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Foxes Martyr Fire Pictures

In the last month I have spent hours pouring through the pages of Foxe’s Acts and Monuments.  The stories are more than just a glimpse into church history and the faith of the persecuted before us, but an opportunity to dig deep into the reality of God’s gracious breath of perseverance for His people who laid not in fear but stood in the faithfulness of Christ while they burned, drowned and had their heads removed.  These writings are very difficult to find in print but Still Waters Revival Books has placed much of them as audio files on SermonAudio.com.  Here is that listing, please enjoy. You can read for free the entire collection at www.johnfoxe.org

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Abandoned Vinyard Pic crossGod surely had some words through the mouth of Amos and I have found a few chills this early morning considering how close I have come to being the just recipient of God’s holy justice.  Let the prophet’s words ring true in your hearts today as you pause and consider the gravity of sin and the glory of salvation.  And on the other hand, let us all take the morn to posture ourselves in examination and consider that God has truly given us a heart for Him thus proven by our hearts for others including our enemies and most certainly those “outside the gate” who are rejected by all — just as our Savior was and is.

Hear ye the words of the Lord…

They hate him who reproves in the gate, and they abhor him who speaks the truth. Therefore because you trample on the poor and you exact taxes of grain from him, you have built houses of hewn stone, but you shall not dwell in them; you have planted pleasant vineyards, but you shall not drink their wine. For I know how many are your transgressions and how great are your sins— you who afflict the righteous, who take a bribe, and turn aside the needy in the gate. Therefore he who is prudent will keep silent in such a time, for it is an evil time. (Amos 5:10-13 ESV)

For His Glory by His Grace,

Pastor James Tippins

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The Simplicity and Sublimity of Salvation

child with bible handsSomeone stumbled upon the short post I published in 2006 after the baptism of my second daughter Grace, who at the time was five.  Reading through it gave me moment of pause, first of gratitude for God’s grace in the matter of the salvation of my children and second, in the manner in which I place my trust in Christ, both for that and my own salvation.  It was a good reminder that while my children are born again to their own confession, it is my responsibility to continue to grow them in the Lord and that one day, God will bring full fruit to His redemptive work in every aspect of their lives as He is continuing to do in mine.  In reflection I was reminded by the Lord of Spurgeon’s sermon from March 6, 1890 about the simplicity of Salvation and its divine ineffability.  As I read it again today I was reminded of how often we Evangelicals stab to death the processes and procedures of salvation making them an idol while either downplaying man’s belief and God’s gift of faith.  The two passionately collide into a symphony of praise to the glorious Grace of God our Father through the Lord Jesus Christ.  I now share it with all of you.  Read well and pray better.

Pastor James

N. 2259 – C.H. Spurgeon Metropolitan Tabernacle 3/16/1890

“He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”—John 1:11-13.

EVERYTHING here is simple; everything is sublime. Here is that simple gospel, by which the most ignorant may be saved. Here are profundities, in which the best-instructed may find themselves beyond their depth. Here are those everlasting hills of divine truth which man cannot climb; yet here is that plain path in which the wayfaring man, though a fool, need nor err, nor lose his way. I always feel that I have no time to spare for critical and captious persons. If they will not believe, neither shall they be established. They must take the consequences of their unbelief. But I can spare all day and all night for an anxious enquirer, for one who is blinded by the very blaze of the heavenly light that shines upon him, and who seems to lose his way by reason of the very plainness of the road that lies before him. In this most simple text are some of the deep things of God, and there are souls here that are puzzled by what are simplicities to some of us; and my one aim shall be, so to handle this text as to help and encourage and cheer some who would fain touch the hem of the Master’s garment, but cannot for the press of many difficulties and grave questions which rise before their minds.

Let us go to the text at once, and notice, first, a matter which is very simple: “As many as received him . . . even to them that believe on his name”; secondly, a matter which is very delightful: “to them gave he power to become the sons of God”; and thirdly, a matter which is very mysterious:“Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”

I. Here is, first, A MATTER WHICH IS VERY SIMPLE; receiving Christ, and believing on his name. Oh, that many here may be able to say, “Yes, I understand that simple matter. That is the way in which I found eternal life”!

The simple matter of which John here speaks is receiving Christ, or, in other words, believing on his name.

Receiving Christ is a distinctive act. “He came unto his own, and his own received him not.” The very people you would have thought would have eagerly welcomed Christ did not do so; but here and there a man stood apart from the rest, or a woman came out from her surroundings, and each of these said, “I receive Christ as the Messiah.” You will never go to heaven in a crowd. The crowd goes down the broad road to destruction; but the way which leadeth to life eternal is a narrow way; “and few there be that find it.” They that go to heaven must come out one by one, and say to him that sits at the wicket-gate, “Set my name down, sir, as a pilgrim to the celestial city.” They who would enter into life must fight as well as run, for it is an uphill fight all the way, and few there be that fight it out to the end, and win the crown of the victors.

Those who received Christ were different from those who did not receive him; they were as different as white is from black, or light from darkness. They took a distinctive step, separated themselves from others, and came out and received him whom others would not receive. Have you taken such a step, dear friend? Can you say, “Yes, let others do as they will, as for me, Christ is all my salvation, and all my desire; and at all hazards I am quite content to be counted singular, and to stand alone; I have lifted my hand to heaven, and I cannot draw back. Whatever others may do, I say, ‘Christ for me’”?

As it was a distinctive act, so it was a personal one: “To as many as received him.” They had to receive Christ each one by his own act and deed. “Even to them that believe on his name.” Believing is the distinct act of a person. I cannot believe for you any more than you can believe for me; that is clearly impossible. There can be no such thing as sponsorship in receiving Christ, or in faith. If you are an unbeliever, your father and mother may be the most eminent saints, but their faith does not overlap and cover your unbelief. You must believe for yourself. I have had to even remind some that the Holy Ghost himself cannot believe for them. He works faith in you; but you have to believe. The faith must be your own distinct mental act. Faith is the gift of God; but God does not believe for us; how could he? It is for you distinctly to believe. Come, dear hearer, have you been trying to put up with a national faith? A national faith is a mere sham. Or have you tried to think that you possess the family faith? “Oh, we are all Christians, you know!” Yes, we are all hypocrites; that is what that comes to. Unless each one is a Christian for himself, he is a Christian only in name, and that is to be a hypocrite. Oh, that we might have the certainty that we have each one laid our sins on Jesus, the spotless Lamb of God! God grant that, if we have never done so before, we may do so this very moment!

Mark, next, that, as it was a distinctive and personal act, so it related to a Person. I find that the text runs thus, “He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the Sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.” That religion which leaves out the person of Christ, has left out the essential point. Thou art not saved by believing a doctrine, though it is well for thee to believe it if it be true. Thou art not saved by practising an ordinance, though thou shouldst practise it if thou art one of those to whom it belongs. Thou art not saved by any belief except this, believing on Christ’s name, and receiving him. “I take in a body of divinity,” says one. Do you? There is no body of divinity that I know of but Christ, the son of God in human flesh, living, bleeding, dying, risen, ascended, soon to come; thou must lean on him; for the promise is only to as many as receive him.

