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. 


Why Observe Reformation Sunday?


Fresh from two weeks in the wilds of Idaho, it feels good to get back in the blog posting saddle again. The church calendar constrains me. October 27 is Reformation Sunday. Every last Sunday of the month of October we at Orlando Grace, along with most churches in the Reformed tradition, mark the anniversary of the official start of the Protestant Reformation. On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed his church-shaking Ninety-Five Theses on the the door of the Wittenburg church, catalyzing a tectonic shift in Western Christianity.

I’m not sure I can improve on last year’s post to this end by a fellow officer of mine. However, I do feel certain things need to be said, if only by repetition. The question to observe or not to observe Reformation Sunday for this pastor is a no brainer. Yes, a thousand times yes. Although I must admit for years as a pastor, I failed to do so. I credit a former associate of mine, now turned jeweler, for opening my eyes on that score. Thank you, young squire. I miss you.

Orthodox Christians of the 21st century stand on the shoulders of giants who have gone before us. None matter more than the Reformers in one respect for what they recovered for the church laboring under the legalism and apostasy of Roman Christianity. As captured in the first of the solas, sola Scriptura, the Reformation saw a return to the ultimate source of authority over the church – the inspired, inerrant word of God (2 Tim. 3:16). Thanks to Luther, Calvin, Zwingly and the rest, no longer do we look to creeds, confessions or tradition for the source of truth guiding God’s people. Scripture sets the standard. Creeds and confession have enormous value, even as OGC subscribes to the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith, but only as they accurately reflects the Word of God.

As captured in the additional solas – sola gracia, sola fide, sola Christus, and sola deo gloria, the reformation accomplished a recovery of the gospel that is rightly grasped and proclaimed only as salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone to the glory of God alone. Hence my sermon text for this Sunday – Ephesians 2:7-10 and title – Eternity’s Glorious Display. God will forever put on display the wonders of His grace precisely because the nature of the redeemed’s salvation is by grace alone, not a result of works, lest anyone should boast.

One final thought why we ought to observe Reformation Sunday. Because we need a modern day Reformation. I first became convinced of this by reading David Wells provocative book No Place for Truth: Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology. Lately I have been reinforced in my determination that the same need exists more than ever by reading Ross Douthat’s 9781439178331_p0_v3_s260x420helpful assessment of the American religious landscape Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics. Douthat chronicles the demise of orthodox Christianity over several decades into a panoply of false teachings and heresies that make one’s hair stand on end. In his concluding thoughts, he notes historical evidence including within America’s journey when it looked like all was lost for true religion when the opposite actually occurred. He offers this hope with the help of G. K. Chesterton:

In each of these cases , an age of crisis was swiftly followed by an era of renewal, in which forces threatening the faith either receded or were discredited and Christianity itself revived. Time and again, Chesterton noted, “the faith has to all appearance gone to the dogs.” But each time, “it was the dog that died.”

Yes, we should observe Reformation Sunday. May we celebrate what the Reformers recovered and hope the heterodox dogs of the day die once again.

Nothing Matters More in the Battle Against Sin that Enslaves

Among the things I give thanks to God for this Thanksgiving week is the grace He has given in delivering me over the years from enslaving sin.

How does that happen? We find a significant key in Peter’s second epistle.

Second Peter addresses a threat to the church of Jesus Christ in Peter’s day in the form of heresy, false teaching. Chapter 2:1 says – there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them. Their error was libertinism. They promoted license. They preached a perverse understanding of freedom and grace that entice by sensual passions of the flesh (2:18). Anything goes was the name of the game for this bunch. Grace covers.

Peter aims in this book to take such foolishness to task and arm the church with weapons of warfare to counteract the attack. He begins this letter with the indicative before ever stressing any imperatives. He talks of what is before what should be. He lays out a grand description of what God has done in saving His people. He bases his prescriptions for godly behavior on an eloquent description of what God has done. 

In so doing he tips his hand at what makes for the key idea in the entire book. We see it in 1:2 – Grace and peace be multiplied to you. That’s not an unusual opening to any epistle. We find it often. The writer expresses a profound wish or hope that the letter to unfold in their hearing will prove to channel rivers of grace and oceans of peace to their lives – that such blessing be multiplied, be ever increasing in their lives. Where? Look at the rest of the verse – in (or through) the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord

Who doesn’t want the favor of God in his life? Who doesn’t want the peace of God in her life? Who doesn’t covet ever increasing doses of grace and peace? Such can be found in only one source – the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. Don’t miss the connection in v. 2. You have no true knowledge of God if you do not claim Jesus as Lord. Jesus Christ is God. He is divine. In him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily (Col. 2:9). John 17:3 – And this is eternal life, that they know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. There is no true knowledge of the Father apart from an intimate knowledge of the Son. 

Grace, peace, life, godliness, all the things that truly matter, the ultimate treasures, come from the knowledge of God in Christ. So we don’t miss it he says it again in v. 3 – His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him (emphasis added). The words know and knowledge appear some sixteen times throughout the three chapters of this little book. Peter is trying to tell us something! It matters what you know. Perhaps it would be better to say it matters Whom you know.

There is nothing that matters more in our battle against sin than a passionately personal, thorough going, ever increasing knowledge of God and His Son the Lord Jesus. 

Do you want to win the battle over sin and its grip in your life? Give yourself to the vigorous pursuit of the growth of your knowledge of Him.