Now after John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel."
- Mark 1:14-15

Friday, February 13, 2015

Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan

We just started reading the book, Pilgrim's Progress, in Sunday School.  The book was written by John Bunyan while he was in prison during the 17th century and it is one of the most popular books in the English language.  I had read the book before and thought it was good, but I did not realize how really, really good it was and how much of the gospel is packed in it.  I had read the version "In Today's English" previously, but the old version is so much better that it is not even close.  It is a free download on Amazon.com for Kindle.  Go get it here: 

Here is an excerpt from the book's second chapter, which is a dialogue between Interpreter and the book's main character, Christian:

Inter.  Then he took him by the hand, and led him into a very large parlor, that was full of dust, because never swept; the which after he had looked at it a little while, the Interpreter called for a man to sweep. Now, when he began to sweep, the dust began so abundantly to fly about that Christian had almost therewith been choked. Then said the Interpreter to a girl that stood by, "Bring hither water, and sprinkle the room;" the which when she had done, it was swept and cleansed with ease. 

Chris. Then said Christian, "What means this?" 

Inter. The Interpreter answered , "This parlor is the heart of a man that was never made pure by the sweet grace of the Gospel. The dust is his sin , and inward evils that have defiled the whole man. He that began to sweep at first is the law; but she that brought water, and did sprinkle it, is the Gospel. Now , whereas thou sawest that, as soon as the first began to sweep, the dust did fly so about that the room could not by him be cleansed, but that thou wast almost choked therewith; this is to show thee, that the law, instead of cleansing the heart (by its working) from sin, doth revive, put strength into, and increase it in the soul, even as it doth discover and forbid it, for it doth not give power to overcome. Again, as thou sawest the girl sprinkle the room with water, upon which it was cleansed with ease; this is to show thee, that when the Gospel comes, in the sweet and gracious power thereof, to the heart, then, I say, even as thou sawest the maiden lay the dust by sprinkling the floor with water, so is sin vanquished and subdued, and the soul made clean through the faith of it, and, consequently, fit for the King of Glory to dwell in."

Bunyan, John (2012-12-18). The Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan (Kindle Locations 343-352).  . Kindle Edition.  

Some deep stuff, check it out and let me know what you think.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

You Are What You Think

This is part of the sermon Two Ways to Live by Dr. Donald A. Carson, and it really convicted me and hit me between the eyes:

"Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.  He is like a tree planted by streams of water which yields its fruit in season, and whose leaf does not whither.  In all that he does, he prospers.  The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away.  Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; for the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish."
Psalm 1:1-5

Psalm 1, verse 1 describes the righteous one in three parts, in terms of what he does not do, "Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers."  It describes someone who gets more and more trapped into the ways of sinners.  There's a kind of a grinding to a halt: they walk, then stand, then sit.  Verse 2 then describes in just one part what the righteous person does, "But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night."

D.A. Carson told a story from his youth about living in Quebec near a paper plant that stunk up the air and made the water undrinkable.  There were a lot of different people that sold bottled water.  He remembered one particular company with the slogan, "You are what you drink."  They were right in a sense, since the body is over made up of over 90% water.

But the Bible says, you are what you think.

Proverbs says, "As a man thinks in his heart, so is he."  When conversion and transformation takes place in a Christian, it must go to the root of your mind.  This what Romans 12:1-2 says: "I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.  Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect."

You are transformed by the renewing of our mind because you are what you think.  As some wag put it, "You're not what you think you are, but what you think...you are."  You're not even what you say, because what you say may actually hide what you think.  It may be an external civility, a courtesy.  It may not even be what you do, because the social constraints may keep you in the straight and narrow in some sense, while inside you're a mass of seething resentments.

That's why Jesus taught us in the Beatitudes that the person who hates has in a sense committed murder already, the person who lusts has in a sense committed adultery already.  This is true even if your hand is withheld from either concrete action.  The reason, of course, is because you are what you think.

This is why there is so much stress in the Scriptures on thinking God's thoughts after him, and learning to delight in them.  Joshua is told in the beginning of his ministry in Joshua 1:8 that, "This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it.  For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success."

Also, think of this passage that is too often overlooked.  This is written before there is a king in Israel, but Moses is looking forward to when there will be a king.  Deuteronomy 17:18-20 says, "And when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself in a book a copy of this law, approved by the Levitical priests. And it shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God by keeping all the words of this law and these statutes, and doing them, that his heart may not be lifted up above his brothers, and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, either to the right hand or to the left, so that he may continue long in his kingdom, he and his children, in Israel."

