Pastor's Blog

A Puritan’s Catechism: Question 1

Posted under: Uncategorized — by curt.fifer

Q.1. What is the chief end of man?

A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him for ever.

Introduction

  1.  As we begin our study and use of this catechism, we should remind ourselves of the words of Charles Spurgeon, who originally complied this catechism from other catechisms: “I am persuaded that the use of a good Catechism in all our families will be a great safeguard against the increasing errors of the times, and therefore I have compiled this little manual from the Westminster Assembly’s and Baptist Catechisms, for the use of my own church and congregation. Those who use it in their families or classes must labor to explain the sense; but the words should be carefully learned by heart, for they will be understood better as years pass. May the Lord bless my dear friends and their families evermore…”
  2. So we embark on our study of this catechism for our own edification and for the benefit of those who are under our care.
  3. We will usually go through one catechism question and answer per week.
  4. I will provide a brief teaching on each point and you have the opportunity to commit these truths to memory through the course of the week and perhaps teach them further to your children.
  5. Let’s get started!

I.  What does the word “end” mean?

A.  In this sense it means aim, purpose, ambition, or even design.

B.  What is it that your life should be pointing toward?  What is your overarching reason for existing?  When you get up each morning, why           do you exist? What are you on this earth to do?

C.  Do you think it is important to consider our “end”? Why?
1.  Because it is very powerful if rightly understood.
2. Because there is an answer to the question that is true.
3.  It is that which can coalesce all of our efforts, energy, and enthusiasm.

II.  What is implied by the word “chief”?

A.  That there is a dominant “end” or purpose in our lives, but that there are other ends, as well.

B.  One question is what might some of these other “ends” be? That is, the secondary, subordination, or even competing ends?

  • Perhaps it is one’s career
  • Animals
  • Family
  • Athletics
  • Entertainment
  • Art
  • Wealth
  • Hobbies

C.  We may have a number of interests and ambitions, but there is one “chief” ambition that must supersede every other.    In fact, we                     should make sure that all other pursuits, in some way, work towards our “chief end”.

III.  Chief end #1:   “glorify God”

A.  What is “divine glory”?
1.  “divine glory is the revelation of the divine perfections in the works of Creation, Providence, and Redemption.”[1]
a.  Consider Romans 1:18-20 and Psalm 19:1-3.
b.  “God’s glory stands originally in His possession of all being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth; and He is
glorified in the manifestation of himself to all receptive and responsive creatures.”[2]
                  c.  Calvin declared, “The glory of God is when we know what He is.”

2.  The Scripture calls us to glorify God. (Psalm 86; Isa 60:21; 1 Cor 6:20; 10:31; Col 3:1-4,16-17; Rev 4:11)

3.  Jesus describes what it means to glorify God in His prayer to the Father (John 17:4).
a.  What does it mean to glorify God?
1)  It means finishing the work He was given to do!
2)  So for us, What is our life’s work given from God?
b.  What is our daily work given from God?  These lead us to the fulfillment of this chief end!

IV.  Chief end #2: “and to enjoy him for ever” 

A.  Consider what Scripture teaches about the joy of the believer! (Psalm 16:11; 43:4; Matt 25:21,23; 1 Tim 6:17; Phil 4:4)

B.  “for ever” means never to end, eternal, everlasting.
1.  Our enjoyment of God will never come to an end.
2.  In fact, it will only grow more intense, especially as we enter into His presence. (Rev 21:3-4)

Conclusion

  1. We have an overarching purpose in life! One that should rule all others.  One that everything else should aim toward.
  2. It is a purpose that yields rich joy in the moment and everlasting joy in eternity!
  3. There is a very tight connection between glorifying the Lord, and our rich abiding joy!

 

 

 

 

 

[1] Alexander Whyte, An Exposition on the Shorter Catechism, Christian Focus Publications (Great Britain: 2004), 14.

[2] Ibid., 14.

