Young Man, Young Woman: Set An Example – This is the first in a new series by Tim Challies. He writes, “If you are sixteen or eighteen or in your twenties, if you are in high school or college or just moving into marriage and career, I want to speak to you.”
Redemption is a concept found in the OT to express the action of a relative in setting free a member of his family or buying back his property (Lv. 25:25ff.) or in general that of purchasing something for a price. A ransom-price is paid to secure the release of what would otherwise be under forfeit (e.g. Ex. 21:30). Religiously God acts as redeemer by powerfully delivering his people from captivity (Ex. 6:6–7; Is. 48:20) or even from sin (Ps. 130:8). A ransom may also be paid to God in the form of a sacrifice or offering, to deliver people whose lives would otherwise be forfeit (Ex. 13:13). There is dispute whether, when the action of redeeming is ascribed to God, he is regarded as paying a price to set his people free; certainly cost and effort are applied, but the thought of a price being received by somebody from him is absent (Is. 43:3 is metaphorical; cf. 52:3). The term was also applied to the setting free of slaves in the Graeco-Roman world on the payment of a ransom to their owners; this could be done in various ways, one of which involved a religious ceremony in which the slave was the object of a fictitious purchase by a god so that he was free of earthly masters. The terminology used is somewhat different from that employed in the NT, and has led recent scholars to doubt whether the origin of the NT metaphor lies in this area; nevertheless, the manumission of slaves would surely have formed an excellent and relevant illustration of redemption.
In the NT the starting-point for the use of the concept is found in the sayings of Jesus, which state that no-one can give anything in exchange for his life (Mk. 8:37; cf. Ps. 49:7–9), but that the Son of Man came to give his life a ransom for many (i.e. for all; Mk. 10:45 as paraphrased in 1 Tim. 2:6; cf. Tit. 2:14). Jesus thus does what God alone can do (Ps. 49:15) by giving his own life, and the use of the noun lytron makes it quite clear that he gives his life in exchange for those whose lives are forfeit and thus sets them free. The death of Jesus is thus conceived as the sacrifice (Acts 20:28; Rom. 3:24; 1 Pet. 1:18) through which we are set free from our sins and their consequences, in other words through which we receive forgiveness (Col. 1:14; Eph. 1:7). Redemption is by faith in Christ (Rom. 3:24f.), and there is no longer any need to keep the law, as the Jews supposed, to secure salvation (Gal. 3:13; 4:5). Believers, however, can also be said to have been purchased by God to become his people; he has paid the price for them (1 Cor. 6:20; 7:23). Thus the term ‘redemption’ can be used in quite a broad sense to express the general concept of salvation and deliverance (e.g. Lk. 24:21).
Sinclair B. Ferguson and J.I. Packer, New Dictionary of Theology (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 560.
John Bunyan was born in 1628 in Elstow England, approximately one mile south of Bedford (approximately fifty miles northwest of London). In no uncertain terms, Bunyan was a depraved wretch. His life was filled with all manner of evil and he describes his life in his autobiography Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners. After his conversion, Bunyan was baptized in the River Great Ouse that runs through the town of Bedford in approximately 1650. Soon thereafter, he would have an unescapable call to preach the gospel. Although we remember Bunyan most for his writings, especially The Pilgrim’s Progress, we remember him also for his preaching.
John Bunyan Preached to the Soul
Like many Puritans, Bunyan was direct in his approach to preaching. He didn’t believe in the indirect or veiled approach to gospel proclamation. In the same way that George Whitefield would announce that he had come to talk to the people about their soul, Bunyan would address the heart of people with the power of the gospel. Unlike the seeker approach that has become so prevalent in our time, Bunyan expected participation from the congregation. He wanted more than attention, he demanded participation.
Gordon Wakefield describes Bunyan’s preaching as, “folksy and colloquial as he confronted his hearers with the issues of life and death, heaven, and hell.”  With a bright imagination and skilled use of illustration, Bunyan was never a boring preacher. As people gathered to hear the unlearned tinker preach, he demanded a response. To grow in godliness and sanctification is to obey Christ. As believers heard Bunyan preach, they would be moved to greater sanctification. As unbelievers heard Bunyan preach, they would often be moved to tearful repentance. In either case, there was more than attention given to the sermon, there was involvement. We would do well to expect the same thing in our weekly sermons as well.
John Bunyan’s Plea for Souls
In a recent interview, Andy Stanley read a letter from an atheist who had visited his church with a friend. In the letter, the atheist made the following observation.
