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Friday, October 24, 2008

Preaching Repentance

And they went out and proclaimed that people should repent.
Mark 6:12

The Christian message begins with a call for sinners to repent of their sin and turn to God by faith. That’s always been the case. When Jesus began his ministry after being baptized by John, he began by commanding repentance. He said, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel." (Mark 1:15). Without repentance there is no Gospel.

Sadly, much of today’s preaching skips over repentance as if it were an unnecessary addition to the Gospel. Since Christ came to save people, so the thinking goes, let’s just tell them about Christ and his love, and urge them to put their trust in Him. “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life,” they say, “so pray this prayer and ask Jesus into your heart and you can be saved.”

The problem with such a message is that it falls far short of the biblical Gospel, and thus it cannot save. ‘Salvation’ you see, implies rescue from something. I’m in danger of some terrible fate. I need to be rescued from it. But what does the modern gospel offer, to save me from missing “God’s wonderful plan for my life?” Maybe I have plans of my own? Is that all there is to it? I think most people would be willing to take their chances if there is nothing more to the Gospel than that!

But the biblical Gospel begins with a warning. “You have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”, and “the wages of your sin is death.” It’s not just that you might “miss God’s best.” You are a rebel sinner who’s sin has put you under the wrath of God. You’ve set ourselves against God and His right to rule over this universe. Thus the danger you are in is that you will perish under His righteous wrath when He pours it out against all who stand against Him. No, your only hope is to turn from your sin and embrace by faith the Savior God has sent to bear His wrath for you – Jesus Christ His only Son. So repent and believe the good news that God saves sinners who turn and trust in Him!

Soli Deo Gloria

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Hopless Situations and the Glory of God

For those few who may read both blogs, forgive this repeat. I'd recently posted this on Rockportviews, but wanted to share it here as well.


Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing,
so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Romans 15:13

Hopeless situations must be some of God’s favorite things, for he always seems to show up in the middle of them. Think of all the hopeless places in the Bible where God has made his presence known.
  • Abram is over a hundred years old with a post-menopausal wife who’s never been able to get pregnant. But God says, “I’m going to give you a son.”
  • The children of Israel have their backs to the wall – the Red Sea in front of them, Pharaoh’s army behind them – with no place to run either left or right. There’s no way out of this jam. But God tells Moses, “Stand back and you will see the salvation of the Lord”
  • Gideon’s army is whittled down to 600 men, when God tells him to defeat a Midianite hoard of thousands.
  • And who could forget David the shepherd boy sent out to face the Giant; or Daniel in the Lion’s Den; or the young virgin girl who’s told she will bear God’s Son even though she’s never been intimate with any man.
  • And then there is Christ, God’s Messiah, hanging on a cross, despised and rejected by the very people He came to save. What hope could there be in such a Man? Or what hope is there for the ragamuffin band of disciples He sends out to evangelize the world.
God, it seems, does his best work when he puts us in impossible places. That theme, of God’s strength made perfect in our weakness, is what drives the action in Mark 5. Here Jesus steps in to rescue three different people who are drowning in despair: A man controlled by evil, a woman afflicted with an incurable illness, and a father grieving the death of his only child. In each case, it seems like a hopeless situation! But then, that’s just where God’s grace shines best.

I was thinking about this chapter the other day, when it occurred to me, that the real miracle here is not just what Jesus did for these individuals, but who He shows Himself to be in each case.

One man is possessed by demons – Satan has taken over His life! Jesus comes and sets him free. But that's not all. 1 John 3:8 says, “the Son of God has come to destroy the works of the devil.” Jesus not only has power to set this man free. He came to purify all His people from sin and it’s terrible consequences

The woman is suffering under the crushing weight of a terrible affliction. And Jesus heals her of her affliction. But Isaiah 53:4 goes on to say “Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; . . .by his stripes we are healed. Christ came to take upon Himself our wounds and our sins and bear them away to the cross!

A child was dead! Beyond all hope of recover. And Jesus raises her from the dead. But even more, in John 11:25 Jesus says “I am the resurrection and the life, He who believes in me will live, even though He dies.” He Himself is our source of Life! Eternal Life comes to us by trusting in Him!

In each one of these cases, Jesus not only gives what each one needs! He Himself is what they need! He is our victory over sin! He is our healing righteousness! He is our resurrection life! In other words, we don’t come to Him for what He gives! We come to Him, by faith trusting Who He is!

