The Sufficient Word of God

The Word of God ALWAYS produces a response.

Paul wrote to the Colossians, “…you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth…” (Colossians 1:5-6)

The gospel, Paul exclaims, was bearing fruit in Colossae just as it bears fruit every. where. it. goes.

To put it another way: God’s Word works. God’s Word opens hearts, changes minds, shapes wills, and transforms lives.  God’s Word is God’s chosen method of accomplishing His will in His people and in the world.

Consider Isaiah:

“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven; and do not return there but water the earth; making it bring forth and sprout; giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater; so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty; but it shall accomplish that which I purpose; and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”

(Isaiah 55:10–11, ESV)

God’s Word is effective.  It will accomplish the purpose for which God sends it. All ministry (in order to be faithful) must trust the Word of God to produce true gospel fruit. 

As believers, we must prioritize God’s Word in our battle against sin and to cultivate a closeness to our Savior.  When we neglect the Word of God and rely instead on willpower, accountability, and other resources, we are moving our trust away from God’s Word and placing our confidence in our own strength and wisdom.  This is a recipe for frustration and failure. 

Instead, let’s run to God and His Word.  Marinate our minds in Scripture. Memorize His promises and follow His commands.  Instead of watering our souls with inspirational thoughts and esteem-building post-its, let’s plant our souls next to the running waters of His Word. Let’s write Scripture on our mirrors and keep His commands before our eyes.

The Word of God is not only effective, but also sufficient. “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16–17, ESV)

God’s Word is His method of shaping our lives and strengthening our souls. It is by His Word that the Holy Spirit prepares workers, trains disciples, and equips His servants. 

James instructs believers as they seek to do God’s will and walk in His purposes.  To walk faithfully, they must “receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.” (James 1:21, ESV)

In other words, the saving of their souls (in this case, victory over sin and increasing holiness) is ultimately dependent on the Word of God.

We see this all over the Bible.  Consider still these Scriptures:

Need more faith, a stronger faith?  Look to God’s Word, for “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”  (Romans 10:17, ESV)

This is true because “the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12, ESV)

Jesus prayed, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” (John 17:17, ESV)

God’s method (and therefore Jesus prayer) centers on the ability of God’s Word to transform, sustain, and empower His people.  But more than a declaration of it’s ability, God is giving us a promise that He will transform, sustain, and empower us as we trust His Word.

In our study of Acts, we saw Paul and his company move through Macedonia.  Paul’s pattern was to reason from and present the Word of God as he declared the gospel.  When those in Thessalonica received God’s Word immediately endured persecution from those who rejected it.  There is so much we could say about this (you can read it in Acts 17).  For now, let’s simply say it was their high value on God’s Word that enabled them to survive.

Paul would then be sent to Berea, where there was not persecution (at least not from the Bereans).  The reason the Bereans came to faith together (instead of being divided like the Thessalonians) is because they had positioned themselves under God’s Word and committed themselves to its proper understanding. It is this high respect for Scripture that made the Bereans “more noble” than the Thessalonians.

This challenges us in at least three ways:

1. We must give priority to the Word of God. As we live our faith and share it with others, we must rely upon and lead with and trust God’s Word to bear fruit and produce results.

2. We must cling to humility and teachability.  We must determine in our hearts that the entirety of our lives is under the authority of God and His Word. Our methods, ideas, desires, and theology must all be subject to and shaped by the Word of God.  Like Martin Luther, our conscience must be captive to the Word of God. Scripture, rightly interpreted and well-reasoned supersedes all our ideas, desires, dreams, and traditions.

And 3. We must give attention to the Word of God.  We must read it, meditate on it, memorize it, sing it, submit to it, talk about it, and teach it.  Our lives must be given over to the Word of God.  We must give it more than 30 minutes a week.  God’s Word should pour into our lives daily if the seeds of His Word are going to transform our minds and lives, heal our hearts and families, strengthen our hearts and our hopes.

Our Calling: Make Disciples

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

(Matthew 28:18–20, ESV)

The words of Jesus found at the end of Matthew’s gospel are known as the “Great Commission,” and have long been considered the marching orders for Christ’s church. Contrary to how it may appear in the English translation, there is only one imperative in Jesus’s words. Jesus’s command, the imperative at the center of His instructions, is to “make disciples.”

Making disciples happens in two parts: (1) share the gospel, and (2) help people grow in the gospel. We want to share the gospel so that people can repent of sin and believe in Christ for salvation. As they come to faith in Christ, we labor to see them grow in faith.

