DBG Spotlight (8-28-15)

DBG Spotlight (8-28-15)

On August 25th, Ligonier hosted a Google Hangout with Dr. John MacArthur, president of The Master’s Seminary, and Dr. Stephen Nichols, president of Reformation Bible College. The discussion was based on the urgency to stand with conviction in a time of rapid cultural change.

The International Mission Board Plans to Cut 600-800 Missionaries and Staff – IMB president David Platt announced Thursday that the agency needs to cut at least 600 missionaries and staff in order to balance its budget. Those cuts are needed to make up for a $21 million deficit for 2015.

The 2016 G3 Conference – The 2016 G3 will be focused on the doctrine of the Trinity.  Although the conference will be held in January, there are only 125 seats remaining as of this morning.  If you’re planning to attend, you should go ahead and get your seat reserved.

When Did the Decline of Marriage Begin in America? – Joe Carter examines the negative trends that have led to a decline and eventual redefining of marriage in America.

Mailbag #13: Baptism before Communion; Moderating Members’ Meetings; Cooperating with Other Churches in Church Discipline; How to Transition to Elders and Deacons – Jonathan Leeman answers questions that were sent to 9Marks and some of the questions are worth reading and thinking through.

Ashley Madison and the Death of Monogamy – Albert Mohler writes, “The mainstream media seems to know that the Ashley Madison hacking story is big news, but the main concern seems to be more about embarrassment than shamefulness.”

God’s Immeasurable Grace

God’s Immeasurable Grace

Last week, I shared that I was recently interviewed by Covenant Spotlight Magazine on the issue of grace.  Below is part of the interview that will appear in their upcoming publication.

Many people believe that it’s possible to earn grace.  The Roman Catholic Church has built an entire system of belief upon this idea.  If you examine the Roman Catholic Church closely, you will see that they add works and the traditions of the Church to the grace of God.  However, when we look at the Scriptures, we see that grace is a gift of God and as dead sinners who are brought to life by the power of God – who are we to boast?

Do we receive grace because of our act of repentance? Or do we repent because of the grace granted by God? Could you elaborate?

Buice: Tragically, in many evangelical circles, grace has been reduced to three easy steps at the end of a church service. The fact is, we don’t earn grace or cooperate with God to receive grace. By its very definition provided in holy Scripture, that would nullify grace. Grace is granted to fallen sinners by His mercy alone, not by foreseen favor or merit in sinful man. In Ephesians 2:8-9, we read Paul’s explanation and I can’t provide a better explanation in my own words. He writes, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, [9] not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (ESV).

Much debate has ensued over these two verses. Is faith or grace God’s gift? It could be argued that faith is God’s gift because that’s what Paul seems to suggest as he speaks about repentance as being a gift of God in another letter to Timothy (2 Tim. 2:25). We would readily admit that grace – the salvation of our soul and the forgiveness of sins is indeed a gift of God, but what about faith? Is faith something we have at our disposal and is it something that is capable of being employed by our human will? According to God’s Word, the fall of man had devastating results upon humanity. Human depravity has affected the totality of humanity. Not only do we have the stain of sin upon our soul, but we have its effects upon our mind, will, and body. We have no ability to raise our spiritually dead soul from its spiritual grave (Eph. 2:1-10). That is a work of God. We are born from above – not from the power of our will or because of the dignity of our works (John 1:11-13). Therefore, I would argue that the totality of grace – faith, repentance, and grace are all gifts from God.

Now that we know the answer, how should this affect the way we view non-Christians?

Buice: First of all, we can’t expect non-Christians to behave like children of God. The Bible, in vivid detail, portrays unbelievers as sons of disobedience (Eph. 2:2), children of wrath (Eph. 2:3), lovers of darkness (John 3:19), filled with unrighteousness, covetousness, malicious intent, full of envy, murderous desires, filled with strife, gossiping tongues, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, inventers of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, and ruthless (Rom. 1:28-32).

While we can be involved in politics and accomplish many good things as William Wilberforce and others from church history have taught us, we must be fully committed to gospel ministry that targets the hearts of God-hating rebels. It’s only through the power of the gospel that rogue sinners will be changed from lovers of darkness to children of light (Eph. 5:8; 1 Thess. 5:5).

