Sunday, October 7, 2012

The Implications of a Mutable God

Today in our sermon series on the attributes of God, I preached on the immutability of Christ.  That is, the Biblical doctrine that God never changes.  And more specifically, God not only does not change, God, by His very nature, cannot change.

Part of our study today introduced the church family to what is called "Process Theology."  In simple terms, this includes the notion that God Himself is in the process (hence, the name) of evolving and adapting to cultural trends and wishes.  Process theology is the philosophical mother of "liberation theology" which characterizes the preaching/teaching ministries of many liberal "reverends" like Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and Jeremiah Wright.

I illustrated this theological fallacy by highlighting several of its modern day manifestations.  I've taken the time to transcribe some of my comments for my blog readers.  I will simply call this, "The Implications of a Mutable God."

God used to be against homosexuality but that’s because He adapted to the bigoted culture of Abraham’s day. Today, He understands gay marriage is a civil rights issue and as NT believers we should be careful to “judge not lest we be judged.”

He used to be against adultery but that’s because He was a Puritan even before the Puritans came along. He had adapted to the patriarchal male-chauvinist views of Nathan’s day when the prophet confronted the King. Today, however, He gives peace to people who are breaking their vows because He wants you to be happy above all else.

He used to be in favor of justified righteous war but that’s only because He adapted to the militaristic patriotism of David’s day. But at some point since He commanded the military destruction of Damascus, Gaza, Tyre, Edom, Ammon, Moab, and others God has burned His draft card in protest to the military buildup of nations. (Please note that the use of the phrase, "justified righteous wars" implies the existence of unjustified and unrighteous wars as well).

Yes, it’s true that in New Testament times God understood the distinction between the call of individuals to turn the other cheek and the rights of and responsibilities of governments to enact justice and retribution with the sword, but since the writings of Peter and Paul, God has continued to mellow in His views on war. God is now more comfortable at a rally or a 9-11 conspiracy conference.

God used to be in favor of governments enacting the death penalty but that’s because He adapted to the totalitarianism of Moses’ day. But God no longer sees the distinction between individual vigilantes and ordained governments. He’s come of age and now favors life without parole, even for serial rapists and murderers.

God used to be opposed to premarital sex. But that was before the sexual revolution of the 1960’s and 1970’s. God read the Kinsey Reports and the writings of Masters and Johnson and realized His prohibitions were inhibiting people from being who He had actually created them to be. Faced with this Divine dilemma, God relented and now embraces a Laissez Faire attitude toward human sexuality. “Flee fornication” has become “If it feels good, do it.” Understand, we did not change our views on sexual immorality. God saw the error of His sexually oppressive ways and He changed.

God used to be opposed to killing the unborn. That’s why He destroyed the Ammonites for killing unborn babies. But that was before God read the US Constitution and found a penumbra lurking among the amendments. Now He has been enlightened by modern approaches to Constitutional law. Oh, don't misunderstand...He is still Personally opposed to killing the unborn but wonders if it’s really His place to tell someone else how they should and should not behave and what decisions they ought to make.

God used to be opposed to coarse language and crude humor. But that’s only because the Apostle Paul didn’t like it and God let Paul take the lead in Ephesians 5. But the Lord understands it’s increasingly necessary for preachers to be edgy, cool, and relevant. So He tolerates, and even encourages preachers and church leaders to adapt to the times even if it violates Scriptural prohibitions…those static, outdated and antiquated reminders of who God used to be.
By stark and sobering contrast, Numbers 23:19 says, “God is not a man that He should lie nor the son of a man that He should repent.”

If He was against it before, He’s still against it now.
If He was for it before, He’s still for it.
He has to be.
He does not and cannot change.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Defender...Oh, Yes He Is!

Defender from ebchurch on Vimeo.

One of my favorite songs from my favorite choir...and not a bad group for a Sunday night service considering "people won't come back to church on Sunday nights anymore." :)

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Monday Nights Live @ FBC Indian Trail

I am honored to be speaking at First Baptist Church of Indian Trail, NC in just a few days.  FBCIT is just outside Charlotte, NC and is absolutely one of the greatest and most vibrant fellowships in the nation.  Pastor Mike Whitson is a humble man of God who has lovingly led this congregation for many years.

