Sunday, July 25, 2010

Welcome Brother Matt!

This morning I was blessed to publicly announce what we believe is God's call on the life of Brother Matt Rodgers to join our pastoral staff as our new children's pastor.  Matt is no stranger to EBC.  He was raised here, saved here, baptized here, and called to the ministry here.  He met his wife Jif here at EBC.

After leaving EBC for vocational ministry, Matt served as the youth pastor at Patterson Baptist Church for several years.  For the last 5+ years he has been the minister of youth and children at Jefferson Street Baptist Church in Dublin, GA.  As Matt prepares to come preach in view of our church's affirmation, let me share a few reasons I am so excited.

1.  Matt loves Jesus.

I sense a love for Christ every time I get around Matt.  He is a man of honesty, transparency, and integrity.  Those traits are all born out of a vibrant relationship with the Lord Jesus.

2.  Matt loves his wife.

OK, the Ridgeway clan is the best thing to ever happen to Rhon and Matt.  They both (like their pastor) married up!  Of course those girls didn't do too bad either :)  But in these days of immorality running rampant, it's nice to have a guy who still gets watery eyes when he talks about his beloved bride.

3.  Matt loves his kids.

I confess I am partial toward adoptive parents...especially those who got a "blessed surprise" after they adopted.  I can hardly wait to really get to know Matthew and Grayson.

4.  Matt loves the Bible.

He understands that the only thing that will make a lasting difference in the lives of our children and their families is to be saturated in the Word of God.  There will be plenty of room for "play time" in children's ministry but only subordinate to the declaration, memorization, and application of the Bible.

5.  Matt loves our staff.

One benefit of calling a "home-grown" staff member is that we already know, love, and respect each other.  Our staff enjoys wonderful relationships together and Matt will be a welcome addition to our team.  We've already enjoyed some really sweet fellowship together and I look forward to much more.

6.  Matt loves the church.

How could a person not have a special place for the church where they were saved, baptized, and called to the ministry?  But Matt not only loves our church.  He loves the church.  He loves the organized, visible, tangible expression of the work of God in the world today.

7.  Matt loves the gospel.

Much of what is labeled as "children's ministry" is nothing more or less than the sounding of a strange trumpet.  What our kids need is to be taught that they are sinners apart from God and they must repent and believe.  Not merely raise a hand, pray a prayer, and walk an aisle.

For these reasons and many more, I am thrilled that Matt accepted the leadership's invitation to join our pastoral staff.  We will seek the church's affirmation immediately following the evening service on August 1st.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Doctrine of Separation

2 Corinthians 6:17 - "Come out from among them and be separate. And touch not the unclean thing and I will welcome you."

Tuesday night I preached on the doctrine of separation at the South Georgia Bible Conference.  As part of the sermon from 2 Corinthians 6:17, I mentioned 5 questions that believers can ask the Holy Spirit in order to address the issue of separation.  This post is not an attempt to address that doctrine.  I took a whole sermon to do that.  I merely want to list the questions I gave in that sermon with brief commentary.

1.  Does it violate the Bible?

This seems so basic.  But the bottom line is that violation of a clear command of Scripture is never a matter of Christian liberty.  The Holy Spirit does not have to convict you about lying, stealing, promiscuity, immodesty, etc. in order for these actions (and many others) to be sinful things from which a believer ought to separate.  A great deal of things that some Christians seem to think are matters of "conviction" are really matter of old-fashioned "obedience."

For example, going to see a movie that is filled with vulgarities, lewdness, and sexuality is not relegated to a matter of conviction.  The Scripture forbids it.

2.  Does it harm my body?

We could go off the deep end here because most foods can have a harmful effect in excess.  And gluttony indeed is a sin.  But as God gives us some common sense and simple wisdom, we should ask, "Does this practice work primarily for the harm of my body?" (drugs, alcohol, etc.)

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 teaches us that our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit so we are to glorify God with our physical bodies.

3.  Does it offend my brother?

Christian liberty ends where my weaker brother's offense begins.  It should be noted that the offense referenced in the Scripture belongs to a weaker brother, not an overly-legalistic, mature brother.  In other words, I am to be more concerned about the sentiment of a new Christian than a fellow pastor.  Both are important.  One is just more important than the other on this point.

4.  Does it lead to bondage?

Many practices are addictive and controlling in nature.  Paul said he would be "mastered by nothing." 

5.  Does it result in blessing?

In short, can I give God glory for it?  If not, I should separate from it.  I am commanded to do all things to the glory of God.  If I cannot stand in the presence of the Lord and say, "Lord, I bless and honor you for _________" then I should consider that practice as an unworthy one.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

South Georgia Bible Conference

It was an honor to be invited to preach at the South Georgia Bible Conference in Valdosta.  Please be in prayer for me and the other preachers as we finalize preparations for our messages.  Of all the places I preach other than Emmanuel, none is any more humbling to me than Morningside in Valdosta.