What about “Go.”?

“Go” is describing the command, “make disciples.” In the Greek, it is an adverb, a participle describing the command to “make disciples.” In a sense, Jesus is saying, “as you go,” or “while you are going, make disciples.”

The implication is that throughout our going, throughout life’s ins and outs, we are to be making disciples. This is especially key for parents. In the spirit of Deuteronomy 6, we are to teach His Word to the next generation as we go: “You shall teach [the Lord’s commands] diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:7–9, ESV) Again, as you go and wherever you are, make disciples of your children.

This is the method of disciple-making: take people with you. Parents, when you are going to minister, volunteer, deliver a meal, or decorate for an event, or encourage someone in the hospital, take your kids with you. Take others with you. But not just parents, all of us! Find people in your life that you not only study Scripture with but people that you act on Scripture with. Believing is only genuine when it results in doing.

Before we leave the idea of “Go,” we must also say that there is included a definite sense of intentionally going to people and places with the deliberate intention to share the gospel. We must be engaging the world around us so that we can take the light of the gospel into dark places. We want to be building relationships and going into places to that Christ has representation and a voice in places where He does not yet have a representation or a voice. So, let’s GO into these places, let’s GO to all people, and as we are going, let’s be making disciples.

But the command to “make disciples” is also modified by our Lord with two other participles. In addition to the participle “Go,” we also are told that making disciples involves “baptizing” and “teaching.”

When someone comes to believe in Christ and surrender their lives to Him, baptism is that first step of obedience. When a new believer goes under the water, it is symbolic of dying to their old self and when he/she comes out of the water, it demonstrates that they have been raised to walk in new life. It symbolizes the change that has happened in their hearts, crucifying the old self and choosing new life in Christ.

Finally, the participle “teaching” leads us back to where we started. We mature in our faith as we learn “to observe all that [He] has commanded.” Being a disciple is a lifelong journey of learning and being changed by what we learn. But as we teach and train (and learn) as disciples, we must recognize that teaching is not merely about knowledge. Paul warns us that knowledge can puff us up, makes us arrogant, and even deceive us. But knowledge in love of our Savior leads to obedience, and knowledge in the service of love for others transforms our desires and our behaviors.

Teaching includes information and knowledge, but it is also training. What do we do with that knowledge? How does it change us and what does change look like? …in my life? How does change influence my desires? How does maturity transform how I view marriage and what I want out of my marriage? How does being a disciple influence how I parent my children or what I want for my children? As I disciple of Christ, how does my business look different than others’?

Every area of our lives should be impacted by discipleship as we make disciples and grow in our own journey as a disciple. Walking faith together, with a local body of believers, we need coaching, encouragement, and accountability. We learn to pour out our lives, serving others more and demanding less. We learn to consider own another as better than ourselves. We seek to outdo one another in showing honor. We divide our sorrows, share our burdens, and multiply our joys. We begin to see Christ in our lives and in our midst as we seek to know Him, and honor Him.

Christian, is your church a disciple-making church? Is your home a disciple-making home? Are others growing in their faith because of their relationship with you? Are you engaging the world around you so that Christ has a representation and a voice?
If you cannot answer those questions as enthusiastically as you would like, or if you don’t know how to answer… that’s okay. Join the club. But let’s strive together toward increased faithfulness, so that the next time we consider this Great Commission, we can joyfully praise God for the change we see in our lives.

When God Seems Absent

We’ve all been there. Some of us have been there more times than we want to remember and more recently than we care to admit.

We have been on our knees, asking the Lord God to intervene on our behalf. Maybe for you it was in the midst of chemo. Maybe you have been calling out in the midst of a marriage crumbling around you. Impossible times have a way of making us feel isolated, alone, and helpless. When we are brought to the end of our own self-sufficiency and there is nothing we can do about a child in rebellion, that strained relationship, or an evaporating job market.

So, from the fog of our confusion, hurt, and desperation, we pray. We call out to God, and as best as we can tell, we hear nothing in return. We are struck by silence. And we wonder where He is in the midst of all we are going through.

Be encouraged. You are not the only child of God to have that experience.

Take heart. God is much nearer than your feelings would allow you to believe.

The world is saturated with pain, difficulty, and hardship, but our Savior reminds us that He has overcome this world. Throughout Scripture, God declares and demonstrates that He will never leave us, He is with us, and He is for us. He captures every tear. He hears every prayer. And every struggle we experience is working in us a glory that will eclipse every hardship.

