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Thursday, August 30, 2007

All About Me?

“For not one of us lives for himself, and not one dies for himself "
Romans 14:7

Our age has been called the “me generation” for a very good reason – since the moment we broke out of the womb, we have insisted on putting ourselves first! Now, I know that most of us would like to think that’s only true of other people – we, at least, don’t act that way! But amazingly I’ve found that more and more people today not only admit they are self-centered, they honestly believe it’s a good thing!

Two recent surveys, one in the US and the other in Britain, show that more than half of college aged young people believe the slogan that says “It’s all about me.” When asked which is more important, to give of yourself for the good of society or to look out for yourself first, more than half pledged themselves to the “me first” philosophy.

The results of this approach to life are, of course, predictable. In such an atmosphere marriages will continue to fail – its hard to stay married when you believe that the purpose of such an arrangement is to “meet your needs.” (What happens when the other person fails to do so? Call a lawyer!) Friendships will continually falter because self-centered people can’t ever get along! (How many “Hollywood deals” have fallen apart because of the inability of massive egos to occupy the same space?) And churches will continue to divide. (When everyone believes its “about me” no one can win.)

But this really is nothing new, is it? Selfishness has always been the natural response of the sinful heart! But Christ came to take away our sin and to give us new lives and new attitudes that result in new relationships – not only with Him, but with each other, as well! May God give us grace to begin to live in a way that builds up, rather than tears up the body of Christ.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

My thoughts exactly!

OK, I'm not usually into plagiarism, but in this case I think I'll make an exception. John Piper's latest "Taste and See" article was so "dead on" that I immediately wanted to forward it to our entire congregation. But instead of doing that, let me simply post it here. Rockport, read this article and everywhere you see the word "Bethlehem" substitute in "Rockport" and you'll get the benefit of an excellent message from one of God's servants. Here is

Pastors, Pragmatism, Pleasure, and Pride

By John Piper August 22, 2007

My calling on the staff at Bethlehem includes the charge to study and preach the Scriptures, to sharpen and shout the vision, and to sound the bell of warning when there is danger ahead. So on our recent pastors’ prayer and planning retreat, I rang the bell three times. Of course, there is always danger ahead. So there was nothing unusual about this. The Bible is strewn with ever-relevant warnings. And I felt that three were urgent. Actually, there are two warnings, and one positive exhortation. Here is a summary of what I said. Please pray this for yourselves and for us on the staff.

1. Beware of the idolatry of pragmatism (2 Chronicles 28:19-27).

Ahaz, king of Israel, “had made Judah act sinfully and had been very unfaithful to the Lord” (2 Chronicles 28:19). So the king of Assyria came against him and afflicted him. Ahaz tried to take portions from the house of the Lord to placate the Assyrian king. It did not work. His folly he became more foolish, and he “sacrificed to the gods of Damascus that had defeated him” (v. 23). Incredible! He sacrificed to the enemy’s gods! Why? What made this king tick?

Answer: “For he and said, ‘Because the gods of the kings of Syria helped them, I will sacrifice to them that they may help me’” (v. 23). In other words, it looks like prayer to the gods of Syria worked. So if it worked for them, it might work for me. This is pragmatism in its rawest form. The idolatry of pragmatism. Pragmatism worships what works. The end of Ahaz’s story: His sacrifices “were the ruin of him and of all Israel” (v. 23).

Beware, Bethlehem, of sacrificing truth and holiness on the altar of what seems to work. Things are not what they seem. Instead of pragmatism . . .

2. “Welcome the love of the truth and so be saved” (2 Thessalonians 2:9-12).

That’s a literal translation of the last clause of 2 Thessalonians 2:10: “The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.” They did not “welcome the love of the truth that they might be saved.” If a person does not love the truth, he is not saved.” Loving truth is one of the sure fruits of the justified life.

What happens in the end to those who will not welcome a love of truth into their lives? Paul says, “God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (vv. 11-12).

That last phrase is astonishing. We spent a good while as a staff unpacking it for our ministry. Paul contrasts “believing the truth” not with disbelief but with “pleasure in unrighteousness.” In other words, wherever anyone considers Jesus and rejects him, it is not owing merely to an intellectual conclusion but, more deeply, to stronger pleasure, namely, “pleasure in unrighteousness.” The fallen human mind is not a neutral observer of Christ. People do not believe in the light because they love the darkness (John 3:19). Love. Take pleasure in. The pleasure of sin is the alternative to loving the truth. So, Bethlehem, love the truth. Flee the idolatry of pragmatism, and love the truth.

