We live in a selfish culture. When was the last time you passed by an adult who has Down Syndrome? According to statistics, somewhere near 90-92% of all pregnancies that test positive for Down Syndrome are aborted.
We live in a confused culture. The homosexual agenda in America is another proof that people are simply not satisfied with who they are. People refuse to be comfortable in their own skin. They would rather be homosexual than heterosexual to satisfy their flesh. A growing population of people are going through painful and costly transgender surgeries in order for men to become “women” and women to become “men.” They claim to be pursuing who they’re meant to be. In reality, they’re simply unhappy with who they are and how God created them.
Why are so many people unhappy with themselves? Could it simply be connected to their unhappiness with God?
God is Sovereign Over Your Physical Appearance
I once read somewhere that women spend two weeks per year working on their appearance. How we look matters to us. We spend a considerable amount of time before the mirror changing our hair styles, trying on clothes, and preparing to go out into public. The fact is, we simply are not satisfied with our appearance. Gyms are on every corner because some people want to bulk up. Others use gyms (or weight loss pills) to trim down. While there is nothing wrong with wanting to get in better shape or lose a few pounds, the reality is, we’re simply not satisfied with our appearance.
God created David to be handsome (1 Samuel 16:12), Samson to be strong (Judges 13:5; 16:16-17), but He likewise sent His Son to earth to become a man. In this process, Jesus became a human who was not handsome or brag worthy in the sense of human features (Isaiah 53:2). Jesus accomplished the saving mission of the gospel in a body that was not good to look upon. Contrary to the pictures we see of Jesus, He was not good looking nor was He a Caucasian man with long flowing brown hair. Why do we need cosmetic plastic surgery to “fix” our physical appearances? Are we dissatisfied with how God created us?
God is Sovereign Over Your Lot in Life
I never intended to be a pastor. I had big plans for my future. I was quite certain that I was going to find success. God had other plans for my life. He saved me shortly after graduating college and then placed in my heart this desire to preach and teach the Bible that was inescapable. I’ve had to battle through selfish thoughts of materialism when I see others buying boats, fancy cars, and vacation homes. I went to school with people who are far more successful in life than I am. But I must realize that God has a different plan for my life. I’ve learned to trust Him with my life.
Not everyone is wired to lead a business. Not every child (calm down grandparents) is geared to become the president of our nation. Part of life is learning who God intends for us to be and part of that involves our vocational choices. It would be wise to learn this from an early age and try to be satisfied with how God has gifted us. It’s a foolish and unwise practice to waste your life trying to walk in other people’ shoes. College isn’t for everyone. Not everyone will climb to the top of some vocational ladder. We must learn to be content in who we are and how God has designed us. Jerry Bridges, in his excellent book Trusting God, writes, “Who you are is not a biological accident. What you are is not a circumstantial accident. God planned both for you.” 
God is Sovereign Over Your Physical Disabilities
When Moses complained to God regarding his deficiencies as a public speaker, God responded with a very important statement. He said, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD” (Exodus 4:11)? The world of science often tries to explain physical disabilities by the chromosome numbers and biological traits or scientific theory. The fact remains, if one child is born blind or is later diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, God is responsible for this. God intends to use all physical traits – both strengths and disabilities – for His glory (John 9:1-3).
Has it ever occurred to you that no disease or physical disability catches God by surprise? Is a dwarf to live in perpetual depression because he will never be 6 feet tall? Is a blind lady to waste away in depression because she will never see the light of the sun? Is a young man who was born with a debilitating disease that severely limits his physical body to live in a constant state of depression because he will never play college football? Learning to be satisfied with who you are is based on your satisfaction with God. Are you satisfied with God?
Physical strength and disabilities both come from God. Intellectual strengths and learning disabilities find their source in God. For a man to possess the ability to be a gifted business man, his gifts come from God. For a woman to find her calling in the home with her children does not make her any less important than some Fortune 500 business tycoon. Our steps are ordained by God (Proverbs 20:24). Our days are numbered by God (Psalm 139:16; Job 14:5). Our physical bodies were created by God (Psalm 139:13).