This reception of Christ consisted in faith in him: “As many as received him . . . even to them that believe on his name.” He was a stranger, and they took him in. He was food, and they took him in, and fed on him. He was living water, and they received him, drank him up, took him into themselves. He was light, and they received the light. He was life, and they received the life, and they lived by what they received. As the empty cup receives from the flowing fountain, so do we receive Christ into our emptiness. We, being poor, and naked, and miserable, come to him, and we receive riches, and clothing, and happiness in him. Salvation comes by receiving Christ. I know what you have been trying to do; you have been trying to give Christ something. Let me caution you against a very common expression. I hear converts continually told to give their hearts to Jesus. It is quite correct, and I hope they will do so; but your first concern must be, not what you give to Jesus, but what Jesus gives to you. You must take him from himself as a gift to you, then will you truly give your heart to him. The first act, and, indeed, the underlying act all the way along, is to receive, to imbibe, to take in Christ, and that is called believing on his name. Note that “name.” It is not believing a fanciful christ; for there are many christs nowadays, as many christs as there are books, nearly; for every writer seems to make a christ of his own; but the christ that men make up will not save you. The only Christ who can save you is the Christ of God, that Christ who, in the synagogue at Nazareth, found the place where it was written, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.”

You are to believe on the Christ as he is revealed in the Scriptures. You are to take him as you find him here; not as Renan, not as Strauss, or anybody else, pictures of him; but as you find him here. As God reveals him, you are to believe on his name: “the Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace”; Emmanuel, God with us; Jesus, saving from sin; Christ anointed of the Father. You are to believe on his name, not on the Christ of Rome, nor the Christ of Canterbury, but the Christ of Jerusalem, the Christ of the eternal glory; no christ of a dreamy prophecy, with which some are defaming the true prophetic spirit of the Word, no christ of idealism, no man-made christ; but the eternal God, incarnate in human flesh, as he is here pictured by Psalmist, Prophet, Evangelist, Apostle, very God of very God, yet truly man, in your stead suffering, bearing the sin of men in his own body on the tree. It is believing in this Christ that will effectually save your soul. To believe is to trust. Prove that you believe in Christ by risking everything upon him.

“Upon a life I did not live,
Upon a death I did not die,
I risk my whole eternity.”
On his who lived for me, and died for me, and rose again for me, and has gone into heaven for me; on him I throw the whole weight of past, present, and future, and every interest that belongs to my soul, for time and for eternity.

This is a very simple matter, and I have noticed a great many sneers at this simple faith, and a great many depreciatory remarks concerning it; but, let me tell you, there is nothing like it under heaven. Possessing this faith will prove you to be a son of God; nothing short of it ever will. “To as many as received him, to them gave he power to become sons of God;” and he has given that power to nobody else. This will prove you to be absolved, forgiven. “There is, therefore, now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus;” but if thou hast no faith in Christ Jesus, the wrath of God abideth on thee. Because thou hast not believed on the Son of God, thou art condemned already. One grain of this faith is worth more than a diamond the size of the world; yea, though thou shouldst thread such jewels together, as many as the stars of heaven for number, they would be worth nothing compared with the smallest atom of faith in Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God.

But whence comes this wonderful power of faith? Not from the faith, but from him on whom it leans. What power Christ has! The power of his manhood suffering, the power of his Godhead bowing on the cross, the power of the God-man, the Mediator, surrendering himself as the greatest sacrifice for sin; why, he who toucheth this, hath touched the springs of omnipotence! He who comes, by faith, into contact with Christ, has come into contact with boundless love, and power, and mercy, and grace. I marvel not at anything that faith brings when it deals with Christ. Thou hast a little key, a little rusty key, and thou sayest, “By use of this key I can get all the gold that I want.” Yes, but where is the box to which you go for the gold? When you show me, and I see that it is a great chamber filled full of gold and silver, I can understand how your little key can enrich you when it opens the door into such a treasury. If faith be the key which unlocks the fulness of God, “for it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell,” then I can understand why faith brings such boundless blessings to him who hath it. Salvation is a very simple business. God help us to look at it simply and practically, and to receive Christ, and believe on his name!

II. Now, secondly, here is A MATTER WHICH IS VERY DELIGHTFUL: “To them gave he power to become sons of God.” If I had a week to preach from this text, I think that I should be able to get through the first head; but at this time I can only throw out just a few hints. Look at the great and delightful blessing which comes to us by our faith in Christ. We give Christ our faith, and he gives us power to become sons of God, the authority, liberty, privilege, right,—something more than mere strength or force—to be sons of God.

When we believe in Jesus, he indicates to us the Great Father’s willingness to let us be his sons. We who were prodigals, far away from him, perceive that, when we receive Christ, the Father, who gave us Christ, is willing to take us to be his sons. He would not have yielded up his Only-begotten if he had not willed to take us into his family.

When we believe in Jesus, he bestows on us the status of sons. We were slaves before; now we are sons. We were strangers, aliens, enemies; and every word that means an evil thing might have been applied to us; but when we laid hold on Christ, we were adopted by some great citizen, and publicly acknowledged in the forum as being henceforth that man’s son, was regarded as such, so, as soon as we believe in Jesus, we get the status of sons. “Beloved, now we are the sons of God.”

Then Christ does something more for us. He gives us grace to feel our sonship. As we sang just now,—

“My faith shall ‘Abba, Father,’ cry,
And thou the kindred own.”
God owns us as his children, and we own him as our Father; and henceforth, “Our Father, which art in heaven,” is no meaningless expression, but it comes welling up from the depths of our heart.

Having given us grace to feel sonship, Christ gives us the nature of our Father. He gives us “power to become the sons of God.” We get more and more like God in righteousness and true holiness. By his divine Spirit, shed abroad in our hearts, we become more and more the children of our Father who is in heaven, who doeth good to the undeserving and the unthankful, and whose heart overflows with love even to those who love not him.

When this nature of sons shall be fully developed, Christ will bestow his glory upon us. We shall be in heaven, not in the rear rank, as servants, but nearest to the eternal throne. Unto angels he has never said, “Ye are my sons”; but he has called us sons, poor creatures of the dust, who believe in Jesus; and we shall have all the honour, and joy, and privilege, and delight that belong to the princes of the blood royal of heaven, members of the imperial house of God, in that day when the King shall manifest himself in his own palace.

