Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Truth Pastors Need to Know (Part 4)...What to expect when God shows up!

In my first post on this subject we looked at the truth that in most churches the people are unrestrained because of no revelation (Proverbs 29:18). This implies the great need for systematic exposition of the Scriptures in order to bring the church under the guidelines of God as revealed in His Word. Preaching expository sermons systematically through books of the Bible will yield great benefits both for the pastor and his congregation.

In my second post on this subject we looked at the question: how or why did most churches get unrestrained; how or why did they get out of control? The answer to that question gave us a clearer understanding of the root of the problem facing today’s churches. The people are unrestrained and get out of control when there is no restraint because of poor leadership (Exodus 32:1-28).

In my third post we explored what the pastor should expect both positively and negatively (mostly negatively) as he begins to lead the church to function as God designed. The God-called pastor can expect certain rejection of God appointed authority (Numbers 16:1-50; Jude 8, 11c).

In this post we will examine what the pastor can expect when God shows up:

The God-called pastor who is leading his congregation to function as a church the way God designed not only is to expect certain rejection of his God-appointed authority, he is to expect God to show up (Numbers 16:19b) – “And the glory of the Lord appeared to all the congregation.” But the question that must be answered is: what is the pastor to expect when God shows up; what will that look like and what will happen?

Expect God to bring about a separation (Numbers 16:20-27). Many wrongly assume that any separation among the congregation must be of the devil. Nothing could be farther from the truth. God Himself will command a separation and bring about a separation. God is more interested in the quality of His people – their purity, holiness, and separation from that which is false than He is in quantity. The God-called pastor can expect to lose some of his congregation when God shows up and brings about a separation.

Expect to have to remind the people that you did not appoint yourself but were called and sent by God (Numbers 16:28). Pastor, you will have to explain that this separation that is happening is not your doing but it is God’s doing and God will vindicate His choosing and appointing you to lead the church.

Expect God to deal swiftly and severely with the apostates (Numbers 16:29-35). Again, many wrongly assume that God is not a God of judgment and that He no longer deals in such a swift and severe way with rebellion against His authority. Many a pastor can testify that God will indeed and still does deal this way in His church. Many opponents of God’s ordained authority for leading the church have found themselves destroyed swiftly by God. God still causes the ground the open up and swallow apostates who have spurned Him, although He may use a grave-digger rather than supernaturally splitting the earth open.

Expect God to give a reminder of the dangers of a layman rejecting and despising His authority (Numbers 16:36-40). Should this happen in the church God has called you to lead to function as He designed, it will serve as a severe warning and reminder that rejecting and despising God-appointed authority is rebellion against God and God will not leave such defiance untouched. This will go a long way in bringing the people under control and purifying the church.

Expect many of the people to blame you for God’s actions (Numbers 16:41). Sad to say but this lesson is not easily learned and many people will put themselves in the same danger by accusing you of causing the death and separation that God has brought about. You would think that after experiencing such a terrifying reality of the holiness and seriousness of God that people would learn quickly. Don’t expect it!

Expect to have to intercede for such ignorance (Numbers 16:42-50). Pastor, you will have to pray for your whole congregation. You will have to pray for repentance and revival to be granted by God. You will have to pray for God to turn His church around so that He doesn’t have to completely remove its lampstand (see Revelation 2:5).

Pastor, may grace, peace, and mercy be multiplied to you as you lead God’s church to function as God designed.

Monday, December 1, 2008

The Truth Pastors Need to Know (part 3)...what to expect

In my first post on this subject we looked at the truth that in most churches the people are unrestrained because of no revelation (Proverbs 29:18). This implies the great need for systematic exposition of the Scriptures in order to bring the church under the guidelines of God as revealed in His Word. Preaching expository sermons systematically through books of the Bible will yield great benefits both for the pastor and his congregation.

In my second post on this subject we looked at the question: how or why did most churches get unrestrained; how or why did they get out of control? The answer to that question gave us a clearer understanding of the root of the problem facing today’s churches. The people are unrestrained and get out of control when there is no restraint because of poor leadership (Exodus 32:1-28).

In this post we will begin to explore what the pastor should expect both positively and negatively as he begins to lead the church to function as God designed.

Expect certain rejection of God appointed authority (Numbers 16:1-50; Jude 8, 11c). As the faithful pastor begins to preach systematically through books of the Bible and hold his congregation accountable to God’s guidelines he is to expect certain rejection of his God appointed authority. Inevitably there will be those in his congregation who despise and reject authority and who would rather remain in a state of anarchy and confusion instead of humble submission to God’s guidelines and established authority. The faithful pastor will find out that his primary opposition will come from some of those already in leadership who will be unwilling to pay the price of bringing decency and order out of confusion and chaos.

Expect respected leaders to take action and oppose your leadership (Numbers 16:1-3; Jude 8, 11c). There will be those in leadership in your congregation that are well respected and looked to for spiritual leadership although they are not what the people think them to be – they are actually unqualified apostates who know nothing of the ways of God – and yet they will take action against your leadership as though they know what the Lord’s will is for His people (1). These leaders may have a fairly broad influence (2) and will be difficult opponents to leading the church to do God’s will God’s way. These are those who will perish in the rebellion of Korah (Jude 11) and who will bring many more down with them in their rebellion. They will demand equality among all the members and accuse the pastor of exalting himself above the congregation (3). Look for the doctrine of the priesthood of the believer to be taken out of context and used as a proof text.

Expect respected leaders to overstep their boundaries and attempt to seize control and leadership (Numbers 16:4-10). These are people whose real motive is to claim for themselves a position to which they have not been called or appointed – one that will afford them more authority and influence among the congregation. These people want to pastor the church even if it is from behind the scenes and even though they haven’t been chosen by God for such an assignment.

Understand that these people are really opposing the Lord and not you (Numbers 16:11). This should make you tremble for them. If they were simply opposing you then they would be in no danger. But since they are opposing the Lord they are in extreme danger. But expect and be certain that they don’t believe that they are opposing God – in their minds they are opposing you because they don’t understand the choosing and calling of God in the life of a pastor.

Expect that you will be accused of lording it over and failing in your God-given assignment (Numbers 16:12-14). These apostate leaders will oppose your leadership and authority ever chance they get (12). They will be quick to point out their perception that things were better before you got involved (13a) and that they believe you are lording it over them (13b). Not only that, they will expect quick results and because God isn’t in a hurry they will accuse you of failing in your God-given assignment (14a) and will accuse you of wanting to do harm to the leaders (14b).

Expect the apostate leadership to assemble the whole congregation against you (Numbers 16:15-19a). As you continue to lead the church to function as God designed you can expect the formation of a coalition against your leadership (19a). There will be all sorts of scheming and backbiting designed to turn the congregation against your leadership. You may think that pastoral ministry isn’t worth the effort because of the difficulties that you know and expect you must face. However, all isn’t negative!

Expect God to show up (Numbers 16:19b) – “And the glory of the Lord appeared to all the congregation!” Pastor, never forget that you are not alone and that God has promised that He will be with you. We will look at what to expect when God shows up in our next post on this subject.

For now, “Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 2:1) and do what the Lord has called you to do.

Grace and peace!

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Contemporary Relevance of God's Word

Many in our day believe that the Bible, God's Word, has to be "made" relevant to today's cultures and societies. However, in the attempt to "make" God's Word relevant the final outcome is twisted Scripture, twisted meaning, and therefore twisted application. The great news is that God's ministers only need to be faithful in accurately handling the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15) and it will be relevant because it is the eternal contemporary (1 Peter 1:23-25).


One example of just exactly what I am talking about is clearly seen in this blog which I read this morning and this blog which I posted last week which defines the characteristics of the heretic and apostate Ralph Waldo Emerson of the 19th century and still has perfect and piercing application to the heretics and apostates of the 21st century.


