Dealing with Serious Threats to Our Peace


I blew through the application section of this morning’s message. You can listen to the audio here.

I promised to post this portion of my manuscript on the blog for the convenience of anyone who wanted to pay closer attention.

I promise, I fulfill.

Warding off serious threats to peace in the church requires a decisive plan for their defeat – watching out for them, staying clear of them, being smart about them, and expecting the God of peace and the Lord of grace to help us fight them. Takeaways are plain. One, relish being part of a confessional church with Reformation roots. Your best friend to guard against error is an orthodox, articulation of sound doctrine. Two, embrace the stewardship of guarding the go0d deposit of the gospel. Three, expect error to hunt us to destroy our unity. Don’t be caught by surprise. Leaders and followers alike stay on the alert. This is why you don’t teach any class at OGC unless you are a member and have been appropriately vetted in terms of sound doctrine. Four, be decisive in dealing with error in the majors. We can’t afford to pussyfoot around with heresy in any form given the costs to our unity. Five, be careful what you read, watch on Christian TV, and to whom you listen to on the web. Be smart – wise in the good, innocent in the evil. Spend more time learning the truth than you do at all in dabbling in the deceptions. Six, rely on the God of peace and the Lord of grace to fight the battle against the arch deceiver. Pray, pray, pray. And, seven, preserve peace knowing you’ve been saved by the God of peace and are helped by the Lord of grace.

I look forward, Lord willing, to continuing the peacemaking theme next Sunday with Psalm 133 – Unity’s Song. 


RTS Chapel Message Now Available

Thanks to the good folks at Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando, we are able to make available the audio of my recent message from Ephesians 1:7-10 entitled The Blessing in the Son on our website.

You can listen to the audio here.

I summarized the message this way:

Unsurpassed blessing upon undeserving sinners warrants unrelenting praise. The blessing praised is our redemption. Second, the bounty paid is His blood. The benefit procured is forgiveness of our trespasses. The basis proclaimed is the riches of His grace – extravagantly dispensed, magnificently revealed, perfectly timed, and ultimately purposed grace.

So grateful to pastor in a seminary community!

Something Else for Which Jesus Cares Greatly (Part 2)

Today’s message from John 15:1-11 is now on the web. You can listen to the audio here.

Here is the quote from Boice and Ryken’s The Doctrines of Grace I gave at the conclusion:

In the natural world there are animals that eat nothing but meat. They are called carnivores, from caro, carnis, which means “meat.” There are other animals that eat nothing but grass or plants. They are called herbivores, from herba, which means vegetation. Imagine taking a lion, who is a carnivore, and placing a bundle of hay or a trough of oats before him. He will not eat the hay or oats. Why not? It is not because he is physically or naturally unable to eat them. Physically, he could munch on the oats and swallow them. But he does not and will not, because it is not in his nature to eat this kind of food. Moreover, if we were to ask why he will not eat the herbivore’s meal, and if the lion could answer, he would say, “I can’t eat this food, because I hate it. I will only eat meat.” Now think of the verse that says, “Taste and see that the LORD is good” (Ps. 34:8), or of Jesus saying, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever” (John 6:51). Why won’t a sinful person “taste and see that the Lord is good” or feed upon Jesus as “the living bread”? To use the lion’s words, it is because he “hates” such food. The sinner will not come to Christ because he does not want to. Deep in his heart he hates Christ and what he stands for. It is not because he cannot come naturally or physically (pp. 85-86).

Apart from Him we can do nothing.

This is the first and most important secret of fruitfulness in partnering with Jesus in His greater works mission of the gospel.

All Is Precious

Today’s message from John 14:25-31 is now on the web. You can listen to the audio here.

Jesus rebukes His own for their failure to enter into His joy of heading back to the Father in glory. They are far to self-absorbed with their own grief to see the bigger picture. He loves them even in the sting of rebuke. If you loved me, you would have rejoiced.

Do we consider everything from Christ’s hand, including His rebukes, as precious?