The book of Esther is one powerful example of this truth. This small testimony, tucked away in the history of God’s people, is full of struggle, tension, drama, humor, irony, and plot twists. However, the one thing it is missing is any mention of God. His name is never spoken. Not once.

But, make no mistake, God is present. His hand is clearly at work behind and between every decree and every plot. Therein lies our first lesson. Even when we cannot see God, He is present & active. He is weaving a tapestry of faithfulness that is not readily visible while standing in the midst of a chaotic mess of needles and yarn. But when it is finished and we look back, the beauty of His artwork is undeniable.

In Esther we also see that God’s enemies are real and evil has an agenda. When Jesus promises that “in the world you will have tribulation” (John 16:33), He is not speaking in metaphor. The world (as we have already said) is ripe with pain and trouble. The Lord’s enemies, spiritual and natural, have a plan and they are always at work. Satan prowls like a lion (1 Peter 5:8), seeking those whom he might devour. He comes to steal, to kill, and to destroy (John 10:10). But we have the assurance that “greater is He who is in us than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).

Therefore, we have confidence that even when evil appears to advance, God’s plans and His purposes will prevail. Esther is positioned in a position of influence. Mordecai is saved. And Haman is hanged on his own gallows. Authority is granted and a plan is developed. God’s people are preserved, and His enemies are destroyed. Even when others act on evil impulses, God is working for the good of His people and the glory of His name. His plans will prevail.

Our role? Our role is to trust Him today. Esther and Mordecai teach us this. We cannot anticipate or prepare for every challenge that awaits us, but God prepares us daily as we pursue Him. When Esther was taken, they were powerless to stop it. When Mordecai stops an assassination plot, and was not rewarded for it, he did it because it was the right thing to do. He had no idea the significance of the act, or that a late reward would be key to God’s plan.

There is so much we cannot anticipate or plan for, but if we will commit to follow the Lord in the day we have, then He will prepare us for the days to come. Preparing for the big plans of tomorrow begin with faithfulness in the little things of today. We may not know the fullness of His plans, but He does. And if we commit to present day faithfulness, we will see His deliverance and provision and glory.

“Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:32)

Take courage. Our God is faithful. Our Savior is faithful. The Spirit is our help. Trust Him and stay close to Him.

If there is anything else I do to help you along this journey, please reach out.

If you are interested in viewing the Esther Sermon series, you can access it here.

Passing On the Faith

I enjoy track and field. It’s one of my favorite things to watch when the Olympics roll around every four years. (Sidenote: I really missed the Olympics last year.)

Of course, in the world of track and field, the fan-favorite races are the sprints, especially the relays. I have never been much of a sprinter, but I have always wanted to run in the relays. As a distance guy, I never got the chance. There’s just something about the quick starts, the teamwork, and the passing of the baton that capture my attention – and still create a sense of envy.

There was however one time I was able to run a relay. I cannot remember why I was recruited, but I do remember the dread of thinking, “What if I botch the exchange? What if I drop the baton?” I didn’t, but we didn’t win, and I was never on a relay again.

Church. We have a baton to pass. The ancient baton of faith. It has it’s origin woven into creation and has been passed faithfully throughout history and it is in our hands today. It is “the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” God has faithfully preserved it among His people, and we are holding it now.

What are you going to do with it, Christian? Who are you going to pass it to? How are you going to pass it on? What shape are you going to pass it in?

Too many Christians take this baton and hide it. Like the servant that buried his talent, some bury their faith out of fear. Keep it close, after all, it’s a personal matter, what does it matter to other people? This fearful and timid faith comes dangerously close to surrendering faith into apostasy. Our faith, while personal, is not private. We are not saved merely for our own eternal preservation but as a display of His glory and as a part of His mission.

We must proclaim His gospel to all those around us, especially to those in the upcoming generations. Too many Christians are not thinking of passing this baton of faith. We may not hide it, but neither is it being extended to others. Instead of offering it to those around us, we enshrine it. We place it on a pedestal out of reach and adorn it with decorations that make the baton hard to see.

We want others to see Jesus in us, but they cannot distinguish between Jesus and all the stuff we’ve attached to him. We hope our children and grandchildren will walk after us in the faith, but we are unwilling to go into the future with them. We demand that they navigate the terrain of the future with the tools of the past. We cannot pass the baton to their hands if we continue to focus on our grip. A faith that is self-focused, will not be grasped by others.

If our faith is going to be passed on:

(1) We must model both faith and faithfulness. We must recognize what the gospel is and what we have attached to it, and then must pass on that which is essential as we speak of and act on the passions, priorities, and purposes of the Kingdom.