 

Bible Reading Plans

Posted under: Christian Living,Scripture,Uncategorized — by Richard Hensley

As we come to the end of 2011 and look forward to the coming year, many goals and resolutions are made. Sadly, many of these goals and resolutions fade after the first month of diligence. We need some help and accountability and perseverance. Do not let your goals for reading Scripture fade. Establish accountability with another person, or with a group. Establish a time of discussion of the passages you will be reviewing. The first step is to find a good Bible Reading Plan. Justin Taylor has several very good reading plans to choose from.

 

SUNDAY ACTIVITIES CANCELLED

Posted under: Uncategorized — by Richard Hensley

Church services and activities are cancelled this Sunday, August 28, due to Hurricane Irene.

 

Street Preaching

Posted under: Uncategorized — by Richard Hensley

I was recently moved at the core by the Gospel love that the Apostle Paul had for his own people who rejected Christ.  In Romans 9:1-3, we see his heart on full display:

I am speaking the truth in Christ–I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit– 2 that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh

After being challenged by that passage and preaching on it on Sunday morning, I came across this brother who is preaching the unsearchable riches of Christ.  May we all find the passion, joy, and surrender in Gospel ministry that this man has.  We won’t all go about it the same way, but we should all be sharing the same message!  To God be the glory!  

Check out the website and videos at: http://totheendoftheearth.org/

 

Building Fund Update

Posted under: Uncategorized — by Richard Hensley

Here is an outline of what was shared about the Building Fund after the service on 6/26/11.  If you would like more specific information, call Pastor Rick.

How many of you have huge sums of money lying around burning a hole in your pocket?  Some of us may not have enough set aside to meet the average needed per family to pay the building off in 5 years.  And that is just what we want to do in order to pay the building off with zero interest.  This giving is over and above our tithe!  It is a lot of money.

 I want to let you in on a little secret: God already owns this building!  We are down here working on who has the slip of paper and who owes who what, but it already belongs to God.  Perhaps we do not have the money as a congregation.  Well, we are going to have to rely on God to provide.  And that is just what He wants us to do, isn’t it.  We are going to need God’s grace here. 

 How do we rely on God’s provision?  It doesn’t mean wiping our hands clean of responsibility.  It doesn’t mean not thinking about it.  We have to believe that what God is going to do, He is going to do primarily through us.  That is what is so exciting about this!  We are going to be a part of this, even if it is a small part.  He is the one who multiplied the bread, rained down manna from heaven, and turned water into wine.

 So, where do we start!

1.      Give yourself to God – 2 Cor 8:1-5

a.      1 We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, 2 for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. 3 For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, 4 begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints– 5 and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us.
b. When we as members voted to enter into this contract, we committed ourselves to the purchase of this facility and the responsibilities.
c.  But let’s agree together that all we have is God’s and that we want to use it according to His will and for His glory.  This what giving ourselves to God is about.
d.  We cannot be generous in giving, if we have not first been generous in giving ourselves to God.

2.      Pray often—Luke 18:1-7

a. And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. 2 He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. 3 And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ 4 For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.'” 6 And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. 7 And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them?
b.  Notice the emphasis is “that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.”  So, let us pray persistently without losing heart!
c.  Pray for God to provide for His Church.
d.  Pray that He would receive all the glory.
e.  Pray for God to provide through you.f.  Pray that He would grant you wisdom in what to give from what He has allowed you to steward.

3.      Believe God will provide—Mark 11:20-24

a.      As they passed by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered away to its roots. 21 And Peter remembered and said to him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered.” 22 And Jesus answered them, “Have faith in God. 23 Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him. 24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.
b.  This doesn’t mean name it and claim it!
c.  The first requirement is that we are submitted to the Lord’s will… “Father, all things are possible for you…Yet not what I will, but what you will.” (Mark 14:36)
d.  This is about believing that all things really do belong to God.
e.  This is about believing that investing in God’s Kingdom generously and sacrificially is not a risky scheme, but a wise decision when made according to His will.  It is living by faith, not a word of faith.
f.  This about believing that stewardship is primarily about what God wants me to do with what already belongs to Him for His glory.