We must learn to trust Him in our strengths and in our weaknesses. We have trouble being comfortable in our skin because we have trouble trusting God. We look at people as deformed or inconveniences, so we disrespect them or abort them. Our culture has missed it when it comes to life. All of life belongs to God. No matter who we are or how God created us, we must learn to do all we can in this life to bring maximum glory to God (1 Corinthians 10:31; Mark 12:30). Jerry Bridges writes:
We can trust God to guide us. He will lead us all the way. And when we stand before His throne we will not be singing about successfully discovering the will of God. Rather with Fanny Crosby we, too, will sing, “Jesus led me all the way.” 
In yesterday’s morning worship, I preached from Mark 8:31-33. In our study, we are noticing a transition in Jesus’ ministry. He is starting to spend much time with His disciples in order to prepare them for the impending passion scene that will reach the climax as Jesus is nailed to a Roman cross.
In this text, we notice that Jesus spent time teaching the disciples. His ministry was a teaching and preaching ministry. The signs and miracles were merely to validate His doctrine, but the core of Jesus’ ministry was centered on public proclamation and private teaching and discipleship.
As Jesus spent time teaching His disciples, the content of His teaching was centered on the gospel. What exactly is the gospel? Many people don’t know what the gospel actually is. Some define it as a genre of music or a type of preaching, but Jesus explains to His disciples what the gospel actually is in His private teaching session.
The first time we see the word “gospel” appear in the New Testament is in Matthew 4:23. The first time it appears in Mark is in Mark 1:1. The literal meaning of the Greek word εὐαγγέλιον, translated “gospel” in English, is good news. The gospel is the fact that the second person of the Godhead, Jesus Christ – (infinitely holy God of all creation) – took upon Himself human flesh and was crushed by the Father in a painful and substitutionary death for hopeless sinners. On the third day, Jesus was brought to life in victory over death and the grave proving the fact that He alone is the exclusive means of reconciliation for guilty rebels and law breakers. Jesus is the only way a sinner can receive forgiveness of sins and mercy from a holy and wrathful God.
Jesus explains three non-negotiable elements of the gospel.
The Son of Man must suffer many things.
The Son of Man must be killed.
The Son of Man must be raised from the dead.
In due season, Jesus would fulfill His own prophetic statement by going through the horrific scourging, beating, and crucifixion (Psalm 22). He would endure pain, anguish, betrayal, and death for guilty sinners as He would be crushed on the cross under the wrath of the Father (Isaiah 53). In triumphant victory, three days later, Jesus would be resurrected from the dead. He would do something that no man has ever done – or every will do. He fulfilled Psalm 24. John Piper once said:
The good news is that God himself has decreed a way to satisfy the demands of His justice without condemning the whole human race. Hell is one way to settle accounts with sinners and uphold his justice. But there is another way. The wisdom of God has ordained a way for the love of God to deliver us from the wrath of God without compromising the justice of God. And what is this wisdom? The death of the Son of God for sinners!
In the midst of Jesus’ teaching, Satan entered the scene and led Peter astray. Just a few verses after making a profound declaration of Christology, Peter makes a profound error in his depravity. Real Christians make big mistakes. Peter is a prime example of this. Jesus rebuked Satan and Peter at the same time.
Do you know the gospel?
Do you believe the gospel?
Are you aware of the constant barrage of Satanic attacks that occur around you on a regular basis in order to sway you, persuade you, and tempt you to walk away from the mission of the gospel?
For more than 70 years, J.I. Packer has walked with God as a Christian. We have come to love his books and have benefited from them in many ways. You will likewise find this short video interview worthy of your time.
Full Speech of Benjamin Netanyahu– Speaking before the United Nations, he called into question the lack of respect from other nations regarding the threat of Iran against Israel.
HeartCry Missionary Society Removes Missionary – Curtis Chirwa of Zambia was removed from the missionary status of HeartCry Missionary Society, however, this is the sort of removal that we all rejoice in. Once again, I think the HeartCry Missionary Society is a great way for your church to support missionaries and the work of church planting among the nations.
