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Evangelist, Baptist, Husband, Father, Mid-30's.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Condemned by Love

As I’m taking my class through Zechariah, I have been faced more and more with the overemphasis of love in the law and character of God. Check out this amazing verse,
"Thus says the LORD of hosts, Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart." – Zechariah 7:9-10
This is reiterated throughout the Bible (Isaiah 58:3-11, Micah 6:6-8, Deuteronomy 4:5-6, 1 Samuel 15:22-23, James 1:27, Joshua 22:5, 1 Corinthians 13:1-3, Matthew 25:31-46, etc), that love in action is the foundation of the law and what God desires. He is not looking for mindless obedience, but understanding and outward focused effort. If I have not convinced you yet that God’s law and character is emphasized in love, let me then let Paul give the most convincing argument,
For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." – Galatians 5:14
Think about this for a moment, how can the commandments be fulfilled in love? If you love someone, you won’t break the sixth commandment by murdering them. If you love them, you won’t steal from them (8th), you won’t lie to them (9th (we can argue discretion later)), you won’t use their name as a curse word (3rd), you won’t forsake them for another (7th), and you won’t seek to supplement their love and gifts with those from another (2nd and 10th). Consider some other laws, like the law forbidding misguiding a blind person, obviously love seeks to set all on the right path. Or laws requiring death for false teachers and necromancers? Romans 12:9 says that true love is hating wickedness, therefore tolerating sin is not love. Tolerance is the antithesis of love because it denies the importance of the truth and the benefit of following righteousness.

We know that those whom God loves, he reproves and disciplines (Revelation 3:19). Indeed, the parents who will not discipline their child to right action and belief are not loving their child, but are hating their child (Proverbs 13:24). For to paraphrase a famous atheist, how much do you have to hate someone to know the right way and not implore those on the wrong way to turn to the right? To this effect we read that he is cursed who misleads a blind man (Deuteronomy 27:18).

Recently I have been exhorted by my open-air patrons to be more loving and preach more on God’s love. So much so that one young lady made a sign which said, “GOD LOVES EVERYBODY!” Beloved, are we so ignorant of God’s love to think that because God is love we are not to fear him? I spoke to a young man named Charles recently who felt he was “straight” with God because Charles had loved the world and everyone in the world. I asked him if he had ever lied, and he said he had, I asked if he was loving the person he lied to. Charles responded, “But I had too!” I asked him if he had ever stolen anything, and he said, “But I had too!” I asked him if he had ever looked at a girl inappropriately, then quoted Jesus where he said, “Whosoever looks upon a woman to lust after her has committed adultery with her already in his heart.” Charles said that he had, I asked him if he was loving that girls’ husband. Charles exclaimed, verbatim, “Dang! She was married?!?!” I explained that certainly some of them were, and the others would probably someday end up that way. It quickly became apparent to Charles that he had failed to love, and failed quite spectacularly, just as we all have.

In the open-air I recently preached basically this exact blogpost. I said “love” so many times that my friend who was listening told me that at the beginning of my sermon that he thought he was listening to a particular false teacher who believes God is amorous towards (has a crush on) the whole world. Beloved, it certainly did come across considerably more gently at the beginning as I explained that God is love, he is merciful, he is abounding in grace, he has given us faith, hope, and love, and the greatest of these is love. It came to a conscience crushing conclusion, however, when I reiterated what I had said to Charles, and explained that God loves justice, he is exalted on his throne for loving righteousness and hating wickedness, that he loves those who pursue righteousness, and that we have utterly condemned ourselves for failing to love our neighbor as ourselves.

The very commandment that so many cling to for salvation has brought sin alive for us, that which we bet our lives upon has become death for us. It seems like such an easy commandment, love, but when we examine our actions we see that we love ourselves far more than we would ever love our neighbor; none of us hates our own body, we nourish and cherish it, but we have utterly failed to do as much for anyone else.

Oh the irony, that so many idolize a god of love who loves good and bad equally, who thinks sin is a cute little character flaw, that as the antichristian song says “beautiful the mess we are”, who will overlook all but the most heinous sins; and yet we see that the very command to love has become our undoing. Let me stab you in the conscience one last time, for Christ says it is easy to love those who love you, but he commands you also to love your enemies and pray for those who afflict you. You must abandon hope in your own ability to love your way into Heaven.

