The second commandment is something that many people have questions about often. I wrote an article last year in relation to the question, “Can a Christian Violate the Second Commandment with Pictures of Jesus?” Here is a podcast on that answer.
Success can be confusing. No matter the field or context of life, measuring success is a dominant desire. This measuring becomes problematic when the matrix is misunderstood. Ignorance of what constitutes success can bring a plethora of issues both externally and internally in the life of an individual or organization. Considering successful ministry can be daunting and I know in my tenure as a pastor I’ve been taught conflicting thoughts on how to know if I am successful. For over 20 years the idea of ‘counting’ heads and money has been the measure of success but if we peer into the pages of scripture, there would be no example of a successful church, pastor, apostle or Savior if that were the case. Others have concluded that success should be based on the experience of the individual or the congregation. They would posit that true success isn’t how many, but rather, how powerful the experience. Again, if this is measured in comparison to the New Testament, there would be no historic picture of success found in these measurements.
There is the room of course, for many conversations of practical wisdom as it relates to dealing with people, communicating, caring and doing life together, but any human being can pull off successful ventures of gathering up people with a common goal or vision. It only takes a brain and a voice. The problem comes when all this discombobulated instruction on success invades the mind of a pastor or congregation and they begin to make strides to ‘measure up’ according to man’s wisdom. While I’ve spoken to these things before, I want to know just put the authority where it should be; the Word of God.
When we want to see an amazing feat we can go to either a magic show, and be deceived and enjoy it, or we can go to a sporting event or daredevil exhibition. Either way, there are many amazing things to behold in the world of daring humanity. If we want our breath to be taken we can listen to a chorale of voices singing the classics of old, a symphony bringing the trills and tonal harmonies to life in our ears, or we can view the grandeur of the sea, the mountains or the beyond! Sadly, all of these things, while awe-inspiring, are not majestic or awesome in comparison to the glory of God. So, in man’s feeble mind, he has tried to find other ways to behold the power of God and then painted the canvas of “worship” and “church” with these silly and boring tactics.
How amazing would it be if I were preaching this Sunday and out of the blue I began to float in the air and fire came from my hands as I read the words of Jesus? People would think they had witnessed a miracle and their hearts and minds would be overpowered by that experience. Likewise, if I walked out into the congregation and touched the ailing and their bodies were actually healed, legs grew back, eyesight restored; people would lose their mind in amazement. What if I were able to know things that were not mine to know or had the ability to provide music that would shudder the soul and cause others to feel, what they thought, the very presence of God? I would submit that all of this, even if it happened in greater detail, would be boring and nothing in comparison to seeing the glory of God face-to-face!
So, if we want to SEE a miracle, it is better to stop looking for the next great “work” of God and realize that there is already a perfect miracle for us to behold every moment of our lives! Jesus in John 6 says, “This is the work of God that you believe in the Son that He has sent.” See, the people of John 6 wanted more miracle food. When Jesus refused to feed them in their hunger and commanded them to be satisfied in Him, they wanted a sign for Jesus to prove Himself as worthy. In the same manner, many professing believers seem to believe in anything they can feel, create, and experience that satisfies their flesh instead of actually believing in Jesus Christ and His finished work of redemption. The point is that success in ministry is not measured by the number of people in the pews, money in the bank, missionaries in the field, miracles on the stage, healings in the clinics, or tongues in the air like cymbals. It is measured by the majesty and glory of God in the face of the people of God, who believe, worship and love each other with all authority. So how then are we to measure this? How is this experienced and evident in the life of the church? Through the Word of God Alone!
God’s word faithfully proclaimed is the only measure of successful ministry.
2 Timothy 3: All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,  that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
ὠφέλιμος – means valuable, profitable, having worth and bringing a yield. So, the word of God, which is God speaking, is profitable for all things that the church needs. It teaches (doctrine), reproofs (disapproves), corrects (sets right), and trains in righteousness (teaches Christ). The successful pastor is equipped for every good work through the Scripture. That is the miracle of God and a display of His creative power at work. His word being taught, His sheep hearing and heeding, and His people being governed by the Miracle of New Life by His everlasting Grace. Anything else is just boring and of lesser awe than this! Stop seeking out the devil’s measure of majesty and rest in the revelation of God to you.
Rest in Christ!
With today’s culture of constant interaction, information, and interruption, getting ‘away’ from it all has taken many forms. It appears as if instead of scheduling time away through short trips or vacations periodically, most people feel the need to ‘vacate’ every day. With every week containing 168 hours, most people spend 40 laboring to live. That leaves 128 hours of time that has to encompass sleep, eating, restroom breaks, bathing, preparation, and relationships. Let’s take 56 out for sleeping 8 hours per day leaving 72 hours every single week for necessities and obligations. For the Christian, there should be a minimum of 3 to 4 hours a week in fellowship, if we never make excuses to miss work, we should not make excuses to miss fellowship with the saints, it’s actually stupid to do so.
