"Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven." Matthew 5:16

Friday, May 28, 2010

Family Vacation

Just wanted to say that I will be on family vacation for the next week. We leave in the morning for Panama City Beach. Vacation is a fun week for our family. We usually spend the week bumming around the water, laying on the sand, eating good food, and I try to read a couple of good books. This year I will be tackling a couple of good reads. Thought I would leave the list and maybe a review for each when I get back. You all have a blessed week, and I will soak up a little of God's beautiful creation for you all!!! Talk to you Soon...CW!

Radical: Taking Your Faith Back From the American Dream by David Platt

The Search for God and Guinness: A Biography of the Bear that Changed the World by Stephen Mansfield

Him We Proclaim: Preaching Christ from All the Scriptures by Dennis E. Johnson

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Bonhoeffer on Death

As most of you know, I have been immersed in studying the resurrection. I have also been reading the newest biography on Dietrich Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas. Now that I am finished with the book I will encourage you to read it. (Warning: It can be addicting, and it will take time because it is 542 pages) Bonhoeffer is a man that is surrounded by controversy. He was a man of deep conviction, and his convictions always led to action. I will not debate the choice of this man to join the assassination plot against Hitler. I struggle with those who would judge Bonhoeffer while sitting in absolute freedom and safety. That is not the point of this post so I will leave it at that. I find his writing and thinking to be a great encouragement to greater love and service of the Lord Jesus Christ.

At the end of the biography Metaxas writes about Bonhoeffer's view of death. This is where the study of resurrection and Bonhoeffer cross paths. Here is the quote that struck me. It is from a sermon preached by Bonhoeffer while he was pastoring a church in London. He says,

No one has yet believed in God and the kingdom of God, no one has yet heard about the realm of the resurrected, and not been homesick from that hour, waiting and looking forward to being released from bodily existence.
Whether we are young or old makes no difference. what are twenty or thirty or fifty years in the sight of God? And which of us knows how near he or she may already be to the goal? That life only really begins when it ends here on earth, that all that is here is only the prologue before the curtain goes up - that is for young and old alike to think about. Why are we so afraid when we think about death? ... Death is only dreadful for those who live in dread and fear of it. Death is not wild and terrible, if only we can be still and hold fast to God's Word. Death is not bitter, if we have not become bitter ourselves. Death is grace, the greatest gift of grace that God gives to people who believe in him. Death is mild, death is sweet and gentle; it beckons to us with heavenly power, if only we realize that it is the gateway to our homeland, the tabernacle of joy, the everlasting kingdom of peace.
How do we know that dying is so dreadful? Who knows whether, in our human fear and anguish we are only shivering and shuddering at the most glorious, heavenly, blessed event in the world?
Death is hell and night and cold, if it is not transformed by our faith. But that is just what is so marvelous, that we can transform death.

Those are powerful words spoken by a person who is safe from all harm. But when you consider the fact that Bonhoeffer was facing an evil regime that he opposed with public words and actions, you begin to see the power of God in the life of his servant. So I began to wonder, how do we view death? Would you say that it is the gateway to the eternal home that you are homesick for? Or would you have to admit that you are so in love with the things of this life that death seems cold and night and hell to you? Just something to think about. Talk to you soon... CW

P.S. Bonhoeffer was executed on April 8, 1945 at Flossenburg prison. He died a noble death and joined the martyrs around the throne of Christ. He told a friend when he knew he was going to be executed, "This is the end...for me the beginning of life!" One of the men, Dr. H. Fischer-Hullstrung, who attended his execution is quoted as saying of Bonhoeffer, "At the place of execution, he again said a short prayer and then climbed the steps to the gallows, brave and composed. His death ensued after a few seconds. In the almost fifty years that I worked as a doctor, I have hardly ever seen a man die so entirely submissive to the will of God." May we all die with such a godly testimony and a godly courage! To God Be the Glory for the life and death of Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Expository Faithfulness

The last post in this series on T4G is a wrap of C.J. Mahaney's sermon on 2 Timothy 4:1-5. Mahaney is different from the other men who spoke at the conference. He is an unashamed Reformed-Charismatic. He is the leader of Sovereign Grace Ministries which has nurtured the growth of hundreds if not thousands of churches across the United States. He is simple in his presentation, passionate beyond comparison, and obviously Spirit-filled. This sermon was the best I have ever heard from him.