(2) We must adopt a heritage of faith. The church walks in a legacy of faithfulness thousands of years old. Let’s hear those stories. History is memory. We must never forget for where we have come. There is a legacy behind us that guides us to the plans God has in front of us. Even every changing times, in the midst of modern challenges, it is increasingly important to hold onto the constants of the faith, to the continuity of His Word.

(3) We must connect them to a people. Faith is a team sport. Faith, by God’s design, is meant to be lived out in community. We cannot experience the fullness of faith in Christ apart from the fellowship of His Bride, the church.

(4) We must pass the baton to a person. We cannot toss this baton of faith into a generic “generation.” Faith does not live on in instituions but in the hearts of people. We must share it with individuals, for if it is to be sent into the future, it will be individual believers who show it and share it with others. The gospel, this faith, only goes where people take it. So, we must invest in people, people we love and trust and encourage and teach and help.

(5) We must pray for those who are coming up behind us. There is so much more that can and should be said, but ultimately, this task is too big for us; we must trust God. And trusting God, we pray diligently and desperately for those we are sharing the gospel with. We want them to flourish in the faith as they walk with God, pursue His purposes, and fulfill His plans. In this, they will know life, eternal and abundant, and in the knowing they will be able to pass it on to others.

Passing on the faith is a personal investment that requires intentional action, sacrificial service, and earnest prayer. Let’s pray that we can build up one another, and especially future generations, unto multi-generational faithfulness.

If there is anything else I do to help you along this journey, please reach out by leaving a comment or sending an email. If you want to watch this message in it’s entirety, you can find it with past messages on our website:

A Gospel Community is Theological

But some men came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” And after Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and debate with them, Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and the elders about this question. So, being sent on their way by the church, they passed through both Phoenicia and Samaria, describing in detail the conversion of the Gentiles, and brought great joy to all the brothers.

Acts 15:1–3 (ESV)

The principle is simple really: what we love, we seek to know; what we know, we know how to love.

Unfortunately, the idea of “theology” intimidates many, but theology is merely the study of God. Or, more simply put, the pursuit of knowing God.

Every believer wants to know God. Even many unbelievers have an interest in God. Whenever we seek answers to questions about God — who He is, how He works, what He requires, etc. — we are doing theology.

Church, we must do more theology. We must love theology because we love God, and we want to know those we love.

As we look at the controversy of Acts, chapter 15, we see the importance and nature of theology.

(1) We see that theology is an important discipline.

This is what we have already said. If we value God and love Him and want to know Him, please Him, serve Him, and share Him with others, then we must engage in theology.

When we put God at the center of theology (which, oddly enough, is not a universal approach), we also discover that our interest and focus in the Bible changes. We discover that the Bible is not merely (or even primarily) a handbook for doing life, but the roadmap for knowing God. We must understand the Bible as revelation before we can apply its instruction.

(2) Theology is a joyful discipline.

If our theology does not produce doxology, then we are doing it wrong!

This element of theology only appears in passing as we look at the text, but it is a life-giving aspect of theology that is too often overlooked. They were sharing with one another testimony of what God was doing and how God was working, and it “brought great joy to all the brothers.”

Theology prompts doxology.

(3) Theology is a community discipline.

The early church did not sweep this theological issue aside or brush it off. They did not dismiss it as unimportant or downplay the issue for the sake of a perceived “unity.” They dealt with it, and they dealt with it together. They all sought counsel together, they came and reasoned together. The church is a gospel community, that makes us a theological community.

Theology – if we let it – will produce humility, deepen respect, cultivate community, teach us to listen and consider others. We will learn submission, gain perspective, , connect us to history (the greatest benefit to studying church history is a knowledge of heresy and battles for theological integrity).

(4) Finally, Theology is a biblical discipline.

James, the head of the Jerusalem church, after listening to testimony and argument, evaluates and summarizes the entire issue by looking into the Scriptures.

James models what we must never forget: Scripture is the final authority. All experience, all testimony, every idea and philosophy must be shaped by Scripture. Our experiences, our culture, our favorite authors, even our traditions must yield to Scripture.

When was the last time Scripture overcame an impulse, or clarified an experience, or shaped – or reshaped – an opinion?

We gain stability, avoid error, increase joy, build fellowship, learn humility, and testify to the goodness of God when we spend time and give attention to knowing our God.

What you love you study and what you study holds your attention and captures your imagination. Church, let’s give the Lord our attention and let’s allow His greatness to capture our imagination. Let’s cultivate a love for theology.