So now we’re down to 68 hours. That’s time enough to take on another FULL-TIME job still leaving 28 hours to spare. Where does the time go? Well, I could write for ages on the wasters of time in the name of profitable things. How many of us have one full book of the bible memorized? OK, how about one chapter? Maybe one portion, let’s say the introduction to the Gospel of John? That’s 18 verses… I know for a fact there are several people recently who know each lyric of each song on their iPhone. That equates to five verses of music times 400 to 600. Why? I know many people who know the lines out of movies verbatim. But can’t tell a clear story of Jesus life and ministry. A movie that takes two hours vs. a story that takes 25 minutes? The problem here is not time, it’s idolatry. But that’s not the point of my writing.
Out of all this waste of time, it seems that people want to meddle in worthless areas of life while professing that Christ is enough. See, the scripture shows us what to do when we feel overwhelmed, broken, fearful, worried, angry, forgotten, martyred, etc. We are to “think on the things that are eternal….” The matter is simple. When we want to “escape” we often pray that God would help us get out of the matter at hand or change our circumstances, our hearts, or our minds. The conflict arises out of a misunderstanding of how to pray and how to listen to the scripture. See, getting away from everything can be found in books, media, movies, sports, vacations, games, etc., but those things are just temporary deflections. They do not actually set us in any real place or give us any real benefit at all. Without quoting myriads of research on the matter, psychologists have long known the effects of constant avoidance of life through natural or ‘artificial’ means. They have a word for it, addiction.
Addiction to stuff, feelings, thoughts, stories, interaction, social media, phones, games, sports, solitude, or whatever robs us as believers of the core of God’s presence which is found in the Bible. Some argue, “well, I read other books and the bible, can’t I just enjoy escape in reading, after-all, the bible is a book right?” No, is my answer. NO! The Bible, while a book in its form, is not a book. It is God’s word, thus it is the utterance of God speaking to us. Scripture teaches that the basics of salvation come through hearing the Bible (Rom 10:17) and that comfort comes from putting our minds on the scriptures. The error rests in the attitude of approach. That is that so many times we just peek into the bible for answers rather than digest the scripture in order to be intimate with Jesus Christ. Scripture reading is intimacy. So putting our minds on eternity is to literally put our minds on the teaching of the truth of Jesus. Who He is and what He’s done. We don’t run after Jesus in the biblical texts to find His “message” about our problems, we run into Jesus through the Holy Writ because while we read God the Spirit interacts with us. So, reading Scripture puts our mind on the very thing that we will ETERNALLY be focused on: Jesus Christ and HIS GLORY!
So here’s the point: Read Scripture for your escape. It will not rob you of glory and power but will put you in an intimate place with God. Through scripture, God will speak, settle us, and give us the ability to rest in His promises as He comforts us. Our relationship with God is only found in His word. And for those who are constantly reading, listening, gleaning, and hounding after other “theological” arguments, stop that also. Find more time in the word so that your joy will be full. “These things are written…” This is found many times in Scripture to the following end: that you may BELIEVE in Jesus Christ and so have ETERNAL LIFE. This life beloved is NOT eternal and I think it’s time that we as the church spend out time thinking on better things.
Precision is an important virtue in many areas of life. For the marksman, precision is the only thing on his mind. For the surgeon, it could be the difference between life and death. For the orator or teacher, it could be the difference in understanding and confusion, and that, related to eternal life, could contrast between purveying a truth or a lie. Defining terms for an audience is one thing, but recently I’ve noticed that a lack of precision in wording can create a deep misunderstanding. Language is a funny beast. It is as unique to people as is DNA and even among its own, it can often be convoluted. I’ve noticed in the last year how so many things I say may indeed make sense to me in my understanding of them, but in reality, they can sound like something else to the hearers. Oft what I say may even be offensive or even heretical. Years ago I was preaching, and a comment that I made birthed controversy. I said simply, “don’t let the devil dupe you, don’t be a sucker.” A few days later the request to have my sermon pulled from the church website caught me off guard. The brother really thought that the word “sucker” was a profane reference and for several days he had lost a great deal of respect for me.
Other things have caused me to consider my language and to pray that the Lord would grant me the grace to be aware of the need. Recently a church member brought to my attention the difference in a wording related to the ‘illumination’ of the Spirit of God versus His revelation. Someone has even suggested I should be sparing with the usage of the word “brother” when speaking on social media. Another person brought to my attention that the usage of words like faith, trust, believe, etc. are confusing in context at times.