Looking at the lineup, however, I feel like a mule at the Kentucky Derby.  Brother Jeff LaBorg might well be the finest preacher in the SBC.  Brother Tommy Steele is just simply a preaching machine!  And my church family knows of my deep love for Brother Herb Reavis and Brother Phil Hoskins.

I have had the blessing to preach at FBCIT a few times already and I am really looking forward to being back.  Our ministry has a lot of friends and online viewers in the Charlotte area.  If you're able to come on August 6th, I'd love to see you there!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

No Other Name

No Other Name from ebchurch on Vimeo.

Our Scripture memory emphasis continues at EBC.  I was grateful to preach on this wonderful verse from the book of Acts on June 3rd, 2012.  We pray it's a blessing and an encouragement to you.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Grace: Before and After

I didn't feel very good the day I preached this message.  Nevertheless, I really enjoyed preaching this text which gives God's view of salvation from Ephesians 2.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Andy Stanley's "When Gracie Met Truthy"

Here's the full 11-minute video I showed tonight during our mid-week Bible study.  It's from Andy's sermon "When Gracie Met Truthy."

Summertime is for Worship

In the midst of all the summer vacations and family get-a-ways I pray that your house stays connected to the things of the faith this summer.  Here are a few pastoral suggestions to help you make your summer full of both fun and faith:

1. Attend worship services while you are out of town. Often times a family goes on vacation and misses the Sundays on both ends of their vacation week. This is an understandable way to stretch those precious family days. But if the vacationing family skips church while out of town, they’ve missed 2 weeks of corporate worship in a row. This provides a poor spiritual example for your children and establishes the dangerous habit of forsaking the assembly of God’s people.

Last year on summer vacation our family attended First Baptist Church of Fernandina Beach and in the fall we went to First Baptist Church of Ellijay. Not only were we blessed by the wonderful music and messages, but it taught our children some invaluable lessons. From Orlando to Sevierville, I know great churches in lots of prime vacation spots. Let me know if you need a suggestion.

2. Be in your place of service at EBC while you are in town. Summer is full of blessings but it is also filled with distractions. When you are in town, be sure to keep your commitment to Emmanuel. We will still be in need of ushers, greeters, SS teachers, choir members, nursery workers, etc. Lost people will still be dying without Christ in June, July, and August. Since you will be gone a lot, make sure you are serving faithfully when you are at home.

3. Enjoy the time with your family. Don’t feel guilty about taking well-deserved time away with your family. They won’t be around forever! Investing into your children’s lives and your spouse’s life is a Biblical thing. Don’t take it for granted. In a few weeks I intend to do some Biblical parenting…making sand castles with Sarah on Amelia Island, watching Andrew cannonball off the diving board at the pool, and collecting seashells with Michaela!

June marks 10 years I’ve been your pastor. They’ve been 120 of the most blessed months of my life. I intend to celebrate by being here 9 out of 10 Sundays this summer. I hope to see you here!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Dead is Dead

No sir, I will not recant. In fact, I shall say it yet again. There are no degrees of deadness.

Dead is dead. Jairus' daughter was still warm and her face was flush with the very fever that had only recently taken her young life. An ignorant passerby might have reckoned her to be sleeping. But she was dead just the same.

The widow's son was deathly cold. His skin was pale with a green hue, blackness had set in around his eye sockets, and his blue lips would betray any false claim to life. He was dead, but no more or less so than the 12 year old girl. The people of Nain wept with his mother and were rightly carrying his body to the sepulchre.

And Lazarus, by now he stinks. Dead for four days, the worm of corruption had begun to gnaw away at his jawbone and the maggot of death was leaving a foul stench in the wake of its gruesome meal. And although the gases of decomposition made his earthly remains a gruesome sight to behold, he was no more or less dead than the beautiful warm damsel lying in her room while the mourners broke the news to her mother.

Dead is dead. Though it manifests itself in varying ways and to different degrees, dead is dead. The warm respectable corpse and the cold skeletal remains are equally dead. And so it is with the unredeemed. Dead is dead.