But beloved, do not abandon all hope, for love has no greater man than this, that he would lay down his life for his friends. While we were hostile in mind, alienated from God, enemies of Heaven, with our mouths set against the kingdom of Christ, the King himself stepped off his throne, demonstrated perfect love for his enemies who hated him, and for his Father who loved him, and willingly gave himself up to death on a cross, despised and hated by God and men. While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Greater love has no man than this. For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son.

You will perish for your lack of love, you will face the consequences of a life set against Heaven and devoted to exalting yourself. This is assured, lest you believe on the Christ who was hated in your place, lest you trust wholly in his goodness, perfection, and love which were vindicated in his resurrection. He who knew no sin, he who knew perfect love, became sin for you, so that you can become the righteousness of God in him. So trust in Christ, transfer your affections from yourself to Heaven; the mind set on the body is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace.

Then love, unadulterated by pride, will spring forth, and the world will know that you are a follower of Christ by your love.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. – 1 John 4:7-12

If anyone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. – 1 John 4:19-5:3

Monday, October 18, 2010

Transitioning Milk to Meat

I recently had an amazing epiphany (is there any other kind?) concerning the memorization of Bible verses and understanding deep concepts. I have always sough to teach students the basics of the faith (milk) while serving the deeper things on the side (meat), that way less mature believers won't choke to death, while more mature believers will be satisfied. Yesterday we had a wonderful lesson on Christ as King and High Priest, this is a MEATY topic, yet was served with a bit of milk on the names of God (Joshua from Jehova-Yasha (God Saves), Jahoshephat from Jehovah Hoshephat (God the Judge), and Hallelujah (Praise God)). The beauty of this teaching style, which I would accedit largely to John MacArthur, is that those who are really only ready for milk get a nibble of meat along the way and are growing in their faith and knowledge.

Providentially the lesson that spurred this epiphany is on our King of Righteousness, Melchizedek, the same person Paul, Peter, and Luke were telling us about when the following verse was written in disdain that the Roman church was not able to stomach the deeper points of the completed Hebrew faith,
Though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. - Hebrews 5:12-14
This thought, concluding in verse 9 of chapter 6, is one of my favorites of scripture, yet in my epiphany I found a wonderfully satisfying point which here-to-fore I had missed. Look at this section, "the mature...have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice..." The constant practice is what jumped out at me and will cause me to rethink a major facet of my ministry.

It deals with Bible memorization. I remember early in my faith doing everything I could to memorize 2 Timothy 2:24-26, which is a fairly long block of scripture with a lot of nuances. I am not posting it in order to keep your attention on the point at hand, but read it later. Early in my scripture memorization, I could not memorize these verses to save my life, sometimes I couldn't even get past the first thought. Recently I was reading a piece of drivel from an antichristian writer and they posted verse 26, only misquoting it slightly (or from an obscure translation that I'm not familiar with), and I realized that I have memorized this verse despite having such difficulty committing it to memory.

This thought led me to the idea that the transition from milk to meat in the Christian life is through constant practice, and that now I have massive sections of scripture committed to memory which are much longer than 2 Timothy 2:24-26, such as Matthew 22:1-14, Galatians 1, Revelation 19:11-16, and Revelation 20:11-15, among others. I did not memorize a single one of these early in my Christian life, but through constant memorization of short verses, the Holy Spirit has graciously enabled me to now memorize longer and more complex sections of scripture than I ever thought were possible.

One last example, and then I'll move to the application. One of the first verses I memorized was Revelation 19:11, it is still my all time favorite verse in the Bible, in this one verse it speaks of Christ being called Faithful and True, it declares him to be the judge, it gives the standard for judgment which is righteousness, it declares him to come conquering, and it promises victory for the church. Truly there is no greater verse in the Bible. A little later I memorized verse 14, which declares that the armies of Heaven follow after Christ in white robes, and stuck it onto verse 11. Later I added verses 12 and 13, and only in the past few weeks am I comfortable enough to say that I have verses 11 all the way through 16 memorized.

So here's the application. It is wrong of me to expect a student to memorize Galatians 1:3-10 as their first memory verse; there must be a learning process, a practice, a transition from John 11:35 or Job 3:2 to memorizing the whole book of Colossians. A teacher does wrong to expect a student to be able to memorize (and, probably more importantly, to apply) long sections before that student is able to memorize short verses. But, the teacher does the student an equal disservice if they are not pushing students to memorize longer and longer passages and understand deeper and deeper concepts.