I'll give a few quotes from both blogs in order to show this wonderful truth about the accuracy and reliability of God's Word.



More to the point, Emerson had ignited an intellectual explosion the year
before, when he was asked to deliver the annual lecture to the Phi Beta Kappa
Society at Harvard. That address, "The American Scholar," was widely understood
to represent a declaration of independence for American intellectuals. No longer
should American thinkers be slavishly dependent upon European patterns, Emerson
declared. This was the time for the emergence of the American Scholar, a new and
advanced form of the human thinker; a scholar who would "plant himself
indomitably on his
instincts
" and refuse to be "timid, imitative, tame." A year later, Emerson rose to deliver his address to the Divinity School. Speaking to
young men studying for the ministry, Emerson repudiated Christianity and called
the young ministers to trust their own spiritual instincts and to free
themselves from the Bible, from belief in a divine Christ, and from any remnant of orthodox Christianity
(source, emphasis mine).

A fifth characteristic of these people is that they are instinctive in
their actions
– “…and the things which they know by instinct, like unreasoning
animals
…” (10b). These people are not motivated by the Word of God (inspiration) but by their instincts for accomplishing their agenda. These people operate by the flesh and not by faith. Their way seems right but it ends in death. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. They think that they are promoting themselves and that God is pleased with them forgetting that those who are in the flesh cannot please God. God is never pleased when people attempt to do His will their way. It is a dangerous thing to operate by instinct rather
than inspiration. These people are instinctive in their actions (source, emphasis mine).

Do you see the relevance of God's Word without having to "make" it relevant?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Truth Pastors Need to Know! (Part 2)...the root of the problem

In my first post on this subject we looked at the truth that in most churches the people are unrestrained because of no revelation (Proverbs 29:18). This implies the great need for systematic exposition of the Scriptures in order to bring the church under the guidelines of God as revealed in His Word. Preaching expository sermons systematically through books of the Bible will yield great benefits both for the pastor and his congregation. In the book, Feed My Sheep: A Passionate Plea for Preaching, Derek Thomas in his chapter, Expository Preaching: Keeping Your Eye on the Text, wrote, “History reveals that the benefits of the lectio continua method of preaching are considerable and essential in eras of biblical illiteracy” (Soli Deo Gloria Publications, Morgan PA, 2002, page 67). As Proverbs 29:18 says, “But blessed is he who keeps the law” implying the great benefits that come from knowing God’s guidelines and abiding by them.

Now the question must be asked: how or why did most churches get unrestrained; how or why did they get out of control? The answer to this question will give us a clearer understanding of the root of the problem facing today’s churches.

It seems obvious to me that the fault needs to be put squarely on the shoulders of those in leadership. The people are unrestrained and get out of control when there is no restraint because of poor leadership (Exodus 32:1-28).

The people get out of control because of poor leadership who operate under the fear of man rather than fear of God (1-6, 25). Here we see that Aaron succumbed to the wishes of the people (1-2), allowed and led them into idolatry (3-6), and let them out of control (25). Instead of caving in to the pressures of the people and giving them what they wanted, Aaron should have reminded them of God’s revelation of Himself and His guidelines. Churches get out of control because of poor and timid leadership who refuse to confront the people with God’s revelation of His guidelines.

The people and the leadership are responsible for their sin (7-10, 21). Not only do we read that the people are held responsible for their sin when they demand things to be done their way (7-10), we also read that the leadership is responsible for their sin of allowing the people to get out of control (21). When the people will not endure sound doctrine but want to have their ears tickled so that they can be unrestrained, we are not to be teachers in accordance to their desires but are to preach the word of God and operate under the fear of the Lord and not the fear of man (2 Timothy 4:1-5). God will hold both the people and the leaders responsible for their sin!

The leadership is responsible to keep the people under control (21, 25). God will hold the leadership to a higher standard of judgment (James 3:1). No leadership or poor leadership results in anarchy with the people being out of control doing that which is right in their own eyes. God has designed not only the church but also the family and society to have leadership. Those who are given the responsibility of leadership are to lead according to God’s guidelines both guiding and guarding those for whom they are responsible. Bad leadership makes for a bad church, a bad family, or a bad society. As goes the leadership so goes the people and God hold both responsible (Hosea 4:9).

Bold leadership needs to take immediate disciplinary actions (19-28). When the people are out of control because of poor leadership, bold leadership needs to step in and bring corrective disciplinary actions to bring the people back under control. Any unrestrained people are a derision to their enemies (25) and are subject to God’s anger and wrath (9-10). The disciplinary actions necessary may seem harsh (19-20, 26-28) but are totally necessary to restore restraint.

Corrective discipline will restore restraint but will bring death and division (26-28). This is a price that bold leadership must be willing to pay in order to bring those out of control back under control. We must remember that God isn’t interested in quantity unless it has quality. God isn’t interested in bigger churches unless they are better churches. In order to purify God will prune (John 15:1-6) and purge (Acts 5:1-13) and then His quantity will have the quality that He desires (John 15:8 and Acts 5:14).

Pastor, are you willing to do God’s work God’s way using God’s word to restore restraint and keep the people under control?

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Truth Pastors Need to Know! (Part 1)

The truth pastors need to know about the serious situation of today's churches and the solution for her maladies is a subject that God has given me the desire to write about and possibly even publish in either book or booklet form in order to help equip and encourage those who find themselves desiring to see the church function as God designed and yet finding themselves in a major battle to bring it about. While I am no expert on the subject, God has graciously given me the opportunity to be involved in studying His Word and applying it in the context of the local church where I pastor. God has graciously shown me the serious situation that many of today's churches are in and the solution for her maladies.

I also want to say upfront that turning a church around so that it begins to function as God designed it is a long and difficult process. There are no "magic-bullets" (magic sermons) that will cure the church's maladies overnight. However, a steady diet of good, solid, systematic expositional preaching will, over the long-haul, cure the church of her maladies and equip the saints for the work of ministry.

My desire is to inform the God-called pastor from God's Word what the root of the problem is and what he should expect both positively and negatively as he begins to lead the church to function as God designed.

In this post and possibly the next several posts I want to deal with the root of the problem before we move on to dealing with what to expect as we begin to deal with the problems.

First, in most churches the people are unrestrained because of no revelation (Proverbs 29:18). Most of us are familiar with this passage of Scripture and know it to say, "Where there is no vision the people perish; but he that keepeth the law, happy is he." It is by misinterpreting this verse that many pastors have been taught that it is their responsibility to create and cast a vision for their churches. They have been taught to formulate a plan to grow the church and then stategize how to fulfill it while bringing as many along in their vision as possible. However, this isn't true to Scripture and never will be. We are never given the liberty or the luxury to lean on our own understanding and attempt to do God's will our way. On the contrary we are to "trust the Lord with all our hearts and lean not on our own understanding" (Proverbs 3:5). Even the passage we have under consideration doesn't give us the right to come up with a vision for the church. The text literally says, "Where there is no revelation the people are unrestrained." You could interpret it like this, "Where there is no word from God the people do that which is right in their own eyes and get out of control." So you can see how it is possible for many churches to be out of line with God's guidelines for how the church is to function - and that even with a "vision."

This means that there is a great need for systematic exposition - "Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint" (Proverbs 29:18a ESV). Preaching straight through books of the Bible has been a very profitable and rewarding experience for me and my congregation. God will to purge and purify His church through His Word being preached in a systematic fashion. He will bring order out of chaos and bring the people under control by instructing and restraining them through His Word. It is through doing systematic exposition of God's Word that we truly learn how the church is to function and also guard against taking passages out of context and twisting the meaning. Systematic exposition of God's Word is part of the solution for curing the maladies of the church.