 How can we seek God’s provision in this way regarding the Building Fund?

  1. Keeping it Before Us!a.  A reminder to give ourselves to Goda.  A reminder to pray
    b.  A reminder to trust in God
    c.  How?

1)  Bulletin updates on the Building Fund
2)  Periodic Testimonies and Updates at services
3)  “EVERYTHING IS HIS” Collection Jars: Fill them up and bring in what you have collected and start over again!  The idea is not simply to give our “spare change” to the Building Fund, it is to have a reminder on our kitchen tables to pray for the Lord’s provision, a reminder that “Everything is His,” and a reminder of how much we need Him. 

The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein, 2 for he has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers. Psalm 24:1-2

 4)      Annual Special Offering—July 10th: Each year we will set aside one day for a special offering.  Not because one day is special above all others, but to bring focus, attention, and prayer to our goal of paying off the building in five years with zero interest.

2.  A Call to Prayer

a.  At our prayer meetings and on our prayer sheets
b.  Periodically at our services (Deacons—once per month give thanks for the Lord’s provision of a building and pray for continued provision)
c.  A Day of Prayer:  Sign-Up to pray around the clock for God’s provision for the Felton facility, and the ministries of GTCC.

1)  Wednesday, July 6th from 12 Midnight to 11:59 P.M.
2)  Every half hour
3)  From 7:00 – 7:30 P.M. together at Prayer Meeting 

LET’S RELY ON GOD TOGETHER THROUGH PRAYER

 

The Lord Our Righteousness

Posted under: Uncategorized — by Richard Hensley

Here is my outline from last week’s study on Jeremiah 23:1-8:

1 “Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!” declares the LORD. 2 Therefore thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who care for my people: “You have scattered my flock and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for your evil deeds, declares the LORD. 3 Then I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. 4 I will set shepherds over them who will care for them, and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall any be missing, declares the LORD. 5 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. 6 In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The LORD is our righteousness.’ 7 “Therefore, behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when they shall no longer say, ‘As the LORD lives who brought up the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt,’ 8 but ‘As the LORD lives who brought up and led the offspring of the house of Israel out of the north country and out of all the countries where he had driven them.’ Then they shall dwell in their own land.”
 1.  Amidst all of the chaos of this world, we look for glimmers of hope.  We may notice the sun shining through the clouds on a gray day, or a rainbow spanning across the sky.  We may experience kindness from someone we least expected it from.  We may see something in our children that gives us hope that the Lord is working.  We might have opportunity to minister to someone and feel the blessing of the Lord.  Or we just might be struck with awe and gratitude at a passage in Scripture.
2.  What has recently been an encouragement to you in the midst of a dark world?
3.  Well, in the days of Jeremiah…this kind of glimmer of hope seems few and far between the indictments upon the people and the terrifying promises of judgment.
4.  But, in Jer 23 we see just that: God will restore the remnant of His flock and provide them a Righteous Shepherd.  We are going to a wonderful glimpse at restoration and final restoration in this passage.  It is like we will be looking through a telescope to Jeremiah’s present day situation, then further to a near time of restoration, and then further to a final restoration.
5.  As we look at this restoration, we are going to see three categories of shepherds: Unfaithful shepherds, faithful shepherds, and the Chief Shepherd.  This progression will lead us to a picture of a future deliverance that will overshadow all others. 