I don't have to look far to be able to brag about students who, though most would expect them to be on a steady milk diet, are not only feasting on the meat of the Word, but have also become teachers themselves.

So in this, whether you are a newborn babe, a fledgling adolescent, or a seasoned elder in your understanding of the faith, I implore you to have your powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. Now go read 2 Timothy 2:24-26, and also Hebrews 5:12-6:9, making sure you have a firm foundation on Hebrews 6:1-3.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

9:45 Message: Zeal Without Knowledge - Romans 10:1-4

Good morning, if you have your Bible, and I hope you do, please turn to Romans 10:1-4. For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Canyon Shearer, and I love telling people about Jesus, so today I’m going to try to convince you to tell people about Jesus and see that you will also love it, but I also want to make sure you’re doing it right.

One of my favorite passages in the whole Bible is in Nehemiah 8, this is following over 70 years of a very dark time in Israel, and what happens in Nehemiah 8 is Ezra builds a pulpit out in the open-air, climbs onto it, and reads Genesis to Deuteronomy all day. When he starts reading the people are so in awe of God’s Word that they stand up, when Ezra prays, they lift their hands in worship, and when they don’t understand, the elders and priests explain. They had a love for God’s law, and they loved learning it.

We only lift our hands sometimes when the music is playing, worship, but worship is so much bigger than just when the music is playing. The reading of God’s Word and the right preaching of it is an act of worship as well. This sermon was birthed largely when I saw a student during music with his hands lifted towards Heaven and his eyes closed and he was obviously really getting into it. I thought, “That dude either is really getting the point of God’s reverence in the song, or he’s demon possessed, or he’s faking it.” I looked back after a little bit and only one hand was up, I figured maybe the other one got tired. I looked back a bit later and one hand was still up, his head was down, and I looked and saw what he was doing, he was texting with the other hand. Another time I saw a student with a hand up turned around talking to someone.

We have no lack of zeal in this country and youth group, but a lot of it is based on feelings and our own opinion instead of based on truth and honor to God. So that’s what I’m going to talk to you about today, zeal without knowledge. Let me define zeal real quick though so I don’t lose you. Zeal is enthusiasm, fervor, excitement over a topic and running full speed towards it. We see it in football idolatry and the fans are jumping up and down and screaming with joy or anger. The problem is that a lot of zeal inside and outside of the church is lacking in any eternal purpose, it’s just to make us feel good.

My friend Keith was at a gas station recently and a young man came up and said, “Hi, I’m so-and-so from such-and-such youth group, I’d like to do something nice for you today, can I wash your windows?” My friend Keith is an amazing evangelist, and he asked, “So you want to invite me to church?” The young man replied, “No, I just want to do something nice for you.” Keith asked, “So you don’t want to tell me the gospel?” The kid said, “No, wait, yes.” Keith said, “Ok, tell me the gospel.” The student responded, “Jesus loves you.

Keith uses Psalm 5:5 more than any other verse, I think, which says, “God hates all evildoers.” So Keith asked this kid, “So Jesus loves me even if I hate him and spit in his face?” The student said yes. Keith asked if he would go to Heaven even if he hated Jesus, and the young man said yes, and by this time the rest of the youth group had come over. Keith was able to share the true gospel with these students, that God is absolutely angry with sinners, but demonstrated great lovingkindness when Jesus suffered and died for sins so that sinners can be reconciled to God and love Jesus. There was no lack of zeal in that youth group, they were out telling people about Jesus, but they were doing so without the faintest idea of the gospel or the purpose of the gospel. I mean, if someone is going to go to Heaven anyways, there is no reason to tell them about Jesus.

So we see that zeal without knowledge is a huge problem in our world today, let’s go look at how it was also a problem in Paul’s day. We’re in Romans 10, Romans is Paul’s epistle, letter, to Rome. It was written in the mid-AD50’s, it was written by a man named Paul, who was a Jew from the tribe of Benjamin, who grew up as a religious leader called a Pharisee, and who had been saved by grace while persecuting the very church of Christ.

The passage we’re going to read today is coming out of Romans 9, which gives us the reason that Israel is not saved, because they have so thoroughly rejected the gospel, and that God has given it instead to the nations. Let’s read Romans 10:1-4, “Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.

This letter is written to Christians, brothers here means both men and women, and Paul really wants and prays for the Israelites to be saved. He loves these people, he grew up with them, he studied with them, he lived among them, and he wants nothing more than that they would come to Christ and be saved and be both his physical brothers and his spiritual brothers.