Octavius Winslow encourages us to do just that:

Receive as precious everything that flows from the government of Jesus. A precious Christ can give you nothing but what is precious. Welcome the rebuke – it may be humiliating; welcome the trial – it may be painful; welcome the lesson – it may be difficult; welcome the cup – it may be bitter; welcome everything that comes from Christ in your individual history. Everything is costly, salutary, and precious that Jesus sends. The rude tones of Joseph’s voice, when he spake to his brethren, were as much the echoes of his concealed affection, as the softest, gentlest accents that breathed from his lips. The most severe disciplinary dispensations in the government of Christ are as much the fruit of His eternal, redeeming love, as was the tenderest and most touching expression of that love uttered from the cross.

May we find everything that Jesus sends precious, even His rebukes of our beyond-what-is-necessary, self-absorbed grieving of loss.

A Faith that Responds to the Word

One could rightly summarize the Epistle of James in two words: “Faith works.” James argues for a kind of Christianity that acts on what it knows in terms of right speech and behavior.

An important transition occurs in vv. 19-27 of the first chapter. It revolves around the word of God. Just as God uses His word to regenerate us – he brought us forth by the word of truth (1:18) He continually affects our salvation by implanting the word in our hearts through effective teaching (1:21). True faith responds eagerly to the word of God. Such a response has three characteristics.

First, it humbly receives the word in the heart (19-21). Rather than react with anger, which rarely works the righteousness of God, James says to receive with meekness the implanted word. We are to have a receptive, humble, broken-hearted disposition when the word comes to us in any variety of formats. That will look like a quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger kind of reaction (v. 19).

Second, it faithfully applies the word in the life (22-25). Be doers of the word, and not hearers only. Yes, you need to hear and be attentive to the word, but if you stop there you are, as James puts it, deceiving yourself (v. 22). He uses a word picture in the rest of the paragraph to drive home his point. Hearing only and not doing is like gazing in a mirror only to walk away and not attend to the problems you saw with your face in that mirror! On the contrary, those who gaze into the word like a mirror for their lives and persevere in their obedience are blessed (v. 25). Blessed is far better than self-deceived!

Third, it zealously infuses the word in the religion (26-27). The word for religious refers to the outward ceremonies of the Christian life. Liturgy and its components are a meaningful part of the faith. But if that’s all there is to your experience as a Christian, you have a problem. James proposes a very different litmus test as to what comprises what he calls pure and undefiled religion before God (v. 27). It bridles the tongue. If it doesn’t, it’s worthless (v. 26). That hurts! You can’t get more basic than that. If your anger gives way to an out-of-control tongue as a rule, you don’t grasp true religion in the biblical sense. Furthermore, true religion visits widows and orphans and keeps oneself unstained by the world. It requires charity to the needy and purity in the world.

Now there’s a checklist by which to measure the validity of our Christian experience.

Life’s Ultimate “What If?”

Today’s Easter message from 1 Cor. 15:12-20 is now on the web. You can listen to the audio here.

Here is how I summarized the argument in this portion of the epistle:

But here’s the good news. Paul has trafficked in the hypothetical for the purposes of his logical argument in these last eight verses. He has made his point. Denying the reality bodily resurrection results in logically necessary consequences of the most catastrophic kinds – false gospel, futile preaching and faith, fraudulent witness, flourishing sin, forever death, and forlorn-to-the-utmost believers. But none of that is the case! Look at v. 20. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. So we may rightly, and I am indebted to John Piper for this insight, reverse the implications of all six of Paul’s logically necessary consequences. We have no false gospel but a true one with Christ raised from the dead. We have no futile preaching and faith it produces, but full and worthwhile-to-the-max preaching and faith with Christ raised from the dead. We have no fraudulent witness but truthful witness with Christ raised from the dead. We have no flourishing sin but rather fully forgiven sin before God and resurrection power to fight its remaining influences until one day we are completely delivered from this flesh with Christ risen from the dead. We have no forever death but everlasting life and hope of being reunited with all those who have fallen asleep before us with Christ risen from the dead. And we have no forlorn, misplaced, pitiable hope but rather an enviable, blessed-above-all-others kind of hope, even if it costs us our lives, with Christ risen from the dead.

Blessed Easter to all.

We are anything but forlorn! He is risen. He is risen indeed!

Nothing for Which Jesus Cares So Much (Part 7)

Today’s message from John 14:15-24 is now on the web. You can listen to the audio here.