Some of us could draw parallels, about being made sons, from our own lives. You were once a very tiny child; but you were a son then as much as you are now. So is it with you who have only just begun to believe in Christ; he has given you authority and right to become sons of God. Very early in our life, our father went down to the registrar’s office, and wrote our name in the roll as his sons. We do not recollect that, it was so long ago; but he did it, and he also wrote our name in the family Bible, even as our Father in heaven has enrolled our names in the Lamb’s Book of Life. You recollect that, as a child, you did not go into the kitchen, to dine with the servants; but you took your seat at the table. It was a very little chair in which you first sat at the table; but as you grew bigger, you always went to the table, because you were a son. The servants in the house were much bigger than you, and they could do a great many things that you could not do, and your father paid them wages. He never paid you any; they were not his sons; but you were. If they had put on your clothes, they would not have been his sons. You had privileges that they had not. I remember that, in the parish where my home was, on a certain day in the year, the church-bell rang, and everybody went to receive a penny roll. Every child had one, and I recollect having mine. I claimed it as a privilege, because I was my father’s son. I think there were six of us, who all had a roll; every child in the parish had one. So there are a number of privileges that come to us very early in our Christian life, and we mean to have them, first, because our Lord Jesus Christ has given us the right to have them; and, next, because, if we do not take what he bought for us,, it will be robbing him, and wasting his substance. As he has paid for it all, and has given us the right to have it, let us take it.

You were put to school because you were a son. You did not like it; I daresay that you would rather have stopped at home at play. And you had a touch of the rod, sometimes, because you were a son. That was one of your privileges: “for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?” One day you were in the street with other boys, doing wrong, and your father came along, and punished you. He did not touch your companions, for they were not his sons. You smile at those little things, and you did not at the time count your punishments as privileges; but they were. When the chastening of the Lord comes, call it a privilege, for that is what it is. There is no greater mercy that I know of on earth than good health except it be sickness; and that has often been a greater mercy to me than health.

It is a good thing to be without a trouble; but it is a better thing to have a trouble, and know how to get grace enough to bear it. I am not so much afraid of the devil when he roars, as I am when he pretends to go to sleep. I think that, oftentimes, a roaring devil keeps us awake; and the troubles of this life stir us up to go to God in prayer, and that which looks to us ill turns to our good. “We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to his purpose.”

III. Now I come to my last point, that is, A MATTER WHICH IS MYSTERIOUS. We are not only given the status of children, and the privilege of being called sons, but this mysterious matter is one of heavenly birth: “Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”

This new birth is absolutely needful. If we are ever to be numbered amongst God’s children, we must be born again, born from above. We were born in sin, born children of wrath, even as others; to be God’s children, it is absolutely necessary that we should be born again.

The change wrought thereby is wonderfully radical. It is not a mere outside washing, nor any touching up and repairing. It is a total renovation. Born again? I cannot express to you all that the change means, it is so deep, so thorough, so complete.

It is also intensely mysterious. What must it be to be born again? “I cannot understand it.” Says one. Nicodemus was a teacher in Israel, and he did not understand it. Does anybody understand it? Does anybody understand his first birth? What know we of it? And this second birth; some of us have passed through it, and know that we have, and remember well the pangs of that birth, yet we cannot describe the movements of the Spirit of God, by which we were formed anew, and made new creatures in Christ Jesus, according to that word from him who sits on the throne, “Behold, I make all things new!” It is a great mystery.
Certainly it is entirely superhuman. We cannot contribute to it. Man cannot make himself to be born again. His first birth is not of himself, and his second birth is not one jot more so. It is a work of the Holy Ghost, a work of God. It is a new creation; it is a quickening; it is a miracle from beginning to end.

Here is the point to which I call your special attention, it is assuredly ours. Many of us here have been born again. We know that we have, and herein lies the evidence of it, “As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name, which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” If thou believest on Christ’s name, thou art born of God. If thou hast received Christ into thy soul, thou hast obtained that birth that comes not of blood, nor of the will of parents, nor of the will of man, but of God. Thou hast passed from death unto life.
Let no man sit down here, and cover his face, and say, “There is no hope for me. I cannot understand about this new birth.” If thou wilt take Christ, to have and to hold, henceforth and for ever, as thy sole trust and confidence, thou hast received that which no line of ancestors could ever give thee; for it is “not of blood.” Thou dost possess that which no will of the father and mother could ever give thee; for it is “not of the will of the flesh.” Thou hast that which thine own will could not bring thee; for it is “not of the will of man.” Thou hast that which only the Giver of life can bestow; for it is “of God.” Thou art born again; for thou hast received Christ, and believed on his name. I do not urge you to look within, to try and see whether this new birth is there. Instead of looking within thyself, look thou to him who hangs on yonder cross, dying the Just for the unjust, to bring us to God. Fix thou thine eyes on him, and believe in him; and when thou seest in thyself much that is evil, look away to him; and when doubts prevail, look to him; and when thy conscience tells thee of thy past sins, look to him.

I have to go through this story almost every day of the year, and sometimes half a dozen times in a day. If there is a desponding soul anywhere within twenty miles, it will find me out, no matter whether I am at home, or at Mentone, or in any other part of the world. It will come from any distance, broken down, despairing, half insane sometimes; and I have no medicine to prescribe except “Christ, Christ, Christ; Jesus Christ and him crucified. Look away from yourselves, and trust in him.” I go over and over and over with this, and never get one jot further. Because I find that this medicine cures all soul sicknesses, while human quackery cures none. Christ alone is the one remedy for sin-sick souls. Receive him; believe on his name. We keep hammering at this. I can sympathize with Luther when he said, “I have preached justification by faith so often, and I feel sometimes that you are so slow to receive it, that I could almost take the Bible, and bang it about your heads.” I am afraid that the truth would not have entered their hearts if he had done so. This is what we aim at, to get this one thought into a man, “Thou art lost, and therefore such an one as Christ came to save.”

One said to me just lately, “Oh, sir, I am the biggest sinner that ever lived!” I replied, “Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners.” “But I have not any strength.” “While we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died.” “Oh! But,” he said, “I have been utterly ungodly.” “Christ died for the ungodly.” “But I am lost.” “Yes,” I said, “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” “The Son of man has come to save that which was lost.” I said to this man, “You have the brush in your hand, and at every stroke it looks as if you were quoting Scripture. You seem to be making yourself out to be the very man that Christ came to save. If you were to make yourself out to be good and excellent, I should give you this word—Jesus did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. He did not die for the good, but for the bad. He gave himself for our sins; he never gave himself for our righteousness. He is a Saviour. He has not come yet as a Rewarder of the righteous; that will be in his Second Advent. Now he comes as the great Forgiver of the guilty, and the only Saviour of the lost. Wilt thou come to him in that way?” “Oh! But,” my friend said, “I have nothing to bring to Christ.” “No,” I said, “I know that you have not; but Christ has everything.” “Sir,” he said, “you do not know me, else you would not talk to me like this;” and I said, “No, and you do not know yourself, and you are worse than you think you are, though you think that you are bad enough in all conscience; but be you as bad as you may, Jesus Christ came on purpose to uplift from the dunghill those whom he sets among princes by his free, rich, sovereign grace.”
Oh, come and believe in him, poor sinner! I feel that, if I had all your souls, I would believe in Christ for their salvation; I would trust him to save a million souls if I had them, for he is mighty to save. There can be no limit to his power to forgive. There can be no limit to the merit of his precious blood. There can be no boundary to the efficacy of his plea before the throne. Only trust him, and you must be saved. May his gracious Spirit lead you to do so now, for Christ’s sake! Amen.