There is also a great need for and great reward in abiding by God's guidelines - "but blessed is he who keeps the law" (Proverbs 29:18b ESV). Those who obey God's Word find themselves blessed because they are doers of the Word and not hearers only. God is the creator and designer. When we function as He created and designed then we function properly and this brings Him glory. So the two go hand in hand - systematic exposition of God's Word and obedience to His commands. Any church that would dare trust God and do church His way will find itself the recipient of God's blessings. That doesn't necessarily mean a bigger church but it does mean a better church!

Monday, November 10, 2008

These People - Woe to Them!

God’s Word is truth and it must be because He is truth and He only speaks truth. Therefore what God has to say on any subject is true and we are not left to ourselves to determine what is and what is not true. Since it is the Word of God which is the standard of measure for determining truth we must go to it and hold every truth claim up against God’s Word to see whether or not it really is true. God’s Word is our only trustworthy standard of judgment. Not only does God’s Word tell us the truth of who God is but it also tells us the truth of who we are and whether or not we have become His children or are still His enemies. It is the Word of God alone that tells us who are the children of God and who are the children of the devil.

Since the Word of God is truth it gives an accurate portrait or portrayal of those whom it describes. Therefore God’s Word serves as a mirror or even x-ray which accurately reflects or reveals the inner character traits of each person. I like the way that Warren Wiersbe put it, “God’s Word doesn’t show me my baldness but my badness.” It is possible for men to appear on the outside to be all pious and pure but on the inside to be full of dead men’s bones. It is possible for men to appear on the outside to be all righteous but on the inside to be all rotten.

In Jude verse four, Jude introduces us to some very dangerous people who may appear to be all righteous on the outside but are completely rotten on the inside. In verse four Jude tells us that these dangerous apostates are insidious (stealthy, treacherous, or deceitful) in their activity – “For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.”

In verses five through seven Jude gave three biblical and historical examples of the certainty of God’s judgment on apostates. In verses eight through nineteen Jude gave a portrait of apostates which accurately reflects and reveals their inner character traits. In these twelve verses (8-19) Jude referred to the apostates of verse four as “these men” or “these” six times.

Let us consider from the Word of God the portrait of “these people” and the reasons for their woe.

To begin with Jude says of these certain persons in verse four that they are insidious in their activity. They are stealthy, treacherous and deceitful. These people are a great danger to the church of God and His truth that they are to proclaim and uphold. They are workers of iniquity twisting the meaning of God’s Word and God’s grace. And now in verses 8-10 Jude begins to give the full portrait of these people who are insidious in their activity.

The first characteristic that Jude gives is that these people are insatiable in their ambition – “Yet in the same way, these men, also by dreaming…” (8a). These persons are not content with their lot; they are not satisfied with their positions until they achieve their dreams. They believe that they are the answer to the problems of God’s church and that if God would turn them loose they could show everyone how church is supposed to be done. These people live in a dream-world of unreality and delusion. They overestimate their own importance and are not satisfied when others don’t recognize their abilities and their supposed rights to be in some position of leadership.

Jude put it this way in verse 16 – “These are grumblers, finding fault, following after their own lusts….” “Grumblers” is “murmurers” and it is one who discontentedly complains against God. It refers, not to a loud, outspoken dissatisfaction, but an undertone muttering. “Finding fault” here means “blamers of their lot, complaining of one’s position, discontented with their position.” We will talk more about this when we get to the apostates’ engagement in the rebellion of Korah. “Following after their own lusts” shows us that these people are dreamers who do not abide in or by the Word of God. They have a vision for the church that includes them in positions of prominence but that vision is not based on God’s divine revelation as found in His Word. These people are insatiable in their ambition.

The second characteristic of these people is they are insanitary in their audacity – “Yet in the same way these men, also by dreaming, defile the flesh…” (8b). Insanitary means unclean or likely to cause disease. Audacity means boldness or daring, especially with confident or arrogant disregard for personal safety. These people have an unholy boldness. They have the nerve to disobey God’s divine revelation and act as though God doesn’t mind. They believe that their agenda is God’s agenda and that their happiness is God’s concern. They live to satisfy their lusts both for their positions of leadership and their personal happiness. Peter in 2 Peter 2:10 said that they are “daring, self-willed.” They have the boldness to turn God’s grace into licentiousness and say things that are an outright denial of the will, way, and Word of God. For instance, Ray Boltz, who divorced his wife a couple of years ago and is now an out of the closet homosexual said, “This is what it really comes down to, if this is the way God made me, then this is the way I’m going to live. It’s not like God made me this way and he’ll send me to hell if I am who he created me to be … I really feel closer to God because I no longer hate myself.” Isn’t that daring and self-willed and an outright denial of the will, way and Word of God? These people have an unholy boldness and are insanitary in their audacity.

The third characteristic of these people is that they are insubordinate to authority – “…and reject authority…” (8c). Doesn’t it make sense that if a person is insatiable in his ambition and insanitary in his audacity that he will be insubordinate to authority? The dissatisfied, scheming, daring, and self-willed person isn’t for a minute going to subject himself to the law of God. “For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile towards God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Romans 8:6-8). Apostates recoil against the boundaries that would keep them in their God appointed place. These people don’t want to be under authority – they want to do things their way and not God’s way. When you see a person who despises and rejects authority, especially in the church, you are looking at an apostate. When someone is in a position of leadership in the church and will not be subject to God’s ordained and called leadership with his or her ministry, you can mark it down, he or she is rebellious and despises and rejects authority. If you have the attitude that I don’t need and don’t desire the oversight of the preacher and the church leaders in my ministry then you fit the portrait of “these people” who are apostates headed for destruction. Let me ask some questions: who structured the government and function of the church? Who designed the church to be led by scripturally qualified men? Who calls those men to that responsibility? The answer is the Lord! Now let me ask another question: if someone rejects and despises that leadership, who are they rejecting and despising? The answer is the Lord! These people are insubordinate to authority.

A fourth characteristic of these people is that they are insolent in their arrogance – “…and revile angelic majesties” (8d). Insolent means boldly rude or disrespectful. Again look at the logical sequence in their downhill plunge to destruction – the person who is insatiable in his ambition, insanitary in his audacity, and insubordinate to authority, will be insolent in his arrogance. Here the example of the archangel Michael disputing with the devil is given as to how those who belong to God are not insolent in arrogance (9). “But these men revile the things which they do not understand…” (10a). These men revile God’s ministers. This is what Korah and his bunch did to Moses in the book of Numbers. They rejected the authority that God gave Moses and accused him of taking that authority to himself and lording it over the people. Arrogant speech is a dangerous thing and so is despising that authority that God has established. Look out when you see someone who is arrogantly rebuking the devil or arrogantly disrespecting the authority that God has established. These people are insolent in their arrogance.

A fifth characteristic of these people is that they are instinctive in their actions – “…and the things which they know by instinct, like unreasoning animals…” (10b). These people are not motivated by the Word of God (inspiration) but by their instincts for accomplishing their agenda. These people operate by the flesh and not by faith. Their way seems right but it ends in death. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. They think that they are promoting themselves and that God is pleased with them forgetting that those who are in the flesh cannot please God. God is never pleased when people attempt to do His will their way. It is a dangerous thing to operate by instinct rather than inspiration. These people are instinctive in their actions.

A sixth and final characteristic of these people in these verses is that they are insensible to their apostasy – “…by these things they are destroyed” (10c). It should be obvious to anyone who is marked by the first five characteristics of these people that they are in grave danger and that they are apostates and children of the devil. But not these people – you can show this to them as clear as day from God’s Word and they will be insensible to their apostasy. They will not be able to feel or fear the danger that they are in. These people are insensible to their apostasy. And no wonder – look at verse four.

Monday, November 3, 2008

A Good Soldier of Christ Jesus...Ordination Service for Johnny Johnson

Being ordained into the gospel ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ is both a great privilege and great responsibility. It is a great privilege in that the Lord Himself is the one who chooses and calls according to His own purpose and grace. It is a great responsibility in that the Lord requires certain character qualifications for a man to be considered eligible to hold the office of pastor or elder and the Lord Himself will hold each teacher of God’s holy Word to a higher standard of judgment.