I was given this book as a gift earlier this year by Tony Reinke titled, Newton on the Christian Life: To Live Is Christ. It’s one of the books in a series on the Christian life published by Crossway. Other titles feature men such as Bonhoeffer, Calvin, Edwards, Luther, Packer, Schaffer, Warfield, and Wesley. As you can imagine, the entire series is worthy of your time.
From the beginning, I expected the book to be organized more as a biography, but as Reinke makes clear from the start, this isn’t a biography about Newton. While certain elements and events of Newton’s life are used in the writing of the book, it’s purpose is to see the Christian life through the lens of John Newton. As the subtitle makes clear, his lens was from the perspective of “To Live Is Christ.”
The book starts with a breathtaking review of a stormy night on the sea on March 21st, 1748 that literally shook Newton to his core. Fittingly so, this book begins with that event, and just as God often does, He uses storms and natural laws to awaken people to His sovereignty. Newton, the author of the most famous Christian hymn in English history, was a man who came to embrace a robust view of God’s sovereignty. As Reinke makes clear, “Grace is a battering ram. Grace is forced entry” (40). And that’s exactly how it entered Newton’s life as a twenty two year old depraved sailor.
Reinke, in a much needed statement of clarity, writes, “The Christian life is not comfortable. God makes us no promises to remove difficult circumstances, or alleviate our pains, or protect us from suffering, but he does promise sufficient grace for all our wants and needs” (43). We live in a world that looks to God as a “genie in a bottle” or a fairy of blessings rather than the God who sustains us even in the midst of the storms of life. In fact, as Newton came to understand, there is always a purpose in the storms of life.
In chapter three, Reinke does an excellent job of allowing us to see the world through Newton’s eyes. He explains that Newton believed that every human is hardwired to thirst for abiding joy that can only be satisfied in God (67). At this juncture, he cites Newton extensively and the footnotes are worthy of attention.
From every aspect of the book, Reinke strikes a good balance between the life of Newton and the Christian life that is common to all believers. From personal hardships to pursuits of joy in God, the book does an excellent job of visiting the 18th century experiences of John Newton while bridging the gap to our modern culture.
Reinke likewise does a good job of putting on display the language of Newton too. His use of metaphor was not only good for his poetry and hymn writing, but his preaching too. He was not a boring or stale preacher because he tapped into the soul with lucid language and like a “master craftsman” he connected well with his audience (41).
One of the truths that Reinke brought to the surface from the early pages and continued to demonstrate throughout the book is Newton’s love for God’s sovereignty. He quotes Newton as saying, “I am an avowed Calvinist” (26). He goes on to quote Newton as saying, “He loves us because he loves us…He loves us because of who he is, not because of what we are” (261). This may come as a surprise to the many Arminian congregations who use his famous song each week in their weekly worship services, but John Newton was not ashamed of his theological convictions. Reinke explains:
Once asked if he was a Calvinist, Newton plunked a lump of sugar into his tea, stirred the hot liquid, and said, “I am more of a Calvinist than anything else; but I use my Calvinism in my writing and preaching as I use this sugar. I do not give it alone, and whole; but mixed, and diluted” (26).
One of the things I appreciated about this book was Reinke’s engaging style of writing and his ability to weave Newton and our modern Christian life into one story. In other words, Newton was his starting place but through his application the truths came home clearly. He used Scripture to drive the point home and bridge the gap successfully.
One of the weaknesses was the lack of structure in Newton’s life story. Although Reinke makes it clear from the beginning that his desire is not to provide a biography of Newton, it would have been nice to have some structure especially to the end. I was left wanting more of the end of Newton’s life. Reinke did bring us back to the reality of Newton’s idea (as he shared it with Calvin) that “all the world’s a stage, all the creation’s a theater, and all the Christina’s life is a dress rehearsal for glory” (267). He likewise reminded us of the theme or motto of Newton’s life “None but Christ” (266).
I recommend this book to you. It’s not an academic book written for the theology classroom or for the pastor-theologian. It’s a well written book that would be good for your entire family.