Looking back twenty years ago, I would describe myself as a conservative, Baptist, orthodox, Americanized Pastor who pressed daily to see the church grow in depth and number. The problem was that my “Americanized” training and examples had surely removed a lot of actual truth from my arsenal of ministry. The language of my teaching centered on the actions of men, the thinking of men, the emotions of men, the dedication of men as the “gospel” remained at the center as a gracious offer. The gospel was an opportunity evidenced by the continued invitation to “receive” Jesus, or “pray for salvation.” These practices birthed out of generations of ill-informed and ignorant men who just replicated what they observed and labored through it any way they knew how. I’ll discuss these things at a later time.
Because of this long history, it is even more important now that I utilize wording that is not ‘mainstream’ and expected everyone to grasp it. In a conversation with a gentleman two nights ago I asked the question, “How do you know you have eternal life?” He began a barrage of answers beginning with, “You must ask Jesus into your heart.” He concluded with these “steps” of salvation: “One must then repent of sin, study the Bible, obey Jesus, and begin to grow and do things for others… all in love.” While all of these things are good experiences, attitudes, actions and efforts, none of them, even the first, are effectual in salvation. Precision needs to be understood as vital in preaching and teaching the Bible. The simplicity of scripture and the gospel message is such that a child can hear the word and be saved.
Jesus says that He is THE TRUTH, THE WAY, and THE LIFE. I use capital letters for emphasis on the definite article, THE, and the object of what and who Jesus is. So a relationship with Jesus Christ is one that agrees with what He says about Himself. Faith is believing on what Jesus says, not finding another way of experiencing Jesus. In reality, there is no other way to know Jesus without reading or hearing the language of Scripture. Jesus is “the eternal life” manifested to us, He is the “image of the invisible God” and no one can come to the Father “except through Him.” The Apostles wrote the words of Christ’s teaching and through them alone can one find faith. Therefore, faith in Jesus Christ is faith in the words of Christ, I believe this is clearly stated by Paul in Romans 10:17, right after he says that no one can believe if someone doesn’t go to them and speak the simple language of the Bible.
The point of this is not to debate the aforementioned truths, but to show that because it is true, and because eternity is in the balance, precision is vital. Being exact goes together with exclusivity and explicitly. Jesus is the exclusive and explicit truth of God. Believing in Jesus Christ is believing in what He says and what His Word says about Him. Trusting in Him is exactly the same. It is holding as truth to the written word of God and its propositions about who Christ is and what He has done. This is something that needs to be understood as the reason so many people are falsely converted to an illogical and invisible faith in an ambiguous and caricatured Christ. That ‘christ’ cannot save anyone. That faith is not saving faith. And no matter how transformative one becomes in their lives, Jesus said that if our righteousness is not greater than that of the Pharisees that we could not have eternal life. So, complete obedience to all things plus some. This is bad, bad news.
The precise good news though is clearly seen in the writing of and about Jesus Christ. And certainly, this information is ONLY found in the Bible. Period. No exceptions. The Bible reveals Jesus as the Image of God, He is the knowledge and wisdom of God. He is the creator of the world. Jesus Christ is the one whom God the Father has sent, as a man, and as God, both equally true at the same time. Scripture teaches that God is holy and just, therefore, He must punish evil. Sin is evil, men are sinners. Therefore, it is good and loving for God to destroy sinners and cast them into eternal damnation. God, however, before the foundation of the world, decreed not a plan, but a promise. A covenant to save His people from their sin and from His just wrath. This is done through Jesus Christ. He was born, he lived a perfectly obedient life as a human being, thus satisfying all the righteous requirements of the law. Then God put Him on the cross to destroy Him. See, God cannot forgive sin, he must punish it. So, because God has decreed to save sinners, Jesus Christ took our sin on Himself, then we can be forgiven because Christ has paid the debt with His blood.
Precision matters. Words matter. Theology matters. If you are reading this and your faith is not in what Scripture says about Jesus, then you, my friend are not found in Jesus Christ. If your faith is in any other thing, place, function, action, thought, determination, experience, attitude, fruitfulness or association, you are desperately in need of seeing the truth of Christ from Scripture and need to believe on Him, the living LOGOS – Word – His speaking about Himself. Because Scripture has taken such a low place of authority and has been replaced by humanism, philosophy, professional ministry and the like, the Gospel has been hidden. Now is the time to see. Now is the day of truth. Today is the day of Salvation. Hear the word of the Lord.
If you don’t believe me, please believe God.
1 Corinthians 15:1-11
 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand,  and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures,  that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,  and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.  Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.  Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.  Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.  For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.  But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.  Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.