I pity the man who has run to obtain this office but hasn’t been either called by God or sent by God. I also pity the man who thinks that being a pastor will be easy and that professed believers will automatically love him. Being a pastor entails many serious responsibilities. The pastor must feed God’s people, lead God’s people, discipline God’s people, and guard God’s people. The pastor is to be a good soldier of Christ Jesus especially as it pertains to his responsibilities of guarding the faith and guarding the flock, both of which require warring against the enemies of God’s people.

First and Second Timothy and Titus are pastoral letters. In other words they are God’s divinely inspired accounts of what He expects of pastors and therefore what His church is to expect of their pastors. In 2 Timothy 2:1-7 we see seven aspects of how God expects the pastor to be a good soldier of Christ Jesus.

A good soldier of Christ Jesus is to be strong in grace (1) – “You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” Johnny, you are to be strengthened inwardly in order to accomplish the ministry that the Lord has called you to. He is not calling you to be popular but to be His spokesman and you will find your strength to do that in His grace. The ministry is no place for cowards who operate under the fear of man rather than the fear of God. You will be called on by the Lord to speak His truth no matter the consequences. God labors with you through His grace and His grace is sufficient. If everyone else deserts you He will stand with you and strengthen you. The ability to study, understand, and teach the Word of God is a gift of God’s grace. “Able to teach” is one of God’s requirements for the pastor (1Timothy 3:2) and in order to teach you must be able to learn and to be able to learn you must study God’s Word. It is through studying the Word of God that you learn the great doctrines of grace and guard against teaching and preaching some form of perversion of God’s grace. Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.

A good soldier of Christ Jesus is to be sound in doctrine (2) – “The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” Paul had delivered the sound doctrine with which he was entrusted to Timothy and expected Timothy to guard and deliver sound doctrine to others who would be trustworthy in delivering it on to others. It is our responsibility to guard the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints and then invest it as a trust in the lives of others who will do the same with others. It is important as a pastor that you get what you preach from the Word of God and not from the ideas and philosophies of men. You are not to attempt to be relevant by speaking as from the world – this is a primary mark of the many false prophets – but you are to preach the Word because it is relevant to every generation in every culture and it is sufficient – it is enough! Be sound in doctrine!

A good soldier of Christ Jesus is to be shameless in suffering (3) – “Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.” Ours is a day of upside down theology. The false gospel of health, wealth, and prosperity has been so incorporated into modern theology until the man of God who suffers for the sake of righteousness is considered an ungodly heretic and ungodly heretics who are popular, powerful, rich, and highly influential are well spoken of. You will not be popular if you are God’s spokesman but you will be persecuted for it. However, you will find yourself in good company when this happens. This happened to the prophets, to the apostles, and even to our Lord Jesus Christ. Now you see why you are to be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. As you are sound in doctrine you will be persecuted and spoken evil of for the sake of righteousness but the Lord’s grace will allow you to be shameless in suffering. Paul told Timothy, “Do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God.” Be shameless in suffering!

A good soldier of Christ Jesus is to be separated in service (4a) – “No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life….” Johnny, the Lord is calling you into active service as His soldier. The worries of the world are not to be your concern but the war of the Lord is to be. You must not get distracted by that which is really insignificant. The Lord hasn’t called you to fight the world’s global giants and He hasn’t called you to be the prince of P.E.A.C.E. Curing AIDS or solving world hunger or educating the poor or any other socialist activity is not your calling. Men can receive these benefits and still die and go to hell without Christ as their King. Your calling is to stand against the schemes of the devil and battle against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. You are to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints and destroy speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God. Only the truth of the gospel is significant for it alone is the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes. Leave the other stuff to men like Rick Warren – you preach the gospel and do not be entangled in the affairs of everyday life. Be separated in service!

A good soldier of Christ Jesus is to be singular in devotion (4b) – “…so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier.” You are to please the Lord and not yourself or anyone else. What does it matter if you please yourself or everyone else and the Lord is not pleased? The Lord deserves your honor, your affection, and your obedience for all He has done for you. His own courage and singular devotion on the battlefield is unparalleled. He stayed the course and went before you to win your freedom and eternal life. Just as Jesus was singularly devoted to His Father’s will so you are to be singularly devoted to the will of Jesus Christ. Your greatest desire should be to hear your King say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” And He will if you always seek to please Him and Him alone. Every time you preach you are to remember whose presence you are in and for whom you speak. Paul told Timothy, “I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word” (2 Timothy 4:1-2). Wanting to please the Lord Jesus Christ will set you free from worrying about what others think of your or the message. Be singular in devotion!

A good soldier of Christ Jesus is to be sensitive to the rules (5) – “Also if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules.” Regardless of what popular men may say you are not to discover the purpose of God and then strategize how to fulfill it. You do not have either the ability or the luxury of leaning on your own understanding when it comes to doing the will of God. The will of God has to be done the way of God or else you have violated the rules. The false prophets are marked by attempting to do God’s will their way instead of His way. Jesus will say to them on that day, “Depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness,” because they do not do the will of His Father who is in heaven. In Matthew 7 it is as clear as day that the false prophets attempted to do ministry in the name of the Lord Jesus but they were not sensitive to the rules. Rather, they leaned on their own understanding and took shortcuts. There are no shortcuts to doing the will of God. Shortcuts are not according to the rules. Even the Lord Jesus said that He did nothing on His own initiative – and you are not to do it either. God’s word is sufficient and He will show you His ways so that you can accomplish His will. Be sensitive to the rules!

A good soldier of Christ Jesus is to be steadfast in labor (6) – “The hard-working farmer ought to be the first to receive his share of the crops.” The word “hard-working” comes from a Greek word that means to toil intensely, to sweat and strain to the point of exhaustion. Let no man deceive you – the ministry isn’t a playground it is a battleground. The farmer knows that farming isn’t a playground but it is a battleground. A farmer has to work and he has to stay hard at it. If you leave a field to itself it will produce mostly weeds. If you leave the church unattended it will produce weeds that will eventually overtake the wheat. Without being steadfast in labor there will be no harvest of righteousness. Just like the farmer you must be patient, continually working and weeding, waiting for the harvest. The spiritual growth of the people of God takes time and hard-work. We live in a day of instant everything. Men want instant rewards without the hard-work. Do the hard-work – you will receive the reward – not only of seeing God’s children grow in grace but also of hearing the Lord say, “Well done!” Be steadfast in labor!

Consider what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything” (7).

Friday, October 31, 2008

True Reformation

True reformation always results in a return to sound doctrine and a reorienting of our lives to God's truth as found in His Word. True reformation will necessarily then result in a separation from strange doctrines and those who preach and perpetuate them. Not only does truth unite those who receive it and believe it, it also divides those who receive it and believe it from those who don't. There is a move today in many quarters to produce a "new reformation" that will unite under what one does rather than what one believes. Rick Warren put it this way:

You know, 500 years ago, the first Reformation with Luther and then Calvin, was about beliefs. I think a new reformation is going to be about behavior. The first Reformation was about creeds; I think this one will be about deeds. I think the first one was about what the church believes; I think this one will be about what the church does.The first Reformation actually split Christianity into dozens and then hundreds of different segments. I think this one is actually going to bring them together. Now, you're never going to get Christians, of all their stripes and varieties, to agree on all of the different doctrinal disputes and things like that, but what I am seeing them agree on are the purposes of the church. And I find great uniformity in the fact that I see this happening all the time. Last week I spoke to 4,000 pastors at my church who came from over 100 denominations in over 50 countries. Now, that's wide spread.We had Catholic priests, we had Pentecostal ministers, we had Lutheran bishops,we had Anglican bishops, we had Baptist preachers. They're all there together and you know what? I'd never get them to agree on communion or baptism or a bunch of stuff like that, but I could get them to agree on what the church should be doing in the world. And the way I expressed it is that the Bible calls the church the body of Christ, and what's happened in the last 100 years is that the hands and the feet have been amputated and the church has just been a mouth, and primarily it's been known for what it's against. It's been known for what it's against. And I am working toward a second Reformation of the church which could create a Third Great Awakening in our nation or world...(source).