I have to say the sermon you delivered was so incredibly on-point. I felt completely understood as an atheist, not at all judged, and I felt my way of thinking challenged, but not aggressively. There was no “gotcha” moment that I was expecting, no sales pitch for God, and no bids for my soul.
In the interview, Andy Stanley seemed thrilled that an atheist would have such a response to his sermon. His approach to preaching is the complete opposite approach of John Bunyan who spoke directly to the souls of people – including unbelievers. Perhaps that’s why Bunyan has not been overlooked in the pages of history over 350 years later. In one sermon, Bunyan compared a false convert to a barren fig tree, and he illustrates the scene of judgment by saying:
And now he begins to bethink himself, and to cry to God for mercy; Lord, spare me! Lord, spare me! Nay, saith God, you have been a provocation to me these three years. How many times have you disappointed me? How many seasons have you spent in vain? how many sermons and other mercies did I , of my patience, afford you? but to no purpose at all. Take him, death! 
As Bunyan relentlessly preached the gospel, often people would gather in the early hours of the morning before work to hear the tinker expound the Word of God. It was obvious that the Lord’s unction was upon him for the work of preaching. When King Charles discovered that the great intellect John Owen would often travel great distances to hear this unlearned tinker preach, he wanted to know the reason. Owen responded by saying, “I would willingly exchange my learning for the tinker’s power of touching men’s hearts.” 
As Bunyan preached Christ, he pressed people to see that Christ was more thrilling and of more value than anything else the world has to offer. In one sermon, he said the following:
O sinner! what sayest thou? How dost thou like being saved? Doth not thy mouth water? Doth not thy heart twitter at being saved? Why, come then: “The Spirit and the bride say, come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely” (Rev. 22:17). 
Apparently John Bunyan tweeted before Twitter, in a different way of course. He was pressing upon the souls of people to see the value of Christ Jesus! Unfortunately many preachers believe preaching directly to the souls of people is counter productive to growth. What would happen today if men preached like this uneducated tinker from history who has not faded away?
Gordon Wakefield, Bunyan the Christian (London: Harper Colllins, 1992), 32.
John Bunyan, The Barren Fig Tree, in The Works of John Bunyan, ed. George Offor (1854; repr., Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1991), 3:579-90.
John Brown, John Bunyan his Life, Times and Work, (London: The Hulbert Publishing Co., 1928), 366. This is a paraphrase of an indirect quote.
John Bunyan, Saved by Grace, in The Works of John Bunyan, ed. George Offor (1854; repr., Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1991), 1:342.
In the 2000 Ligonier National Conference, John Piper preached a sermon titled, “Let the Nations be Glad.” You will find it helpful as you consider the sovereignty of God in salvation and the firm command to go and make disciples among the nations.
Sex Negative – Carl Trueman writes, “The attitude toward sex in our secular culture is simultaneously tedious and disturbing. Tedious because of its predictability. Disturbing because of its profound negativity, despite absurd claims to the contrary.”
Are you too busy for the church? Are you too busy building your career while neglecting to build God’s kingdom? Are you finding time to invest in secular relationships while neglecting spiritual relationships among your fellow church members? Are you using your talents while neglecting to use your spiritual gifts? If this sounds familiar, I would encourage you to take time to evaluate what the Bible says about neglecting the church.
As a pastor, I’m extremely concerned for the distracted, over-worked, casual church member. I’m not merely concerned that they’re not occupying space in the sanctuary. I’m concerned for their soul. Consider the following warnings from the pages of Scripture.
#1 – Church Member: Neglecting to assemble for worship with the gathered church is a sin
Are you consistently absent from your church’s worship services? Online church is not church. It’s a filler for sick days or travel days, but it’s certainly not church. In Hebrews 10:24-25 we see that our calling should be to “stir up” one another to love and good works. How is this possible when you’re rarely gathered together with the church? Consider the words of Mark Dever:
Nonattendance, in the early years of our church, was considered one of the most sinister of sins, because it usually veiled all the other sins. When someone began to be in sin, you would expect them to stop attending. 