Secondly, we must not show hatred toward non-Christians. Our default position should be love and a desire to see them come to faith in Jesus Christ. I’m not worried that the agenda of “tolerance” will plague the church as much as I fear the church tolerating a lack of commitment for missions. The Great Commission should lead us to pray for unbelievers. Through prayer, God will break our hearts for people who need to be reconciled to God through Jesus Christ. According to JoshuaProject.net, out of 7.2 billion people on planet earth, approximately 42% of the world is unreached with the gospel. God has saved us and commissioned us with the message of reconciliation. We must go and share this message – from the neighborhoods to the nations.

DBG Spotlight (8-26-15)

DBG Spotlight (8-26-15)

Yesterday, the 8th Planned Parenthood video has been released.  Once again, the issues are clearly presented.  The organization that receives 50 million dollars from the United States government annually is guilty of murdering little unborn babies and selling their body parts.  It’s time that we respond in this nation.  Our response should be to outlaw the barbarous act of baby murder.

The 8th Planned Parenthood Video + A Prayer at the Protest, and Counsel for Healing from an Abortion – Justin Taylor has a packed post on the Planned Parenthood scandal and abortion issue.  First he provides an overview of the latest video regarding the Planned Parenthood debacle.  Next, he posts some words from John Piper regarding the protests.  In addition, David Powlison talks about how to work through the shame and guilt of an abortion and seek healing.

Trichotomy: A Beachhead For Gnostic Influences – While working through some questions for our upcoming pastoral staff Q&A, I ran across this article by Kim Riddlebarger on the issue of Trichotomy vs. Dichotomy.  I don’t agree with every point in this article, but it was quite helpful as I worked through the issues.

Zambian Reformed Conference  – This week the 26th annual Zambian Reformed Conference is being held in Zambia, Africa at the Lusaka Baptist Church.  Preaching in the conference is Joel Beeke, Steven Lawson, Voddie Baucham, Conrad Mbewe and others.  If you would like to listen to the sermons, you can find them on the Lusaka Baptist Church website.

Should Women Wear Head Coverings? – Benjamin L. Merkle describes the cultural implications and theological implications related to women wearing head coverings.  He writes, “But Paul’s argument from creation in 1 Corinthians 11:8–9 is not directly given to mandate women must wear head coverings. Rather, his argument from creation explains how man is the image and glory of God, and how the woman is the glory of man. Christian women are not required to wear head coverings today when praying, since the symbol of a woman’s head being covered is different today than it was during the time of Paul (at least in many cultures). Consequently, Paul’s argument from creation is only indirectly linked to the need for head coverings.”

The Radical Christian

The Radical Christian

To many people in a certain circle of Christianity, the term “radical” has become a normal adjective to describe a movement of zealous Christ followers.  In fact, it has become very much associated with David Platt (see his ministry Radical.net) and his passionate heart for missions.  I remember reading Radical soon after it was published, and it had a definite affect upon me.  It caused me to evaluate the waste in my life as it pertains to both home and global missions.  David Platt now leads the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.

As I’ve spent several years contemplating, studying, and evaluating this subject, I’ve come to believe that all radical Christianity should be considered normal Christianity.  To follow Christ is not a normal thing in the eyes of the world.  To the world, Jesus Christ is offensive.  To the Jews He is a stumbling block and to the Greeks Jesus is foolishness (1 Cor. 1:23).  To take up a cross and follow Christ is abnormal (Luke 9:23).  To deny self is to swim up stream in our present culture.  To love your enemies is a strange thing (Matt. 5:44).  In order to become a radical Christian, you don’t have to sell your home and move to the jungles of South America and live in a hut for the rest of your life as you labor to reach unreached tribes with the gospel.  It’s quite possible to be a radical Christian as a mail carrier or a mechanic in a small town in the heart of America.  In short, radical Christianity should be considered normal, but it isn’t.

Radical Christian or “Normal” Christian?

As a Christian pastor, I’ve had the opportunity to witness the conversion of many different people.  From housewives to homosexuals, I’ve seen Christ transform people’s lives.  I’ve watched some people continue in their normal day-to-day jobs, but in the case of some, I’ve witnessed them move away to seminary in order to train for the ministry.  Which one is radical and which one is normal?