You sir, in the pew without Christ, seated in your suit piously singing the songs of Zion, you sir, are dead without the touch of grace. And you, ma'm, in the corner of the choir loft, unregenerated and dabbling in sin, secret sins, little-known sins, thought to be dead only by those who know you best, you ma'm are dead to God. And you, grandpa, stumbling from the tavern into the street, unconverted and unmistakably undone, you sir, are very much alive to sin but very much dead to God.

And though the clutch of death manifests his icy grip differently, all are as dead as the subject of last month's obituary.

Dead, dear sir, is dead.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

I thoroughly enjoy preaching through books of the Bible.  It is by far my favorite type of preaching/teaching.  I have recently finished a year-long study of Mark's gospel.  Taking 48 lessons, we went straight through this fast-paced gospel account.  The only parts we skipped were passages I'd recently preached before the series began.

On Wednesday nights I am actually in the process of repeating a series through Jude.  Originally presented in 2007, "Contenders" deals with our commandment to earnestly contend for the faith (Jude 3).  This 9-part series will be taught almost verbatim from its 2007 form.  That's because few things change when it comes to heresy and apostasy.

On Sunday mornings, I am about to begin a thematic series called, "Bad Boys of the Bible."  While each sermon will be an exposition of a text, the common thread is topical in nature.  The characters dealt with in this series are all men who made major spiritual errors in their life.  Titles will include:

Amnon Had a Friend (Amnon and Jonadab)
The Playboy's Payday (Samson)
The Way of Cain (Cain and Abel)
The Family Feud (Jacob and Esau)
Sin in the Camp (Achan)
Thou Art the Man (David)
Three's a Crowd (Lamech)
The First Shriner (Micah)

There may be a few additional sermons in this series.  But I think it will be a compelling and cautionary look at the lives of men who failed the Lord in profound ways.

It's been said that a fool will not learn from his mistakes, a smart man will learn from his mistakes, and a wise man will learn from someone else's mistakes.  Many of the men in this series genuinely loved the Lord.  But they allowed sin to mar their reputation and sully their names.  I pray we can all learn from their mistakes lest we make them ourselves.

I am looking forward to this series of messages.  I pray my EBC family will be present for each and every one.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Jesus from Cover to Cover

This morning in our sermon called, "Jesus is God: Always Was and Always Will Be" I shared a long narrative about the appearances, types, and a symbols of Christ throughout the Bible.  There are several similar poems that are available.  Since many have asked, here's the one that I shared.

Genesis – He is Adam's covering, Noah's ark, Abraham's ram, and Jacob's ladder
Exodus – The Blood of the Passover lamb
Leviticus – High Priest
Numbers – Pillar of Cloud by Day and Fire by night
Deuteronomy – The great Law-Giver and the city of our refuge

Moses wants you to know in the Pentateuch that Jesus is God; always was and always will be.

Joshua – The scarlet thread hanging out Rahab's window
Judges – Eternal judge
Ruth – The kinsman redeemer of His people
1 and 2 Samuel – A trusted prophet of God
1 and 2 Kings – Reigning Sovereign
1 and 2 Chronicles - He is the Lord who heals our land
Ezra – A faithful scribe
Nehemiah – The rebuilder of broken lives
Esther – Mordecai sitting at the gate
Job – My Redeemer that lives forever!

The historical writers want you to know in their section of the Bible that Jesus is God; always was and always will be.

Psalms – My Shepherd, Rock, Fortress, Deliverer, and My Defense
Proverbs – A Strong Tower to which the righteous run for salvation
Ecclesiastes – Our wisdom
Song of Solomon – Lover of the Bride

The writers of the wisdom literature want you to know without question that Jesus is God; always was and always will be.

Isaiah – The Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace
Jeremiah – The balm of Gilead
Lamentations – A weeping prophet for the lost
Ezekiel – The wheel within a wheel
Daniel – The 4th man in the fiery furnace

The major prophets want to testify that Jesus is God; always was and always will be.

