faith in His Son does not make sense when compared with the descriptions in Scripture.  For instance, in Titus 3:5, we see that we are saved by God, not based on any works of righteousness.  The verse explains that God saved us according to His own mercy.  Here in Ephesians 2:4-5, we see the same language.  Paul points to the riches of God’s mercy as the motive of our salvation.

The miraculous aspect of the new birth is clearly seen in Ephesians 2:5 as Paul points out that it was God who literally raised us from the spiritual death and gave us life.  We didn’t do this on our own.  This was a miracle.  Just as calling Lazarus from a tomb was a miracle, so it is each time a person comes to faith in Christ.  It’s a spiritual resurrection.

  • We were lost in our sin – but God.
  • We were guilty in our transgressions – but God.
  • We were helpless in our sins – but God.
  • We were in the shackles of sin – but God.
  • We were slaves to sin – but God.
  • We were alienated from God – but God.
  • We were at enmity with God – but God.
  • We were the children of wrath – but God.
  • We were the enemies of God – but God
  • We were walking according to the passions of our flesh – but God.
  • We were enjoying our depravity – but God.
  • Sin was good to us…it tasted good…felt good…seemed good – but God.

If left in our natural state to make our own decisions about God and His saving grace, we would always choose to rebel against Him.  We would be wandering away from God.  That’s why we sing the wonderful hymn, Come Thou Fount:

Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wandering from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger,
Interposed His precious blood;

May God be praised for saving wretched sinners who could never save themselves.  That’s why John Newton titled his hymn, Amazing Grace.


  1. Charles Spurgeon, “Free Will a Slave,” Sword and Trowel.

DBG Weekend Spotlight (10-14-16)

DBG Weekend Spotlight (10-14-16)

The sermon by John Piper at the 2016 T4G Conference is titled, “The Bondage of the Will: The Sovereignty of Grace and the Glory of God.” I commend it to you as a sermon worthy of your time.

Why I’m Willing To “Waste” My Vote – Is voting for a third party candidate a wasted vote?  Is a “wasted” vote really a waste?

Week #7—What Christians Should Ask of Government: To Establish Peace – This is the 7th week in Jonathan Leeman’s class he’s teaching at Capitol Hill Baptist Church.

You, Me, and the ESV – If you have a love for the ESV, you will likely want to read Tim’s article.

How to Quickly Find Every Rhetorical Question in the Bible – A helpful Logos Bible Software tip.

In Praise of Heavy Providences – Can we praise heavy providences?

Do Good Works Require Good Doctrine? – John MacArthur writes, “We live in a day when far too many Christians are conscientious objectors in the war for God’s truth. Rather than contending for the “faith which was once for all handed down” (Jude 1:3), theological pacifism is now the preferred approach.”

Theology Word of the week: This week’s TWW is focused on a person — Martyn Lloyd-Jones.

Lloyd-Jones, David Martyn (1899–1981). Although born in Wales, Lloyd-Jones completed his education at Mary-lebone Grammar School and St Bartholomew’s Hospital, London. A distinguished career as a physician lay before him when, after severe inner struggle, he committed himself to the Christian ministry in 1926. Following a notable pastorate at Aberavon (1927–38), he was called as colleague and then successor to G. Campbell Morgan (1863–1945) at Westminster Chapel, London. He played an early leadership role in the InterVarsity Fellowship and was also involved in the founding of such new evangelical agencies as the Evangelical Library, the London Bible College and the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students.

While he gave much time to helping students, ministers and missionaries, the pulpit was Lloyd-Jones’ most important work. By authoritative exposition and application of the Scriptures he sought to restore the true nature of preaching, rejecting the prevalent opinion that scientific knowledge had outmoded commitment to the inerrancy of Scripture (see also Infallibility). He saw faith in the word of God and dependence upon the Holy Spirit as the foremost needs in contemporary Christianity, and regarded human unbelief as moral rather than intellectual (see his Truth Unchanged, Unchanging, London, 1951). He reintroduced consecutive expository preaching with subsequent publications on The Sermon on the Mount (London, 1959–60), Ephesians (Edinburgh, 1974–82), II Peter (Edinburgh, 1983), and Romans (London and Edinburgh, 1970– ). But the majority of his preaching was evangelistic as he itinerated constantly for over fifty years (including Europe and the United States in summer vacations). Thoroughly committed to Calvinistic Methodism, Lloyd-Jones’ ministry did not harmonize with the prevailing religious ethos in Wales or England, and while constantly helping many evangelical agencies, his convictions on the importance of Reformed theology kept him from any full identification. He was, however, closely involved with a new doctrinal awakening commenced through the IVF, the Puritan Conferences and the Banner of Truth Trust (subsequently to be his principal publisher).