Perhaps it depends on who you ask.  Some people view radical Christianity only a small sect of sacrificial people who are willing to give it all away for the sake of God’s name among the nations.  But, what about God’s name in the hearts of the young children who are being homeschooled by the stay-at-home mother?  What about the man who works in the factory?  What about the influence of Christian teachers in the public schools?  Can they be radical Christians too?

I think it’s quite possible to be a radical Christian – no matter what circumstance or geographic location you find yourself in.  It’s about a commitment to see Christ exalted among the nations – starting where you are and working outward from there to spread the gospel around the world.  Not everyone is called to Africa or South America, but every Christian is called to follow Christ.  To follow Christ, to take His Word seriously, to pattern your life after Christ, to love the church, and to spread His gospel to unbelievers is to be a normal Christian.  Strangely enough, within the evangelical circles, normal Christianity is not considered radical, but in the eyes of the world what we consider normal is very much radical.

Follow the Language

In the world of politics, the politicians have an extremely difficult time dancing around certain issues.  In American politics, one dance that’s very popular right now and has become increasingly popular since September 11th, 2001 is the dance of Islam.  If you listen to politicians talk about Islam and terrorism, they often try to separate the two from one another.  In fact, they do this by talking about Islam verses “radical” Islam.  What the politician isn’t willing to do is make the obvious connection from the Qur’an to the terrorism of jihad.  So, they talk about Islam and radical Islam.  This is the typical safe route for the world of politics, but normal Islam is what we often refer to as radicalized Islamic terrorism – right?

As our American culture continues to become more secular each passing day, listen to the language of politicians closely.  It will not be long before we will start to hear certain politicians make a distinction between Christianity and radical Christianity.  The Christians who support the right for women to abort their unborn child under the banner of women’s rights will soon be labeled “normal” Christianity while those who assemble at Planned Parenthood protests will be denigrated as radical Christianity.  It will not be long before we hear politicians and ordinary citizens using the term radical Christianity to describe those who oppose abortion, homosexuality, and various other sins that have become nothing more than normal choices in our secular culture.  It will not be long before a factory worker in the heart of America is termed a radical Christian simply because he’s complementarian and has a bumper sticker on his truck that reads, “Abortion is Murder.”

Is it really radical Christianity to attend a protest to end baby murder in America?  Should it be considered radical Christianity to oppose sexual immorality and the redefining of marriage?  Follow the language and listen closely to the politicians.  What will soon be called radical Christianity by our culture is nothing more than real, genuine, normal Christianity.  Don’t strive to be radical – strive to be a normal follower of Christ.  Soon enough, the world will see us as radical.

The People of Heaven

The People of Heaven

Have you heard someone talking about heaven recently?  Perhaps you’ve overheard someone talking about sprouting wings and playing golden harps while riding around on a fleecy white cloud.  I do hope that you’re not like me as an unconverted boy.  I would sit in worship service with my parents and contemplate heaven.  In my small unconverted mind, I thought it would be endless rows of pews, dusty hymnals, and a long winded preacher who never stopped preaching.  I was guilty of thinking small thoughts about heaven.  What about you?  Do you think heaven will be a boring place?

Last night I had the opportunity to preach from Revelation 21:5-8 as we’re working our way through Revelation 21-22 in a series on heaven.  The subject last night was the people of heaven.  Who exactly will be in heaven?  Once again, when you hear of people dying, the first thing you hear after the announcement is typically by friends and family members of the deceased individual claiming that they are in heaven with God.  It doesn’t matter if they’ve lived a life of rebellion and had zero time for God – when they die – their friends and family announce with certainty that the person is in heaven.

The People of Heaven

As John is given this glimpse into the miraculous scene of the future glory, he is told to write down the words because they are faithful and true.  Our God is a truth telling God and His Word is always true.  What a comforting thought that must have been to John who was suffering exile on Patmos for his commitment to the Word of God.  As he examines the scene, two specific people are mentioned.

The Thirsty

God promises those who are thirsty that they will be able to drink from the spring of the water of life – without payment.  Specifically, those who are thirsty for God will drink of this eternal spring.  They have thirsted for God and it will be God who provides them with nourishment – undefiled and never ending.  The payment has already been made through the blood of Jesus Christ.  Heaven will be the home of those who thirst after God.  Listen to the way the Psalmist described his thirst for God in Psalm 42:2 – “My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?”