Paul says they have a zeal, an enthusiasm for God. In our country today people are ALWAYS busy, even when they’re not really busy. They whip themselves into over-activity so that they never have a moment to stop and think. The idea behind zeal without knowledge is that you are at least doing something. As long as we’re loving and doing something, we should be fine right? Let’s look at two churches in Revelation, Thyatira and Ephesus.

Thyatira is the definition of zeal, they are loving everybody, feeding the poor, clothing the homeless, taking care of sick people, and every year they get better and better and better at it. Jesus sees this and commends them for it, but then he says that their knowledge is lacking, that they’ve let sin sneak into their church and the sin is killing them and their efforts, and will result in their children being cut off from the faith. It is an incredible threat the Jesus gives them, and one that I think you all can probably identify with. If your parents or friends or pastors claim to be Christians and then live like the world, the power of Christ is lost on you, and you’ll have no problem rejecting it. Beloved, know that Christ is true even if every man is a liar.

This balloon represents Thyatira, it is full of zeal and love, I’m going to send it and aim it really well and hope to hit that target on the wall. All that happens when I let go of this balloon is a lot of noise and action, but I don’t get anywhere near my target. This is zeal without knowledge.

Ephesus on the other hand is the genius church, they know everything there is to know about Christianity. They even have whole books of the Bible memorized and they are great at refuting false teachers. But, they’ve got no love, they’ve got no zeal. They sit at home on their couches talking about Jesus but never to any unbelievers, and they certainly don’t feed anybody or give any money to any causes. Jesus threatens them that if they don’t repent and start adding love to their knowledge, he is going to close their church.

This straw on a string represents Ephesus, it is razor straight and knows the way to the target. I’m going to tell it to go and hit that target on the wall. Nothing happens. This is knowledge without zeal, it exists a little in America today, but not nearly so much as zeal without knowledge.

The world we live in is totally spiritual, they’ve got all sorts of zeal towards their understanding of God, but they’ve got no knowledge or purpose to their actions. A couple of examples, during the “Hope for Haiti” concert a lot of good and bad musicians sung songs to God and about hope and with prayer in them. Madonna was asked to attend, and she’s got no spiritual songs, so she sang a song she wrote a long time ago that is about sex, but it has the word “prayer” in it. Nobody even noticed that she sang such a filthy song, because she had zeal, it was just totally lacking in knowledge.

American Idol this summer had an “Inspirational” night where they all sang songs to or about God, or about bettering mankind. These songs were by and large terrible, but because we’ve rejected knowledge, as long as it has something to do with spiritually, we accept it readily enough.

Hosea 4:4-6 says that the people perish for a lack of knowledge. It also says that God’s contention is first and foremost with his priesthood for failing to teach the Bible. In the New Testament it says that believers are a priesthood, so ultimately this is the churches fault, and the reason is, once again, that we have zeal without a whole lot of knowledge. This has been exacerbated recently in Glenn Beck’s “Revival” which is utterly void of Jesus Christ and only seeks to turn people back to belief in a higher power in order to save the country.

This thought permeates television today. One example that stands out is on one of those criminal investigator shows called “Criminal Minds” where one of the lead characters claims to be an atheist, but then decides to believe again and goes and prays in a Catholic church, and while he’s praying, somewhere a long ways off his girlfriend gets shot but doesn’t die. He got all contemplative about the idea that God must have wanted him to pray at the exact moment she got shot so she wouldn’t die. The major point of that show was that believing would earn you things and make your life better.

Next, I don’t watch Glee, but this week someone told me I should watch this particular episode, so I did. It was called, “Grilled Cheesus”, and the very beginning of the show the character makes a grilled cheese which is burned to look somewhat like what we think Jesus looked like, and he says, "When I pulled the sandwich out, I saw the face of God...literally, I had a made a grilled cheesus.” I’m going to show a clip in a moment, but check this out, a major primetime television show dedicated an entire episode to religion, and in it they tried to solve the great mysteries of the universe, they even went so far as to declare that Jesus Christ is literally God. But their zeal, even interspersed with that tiny bit of knowledge, was totally misguided.