So the king comes to the throne.  What's his first job?  Appoint a secretary of state?  A commander in chief, perhaps?  Construct a cabinet?  Audit the books of his predecessor?  No.  His first obligation is to write out what Moses calls this book of this law.  This does not mean downloading it from a cd to his hard drive and letting it pass through his brain.  It means writing it out by hand, in Hebrew; so clearly that it becomes his own reading copy for the rest of his life.  That's what it means.  He is to copy it down and then he is to read it every day. 

And the reason he is to read it every day is that so he may learn God's words; and in consequence, not think of himself better than other people, and learn to revere everything God says; and in consequence, not turn from the left or the right.  In other words, he is to delight in the law of the Lord, and on His Word meditate day and night.  If only those three verses had been followed, all of Israelite history would have been massively different.  Just those three verses.

So, the question becomes, "What do you think about when your brain goes into neutral?"  When you wake up in the middle of the night, where does your mind go?  When you come up to a stop light and you are waiting for it to turn green, you're not thinking about much in particular, where does your mind go?  What do you think about?  Because, you see, you are what you think.

And unless you put in lots of biblical content, that's not where your mind will go.  It's not that to which it will gravitate.  You will not think of life shaped by what Scripture says.  I don't care how knowledgeable you think you are about Scripture, that's something that you lose, unless you constantly have the input.  Unless it's layered in again on top, again and again...and again...and again. 

In the next verse, Psalm 1:3, the righteous person is described metaphorically.  "He is like a tree planted by streams of water which yields its fruit in season, and whose leaf does not whither.  In all that he does, he prospers."  The problem in the Middle East is that water is seasonal and in the dry season, everything seems to die.  So that tree that is carefully planted near the streams of life has the best chance of living.  It is not just planted by one stream, it is carefully planted by the nexus of several streams.  That's the significance of the plural here.  He is planted (not a wild tree), planted carefully by streams of living water.  And its leaf does not whither; that is, there is no dry season, it always shows signs of life.  And in due course, it brings forth its fruit in the right season.  And whatever it does prospers.  This is describing the righteous person metaphorically, not the prosperity gospel.

This is unlike the tree planted next to the wadi, which turns green when there is water around and then looks dead and produces nothing when there is a dry spell.  This is not an infrequent contrast in Scripture.  Jeremiah puts it even more emphatically with some blistering words when he quotes God in Jeremiah 17:5-8: "Thus says the LORD: 'Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the LORD.  He is like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see any good come.  He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land.  Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.'" (16:26)

Psalm 1:4 says, "The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away."  The wicked are not planted by the constant streams of water, and consequently, they dry up and are blown away.  They are rootless, dead, profitless.  If you look at it from an eternal perspective, it's even more serious yet.  Psalm 1:5 says, "Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; for the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish." 

If we are what we think, then it is essential for us to be planted next to the streams of God's Word and to allow it to transform us and renew our minds.  I heard this sermon and came to the stark realization that I was a hypocrite, because my thought life was not what it was supposed to be.  I had taken consolation in the fact that I was doing good because I had not physically sinned, but my mind had sinned and it was dwelling more on wicked thoughts than it should.  It hit me that if you are what you think, then I needed to think a whole lot differently.  How is that possible?   Romans 12:2:  "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind."

You cannot rely on your past knowledge, you must continually renew your mind in God's Word and meditate on it day and night.  The time demands of being a teacher and a football coach during football season make it difficult to renew your mind as you ought to; but without doing this, you will be conformed to this world instead of being transformed by His Word.  If you are what you think, examine yourself and your thoughts and pray for repentance and a new desire to abide in His Word, to delight in it, and to meditate on it day and night.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Why Being a "Good" Coach is Not Enough to Get Into Heaven

Coaching is one of the most noble professions one can enter into.  The coach does not profit much monetarily from what he does, but what he does profit from is helping others to succeed.  Athletics are one of the few places left in our modern society where the values of discipline and hard work are still being taught.  Too many young people grow up without a father in the home and the coach has been able to help fill that role and help teach kids to do what is right, to get an education, and to keep them from destroying their own lives.  Some coaches even go so far as to take young people from severely dysfunctional homes and take them in to live in their own homes.  There are many people today who owe their lives to that one coach who cared and made all the difference in the world to them. 

There are also some coaches who are only into coaching for themselves.  They want to win and move up in the coaching profession and are willing to do whatever it takes to achieve their goals.  The good coach still wants to win but he wants to do it the right way and desires to use his position to help to better young people.  To be a "good" coach and to do it and help others to succeed is a pretty awesome deal, but it is still not enough to get into heaven.