In his later years, faced with a general decline of Christianity in England, Lloyd-Jones called for the priority of evangelical unity above denominational loyalties. He did not propose a new denomination but urged the importance of the true unity of churches (which he hoped to see expressed in the British Evangelical Council) and warned that evangelical neutrality to the ecumenical movement was contributing to the spread of low views on saving faith.

Resigning from Westminster Chapel in 1968, he remained active in preaching and in the preparation of sermons for publication until shortly before his death. By his preaching and books he profoundly influenced the whole English-speaking world, as one who stood in the tradition of the Reformers and Puritans, Whitefield, Edwards and Spurgeon. Emil Brunner once described him as ‘the greatest preacher in Christendom today.’ [1]

  1. Sinclair B. Ferguson and J.I. Packer, New Dictionary of Theology (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 392–393.

3 Ways Marriage Proclaims the Gospel

3 Ways Marriage Proclaims the Gospel

Last night I was having a conversation with two friends about marriage.  As we discussed the subject together, we focused on three key ways in which marriage reflects the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ.  All marriages in some way or another point to the gospel, even among unbelievers, but the Christian marriage shines a bright light of the gospel for the world to see.  We must never forget that marriage matters.

Marriage and Sacrificial Love

In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, he writes, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Eph. 5:25).  Although it’s impossible to achieve this level of love, our goal as men is to love our wives as Christ loved the church.  In what way did Christ love the church?  He loved the church with a sacrificial love as He gave His life for the sins of His people.  Therefore, it’s obvious that our marriage relationship matters as we’re called to put on display the gospel through our marriage.

If anyone has the responsibility of rescuing marriage from the vile sin saturated community of Hollywood, it’s the church of Jesus Christ.  Marriage has been hijacked by sitcom writers, and many of our young people learn a false view of marriage through a screen as they watch movies and television sitcoms.  They learn to laugh at it.  They learn to disrespect it.  They learn to disregard it.  Pastors must preach, fathers must exemplify, and grandfathers must testify to our young men that marriage is far more beautiful than what’s displayed in the sordid sitcoms of the world.

Marriage and Covenant Keeping

In the Old Testament, we see an example of covenant keeping that’s extraordinary.  When God chose Israel, He did so not on the basis of their size or power.  He did so in order to put on display His sovereign choice.  God poured out His love upon Israel, but as we read the Old Testament, we see that Israel continued to sin against God.  In order to teach an object lesson on covenant keeping, God instructed Hosea to pursue a woman of whoredom and to have children of whoredom.  He followed the command of the Lord and it must have been a very difficult road.  However, the point of the lesson was for Israel to see in the marriage of Hosea and Gomer a picture of the faithful covenant keeping relationship between God and Israel.  Although Gomer was guilty of whoredom, Hosea was faithful to her.  Although Israel was guilty of vile whoredom with other gods — God remained faithful to His people and kept His covenant.

That same picture of covenant keeping is put on display between Christ and His church.  Christ will never divorce His bride.  Christ will never put the church away and issue her a bill of divorcement.  Our marriage relationship is connected to Jesus’ relationship to the church and we must remember this on the good days and the bad days of our marriage relationship.  The lost world around us needs to see us work through our marriage difficulties and overcome challenges as we keep our covenant.  We expect to hear the breaking news of Hollywood couples filing for divorce.  After all, their definition of marriage is rooted in the sordid ground of base sitcoms.  Our definition of marriage comes from the pages of sacred Scripture — and it reflects the glory of Christ and His covenant keeping love for the church.