I. God will judge the unfaithful shepherds.  It is at this point that we view the present situation of Jeremiah’s day.  There is rampant wickedness, idolatry, and carnality.  And though the people are responsible for their own sin, the shepherds bear an even greater weight of judgment (Jer 23:1-2).
         A.  The shepherds are held responsible for the judgment coming.
               1.  Shepherds probably includes Kings, Prophets, and Priests.
                        a.  Recall the unfaithfulness of Jehoiakim and Coniah in ch.22.
               2.  Leaders hold a greater responsibility than all others.
                        a.  The people are certainly responsible for their own sin.
                        b.  It is God who is sending Babylon to Judah, which will cause the scattering of the flock.
                        c.  Yet, it is the shepherds who are held responsible.
               3.  The indictment is simple:
                        a.  “You have scattered my flock”
                        b.  You…”have driven them away”
                        c.  “you have not attended to them”
                              1)  Attended means cared for in this context.
                              2)  You have not watched over the sheep.
      B.  Therefore, these unfaithful shepherds will be judged.
              1.  “Behold, I will attend to you for your evil deeds, declares the Lord.”
                   a.  This is a very haunting statement.
                   b.  Reminds me of Luke 17:2: “It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he  
                        were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin.”
              2.  This is a promise of punishment!
                   a.  The word “attend” here is the same as the previous statement, with a different emphasis.
                   b.  Here it means to “visit with hostile intent or to punish”. 
                   c.  It is a play on words: “you have not attended to them…so I will attend to you”.
      C.  Surely the punishment of the shepherds has implications for the sheep who follow them.
II.  God will provide faithful shepherds.  God will restore a remnant and provide good shepherds, honorable shepherds, shepherds who actually shepherd…who actually care for the flock (Jer 23:3-4).
      A.   This is a dramatic shift from judgment to restoration.  It is a welcome shift in the midst of this challenging set
             of oracles.
            1.  We have read previously that God wasn’t going to completely destroy Israel.
            2.  But here we see the positive promise of a return!
            3.  The promise is made to “the remnant”.  Who are these people?  
                  a.  The remnant means, “the rest, the residue, or what is remaining.
                  b.  There are a number of places where the remnant are referred to.

31 And the surviving remnant of the house of Judah shall again take root downward and bear fruit upward. 32 For out of Jerusalem shall go a remnant, and out of Mount Zion a band of survivors. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.  Isa 37:31-32

 18 Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love. 19 He will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities underfoot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea. 20 You will show faithfulness to Jacob and steadfast love to Abraham, as you have sworn to our fathers from the days of old.  Micah 7:18-20

                           c.  Notice that in Isaiah 37, it is “The Zeal of the Lord of hosts” who sets apart a remnant.
                           d.  Calvin interchanges the word “elect” with remnant, recognizing this group as a people divinely 
                                elected and set-apart.  What do you think?
                           e.  Clearly this is a special group that God has special plans for…who belong in His fold.
                   4.  Here we see the promise of restoration and physical/earthly blessing. 
                           a.  “I will bring them back to their fold”
                           b.  “they shall be fruitful and multiply”
                           c.  “I will set shepherds over them who will care for them”
                                 1)  This is an incredible promise, considering the influence of the ungodly shepherds.
                                 2)  God is not simply promising a return to the fold, but godly leaders, as well.
                                 3)  These shepherds will “care for them” or literally, “pasture them…shepherd them…or feed 
                                       them.”
                                                “The lips of the righteous feed many, but fools die for lack of sense.” Prov 10:21
                          d.  “they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed”
                                 1)  It is hard to imagine a time of no fear…is this just an extended time of peace?  Is this looking
                                       forward to the Millennial Kingdom?
                                 2)  Even the remnant under Zerubbabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah (Godly shepherds), faced opposition
                                       and fear.
                             e.  “neither shall any be missing”
                                    1)  Incredibly, the word “missing is the same as the word for “attend” in verse 2.
                                    2)  It is has a wide domain.
                                    3)  Here it is variously translated as “missing,” or “lacking”.
                                    4)  It makes me wonder if Jesus was alluding to this in John 6:37-40:

All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 

III.  God will send the Chief Shepherd.  It appears that the faithful shepherds that the Lord blesses His remnant with, are mere shadows of the Righteous Shepherd…the Chief Shepherd. (Jer 23:5-6).
      A.   True restoration requires the Righteous Shepherd!  All the other shepherds would finally be insufficient to
             feed us, protect us, and deliver us in the manner we truly require.
             1.  We must ask, How can the remnant be truly restored?
                   a.  After all, they are guilty like the rest of the people, aren’t they?
                   b.  They deserve judgment, just like everyone else.
                   c.  That is why they need more than a faithful earthly shepherd. 
             2.  Here we find both an earthly and divine Shepherd!
                   a.  He is the Son of David, the Son of Man!
                   b.  He is a human shepherd.
                         1)  He is “a righteous Branch” from David.
                         2)  He will be faithful!
                         3)  He will “deal wisely”
                         4)  He will “execute justice and righteousness”, which is exactly what the kings were condemned for 
                               forsaking in chapter 22.
                    c.  But he is also the Son of God, God Himself.
                          1)  Only the Lord is truly able to save Judah.
                          2)  Only the Lord is truly able to secure Israel finally.
                          3)  Only the Lord is able to protect His remnant forever.
                          4)  So, we discover that this is: “The Lord our righteousness”.
                                 a)  The Lord is the word Yahweh…God’s holy name.
                                 b)  This is God Himself.
              3.  Here we find the remedy for remnant—righteousness! 
                    a.  Notice that He is “The Lord OUR righteousness”.
                          1)  God is certainly righteous.
                          2)  But Messiah is “our righteousness”.
              4.  This Shepherd’s deliverance is not first bound up in His sword, chariots, or massive armies…but in the 
                    righteousness He is able to bestow upon His remnant through faith.
                    a.  This looks forward to the sacrifice of Christ and the provision of His work.
                    b.  How else could we be secure, in right relationship with the God of this universe, in our filthy rags? 
                    c.  Only through the gift of Christ’s perfect righteousness.
IV.  God’s future deliverance will overshadow all others! (Jer 23:7-8)
      A.   Deliverance from Egypt will no longer be the focus of God’s people (v.7).
              1.  This is huge…because this was their corporate identity.
              2.  The calendar was built around the Passover and this monumental defining moment in Israel’s history. 
              3.  To speak of God as their deliverer would be to speak of the Exodus.
      B.  But there will be other deliverances that will overshadow the Exodus (v.8). 
              1.  Here we have an earthly example of the remnant returning from many corners of the world.
              2.  Yet, the nature of the passage reminds us that this is just a shadow of a final deliverance…from the Lord
                   our righteousness, which overshadows all others! 
Conclusions
1.  So, we have the Gospel here in Jeremiah…the Gospel of hope!
2.  The people were under oppressive, unrighteous, ungodly shepherds.
3.  Sin, idolatry, sensuality, and every base practice surrounded them.
4.  Yet…there was hope!  A glimmer of hope…a peak forward at final salvation.  For God was promising that He would deliver His remnant, restore them…ultimately to final glory…how?
5.  Through “The Lord our Righteousness”!

 

Sin: A Messy Clean-Up

Posted under: Uncategorized — by Richard Hensley

Sometimes images from the Bible just floor me!  If I take a moment to place myself in the time and envision the rigors of life and the requirements of the Law, I can be easily overwhelmed.  Consider for a moment this picture of the consecration of the priests for service in Exodus:

““Then you shall bring the bull before the tent of meeting. Aaron and his sons shall lay their hands on the head of the bull. 11 Then you shall kill the bull before the Lord at the entrance of the tent of meeting, 12 and shall take part of the blood of the bull and put it on the horns of the altar with your finger, and the rest of [1] the blood you shall pour out at the base of the altar. 13 And you shall take all the fat that covers the entrails, and the long lobe of the liver, and the two kidneys with the fat that is on them, and burn them on the altar. 14 But the flesh of the bull and its skin and its dung you shall burn with fire outside the camp; it is a sin offering.” Exod 29:10-14