Exposition of John 1:1-34.

May the Holy Spirit, who inspired these words, inspire us through them as we read them!

Verse 1. In the beginning was the Word.

The divine Logos, whom we know as the Christ of God. “In the beginning was the Word.” The first words of this gospel remind us of the first words of the Old Testament: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” Even then “the Word” was; he existed before all time, even from everlasting.

1. And the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

I know not how the Deity of Christ can be more plainly declared than in his eternal duration. He is from the beginning. In his glory he was “with God.” In his nature he “was God.”

2. The same was in the beginning with God.

As we have been singing—

“Ere sin was born, or Satan fell;”
ere there was a creation that could fall, “the same was in the beginning with God.”

3. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.

He that hung upon the cross was the Maker of all worlds. He that came as an infant, for our sake, was the Infinite. How low he stooped! How high he must have been that he could stoop so low!

4. In his was life;

Essentially, Eternally.

4, 5. And the light was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

It never has done so; it never will. You may sometimes call the darkness, the ignorance of men, or the sin of men. If you like, you may call it the wisdom of men, and the righteousness of men, for that is only another form of the same darkness. “The light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.”

6. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.

How very different is the style of this verse from the one that precedes it! How grand, how sublime, are the Evangelist’s words when he speaks of Jesus! How truly human he becomes, how he dips his pen in ordinary ink, when he writes: “There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.” Yet that was a noble testimony to the herald of Christ. John the Baptist was “a man sent from God.”

7. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe

Dear friends, if you and I know our real destiny, and are the servants of God, we are sent that men might, through us, believe in Jesus. John was a special witness; but we ought all to be witnesses to complete the chain of testimony. Every Christian man should reckon that he is sent from God to bear witness to the great Light, that, through him, men might believe.

8, 9. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.

There was no light from John except what he reflected from his Lord. All the light comes from Jesus. Every man who comes into the world with any light borrows his light from Christ. There is no other light; there can be no other. He is the “Light of the World.”

10. He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.

This is a sad verse. He was a stranger in his own house. He was unknown amidst his own handiwork. Men whom he had made, made nothing of him. “The world knew him not;” did not recognize him.

11. He came unto his own, and his own received him not.

That favoured circle, the Jewish nation, where revelation had been given, even there, there was no place for him. He must be despised and rejected even by his own nation.

12, 13. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

To receive Christ, a man must be born of God. It is the simplest thing in all the world, one would think, to open the door of the heart, and let him in; but no man lets Christ into his heart till first God has made him to be born again, born from above.

14. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

They who saw Christ on earth were highly privileged; but it is a spiritual sight of him alone that is to be desired, and we can have that even now. How full of grace, how full of truth, he is to all those who are privileged to behold him!

15, 16. John bare witness of him, and cried, saying, This was he of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for he was before me. And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace.

I wish that we could all say that. Even out of this company, many can say it; and linking our hands with those who have gone before us, and those who are still with us in the faith, we say unitedly, “Of his fulness have all we received,” and we hope to receive from it again to-night, for it is still his fulness. There is never a trace of declining in him. It was fulness when the first sinner came to him; and it is fulness still; it will be fulness to the very end. “And grace for grace.” We get grace to reach out to another grace, each grace becoming a stepping-stone to something higher. I do not believe in our rising on the “stepping-stones of our dead selves.” They are poor stones; they all lead downwards. The stepping-stones of the living Christ lead upwards; grace for grace, grace upon grace, till grace is crowned with glory.

17. For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.

We know that the law came by Moses. The law has often burdened us, crushed us, convinced us, condemned us. Let us be equally clear that grace and truth come by this divine channel, “Jesus Christ.”

18. No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.

We do not want to see God apart from Christ. I am perfectly satisfied to see the Eternal Light through his own chosen medium, Christ Jesus. Apart from that medium, the light might blind my eyes. “No man hath seen God at any time.” Who can look on the sun? What mind can look on God? But Christ does not hide the Father; he manifests him. “The only-begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.”

19-23. And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou? And he confessed and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ. And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not. Art thou the prophet? And he answered, No. Then said thy unto him, Who art thou? That we may give an answer to them that sent us. What sayest thou of thyself? He said, I am the voice

Not “I am the Word,” but “I am the voice.” Christ is the essential Word; we are but the voice to make that word sound across the desert of human life.

23. Of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias.

You see, even as a voice, John was not original. That straining after originality, of which we see so much to-day, finds no warrant among the true servants of God. Even though John is only a voice, yet he is a voice that quotes the Scriptures: “Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias.” The more of Scripture we can voice, the better. Our words, what are they? They are but air. His Word, what is it? It is “grace and truth.” May we continually be lending a voice to the great Words of God that have gone before!

24-27. And they which were sent were of the Pharisees. And they asked him, and said unto him, Why baptizest thou then, if thou be not that Christ, nor Elias, neither that prophet? John answered them, saying, I baptize with water: but there standeth one among you, whom ye know not; he it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose.

Ah! Dear friends, although it was a lowly expression that John used, you and I often feel that we want something that goes lower even than that. What are we worthy to do for Christ? Yet there are times when, if there is a shoe-latchet to be unloosed, we are too proud to stoop to do it. When there is something to be done that will bring no honour to us, we are too high and mighty to do it. O child of God, if you have ever been in that condition, be greatly ashamed of yourself! John was first in his day, the morning-star of the Light of the gospel, yet even he felt that he was not worthy to do the least thing for Christ. Where shall you and I put ourselves? Paul said that he was “less than the least of all the saints.” He ran away with a title that might have been very appropriate for us. Well, we must let him have it, I suppose; and we must try to find another like it; or if we cannot find suitable words, God help us to have the humble feeling, which is better still!

28, 29. These things were done in Bethabara beyond Jordan, where John was baptizing. The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.
John preached a sacrificial Saviour, a sin-bearing Saviour, a sin-atoning Saviour. You and I have nothing else to preach. Let each of us say—

“Tis all my business here below
To cry, Behold the Lamb!”
30, 31. This is he of whom I said, After me cometh a man which is preferred before me: for he was before me. And I knew him not:

Although John knew the Saviour personally, he did not know him officially. He had a token given to him by God, by which he was to know the Messiah; and he did not officially know him till he had that token fulfilled.

31-33. But that he should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water. And John bore record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him. And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost.

John would not know of his own judgment. No doubt he was morally certain that Jesus was the Christ. He had been brought up with him; he knew his mother, he had heard of his wondrous birth; John and Jesus must have been often together; but he was not to use his own judgment in this case, but to wait for the sign from heaven; and until he witnessed it, he did not say a word about it. When he saw the Holy Ghost descend upon him, then he knew that it was even he.