For His Glory by His Grace
People are always in need of help. It’s a fact of life. Finding the right type of help can be difficult for most. It’s difficult to choose from all the noise offering to change lives for the better. What form of ‘help’ is the right form? Should one seek some counseling? If so, then what type? Even counseling is vast in its practice. There is biblical counseling, therapeutic, psychological, psychiatric, self-motivating and there are a million divisions of these types of help. For many Christians, they look to the church hoping to find help through their pastor or a small group or even a friend. The trend in preaching has taken this approach as well and is viewed by many as just another arm of help in a time of need. If people in large number are seeking to be helped by preaching, then what constitutes a sermon that helps? How should pastors focus their teaching for the sake of their congregation?
A Helpful Sermon Carries Great Assumptions
Visions of grandeur often accompany many well-meaning pastors. They think that if they don’t say the right thing or if they are not creative enough, then church members are going to be lacking. It should be understood that God is supreme over all circumstances and when it comes to His own, He uses all things, good and bad, for their good. So, there is nothing that takes place in this life that is outside the eternal decrees of God. Preaching then must assume this reality, speak from this authority and provide exactly what God has chosen as an answer. Preaching that changes in content depending on the seasons or culture is not preaching. The preacher has become the pundit and no longer has any power to offer help. God alone helps. His word alone is all counsel for good and profit. (2 Timothy 3:16) Another assumption that the scripture offers is its audience. Not one point of the Holy Writ was composed or sent to unbelieving people. The Scripture is for the church and it only useful for the people of God, those who are in Jesus Christ.
A Helpful Sermon is Contextual
If the above assumptions are cemented helpful preaching should flow naturally from the text of Scripture. Often pastors feel the need to ‘invent’ something that is not seen in the text or even ‘expound’ philosophically on items related to the text. While this is good practice as needed (if the text speaks to the matter), it should be very minimal. What God’s word says has the power to change, not what we are thinking about what God’s word says. Contextual preaching then is the means through which the pastor will most benefit the church. A helpful sermon is one that stands within the text of Scripture and never pulls away from the original meaning. God alone shows what He is saying, He doesn’t need us to break into His mind and offer assistance to Him. Using a sentence out of context is not only ‘unhelpful’ but it is a very prideful engagement. It often shows either a lack of maturity on the part of a pastor, a lack of esteem for the Word of God, or a lack of discernment. Either way, it should be corrected and God’s word should be allowed to do what it was sent to do. (Isaiah 55:11; Hebrews 4:12)
A Helpful Sermon Brings Maturity
Most circumstances in life are out of the control of the ones experiencing them. So, to teach people to do something that is out of their control is a waste of time. It also brings the hearer to a place of despair or worse, a place of false hope. Paul teaches the Ephesian church to speak the truth in love (Eph 4:15) and the church will mature. What is the truth? The truth is spoken when each believer teaches the word of God to each other. It is spoken when it is ‘out of season’ and not received very well for the benefit and joy of another. It is spoken when preaching centers on the purpose of growing the church, which is inclusive of being able to ‘endure’ problems and ‘overcome’ circumstances that are out of their control. It often appears that pastors want to change people’s lives by changing the way they act or think. Scripture changes people’s lives, actions, and thoughts by showing them the power of God and His purposes in all things, even bad ones. True help is growth in grace, growth in Christ, growth in joy and all of these come through God’s word being taught as it is written. A helpful sermon can never point to what man can do or change in order to create the environment or circumstances for help. It must always point to the sufficiency of Jesus Christ and His power, purpose, and provision in all things.
A Helpful sermon continually focuses on the person of Christ and His work of atonement. God alone purposes the assembly and preaching for one reason, that He is glorified in His people. While the Scripture is used to preach Christ unto Salvation, that is done through right teaching of Christ, not through placating to felt-needs and ‘helps’ that have no eternal interests or glory in them. God’s word is the ONLY authority on all matters related to the church. God can do more in one second than all the helpful quippy and creative pep-talks combined in the world over a million years. Teaching God’s word not only helps, it teaches the church to hear the Lord, eat on their own, and to also help others with Scripture. Preaching out of context robs the body of Christ of all the blessings that Scripture brings.
 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.  And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (ESV)
God alone speaks with authority. He is the Helper. He uses finite men to open their mouths and proclaim His word through which He brings the message of hope and life!
Preach hard, pray with peace, and exalt the Christ brethren.
Some of the most engaging fodder of man center on what Scripture has not revealed. My entire life I have always been a philosopher, thinking more than anything else I do. I remember vividly daydreaming as a boy where my mind would contemplate deep things while becoming lost in the plethora of endless introspections. Many people today, while they may not expressly waste countless hours as I have in thought, do spend a great deal of time placing faith and hope in theological thinking instead of biblical teaching.