In this clip there are several students praying over a man who had an aneurism. There is a Jew, a Pentecostal, a Catholic, and a Nondenominational sort-of-baptist, they say, “We’re from different denominations and religions so we figured one of us is bound to be right.” The atheist brings in a Hindu/Muslim called a Sikh, and it just shows us that this show has no idea who God is, but they want to try to get on his good side anyways. Later in the episode the counselor girl says, “God speaks to us through all sorts of ways, but I’m pretty sure he doesn’t speak to us through sandwiches.” The major point of the episode is that nobody knows the truth, let’s just have zeal anyways.

Beloved, I know it's presumptuous, but I stand here telling you that I know the truth. Jesus Christ said that he is the Truth (John 14:6), he is called Faithful and True (Revelation 19:11), and he said that you Shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free (John 8:32).

[Reader's Note] At this point a student shot rubber bands blindfolded at a target placed in the middle of the crowd. The point was that if you don't know where the target is, you ought not to be shooting at it.[/Reader's Note]

This zeal is without knowledge and is the equivalent to running full speed in the wrong direction. Or maybe like shooting arrows in random directions in a crowded room with your eyes closed; I think that’s what happened to our poor spirit duck. Or like making every shot you take in basketball, from layups to free throws to three pointers to half-court shots…except you’re making them in the wrong basket.

John Calvin said, “Zeal without knowledge is like a sword in the hand of a lunatic.” Charles Spurgeon changed it just a bit to say, “Zeal without knowledge is like a fire brand (torch) in the hand of a lunatic.” If you don’t know what you’re doing in regards to spirituality, everything you do is going to cause harm. If you ran around with a torch you’d be burning down buildings and hurting people left and right, just like modern spiritually is destroying souls left and right.

And now we come to where the knowledge has failed. Verse 3, “For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.” God requires perfection, which is obviously WAY out of our abilities. Therefore we reject God’s law and come up with our own standards. The Pharisees were notorious for this, they would tithe even down to their last cucumber, but they rejected justice and mercy and faithfulness.

Check out the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5, starting at verse 17, it is Jesus radically attacking the way that the people would establish their own righteousness, for time’s sake let’s just look at a couple of them.

v.17-20 "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Jesus is setting the standard as God’s righteousness, and he concludes this thought by saying that you must be BETTER than the Pharisees to get into Heaven, these dudes were as righteous as a person can get, and Jesus right here says they’re not going to make it.

Now everyone in attendance might have felt like they broke some minor laws, but in their heart they would say, “But at least I haven’t murdered anybody.” So Jesus starts by exposing them,

v.21-22 "You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.' But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, 'You fool!' will be liable to the hell of fire.

Whoa, this is what the law requires, everyone in attendance would automatically see that they were murders in God’s sight. Now they’re probably thinking as well, even if I’ve broken some of the law, at least I’ve never cheated on my husband or wife,

v.27-28 "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

Dude, this law is proving to be far more perfect than anybody in attendance would have realized. No wonder they rejected God’s law in order to establish their own, and in doing this they break the 2nd Commandment, which says not to worship idols. This god they invented wouldn’t send them to Hell, but the reason he wouldn’t is because the god they invented was a figment of their imagination invented to appease their consciences.

This law is called perfect in Psalm 19:7, and it requires perfection, let’s jump to verse 48,

v. 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Beloved, I hope you see that this is the ignorance which Paul was speaking about, which the whole world lacks knowledge of. Proverbs 20:6 says that almost every person will proclaim their own goodness, this is totally true, and most think that they will go to Heaven for their goodness, but the Bible is more than clear in lots of places that there is none good but God. Let’s conclude this thought with James 2:10, which says if you’ve broken one law, you are guilty of all. It is like dangling from a chain, if only one link breaks, you fall. And beloved, if you’re like me, you’ve broken a lot more than one.

So who are we rejecting in God’s righteousness? Is it just some laws or is it something bigger? Look at Romans 10:4, it says Christ is the end of the law for righteousness. He is perfect, holy, sinless, and undefiled. But if he is the standard of righteousness, then that means I can’t be the standard of righteousness, and not only that, it makes me a sinner in danger of judgment! This is why so many reject Christ, because he is God and they want his position, whether they’ll say so out loud or not.

Even still, most of American Christianity has rejected Christ’s righteousness as well. A recent Barna poll found that 33% of professing CHRISTIANS believe that Jesus sinned while he was on earth. If that is within the church, imagine how much worse it is outside of the church! There is a great call to say that if Jesus even existed, he wasn’t God, but just a good man. Beloved, a person who claims the things that Jesus claimed was not just a good man. In claiming to be God, he either is really God, or he is out of his mind believing he is God, or he is a liar saying he is a God when he knows he is not. We must see Christ as either totally righteous or utterly obsolete, don’t pretend it doesn’t matter to consider him God.