However, this wouldn't even come close to true reformation but will result in a counterfeit reformation with an ecumenical and ungodly alliance between believers and unbelievers (see 2 Corinthians 6:14-16). We don't need a new reformation, we need to get back to the old one!

The Pyromaniacs have a great post on the reformation entitled The Bedrock of the Reformation. Check it out!

Happy reformation day!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Purpose of Apostasy and the Antichrist

Have you ever wondered what the purpose of the coming apostasy and antichrist is from God's perspective? What is it that God will accomplish by causing these evils to bow down and serve Him for His good, acceptable, and perfect will?

Listen and find out:

Monday, October 27, 2008

A Call to Arms...Jude 3-4: About the Aim

So far in our studies of the letter of Jude we have learned about the author – that Jude was saved; that he was a servant; and that Jude was serious (1a). We have also learned about the audience and their unique position as believers, who had been effectually called into the kingdom of God through the gospel; who were the special objects of the love of God the Father as the beloved; and who were kept or preserved for Jesus Christ (1b).

Today we learn about the aim of Jude’s letter (3-4) – that it is a call to arms; a rally cry for those who are kept for Jesus Christ to keep or guard the truth of the Word of God which has been entrusted to the saints. This is a reminder to the saints that we are in a war for truth, a battle between the forces of light and the forces of darkness, and that we are to be good soldiers of Jesus Christ the Captain of the army. The Christian life is a battleground and not a playground and we are not volunteers but we have been chosen and enlisted by the Lord Himself.

Here we see three aspects of Jude the soldier of Christ: (1) Jude’s important desire, (2) Jude’s impelling necessity, and (3) Jude’s imperative reason.

Jude’s important desire (3a) – “Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation….” Jude had set out to write an encouraging letter about the common salvation of the saints. This is a very important theme and is a noble and important desire for pastors to teach their people about the glorious truths of their positions as saints. After all, what we do and how we live should be determined by who we are in relationship to our position. Therefore the truth about our position as saints should serve as a motivator for us to walk in a manner worthy of our calling.

Doctrine determines duty or to put it another way belief determines behavior. This is why the apostle Paul began his letter to the Ephesians with the doctrine of who we are in Christ before he ever gave our duties as believers in Christ. A careful reading of Ephesians tells us both who we are and how we should conduct ourselves – and it is interesting that even in the book of Ephesians that our calling and blessings in salvation are to result in our victorious stand in the battle for truth.

While it is an important and necessary desire to teach the saints about our common salvation so that they can walk in a manner worthy of the gospel, it is also important for them to be reminded that based on their position that they are to war in a manner worthy of the gospel. As a pastor I would much rather encourage the saints than to declare war on apostates but the two must go hand in hand.

Jude’s impelling necessity (3b) – “…I felt the necessity to write you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.” Jude had no more than began to write his encouraging letter that he intended to be a discussion on the blessings and benefits of our common salvation that he was compelled or compressed into going another direction. The Spirit of God changed Jude’s mind and laid on him the necessity to write about the battle against the forces of evil which were rapidly gaining a foothold in the church. Jude was impelled by the Holy Spirit and the circumstances of apostates infiltrating the church to the extent that it was necessary for him to sound the trumpet.

What was it that the Holy Spirit impelled Jude to write to the saints? Jude was impelled to write an exhortation or an appeal. In the Greek language, the word for exhort or appeal was used to describe a general giving orders to the army. In other words, inspired by the Holy Spirit, Jude called on the saints to engage in the battle for truth and especially as it pertains to the body of truth, the faith, which was once for all handed down to the saints. The saints have been given the responsibility from the Lord to guard and fight for the faith. The apostle Paul spoke of guarding or fighting for the faith many times in his letters to Timothy. Guarding the doctrine and keeping the gospel pure against the strange doctrines of the apostates and false teachers is a primary responsibility of pastors but it is also a primary responsibility of every Christian. The church is supposed to be the pillar and support of the truth and the only way to accomplish this is to guard the truth and battle for the truth.

We are told that we are to earnestly contend for the faith. Earnestly contend comes from a word from which we get our English word “agonize.” The word speaks of a vigorous intense, determined struggle to defeat the opposition. In other words we are to strain with every fiber of our being in this battle to maintain the purity of the faith without letting it be spoiled or corrupted by apostates and their strange doctrines. We are to exert ourselves to the point of agony in an effort to win the battle for truth. Jude tells us that it is with such intense effort that the saints should defend the doctrines of Christianity.

The exhortation was to earnestly contend for the faith. The faith here is not faith as exercised by the individual, but the body of truth pertaining to Christianity in its historic doctrines and life-giving salvation. In other words we are not seeking some new revelation but to be true to the historic doctrines of God which was once for all delivered to the saints. It is our responsibility to seek the ancient paths and to be sure that what we believe and are preaching, and teaching is in line with the Word of God. God is keeping us and we are to keep or guard the truth of the Word of God.

All the cults and false religions and I should also add apostate religions have abandoned the truth of God’s Word and are not keeping or guarding it but corrupting it with destructive heresies. They come up with new revelations and new interpretations although God’s Word plainly says that the body of truth has been once for all handed down to the saints. God has said what He needed to say and there isn’t going to be any further revelation. Muhammad was a liar, Joseph Smith was liar, and all who claim to have divine revelations of heaven or hell or anything else is a liar. If we want a divine revelation I suggest we read God’s divine revelation – His Word. God’s Word is not only His divinely inspired revelation of truth; it is totally sufficient in all areas of rule and practice. We do not need to look to the psychologists, anthropologists, or sociologists to see how we are to do church or grow the church – we only need to look to the Word of God and the historic truths of Christian doctrine.

Jude’s imperative reason (4) – “For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” Jude now gets to the reason that we must earnestly contend for the faith – the stealth of the enemy whose desire is to dilute, distort, and defile the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.

Notice how Jude characterized these apostates – “for certain persons have crept in unnoticed.” They use stealth. They enter alongside by stealth and deceit. They slip in secretly. They have the ability to go undetected by the radar. In other words they claim to be Christian and claim to be followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. Don’t misinterpret this passage. The way these people deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ is not through an outright denial but by turning His grace into licentiousness. They could not have crept in unnoticed with an outright denial of the Lord. They actually claim to be His servants and claim to speak His word. They disguise themselves as servants of righteousness (2 Corinthians 11:13-15). It is the responsibility of the church leaders to guard the flock (Acts 20:28-31) and the responsibility of the saints to be alert.

Jude also characterized these apostates as marked out for condemnation – “those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation.” The word of “marked out” is prographo and it means to write beforehand. God’s word tells beforehand the nature of the apostates and their coming judgment. Before it ever happened, God’s word told of the activity of the apostates who would sneak in and corrupt the meaning and application of God’s word thereby incurring a just and rightful condemnation for such ungodly activity. There is no excuse for apostates who twist God’s word because He has already said beforehand that they would and that He would judge and condemn them.

Another characterization that Jude gave of the apostates is that they are ungodly – “ungodly persons.” Ungodly is one of Jude’s key words in this letter. He used it six times in these twenty five verses. Ungodly means destitute of reverential awe toward God. This means that these people have no fear of God and that they reject His authority. Apostates will have nothing to do with the Lord as absolute ruler but would rather think of Him as their buddy who is interested in their happiness and not their holiness. Apostates want Jesus Christ as Savior but not as Lord. They want Him as a means to be used for their health, wealth, and prosperity but not as the ruler of their lives. They are ungodly!