3. Beware of pride which brings destruction (2 Chronicles 26).

Uzziah became king of Judah when he was sixteen. He reigned 52 years. “He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord. . . . He set himself to seek God in the days of Zechariah, who instructed him in the fear of God, and as long as he sought the Lord, God made him prosper” (2 Chronicles 26:4-5). He became very strong and everywhere he went God helped him. But then the constant and thudding theme of the Old Testament happened again. The best kings fail.

“His fame spread far, for he was marvelously helped, till he was strong. But when he was strong, he grew proud, to his destruction. For he was unfaithful to the Lord his God and entered the temple of the Lord to burn incense on the altar of incense.” (vv. 15-16). His God-given success proved to be his ruin! He became proud. And his pride expressed itself in feeling himself to be above the law and above criticism. So he entered the temple to do what only the priests were allowed to do.

Azariah and eighty priests who were “men of valor” confronted the king in the name of the Lord. “It is not for you, Uzziah, to burn incense to the Lord. . . . Go out of the sanctuary, for you have done wrong, and it will bring you no honor from the Lord God” (v. 18). When Uzziah became angry, God struck him with leprosy in his face, and he lived the rest of his life in a separate house as a leper (v. 21).

Bethlehem, God has strengthened us. We are at risk of this leprosy: “But when he was strong, he grew proud, to his destruction.” What then shall we do? I said two things to the staff: 1) Never let me be above criticism and correction. I invite you to give me constructive criticism whenever you see some attitude or words or actions that dishonor the Lord. 2) Stay close to the cross and never cease to be amazed and thankful that you are saved. People who are perpetually and thankfully amazed that God has saved them are not likely to be destroyed by pride.

Pray for us concerning these three P’s: The idolatry of pragmatism that ruins the church; the pleasure in unrighteousness that refuses to love the truth; and the pride of being strong that leads to destruction.

Leaning on the purifying power of ever-arriving future grace,

Pastor John

I could not have said it better myself!

In Jesus,
Pastor Scott Lee

Monday, August 6, 2007

The Lordship of Christ

“For to this end Christ died and lived again,
that He might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.”
Romans 14:9

Jesus Christ is Lord! That’s the most basic truth that undergirds every Christian’s faith. Jesus is not only a Savior from sin, He is the Lord of life! I remember the first time this verse really took hold of me. It was when Brother Lew Miller preached at our church, Rockport Baptist, for the first time, back in the mid 1990's. Oh sure, I’d read Romans 14 several times over the years. But have you ever had the experiencing of something suddenly becoming clear to you in a way it hadn’t been before? That’s what it was like for me that day.

I’d known since the moment I'd become a Christian, that Jesus is Lord and that I must strive to obey Him in every area of my life. I knew it was impossible to be a Christian and at the same time refuse to follow Jesus. Nor could I honestly claim to belong to Him and yet continue in a lifestyle of Christ-dishooring sin (see 1 John 3). I’d even read John MacArthur’s wonderful, if somewhat controversial, book, “The Gospel According to Jesus” and found myself in full agreement with pretty much everything he said. But somehow Lew’s words came home to me that day with great power. I remember he said, “Jesus came into this world to be Lord! And what does Lord mean? It means ‘Boss’! Jesus has come to be the 'Boss' of your life, Christian! He’s the Boss Jesus Christ! He's the One you must follow and obey! And if He’s not your Boss, then He’s not your Savior either!”

Wow that really hit me! I’d shared the Gospel with a lot of people over the years, many of whom were willing to “pray the prayer”, but that’s about as far as it went! God was showing me again, that salvation does not come down to saying a prayer or going to church, it comes down to a supernatural work of God that causes us to surrender to Christ the Lord Who is mighty enough to save and worthy enough to rule all who repent and put their whole trust in Him!

Since those days I've come to see that this is the teaching of the entire New Testament. That Christ rules the lives of those He save, and that the saved love it that way. And that even when we fail to obey as we must, it always remains our desire to do so, knowing that "if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9)

May we continually bow our knees and joyfully confess that "Jesus Christ is Lord" to the glory of God the Father (Phil 2:10-11)

For Him,

Pastor Scott Lee