Gospel Reinforcement

…they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.

Acts 14:21-22 (ESV)

Oops. He did it again.

Paul is back at it. After being threatened, beaten, stoned, and nearly killed, Paul returns to the cities where he faced opposition and hardship. But his pattern this time around is different. He is not going to the synagogues first to present Jesus, evangelizing Jews and God-fearing Gentiles. This time he reconnects with Christian believers, “strengthening the souls of the disciples.”

Paul knows there is more to building the kingdom than calling for decisions (as important as that is). Paul is seeking to build up the kingdom not merely expand its population. So, having seen individuals in every city come to faith in Jesus, Paul wants to strengthen, encourage, and disciple them so that they can persevere in their faith and then continue the mission of sharing Christ with others.

The Great Commission is not just going and preaching, calling for decisions and witnessing conversion; our mission is to make disciples, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit (evangelism) AND teaching them to obey all that I have commanded (discipleship).

And as believers, our faith is not “complete” when we accept Jesus unto salvation. We are not merely called to a decision about Christ, but to walk with Him our whole lives. This faith journey demands discipleship. All believers must be disciples: being taught in the faith and growing in obedience.

The invitation to know Christ is a call to be reconciled to Him, having been buried with Christ in baptism we are now raised to walk in newness of life. Salvation is having our sins paid for and being provided with eternal life. Being saved is to walk with Jesus, having been reconciled to Him, we are discipled by Him through faith, through His Word, and with His people.

Along with this call to be a disciple, an expression and consequence of being a disciple, means that we are also a disciple-er. While growing and learning as a disciple, we are also teaching and encouraging other disciples.

From Paul’s example we are reminded of these 3 things:

1. We are called to discipleship. Of course, this is all we have already said with one additional clarification.

To know Christ is to walk the path of discipleship.

So, consider:

  • Who is guiding you along this path of discipleship? Who is it that strengthens your soul and encourages you in hardship?
  • Who is walking alongside you, growing with you as you pursue Christ? Do you know what your church is doing to intentionally build disciples? How can you help take advantage of and strengthen those efforts?
  • Who are you sharing your faith with and who are you teaching all that you have learned and are learning? In other words, who are you discipling?

2. We are need encouragement. Obviously, this is part of being a part of the disciple-making process, a process in which we are forever both offering and receiving, learning and teaching.

But, how important is this really?

Of grave importance… ultimate consequence… life-and-death hanging in the eternal balance. It is impossible to over-estimate or under-emphasize the importance of discipleship, training, encouragement, and accountability.

Only those who “endure til the end” will be saved. ( 1 Corinthians 15:1-2; Mark 13:13; Matthew 24:12-13; Colossians 1:21–23; 1 John 2:19)

Only those who persevere in the faith will experience eternal life. And while there is much to be offered here by way of explanation, but for our purposes here we want to focus on one element of this beautiful gospel promise.

Faith, by nature, perseveres.

Translation: Take courage! Pursue Christ with all your heart. Faith makes it to the end!

That means that by faith, you will endure. He who began a good work in you WILL complete it. (Phil. 1:6, emphasis added)

The same God who warns us against falling away is (Jude 20-21) is the same God who “who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.” (Jude 24-25)

The same God who invites us to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,” is the same God “who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” (Phil 2:12-13)

“But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one.” (2 Thessalonians 3:3)

As His children, we “are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” (1 Peter 1:3-5)

To put it another way: We persevere because God preserves us.

This assurance does not give us license to be lazy in our persevering, rather, it infuses our striving with confidence because we know He is at work within us and He will be faithful.

One last thing. A key tool in God’s preservation toolbox is His people. God provides for us in the community of faith. And trusting God means trusting the means He has ordained.

Paul provides strength, encouragement, and instruction to these new believers by organizing them into local churches and gifts them with godly leaders. Through these leaders and these churches, Paul trusts these new believers to be cared for, instructed, and encouraged.

My prayer for each of you is Paul’s blessing to the Thessalonian church:

“Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thessalonians 5:23)

And if I can be an encouragement to you in your faith, leave a comment or send an email. I look forward to hearing from you.

Watch the whole service or join the sermon at the 37:48 mark.

Good Deeds & Gospel Integrity

 “Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men, of like nature with you, and we bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them. In past generations he allowed all the nations to walk in their own ways. Yet he did not leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.”

Acts 14:15-17

Paul did this thing.

…it was a good thing, but it ended up causing a lot of trouble.