By the way, I am also probably best labeled Reformed-Charismatic. I would like to be able to explain the biblical meaning to both words, but I find it to be best if the label stands on its on so that conversation is sparked!

I also freely admit and gladly labor as nothing but an ordinary pastor. There is nothing extraordinary about me as either an intellect or orator or shepherd. I am serving the King with all I have that he might have all the glory, now and forevermore!

Expository Faithfulness
2 Timothy 4:1-5

Faithful to the Message (1-2).
  • Paul is telling Timothy that all the Word should be preached under the rubric of the gospel. The Old and the New Testaments hold the treasure of the account of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
  • We as pastors need to make the commitment to be unoriginal. It is not our calling to be unique and creative. It is our calling to deliver the gospel that was once for all delivered to the saints! Preach the Word without addition or subtraction, and God will work to do all thing according to his good pleasure.
  • In order to be faithful to the message, we must know our people (2). We cannot get the sermon from the people but we have to get the sermon with the people!
  • Godly character (2). Paul charges us to work with the people in complete patience. I must think of God's patience toward me. "How long has it taken me to appropriate the truth I am teaching in my own life?" If I lack patience, then I am self-righteous. Remember that sanctification is a process.
Faithful to your ministry (5)
  • As a pastor I must learn to be relentlessly faithful to the ministry God has entrusted to me. Every day, day after day, I must serve the Lord with gladness in the place he has planted me.
Faithful to the Savior (1)

C.J. concluded by encouraging us with the words of Paul in verses 6-8. "Ordinary, faithful pastors will receive the commendation of Christ at the judgment"

I was also challenged to pick up a copy of D.A. Carson's biography of his father Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor:The Life and Reflections of Tom Carson.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Did Jesus Preach the Gospel of Evangelicalism?

John Piper is the embodiment of what it means to be a pastor-theologian. I am in debt to both his books and his ministry from the Word of God. He has faithfully proclaimed God's Word at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota for 30 years. He is a man of deep conviction, mental acumen, and theological precision. There are times when he thinks so deeply and expresses God's message so clearly that we the listeners struggle to grasp everything he is saying. Our minds are just overwhelmed. At T4G 2010 Piper poured out from his years of study the clearest defense of the doctrine of justification by faith alone I have ever heard. After his session was over the room was filled with worship, excitement, and deep appreciation for his hour of labor. Even the other speakers were overwhelmed. When talking over the sermon at the question and answer time Ligon Duncan, John MacArthur, and Mark Dever were moved with gratitude for what they received from the sermon. It was a highpoint for me. There is part of me that longs to think as deeply and as clearly as Piper, but the other part of me knows that he is a rare gift to the church. I thank God for him because he is to me a living mentor.

I will cover the highlights of the sermon, but the entire sermon can be listened to or read at www.desiringgod.org. Please take the time to digest this sermon. It is critical that we as evangelicals defend the gospel of Christ/Paul/Justification by Faith Alone! Here is my synopsis.