I envisioned myself cutting out parts of the animals to sacrifice, let alone spilling the blood itself.  I am no skilled hunter, so the idea of separating out the “long lobe of the liver” and “the two kidneys”, is a bit gruesome to me.  It does more than bring back memories of Biology lab in high school and college.  It reminds me of the messiness of sin.  It reminds me of the offense to God of our rebellion.  It reminds me that the clean-up job is messy itself.  Exodus goes on to describe blood being thrown on the various pieces of furniture to consecrate them.  Can you imagine what the priests would have been thinking during this process of slaughtering animals and handling their various parts?  How did they keep their beautiful vestments clean from the mess?  These were spiritual butchers.  They had daily sacrifices to deal with.  They were constantly dealing in blood.  All because of our sin against God and guilt of judgment! 

The ultimate clean-up of sin was quite messy, as well.  The movie Passion of Christ gave us a glimpse into the horrific nature of flogging and crucifixion.  Such violence in a movie is horrific.  But 2,000 years ago our Lord, the High Priest Himself, did not deal in another’s blood, but His own.  He didn’t put His hands on another, but allowed the hands of others to be placed on Him.  The sin that we so easily commit required a “messy clean-up” indeed.  Gratitude ought to be rich at such a thought.  Humility ought to be profound at such contemplations.  Zeal for the Lord almight ought to be kindled at such amazing love.

Later in Exodus we learn of the Bronze Basin that the priests used to cleanse themselves before coming near the altar: “When they go in the tent of meeting, or when they come near the altar to minister, to burn a food offering to the Lord, they shall wash with water, so that they may not die.” Exod 30:20  Many other passages like this remind us of the extreme holiness of our God.  He is not a God to be trifled with.  Salvation from sin required a messy clean-up.  But let’s not forget before we lightly enter into yet more sin, that God is not to be trifled with.  He is a consuming fire.  God forbid that we make Him so familiar that we forget who He really is.  He is more than just a friend.  But praise God, that through the messy clean-up of the atoning sacrifice of the God-Man, Jesus Christ, we are spared from His final wrath.

Consider this song as you meditate on God’s holiness, and be humbled: God Forbid.

 

Wonder and Offense

Posted under: Uncategorized — by Richard Hensley

When reading Luke 2, I was particularly moved by vv.17-18.  The Shepherds shared the Good News of Christ’s birth and “all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them”.  I don’t know about you, but that is not what I see regularly when I share the Gospel.    But there is something about this time of year, Christmas, that people seem warm to.  The beautiful decorations, the smell of hot apple cider, the lights, the manger scenes, the goodies, the days off, the gifts, the music, the cheer.  A message about the baby Christ is tolerated at this time of year.  Why is it that people wonder at the manger, but take offense at the Cross?

The answer is simple: the manger seems quaint, but the Cross is gruesome.  Even the people of Israel could wonder at the thought of a Messiah coming to save them, because they could still hold onto their view of what Messiah would be; preferably a King who conquer their enemies and give them their country back.  They were not looking at the manger and thinking of the Cross. 

Today, we need to be careful that the foolishness of the Cross doesn’t get veiled by the ornaments of the season.  Let’s remind ourselves once again of the bare Gospel that we must preach.  We are going to see: First, the Gospel divides the Kingdoms; Second, only the called will respond to the foolish Gospel; Third, the foolish Gospel ensures all of the glory is God’s.

The Gospel divides the Kingdom of this World and the Kingdom of God (1 Cor 1:18).  The Kingdom of this world does not get the Gospel (the Cross).  To them it is foolishness (nonsense, makes no sense).  Those of this world are described as perishing.  This means to be destroyed, ruined, or dying.  It also can mean to be lost, in a spiritual sense.  The people of this world are of a different realm all together.  This should invoke in us a bit more patience and compassion.  We cannot expect this world to automatically understand the Gospel.  The reason they do not get it, is that they are lost and bound to another world.