My prayer is that thought will give you hope in a lot of "hopeless situations" as you look by faith to Him


Friday, October 10, 2008

What a Faithful Savior!

I'm sitting here preparing this morning for the message I'll get to preach on Sunday morning, and thinking, "What a privilege!"

God has so faithfully given us the truth of His Word! (John 17:17) That's where we see Him! And that's where He meets us with "grace to help in time of need!" (Heb 4:16)

But not only that, God is just as faithful to open up His word to our eyes, and by His Holy Spirit apply it to us, to our understanding and for our transformation by grace through faith! (Rm 12:1-2, etc)

Oh what a faithful Savior!

Looking forward to meeting with His people again this Sunday.

Soli Deo Gloria

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Starbuck's Theology

I'm hoping to get the time to write some thoughts of my own someday soon, but until that happens, I keep coming across some great things by other people that I think are well worth sharing. The following was sent to my by my friend, Mack Tomlinson. I thought he gave an excellent insight on the nature of true faith, as opposed to its shallow substitute in the culture at large

------------------------------- Mack writes....

I stopped this week at my friend Michael Durham's 3rd favorite place, Star Bucks Coffee (after his home and Oakgrove Baptist Church), to get some hot tea and study for about an hour before getting my children at school in the afternoon.

As I sat down at the table outside to enjoy the pleasant weather, I saw words written on the Starbucks cup which intrigued me. I began to read these exact words by James Brown, a pro football television sports anchor:
"I have faith--faith in our wondrous capacity for hope, good, love and trust, for healing, and forgiveness; I have faith in the blessing of our infinite ability to wonder, question, pray, feel, think, and learn; I have faith in the infinite possibilities of the human spirit."

I began to think, smile, ponder, and then grieve-- everyone's religious in America these days; Brown sounds like he lifted a quote from yesterday's Oprah show, though he probably wrote it himself. Everybody's talking about faith today, from Obama to Joe Biden, to Rush Limbaugh, to Oprah and Hillary, to Barbara Streisand and even Madonna-- everybody loves "faith"-- it's very fasionable and in vogue to say you have faith.

It all sounds so sweet, kind, inspiring, gushy and mushy, making people want to bust out singing in unison, "We are the world, we are the people!" But the real question is this:

What in the world do they mean by faith?

Brown's words above are loudly and clearly saying one thing: "I have faith in me-- I have faith in man-- I have faith in my own endless capacity to be really good; I have endless, infinite abilities and capacities because I am human."

The world is groveling and drooling over such language every day- in advertising, in movies, in the media, in Hollywood, from L.A. to New York, in office buildings, coffee shops, in press conferences, in presidential candidates' speeches, in churches, at weddings, funerals, graduation ceremonies and in university classrooms across the country and in many towns in rural America, where ladies will have coffee together tomorrow morning. This disease is everywhere and it continues to spread.

Such words as Brown's are meant to teach only one thing-- have faith in yourself and in innate human goodness, for that is the only thing that matters. Neither Marx, Lenin, or radical atheistic communism ever had a better humanism than the words on that Star Buck's cup. America has swallowed the biggest lie of all-- I trust in myself because I am good.

Never has there been worse blindness than that. Such people are clueless as to what faith is at all. Because there is no faith apart from a true objective basis of faith-- the Word of God; and there is no object of faith that is credible and true except in one person-- Christ Himself. The Bible is the only basis of faith and Christ is the only object of faith. Accordingly, true believers are the only ones who have any faith at all and are the only ones who can even talk about faith in a true way.

There is only one faith in existence- the faith once delivered to the saints; there is only one basis of faith-- the Bible, and there is only one object of faith-- not you, not me, not man, but Jesus Christ Himself. Faith doesn't even exist apart from the exclusive reality of the Lord Jesus. Every person who has ever been on the planet is shut up in complete unbelief until he or she finds a resting place solely in Jesus Christ Himself, the only place for true faith.

Sorry, James; the hot tea was good, but the cup's advertising fluff about faith is emptier than cotton candy. I'll drink the tea, but not the faith you are spreading; I don't want it because it's not the faith of Jesus and it does not work-- cannot work-- in life, in death, or in eternity.

- Mack T.