There is always room for thinking. We are required to think, to hold every thought captive, to meditate on the Word of the Lord, and to have wisdom and discernment. This isn’t the point of my premise. The point is that often times we land our theological plane on the runway that isn’t paved and quite honestly, doesn’t exist within the pages of Holy Writ. For example, many of us have a humanistic view of Lucifer, the Devil. He’s often thought of in caricatures of the ghastly and demonic (as portrayed by literature and film) when in reality, he is the angel of light and his beauty is grand. He is a deciever, so he purposes to disguise himself to be “like God.” Hell is another area of grand extra-biblical thought. Some people feel that the Devil is in hell and runs the place, when Scripture teaches that God has exiled Satan to the Earth and at the Day of Judgement, Satan will be assigned to hell.
What causes these types of controversies? Or worse, what causes this type of teaching. It’s one thing to posit, it’s a whole other conversation when what is not clearly taught in scripture is presented as fact. Well, several things are at play here.
- Oral Tradition – Many people hold to unbiblical views on matters because their view has just been handed down for ages. It’s what they’ve always thought and heard and therefore, they have never really questioned it.
- Obtuse Teaching – To think that pastors and bible teachers are exempt from their own presupposed traditions would be an error in judgment. Many who teach just restate what they think and have heard. While some of these matters are not grievous heresies, this type of teaching – lazy and thick-headedness – produces a vast ignorance among the church.
- Organic Thinking – Our minds actually come up with really creative ideas. Some of the things that I have pondered, while not found in scripture, are absolutely worthy of a screen play! Well, maybe not, but they are at least within the confines of human imagination. And often times, they are very logical. Our minds come to the table with many “what if it is like this?” To which we have to answer, “What does Scripture teach?”
- Obstinate Toughness – This is just being hard headed. We just do not like to be wrong and when we see something different that what we ‘know’, we tend to refuse it. The good thing is that God can overcome the hardest of hearts through the blood of the lamb. This unwillingness to learn is a bad sign because it reveals a refusal to know the truth of Scripture, which is to know the One True God.
We should be like the Bereans who inquired the Scriptures when they heard Paul teach. We should be students of the word and study to show ourselves an approved worker. Imagine learning something from someone who never learned what they were teaching, but rather they just repeated what they had heard. Are they a student? Are they qualified to teach? Being that we worship God from how He is revealed in Scripture, it is vital that we know Him rightly. We should test every idea that comes into our heads and our ears. And when what we ‘know’ conflicts with what God teaches, we should rest in what we see from the Bible. We know that God is always good. We can rest securely in everything that is taught in Scripture and better, we can rest securely in those things that are not explicitly taught, knowing that these things are settled as the mysteries of God.
Rest well beloved,
As long as there has been sin in the world there have been people with problems. Adam’s first issue was the fact that he was naked and then ashamed; Eve likewise. Since then the problems of humanity have compounded to an immeasurable proportion and it is very likely that things are not going to get better for humanity any time soon. The Good News is that Jesus Christ has suffered temptation, suffered in the flesh and risen from death and ascended into Heaven to “prepare” us for the presence of God (Among Many Things found in redemption…). So, those who know the love of God IN and THROUGH Jesus Christ ALONE can have joy in the midst of the problems. As believers, we know that all things are for our good and in time we will see the outcome of such in all circumstances. We understand that God is sovereign and that nothing is out of His touch and decree and that even in the worst of times His love for us is visible, effectual and known.
To this point then let’s remind ourselves of the love of God. First, God is love. So, He is known as love in His nature, love, holiness, character and actions. Second, if we love God it is only because God first loved us. Third, God’s love is only known through Jesus Christ the Son whom HE (God) put forth to satisfy His judgment against us and bring justice for our sin according to His holiness. We learn that there is no greater “love” than for a man to lay down his life for a brother, therefore, God loved the world in this way (so loved) that HE gave His Son. So, we summarize the love of God in the following way:
- God is love.
- God’s love is only known through the GIVING (sending and killing) of Jesus His Son.
- God loves us in the giving of Jesus Christ to die for our sins in that we cannot pay for them ourselves.
So, if we understand God’s love this way according to scripture, then we can rightly assume that to DISAGREE with God’s love through the Son is to REJECT the love of God. Those who reject the love of God are condemned already (John 3:16-18) and are subject to the wrath of God’s hatred for sin and sinners. Hmmmm….. Let that soak a minute and now let’s move to the point of our conversation.
Ministry often times is man-centered. It can been seen in a selfish light of “I want a friend”, “I want a shoulder to cry on”, “I want someone to pity me.” Of course this is not exclusive nor is it the rule but everyone can resonate with such statements. Let’s consider true ministry as “An attempt or effort to love others as God has loved us.” Thinking this way should have already opened your eyes. So, if God ONLY LOVES in the giving of His Son, then in the same manner (like in Ephesians 5:22-25) we should love each other as God loves us. We are unable to put Jesus the Son on the cross for He has already fulfilled His ministry as the Lamb but we are able to POINT TO THE LOVE of God for us and in doing so we are LOVING each other.