The problem is that no one is good, but God.  You might think of yourself as good and point to the good things you have done, but Isaiah 64:6 says, “All our righteousness is like filthy rags.”  You think you are not all that bad, but Romans 6:23 warns that, "The wages of sin is death." You deserve death when you sin just one time against a holy God.  You can compare yourself to other coaches and say, "Well at least I am better than that guy," but that is not enough.  The only for you to get into heaven is to realize that compared to the standard of a holy, righteous, and perfect God, you are not "good" at all.  Most will get mad at this or dismiss it, but it is the truth. 

You may take comfort that you prayed a sincere prayer one time to accept Christ.  Unfortunately, this is not Biblical.  Jesus didn't beg or ask people to make a decision to let him into their heart.  Rather, He commanded men in Mark 1:15 to "repent and believe in the gospel."  If you are not sure what the gospel is, you can read the series on What is the Gospel? at the top of the webpage here.  If you are not sure if you have truly repented and believed, don't worry, the Bible tells you how to know for sure.

"Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they?  So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit.  A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit.  Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.  So then, you will know them by their fruits.”
Matthew 7:15-20

You will be known by your fruit, either good or bad.  There is no such thing as the carnal Christian, who is both good and bad.  The carnal Christian is not a Christian at all.  If you still cling to and cherish even one sin, you are not saved.  Period. 

You cannot cling on to sin and you cannot cling on to your works nor your own "goodness."  Your only hope is to cling to Jesus Christ.  You must know that God is holy and you are not.  You must repent of your sin and believe in Christ.  To repent means to turn away from sin and to believe means that to trust in His righteousness and not your own.  Salvation is impossible for us because we are born with a sinful nature, but Luke 18:26-27 says, "The things that are impossible with people are possible with God."  God has made a way, but only one way: Jesus is the only way that you can escape the eternity in hell that you deserve for your sins against God.  Repent and believe in Him.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Cost of Being a True Christian - J.C. Ryle

Biblical commentary by godly men is a tremendous resource in understand God's Word and digging deeper into the riches of Scripture.  The Classic Bible Commentary: An Essential Collection of History's Finest Commentaries in One Volume is a good resource, and it has many different people providing commentary on each book of the Bible: Matthew Henry, John Calvin, A.R. Faucett, Martin Luther, Charles Hodge, and others.  The best commentary I read from this book was from some guy I had never heard of before, J.C. Ryle, and his commentary on the gospel of Luke.  Joel Beeke likes J.C. Ryle because his writing style is straightforward and easy to understand.  I like him because his commentary dug deeper into the heart of the gospel and provided me with more Biblical insight than any of the other writers.  I highly recommend The Complete Works of J. C. Ryle which includes his excellent commentary on all four gospels, available on Kindle for only $10.

This post contains quotes from J.C. Ryle's book Holiness, part 1 of the chapter "The Cost."  This portion of the book is very applicable today, since it is easy for Americans and people in many parts of the world today to say they are Christians in societies with relatively little religious persecution (for now) and where it is socially advantageous to appear to be "religious."  Not much thought is given to what is the cost of following Christ. 

"And He was saying to them all, 'If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.  For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.'” 
Luke 9:23-24

Jesus didn't water down His message like many preachers today in order to attract larger numbers (and make more money).  Rather, He made it a point of emphasis to discourage fair-weather followers by reminding them of the cost required to follow Him.  Jesus tells us specifically what the cost is: we are to deny ourselves, take up our cross daily, follow Christ, and to lose our life for Him who lost His very own life for us.

Here is J.C. Ryle:

Which of you, intending to build a house, sitteth not down first and counteth the cost?”— Luke 14: 28.

"Many would save themselves much sorrow and trouble if they would only remember the question—“ What does it cost?” But there is one subject on which it is specially important to “count the cost.” That subject is the salvation of our souls. What does it cost to be a true Christian?"

"We live in a day of great religious profession.  Yet nothing is more common than to see people receiving the Word with joy, and then after two or three years falling away, and going back to their sins. They had not considered “what it costs” to be a really consistent believer and holy Christian."

"We must mind what we are about. If we desire to be truly holy, it is a good sign.  But still the cost ought to be counted.  It is folly to shut our eyes to the fact that His way is narrow, and the cross comes before the crown."