The apostates are also transposers – “who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” By turning the grace of God into licentiousness, the apostates replace one thing with another. In this case they put licentiousness in the place of the grace of God. This is a redefinition of biblical grace into that which is not biblical and not intended. Licentiousness is nothing short of anarchy by giving the right to do whatever one pleases as though God’s grace allows such activity. Turning the grace of God into licentiousness turns the grace of God into a license to sin rather than a motivator to live righteously (Titus 2:11-12). Therefore, turning the grace of God into licentiousness becomes a denial of the rule and authority of the Lord in our lives. It becomes a denial of the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

Apostates “deny our only Master and Lord - “master” is from the word despot and means absolute master or ruler. The apostate views the Lordship of Jesus as a King with absolute or unlimited power as that which is oppressive. Therefore the apostate views the absolute rule of Jesus Christ as a type of tyrannical and oppressive rule. So the apostate recoils against salvation as an issue of Lordship and rejects the Lord’s authority choosing instead to replace God’s grace which gives us the power to live righteously under the Lordship of Jesus with licentiousness which is nothing short of anarchy.

So these persons are ungodly and without reverential awe of God and deny His absolute authority by turning His grace into licentiousness. Apostates claim to know Jesus Christ but they have not and will not receive Him as the King of God’s kingdom. Apostates don’t teach the doctrine of the Lordship of Jesus but rather undermine it. Apostates want Jesus as Savior but not as Lord. We must guard against such destructive heresies!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Dark Shadows of the Antichrist...necessary conditions before the antichrist comes.

There are at least two major and necessary conditions that are harbingers to the coming of the antichrist. Before the antichrist comes there must be at least in the makings a one world all inclusive religion made possible by what the Bible refers to as the apostasy and a one world unity as the result of a new world order, also known as globalization.

The apostasy will be a form of religious pluralism and necessitates a turning away from the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints. The apostasy will result in an inclusivism that allows unity and partnership with other religions irregardless of doctrinal beliefs. Apostasy therefore will be in direct violation of the gospel and its exclusive nature (that Jesus Christ is the only name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved - Acts 4:12) and in direct violation of God’s Word concerning partnership with false and apostate religions (2 Corinthians 6:14-18). Therefore the apostasy with its ecumenical movement necessitates a wrong focus on the purpose of the gospel and a wrong focus on the purpose of the church.

The new world order will be a form of world unity which includes partnership of governments and world religions in an attempt to cure the world’s problems and bring about world peace and prosperity. The new world order or globalization will result in a one world economy of which the antichrist will seize control (Revelation 13:17). Globalization will result in a one world government which will be a form of socialism with the foundation of philosophical humanism (man’s happiness). Both the apostasy and globalization will be a return to the tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9).

Where are we in the process? How far along is the world in achieving religious pluralism and globalization? Who is having the greatest effectiveness in achieving these two necessary conditions that are harbingers to the coming of the antichrist? Who is casting the darkest shadows of the antichrist?

Listen and find out!

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Unique Position of Believers...Jude: About the Audience

We have already learned about the author – that Jude was saved, a servant, and he was serious. Salvation results in being persuaded about the kingdom of God and His appointed King Jesus Christ – in other words salvation always results in being persuaded about the rule of God through His Christ. So salvation always results in our humble submission to and desire to be ruled by Jesus Christ the King who died for our crimes and rose from the dead in order to transform us and guide us. Salvation through the gospel makes us into willing servants of the King. And as servants of the King we are serious because service to His Majesty matters!

Today we learn about the audience – those to whom and for whom Jude wrote his letter. Here we clearly see the biblically defined characteristics of those saved by the power of the gospel and the unique position of believers.

To those who are the called….” The first characteristic of the saved is they are the called. In order to understand this characteristic we are going to have to distinguish between the general call of God and the effectual call of God.

The general call of God goes out to many but doesn’t necessitate, constitute, or guarantee the salvation of all who hear it. The general call of God is His invitation to salvation that He sends out to many through His servants who proclaim the gospel. However, the general call of God can be ignored, shunned, rejected, and even improperly received by those who are invited (Matthew 22:1-14). So we see in the Scriptures that many are called but few are chosen – indicating that the general call of God is not effectual for all who hear it.

The effectual call of God however results in the gospel being the power of God unto salvation for those who believe because they have been chosen by God for salvation. The apostle Paul put it this way after speaking to the Thessalonians about the apostasy and the coming of the Antichrist that must take place before the Lord Jesus gathers His saints to Him – “But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth. It was for this He called you through our gospel that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14). So the general call of God is the effectual call of God only for those who have been chosen by God from the beginning for salvation. So the saved who are referred to as the called are those who were invited through the gospel, made willing by the effectual call of God to receive that which by nature one rejects – namely Jesus Christ as King and his or her self as loyal servants who love and adore the King – and thereby proven to be chosen. Only the chosen are effectually called through the gospel and the gospel is the only way that God calls those whom He chose. God’s choosing and God’s calling go together, for the God who ordains the end (our salvation) also ordains the means to the end (being called through the gospel). It is for this reason that we do not use gospel gimmicks but rely solely on the gospel without being ashamed of it – for it is the power of God unto salvation for all who believe.

“…beloved in God the Father….” The second characteristic of the saved is they are beloved by God the Father. Here the Greek word is agapao and it means beloved or loved ones. Some translations say, “to them that are sanctified by God the Father….” While there is a different Greek word for “sanctified”, hagiazo, don’t fret. Even the word beloved has in it the idea of being set apart as the special objects of God’s love. The beloved are the permanent objects of God’s love. God’s love for His elect was demonstrated in the past through His self-sacrificing love shown at Calvary (Romans 5:8), it is demonstrated in the present through both His care for them and discipline of them (1 Peter 5:7 and Hebrews 12:5-6), and it will be demonstrated in the future and for all eternity through His delight in them and His salvation of them.

“…and kept for Jesus Christ.” The third characteristic of the saved is they are kept for Jesus Christ. The word “kept” means to preserve. Kept means to guard, to hold firmly, to watch or keep. The saints are the objects of God’s permanent, preserving, watchful care. God the Father is keeping the saints for His Son! Not only does the Bible tell us that God the Father is keeping the saints, it also tells us that Jesus Christ is keeping the saints (John 10:27-29). The eternal security of the believer is not a dangerous doctrine as some believe but it is a delivering doctrine which allows the saints to put on the full armor of God including the helmet of salvation and enter the battle for truth with courage. Any who would turn the doctrine of the security of the believer into an excuse to sin rather than the encouragement to stand for truth, is an apostate who turns the grace of God into licentiousness (Jude 4). The saved are called, beloved, and kept.

Because they are called, beloved, and kept, the saints as the King’s soldiers are the recipients of God’s choicest blessings: mercy, peace, and love – “May mercy and peace and love be multiplied to you."

God in His mercy does not give us what we deserve. Instead He gave our punishment to His own Son, the King, on the cross. This means that God is for us and not against us – “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us” (Romans 8:31-34). Mercy be multiplied to you!

Because of Christ’s work on the cross, believers enjoy peace. Peace is to join together that which has been separated. Therefore peace is a reunion that is based on the putting away of enmity between two separated people. Peace is not just the absence of war; it is the absence of any reason for war. Therefore genuine peace is always based on purity and purity is the putting away of enmity. I’m speaking of the actual putting away of enmity and not the turning of a blind eye to it. Many in our day believe that God is going to turn a blind eye to their enmity and crimes against Him and have even been told by the false prophets, “Peace, when there is no peace.” However, God does not have a blind eye! As long as a man has not repented and Christ is not his King he has no peace with God no matter how much he believes that God is not going to do what He says He is going to do. Only those who are saved have peace with God – “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1). Peace be multiplied to you!