All I will focus on in this post is the "implications" section of the sermon. At the end I will give you several quotes from the body of the sermon.
  1. Jesus' gospel is also Paul's gospel.
  2. Nothing we do is basis for justification. It is so freeing to hear the truth of the gospel. I am not being made righteous by my actions, my words, my beliefs. I am righteous through Christ alone! I am justified by the external work of God through his Son.
  3. Our standing with God is based on Jesus, not us. "Take heart in your struggle with indwelling sin, and remember that your standing as a cherished child of God is based not in yourself but in Christ alone. When you feel like a failure as a father or a husband or a pastor or a friend, where will you look if not to Christ for your righteousness? When Satan accuses us that we have never done a perfectly motivated deed in our life—not one—and then reminds us of God’s standards of perfection, how will we thrust Satan down but by this truth, this reality?" This point is profound. When you struggle for assurance of salvation the temptation is to look for fruit of salvation in your life. That will always lead to more doubt because the fruit is always mixed with failure. Whenever doubt arises in the struggle with sin, we look to Christ alone for salvation and assurance!
  4. Transformation is the fruit, not the root of justification. Looking to the fruit present in our life for assurance of salvation will only rob us of the joy found in faith alone in Christ alone.
  5. All our goodness is evidence and confirmation not ground. "Settle it once and for all that the dozens of places in the Bible that make your good behavior the condition of your final salvation are a condition only as the fruit and confirmation of justification, not the ground of it. If you do not settle this, you will live in continual turmoil wondering what all those texts mean that say to Christians: “Those who do such things will not enter the kingdom of heaven” (1 Corinthians 6:9). Don’t submit to that torment. Settle it. All the good that God requires of the justified is the fruit of justification by faith alone, never the ground of justification. Let the battle of your life be there. The battle to believe. Not the battle to perform." Nothing need be added here. We are not working and performing for our salvation. We have salvation because of Christ's work and performance!
  6. The gospel is for every person and every people.
  7. Jesus gets the full glory. "Don’t rob the Lord of half his glory in bringing you to God. Christ is our pardon. Christ is our perfection. "
Couple of profound quotes:

1. If you interpret faithfully the deeds and the words of Jesus as he is portrayed in the four Gospels, your portrait of Jesus will be historically and theologically more in accord with who he really was and what he really did than all the varied portraits of all the critical scholars who attempt to reconstruct a Jesus of history behind the Gospels.

Or to state it even more positively: If, by means of historical and grammatical effort, accompanied with the Spirit’s illumination of what is really there, you understand the accounts of the four Gospels as they stand, you will know the Jesus who really was and what he taught.

2. One thing is the issue: This man was morally upright. He was religiously devout. He believed God had made him so. He gave thanks for it. And that is what he looked to and trusted in for his justifying righteousness before God—for his justification. And he was dead wrong to do so.

3. And what about the tax collector? What did he do? He looked away from himself to God. He trusted in nothing in himself. He trusted in God’s mercy. And Jesus said, “God declared him righteous and acceptable.” That’s what “justified” means (see Luke 7:29).

Talk to you soon... CW

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

A Theology of Sleep

Few men are known for the preaching of God's Word. Pastors are often characterized as good men, faithful at visits, great administrator's, or visionary in leadership. But few men reach the heights as great preachers. John MacArthur is one of the few who can be labeled as a great preacher! Although we do not agree at every point in our theology, MacArthur is a role model to me in faithful exposition over the course of an entire ministry. God has blessed us with the opportunity to watch as He builds His Church through the faithful preaching of the Word at Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California (Los Angeles). At T4G 2010, MacArthur preached a convicting and encouraging sermon based on Mark 4. I will give the outline with my comments in italics. The sermon can be downloaded at www.t4g.org. It goes without saying that you would benefit from listening to the sermon in its entirety. Here is a synopsis:

The Theology of Sleep
Mark 4

John MacArthur says, "My belief in the sovereignty of God is what makes me able to sleep. I travel all over the world, sleep in hotels, and I always sleep well. I do not sleep much but I do sleep well." This quote brought his introduction to a close. He spent most of the intro arguing that if the men who held to this neo-finneyist pelagianism (he made that up on the spot to describe the hyper free will people of our day) truly believed their theology, they would never be able to sleep. If you believe that your work is decisive in the process of salvation, and that every person is ultimately free to choose or not choose God's salvation, then why would you ever do anything besides preach and evangelize the lost? We must work to get the gospel to all men, but our confidence in the sovereignty of God allows us to trust him with the evangelistic ministry!

Mark 4 is the Magna Carta of Evangelism! You sow the gospel, go to sleep, and the gospel grows. We do not understand it. We simply have faith in God! (verses 26-29) One of the best insights in this section was in verse 28. MacArthur pointed out that the words "by itself" in the text mean that the seeds of the gospel grow "automatically." It is the Divine Automatic that causes the gospel to grow!!!