I.  I have, first, to show what it costs to be a true Christian.

"Let there be no mistake about my meaning. I am not examining what it costs to save a Christian’s soul. I know well that it costs nothing less than the blood of the Son of God to provide an atonement, and to redeem man from hell. The price paid for our redemption was nothing less than the death of Jesus Christ on Calvary. We “are bought with a price.” “Christ gave Himself a ransom for all.” (1 Corinthians 6: 20; 1 Timothy 2: 6)"

"The point I want to consider is another one altogether. It is what a man must be ready to give up if he wishes to be saved. It is the amount of sacrifice a man must submit to if he intends to serve Christ."

"I grant freely that it costs little to be a mere outward Christian. A man has only got to attend a place of worship twice on Sunday, and to be tolerably moral during the week.  All this is cheap and easy work: it entails no self-denial or self-sacrifice. If this is saving Christianity, we must alter the description of the way of life, and write, 'Wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to heaven!'”

"But it does cost something to be a real Christian, according to the standard of the Bible. There are enemies to be overcome, battles to be fought, sacrifices to be made, an Egypt to be forsaken, a wilderness to be passed through, a cross to be carried, a race to be run. Conversion is not putting a man in an arm-chair and taking him easily to heaven. It is the beginning of a mighty conflict, in which it costs much to win the victory. Hence arises the unspeakable importance of 'counting the cost.'”

"Let us suppose that a man is disposed to take service with Christ, and feels drawn and inclined to follow Him.  His heart may be completely changed, but still he should count the cost."

The Costs of Following Christ

1.  "For one thing, it will cost him his self-righteousness. He must cast away all pride and high thoughts, and conceit of his own goodness. He must be content to go to heaven as a poor sinner saved only by free grace, and owing all to the merit and righteousness of another.  He must be willing to give up all trust in his own morality, respectability, praying, Bible-reading, church-going, and sacrament-receiving, and to trust in nothing but Jesus Christ."

2.  "For another thing, it will cost a man his sins. He must be willing to give up every habit and practice which is wrong in God’s sight. He must set his face against it, quarrel with it, break off from it, fight with it, crucify it, and labour to keep it under, whatever the world around him may say or think.  He must count all sins as his deadly enemies, and hate every false way. Whether little or great, whether open or secret, all his sins must be thoroughly renounced. They may struggle hard with him every day, and sometimes almost get the mastery over him. But he must never give way to them. He must keep up a perpetual war with his sins."

"He and sin must quarrel, if he and God are to be friends. Christ is willing to receive any sinners. But He will not receive them if they will stick to their sins."

3.  "For another thing, it will cost a man his love of ease.  He must daily watch and stand on his guard, like a soldier on enemy’s ground. He must take heed to his behaviour every hour of the day.  He must be careful over his time, his tongue, his temper, his thoughts, his imagination, his motives, his conduct in every relation of life. He must be diligent about his prayers, his Bible -reading, and his use of Sundays, with all their means of grace."

"The soul can have “no gains without pains.”  To be a Christian it will cost a man his love of ease."

4.  "In the last place, it will cost a man the favour of the world. He must be content to be thought ill of by man if he pleases God. He must count it no strange thing to be mocked, ridiculed, slandered, persecuted, and even hated. He must not be surprised to find his opinions and practices in religion despised and held up to scorn. He must submit to be thought by many a fool, an enthusiast, and a fanatic— to have his words perverted and his actions misrepresented. In fact, he must not marvel if some call him mad. The Master says—“ Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted Me, they will also persecute you.” (John 15: 20)"

"The cup which our Master drank must be drunk by His disciples. They must be “despised and rejected of men.” (Isaiah 53: 3)  I grant it costs much to be a true Christian. But who in his sound senses can doubt that it is worth any cost to have the soul saved? When the ship is in danger of sinking, the crew think nothing of casting overboard the precious cargo. When a limb is mortified, a man will submit to any severe operation, and even to amputation, to save life. Surely a Christian should be willing to give up anything which stands between him and heaven. A religion that costs nothing is worth nothing!  A cheap Christianity, without a cross, will prove in the end a useless Christianity, without a crown."

Ryle, J. C (2012-12-14). The Complete Works of J. C. Ryle (Kindle Locations 34704-34852). E4 Group. Kindle Edition.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

What is the Gospel? by Voddie Baucham

Here are some notes from this excellent sermon that addresses some major misconceptions we have in modern church culture about what the gospel is:

"What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith; but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, as it is written,

Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”

Romans 10:30-33

Let's contrast the two approaches:

·    Pursued righteousness
·    Did not attain righteousness
· Used the law to fail to attain righteousness
·    Did not pursue righteousness
·    Attained righteousness
· Used faith to succeed in attaining righteousness

This is the difference between works righteousness and the gospel.  Paul is was a Jew who saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.