In his defense, he had no way of knowing; like many well-intentioned actions, the unintended consequences… well, let’s just say they got out of hand.

Again, to be clear: Paul did not do anything wrong, and I am not suggesting that he should have done anything differently, however, there is a powerful lesson for us, a warning & an encouragement.

There are two parts to gospel living. For all who would faithfully walk in and seek to share the gospel, we must give purposeful attention gospel demonstration and gospel declaration.

1. Gospel demonstration

Jesus calls His people to be salt & light in the midst of a hostile world. The goal is that the world “may see your good deeds and give glory to your Fathers who is in heaven.” (Matt 5:16)

When Jesus was asked to identiify the greatest commandment, He said that the greatest of all the commandments was to love the Lord our God with all of our heart, souil, strength, and mind. But then He offered a second command “that is like” the first: to love our neighbor as ourselves.

Love our neighbor, serve them, get to know them, and meet needs as you are able. This is how gospel people demonstrate God’s goodness and communicate His love.

However, we must be careful. It is possible that we could meet every need in our community and gain a reputation for love but still not prove faithful to our Lord and His mission. Gospel demonstration must find it’s completion in gospel declaration.

2. Gospel declaration

The man “had faith to be made well.” The most important needs require faith because our most important needs are spiritual. Every other need we have is temporary, and every kind of provision is fading, but our soul’s need for forgiveness and salvation is eternal.

We cannot be content with simply meeting physical and temporary needs. Gospel people declare God’s grace in the gospel.

Good works are good. But good works are limited. More than that, good works can be misunderstood.

People like when good is done to them and for them. In Paul’s case, doing good to a lame man caused him and Barnabus to look like gods. The people of Lystra were even prepared to worship them!

We can gain quite a following, draw a crowd, and earn some money… we can win favor and build a reputation by doing good. And while there is nothing wrong with doing good, we must resist to urge to think too much of earning favor or sustaining a particular reputation.

Doing good might earn us the favor of the world, but we must be willing to sacrifice any and all social capital so that we can point people to Jesus. Our ultimate purpose is to turn people from vain idols to serve a living God. Meeting people’s needs will gather a crowd but calling out their idols will put rocks in their hands.

And don’t think that this is a simple issue of evangelism & ministry. Church people are just as quick (sometimes quicker) to pick up and cast stones. Build them up, offer comfort, and remind them of God’s love and promises and you will be loved. Confront sin, ask for commitment, or even change the order of worship, and you can find yourself stoned.

Living and leading well is risky business. In the morning you will find yourself saying, “I am just a man and not deserving of worship,” only to turn around and say, “Am I really deserving of death?!”

If we are to live and serve faithfully, we must stop worrying about pleasing people, or establishing a reputation, or winning a culture… and simply focus on offering and maintaining the gospel for the rescuing of souls.

If loving people and pursuing mission leads us to meet certain needs, to engage in acts of kindness, or social engagement, or political advocacy, then so be it! But let’s be careful to keep the main thing the main thing. Let’s remember we are Gospel-people first… citizens and heirs to a kingdom that will never end.

And if commitment to the gospel leads to misunderstanding or persecution, if we end up beat down, cast out, exhausted, depressed, and discouraged, we can then gather believers arounds us, get up, and keep going.

sermon begins at 39:38 mark

What Does It Mean to “Be the Church”?

“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

Many talk about the church. It seems everyone has an opinion, even if that opinion is: it’s not worth having an opinion. But through all the talk and opinion and emotion and preference, all too often, “church” does not mean what many people think it means.

Religious matters are funny. Much of our culture believes that religion and theology are subjective truths, if they can even be considered truths at all. Even Christians operate with a form of this “hands-off” theology. What I mean is, many people develop their own method of doing faith that keeps others at arm’s length and effectively invalidate anything that would challenge the “truths” they have developed for themselves – a system of truth that they are comfortable with. We say things like, “for me, this verse means…” or “I like to think of God like…” or (even worse) “God and I have an understanding.”

Friends, we cannot do faith and life in this way. To know Christ and to come into His kingdom means to surrender to His lordship and to delight in His glory. We cannot do life, faith, or theology in isolation. We cannot approach Him on our own terms or walk with Him by our own understanding. We need one another.

A local church is dsigned to be a faith family, but like all families, there is always a measure of dysfunction. However, our imperfections and idiosyncrasies become the necessary context from which we learn to show love, extend mercy, and demonstrate patience – and (in so doing) we experience what it means for God to have done the same for us.