Ministry takes on a whole new light when we think biblically and especially when people come with their problems.1 Thessalonians 5:14 teaches that the church should be admonished when idle, encouraged when downhearted and strengthened when weak.
Everyone needs a good ear from time to time and it is always good when a believer seeks out counsel from a brother or sister in the local family of faith. In this seeking of counsel often times it comes to the point of just listening to someone whine about how bad things are rather than seeking good counsel. In the end it is always improper (according to our understanding of love) to allow someone to just fall into pity and self-centeredness for any reason. Our love for them should point them to the promises of God through His word and in the admonishing of the idle a stern warning comes first to BE IN THE WORD and BE IN THE BODY.
Without these two things no counsel will work, no hope will stick, no joy will arise. To give someone a shoulder to cry on while they live in continual disobedience and rejection of what the scripture teaches on how they are victors is “like” casting a diamond into the sea in hopes it would swim to a new family for their wealth or maybe like throwing a pearl in a pig sty. In other words, it does NO GOOD at all to just allow someone to ignore the power of God and His gospel just to have a pity party.
The answers to life come from God’s word, the power of victorious living come from the word, hope and courage come from God’s word… grace comes from God’s word. The letter of James tells us that those who see and do the word of God are victorious and rest on a solid foundation and just like Psalm 1, their feet will be planted and produce great growth. So, when someone needs wisdom, we go to scripture and show them to “ask and it will be given.” When someone needs comfort we exhort them to believe Jesus Christ when He says, “come to me all who are weary.” When one comes broken in their battle over sin we show them that Christ has suffered in every way and with every temptation but has sinned not. Others come with worry and in need of answers to their problems that they would find an escape and Godly council says, “stand fast in the fiery trials” and “do not be surprised” when they come.
Being out of the word of God and away from God’s people is like asking God to save you from burning as you set yourself on fire. Well maybe not quite as dramatic… but you get the point. At the cusp of this matter lies the ministry of the church of Jesus Christ, who are ambassadors of the living God through the redemption that is theirs in Christ. Sadly, many who want counsel want more than what the Word of God offers or want to be free from the pain of this life and sadly apart from the Word they will never find answers.
So what is the point of this rambling treatise? For all of those who diligently minister to those in need, please remember that the greatest ministry is the ministry of the word and the greatest friend is found in the body of Christ. So as we labor to answer the questions of life for others and we point them to the word of God we put our hope in Christ not ourselves. If we find some who refuse to hear and heed the word but they keep coming back for something else, it may be that we have to just clearly show them we have nothing more for them. Part of the pain of the Father’s discipline is being alone when we reject the Father’s instruction. Not to say we abandon others but we surely have to be clear that there is little we can do to help if they will not hear.
Warn the idle, encourage the downhearted and strengthen the weak through the word of God – if they do not listen, pray that God will cause them to listen and in their silent and lonely search for hope, God the Spirit will guide them back to His written word and back into the intimacy of His Holy People!
- Is what I am saying true? If I think yes, then go to number 2.
- The proof of what I am saying is in the context of the bible and it is found in the book of _______ chapter ___ verses ___ through ___.
- If number two cannot be filled in, delete the post and move on.
For my name’s sake I defer my anger, for the sake of my praise I restrain it for you, that I may not cut you off. Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction. For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another.
I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book. Rev 22:18-19
Romans 16:17-20 I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. Such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive. For your obedience is known to all, so that I rejoice over you, but I want you to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil. The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—7 not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed
—1 Corinthians 16:22
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
(Ephesians 1:3-14 ESV)
In a recent conversation with a brother in Christ, the matter of the invitational system arose whereby he inquired about the biblical nature of such things. When he confronted the practice with the question of its biblical authority, the brother was led to history and tradition as the backbone of the practice. This evening I read a post on Facebook related to the same subject and felt it would be good to share some of the points as taught by Dr. WR Downing on the true nature of salvation, which is the new birth, not a choice of man. While I personally could tragically kill such practice with general elementary exposition of biblical text, especially John 3, Dr. Downing’s thoughts on the nature of conversion ring loud and clear. More importantly, the scripture speaks to the nature of God’s work ALONE in salvation, thus the following:
True conversion is spiritual. It is much more than merely a question of man’s will or seeking to redirect it under preaching. Conversion is the result of the effectual work of the Spirit of God in regeneration. Conversion is the immediate and spontaneous outward manifestation of regeneration or the “new birth.” The very nature of the regeneration itself reveals its utter necessity before man can savingly believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. The necessity of regeneration or the new birth is found in the utter spiritual impotence of man (Jn. 3:3, 5; 1 Cor. 2:14), the blinding power of the devil (Matt. 13:4, 19; 2 Cor. 4:3–6), the eternal redemptive purpose, and the righteous character and omnipotence of God. If any human being is to be saved or delivered from the reigning power of sin, his own innate animosity toward God, the blinding power of Satan, and ultimately delivered from eternal hell, God must initiate the work of salvation (Isa. 64:6; Matt. 13:3–4, 18–19; Acts 16:14; Rom. 1:18–25; 3:11, 27–21; 8:5–8; 1 Cor. 2:14; 2 Cor. 4:3–6; Eph. 2:1–10; 4:17–19; Titus 3:5; 1 Jn. 5:19). To say all this is to declare that salvation is by grace; anything less would be a denial of the same.