What the Gospel is Not

1.  The gospel is not just how we get saved. 
The average Christian believes that the gospel is the plan of salvation.  They think that the gospel is what you need to get saved, but you need to graduate to something beyond the gospel after you have gotten saved.

Tim Keller says, "We never get beyond the gospel in our Christian life to something more advanced....The gospel is not just the ABCs, but the A to Z of Christianity.  The gospel is not the minimum required doctrine necessary to enter the kingdom, butt he way we make all progress in te kingdom."

You often hear that the gospel is the ABC: Acknowledge your sin, Believe in Christ, Confess him as your Savior.  That is not the gospel!  It is a cheap substitute.  The gospel is not for unbelievers, but believers need something more.  Folks, there is nothing more than the gospel.  You never move beyond it or outgrow it.  If you think you are too sophisticated for the gospel, you don't know what the gospel is!

2.  The gospel is not just the two great commandments. 
This is what is popular in our day, we think the gospel can be boiled down to love God and love people.  D.A. Carson says, "Other voices identify the gospel with the first and second commandments, the commandments to love God with heart, soul, mind and strength and our neighbor as ourself.  These commandments are so central that Jesus Himself insists that all the prophets and the law hand on them, but, most emphatically, they are not the gospel."

"Love God, love people" is not the gospel.  In fact, here is the irony.  That phrase, "love God, love people," is actually a summary of the law.  It is the opposite of the gospel! 

Paul says in Romans 13:10 that, "love is the fulfilling of the law."  We use this phrase as though we have unlocked a magic key to the gospel and the irony is that we have run back to the law like a dog running to its vomit.  Now we still love God and love people, but this is what the gospel produces, not the gospel itself.  Our love for God and others is evidence that we have been born again, that Christ has transformed us.  We are able to love and bear fruit because of the work of the gospel in our lives.  It is not a substitute for the gospel.  That is blasphemous.

3.  The gospel is not the moral teachings of Jesus. 
If we say that the gospel is all the moral teachings of Jesus, then we are saying this: "God gave us a law in the Old Testament that wasn't righteousness enough, wasn't clear enough, or wasn't enough.  So Jesus came and gave us a new and better law that could be kept.  God made a mistake the first time, had to come correct it."  That is not the gospel.

Let's look back at Romans 10:30, " What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by..."

What?  Saying a magical ABC prayer.  No.
By loving God and loving people?  No.
By keeping all the teachings of Jesus.  No.

By faith!  It is not by any of these works.  Romans 10:32 gives the reason that Israel did not attain righteousness, "Why?  Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works."  There is two ways.  It is either faith or works.

What the Gospel is
Let's look again at Romans 10:33, “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”  That is a succinct statement that has all the major elements of the gospel.

1.  The gospel is news.

Paul starts out by saying, "Behold," listen up, hear ye, hear ye.  The word gospel means announcement.  It means news.  We do not live the gospel.  That is foolishness.  You don't live news.  You can't live out the news from yesterday's newspaper and expect people to understand it.

People will remind you that St. Francis said these popular words, "Preach the gospel at all times and when necessary use words."  You look at them and say, "He didn't know what the gospel is."

You must words to preach the gospel because the gospel is news.  The gospel is news about what God has done in Jesus Christ.  For me to think that I can live the gospel is to put myself in the place of Christ.  That is blasphemy: "You don't need the news about Jesus, just watch me!"

2.  The gospel is God centered.

The gospel is not just news, it is God centered news.  It is about what God has done, not about what I have done.  The gospel is news from, about, for, and through God.  The gospel is God centered.  That also means that it is not man centered.  The gospel doesn't begin with God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.  The gospel is not about you.  The gospel is about God.  The gospel is about creation, fall, redemption and consummation, creation by God, fall from God, redemption to God and consummation through God.  It is God centered.

What role does man play in the gospel?  You are the problem in the gospel.  But the way we talk about the gospel is not at all God centered.  It is man centered and here it what it sounds like: "You are so awesome that god made the world just so that one day he could look at you and you are also so awesome that God sent his Son Jesus because he couldn't imagine life without you in eternity.  And so He stands here right now pleading with you, begging you because he just cannot imagine his life without you.  Would you please do God the favor of accepting Christ so that He can finally be at peace because He has got you?"

That is not the gospel.  The gospel is not about how special you are.  The gospel is about how sovereign God is.  The gospel is not about how much God needs you or wants you.  The gospel is about how much you need God.