34. And I saw, and bore record that this is the Son of God.

Hear ye, then, the witness of John. The Christ, who came from Nazareth to be baptized of him in Jordan, he on whom the Holy Ghost descended like a dove, “this is the Son of God.” This is the sin-bearing Lamb. Oh, that you and I might fulfil John’s expectation, for he spoke that we might believe. He, being dead, yet speaketh. May we believe his witness, and be assured that “this is the Son of God”!

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A Crisis of Faith | Book Release Jan 2015

Crisis of Faith CoverAs the Lord allows, I plan to release this book in January 2015.  It chronicles my journey of faith, theologically, from birth to date and reveals just how harshly Reformed doctrine has affected me, my life and my family as well as my ministry.  In the last ten years or so a movement has ensued that seems to be taking large groups of Evangelicals and dividing them from fellowship.  I have experienced this first hand and in all honesty, have experienced hatred, hurt, death threats and the like while keeping quiet and tending to my own business.

My hope in this writing would be to allow the reader to journey with me, see what I see and then realize that everyone, no matter who they are, at one time or another has had a crisis of faith.  During these times believers are to stand together, work with each other, pray for grace and reconciliation and see God work through it.  Sadly, it hasn’t been the case.  So, my crisis of faith resulted in major growth for my good, but it has been painful.  Pray for me as I put the final touches to this text and pray that the message of the gospel would be paramount to it all.

For His Glory,

James

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Making the Mind a Slave to Fodder

Brain Slave Facebook Sins“I have to fix the internet!”  This is a slapstick phrase I have heard many times in my own home and abroad when dealing with the idea that someone is wrong online and “I” or someone else, must make sure they know it and make it right.  While there is something innately heroic about such things, it really comes down to being an opinion police or worse, trying to be the God of the world.  Before I move on let me say that I use social media, I blog at times and I enjoy the occasional debate within my social sphere.  Through it all, we believers are bound by power to do all things for the glory of Christ and to be humble, concerned and affectionate toward all people, even those who disagree.

While I desire to make everything right (in contradiction to this very article) in many areas, I understand that I have to just place what is on my heart in simple and succinct ways and that if I ever desire to do a Ph.D. in “Corrective Rightness” then I may need to fully disclose every angle of possible issues, outcomes and arguments from these points, but today, let’s just think about a few things.

ADDICTION

For the most part, I think that at times we fail to see that we have an addiction to social things.  We love to “check” our email, get a text, see our Facebook posts, count the likes, the shares, the comments and the number of “friends” we have.  We enjoy seeing who cares, who sneers and who jeers at us along with the overwhelming desire to have our cronies back us up and begin to fight for us.  In the end, we need to realize just what kind of evil idolatry rests at the root of such desires.  We are selfish and want to be the center of things.  Even when we are in good intentions, sometimes we are elated when something “blows up” online.  We love it, we get up and go to bed with it on our minds and when this is true for us, we need to realize we have a true addiction.

EGO

This one is easy to see.  We really think we have the answer and we really think that our thoughts and comments are what is going to set the record straight.  Well remember “pride comes before the fall.”  So, before we jump in to something that wasn’t even said to us or for us, let’s consider if we think more highly of ourselves than we should.

STEWARDSHIP

Money or course would come to mind with this word, but in this issue I think it’s more of a time management issue.  Everyone I know is busy.  They don’t have time to meet, talk, pray, study, serve, share their faith, spend time with their kids, work on their marriage, get in shape, learn a new trade, help their neighbor or just get the right amount of sleep; but they ALL have ample HOURS to update, comment, post, ping, tweet, insta”slam” and everything else.  Who are we kidding?  We have plenty of time, we just love wasting it on so-called “important” issues.  Get real.  Nuff said.

GLORY

This is redundant from the “ego” area, but it has a more theological and spiritual implication.  We must guard ourselves from seeking glory as the “winner” or the “warrior” and realize that what Christ has given through the Spirit is a humble and quiet resolve.  A spirit of desiring truth without causing more problems.  This is seen mainly in the “multi-faceted” areas of expertise that everyone seems to hold online and in truth, none of use are actually thinking rightly when we seek glory.

OUTCOME

When it’s all said and done let’s ask ourselves, “What am I leaving behind?”  Will it be honoring to me, my family, my community and my Lord?  Will the battle reveal the power of God or something else?  Am I spending my attention on things that are godless and counterproductive to my calling and my adoption as a child of God?  If things like this don’t stop, there could be catastrophic outcomes:

  1. Depression.  Yes, a continued desire to be the light of the internet world and shine on every problem from here to Helena will cause a deep emotional dissatisfaction that concludes in a depressed and broken mind and heart.  But that’s what happens when we put our lives away for the sake of darkness instead of light.
  2. Division.  How many “friends” are lost through silly and non-vital foolishness?  Taking things wrongly and assuming the worst is not the fruit of God, but the fruitless work of darkness.
  3. Darkness.  People will type things they would never say in public.  There is something really wicked about this and for many, it changes their temperament and in some cases, proves them unbelievers.
  4. Delusion.  Seeing what is not there to be seen and making one’s own mind dull because the gospel is not central and without glorious food, we all die.
  5. Death.  The wages of sin is death.  Sin and temptation is not just the sinful actions of debauchery, but the subtle attitudes of delight that we get when we engage to “correct” everything.

CAVEAT

OK, please do not hear what I am not saying.  There are times to correct, point out and make known darkness.  Paul teaches us this in several places (Eph 5, Titus etc.) but he also teaches that it is the work and guiding of those who are spiritual for the sake of the safety and sanctity of the body of Christ.  God is not in need of a defender and the purpose of these thoughts are for reflection not aggravation.

NOW WHAT?

Now let’s settle our hearts and minds and follow some clear and practical things that will help us in our never-ending battle against the never-ending battle against the never-ending battle against …. you get the point.

  1. Pray that God will show us the way that is light and true and honorable.
  2. Be settled when something disagrees with us online and let it go.
  3. When we have to engage, be sure it is only because we know and love the person involved and we do it PRIVATELY.
  4. Block things and people who continue to cause division or derail our joy.
  5. Delete the medium that causes us sin; such as Facebook or Twitter.  We don’t need them anyway.

This scripture preaches itself, so I have no need to explain it.  Print it out, put it on your desk, make it your header, tattoo it on your hands and most surely your heart and you will have peace.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:4-9 ESV)

For His Glory by His Grace,

Pastor James H. Tippins

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Can Immigration Prove our Faith?

caged childrenAre you Born Again?  The gravity surrounding this question is unmeasurable and should be taken very seriously.  In many conversations I find people usually come to this question at some time in their life as Christians.  Whether it is because of doubt or a concern over sin or even a concern over someone else who seems to be slipping from the faith.  While many have given some true wisdom on this subject from God’s word, today I want to focus on “ONE” element of true salvation that will be certain in the hearts and lives of all the children of God.