And if he is the fulfillment of the law, the end of the law for righteousness, then that means he must have kept every law. Let’s look at the 10 Commandments to see if he really is the end of righteousness.

One, Christ loved his Father with his whole heart, mind, soul, and strength, he proved it by being obedient to live a righteous life and willingly go the cross.

Two, Christ never bowed down to idols. Satan gave Christ the option of inheriting the whole world without going to the cross, without shedding a single drop of blood, all Christ had to do was worship the Devil; but he remained true to his Father.

Three, Christ never took God’s name in vain, and his reward is that he has been given a name above every other name, that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow and every tongue confess him as Lord to the glory of God the Father.

Four, Christ honored the Sabbath Day, even clarifying weird rules which the Pharisees had invented, and in dying for our sins he has become our better Sabbath, our rest forever, so that we don’t honor him or keep him holy only on Saturday or Sunday, but every day.

Five, Christ was totally obedient to his mother Mary and stepfather Joseph, and he honored his Father in Heaven perfectly.

Six, Christ never murdered anyone or was angry without cause or struck back when he was struck, rather he left all vengeance up to God.

Seven, Christ is totally faithful to his bride the church, he has no affection for any other religion, and he never looked with lust upon a woman, his heart is still totally pure.

Eight, Christ never stole a single thing, not even music on the internet, but he was crucified for our sins between two thieves and asked his Father, “What I did not steal, must I now repay?”

Nine, Christ never told a lie. In fact, the Bible says that it is both impossible for him to lie, and that he does not lie. Every word that proceeded out of his mouth was worthwhile and truthful.

Ten, Christ, though rich in Heaven, became poor for our sake. He was born in the most abject of poverty, but trusted wholly in his Father for life, he never desired anything that didn’t belong to him.

In these 10 Commandments, we see that Christ is the total fulfillment of the law of righteousness, he didn’t sin even a single time, he always did what was right and honorable, he kept the law that we cannot keep so that he is now both the Just and the Justifier. Despite no demand for his life from breaking the law, Christ gave himself for our sins. It can be called the great exchange, he who knew no sin became sin for us so that we can become the righteousness of God in him. That’s 2 Corinthians 5:21.

Three days later he rose from the grave and reigns forever more, in his resurrection he proved to be God, he proved that his Father was well pleased with him, and he proved that his payment was accepted. So now for all of us who believe, he is our righteousness, and this righteousness calls us to be zealous in knowledge, let’s read Titus 2:11-14,

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

Our works now are not to repay Christ or to earn Heaven, but are an outpouring of our love for him and desire to see his name exalted throughout the world. Beloved, if you get on fire for the truth and for the righteousness of Jesus Christ, people will come to watch you burn.

In 2009 I went to Tampa to preach at the Superbowl. As I was preaching the crowds got pretty violent, at one point I was preaching with my left arm up in the air and a girl flicked a cigarette at me, it went between my forearm and my head, I had the urge to yell, “Field Goal!!!” A little bit later and a man came up and listened to me preach for about five minutes. Then he walked off. He came back about twenty minutes later and sat on the sidewalk in front of me resting his back on a light pole, and I preached for another twenty minutes. When I finished I went up to him and learned his name was Jeff. I asked what he thought about what I was preaching and he said it was interesting. I asked him if he believed it, and he said, “I don’t, but it sounds like you believe it, so maybe I should.

Just my genuineness drew a crowd, even if people absolutely refused to abandon their sin and give up their perceived righteousness for the genuine righteousness of Jesus Christ.

A person with zeal and knowledge can accomplish all sorts of amazing things for Christ. My dear friend Dave Snyder, who was a youth pastor here a long long long time ago, was preaching this week at an FCA in Alabama. Because he just moved to Alabama, he got good and lost and got to the FCA with only a minute to speak.

He had to cut the message down to its absolute bare minimum and he told this story; when he was first a youth pastor he got a brand new cell phone, this was when they were first becoming popular. He failed to read the instructions and went for the whole month using his cell-phone. Out of the blue the church he was a youth pastor at gave him a $300 bonus for doing such a good job. Right after that he got his cell phone bill and it was $300 because he hadn’t used it according to the rules of his cell-phone plan. But, because the church had given him a payment, the bill was able to be paid. Even before Dave knew there was a bill, provisions had already been made to pay it. He then turned the lesson to our sin, which is a debt against Heaven, and explained that before we even had a debt, Christ had paid for our sins on the cross, so we must repent and believe in the gospel.