First, because I love their pastor.  Dr. Robertson is completing his 25th year as senior pastor of that great church.  He is a hero of mine in every respect.

Secondly, because I love this dear church.  In some churches where I go as a guest I feel like Paul preaching at Corinth.  I have to put my sermon in a spiritual blender so they can wash it down slowly.  Morningside, however, is a church that has a corporate appetite for the meat of the word.

Thirdly, because I have a great love for the other men on this program.  While Dr. Cathey's health will not allow him to attend this year, I am still humbled to preach alongside some great men of God.  I am not only taking my sermons but I am also taking a blank notebook.  It is going to be good to sit under the teaching of these wonderful Bible preachers.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Unpardonable Sin...What is it (not)?

This morning I preached a message on the "unpardonable sin" in Matthew 12:32.  Because of the breadth and depth of false teaching on this subject, I intentionally spent a lot of time discussing what the unpardonable sin is NOT.  Since I went over them pretty quickly, a few people asked for this list tonight.  Here they are in the form of true statements designed to thrash oft-repeated fallacies.

1. A saved person cannot commit this sin.

If you are worried that you’ve committed it, you haven’t.  The person who has committed this sin can never be forgiven.  It is impossible, by definition, for an eternally-forgiven, eternally-secure person to commit a sin for which there is no forgiveness.

John 5:24 – “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life and does not come into judgment but has passed out of death into life.”

Here Jesus teaches 3 tenses of salvation.  As a believer, I have passed (past tense) from death into life.  I have (present tense) eternal life.  And I will not come (future tense) into judgment.

If you do not believe in eternal security, you will stay confused about many facets of the unpardonable sin.  The purpose of this post is not to teach that glorious Bible doctrine but the fact is, an eternally secure believer cannot commit the unpardonable sin.

2.  It is not teaching against charismatic doctrine.

Several people have accused me of having committed the unpardonable sin because of my teaching regarding speaking in tongues and being "slain in the Spirit."

First, I have never preached against tongues. I’ve merely said that what we see today IS NOT TONGUES. Secondly, even if I were wrong, the unpardonable sin is not a sin of ignorance.  It is not a sin committed by a mistaken interpretation of Scripture.  It is an eyes-wide-open sin committed in the face of a full revelation of light.

3.  It is not “dying lost.”

I've heard this one most of my life in various places.  Those who teach this limit the unpardonable sin to an act that is not ultimately committed until a person dies.  But think about it…a dead person cannot sin!

Dr. John R. Rice in his book, Crossing the Deadline writes, “All who die unconverted do cross the deadline. God’s Holy Spirit does cease to call. Such sinners are forever past repentance. So what happens to millions at death may happen to some before death.”

Jesus, however, is describing a sin committed by those who are VERY MUCH ALIVE. Though they may live another 100 years, the Spirit of God will never again deal with them about their sin, they will never feel the tug to salvation, and they are as destined for hell as if they were already there.

4.  It is not “merely” resisting or rejecting Christ.

Granted, all Christ-rejecters will die lost unless the Spirit of God enlightens their eyes and they repent before death.  But if "rejecting Christ" or "resisting Christ" was unpardonable then the only people ever saved would be those who respond the FIRST time they are convicted of sin.

This notion is also based on the false belief that everyone is going to heaven except those who reject Christ.  The Bible teaches exactly the opposite.  As sinners, we are all under the just condemnation of heaven.  Everyone is destined for and deserving of hell except those who receive Christ, not the other way around.

5.  It is not adultery.

Adultery is a terrible and horrible sin.  But, simply put, there is no such sin as “perpetual adultery.”

1 Corinthians 6:9-11 (in part) – “Adulterers will (not) inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you; but you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.”

Sorry to bother some readers, but if an adulterer has repented, he no longer has "2 wives."  Your grandma may have taught you that but the Bible does not.  There's no way to have "2 wives" without being an adulterer and the text above clearly teaches it's possible to be a FORMER adulterer.

King David, the woman at the well, and the "woman caught in adultery" could sing in 3-part harmony that there is "grace that is greater than all my sin."

6.  It is not murder.

David was a man after God’s own heart.  Yet he was a murderer.

Paul was complicit in Stephen’s death.  He described himself as a violent aggressor.  He goes on to tell Timothy (1 Timothy 1) that as the worst of all sinners, his salvation was an example that Christ would save anyone...even a murderer.

7. It is not suicide.

This thought is based on the false belief that you can lose salvation.  Presumably, a person who kills himself (at least by an instantaneous method) committed a sin without time to repent.

But a person's destiny in eternity is not determined by how they died but by what they did in response to the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Interestingly, those who teach that taking your own life is an unpardonable sin do not often think about the sin of gluttony.  Many overweight and unhealthy preachers are killing themselves one porkchop at a time.

8.  It is not sexual perversion.

We live in a sex-crazed and sex-saturated world.  But the truth of the Bible is:

1 Corinthians 6:9-11 – “Neither fornicators…nor adulterers…nor effeminate…will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you; but you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.”

The word effeminate = perverted = twisted.