Marriage and Forgiveness

One of the most powerful verses in all of Scripture is Ephesians 4:32, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”  If this is true of the church in general, imagine how much more so this is true within the covenant keeping relationship of marriage.  How much has Christ forgiven His bride of foolish talk, laziness, idolatry, and various other common everyday sins of the flesh?  How can we as men refuse to forgive our wives if we’ve received the forgiveness of sins through Jesus Christ?  Why can’t Christian wives forgive their husbands of wrongdoing and sins in marriage if they’ve been the recipients of God’s mercy and love through Jesus Christ?  In his excellent book, This Momentary Marriage, John Piper writes the following:

So what about the compost pile I mentioned at the end of the last chapter? Picture your marriage as a grassy field. You enter it at the beginning full of hope and joy. You look out into the future, and you see beautiful flowers and trees and rolling hills. And that beauty is what you see in each other. Your relationship is the field and the flowers and the rolling hills. But before long, you begin to step in cow pies. Some seasons of your marriage they may seem to be everywhere. Late at night they are especially prevalent. These are the sins and flaws and idiosyncrasies and weaknesses and annoying habits in you and in your spouse. You try to forgive them and endure them with grace.

But they have a way of dominating the relationship. It may not even be true, but sometimes it feels like that’s all there is—cow pies. Noël and I have come to believe that the combination of forbearance and forgiveness leads to the creation of a compost pile. That’s where you shovel the cow pies.

You both look at each other and simply admit that there are a lot of cow pies. But you say to each other: You know, there is more to this relationship than cow pies. And we are losing sight of that because we keep focusing on these cow pies. Let’s throw them all in the compost pile. When we have to, we will go there and smell it and feel bad and deal with it the best we can. And then we are going to walk away from that pile and set our eyes on the rest of the field. We will pick some favorite paths and hills that we know are not strewn with cow pies. And we will be thankful for the part of the field that is sweet.

Our hands may be dirty. And our backs may ache from all the shoveling. But one thing we know: We will not pitch our tent by the compost pile. We will only go there when we must. This is a gift of grace that we will give each other again and again and again—because we are chosen and holy and loved. [1]

Whatever we do in life and no matter how successful we become in business, we must strive for success in marriage.  If there is one pursuit worthy of our time and devotion, it’s the pursuit of a God-glorifying marriage that proclaims the gospel of Jesus Christ.

  1. John Piper, This Momentary Marriage, (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2009), 59.


DBG Spotlight (10-12-16)

DBG Spotlight (10-12-16)

If you’re unfamiliar with the preaching ministry of Conrad Mbewe, you need to familiarize yourself with his biblically accurate and rich proclamation.  Take time to listen to his sermon titled, “The Death of Death in the Death of Christ” from a conference in 2013.

Why Are So Many Evangelicals Condoning Sexual Assault? – This is a helpful article regarding the political situation in America.

Seven Simple Daily Prayers – “Prayerlessness is the great enemy of true happiness. If we give up on prayer, or refuse to pray, we surrender our seat at the very source of the highest and fullest joy. “You do not have, because you do not ask” (James 4:2).”

Mark Dever on Sermon Preparation – If you are a pastor, you will find this helpful.

2017 National Conference: Early-Bird Rate Ending – There are other conference worthy of your time in 2017 besides the G3 Conference.  I encourage you to consider Ligonier’s National conference.

Call Out Locker Room Talk for the Sin That It Is – This is another helpful article regarding the “locker room” talk of Donald Trump.

Sola Scriptura – Five Part Series by Dr. James White – You will want to check out this series by James White.

Marks of a Healthy Church, New from Mark Dever and Jonathan Leeman – A good resource offering from Ligonier.

8 Reasons Why Pastors Should Not Leave Their Church for the Same Reasons Members Do

8 Reasons Why Pastors Should Not Leave Their Church for the Same Reasons Members Do

Let’s face it, there are some good and necessary reasons to leave a church.  If the church is preaching heresy (Gal. 1:7-9) or condoning worldliness (1 Cor. 5:9-11) — it might be time to part fellowship.  However, before packing your bags and moving on, you might want to consider some of the really bad reasons people choose to leave their church.  Don’t follow their example.