Because my brother Dave is zealous for Christ and has much knowledge, he didn’t panic or give up when he only had a minute to preach, he was able to preach the gospel clearly and powerfully.
So beloved, know the basics, be able to share your faith. The best way I’ve found to be able to remember the message is to simplify it as short as I can, then I can emphasize certain parts more or less as the need arises. Remember two words and you’ll remember Christianity: Law, Grace. Let me expand that a bit for you: God has a law, we broke it. God has a Son, he gave him. God had wrath towards us, Christ faced it. God has the power to raise the dead, he raised him. God has grace, he gives it.

When I preach my super short message I say this, “God counts hatred as murder, lust as adultery, and lying lips an abomination, and all of these will have their place in the Lake of Fire. But God had great mercy and sent his Son Jesus Christ to bear our sin, to die on a cross in our place, and he raised him from the dead so that if we repent and trust in him, we’ll be saved.

And the purpose of us having zeal and knowledge is once again, not to earn our way into Heaven, but because Jesus Christ is worthy. Now, beloved, when we stand in Heaven and someone asks us why we’re there, we won’t have the faintest inclination to answer, “Because I’m so awesome.” No, we’ll respond with joy and say, “I’m here because Jesus Christ is so awesome, and he sought me and bought me and to him belongs all of the honor, power, and glory, forever and ever, amen.

Now back to Ephesus and Thyatira, one had knowledge but no zeal, the other was zeal without knowledge, let introduce you to a third church, called Philadelphia, the best church in the Bible. They had zeal and knowledge, and they are guaranteed to hit the target every time. Now watch as I attach the balloon, zeal, to the straw and string, knowledge, and send it straight to the target every single time. With zeal and knowledge you will accomplish great things for God, things which he has prepared for you to do before time even began.

But, beloved, if you have zeal for God but not according to knowledge, you must repent. You may be running at full speed, but you’re running full speed away from God. Your sin has made a separation between you and God. Let me give you one last analogy. Say we all decide to skip school this week and go to Disney. We load on a shuttle and start driving, and I’m driving. As we start out you think I turn the wrong way on the freeway but you trust me that I know where I’m going, so you don’t say anything. I’m so zealous to get to Disney that I have that shuttle wound up going as fast as it possibly will, like 67 mph, the dotted lines in the middle of the road are practically a solid line, the trees are a blur. As we pass Cartersville you realize we’re going the wrong way, so you tell me, “Hey, we’re going the wrong way.” I say, “No, no we’re not” as I ease that shuttle up to 68 mph. A little while later and we see signs for Rock City, we’re definitely going the wrong way, but I’m adamant that in my zeal we will be in Disney soon. Then we pass a sign that says, “Welcome to Tennessee.” It is clear to me and everyone that I have gone the wrong way.

I need to repent. I need to do five things to set things right. First, I need to stop going the wrong way. If I just apologized but didn’t change my direction we would end up in Canada before too long, and there is no Disney in Canada. So I stop the shuttle. Now an apology is in order, I’m sorry for wasting your time by going in the wrong direction; I hope you’ll forgive me. Third, I need to turn around so I’m facing the right way. Fourth I need to start moving the right way. And fifth, I need to not stop until we get there.

This is true repentance, in our zeal we must stop running from God and misrepresenting his kingdom. We must apologize and ask for forgiveness. We must turn to him, and place our full hope and trust in Christ and his redeeming work. When this faith is genuine, it will last until the end.

One of the things that shows that we are saved is a genuine desire to see everyone saved, just as Paul prays in verse 1. Charles Spurgeon said it really well when he said, “Have you no wish for others to be saved? Then you are not saved yourself. Be sure of that.” The thought that is concluded in verse 4 actually begins in Romans 9, verse 2-3, turn there with me as I read it.

I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh.

Paul’s zeal was so excessive that he would, if he could, give up his own salvation to give it to someone else. Literally he would be willing to go to Hell so that his former friends could go to Heaven. Beloved, think about it, would you give your soul for someone else’s? If I could give up my salvation so that you would be saved, I don’t know that I could, I hope that I would, but I don't know. Fortunately for you and I, that's not an option, however Jesus Christ did humble himself for us, being cut off from the God from whom every good thing flows, accursed for our sake, so that we may be saved. Love has no greater man than this, that he would lay down his life for his friends.