We learn more about the love of God when we are challenged to forgive those who have hurt us, accept those who are different than us, and defer to those around us. We grow to understand His grace as we invest in those who are learning and show patience to those who are struggling. Striving in faith together, our church family becomes a gospel laboratory where we explore the richness of every “one another” command in Scripture.

If we choose only learn from those who agree with us, what are we really learning? If we only worship according to our preferences, who is really the focus of our worship? If we only surround ourselves with those who are in our demographic, can we ever understand the real depths of God’s love?

When we operate from a consumer mentality and demand that our church (or a prospective church) meets our demands and caters to our comforts and fits our preferences, then we do not understand what it means to “be the church.”

The church is not a building, an organization, or a service club. The local church is to be a family, united in a common faith and given to a common purpose for the glory of God. The local church is visible only when gathered – a time that should be precious and powerful. We are interdependent and therefore mutually invested in one another’s lives. When we are not gathered, we remain connected, representing our family and honoring our Savior in every individual endeavor.

This is why our faith, while deeply personal, is not private. This truth flies in direct opposition to our culture, so biblical faith must transcend cultures.

A spiritual family should not divide over worldly disagreements. Eternal kingdoms cannot fight over temporal concerns. A holy people must not fracture over secular allegiances. The love we have for our Savior and for one another should be the chief and predominant banners that fly over our lives.

There is so very much more to say on this topic, way too much for a brief article. Indeed, this topic would take a lifetime to explore and would require an entire community to discover. But, then again, I believe that is by design… and that’s just the point.

If there is anything I can do to help you explore what biblical community looks like, please start a conversation: leave a comment or reach out at I hope you are having a great week.

Poisoned Minds & Gospel Perseverance

Now at Iconium they entered together into the Jewish synagogue and spoke in such a way that a great number of both Jews and Greeks believed. But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers.

Acts 14:1-2

The Gospel, faithfully preached, will never fail to pierce darkness and bring life. No matter how dark a culture, no matter how blind a mind or how dead a heart, the gospel opens spiritual eyes, bringing light and life everywhere it goes.

In the soul of every human being there is a God-shaped hole, an eternal void, that only Christ can fill. This is what it means to be made in His image. This is what Augustine referenced when he declared to God, “You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless, until they can find rest in you.” (emphasis added)

““You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless, until they can find rest in you.”

Augustine of Hippo (354-430), The Confessions

Augustine understood well the emptiness of pursuing and even of possessing the pleasures of the world, yet none of them brought him peace. Only the gospel can turn a heart to Christ and only Christ can fill a heart.

While many have responded by faith in the gospel, hearing and believing – receiving life, hope, and peace – yet, not everyone will accept the truth about Jesus.

The gospel might bring light, but darkness fights back. Paul is seeing “a great number” coming to faith in Jesus, but, at the same time, the unbelieving Jews are poisoning the minds of others. Literally, they are “embittering the souls” of the Gentiles towards Paul and Barnabus.

We see in our culture today souls embittered toward the truth of the gospel and minds poisoned toward those who hold fast to its truth. In just two decades we have seen a moral revolution take place at unimaginable speed, turning even the foundational institution of marriage upside down.

Public opinion has risen against God’s truth and public policy is increasingly seeking to punish and expunge all dissent. What is Christ’s Church to do?

As we look to Paul in Iconium, we can see in his ministry at least four traits that helped him handle opposition and persevere in conflict.

So they remained for a long time, speaking boldly for the Lord, who bore witness to the word of his grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands. (Acts 14:3, ESV)

  • We must stay dedicated to our mission. In the face of deliberate, intentional, targeted, and even dishonest opposition, Paul and his companions “remained for a long time.” I don’t know how long “long” is, but we see the picture of a determined effort to keep preaching the gospel and to keep representing Christ.
  • We must grow bold in our witness. Conflict is not for the faint of heart. Personal attacks hurt, being misrepresented is painful, and being rejected is discouraging. The persistenceof lies, comments, rejection, and loss can (if we let it) leave us feeling hollow, weak, and depressed. Paul and his friends stayed true to their mission, “speaking boldly for the Lord.”
  • We must stand strong in His grace. Ours is a message of what God has done in Christ to reconcile sinners to Himself. While the gospel requires an understanding of sin and a warning of judgment, it is a message of grace. God so loved the world… Jesus came to save sinners… and it is His kindness that leads us to repentance. (John 3:16, 1 Tim 1:15, Romans 2:4) It is our job to declare this message of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18) and trust that the Holy Spirit will bring conviction concerning sin, righteousness, and judgement (John 16:8). God showed up in Paul’s ministry as he “bore witness to the word of his grace.”
  • We must offer compassion to our neighbors. The old adage rings true: people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. Ears are more attentive when the belly is full; and hearts are more receptive when minds are at ease. Throughout the gospels and here in Acts, we see Jesus and his followers perform miracles and meet needs. These acts of compassion and ministry paved the way over which the gospel traveled. The Lord granted “signs and wonders to be done” throughout Paul’s ministry as a witness to the truth. Likewise, we should seek to do good so that others will see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven (Matthew 5:16), coming to know Christ as Savior and Lord.