The saints also experience God’s love. God’s love is poured out within the believer’s heart – “because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5:5). The cross is God’s demonstration of love (Romans 5:8), but His love is not experienced within until His Spirit comes into the believing heart and makes it real. As the believer grows in his spiritual life, he enters into a deeper relationship of love (John 14:21-24).

Certainly those who know Christ as their Lord and Savior enjoy a unique position. They are called by God, beloved in God and kept by God for Jesus Christ that they might enjoy mercy, peace, and love from God. What a special place believers have in the heart and plan of God!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Why So Serious?

The letter of Jude is short, only twenty-five verses in length, but it is very serious. The first half of verse one tells us about Jude, the author of the letter. "Jude, a bond-servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James" (Jude 1a). Here we see three characteristics of Jude the author and the reason for his seriousness.

First, Jude was saved!

Jude is short for Judas. This Jude was the brother of James and both were the brothers of the Lord. Matthew 13:54-56 and Mark 6:2-3 establish the truth that this Jude was Judas the brother of James and also they were the half brothers of Jesus. There was a time when the brothers of the Lord didn’t believe in Him (John 7:2-5). There was a time when the Lord’s brothers thought that He had lost His senses or was out of His mind (Mark 3:20-21). So there was a time when both Jude and James didn’t believe in Jesus as the Messiah.

However, Acts 1:14 reveals that they did become believers as do their letters. Both James and Jude considered themselves saved by signifying their spiritual relationships to Jesus Christ as their King – “James, a bond-servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ” (James 1:1) and “Jude, a bond-servant of Jesus Christ…” (Jude 1). Jude also said, “Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation…” (Jude 3). Both Jude and James refused any special regards based on their physical relationships to Jesus – because it gave them none – but emphasized their spiritual relationships by regeneration – being born again! Therefore the salvation of James and Jude was identical to and in common with any who would ever be saved.

Next, Jude was a servant!

Jude, a bond-servant of Jesus Christ.” Bond-servant is duolos and means slave or bond-slave. The bond-slave has no rights except to do his master’s will. Our relationship to Jesus Christ as a bond-servant or bond-slave is indicative of the reality of regeneration with Jesus as the King and us as his subjects. This means that none of the Lord’s physical family had any special privileges or exemptions in regard to their positions under the Kingship of Jesus Christ. Even Mary His mother had to yield to Jesus Christ as her Lord. And indeed Mary did consider herself a bond-slave of the Lord (Luke 1:26-55).

Our salvation always results in our being persuaded about the kingdom of God and His King. It always results in our humble submission to the authority of Jesus Christ over our lives. And indeed, the government of our lives shall rest on His shoulders. Jesus is the Good Shepherd who laid down His life for His sheep and He is the Great Shepherd who was raised from the dead to direct our lives. He is the Chief Shepherd who is coming again to remember us in His kingdom. All subjects of the King are servants of the King. We must never forget that our salvation has placed us back into proper relationship with God – we as His loving and loyal servants; He as our loving, leading, protecting, providing, gracious, and glorious King.

Those who are saved are also servants of His Majesty the King.

Third, Jude was serious!

Seriousness always marks those who are saved and who are serving their Lord. Being a bond-servant of the Lord is a serious matter. After all, He will Himself settle accounts with all men and judge us according to our faithfulness – “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10).

Jude did not call himself an apostle but distinguished himself from them, saying, “But you, beloved, ought to remember the words that were spoken beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ” (17). So seriousness in the matter of serving the Lord was not for apostles only but is for all who are bond-servants of Jesus Christ.

Jude’s seriousness is clearly seen in this little letter of twenty-five verses. He wrote it under special restraint or necessity as he tells us in verse three. Jude had to deal with the serious and disturbing topic of apostasy although he would have rather written a more positive letter on the topic of our common salvation. Surely many in our day would say that Jude was too serious even to the point of being unloving and unkind in this short but sharply severe letter. However when we consider the deadly and deluding dangers of apostasy with its destructive heresies which undermine and deny the majesty and glory and grace of our Lord and thereby deceiving and destroying souls, we actually see that Jude’s seriousness was not too severe, nor unkind, nor unloving, but exactly what is called for at such a time.

The seriousness of Jude in his day of apostasy speaks with special force to our own times in this day of wide-spread apostasy. For way too long the enemy has had unguarded entrance into the fellowship of the beloved until his secretly introduced heresies have become incorporated, encapsulated, and now propagated as though they are the absolute gospel. We are living in a very dangerous age, beloved, and this is not a time for peace but a time for war. This is not a time for slackness but a time for seriousness. This is a time for those who are saved by the Lord, and are servants of the Lord, to be serious for the Lord. And this we will do by knowing the truth and guarding the truth; by earnestly contending for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Understanding the End-Times and the Antichrist

I for one believe that there is much confusion and even deception regarding the end-times, the coming of the Antichrist, and the church’s relationship to these events. While I do not understand or know everything about this subject, I do understand and know that the Word of God is clearer on this subject than all the confusion and deception indicates. The problems that we have in understanding the end-times has everything to do with our lack of knowledge of God’s Word and nothing at all to do with a lack of clarity or accuracy of God’s Word. Therefore it is our responsibility to study and know God’s Word, allowing it to renew and transform our minds, while not imposing our own wishes and ideas on this subject. We are to let God’s Word inform, instruct, and transform us in every branch of theology at the expense and destruction of our own preconceived ideas that we might bring to the table. We are to let God be found true, though every man be found a liar. God’s Word is truth because He is truth and He only speaks truth.

As to the confusion and deception regarding the end-times, the coming of the Antichrist, and the church’s relationship to these events there are many errors but two main ones. These two main errors are polar opposites of each other.

One extreme is to disregard the subject all together as either unimportant or unknowable as though God hasn’t made it clear or else He hasn’t really said that much about it. Those in this camp might refer to themselves as “pan-believers” – they believe that it will all pan out in the end. While that is true it reveals a lackadaisical and dangerous attitude. There is actually great benefit in knowing the difficulties that we must face and great danger in not knowing. The Lord Jesus spoke to His disciples of the future persecution and enmity that they would face for His name’s sake just before His crucifixion (John 15:18-27). Immediately after speaking to them about their future difficulties He said, “These things I have spoken to you so that you may be kept from stumbling” (John 16:1). Far too many “pan-believers” may find themselves to be unbelievers when they stumble because of the difficulties and persecutions that they were not prepared for. For the “pan-believer” I would suggest a careful reading and understanding of 2 Thessalonians 2:1-5 with special focus on verse five – “Do you not remember that while I was still with you, I was telling you these things?”

The other extreme is to devote all one’s energy to this subject alone and detach from the whole counsel of God. While the Bible has much to say on this subject, it isn’t the only subject and shouldn’t be treated as such. I have found that those who devote themselves almost entirely to the subject of end-times perpetuate more error concerning it than they do truth. The reason for this is simple – our growth in understanding the Word of God is progressive. There are lessons that must be learned and truths that are foundational to receiving and understanding more truth. The Lord Jesus put it this way in Matthew 13:11-12 – “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted. For whoever has, to him more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him.” The Lord also put it this way, “I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now” (John 16:12). So for those who are overly intrigued with end-times I would say two things: (1) if you are going to properly understand the end-times and not be deceived then you must take the time to learn the truths that are foundational to receiving and understanding more truth. (2) I would suggest a careful reading and understanding of 2 Thessalonians 2:1-5 with a special focus on verse 3 – “Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction.”

What are the lessons that must be learned and the truths that are foundational to receiving and understanding more truth? The way I see it there are there are two primary categories of theology with one being foundational and the other fundamental that directly affect the category of eschatology (doctrine of the end-times). We need to keep in mind that if one errs in the foundational category this will alter the fundamental category and corrupt our final category.