Yesterday, before Congress, Ms. Cecile Richards of Planned Parenthood testified regarding the troubling allegations that have surfaced in recent weeks in form of a series of videos that have exposed their practices of selling human body parts for financial profit. Below you will see some of the testimony and some of the recent documented lies of Planned Parenthood.
Full testimony by Ms. Cecile Richards before Congress on Tuesday, September 29th 2015
Ms. Cecile Richards is questioned by Trey Gowdy
Ms. Cecile Richards claims the videos were highly edited
As you know by now, Pope Francis has visited the United States within the past week, and prior to his visit, the most recent papal visit came back in 2008. In a lengthy and politically charged visit by Pope Francis, we have all had news streams filled with images of the Pope being adored by people as they gathered in large crowds to get a glimpse of him. As he paraded along in his “Pope Mobile” he offered blessings in the sign of the cross to crowds. You can get a glimpse from one person’s video they took on Fifth Avenue in New York as they captured footage of the Pope riding through the city.
A few weeks ago, I wrote an article asking the question, “Are Roman Catholics Christians?” Today, I want to focus upon the doctrine of salvation taught by the Roman Catholic Church. With approximately 69 million Roman Catholics in the United States, this is an extremely important subject to consider. Suppose a person asked, “Pope Francis, what must I do to be saved?” How would he respond?
The False Salvation of the Roman Catholic Church
According to official Catholic doctrine, in order for a person to be saved, it’s quite a tedious task. It involves steps such as actual grace, faith, good works, baptism, participation in the sacraments, penance, indulgences, and keeping the commandments. In short, the doctrine of soteriology taught by the Roman Catholic Church is a works based system where a person must work their way to God. Below you will see some citations from the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
The Necessity of Faith (not alone)
Faith is central to Christian theology, but according to the Roman Catholic Church, it’s merely one aspect of the system of salvation. According to their Catechism, they write:
“Faith is necessary for salvation. The Lord himself affirms: ‘He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned,’ (Mk 16:16)” (CCC 183).
According to the official teachings of the Roman Catholic Church, faith is necessary for salvation. That’s good, but they don’t stop there. Faith, in Catholic theology, is merely the starting point. They build from there adding to faith other works of man – including involvement in “the Church” and tradition.
“Basing itself on Scripture and Tradition, the Council teaches that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation,” (CCC 846).
The Necessity of Baptism
“Justification has been merited for us by the Passion of Christ. It is granted us through Baptism. It conforms us to the righteousness of God, who justifies us. It has for its goal the glory of God and of Christ, and the gift of eternal life. It is the most excellent work of God’s mercy” (CCC 2020).
“Baptism is necessary for salvation for those to whom the Gospel has been proclaimed and who have had the possibility of asking for this sacrament. The Church does not know of any means other than Baptism that assures entry into eternal beatitude…” (CCC 1257).
As you can see, according to the Roman Catholic Church, baptism is necessary for salvation. In a blasphemous way, they claim, “The Church does not know of any means other than Baptism that assures entry into eternal beatitude.” Their reference to “The Church” is a reference to the Roman Catholic Church. They don’t recognize any other church as legitimate. The basis of their claim is centered on their belief that “baptism, by imparting the life of Christ’s grace, erases original sin” (CCC 405).
The Necessity of Good Works and Power of the Human Will
“If any one saith, that by faith alone the impious is justified; in such wise as to mean, that nothing else is required to co-operate in order to the obtaining the grace of Justification, and that it is not in any way necessary, that he be prepared and disposed by the movement of his own will; let him be anathema” (Council of Trent, Canons on Justification, Canon 9).
Notice how they place “faith alone” in the direct cross hairs of their teachings. They vehemently oppose the teachings of Scripture that salvation comes by faith alone in Jesus Christ. Furthermore, they likewise teach that human will prepares us and cooperates with God in order to bring about justification. This stands in contradiction to the teachings of Scripture.
True Salvation in Jesus Christ
The Scriptures are clear regarding the doctrine of salvation. In fact, that was the central issue of the Reformation – salvation comes by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, for the remission of sins. Nearly 500 years ago, Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the castle door in Wittenberg. Luther said, “If any man ascribes anything of salvation, even the very least thing, to the free will of man, he know nothing of grace, and he has not learned Jesus Christ rightly.” The 5 Solas of the Reformation were based on this clear teaching – salvation is a gift of God.
Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone)
Sola Gratia (Grace Alone)
Sola Fide” (Faith Alone)
Solus Christus (Christ Alone)
Soli Deo Gloria (To God Alone Be Glory)
Right from the beginning, the Reformers stood upon the sole authority of the Bible as opposed to the traditions and teachings of the Catholic Church. The Bible is God’s Word and we must stand upon it alone as our authority.
The Necessity of Faith Alone in Christ Alone
Was it our works or the work of Christ that satisfied God? According to passages like Isaiah 53 and 1 John 2:1-2, it was the work of Christ. Paul makes it abundantly clear that our salvation is a gift of God and not of works as he writes to the church at Ephesus:
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,  not a result of works, so that no one may boast (Eph. 2:8-9).
John Calvin comments:
This passage affords an easy refutation of the idle cavil by which Papists attempt to evade the argument, that we are justified without works. Paul, they tell us, is speaking about ceremonies. But the present question is not confined to one class of works. Nothing can be more clear than this. The whole righteousness of man, which consists in works, — nay, the whole man, and everything that he can call his own, is set aside. We must attend to the contrast between God and man, — between grace and works. Why should God be contrasted with man, if the controversy related to nothing more than ceremonies?
There will be no boasting before the Lord of our works. The work of attending and joining a church is insufficient. The work of the “sacraments” is insufficient. The cooperation of the human will is insufficient. All of these acts and deeds are nothing more than frail attempts to please God. We can’t please God in our flesh. We have nothing to offer Him that would impress Him or satisfy His holy justice. That’s why Paul makes the clear point – “not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph. 2:9).
The Frailty of the Human Will
The Bible teaches that before salvation, our human will is dead (Eph. 2:1). According to John 1:13, we are not born again by our human will. If the human heart is deceitful and desperately wicked (Jer. 17:9), how does the Roman Catholic Church teach that we must cooperate with God in order to receive justification? Commenting on Ephesians 2:10, John Calvin writes:
What remains now for free-will, if all the good works which proceed from us are acknowledged to have been the gifts of the Spirit of God? Let godly readers weigh carefully the apostle’s words. He does not say that we are assisted by God. He does not say that the will is prepared, and is then left to run by its own strength. He does not say that the power of choosing aright is bestowed upon us, and that we are afterwards left to make our own choice. Such is the idle talk in which those persons who do their utmost to undervalue the grace of God are accustomed to indulge. But the apostle affirms that we are God’s work, and that everything good in us is his creation; by which he means that the whole man is formed by his hand to be good.
Therefore, we must conclude that salvation is a gift of God and is bestowed upon guilty sinners out of sheer mercy and love – not based on any performance or work that we offer up to God. Everything we do in our worship and service to God is by means of a changed heart that God wrought in us and willed to do before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:3-7).
I’ve had Roman Catholics claim that they don’t actually believe in a works based salvation and that they cling to Christ alone. My question to that individual is very simple – why do you remain committed to a church that teaches a doctrine of salvation that is blasphemous to God, robs Him of His glory, and devalues the work of Christ on our behalf? Why not break from Rome? Unless you’re committed to their “true Church” theology, you should break from Rome immediately once you come to see the false salvation of the Roman Catholic Church. Charles Spurgeon, the well known English Baptist preacher, once said:
It is the bounden duty of every Christian to pray against Anti-Christ, and as to what Anti-Christ is no sane man ought to raise a question. If it be not Popery in the Church of Rome there is nothing in the world that can be called by that name…because it wounds Christ, because it robs Christ of His Glory, because it puts sacramental efficacy in the place of His atonement, and lifts a piece of bread in the place of the Saviour, and a few drops of water in place of the Holy Ghost, and puts a fallible man like ourselves up as the Vicar of Christ on earth; if we pray against it, because it is against Him, we shall love the persons though we hate their errors; we shall love their souls though we loath and detest their dogmas, and so the breath of our prayers will be sweetened, because we turn our faces towards Christ when we pray.