We live in ever-changing times and hostility to the gospel in growing. This should not surprise us; Scripture tells us more than once that wickedness will increase and that the love of many will grow cold. Our Savior warned us that in this world we will have tribulation; betrayal, trial, and hardship are unavoidable.

O Church, let us not be paralyzed by lament, caught off guard, or surrender to bitterness. While there is an appropriateness to seeking the protection of our religious liberties, at the same time, our energies need not be centered on maintaining our comforts and securities. The focus of our efforts and the desire of our hearts must be in maintaining faithfulness.

Whatever comes our way, whatever opposition looks like, whatever faithfulness costs, let us decide now to continue in the grace that has been given us. Let us continue to stand steadfast on His truth. Let us never cease from offering the gospel to our neighbors and to the nations. From now until Christ returns, we are to hold out to others the hope of the gospel of His grace. Let’s labor so that when our Savior returns, He will find us faithful, and we will hear, “Well done, my good and faithful servants.”

For more information on the challenges facing Christ’s Church you can find information about the moral revolution in these presentations from Dr. Albert Mohler (an interview 6 years ago and a presentation last year), also a summary of the imposing ‘Equality Act’ from the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

Jesus & the Bible

How do you view the Bible?

Is it trustworthy or suspect? Is it relevant or outdated? Is it antiquated or applicable?
How you view the Bible will shape how you view Jesus. And how you understand the Scriptures will impact how you understand God. To put it another way, your relationship with the Lord and the direction of your faith will be rooted in your opinion of the Bible.

If you view the Bible merely as a human construct, as men reporting their memories and interpretations of what they understood to be divine activities throughout history… if THAT is your understanding of the Bible, you will see God has unpredictable and distant, involved but misunderstood, loving but not ultimately knowable. You may even see Him as uncaring or inconsistent or contradictory. Sure, there are some principles we can draw from and some lessons we can learn, but ultimately, we (like they) are trying to figure out life as best we can who God is and how we can live life together.

That’s one position.

The other is to see the Bible as divine revelation. God has spoken to and through individuals, revealing Himself, His character, His activity, and His expectations. The Bible, although written by human beings pushing physical pens on paper, is ultimately the work of God, by His Spirit, inspiring human authors – sharpening their memories, safeguarding their minds, guiding their thoughts, and speaking through their words.

When we understand Scripture in this way, then God moves closer; He is intentional and involved. More than hiding behind the events of our lives, He is bringing clarity, stepping into the light so that He can be seen and known. Not content with being guessed at, God seeks to be understood. And with the invitation to know Him comes an invitation to be worship Him and love Him. This is the reason for which we have been created.

When all is said and done, there is really only one option that makes sense. If we are going to know God, we either (1) guess and get it right, or (2) He tells us who He is.
If we have been created by God, we are created for His pleasure – to know Him and to worship Him , to enjoy Him and to share Him. If that is our created purpose (and it is) then God is not going to leave us to languish in darkness, grasping for incomplete knowledge of who He is and what He expects.

No. God is loving and He wants us to walk in a rich knowledge of who He is and experience the deep joy of His presence. So, He has spoken – through His Word, through His Son, and by His Spirit.

For anyone who can accept it, the Bible is God’s revelation of Himself to mankind. True, some things are hard to understand, and I believe there are reasons for that. But, like Mark Twain once said, it’s the parts of the Bible that are most clear that cause me the most trouble. While we misunderstand, misuse, and misapply His Word, the fault is ours not His. He has spoken clearly, and if we will listen honestly, we can know Him deeply. If we will stop protecting our idols, stop preserving our agendas, and stop pleasing our impulses, we will be able to hear what He has spoken in His Word — this revelation of Himself and the invitation into His family.

If there is anything I can do to help you understand God through His Word, please reach out… leave a comment, question, prayer request, or send an email.