There are six essential spiritual realities which comprise regeneration, or the “new birth.” If any one of these realities is not true or actual within the personality, the individual is yet unregenerate: first, the impartation of Divine life (Jn. 3:3, 5; Eph. 2:1, 4–5). Unless the individual receives such a principle of spiritual life, he cannot even “see” the kingdom of God, much less enter it. He may perceive, know or understand much, even so as to be without excuse, but his will is bent toward sin and evil and his inner being is darkened (Rom. 1:18–25; 1 Cor. 2:14).
Second, the breaking of the reigning power of sin (Rom. 6:3–14, 17–18, 20, 22). Every human being by nature is a willing bondslave of sin. This power is broken by God in a definitive act of grace, and a radical cleavage is made with the reigning power of sin in the life. This aspect of sanctification—definitive sanctification—is contemporaneous with regeneration.
Third, the removal of natural heart–enmity against God and his truth (Rom. 8:7–8; 1 Cor. 2:14). Man by nature has an innate aversion to God and his truth. This animosity is removed by a sovereign act of God, enabling the sinner to savingly turn to God in the context of his truth.
Fourth, the re–creation of the image of God in principle (Eph. 4:22–24; Col. 3:1–10). Both these passages refer to a past act, not to an entreaty. Man was created as the image–bearer of God. In the Fall, this image was devastated spiritually, morally and intellectually; the thought–process became fragmented and given to futility. The physical body, with its appetites and desires, assumed a controlling influence over the individual (Rom. 6:6, 11–14; Eph. 4:17–19). In regenerating grace, God re–creates the image of God anew in principle in righteousness, holiness of the truth and knowledge—a spiritual, moral and intellectual transformation. With the mind thus freed, and a holy disposition given to the personality, the sinner is enabled to freely turn to Christ in faith as presented in the gospel message.
Fifth, the removal of satanic blindness (2 Cor. 4:3–6). Above and beyond all matters of the will or heart, looms the awful, evil power of Satan, who specifically blinds sinners to the truth of the gospel. He further seeks to remove any influence of the gospel in any way he possibly can (Matt. 13:3–4, 18–19; Mk. 4:4, 15; Lk. 8:5, 12). This blinding influence is removed by an act of God’s grace.
Sixth, the gift of saving faith (Eph. 2:4–10). Conversion, or repentance from sin and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, is inseparable from regeneration. Conversion is the infallible and immediate consequence of the work of the Holy Spirit upon and within the personality (Acts 16:14). The Scriptures usually consider regeneration and conversion inclusively as one. It is conversion, pointedly personal faith in the Lord Jesus and repentance from sin, which necessarily and infallibly expresses the work of God within the personality (Acts 13:12, 48; 14:1; 16:14, 27–34; 17:4, 11–12, 34; 18:8, 27; 19:18; Rom. 10:9–10, 13, 17; 1 Cor. 2:4–5; Eph. 2:4–10).
So beloved, let us hold dear to the person of Jesus Christ and His infallible word through which one can find salvation by grace alone through faith alone. Anything else is just demonic.
Grace & Peace,
The struggle against the glory of God is as old as Adam. Well, it’s actually older. Lucifer had his eye on the beauty of God’s glory eternities prior to the creation and once man was made, he did his best to jump into the “see the glory” and “make it yours” game. While most all professing believers agree that God is most serious about His own glory, few actually understand what it means and how to define God’s glory in the first place. Taking on such a task would not suffice on an article post and the “point” here is to respond to a public “idea” that pits God’s glory against what is stated as “the gospel.”
The Old Testament is replete with example after example of God being most concerned with His glory and this textual expression is upheld by the New Testament. For example, Psalm 19:1 says that all the heavens declare the glory of God and Romans 1:20 advises that His invisible attributes are seen through creation, specifically His eternal POWER and DIVINE nature. Many more opportunities in the New Testament lecture the reader toward understanding that God’s glory is HIS visible power, nature, mind, actions, etc. In other words, God’s glory is GOD alone, it is the expression of Himself in all manners and means both generally and specifically.