Romans 10:33 says, "Behold I lay in Zion..."  It is about what God has done.  It is not about what man has done.  Read that part of the verse again, God says, "I lay in Zion."

3.  The gospel is Christ centered.

Behold I lay in Zion what?  A stumbling stone.  This is Christ.  Romans 10:33 says, "Behold (news) I lay in Zion (God centered) a stumbling stone (Christ centered)..."  Martin Luther says, "Gospel is and should be nothing else than a discourse or story about Christ."  The gospel is Christ centered, not man centered.  The gospel is news about what God has done in Christ.

4.  The gospel is cross centered.

"Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense..."  What is offensive about the gospel?  It is the cross.  It is the fact that the God of the universe killed His only begotten Son, pouring out His wrath on sin that is justly deserved by every human being, but has been poured out on His Son as a substitute for those whom the Father had given to the Son before the world began.  The gospel is cross centered.

For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
1 Corinthians 1:22-24

And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.
1 Corinthians 1:1-2

It is cross centered.  Now let's be careful here.  Have you ever been to an Easter service where the gospel was presented like this: "Look how gruesome the cross was.  He did that for you.  Can't you live your life for Him?"  That's what happened when The Passion of the Christ movie came out.  The cross is not a tool to let men know how much they are worth.  No, cross centered means you help men understand how significant and weighty their sin is.

The cross is a reminder of how holy God is.  The cross is a reminder that God demands payment and satisfaction.  The cross is a reminder that you may not approach God with your sinful, filthy life and your filthy hands and that there must be propitiation, that the wrath of God must be poured out upon sin, that God's righteousness has to be satisfied.  Justice has to be served and you are not worthy.  Christ alone was worthy.  He suffered, died, and rose again because He was worthy and the grave had no right to hold Him.  That is what cross centered theology is, but we take the cross and turn it into man centered theology.  That is how ego centric and narcissistic we are.  Whether it is southern gospel, "He was on the cross, I was on His mind;" or contemporary Christian, "Crucified, laid behind a stone, He lived and died rejected alone.  Like a rose trampled on the ground, You took the fall and thought of ME above all."

How dare we?  How dare we?  It is the glory and righteousness and holiness of the Father that is vindicated on the cross, not my worth!  It is the worth of Christ that is vindicated on the cross.  It is the magnitude of my sin that is demonstrated on the cross.

Today we think of the cross as cosmic child abuse.  We don't understand the cross.  We don't understand sin.  We don't understand the Levitical law which says that without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin.  In Exodus, remember how the lamb was slain and his blood was placed on the doorpost so that the death angel would pass by, in the desert the serpent was placed high on that cross and that they would look at him and live and now Jesus Christ, Him who knew no sin becomes sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.  That is God vindicating His righteousness and allowing Himself to still have mercy on you, a sinner who deserves to hang on that cross and then spend eternity separated from God in hell.

The offensiveness and scandal of the gospel is that it wasn't you who died for your sins.  It was the spotless, sinless Lamb of God who died in your place.  That is the gospel.

5.  The gospel is grace centered.

"Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense; and whoever..."  What does He say next?  Whoever lives a life worthy of Him...no.  It says, "whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”  That is the answer.  Here is the amazing thing.  A lot of people will say that believing is the work that man does.  Man does the work.  You are absolutely right.  Man must believe, but watch this.  Go back to verse 30.

"What shall we say, then?  That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness..."

If they did not pursue righteousness then it was a gift by grace.  It is election.  Ephesians 2:4-9 is perhaps the most beautiful presentation of this anywhere in the Bible:

"But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages He might show the immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.  For by grace you have been saved through faith.  And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast."

The gospel is grace centered.

6.  The gospel is eschatological.

"Behold," it is news.  "I am laying in Zion," it is God centered.  "A stone of stumbling," Christ centered.  "And a rock of offense;" cross centered.  "And whoever believes in him," grace centered.  "Will not be put to shame;” that is eschatological.  Eschatology is the branch of theology that deals with the end times, specifically the Second Coming or the Last Judgment of Christ.  This a reference to the day when you will stand before God.  That doesn't mean that you poke your chest out.  Why would you?  There is no boasting when you understand that it is of grace.

Because the gospel is eschatological what do we eliminate?  We eliminate any possibility that somehow the gospel is just how we get in and then we have to work to keep ourselves.  If that were the case, and if it were up to us, we would have no eschatological hope.

If someone asks, "Are you saved?"  We say, "Yeah, I am right now, but it depends on how firmly I hold on to this thing."  Now we laugh at that, but do you live like it?  Do you believe that the grace that saves you is the grace that keeps you?