Here is how I tied together the entire passage in our last look at this section of the farewell discourse:

Genuine faith that knows the Father and the Son who is in the Father demonstrates itself through obedience to Christ’s commandments. There is no love for Christ, no genuine belief in God, apart from a treasuring of Christ’s commandments. This alone will suffice for the measuring rod of your faith as to it genuineness. Do you evaluate it in these terms? Christ alone can give you this kind of faith. If you admit your rebellion against him and failure to keep all His commandments and put your trust in His death on the cross for your sins, He will forgive you and He will send you His Holy Spirit to indwell and empower you and He Himself and the Father will indwell you and strengthen you and aid you in every way as well.

Do you wonder if you ever will overcome that besetting sin? There is a Niagara of help in the Godhead. This is the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith (1 John 5:4). Here is where we must focus in our battle against the flesh. Greater is He who is in you than He who is in the world (1 John 4:4). The good news of the gospel is that because of Christ’s finished work on the cross and His going to the Father, all the resources of the gospel now envelop our hearts and lives. No wonder R. A. Torrey said: I can think of no thought more humbling or more overwhelming that the thought that a person of Divine majesty and glory dwells in my heart and is ready to use even me. He does indeed. One God. Three persons. More than enough for our every need.

On this Palm Sunday may we praise God for the Triune provision that is mutual indwelling and the promise for all we need for a life of treasuring Christ’s commands and walking in obedience to Him.

Nothing for Which Jesus Cares So Much (Part 6)

Today’s message from John 14:15-24 is now on the web. You can listen to the audio here.

Here’s how I summarized the point of the text:

Jesus’ loving care in thoroughly preparing His own for their mission points yet again to His identity as Messiah that we might believe in Him. Indeed there is nothing He cares so much as our faith, genuine faith that treasures and keeps His commandments. And why are they not burdensome, to use 1 John 5:3 language? Because of the Trinitarian provision for our aid in obedience – the gift of the Spirit in helping us, the coming of the Son in the resurrection for assuring us, and next time, Lord willing, we will consider the indwelling of the Father, and not just the Father but the Son as well, both promising to make their home with us. Amazing!

Praise God for the Trinitarian provision for operation-saving-faith-resulting-in-obedience!

The Three "Rs" of the Spirit

Yesterday I attempted to apply the teaching from John 14:16-17 about the role of the Holy Spirit with three “so whats.” I want to review them quickly here in this post.

First, find rest in the Spirit’s foreverness. The Son asks the Father to give us the Spirit and promises a forever relationship. We never need concern ourselves that the Father will renege on the promise of the Spirit. We are sealed with the Spirit (Eph. 1:13). He will never leave us or forsake us and always gives us exactly what we need for every circumstance and situation.

Second, take responsibility for the Spirit’s infilling. The Spirit’s indwelling, enjoyed by all Jesus’ followers, does not guarantee His fullness in our everyday lives. We make choices all the time that influence that one way or the other. Ephesians 5:18-21 is the key text:

And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.
Notice the corporate nature of the means that affect the Spirit’s infilling in our lives. Participation in singing and praise from the heart with thanksgiving and a submissive spirit towards others all come into play dramatically in terms of whether or not we enjoy the Spirit’s in full measure.
Third, think relationship with the Spirit as family. He is, after all, a person. A Christ follower has no more intimate relationship than he does with the indwelling Spirit. Talk with the Spirit. Pray to the Spirit. Remember that the Spirit goes with you wherever you go and can be grieved (Eph. 4:30) or quenched (1 Thess. 5:19) by whatever you do.
There are some bizarre teachings out there about the Spirit, but we should not let the fear of those excesses keep us from cultivating a prayer-without-ceasing, keeping-in-close-step with the Spirit.

Nothing for Which Jesus Cares So Much (Part 5)

Today’s message from John 14:15-24 is now on the web. You can listen to the audio here.

I summarized the flow of the argument this way:

We could spend multiple messages unpacking the doctrine of the Spirit, but I will resist that temptation for we will encounter His ministry nuymerous times to come in this discourse. But before we move on next time to the role of the Son of God, the second person of the Godhead, I do want you to see in verses 16-18, in addition to the identity of the Spirit as Helper, four other particulars that Jesus identifies about Him – His perpetuity, His priority, His exclusivity, and His intimacy. All of these contribute to the force of the advantage that comes to Jesus’ followers upon the loss of His presence in so short a time (John 16:7).

Praise God for the extraordinary help of the Holy Spirit in whom we find rest, are filled, and enjoy intimate relationship!