The fall of man is measured against the “glory” of God. Therefore, it is a just condemnation when God’s glory is at stake. Man is compared to God and in doing so, God’s glory is revealed to be HIGH above the place of man. In Genesis, God said that it was GOOD to create man, as we began we saw that God says all that He has made is a display of His glory and now, the created man no longer displays such glory but falls far from it. (Romans 3:23) So, God’s glory is seen in creation and defamed in sin. Several places in the prophets we can see God acting for the sake of HIS NAME alone. His name, being coupled intrinsically with His being and essence reflect the whole sum of Himself in some respects, thus His glory.
The Glory of God is used often to describe the attributes and actions of God and seems to be the “END” purpose of all His being and doing. Paul says several times in the inclusive argument of Ephesians that the purpose of redemption was for God’s grace to be praised (His work, Himself) and this grace is described using the word “glorious”. Maybe God cares about His name and glory… maybe this is actually what scripture teaches. Some would argue that the glory of God is just a simple attribute of His power or something else and is just a particle of the whole. This stands in arrogance as well as extreme ignorance of the nature of God in the first place. (We will cover this in later discussions) So to the end of understanding a few things, God’s glory is the beginning and the end, for HE is the self sufficient, all powerful God who needs nothing, lacks nothing, exults in Himself, and is far above all things. In a real sense, to look at anything else but God and the fullness of His glory is just a boring journey of garbage and to apply any created purpose or person even at “equal” standing with the Glory of God is Satanic. (Just look at the words of Satan at his demise and his temptation of the first family and the Christ)
God’s glory should be seen as the point of LIFE and MISSIONS and EVANGELISM and PURPOSE. We can prove it in any text at any time and we would do well to write such things. But let’s start and end with this: John 1 says that the GLORY OF GOD IS SEEN IN THE FULLNESS OF JESUS CHRIST. Please refrain from argument here, so many times I look forward to the day where ALL MOUTHS WILL BE SHUT, but I am thankful that God is gracious enough to enable us to know Him. Salvation is KNOWING GOD (John 17:3, John 6:40) and the Son which is believing. So, salvation comes only through SEEING the glory of God and KNOWING God through His revealed Glory. This is God’s work and it is FULLY effectual FOR HIS GLORY!
When it comes to the exercise of the so-called church as of late and so-called evangelism and missions much is waining in regards to the authority of God over the message and methods. Such is true when anyone argues that the point of missions is the “gospel” over the “glory of God” when the GLORY of God is the Gospel. Sadly, only the saints of Christ can see and understand this. Only those who behold the fullness of God’s glory in Jesus Christ can savor the majesty of God as their soul-satisfying portion. The Gospel is such because of God’s glory because it is God’s glory. “GOSPEL” is a newly created word taken historically from “God speaks” revealed in the New Testament as the “The Good News.”
So, the “Good News” of Jesus Christ is the message of salvation which is a reflection of God’s good nature, love, mercy and grace. The Gospel is not a story, it is not a response, it is not a plan of salvation, it is the WORK OF GOD unto salvation by HIS POWER. The problem is that so many professional churchmen and executives with the title of Pastor do not like the humility required to behold and labor in the gospel of God’s glory. They prefer to be ashamed and thus have created a new gospel, which is damnation, not delight. The Gospel of God is the absolute reality that God became man, born of a virgin who He created into a world that He created in order to perfectly save a people that He created who rebelled against Him and cared not to see His glory but gloried in what they could touch and see. (Rom 1) The gospel is that this God-man lived a divinely holy and righteous life as a full human being and then willfully and gloriously suffered the cross and death to receive the penalty of sin and was raised to life. Faith in this work of God, this man of God, this God-man is the only way to salvation. Salvation only comes by the PREACHING of the words of Christ (Rom 10:17) who declared that IF YOU HAVE SEEN the Son, you have seen the Father and the Father made this GLORY manifest for salvation. (1 John 1)
- The church exists to display the glory of God because she IS because of His working power.
- Missions exist to reach out with the glory of God seen only in Jesus Christ
- Worship is done by those who are saved to the “praise of His glorious Grace.”
- All who believe reflect the GLORY of God and this pleases Him to see HIS work and POWER before Him.
- Attempts to marginalize “evangelism” toward the purpose of methods and messages are missing the point.
- Don’t take my word for any of this, read the scripture, be a Berean, know truth, not “tradition”.
- The GOSPEL is ALL ABOUT GOD, not our response, not our message, but God alone sending Jesus the Son alone to save His sheep alone. Let’s stop missing the point.
For His Glory By His Grace,
For more reading, try here: (we do not necessarily endorse all views on links or resources but provide them for extra study and consideration – even opposing views. We desire that our readers would engage in scripture and be learned by God and among the local congregation instead of just regurgitating learned principles)