Hosea – The Lover of the adulterous bride
Joel – The trumpet blowing in Zion
Amos – Our burden bearer
Obadiah – Our Savior
Jonah – A compassionate world missionary taking the gospel to the lost
Micah – The messenger with beautiful feet
Nahum – The avenger
Habakkuk – The watchman praying for revival
Zephaniah – The Mighty Lord
Haggai – The rebuilder of broken things
Zechariah – The King over the earth
Malachi – The Lord of Hosts, the God who doesn't change, and the Sun of Righteousness

The minor prophets join with the whole of the Old Testament writers to say without equivocation that Jesus is God; always was and always will be.

Matthew – The Christ, the Son of the Living God
Mark – A miracle worker and a suffering servant
Luke – The Son of Man
John – The Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world

The gospel writers want you to shout it out, "Jesus is God; always was and always will be."

Acts – He is the name by which all men must be saved
Romans – Our Justification
1 Corinthians – Our Resurrection
2 Corinthians – Our Sin bearer
Galatians – Our freedom from the law
Ephesians – Our saving grace and our unsearchable riches
Philippians – The name at which every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess
Colossians – The image of the invisible God

Paul keeps on saying that Jesus is God; always was and always will be.

1 and 2 Thessalonians – Our returning King
1 Timothy – The Mediator between holy God and fallen man
2 Timothy – The Lord, coming to judge the living and the dead
Titus – Our blessed hope
Philemon – A Friend that sticks closer than a brother
Hebrews – Our high priest and the Blood of the New Covenant

We don't even know who the writer of Hebrews is but we know what he believed, "Jesus is God; always was and always will be!"

James – The Great Physician healing the sick
1 Peter – The Shepherd and Guardian of the Soul
2 Peter – Our God and Savior
1, 2, 3 John – Eternal life
Jude – The Lord coming with 10,000 saints

And in the Revelation, He is Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End, the one with the keys of David, the One who opens and no man shuts and shuts and no man opens, He is the Bright and Morning Star, and the Lord coming on a white horse...He has a robed dipped in blood, bearing His rightful name King of all Kings and Lord of all Lords!

From Genesis to Revelation, from Moses to John, from cover to cover, the clear and unambiguous testimony of Scripture is this:  Jesus is God.  Always was.  Always will be!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

It is Your Life

Part 1 in our recent series on Christian parenting...perhaps the most passionate preaching of my ministry.

It Is Your Life - 1 from ebchurch on Vimeo.

One Gospel for All People

From Soul-Winning Commitment Sunday 2012

One Gospel For All People from ebchurch on Vimeo.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The New Legalism

"I love you, Jesus!  But watch out for Peter.
I believe he will deny you tonight.
I believe he is not truly saved."  (Mwah!)

The following post originally appeared as a Facebook note on my personal Facebook page on May 16, 2011.  It was inspired by an expository sermon series I am preaching through The Gospel According to Mark.  In Mark 3:19 we are introduced to Judas Iscariot along with the description, "who also betrayed Him."  10 months later, we have arrived at Chapter 14 and the historical record of the betrayal.  My preparation for this sermon, "Counterfeits" reminded me of this little article. 

For the record, I am convinced that most people who live like Lot are in fact "as lost as a ball in high weeds."  This article simply says, it is not our place to individually judge and make declarations about their salvation.  Having reread this piece, I continue to stand firmly by its contents and its cautions.

Last night's closing point was quite simple.  Judas was lost. Lot was saved.  And we are terrible judges.

While preaching on the appointment of the 12 apostles from Mark 3, I noted that Judas was always listed last in every listing of the apostles.  And each of the synoptics lists him as the betrayer or a traitor.  Luke would have also listed him as such in Acts except that fact is borne out in Luke's narrative and is unnecessary in Acts 1.

Judas was a "model disciple" as far as anyone knew except Jesus.  We know of course he was a fraud from the beginning.  He kept his hand in the apostolic cookie jar and was skimming money off the the books...embezzling from the Kingdom's coffers.  In the upper room when Jesus said, "One of you will betray Me" the disciples responded with a chorus of "Is it I?"  No one said, "I've been trying to tell you all that Judas was a counterfeit!"  No one said that because no one believed it.  There was no known, outward, manifest reason to think he was anything other than a devoted Christ-follower.