1. Job Opportunity:  More Money

One of the most consistent reasons people give for leaving their church is based on a job transfer.  When asked about their decision, the people often cite a job promotion that will offer their family more money as the main driving force.  What if your pastor stood in the pulpit next week and said, “I’m resigning from my position as pastor today.  I want the church to know that I was offered a better position in another city a couple of hours away that pays more money.  Therefore, I believe it to be God’s will.”  How would this make you feel as a member of the church?  Is that a sufficient reason for your pastor to leave?  Would you be disappointed in him as a spiritual leader?  Would you find yourself making statements such as, “I thought being a pastor was a calling and not a job?”

2.  Relationship Conflicts

Another popular reason people leave their church is based on unresolved relationship conflicts.  It’s one thing for children to experience such conflicts, but when parents and grandparents get caught up in a drama cloud of conflict, it’s rather discouraging.  In such cases, we must remember that when we leave a church based on relationship conflicts — we’re teaching our children to do the same thing when they become an adult.

What if your pastor stood in the pulpit next week and said, “I’m resigning from my position as pastor today.  I have an unresolved relationship problem with someone in the church, and I believe it would be best for me to go elsewhere to pastor.”  Is that a sufficient reason for a pastor to leave the church?

3.  Doctrinal Differences (non-essentials)

There are reasons to leave a church based on doctrine, but not all doctrinal reasons are worthy of packing your bags.  Sometimes members hear a non-heretical doctrine taught that they have never considered from the Scriptures, and their initial reaction is to become angry and to leave the church.  However, we must first evaluate the doctrine and ask ourselves – is it worthy of parting fellowship?  Is this heresy?  Is this doctrine a perversion of the church or the faith?  Albert Mohler has a good assessment that he has titled, “A Call for Theological Triage and Christian Maturity.”  This is worth your attention if you’re considering leaving your church based on doctrinal differences.

What if your pastor stood in the pulpit next week and said, “I’m resigning from my position as pastor today.  I have come to realize that some people in this church disagree with me on a specific doctrine, and I believe it would be best for me to go elsewhere to pastor.”  Would you consider this an appropriate reason for leaving the church?

4.  Pursuing a Specific Type of Music

One of the most controversial and unhealthy reasons that people leave their church (or choose their church) is based on music style.  Many people are looking for the ultra traditional sound while others are looking for the ultra relevant style.  Could music be a reason to leave your church?  Sure, especially if it’s an unhealthy music style filled with carnal lyrics and unbiblical doctrines.  But, let’s face it, that’s not the typical reason for people choosing to leave based on the music of the church.

What if your pastor stood in the pulpit next week and said, “I’m resigning from my position as pastor today.  I have a certain style of music that I enjoy and it’s apparent that this church will never move in that direction.  Therefore, I believe it would be best for me to go elsewhere to pastor.”  Is that an appropriate cause for a pastor to leave the church?

5.  More to Offer my Children

Sometimes people leave their church based on perceived needs for their children.  It could be that other churches in the area seem to be more exciting or that their children need a larger peer group to associate with.  That’s a really bad reason to leave a church.  In fact, it will teach your children to repeat this decision in the future when they feel that another church has something more to offer (remember, we live in a church marketing culture).

What if your pastor stood in the pulpit next week and said, “I’m resigning from my position as pastor today.  I have young children and feel that another church a few miles across town would be better suited to care for their needs.”  Would you lose all respect for your pastor for making a decision to leave based on his children’s perceived needs?

6.  Closer Church to my Family

The desire to be closer to parents, grandparents, or grandchildren is an understandable concern.  However, is it best to pack your bags and move just to be closer in proximity to your children or your extended family?  Probably not.  In fact, such decisions are often made without any knowledge of a healthy church in the new location.  It’s not wise to leave a church just to be closer to your family if this means moving across the state or merely transferring church membership while living in the same place.  We should have a higher view of church membership.

What if your pastor stood in the pulpit next week and said, “I’m resigning from my position as pastor today.  My family is all located a few hours away, and I believe it would be best for me to go elsewhere to pastor in order to be closer to them.”  Is that a sufficient reason for a pastor to leave the church?