The Kingdom of God recognizes the Gospel as the power of God.  Instead of foolishness it is the “power of God”!  These are radically different points of view.  The power is related to salvation.  Why is it important to see the distinction in these two Kingdoms?  Because though we are preaching to all, only the called will respond.  Our aim is not to gather as many people as we can into the Church building, nor to get as many responses as we can, nor to win a popularity contest. So, let’s look carefully at what our emphasis should then be!

Only the called will respond to the foolish Gospel.  No one is going to be saved by the wisdom of this world! (1 Cor 1:19-21)  The world cannot come to know God through its own wisdom (21a).  The world cannot come to know God through its own philosophy or writings (20).  The Gospel is a foolish message to the world, but as it is preached it is powerful to save those who believe.

The power to save is only of God and not man! (1 Cor 1:22-24)  The message has everything going against it.  The message is an offense to the Jews.   It is literally scandalous (skandalon).  The message is ridiculous and nonsensical to the world.  If anyone is saved by this message, it must be through the power of God in this Gospel!  We need to be careful not to out-think God and cater to the culture (22-23).  Notice that the Jews and Greeks are looking for something.  Our culture is looking for something.  Our culture is looking for a sign.  Our culture is looking for some rational defense.  Our culture is looking for something that is attractive.  Our culture is looking for Starbucks in the foyer.  Our culture is looking for an entertaining Gospel.  Our culture is looking for a steady diet of felt need messages.  Our culture is looking for works they can do to ease their conscience.  Paul recognized that he could not conform the Gospel to the whims of the culture… “but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness”.  It is the called who respond to this foolish Gospel.  It is the called who will recognize it is “Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” (1:24)

God’s power and wisdom overcomes everything that stands against it! (1 Cor 1:25)  What appears foolish is wiser than any wisdom of man.  What appears weak is more powerful than any force of man.  We don’t have a story that man is naturally inclined to accept…it is purposefully offensive and nonsensical to carnal man…so that only God can receive the glory for salvation!

The foolish Gospel ensures all the glory is God’s!  God honors the very things this world degrades; and shames, what the world honors (1 Cor 1:26-28).  God likes Cinderella stories!  God chooses the weak, the marginalized, the base things, and the hated things of this world.  God chooses the lowly, because they reveal His glory (1 Cor 1:29-31).  The lowly life lives powerfully only because of the work of Christ!  Christ’s work yield’s wisdom.  Christ’s work provides righteousness.  Christ’s work brings sanctification.  Christ’s work has redeemed!  So, all the change in these lowly lives can yield glory to one and one alone… The Lord! (Jer 9:23-24).  The Cross is foolishness to this world…it is the symbol of weakness…it is a symbol of shame.  Therefore, those won by the message of the Cross, those who live for this truth, those whose lives are transformed, those who proclaim this truth, expose a work in them that is otherworldly.  They reveal the glory of an intervening, powerful, loving and gracious God!

At Christmas and any time, our focus ought to still be on the Cross!  This message needs no props…just faithful preaching in weakness.

 

A Remedy for the Unbelieving Brother

Posted under: Uncategorized — by Richard Hensley

Do you care about those in the midst of the church whose outward appearance of faith may not be reflective of the true state of the inward heart?  In other words, are you burdened for the unbelievers that may be present in the church?  Surely every church has unbelievers in the ranks of those who profess to believe.  Perhaps there are more than we would expect.  Maybe there are less.  The point is that they are there and there souls are in danger.  They are in far greater danger in churches where the members are reticent to challenge each other, speak the truth in love, and confront sin.  In this environment an unbelieving professor of faith could comfortably survive until it is too late.  This is the context of the exhortation found in Hebrews 3:12-13.  The passage makes clear that there are those among us who are in unbelief and very well may fall away from the Lord.  It is also clear that there is something that we as a church can do about that.  How refreshing.

12 Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.  13 But exhort one another every day, as long as is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.