Jesus says that there is a law that summarizes the fullness of His entire nature, His essence, and His worth when He says, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40 ESV)  To know and desire such a law in one’s heart is proof that he is born again.  On the other hand, disdain toward these laws is proof that one has the spirit of the devil, not the Spirit of the Lord.  This is proven in many places throughout scripture (John 13:34; Philippians 2:3-4; 1 John 4:7-21; 1 John 4:11; 1 Cor 13:13; James 2:14-17; Matthew 5:43-48; 1 Peter 4:8-9) and talks about serving, giving, suffering, dying, and giving up rights for the sake of others.

Scripture teaches that if one confesses a love for God but has no love for his brothers and his enemies, then that one is a liar and has nothing but a fear of judgment.  Now, so often we can argue what love looks like and say, “well, I do love folks, but…” when in reality we love the “but” more than the people.  This is proven because we would rather hate our neighbor so we can secure our right to have our microwaved popcorn.  Maybe that is too harsh?  Maybe it is just too true for some folks.  When so-called Christians are blinded by self-preservation and are unwilling to lose everything they have for the sake of their enemies, then they are either living in rebellion or darkness.  One could argue these are two in the same.

So, the utmost outward test of true salvation is that one has a heart for others; particularly those who are in need, unable to fend for themselves, hungry, running for their lives, being killed and given up for power and greed.  When Christians see people anywhere (btw, there are more people in other parts of the world than there will ever be in the US) they have heart for them and their internal desire is to die for them that they might know the great unsurpassing love of God who stepped out of Heaven to die for the sins of His people.

How can we tell if we love people?  Well, here are a few thoughts:

  1. Do we love them in our passions?  Are we able to see a burden and draw toward others, no matter their circumstances, and a desire to give of ourselves fully for the sake of others?
  2. Do we love them in our prayers?  If we love others we are prayerful for them.  We plead with our Father to help them and even ask God to put us “outside” the camp in order to do what is necessary.
  3. Do we love them in our purse?  What I mean is that it takes nothing for an abundance to be given away, but what about when all we have is what we absolutely need?  Remember the rich young ruler and remember the widow’s mite.  Love is love when it’s sacrifice.  It’s all God’s anyway.
  4. Do we love them in our purpose?  Are we caring more about “us” than “them”?  Do we see God moving opportunities for ministry, Gospel-sized ministry and think it to be a burden that would “IMPOSE” on our lives?  If so, then we are not loving.
  5. Do we love them in our presence?  Do we care enough to “be there?”  Do we care enough to not just say and pray but to also ‘stay?’
  6. Do we love them in our politics?  We do know that ALL the children of God are in ALL the world right?  Then why would we ever close our doors to anyone seeking to be with us, especially those running from harm?
  7. Do we love them in our pride?  Do we love people who are or could be our siblings in Christ and take “pride” and honor toward them as our own body?  No one hates his own body, but nurtures it and protects it, just as Christ does for His bride.

What do we do now?  We pray for God to heal us of our pride, reveal our sinful and selfish hearts and praise Him for saving us from ourselves, our dreams, our ego, our idols and our hatred.  God loves us and we do love others.  Church, one day this nation will die and the only nation that will remain is a nation of priests from every tongue and tribe.  We need to think to that end.  So often people who claim Christ want to stand up against laws that hurt the unborn but when they “are” born, they need to be viable or they are worthless.  Well, I am thankful that my God, who knew I was worthless, saw fit in His mercy to save me, an immigrant in the faith, an enemy of the King, a traitor to the crown who was helpless and blind and dead.

To all my brothers and sisters in South Africa, Russia, India, China, Mexico, Canada, America, Brazil, Afghanistan, Palestine, Israel, and elsewhere, know that the God of Heaven doesn’t shut you out of His kingdom, for He is righteous and His people do not shut you out either.  I am glad that those for whom we pray in foreign lands are willing to be felons for the sake of the gospel.  I wish in place where it was legal to be faithful, people would.  But hey, that’s how God works in the first place; when we are left to ourselves, we perish.

Praise Him for His glorious grace!

Pastor James Tippins

 

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Why I Don’t Write Anymore

Writing for God's GloryWell, if one had to know, I really have never written, just played around with some semi-quasi-halfway syntax and called it writing.  The breath of my pen has exhaled with not even a vapor of expression remaining and at the end of this sentence I could stop and hit delete.  Seriously, well… more like honestly, I don’t write much anymore because I have more drafts in books, files and on my blog than I actually have published.  I look at everything I want to say and think, “I don’t really want to say it and if I did, I want it to be perfect.”  To this I confess that I have a pride issue when it comes to writing.

Yes, pride.  Not the, “look at my great prose and covet” but more like, “if I don’t get this perfect then I am a loser” pride.  Yes, pride is the core reason I have not completed much of the writing that I really would like to publish.  Two finished manuscripts, many pamphlets, articles galore and yet I sit here writing about how I don’t want to write.  Now as I talk to myself about this issue I have several thoughts that are ringing in my ears that need to be pressed into the pad of this article.  Why do I feel this way?

SOCIAL MEDIA

I believe the draw of “interaction” has overtaken the allure of intimacy in writing.  Thorough and insightful script seems fruitless in today’s social sphere and if it can’t be said in 140 characters, it probably isn’t worth saying.  No one is going to read it anyway.

BACKLASH AND NASTY PEOPLE

There is no more etiquette or politeness any longer among opinions and conversation has been devoured by the cookie monster of “hear me, hear me” to the point that most people with anything useful are fearful of having to deal with all the mess.  Even if the comments are off, it doesn’t take the heat away.  I especially enjoy the rebukes and wickedness poured over people’s heart-felt testimonies as if anyone ever asks for input in the first place.

YOU DIDN’T SAY THAT

In the end with everything being said, it’s hard to actually have an original thought.  In today’s googley  circles, nothing is precious and there are some out there that would rather steal words than anything else.  Who cares?  Well, let’s just say if someone who stands against everything you ever did stole your words then someone else found them in your mouth, you would be quoting them right?  Meh.

LEARNING VS LAUGHING VS LOOTING

Writing for the sake of teaching is mainly what I enjoy, but it seems that people would rather laugh or take advantage of a controversy and “loot” the wave to the center of “likes” and “&^%$@#&^!@” listed on their blogs and social pages.  Come on, who doesn’t enjoy having 4893 friends that they have never met comment and like what they didn’t even say to begin with but shared what someone else didn’t say about what someone else said about what their other friend who they never met said about what they didn’t hear anyone say.  You know?

SUBLIME GLORY

At the core of it all though is the fear that something is too precious and glorious to waste.  That the object at the tip of the pen is so concerning with divinity and the beauty of ineffable majesty that no amount of paper and ink could do it justice.  It seems that sometimes it just cannot be said rightly so is it better to not say it at all?  I think this is truly where I sit, worrying about whether or not my service to the glory of God and His word, doctrine, et al in my writing is even effectual to the praise of His glorious grace.  Is it even going to partner with His purpose to engage the mind of the saints to a greater seeing of His wonder?