Listen to John Hendricks, "In short, the gospel is the life altering news that Jesus Christ the eternal Son of God became man, lived a sinless life under the law, died for sinners and rose again to reconcile them to Himself eternally victorious over every enemy that stood between God and man.  Now because of His redemptive work, there is nothing that separates those who believe from their Creator and all the benefits that He promises in Him."

That is the gospel.  And the difference between Israel and the Gentiles is this: One is holding out hope, pursuing, racing towards a law with the belief that it will eventually be attained; and through attaining it they will also attain righteousness and right standing with God.  The other simply believes the news of what God has done in Christ through the cross by grace for the eschatological hope of those who faith their faith in him.  The difference is the gospel.  That is the difference.  Our hope is the gospel.  And it is our only hope.

I will close with this from D.A. Carson, which is necessary for us who are in the process of raising children.  "Perhaps more common yet is the tendency to assume the gospel, whatever that is, while devoting creative energy and passion to other issues—marriage, happiness, prosperity, evangelism, the poor, wrestling with Islam, wrestling with the pressures of secularization, bioethics, dangers on the left, dangers on the right—the list is endless. This overlooks the fact that our hearers inevitably are drawn toward that about which we are most passionate. Every teacher knows that. My students are unlikely to learn all that I teach them; they are most likely to learn that about which I am most excited. If the gospel is merely assumed, while relatively peripheral issues ignite our passion, we will train a new generation to downplay the gospel and focus zeal on the periphery. Moreover, if in fact we focus on the gospel, we shall soon see that this gospel, rightly understood, directs us how to think about, and what to do about, a substantial array of other issues."

You pick the gospel up and look at everything through the prism of the gospel.  It is the gospel that orients my thinking on every other issue so that I can approach it rightly, because if I don't, then what happens is I am putting my hope in something else.  We too often think, "The gospel is how I get saved, parenting needs something more advanced; the gospel is how I get saved, my marriage requires a trained psychotherapist; the gospel is how I get saved, but in politics you have got to make compromises to get along."

Wrong answer, wrong hope, wrong picture.  Behold, it is news, I am laying in Zion, God centered, a stumbling stone, Christ centered, a rock of offense, cross centered, whoever believes in Him, grace centered, will not be put to shame, it is eschatological.  Is that all of the gospel?  You will spend eternity marveling over the depths of the riches of God in Christ.  What is the gospel?  It is an announcement of what God has done in Christ through the cross by grace to give eternal hope to those who have faith in Him.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Is the God of Mormonism the same God of the Bible?

Let us examine if the God of the LDS or Mormon church is the same God of the Bible by comparing the claims of Joseph Smith with that of the Bible itself.  Joseph Smith taught in his sermon, The King Follett Discourse, that "God himself, who sits enthroned in yonder heaven, is a man like one of you."  He adds, "And you have got to learn how to be Gods yourselves—to be kings and priests to God, the same as all Gods have done—by going from a small degree to another, from grace to grace, from exaltation to exaltation, until you are able to sit in glory as do those who sit enthroned in everlasting power."

Joseph Smith's statement is blasphemy.  Men do not become Gods, for there is only one God.  Isaiah 43:10 says, "Before Me there was no God formed, and there will be none after Me."  God was not a man before He became God, He has always been God; for Malachi 3:6 says, "For I, the LORD, do not change."

The Mormon or LDS church teaches that, "Jesus being the literal son of exalted human gods obviously did not create all things either.  For example, He did not create the planet He was born on as a spirit child (Ibid.; Gospel Principles, 17-20 [1997 edition]; and 27-9)."  (***Note: this quote reference was on the LDS site as of 8:00 am on 7/4/13 but has since been changed.  The quote was from Mormoninfo.org.) 
This is also a direct contradiction with the Bible.  Jesus Christ is God and is not a created being and He did indeed create all things, as shown in John 1:1-3, " In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being."

1 Timothy 4:1-2 warns, "But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron."  We must not be deceived by Joseph Smith and the LDS church who readily admit to lying, for they teach a different God, a different Jesus, and a different gospel.

For more information on this topic, please look at these sites:

The Plain Truth About Mormons
God the Father According to Mormonism

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Mormonism - A False Gospel

Mormonism is considered to be a cult, in that it is a perversion, a distortion of biblical Christianity that rejects the historic teachings of the Christian Church.  The Mormons believe that Joseph Smith saw a vision in which he was told that all Christian denominations were wrong, that their teachings were an abomination, and that all professing Christians were corrupt.  This vision became the basis of the Mormon religion.  