  1. We need to live in humility (1-20)
  2. We are obedient because we know we poses the light (21-25).
  3. We go diligently to spread the Word (24-25).
  4. We are confident because of our faith in God's faithfulness (30-32)
The overall encouragement of this sermon was to trust the sovereignty of God in evangelism. MacArthur says, "We are not the cause of conversion but we are the means. Success is measured not by the number of converts won but by the number of sees sown! Their is a biblical principle at work in evangelism. 'He who sows sparingly will reap sparingly. He who sows bountifully will reap bountifully.' Our eternal reward is measured not by the number of people who are saved through our evangelism but rather on how faithful we were to evangelize!" Thank you God that we can sow the seed and sleep because you are sovereign over all things! Talk to you soon... CW

Monday, May 10, 2010

Culture: What is it?

There are people who rise to the top of the conference circuit with meteoric success, and Thabiti Anyabwile is one of those people! He is a young, energetic, passionate, pastor/theologian who engages the audience with his obvious sense of the weightiness of Scripture. I was impressed with his confidence in light of the men he would share the stage with at this conference. Anyone would be easily intimidated with a panel of the greatest preachers of our generation, but Thabiti spoke with clear and unshakable confidence because of his obvious confidence in the Word of God. The subject of his talk was intriguing to me. "Culture" is one of those buzz words in evangelical circles today. Everyone knows that culture exists, but none of us seems to understand how it changes or even if changing the culture is preferable. Thabiti used this opportunity to challenge pastors and Christian men to engage the church not the culture! Culture is slippery and ever changing. Although it is tempting to turn our focus to the culture, the Bible is clear that our influence in the culture should be faithful presence as true believers. We are not to crusade against or for the culture. We are to crusade for the gospel of Jesus Christ! The following is the outline to the sermon. Again, I would challenge each of you to take the time to listen to Thabiti's sermon at www.t4g.org.

Paul's Pastoral Purpose: Colossians 1:24-2:5
  • Paul's over arching design and purpose was to preach, teach, and disciple every member of the church so that they might be presented mature and spotless to Christ
  • Before we engage the culture we need to see the beauty of the purpose of pastoring.
  • There is great danger in making "plausible" arguments. We must always be aware of the danger of drifting away from the mission of the church. There may be many "good" things but there is only one "great" purpose for the church. We must live to present the truth of the gospel!!
  • We must be ruthless in our commitment to the Word of God and the Gospel of Jesus Christ as the foundation and power of ministry.
  • Thabiti reminded us that Paul had the culturally relevant topic of slavery during his work as a pastor. Paul did not ignore the issue. He engaged the church with the issue. Paul proclaimed that slavery is contrary to the gospel, and because slavery is contrary to the gospel, Paul pushed to the logical and radical conclusion that slavery should not be named among the people of the church! He did not engage the culture, but he did engage the church with the radical implications of the gospel. This is our place in the shaping of culture. Live the gospel while we preach the gospel so that the world may see the power of the gospel.
Paul's Pastoral Philosophy: Colossians 2:6-14
  • We must teach the church to walk in Christ (6)
  • We must be captive to Christ (8)
  • We must teach the people of the church to live and act in the gospel (9-14). This means we must emphasize a high Christology (9) and we must teach them the promise and benefits of the gospel (10-14).
  • Paul sees the danger in verse 8 that the people will be caught in worldly philosophy. We must remember that Christ cannot be blended with the culture. Christ is the antithesis of the worldly culture and its worldly philosophy.
Paul's Pastoral Practice: Colossians 2:16-23
  • Warning #1 - Do not let others judge you based on the standards of "religion" (16).
  • Warning #2 - Do not let anyone disqualify you based on asceticism (18).
  • This was the highlight of the talk!!! We must push people to shed ethnic cultural skin. We must push people to put on the skin of the gospel culture. Even the culture of the Jews in Israel was a shadow but Christ is the substance.
  • When we say church, we must think multi-ethnic but mono culture, Gospel Culture!!!
Paul's Pastoral Perspective: Colossians 3:1-4
  • The only way to be any earthly good is to be heavenly minded.
  • Other worldly perspective makes us strive toward Christ likeness!
  • Christ must be our focus that will make us truly effective.
The highlight of this sermon was Thabiti's challenge to make sure the church remains multi-ethnic but not multi-cultural. We are all under the culture of the gospel. That is why Paul writes in Galatians 3:27-29, "For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise." We are the culture of Christ which gives us the position to bring true and eternal change to the culture of this world by the power of the unadjusted gospel! Talk to you soon... CW