Soteriology (the doctrine of salvation/gospel) is foundational. This is the first and most important lesson to be learned if we are to receive and believe more truth. We must know what God’s truth is concerning the gospel and how men are saved. We must receive and believe what God has revealed about Himself, about man, and about His Son. While we will not go into detail here on everything that is entailed in the doctrine of salvation, let me summarize some non-negotiables in it: God is holy, He is just, He is righteous, He is unchanging, and He will not compromise with sin. Man is a sinner, he is depraved, he is impotent, and he is ungodly. Man deserves to receive the wrath of the Almighty for his rebellion and anarchy against the rule of God in his life. God in His grace, mercy, and love has provided only one way by which He can justify sinful man while He Himself remains just and that is through His own sinless Son, living a life of perfect obedience, suffering the penalty of death for crimes that he didn’t commit in the place of those who did, and then being raised from the dead and exalted as the King of the kingdom of God so that we would be broken and repentant over that one act of love - the King died for me! This results in our no longer living for ourselves but for Him who loved us and gave Himself up for us. We confess that He is Lord and that we are not and we obey Him because we love Him. Salvation is a matter of loving submission to the Lordship of Christ because He first loved us. Only the gospel has the power to cause the transformation of totally depraved rebels into loving and loyal servants of the King.

Ecclesiology (the doctrine of the church) is fundamental. If we are going to know the truth about God’s purpose for His church then we must know the truth about the gospel. Those who don’t understand the doctrine of salvation are doomed to not understand the doctrine of the church. If one departs from the Word in the doctrine of salvation his next logical step is to defile himself with the world in his doctrine of the church. Here is how it works: when men do not understand the doctrine of salvation/gospel and reject God’s revealed truth about Himself, man, and God’s Son, he will resort to gospel gimmicks and turn the church into a man-centered gathering place rather than a God-centered equipping place. Instead of being the pillar and support of the truth and equipping the saints for the work of the ministry (which once accomplished will produce men and women who are able to stand against the schemes of the devil in this evil age), the church becomes the pillar and support of lies and the gathering place for unconverted sinners in some form of social organization.

Without a proper understanding of the doctrine of salvation the doctrine of the church becomes altered and then the perfect recipe for apostasy is brewing. As soon as men depart from God’s Word in the area of the doctrine of salvation they will quickly defile themselves with the world and the world’s methods in their evangelism and in their doctrine of the church. It doesn’t take long for this to be passed from one generation to the next as though this is the truth and then apostasy is perpetuated as the truth. No wonder we are warned to earnestly contend for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.

Soteriology is foundational and ecclesiology is fundamental. That brings us up to our final category and here we can now see that eschatology (the doctrine of end-times) is fathomable. In other words it is understandable once you understand how it is possible for men to depart from God’s Word and defile themselves with the world and thereby promote and perpetuate apostasy. Here is the reason apostasy is such a deluding and deceiving influence – it has the numbers. When you have departed from God’s Word and defiled yourself with the world you will deceive yourself with your works because the world loves its own and will join you.

As time marches on and fewer and fewer churches are true churches which are not ashamed of the Gospel and are the pillar and support of the truth, training and equipping Christians to stand against the schemes of the devil, then apostasy has a freer and more unhindered influence. This is what God’s Word says about end-times – “Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, that you not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction” (2 Thessalonians 2:1-3).

What is God going to do about apostates who will not receive the truth so as to be saved? Enter the Antichrist!For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false (the lie), in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness” (2 Thessalonians 2:11-12).

For many, the apostasy and the Antichrist before we are gathered together to the Lord, is unfathomable. That is because their eschatology is corrupt and their ecclesiology has been altered based on the truth that they have erred in their soteriology. All of this must be understood if we are to receive and believe the truth about the end-times and the Antichrist.

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Ancestry of the King...His Divine Heredity

Matthew 1:16 and 18 makes it clear that Jesus Christ’s birth was different from that of any other Jewish boy named in the genealogy. Matthew pointed out that Joseph did not “beget” Jesus Christ. Rather, Joseph was the husband of Mary, by whom was born Jesus who is called Christ. Jesus was born of an earthly mother without the need of an earthly father. This is known as the doctrine of the Virgin Birth.

It is the virgin birth of the Lord Jesus Christ that proves that God is His Father and that He Himself is God and not just another man. Had Jesus have had an earthly father then we wouldn’t believe in His deity (that He is God). Had Jesus came into the world without the agent of an earthly mother then we wouldn’t believe in His humanity. But the virgin birth proves that Jesus Christ is fully God and fully man.

It is surely no accident that the beginning of Matthew’s gospel is devoted to establishing both the regal humanity and the deity of Jesus Christ. Apart from Jesus’ being both human and divine, there is no gospel. The incarnation of Jesus Christ is the central fact of Christianity. The essence and power of the gospel is that God became man and that, by being fully God and fully man, He was able to reconcile men to God. Jesus’ virgin birth, His substitutionary atoning death, resurrection, ascension, and return are all integral aspects of His deity and the gospel.

After establishing Jesus’ human heredity, Matthew proceeded to establish His divine heredity.

First there was a miraculous conception (1:18)

In His birth Christ was conceived in a borrowed unused womb. We will see that in His death Christ was buried in a borrowed unused tomb. In this section of Scripture we see how God operates. He chooses the things that are not to shame the things that are. He chose Mary and Joseph, two godly but unknown and poor young people, to bring the King of glory into the world. We are reminded in First Corinthians chapter one that God operates in this fashion and that in His choosing us it wasn’t because of our being somebodies but because of our being nobodies. O what a Savior!

This verse makes it plain that Joseph was not the father of Jesus Christ. Joseph was Jesus’ legal earthly guardian-father. Mary and Joseph had been betrothed. To the Jewish people in that day, betrothal (engagement) was equivalent to marriage – except that the man and woman did not live together. They were called husband and wife and at the end of the engagement period the marriage was consummated. If a betrothed woman became pregnant, it was considered adultery.

Second there was a natural misunderstanding (1:19)

Joseph knew that he hadn’t had relations with Mary and yet she was pregnant. But because he was a “righteous man” he didn’t want to disgrace her and planned to send her away secretly. To send away means to divorce.

Legally Joseph could have divorced Mary and had her stoned for adultery but he showed grace and because of it he himself would soon become the recipient of grace – the grace of the Lord Jesus. Because Joseph was a righteous man he was in a predicament. He knew he shouldn’t go through with the marriage but he also knew that he should show grace – so what was he to do?

Third there was a divine explanation (1:20)

While considering what to do the Lord answered Joseph’s predicament by giving him an explanation of what was going on – Mary was pregnant by an act of the Holy Spirit. Joseph was given a couple of commandments in his dream from the angel – (1) do not be afraid and (2) take Mary as your wife. Joseph, the son of David, would be included in the glorious privilege of the arrival and raising of the King.

Fourth, the King’s divine heredity was proven in His names and His birth fulfilling prophecy (1:21-23)

The virgin will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus. The name Jesus means “Yahweh is salvation.” Jesus is the Greek version of the Hebrew name Joshua. The name Jesus was given to our Lord by God. He would be named Jesus because He will save His people from their sins.

All this took place so that what was spoken of through the prophet would be fulfilled: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14). Immanuel translated means, “God with us.” This One is God. He is God in flesh and God with us. Jesus is His human name; Christ is His official title; and Immanuel describes who He is – He is God! The King was a Jewish male who was also the divine Son of God.

Finally there was obedience to the commands of the Lord (1:24-25).

After Joseph awoke from his sleep he took steps of obedience that are always necessary to be included in the blessings of God. Notice the verbs of action that characterize obedience – he did; he took; he kept; he called. He did as the angel of the Lord commanded him. He took Mary as his wife, he kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son, and he called His name Jesus.

Matthew has given conclusive proof that Jesus Christ is the Son of Man and the Son of God who alone is the King of kings and Lord of lords. The question is – is Jesus your King? Do you love and serve Jesus as King because He first loved you and gave Himself up for you?