I admit that if I were the Lord, crimes against innocent children might be unforgivable.  But thankfully, I am not the Lord.  He promises forgiveness for even the most heinous of all perversions.  Those trapped in bondage to sexual perversion can repent of their sins and discover the truth of the great old hymn,

There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Emmanuel's veins and sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains.  The dying thief rejoiced to see that fountain in his day.  And there may I, though vile as he, wash all my sins away!

9.  It is not profanity.

Admittedly, I cannot stand filthy talk.  And specifically, It makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck when people take God’s name in vain.

Those who teach that the unpardonable sin is profanity typically draw from Christ's use of the word "speak" when describing this blasphemy.  But the root of the sin is in the heart, not the mouth.  See Matthew 12:25.

1 Corinthians 6:9-11 (in part) – “Revilers will (not) inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you; but you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.”

Several reliable commentators point out the the word "revilers" references people with filthy language.  They revile with their speech.

People often take the name of God the Father in vain.
People often take the name of God the Son in vain.
But I’ve never heard anyone take the name of the Spirit in vain as a curse word.

10.  It is not homosexuality

No sin in history has pushed and demanded more acceptance by the culture and the church than the sin of sodomy.

1 Corinthians 6:9-11 (in part) – “Homosexuals will (not) inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you; but you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.”

In addition to reaffirming the sinful nature of homosexual relationships, this verse also teaches that it is gloriously and graciously possible to be a former homosexual.  One of the biggest lies that Satan whispers to people trapped in this lifestyle is "God made you this way.  Don't deny your own nature.  Be at peace with who you are as a homosexual because it can't be changed."  This text unequivocally teaches that there is freedom, liberty, and release from the bondage of this sinful life...and such were some of you!

Through the years many members of our own church have expressed their repentant spirit over this sin and they would each testify that they have found their pastor to be filled with mercy and grace. But my compassion and grace could never begin to compare to the mercy received from the Lord Jesus!

For these sins and all others except blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, there is free and full forgiveness to all who will repent.

Friday, July 2, 2010

For the Record...My Published Quote on the GCR

I was grateful to be contacted by Dr. Gerald Harris, editor of The Christian Index for a brief quote on the passage of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force Recommendations by the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Orlando last month.  Dr. Harris is a dear friend, mentor, and eloquent statesman among Georgia and Southern Baptists.  It was my joy to fulfill his request.

The text of my quote was simple:

"The invoking of God’s name, the misuse of His Word, and the presumption of His will on an organizational matter (the GCR vote) was incredibly over-the-top. I pray that I never use God’s Word to tell my members that their vote either for or against an extra-biblical structural change in our church is an indication of their faithfulness to Christ or their commitment to the Great Commission."

For the record, I believe this occurred on BOTH sides of the GCR.  That's why I stated, "either for or against."  It occurred publicly at the podium and privately in the hushed conversations of the hallway.  Frankly, I have less patience for the private, off-the-record, if-you-repeat-this-I'll-deny-it approach that many Baptist leaders take.  I can at least respect those (for and against) who will stand flat-footed and publicly state their position.

My quote was specifically directed toward those comments that presumed the mind and will of God.  For example, God is in favor of the Great Commission.  No question.  We've got Bible on that.  Would God have voted in favor of the GCR?  Would God have voted against it?  It is prideful and presumptuous to say either way.

I don't think those who voted for the GCRTF report are reckless men and women who do not appreciate the past or who have some sinister motive for denominational advancement.  Are you kidding me?  The leaders of the task force (beginning with President Johnny Hunt) are people of character, integrity, and faith.  And frankly, the members have accomplished quite a bit without the SBC.  To assume they are seeking self-advancement is ludicrous, unwarranted, and frankly, sinful.  To whisper, "I wonder what so-and-so was offered for his vote?" is a violation of the law of love and the prohibition against sinful judgements.  Besides that, if you really have that question, why don't you go ask the man, "Did they offer you a job for your support?"  That will hardly ever happen in the SBC.

I don't think those who voted against the GCRTF report are denominational dead-weights who favor "bloated bureaucracy" or "declining baptisms."  It is possible they are God-loving, Bible-believing brothers and sisters who simply think it is a misstep from an organizational perspective.  Maybe...just maybe...they have not made a god out of the CP and are not more concerned about funding Nashville than populating heaven.  Maybe...just maybe.

Having said that, my concern (and the essence of my quote as published in THE INDEX) is the invocation of God's name to support one's position.  Good and godly brothers and sisters can simply disagree on this matter.  If I were asked to find a text that said, "God is in favor of the GCR report" I could not find it.  It is not there.  If I were asked to find a text that said, "The report is a violation of God's will" I could not find it either.  It's simply not there.

My quote is, at its core, a call for humility.  This is what we believe will help us accomplish the Lord's work.  We could be wrong.  But it's the collective effort of good and godly men and women.

Neither a vote FOR or AGAINST this organizational change was obedience to a Divinely-inspired mandate.