#2 – Church Member: Neglecting God’s Word is a sin
Our appetite reveals much about our spiritual condition. When you’re around sick people, they often have a very poor appetite. This often results in the use of IV therapy in order to force the person to receive the nutrients necessary to sustain life. What about the person who has time for their career, college football, recreation, vacation, and outdoor activities with the family but doesn’t desire the Word of God – specifically – the preaching of God’s Word? What does this reveal about the spiritual condition of the described person? The early church is pictured in Acts 2 as a people who desired the preaching and teaching of the Word. The people of God in the Old Testament came out of a lengthy period of rebellion and had a burning appetite for God’s Word (Neh. 8). If you find yourself in a state where you don’t have an appetite for God’s Word, you should search your heart for the reason.
#3 – Church Member: Neglecting the care of fellow church members is a sin
Membership in the local church involves responsibility. Did you know that the physical and spiritual wellbeing of your fellow church members is your business? This is one of the most important reasons to attend the weekly prayer meeting. Exactly how are you involved in the regular care of your church on a spiritual level? Consider what God’s Word says in Rom. 12:9-13, 1 Thess. 5:11, Phil. 2:4, and Gal. 6:2, 10. Kevin DeYoung writes, “The man who attempts Christianity without the church shoots himself in the foot, shoots his children in the leg, and shoots his grandchildren in the heart.” 
#4 – Church Member: Neglecting to use your spiritual gifts for God’s glory is a sin
Have you considered the purpose in God’s gift to you and to His church with spiritual gifts? Take time to consider what it would be like if tomorrow your right leg decided it wasn’t getting up for work. How would that change your daily routine? That’s why Paul used the body as an illustration about the importance of the entire church. Everyone is needed and each body part is important (1 Cor. 12:12-26).
1 Corinthians 12:26 – If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.
#5 – Church Member: Neglecting the gospel is a sin
Do you believe the gospel? What are you doing to uphold the gospel and protect the church from a false gospel? Not only did we need the gospel at the point of salvation, but we need the gospel daily. Not only do we need the gospel daily, but so does the entire church family. We must praise God through the gospel on a daily basis and preserve the church from error (Gal. 1:6; Jude 1:3; 1 Pet. 3:15; Titus 1:9). Have you sought to correct anyone in your local church who has strayed away in the past 12 months?
#6 – Church Member: Neglecting to observe the ordinances (baptism and the Lord’s supper) is a sin
We are commanded by Christ to observe baptism and the Lord’s supper together as a church (Matt. 28:18-20; 1 Cor. 11:23-25). To neglect this responsibility and privilege is to neglect your own soul. This is not an optional or extra credit opportunity suggested for a select group in the church. This is ground zero, foundational, and essential for spiritual health. Consider the words of Mark Dever:
Broadly speaking, baptism tends the front door of the church, while the Lord’s Supper tends the back door. Properly administered baptism (i.e., baptism of believers only upon a credible profession of faith) helps to ensure that only genuine believers are admitted into the membership of the church. Properly administered communion (i.e., communion given only to members in good standing of evangelical churches) helps to ensure that those who are under church discipline for unrepented sin do not scandalize the church or eat and drink judgment to themselves by partaking of the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor. 11:29). 
#7 – Church Member: Neglecting to make disciples is a sin
We have been called to go and make disciples of all nations (Matt. 28:18-20). In the most logical manner, we begin in our neighborhood and move outward to the nations. Notice that the command is not to go and get conversions. We are to leave the converting up to God, and when that fruit comes, we are to baptize them and disciple them in the truth. This involves the hard and persistent work of evangelism and discipleship – both rooted and grounded in the work of the local church. That is not a command for “professionals” or pastors. It’s a command for all of the children of God.
#8 – Church Member: Neglecting to follow your pastors is a sin
God has given us pastors for a reason. That purpose involves leadership and spiritual care. That type of leadership and spiritual care rubs against the grain of the American independent mindset. We don’t want anyone getting into our business, so when someone unexpectedly applies Richard Baxter’s model of membership care, it seems odd, outdated, antiquated, and intrusive. According to Hebrews 13:17, church members are to “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account.” Why is this command given? The writer to the Hebrew Christians follows up with Hebrews 13:18 – “Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” To resist pastoral leadership is to endanger your soul.