Contrast this story with the Old Testament character named Lot.  Read his account in Genesis 13-19.  It is a sad and sordid tale.

Disrespectful to Uncle Abram, Lot had an eye for the things of the world.  We find him slouching toward Sodom and ultimately living in and loving this sin-sick city.  His affections for this world and the culture of Sodom are infamous.  He became a leader in the Sodomite government.  He offered two of his virgin daughters to a sexually perverted mob.  Without the grip of grace taking him by the arm, Lot would perhaps have stayed in Sodom as the fire fell.

Finally committed to leave Sodom ahead of the judgment, Lot couldn’t convince his own sons-in-law of the coming wrath of God.  He’d lived a life without credibility before them.  When he told them that the judgment of God was coming they laughed in his face.  After all…who was he to talk to them about God?  They had seen his life.  They knew his ways.  “Judgment of God, Shmudgment of God” they might have said.

Lot escaped from Sodom with nothing but his daughters.  His wife…well, that’s a salty little story of its own.  But Lot had raised those two girls to think like pagans.  So they took advantage of their father’s drunkenness and committed fornication with their inebriated father at Zoar.  Talk about as low as you can get?  Lot fathered his own grandchildren on a drunken bed of incest.

That’s why the inspired New Testament commentary on his life is staggering.

2 Peter 2:7-8 – “And God delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked for that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds.”

Wow!  Lot was saved the whole time.  The Holy Spirit through Simon Peter says he was a “just” and a “righteous man.”  And his justification and imputed righteousness did not come after his encounter in Sodom and Zoar.  He was saved while all this was taking place in his life.

And my point in last night’s sermon was this: Many in our day would have deemed Lot to be a lost church member at best.  Perhaps a hard-hearted apostate.  And we would have declared Judas to be a righteous and Godly man.  And we would have been wrong on both counts.

This kind of preaching and Scriptural observation is not promoting licentiousness or antinomianism.  It is not condoning Lot's behavior in Sodom.  It is not saying that the Christian experience is separate from yielding to the Lordship of Christ.  It is intended to address the brand of judgmentalism prevalent in many corners of the Kingdom.

Some, in a well-intentioned attempt to promote Lordship Salvation push this Biblical truth to an erroneous application.  Namely, “If you don’t do all the things I am doing and acting like I think a believer should act then you must not be saved.  You must be a victim of easy-believism and have clearly embraced a false gospel.”  And that may be true.  In fact, it may be frequently true. Indeed, I might conjecture it is the truth more often than not.  But according to the Bible, it is not necessarily true.

Peter’s second epistle tells us clearly that Lot was saved and lived in Sodom with a vexed soul.  Every night was a sleepless night for Brother Lot as he wrestled with his convicted conscience before God.  We don’t know whether or not Judas slept like a baby.  But Lot did not.

The idea that “He’s not persevering so he must not be saved” is counter to Scripture and may be evidence of spiritual pride.  This mindset is right at home with the Pharisee who prayed “God I thank you that I am not like other people.”  Meanwhile, the humble and contrite publican went home justified (Luke 18).

Strangely, a lot of the people I know who have this attitude believe in the sin unto death (1 John 5:16).  Here's the Biblical principle that a believer can be so far away from God in in his practice that God takes his life prematurely as the ultimate form of discipline.  I believe this is a Scriptural truth.  But it cannot be squared with the belief that a person who is not walking in obedience must be lost.  If they were not saved, they would not be candidates for the chastening that John describes.  It is reserved for disobedient children.

Making declarations about a professing Christian’s salvation is reserved for God alone.  Clearly we can make observations about their fidelity to Christ and to His church.  Certainly we can say, "If he is saved he sure isn't living like it." Or, "If he is saved there certainly is no fruit.  He is living in open and unrepentant sin!"  But entering decrees about their salvation is God’s business.

The only exception that even comes close is when a local church has gone through the painful process of church discipline and acts on the authority of Christ to treat the unrepentant member as an unbeliever.  Even then, the church is not authorized by Christ to declare the member to be an unbeliever but rather to treat them as an unbeliever.