So today, if you’ve had a zeal without knowledge, if you’ve sinned against Heaven and have never repented towards God and put your full trust in Jesus Christ, then with every head raised and every eye open and no music playing and no feet moving, call out to Jesus Christ silently where you sit. I implore you in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, be reconciled to God. If you have questions hang out afterwards and we’ll talk to you.

For those of you have repented and believed; your commission today is to live a zealous life according to knowledge, knowing that Jesus Christ is your righteousness. Live your life with a passion for Christ, a love for your brothers and sisters, a burden for the lost, a radical holiness, an impeccable purity, and a zeal for the truth. When you see someone who is hungry, give them a sandwich and tell them about the Bread of Life, when you see someone who is thirsty, give them a glass of water and tell them about the Living Water, when you see someone so ragged as to be practically naked, give them clothing and tell them about the Righteousness of Jesus Christ which clothes the sinner, when you see someone lonely and a stranger, befriend them and tell them about the Greatest Friend of Sinners, and when you visit someone in prison or in the hospital tell them about the One Who Sets Captives Free.

In all things, submit to Christ, who is the end of the law for righteousness for all who believe.

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Ridiculousness of Rejecting Labels

I am astonished that the sin and apostasy of one man can throw all of the “Reformed” online church into such disarray and division. If this weren’t bad enough, there has also been a great deal of misquoting and/or misapplication of scripture from people who supposedly are calling for more Bible reading and proper application.

Let me give a direct example: there have been at least a dozen people recently who have said verbatim or very very similar, “I do not follow Calvin or Arminius, I follow Christ.” Do you seriously not read your Bible? You claim to be Bible believers and yet you misquote Paul so blatantly? Please take a moment to read 1 Corinthians 1:12-13 in your preferred Bible translation; I’ll post it in a moment, but I want you to see that I am not making up a Bible verse.

Let me take a different road to get to the same place, Paul said quite clearly in several places to, “Be imitators of me as I am of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1, et al.) Therefore a person can be a follower of Paul and still be quite right. Therefore I follow Paul, but I also follow Peter, and I follow Jean Calvin, and I follow Andrew Fuller, and I follow Steve Lawson, and I follow John MacArthur. As they imitate Christ, I imitate them, and I call for my disciples to be followers of me in as much as I am following Christ.

Were I to say, “I do not follow MacArthur, I follow Christ,” then I sever Dr. MacArthur from the faith. I do not follow Rob Bell or Mark Driscoll, because neither follows Christ, and by making this statement, I thoroughly anathematize their gospels.

Therefore, to say that you do not follow Calvin or Arminius, you claim that both are totally wrong. And I will say this: I do not follow Arminius, because as was stated so forcefully and well at Dort, his path is heresy.

So let us then look at 1 Corinthians 1:12-13, starting at verse 10:
I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. What I mean is that each one of you says, "I follow Paul," or "I follow Apollos," or "I follow Cephas," or "I follow Christ." Is Christ divided?
As much as Calvin and Arminius are divided by vast gulfs of theology, we must seek to be united in the same mind and judgment in the message of the cross. Those who are divided from this thinking must repent and return to the truth; we will not compromise on the truth of the gospel of grace. Paul himself anathematizes Arminius’ gospel early in his Epistle:
[Saints] wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
Therefore I have no problem saying I follow Calvin (but not Arminius), I follow Paul, Peter, Apollos, and Jesus. I do not dare say that I only follow Jesus, for to do so is to remove everyone of these godly men from the unity of Christ, and in so doing I set myself up as the authority of my own interpretation, which, beloved, is specifically prohibited by my dear brother Peter in 2 Peter 1:21.

Now, place these men in the correct light. Calvin was not crucified for my sins; I was not baptized in the name of MacArthur. I follow them as they follow saints, apostles, and Christ.

I do not follow Christ alone, I would not be so presumptuous nor illiterate. Christ has sent many as prophets, evangelists, and teachers, and these have prepared for us a biblical tradition of orthodoxy that spans the ages. I do not follow only one man alone, but I love the church and cherish it; and this is summed up in a single word, for as Charles Spurgeon said so well (whom I follow also), “Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else.”