#9 – Church Member: Neglecting members’ meetings is a sin
How does the church make decisions? Are all decisions given over to the elders? Does your church operate with any measure of congregationalism? If so, you need to attend the church conferences (business meetings) and engage in the decision making of the church. What ministries are being organized? How are you helping to support and uphold the different ministries of the local church? How does your church accept members or release members to other churches? Are you involved with this process in the members’ meeting? Do you know what’s happening in the life of the church? What goals are the elders putting before the church? What financial needs are present? Do you know any specific need that you can pray for in the life of your church? Consider the words of Charles Spurgeon:
I know there are some who say, “Well, I’ve given myself to the Lord, but I don’t intend to give myself to any church.” I say, “Now why not?” And they answer, “Because I can be just as good a Christian without it.” I say, “Are you quite clear about that? You can be as good a Christian by disobedience to your Lord’s commands as by being obedient? There’s a brick. What is the brick made for? It’s made to build a house. It is of no use for the brick to tell you that it’s just as good a brick while it’s kicking about on the ground by itself, as it would be as part of a house. Actually, it’s a good-for-nothing brick. So, you rolling stone Christians, I don’t believe that you’re answering the purpose for which Christ saved you. You’re living contrary to the life which Christ would have you live and you are much to blame for the injury you do.” 
As a pastor I desire the best for the members entrusted to my care. Pastoring is more than preaching, and the work of caring for the church is vitally important. When sheep come up missing, it’s essential to find out why and work to bring them back into the family of faith.
If you’re an absentee church member, I want to encourage you to consider the danger of remaining in that position. Don’t neglect the good gifts of God that come through the church. Don’t neglect your faith, your family, and your own soul. It’s time to stop saying that you’re too busy and start taking responsibility for your sin.
Mark Dever, Nine Marks of a Healthy Church, (Wheaton: Crossway, 2000), 171.
Kevin DeYoung, The Hole in Our Holiness, (Wheaton: Crossway, 2012), 132.
Mark Dever, “Applying the Regulative Principle,” The Deliberate Church, (Wheaton: Crossway, 2005), 90.
Tom Carter, Charles Spurgeon at His Best, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1988), 34.
Yesterday I preached from Ephesians 1:3-6. The topic of verses 3-14 is focused on our eternal salvation provided to us by our gracious and merciful God. In fact, verses 3-14 are one lengthy sentence in the Greek. In yesterday’s sermon, I took the first part of this lengthy sentence and focused on the work of God the Father in saving wretched sinners. As we continue to expound this lengthy doxology to God, we will look at the work of the Son and the Spirit in saving sinners as well.
God the Father — Giver of Eternal Blessings
Every blessing we enjoy in life comes from God. He has blessed us in Christ, and provided innumerable blessings in the heavenly places. In other words, as children of God we have received blessings from God that we enjoy presently and countless blessings that we will enjoy in eternity. They are reserved for us in Christ. Paul points out the πνευματικός – spiritual, blessings. This is why the hymn writer could write the following words:
Let all things their Creator bless,
and worship him in humbleness,
Praise, praise the Father, praise the Son,
and praise the Spirit, Three in One:
O praise him, O praise him,
alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!
God the Father — Chose Us
In Ephesians 1:4, we see the word “chose” used by Paul. It’s a word in the Greek (ἐκλέγομαι) that means – to pick out or choose for oneself. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the doctrine of election and predestination explained incorrectly. Many people claim that God looks through a tunnel of time to see the actions of a sea of humanity in the distant future. Based upon their decisions to repent and believe the gospel, God then elects them and predestines them to be His children for all of eternity. There are countless problems with this view and I want to name a few of them.
If God looked through a tunnel of time to see the distant decisions of a sea of humanity in the future, God would be bound by time and space. The God of Scripture is not bound by time and space.
If God looked through a tunnel of time to see the decisions of all humanity in the distant future, there would have been a moment in time when God didn’t have all information and needed to “learn” or “gain” information. That would be a heretical view of God.
If God looked through a tunnel of time to see the decisions of people in the distant future in order to make His decision regarding election and predestination – that would place the reigns of sovereignty in the hands of sinners rather than in the hands of the sovereign God of the universe.
If God was merely waiting to see what sinners would do by looking through this tunnel of time, God would have watched every last person rebel against Him and then die and go to hell. Why? Because according to Scripture – not one person seeks after God on his own (Romans 3:10-11).
The proper view of the word “chose” in verse 4 is that God in eternity past acted out of divine love and mercy to save guilty sinners by choosing them in Christ to salvation. Any other view does violence to this word in the context of Scripture and it does violence to the doctrine of God.