 Notice that this is written to “brothers”.  This simply means that this is written to the church.  But there are those who appear to be “brothers” who aren’t truly brothers.  Appearance is not everything as most have learned in their Christian lives.  This is not a mandate to question everyone’s salvation, but to be aware that there are those in danger of judgment in our midst.  We cannot take for granted that everyone sitting in our churches, professing to be a Christian, or on the membership roles is a true believer.  Even those who can express the Gospel clearly and evidence some tangible fruit have been exposed later on as “having the appearance of godliness but denying its power”.  Only God knows with certainty the state of a person’s heart.  That is not to say that we cannot have relative confidence of what the new birth looks like in a person.  It is simply apparent here that there are people in our midst who could very well “fall away from the living God.”  The idea here is that they revolt or rebel against God.  And as Grotius says, “there are two kinds of unbelief, — The first the rejection of the truth when first offered, — and the second the renouncing of it after having once professed it. The latter is the more heinous sin.”  It is a sad and grievous day when someone who had all appearance of being a Christian walks away in rebellion.  Some of us have seen this and want no part of a Christianity that would increase the likelihood of this occurrence.

 In God’s grace, He has given a remedy for the church to avoid this sad occurrence.  This is a tremendous encouragement and a challenge at the same time.  Knowing that there are professing “brothers” and “sisters” in our midst who have an “unbelieving heart”, we are charged to “exhort one another every day”.  The remedy to prevent this “unbelieving heart” from falling “away from the living God”, is to “exhort one another every day”.  This is what much of Christianity is lacking.  This is the bold love that we all need, especially those in our midst without saving faith, but find so rare.  This is the ethos of being Christian.  Challenging each other to live for Christ, encouraging one another to stay in the Word, holding the Gospel before our faith family whenever possible, asking tough questions about one’s spiritual life, confronting someone who appears to be faltering with love, prayerfully considering how to speak a Word into a brother or sister’s life, sending a note of encouragement, and holding holiness, purity, and Gospel charges before one another are all ways in which we can “exhort one another every day”.  Surely, with a little bit of time, prayer, and thought you can come up with many more ways to “exhort one another”.  It is essential for the believer’s continued growth in Christ, but as we see in this passage it is essential for rescuing the professing Christian unbeliever who is in our midst.  There is a saving influence that comes through the church doing what the church is supposed to do, that God uses to move the professing believer to true faith in Christ. 

 This is an urgent call!  We must do it “as long as it is called ‘today’”.  Today is only today, today.  My three year old daughter often asks if it is tomorrow yet and I have to remind her that tomorrow was only tomorrow yesterday, but presently it is now today.  Did you catch that?  The point is simply that we ought not wait for a better time to exhort one another.  It is a daily need and a present need.  One of the reasons why there is such urgency is because of the “deceitfulness of sin.”  The subtle allurements and temptations are the most powerful.  The professor who does not truly believing is like the proverbial frog being boiled in the water.  On the negative side, the “deceitfulness of sin” can easily and gradually draw them away until they fall away and turn away from God.  On the positive side, as we “exhort one another every day” the truth of the Gospel, the power of God’s Word, and the faith of God’s people will have their impact on a soul, so that at some point conversion takes place. 

 So, let us express our love for the unbelieving professing brother within our midst by exhorting “one another every day…as long as it is called ‘today’.”  This is our duty, this is our privilege, and this will be our own blessing as the believers in the church, including ourselves, are also encouraged and strengthened by this kind of ministry to one another.

 

Reformation Day

Posted under: Uncategorized — by Richard Hensley

Today, October 31st, 2010 marks the 493rd anniversary of the nailing of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses to the door of the castle church in Wittenberg, Germany.  Reformation Day falls on the Lord’s Day this year and serves as a reminder not only of the courage and theological heroism of Martin Luther, but also of all the Reformers who stood against the tide of the Roman Catholic Church and on the side of the true Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Sufficiency of Scripture.  If you would like to do some further study on the Reformation, Ligonier Ministries has provided a number of resources that will help you.  Just click on this link.  Happy Reformation Day!

 
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