You know what?  It doesn’t matter.  If nothing else, a partnering with God’s great work in small and piece-milled ways will outshine the grandest of debates on the most divisive issues of man.  The majesty of Grace will devastate the minds of Americans who work to the end of their fingers to produce yet another wasted effort against the grain of the cross of Jesus Christ.  The smallest drop of blood from the Savior is heavier and weightier than the chasm of the cosmos and the doxology of silence in the face of Holiness is louder than the highest gathering of the greatest people for the greatest cause.

So, I desire to write for the glory of God, for an audience beyond my knowledge and sight and to do what I can, if nothing else, to catalogue the Master’s fingerprint of my own heart as I encourage all the saints to do the same.  What would happen if the children of God for one season all praised Him in their words?  I cannot even imagine.

For His Glory by His Grace,

Pastor James

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The Death of Discipleship

treeWhile it’s a common term and mission, discipleship as we know it in America’s church is dead.  So dead that many believe that few are even being taught rightly by the scripture much less being brought into the Kingdom of God.  Having a limited amount of time and a limited amount of webspace, there is no way one could attempt to revise and restore the biblical idea of discipleship, though many have tried.  So, as a mark on the starting line, I hope to list a few things on my heart for the sake of future direction and discussion.

Discipleship is wrapped up in the person of Jesus Christ.

Jesus is the full and final revelation of God to man and in His ministry one can find the reality of what Jesus did and thus create a theology of growing others “to” the faith and “in” the faith.  Jesus selected His disciples specifically, then He lived with them and taught them to invest in others for the sake of the kingdom.  As they invested, they preached, proclaimed the good news of Christ and saw God save many through the hearing of the Word. (Rom 10:17)  These who came to know God through Jesus Christ became part of the body, that is the church.  The local church was governed by the Word of God through the apostles who “appointed elders (pastors) in every city to put in order what remained.”  The flock was taught to “do the work of the ministry” to each other and teach others to do the same in the power and for the sake of the person of Jesus Christ.  Discipleship is wrapped up in the person of Jesus Christ.  Nothing else.

Discipleship is evangelism.

“Teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you…”  This is a familiar song in the hearts of the church, but ever so often she refuses to hear this portion but rather hears the “Go ye into all the nations…”  While the church is to go, what it DOES as it goes is to teach the Gospel of Jesus as God plants the church and saves people by grace through faith.  So, reaching people is teaching people, these things are not divided but one in the same.  Any attempt to make “reaching” apart from rightly dividing the word of God is another gospel and as Paul states, “no gospel at all.”

Discipleship is what the church does, period.

So the church hears, believes, trusts, hopes, lives, loves and learns at the feet of her savior, the living Word of God that became flesh and dwelt among us.  So, the church is to hear the word, do the word, know the word, love the word, live the word, teach the word and all for the sake of the praise of the glorious grace of God in Christ.  So, when the church thinks that “discipleship” is apart from the word, then she has forsaken her first love and must “do the things that she did before” so her Lord will not remove her lampstand (influence) from the world.  The church around the globe is hard at work teaching people to understand and teach others the bible, but for some strange reason, the dominant church in the USA seems to have given way to personal growth, personal esteem, personal influence, personal ministry and personal preference instead of powerful purpose found only in God’s word.  Just imagine, a people so hungry for power and never finding it because the grace of God (the power of God) is nowhere to be found because it is only given through the hearing and teaching of the word of God… Grace be with you.

Discipleship is personal, intimate and individual.

Widget companies can go the way of the assembly line just fine with identical outcomes having only a small margin of error.  But when it comes to people, each one is unique and unable to be stamped as a cookie on a sheet.  So why does so many congregations pour countless individuals into the same pot and then ask the question, “how can we get people to love the Lord and be committed?”  They cannot be committed to the Christ they have never heard and they will not hear unless someone preaches to them and then they will not encounter the Christ-filled life without the church continually living together in the pursuit of God’s grace through His word.  So, mass making of strong believers is like mass making of a bag of toenails.  It’s gross and worthless.  The preaching and the preacher should enable the body to do the work of the ministry while each one models unique but personal discipleship.  There is no other way.

Discipleship is carried through teaching what accords with sound doctrine.

In the end the body of Christ will prevail as the holy and pure bride prepared for her groom.  Until then she is to press and lean by faith alone on the promises of God through Jesus Christ who fully furnished and finished redemption by justifying a people for Himself through His blood having taken their guilt and debt and paid it in full.  It is finished!  So, let the church lives as the body of the Christ who bought her by growing as disciples who prove their adoptions as sons and daughters through the sacrifice of their living for the sake of glory that comes from God, not man.

The church will live eternally and she will do eternally what Christ has saved her to do because she no longer lives as her own but it is Christ who lives within her.  Therefore, the perpetuity of sound disciples will make more and nothing will make this happen apart from the power of God the Holy Spirit through the simple and wonderful teaching of God’s word, not to the masses, but to the few who teaches the few who teaches the few.

For His Glory by His Grace,

Pastor James Tippins

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Pastoral Challenges | QNA

Scriptural AuthorityThis past week I have received dozens of questions but I had an email from a few weeks back that asked about challenges that pastors face and how they stand under the challenges.  In a quick reply I realized that there are MANY challenges that could stand against shepherds and that they are too many to list and never-ending.  Here are a few “thoughts” and then my reply.

  1. Spiritual Battles of the Enemy – any type of struggle causing any type of struggle.
  2. Spiritual Battles of the Flesh – this is obvious and would include temptation.
  3. Spiritual Battles of the Mind – these would include feelings, hurt, pride etc.
  4. Spiritual Battles of the Heart – the affections and lusts of the world vs. the affections of glory.
  5. Spiritual Battles of the Word of God
  6. Spiritual Battles are ALL for our good.
  7. Challenges come in the form of people
  8. Challenges come in the form of thoughts
  9. Challenges come in the form of temptations
  10. Challenges come in the form of time
  11. Challenges come and they always will

What challenges (both private & public) are ‘Pastors’ facing daily?
How do they cope? Your insight would be truly appreciated.

I could list hundreds, but off the top of my head, here are the most critical:

CHALLENGE OF UNDERMINING BIBLICAL AUTHORITY

Pastors face the challenge of undermining biblical authority. This means that in the world we live in, it is often the “norm” to just do things that draw people or create environments that would appeal to the masses of the world. In doing this, the pastor demonstrates that he has no faith in God or His power to save.