The Conquerors

Another reference is made to the people of heaven and this time, the reference to conqueror is used.  Those who conquer will receive the heritage of heaven.  To be clear, they will receive the joint inheritance of Jesus Christ.  How do we conquer or overcome?  This verb – conquered – often translated “overcome” is the word, νικάω – “Nikao” which means – “to carry off the victory.” How do we overcome sin?  How do we overcome Satan?  How do we overcome death?  Only in Jesus Christ (Romans 8:31-39; specifically Romans 8:37).  Listen to the way Jesus is described as the conqueror in Revelation 5:1-5:

Then I saw in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals. [2] And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” [3] And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, [4] and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. [5] And one of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.”

The Warning to the Rebels

In a sobering turn, the apostle is commanded to write down a warning to those who will not be in heaven.  Heaven is the dwelling place of God and God’s people will one day live with Him.  As we looked at Revelation 21:1-4 last week, it’s clear that death, weeping, sadness, and pain will be no more.  The evils of this world will not enter the holy city of God.  Notice the list, which isn’t an exhaustive list, that’s given to John in Revelation 21:8.

But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.

Faith in Jesus Christ is necessary to have a home in heaven.  People who are detestable (abominable) will have no access to God’s holy city – the new Jerusalem.  Murderers will be banned from the city.  No more baby murderers in heaven.  Planned Parenthood will not be welcome there.  Those who practice sexual immorality will not be allowed to enter heaven.  Sorcerers and those who engage in such ungodly rebellion will be banned from heaven.  Idolaters will have no part in the holy city of God.  All liars will receive the judgment of God rather than the mercy of God – and they will not inherit the Kingdom of God.

The final statement of this concluding verse states, “their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”  This is a sobering reminder that hell is real and it’s reserved for the rebel who rejects God and refuses to submit to His authority.

Imagine the beauty and joy of heaven.  We will see new colors, taste new food, hear new sounds, experience new thrills, build new relationships, and most importantly – we will see God!  In God’s holy city, our joy will never end.  Our joy will continue to expand and multiply for all of eternity.  We will never get tired of God, nor will heaven be a stale old boring place.  All of the experiences of heaven will be full of joy, and we’re reminded that nothing impure will be there.  Sam Storms describes heaven by saying it will have:

Nothing that is abrasive, irritating, agitating, or hurtful. Nothing harmful, hateful, upsetting or unkind. Nothing, sad, bad, or mad. Nothing harsh, impatient, ungrateful or unworthy. Nothing weak, or sick, or broken or foolish. Nothing deformed, degenerate, depraved or disgusting.

 Nothing polluted, pathetic, poor or putrid. Nothing dark, dismal, dismaying or degrading. Nothing blameworthy, blemished, blasphemous or blighted. Nothing faulty, faithless, frail or fading. Nothing grotesque or grievous, hideous or insidious. Nothing illicit or illegal, lascivious or lustful. Nothing marred or mutilated, misaligned or misinformed. Nothing nasty or naughty, offensive or odious. Nothing rancid or rude, soiled or spoiled. Nothing tawdry or tainted, tasteless or tempting. Nothing vile or vicious, wasteful or wanton! [1]

What a wonderful thing we as the children of God have to look forward to.  Think big thoughts about heaven!

1.  Joy’s Eternal Increase: Edwards on the Beauty of Heaven

DBG Spotlight (8-21-15)

DBG Spotlight (8-21-15)

Two days ago, the seventh video in the ongoing Planned Parenthood debacle was been released.  Justin Taylor provides a good summary on his blog.

When ‘Discernment’ Leads to Disaster – Albert Mohler describes the compromise of First Baptist Church of Greenville, South Carolina.  Not only is this an historic Greenville church, but it’s history is connected to the beginning of the Southern Baptist Convention and the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

The Real Issue About Roman Catholicism – James White, in a video published over three years ago, does a good job of explaining that the error of the Catholic Church is their addition to the gospel – not the denial of the deity of Christ or major mistakes of other cult groups.

What are we to Make of Donald Trump? [HT: Challies] – Tom Ascol writes, “I don’t know if a President Trump would be good for the country. But candidate Trump is already providing some benefit to the political process.”

Tolkien, Lewis and the Blessing of a Messy Desk – After Michael Kruger’s wife exposed his messy desk through a pic sent out on Twitter, he took to his blog to defend himself.