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Trajectories Toward an Adjusted Gospel

"Adjusted gospels are disasters. There have been many so called gospels from the beginning." Dr. Albert Mohler was clear in his description of the danger that we all face when we "adjust" the gospel for the ears of our audience. Galatians 1:6-9 says, "I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed." Timothy was charged by Paul in 2 Timothy 1:8-14 to guard the gospel, and we will also do well to heed the words of Jude in verse 3 when he writes, "Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints." From the beginning of the apostolic era the gospel has been under steady and viscous attack. And the attack has been most successful when it is from within. Dr. Mohler took the time to give us "Eight Trajectories toward an Adjusted Gospel." I want to simply run through these with very few comments. It is easy to see that we are all faced with the challenge of avoiding these pitfalls. We can fall into these traps without even realizing our dilemma. May we all avoid any false gospel for the sake of the church and our own souls!
  1. Modern Trajectory: Rudolph Bultmann said that we cannot live in the world of modern electricity and hold onto the belief in the supernatural. Modernist have tried to demythologize the Bible.
  2. Post-Modern Trajectory: Modernity is like a universal acid. Once you have removed the supernatural from your conscience there is no stopping place. Modernity lead us into the loss of the objective truth standard. We now struggle to have a gospel of relativism.
  3. Moral Trajectory: In this error people are led to believe that the world must be fair. Christianity is not acceptable because it is not fair. Dr. Mohler concluded this point by saying, "Perfect is infinitely superior to fair!"
  4. Aesthetic Trajectory: This belief leads to the rejection of the true gospel because the Bible is not beautiful when judged by human standards. We should never forget that beauty must be determined not by my standard or your standard but by the biblical standard. Beauty does prove the existence of God, but only when we look to the Bible as the author of beauty.
  5. Therapeutic Trajectory: This false gospel teaches us that sin is a syndrome. We all need therapy so that we can cope with our disease and live at peace. The problem hear is that sin is treated as sickness not death. The true gospel teaches us that we are dead in our sins. We do not need therapy. We need to be regenerated by the work of the Holy Spirit.
  6. Pragmatic Trajectory: This direction leads to management philosophy, marketing, and the belief that if what we are doing draws a big enough crowd then it must be right. Dr. Mohler summed up his critique of this false gospel by saying, "Pragmatic Gospel Philosophy produces crowds that are not churches and results that are not regeneration!"
  7. Emotional Trajectory: The emotionally driven gospel will avoid all truth that feels bad and run to the half truths that feel good. The only way to avoid this trap is to let the truth of God's Word drive emotions. We cannot drive emotions to find truth.
  8. Materialist Trajectory: As we have all seen in the last few months, the Prosperity Gospel not only destroys the spiritual life of the church, but it leaves the church physically bankrupt. The emphasis of the physical nature over the spiritual nature causes people to lose sight of Christ as their one treasure. This gospel is rampant and is sending millions to hell because of false faith.
Although we grow weary in the fight against these doctrinal impurities, we must continue the fight! The Holy Spirit alone can make the gospel credible. Let us commit ourselves to the true gospel and trust Him for the outcome! Thank you Dr. Mohler for your clear vision of the dangers that surround us as we preach the gospel once for all delivered to the saints. May we continue to live and preach the only true gospel, The Gospel of Jesus Christ! Talk to you soon... CW