This vision and the entire basis of the Mormon religion is false because it is in direct contradiction with the Bible.  The Mormons will tell you that Joseph Smith became a prophet because the church had failed once Jesus and His 12 disciples left the earth.  Jesus said this in Matthew 16:18: "I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it."  This is the problem: Joseph Smith says the church failed and Jesus said it would not fail.  If two things are in direct contradiction to one another, they cannot both be correct.  We must reject the one and accept the other.  We must believe in either the words of Joseph Smith or of Jesus Christ.

The Mormons will ask you to pray to God about whether Joseph Smith is right or not.  We can pray but God already gives speaks clear instructions to us in His Word.  For example, we can pray about whether or not we should murder someone, but God already tells us that murder is wrong in His Word.  If we do hear a voice telling us it is okay to murder someone, we can know that it is the voice of Satan and not the voice of God. 

The Bible starts in Genesis with the creation of the world and the original sin of Adam and Eve against a holy God and tells us of the righteousness of God in redeeming mankind from the wages of our sin by sending Jesus Christ to die in our place.  The Bible ends in Revelation with Jesus Christ defeating Satan once for all and creating a new heaven and a new earth.  The Bible is God's complete revelation to us and we are warned in Colossians 2:18 about false prophets trying to add to it, especially those who claim to have received visions from God: "Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement and the worship of angels, taking his stand on visions he has seen."

God warns us again at the very end of the Bible in Revelation 22:18-19 about those who would try to add to His Words: "I testify to everyone who hears the words of prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book."

There will be no further revelation from God after what He has already given us through Jesus Christ in the New Testament.  Hebrews 1:1-2 says, "God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world."  We are now in the last days and there will be no other prophets to add to what God's final prophet, Jesus Christ, has already given us in the Bible.  Jude 3 says, "Contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints."  Once for all means the gospel of Jesus was given to us one time for all of time.  That's it, there is no more to add to the true Biblical gospel.

There are no other visions or words of prophecy that we need for salvation, as Paul says in 2 Timothy 3:15, "You have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus," and in Colossians 2:2-4, "Christ Himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.  I say this to you so that no one will delude you with persuasive argument."  All the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are in Christ and are given to us in the New Testament, and we must not be fooled with the persuasive argument of those preaching a different gospel.

Galatians 1:8-9 warns, “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!  As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!”

The Mormon gospel is not the same gospel that is preached in the Bible, despite what some Mormons claim.  Listen to Joseph Fielding Smith's (not the same Joseph Smith) blasphemy in Doctrines of Salvation, where he says there is "No salvation without accepting Joseph Smith...No man can reject that testimony without incurring the most dreadful consequences, for he cannot enter the Kingdom of God."  Eternal life comes from repentance from sin and belief in Jesus Christ, not from belief in Joseph Smith!  That is a lie straight from hell.

God's Word strongly contradicts Mormonism's blasphemous claim.  Isaiah 43:11 says, "I, even I, am the LORD, and there is no savior besides Me."  Jonah 2:9 says, "Salvation is from the LORD."  Acts 4:12 says of Jesus, "And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved."  Finally, Jesus says in John 14:6, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me."  Joseph Smith is a deceiver who attempts to add to God's Word, but he is indicted by Proverbs 30:6, "Do not add to His words or He will reprove you, and you will be found a liar."  Joseph Smith is a liar.  We must reject him as a false prophet and we must reject the cult of Mormonism in its attempt to proclaim a false gospel contrary to the Bible.

This is not meant to be the complete and detailed end-all against Mormonism.  There are unfortunately many other errors that I will not go into.  Be award that the Mormons will try to get new converts by introducing them to the Book of Mormon, but the real blasphemous claims are found in other Mormon literature.

I've got one more thing.  If you go to a Mormon site, Mormonthink.com and hover over Doctrine, click on a section called Lying for the Lord in which they admit to lying for the purpose of promoting Mormonism and admit that Joseph Smith today would be considered a "con artist" (Dan Vogel, Joseph Smith: The Making of a Prophet, 82-86)."

If I am a car salesman and if I have to lie to sell my product, that should tell me that the product I am trying to sell is not legitimate, but rather it is most certainly a piece of junk.  It's the same thing with Mormonism.  This shows how utterly seared their consciences are that Mormons would approve of lying to try to convert others.  It is said in John 8:44 of the devil, "Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies."  This is another proof that Mormonism is not of God, but is birthed of Satan, the father of lies.