God the Father’s Plan of Holiness
God has planned for His children to be holy. For Paul to press upon the church at Ephesus (and surrounding regions) to pursue God in holiness is not legalism. Holiness is the intended plan of God for all of His children. So many people struggle with their salvation because they’re living in a perpetual state of sin. According to Scripture, people who are not pursuing God in holiness should question their salvation. I like what Kent Hughes writes about this point in his commentary:
If your life is characterized by a pattern of conscious sin, you very likely are not a Christian. If some of your most cherished thoughts are hatreds, if you are determined not to forgive, you may not be a true believer. If you are a committed materialist who finds that your greatest joys are self-indulgence — clothing your body with lavish outfits, having all your waking thoughts devoted to house, cars, clothing, and comforts — you may not be a Christian. If you are a sensualist who is addicted to pornography, if your mind is a twenty-four-hour bordello — and you think it’s okay — you may very well not be a Christian, regardless of how many times you have “gone forward” and mouthed the evangelical shibboleths. Election ultimately results in holiness, but the process begins now. Are you concerned for holiness? Are you growing in holiness? 
God the Father’s Purpose in Predestination
First of all, we must note that the doctrine of predestination is taught in the Bible. Predestine (Προορίζω)meanso decide upon beforehand, predetermine. It’s an unhelpful and unwise thing to use the biblical word as an expletive. In fact, Paul doesn’t use the subject of predestination as a means for an apologetic debate or to engage in a fight with his Arminian friends. He used the word to praise God for saving sinners who didn’t deserve an ounce of mercy.
Predestination is connected to adoption just as election is connected to holiness. God had a plan to adopt guilty sinners, Jews and Gentiles, and a people from every tongue, tribe, people, and nation on planet earth. As adopted children, we receive the full legal rights as the children of God. We are made joint heirs with Jesus Christ and enjoy all of the spiritual blessings that God has given to us in Christ.
Consider the heights and depths of our salvation as pre-planned by the Trinity before the foundation of the world. It should bring us to a point of humility and genuine praise!
R. Kent Hughes, Ephesians: The Mystery of the Body of Christ, Preaching the Word (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1990), 25–26.
Monotheism is the belief that there is only one God. The term commonly refers to Israel’s belief in one God, taken over by the Christian church. Contrasted with animism (worshipping nature spirits), polytheism (recognizing many gods), and henotheism/monolatry (recognizing that many gods exist, but accepting a personal commitment to only one), it then characterizes Israel’s religion over against those of other Western Asian peoples, or Israel’s religion at its most developed over against its earlier stages.
It needs to be noted, however, that at all periods the OT affirms that Yahweh has unrivalled power and wisdom, and that his being is uniquely unoriginate and eternal. Gn. 1, for instance, describes God’s creative activity in absolute terms. Distinguishing him from nature and cosmos, and leaving no room for the existence of other beings of his stature, it subverts the polytheisms of Babylon and Canaan and—by anticipation—the emanations of Gnosticism. Ex. 1–15 relates God’s redemptive work in similar absolute terms, asserting his power in history and over natural forces in such a way as to imply a claim to an exclusive deity. The Psalms and Job declare that Yahweh is Lord over all forces of chaos and evil and implicitly exclude any metaphysical dualism (cf. Is. 45:7).
At the same time, the OT also accepts the existence of other ‘gods’ at all periods, though demoting these to the status of Yahweh’s aides, beings whose divinity is not absolute as his is (cf. 1 Cor. 8:4–6). The OT does not develop from animism or polytheism to monotheism. Further, some of the OT’s monotheistic-sounding affirmations (e.g. Dt. 6:4) are primarily concerned to summon Israel to an exclusive commitment to Yahweh; and in general, the distinctive feature of biblical faith is the conviction that the God of Israel who is also the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is (the one) God, rather than merely that God (whoever he be) is one. This latter belief would in any case not be peculiar to Israel, its clearest expression elsewhere being in Akhenaten’s Egypt.
Monotheism became an explicit theological theme in the early Christian centuries in the form of an emphasis on God’s monarchia (see Monarchianism). Here the biblical testimony to the unique deity of Israel’s redeemer and the Father of Jesus came to be associated with Platonic and Aristotelian convictions regarding the one divine monad. The commingling of biblical and philosophical perspectives made it possible to work out the implications of the scriptural testimony regarding the uniqueness of God, but it also hindered the development of Trinitarian theology. Indeed, the word ‘monotheism’ in its earliest usage denotes non-Christian or sub-Christian beliefs which contrast with Trinitarianism. 
Sinclair B. Ferguson and J.I. Packer, New Dictionary of Theology (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 444.