Let me explain: God’s word does not return void, it goes forth and does that for which it was sent. (Is 55:11) Hebrew 4:12 says that the word of God is living and breathing. 2 Tim 3 teaches that ALL scripture is breathed out by God and is useful for success to all the men of God. 2 Peter writes that all that is needed for life and godliness is given to us by God’s divine power and Paul in Romans 1 says that God’s word and His “gospel” is His power unto salvation. It is also very clear in Rom 10:17 that the hearing of Christ’s word alone brings salvation, nothing else.

John says that the word became flesh, so the word is Jesus who speaks truth as He is truth and Jesus reveals the eternal glory of God to the fullest. If you turn to 2 Cor 4 you will see Paul teaching that there is in no way cunning or tampering with God’s word with any attempt to draw, lure, engage, entice, or incite people to faith or interest. But he says that if people are not interested or cannot see the gospel they preach it is because satan has blinded their eyes and through the open statement of the truth of the gospel their eyes can be opened.

All through Jesus’ ministry people came from near and far to follow him but they perished in their sins because they wanted food, healing, power, encouragement and hope but they didn’t see Him for who He was and couldn’t because they did not have ears to hear. So, to make a long answer longer, the word of God alone is all we need as pastors to successfully shepherd, reach and minister to all the people of the world.

CHALLENGE OF THE PAIN OF THE HEART & PRIDE

Pastors face fear, rejection, temptation, loneliness and other personal issues because the job is demanding, overbearing and at times “prideful” when everyone seems to think highly of us. Therefore, Pride is a problem with many of us if we are not careful.

CHALLENGE OF TIME STEWARDSHIP & COPING

Time – we need more and that which we do have is mostly spent wastefully. We think that “living” with others in their circles and interests is better than prayer, study and teaching of scripture. But scripture has clearly called pastors to shepherd through feeding, not fellowship per se.

How we cope in these matters is surely back to the number one problem… we HOLD FAST to the word of God alone for our needs and desires. He read, meditate and pray.

Secondly, we must be accountable to other men who share the wisdom, maturity and insight of the role of pastor so we are not led to the slaughter by temptation.

Finally, we intercede for ourselves and our flock through prayer as often as possible many times in every hour. We care and we focus on knowing that God will do what He will do and that the outcome of our ministry is not how people respond or who is saved or how big things become, but the faithfulness of God. If Noah had no converts, then he wasn’t a failure because God used him to faithfully preach Christ (2 Peter).

So an added challenge would be to measure success by the world and not the word.

As I post this response, I am reminded that there are millions more and that these could very well each be a series of discussions and thoughts.  What challenges do you face pastor?  How do you cope?

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“No Mr., I will not talk with you…”

Screenshot 2014-05-18 22.25.25Many of you won’t believe this, but I have heard this more in the last two years than in all my 40 years on this Earth combined.  Yes, I have heard these words from pastors, brothers in Christ, people who have visited worship services, people in town and aliens from outer space.  Ok, not the aliens.  I have heard this said from the mouths of these people and I have also heard this said by the actions of people.  You know, those folks who avoid you for no reason.  They tell you that they love you, but in reality, they don’t.  They don’t know what to do with you.  They talk nice in front of others, but look forward to the moment when they are able to slip away, hoping that you won’t call after them.  For some reason these types of people have really begun to annoy me.  And yes, that annoyance could be sin, but I am certain that it isn’t.  First of all, I am really not annoyed with them, I love them and desperately want to engage in Gospel-centered life together with them, but I am annoyed at the premise that they consider themselves siblings in Christ.  After all, if we have the same Father and are filled by the same God the Holy Spirit, then surely we can find a mutual, supernatural affection in Christ?!

I guess it’s not really annoyance, I think it would be better described as broken-hearted.  Because the only fruit the is measured by the Christ is the fruit of genuine affection among believers; genuine affection through prayer, serving, crying, rejoicing and the like.  But, if Christians have become so cold and “sociopathic” that they are unable to afford time for each other out of an inner desire to be moved by the Grace of God to obedient life-together, then something is very amis.  So amis that it almost sounds like darkness instead of light.  1 John expounds on this in great detail that the false confessors of Christ in his day were known not by their messed up theology per se, but the messed up application of what they say the do believe; namely, a hatred of the people of God.  You know what else if fascinating, that avoidance of other people without just cause and due process is a guarantee of one being dead in their sins!  When conflict arises, the church, not just the “one congregation” but the church at large must desire to make fellowship a top priority.  When someone calls us to work out an issue, we must be willing to listen, learn and love each other.  When someone makes accusation, they MUST be willing to work toward a reconciled conclusion and do so by the commands of Christ.

James teaches that one must not be a respecter of persons and all through the NT we are taught that even our ENEMIES are to be blessed, ministered to, and prayed for.  But when a brother or sister in Christ avoids you, then count it as it is; a certain argument that they should check to see if they are even in the faith.  What in the world did Christ do in redeeming His church if they are not the church?  Headless bodies carrying around bitters that causes division is one thing, but headless bodies that carry around apathy; well that is damning.  Eternally damning.  Now that I’ve moved onto the soap box, I’ll part with this small idea.  I believe that it’s easy to understand when things are just “swept under the rug” so often for the sake of “peace.”  But this is no true peace, but is the peace being preached by the Devil who lies all the time.  Friends, stop listening to him, stop listening to him through the mouths of others and man or woman up and be a person of Christ; an agent of peace and truth.

If there is something that needs to be dealt with, the do it.  Do it biblically, follow the course, follow the Spirit inside of you that is clearly instructing us through His word.  Be a powerful agent for change and stop being a pig-headed fool that says by his actions, “the gospel is NOT the power of God.”  It is the power of God and if God can reconcile us to Himself through Christ, then we are to be reconciled to each other.  Now I am not talking about those removed from the church or those who HAVE BEEN pleaded with about false teaching but will not change.  I am talking about you.  I am talking about me.  We are just as guilty of such things as anyone else.  We know in our spirit that our siblings need us, but we cower, we hide behind stupid schedules and busy lies.  This is not Christ but death.  No wonder revival makes no ground among the churches of America; we are liars and find ourselves amidst wolves.  Even the pagans love each other better than the church and it is now time for that to change.

Reach out, pick up the phone, answer the email, stop the gossip (yea, with your ears too) and make obedient and expectant grounds for reconciliation.  If you try to no avail, then try again. If your child, sibling or spouse/parent didn’t respond, talk to you or come home for a week or so it would drive you mad.  Well, saint, get angry but do not sin when your siblings have no time for the glorious mercies of Christ. Press and pray that God would make them see and serve them even when they tell you to get lost.  As for those who just won’t talk to you, make it difficult for them not to.  Go to them, knock on the door.  If they shoot you, then die as a missionary for truth.  (metaphor)…

Romans 12
[1] I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. [2] Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. [3] For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. [4] For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, [5] so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. [6] Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; [7] if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; [8] the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. 
[9] Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. [10] Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. [11] Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. [12] Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. [13] Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. [14] Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. [15] Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. [16] Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. [17] Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. [18] If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. [19] Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” [20] To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” [21] Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

 

Go in Peace Brethren,

Pastor James

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