Bottom line: A great deal of what is portraying itself as “defending the gospel” is nothing more than old-fashioned spiritual arrogance and Pharisaical legalism hiding beneath a new-fangled theological cloak.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Responses to Truth

I have observed in my life and ministry that there are basically four responses to the declaration of truth (in the life of a believer).

Response #1 is affirmation.  This happens when the truth is declared (a Biblically-based sermon, a Christian song, a gospel-centered testimony, etc) regarding an area of my life in which I am walking in obedience.  When my heart is in tune with God on that subject, my spirit immediately begins to resonate like a stringed instrument resonates with "sympathetic vibrations" when a tuning fork is struck.  In such cases, the Scriptural proclamation causes my soul (and sometimes my mouth) to cry out "Amen!"  It serves as a confirmation of a previously-held and currently-practiced truth.

Response #2 is conviction.  This happens when truth is declared regarding an area of present disobedience in my life.  When I hear it, I immediately recognize it as truth and I immediately recognize the rebuking and correcting power of God's Word.  I don't argue with it.  I don't get upset with the messenger.  I just recognize that God is lovingly chastening me.  His loving discipline causes my soul to cry out, "Oh me."  Sometimes when people actually say, "amen" they really mean "oh me."  It's not that they have arrived at full obedience in that area of life but they are able to admit, "Amen.  That's right.  So be it."

Response #3 is hesitation.  This happens when truth is declared regarding an area of disobedience but I do not immediately recognize its truthfulness.  Desiring to continue in my present practice, I initially resist the work of God.  The general response of my heart in those moments is, "Either he is right and I am wrong...or I am right and he is wrong...and since I cannot be wrong...the messenger is."  Clearly the messenger is ill-informed on the subject.  Like a broken watch, he may occasionally be right.  But on this matter he is unquestionably in error.

In such situations I tend to seek out affirmation from other believers.  Let's face it.  We all do it.  We may send a text or an email.  We may pick up our cell phone and call a friend...usually someone that we already know will agree with us.  And we ask them, "What did you think about that sermon?"  Or we may say, "Were you listening to (insert favorite radio program) today?  Did you agree with what he said about (insert offensive statement)?"

I call this response hesitation because the resistance does not last long.  After wrestling with the aggravation, and perhaps the anger, we have what I call a "deer-stand moment."  I give such epiphanies that name because they happen to me very often in quiet moments where my heart is still and quiet.  In those moments, sometimes when I am "minding my own business," the Holy Spirit gently says, "You know he was right."

Part of me wants to say, "I hate it when that happens."  But the truth is, "I love it when that happens."  I wish it didn't have to happen as often as it does in my life, but when it does, I love it.  Or as the writer of Hebrews admonishes us, "Despise not the chastening of the Lord."

At its core, this initial response of hesitation is caused by pride and stubbornness.  Pride makes me think I could not possibly be wrong.  Stubbornness keeps me there...until the stubborn love of the Lord wins out.

Response #4 is rejection.  This is perhaps merely an extended form of #3 because in the end, the Lord will win.  Although in some cases, He may have to take a believer home to glory to accomplish their sanctification and obedience.  He is committed to that, you know.

This response occurs when the truth declared hits so close to home that we refuse to even consider the possibility that we may be in error.  With a stiff neck we reject the truth.  In my life, it happens sometimes when it involves a family member or close friend.  My child could not be wrong.  My wife could not be wrong.  My grandmother could not have taught me a lie.

But most often, it happens when it is directed toward me.  Sweet little me.  God-loving me.  Why if what the messenger said is true, that means I would be wrong!  And we all know that could not be.  Why, the messenger is no better than me!  His kids are no better than mine!  His life no holier than mine!  I am just as good as he is.

"...but they measuring themselves by themselves and comparing themselves among themselves, they are not wise."  (2 Corinthians 10:12b)

It would be presumptuous and prideful to think that I live in the world of affirmation.  No, when I hear truth declared, it has a greater tendency to bring conviction, because there are far more areas of life in which I have NOT arrived than those in which I have been brought to full submission.  But I pray when my response is hesitation that the resistance will not be long-lasting.  Because for a believer, rejection of truth is a tough place to live.