7.  Desire More People in my Demographic

It’s true that our closest relationships should be within our local church.  What happens if you feel that you don’t have as many homeschool families in your church, and as a dedicated homeschool family you feel lonely?  Should you leave?  What happens if you’re a newly married couple and you don’t have as many newly married couples in your church, should you leave?  What happens if you’re skin color is the minority in the church?  Should you leave?

What if your pastor stood in the pulpit next week and said, “I’m resigning from my position as pastor today.  My wife and I have a heart for adoption and since this church doesn’t have a heart for adoption, we believe it would be best for us to find another church that’s closer to where we are on this issue.”  Is that a sufficient reason for a pastor to leave the church?

8.  Not my Preferred Church Size (too small or too big)

One of the more popular reasons for people leaving their church is based on the desire to find a more preferred church size.  In their mind, a certain church size is best.  They don’t want one too small, so they make their church smaller by leaving to find another one that’s bigger.  Others don’t want to be involved as a member in a large church, so they search for one that’s a bit smaller.  In doing so, they make their new church bigger in the process of joining and perhaps upset others who were quite happy with how small their church was last week.

What if your pastor stood in the pulpit next week and said, “I’m resigning from my position as pastor today.  I have been offered a position as a pastor of a church that’s much larger than this one.  Therefore, I believe it to be the Lord’s will for my life and the life of this church.”  Is that a sufficient reason for a pastor to leave the church?

As you can see, there are some really poor reasons for leaving a church.  But, do members hold their pastors to a different level of expectation when it comes to church membership?  It’s quite evident that if pastors decided to leave their churches for the same reasons the membership often does, it would be catastrophic.  Shouldn’t this cause us to pause and reconsider our reasons for leaving our local church?  It would be bad enough if your pastor made an announcement about his resignation based on a really poor reason for leaving your church, but even worse would be for him to merely disappear without any announcement at all.

Paul’s Prayer for the Church

Paul’s Prayer for the Church

Yesterday I preached from Ephesians 1:15-23, and it’s quite apparent from the beginning of this paragraph that Paul is not only writing a letter, but he is likewise praying to the Father.  Paul’s prayer is not lacking in theological depth. This is far removed from a shallow repetitive prayer that we’re often guilty of mumbling.  Paul is serious about this prayer that involves a petition and praise.

Paul Desires for the Church to Know God

James Montgomery Boice was once participating in a Q&A session and was asked, “Dr. Boice, what do you think is the greatest lack among evangelical Christians in America today?”  He paused and then responded, “I think that the greatest need of the evangelical church today is for professing Christians really to know God.”  Why is it that far too much of evangelical Christianity is quite happy to go to heaven ignorant of who God truly is?

Paul’s desire for the church at Ephesus (and surrounding cities) is for these people to know God.  While it’s great that they had faith and love for one another, they still needed to progress in their knowledge of God.  This requires diligence and work.  The reference to knowledge is ἐπίγνωσις, meaning “correct knowledge; Precise knowledge; Thorough or full knowledge.”  Consider the fact that many people know about God, but they don’t truly know Him. Remember the warning from Christ

Paul Desires for the Church to Know their Hope in God

The hope of the believers, as Paul could see it, was based on three primary facts about Jesus Christ.

  1. Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.
  2. Jesus’ sovereign rule and authority over the entire universe.
  3. Jesus’ headship over the church.

Paul did not pray that these believers would find their assurance in their Christian t-shirt, their church attendance, or their dedication in their religion.  Paul wanted these believers, people that he loved dearly, to have a firm and growing confidence in the hope that comes through Jesus Christ.

Paul ended this section by pointing out that Jesus is the head of the church.  As he left Ephesus, we find in Acts 20 that the people were weeping as they knew that they would likely not see Paul again until they arrived in heaven.  Paul wanted these people to know that their hope was not in him or any other religious leader.  Their ultimate hope was in Jesus Christ – the risen and ruling Savior of sinners.

While we live in a happy meal society where everyone demands speed and instant success, such knowledge of God is not an instant reality.  From the point of the new birth, the believer is progressively growing.  To attempt short cuts to a true knowledge of God will result in knowing about God, but not actually coming to the point of knowing God.

Do you know Him?  Is your life, your relationships, your worship, and your service to God within the local church indicative of such knowledge and maturity?


Social Connections

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