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Join Us Sunday at 10:30a

This past Sunday my sermon covered the verses in Hebrews stating the possibility of people falling away from Jesus.  This brings up the long debated and feared question, “Can one who has been saved by faith in Jesus lose their salvation?”  Most Baptist churches answer that question, “No,” so that is how our church answers since we are Baptist.  But is there any reason other than?  What about our friends at the Methodist church or the Nazarene or Assembly of God or others?  There are quite a few churches who hold the opposite view of our church.  Are they all wrong?

I would say, humbly and lovingly, “Yes, they are wrong.”  But I don’t say that because I think Baptists are better than them or that they aren’t genuine Christians or don’t take the Bible seriously or anything like that.  So is there any reason in the Bible that one should come to the conclusion as our church?  I would say, confidently and joyfully, “Yes, the Bible is very clear on this.” 

There is much to be said on this matter.  I want to offer here one bit of instruction from a faithful pastor and church father, Saint Augustine of Hippo (354-430 AD), who is viewed as one of the most important teachers in the early church.  Go read more about him here.  His views on this question surfaced in his lengthy debate with a monk in Rome by the name of Pelagius.

Pelagius’ teaching on the effects of Adam’s sin on human nature were unbiblical.  His belief was that Adam’s sin and the fall of man did not result in the total depravity of the human race.  Rather, all people are born with an innate ability to obey God.  R.C. Sproul summarized Pelagius’ view that although it was possible for fallen man to sin, he still “was capable always and everywhere to be obedient. Pelagius went on to say that it is, even after the sin of Adam, possible for every human being to live a life of perfect righteousness and that, indeed, some have achieved such status.”  Since man has the ability to obey in every way then there was no need of God’s grace to enable that obedience.  According to Pelagius, it is man’s obedience that leads to God’s grace.  So, when his obedience stops God withdraws His grace.  In this view it is obvious that if God withdraws his grace then man must lose his salvation when he disobeys.  (See R.C. Sproul’s summary here.)

Augustine, and the majority of the church at that time, saw that this teaching contradicts the teaching of scripture.  This led to a lengthy debate known as the Pelagian Controversy as well as to the Pelagian doctrine being condemned as heresy six times at the Councils of Carthage (412, 416 and 418), the

Council of Ephesus (431), the Council of Orange (529), and the Council of Trent (1546).  The church recognized this teaching on the fallen nature of man is the opposite of biblical teaching, “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God.  All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one” Romans 3:11-12.

Augustine saw in scripture that the fall of Adam resulted in all humans receiving a nature totally depraved so that no one is capable of obedience without God's grace providing the ability.  This is why he uttered his famous prayer, "Lord command what you will and grant what you command."  This view of man's depravity and God's grace caused him to reject the idea that believers must maintain their perseverance by their own righteousness.  All God’s work of salvation in man is an act of His grace.  None of it could be accomplished by the mere will of man, not the beginning steps of repentance and not the perseverance in faith to the end.  All of salvation is due to God’s grace alone.  This led him to make these affirmations on “once saved always saved,”

I assert, therefore, that the perseverance by which we peresevere in Christ even to the end is the gift of God.

It is shown with sufficient clearness that the grace of God, which both begins a man's faith and which enables it to persevere unto the end, is not given according to our merits, but is given according to His own most secret and at the same time most righteous, wise, and beneficent will; since those whom He predestinated, them He also called.

When the gift of God is granted to them…none of the saints fails to keep his perseverance in holiness even to the end.  (In De Perseverantiae).

This same observation of the biblical teaching is what lead the formers of our church’s statement of faith to declare in article 5, God’s Purpose of Grace, The Baptist Faith and Message,

Election is the gracious purpose of God, according to which He regenerates, justifies, sanctifies, and glorifies sinners. It is consistent with the free agency of man, and comprehends all the means in connection with the end. It is the glorious display of God's sovereign goodness, and is infinitely wise, holy, and unchangeable. It excludes boasting and promotes humility.

All true believers endure to the end. Those whom God has accepted in Christ, and sanctified by His Spirit, will never fall away from the state of grace, but shall persevere to the end. Believers may fall into sin through neglect and temptation, whereby they grieve the Spirit, impair their graces and comforts, and bring reproach on the cause of Christ and temporal judgments on themselves; yet they shall be kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.

Similar statements have been made over the centuries by many others including The Westminster Confession, Savoy Declaration, Heidelberg Confession, The London Confession, The Abstract of Principles, The Belgic Confession, The Philadelphia Confession and many others.

We joyfully embrace the words of our Lord, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.  My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.  I and the Father are one.”  John 10:28-30

Again, I am thankful that Koinos church members have been preparing themselves for Sunday worship by reading and praying over the sermon text ahead of time.  This one is a biggy!  Consider if you or a friend has ever struggled with the issue of falling away from Jesus and losing salvation.  May this passage urge you on to greater maturity so that you will see God's grace for all that it is and have the assurance He wants you to have.  I hope you will leave a comment if you have a question or point for clarification. 

Hebrews chapter 6 deals with the all-important question, “Can a person who is saved by faith in Jesus lose salvation?”  It begins by calling believers to progress to maturity in Christ and its three paragraphs each explain huge reasons why.  Reason #1 in v.4-5 – “it is impossible” for those who have been enlightened and fall away “to restore them to repentance.”  Reason #2 is in v.10-11 “For God is not unjust…and we desire each one of you…to have the full assurance of hope until the end.”  Reason #3 is in v.13 and following – God swore an oath promising salvation to those who believe.

Paragraph 1 tells us who the people are that fall away from Christ.  They are people who have “been enlightened,” “tasted the heavenly gift,” & etc.  In other words they have heard everything they need to hear in order to become followers of Jesus.  Yet they turn away instead.  Verses 7-8 tell us more precisely who they are.  The land that receives the rain and produces a crop are the people who hear the gospel and bear the fruit of following Jesus.  The land that receives the rain but produces no crop are the people who hear the gospel and bear no fruit but turn away from Jesus.

The text leads to this conclusion.  Those who fall away from Jesus, missing salvation, are those who were never saved in the first place.  They heard everything they needed to hear but rejected it and never bore any fruit.

Paragraph 2 expresses the urgency for believers to “have the full assurance of hope until the end.”  But how can people have “full assurance” that they will not fall away like those in verses 4-5?  The next paragraph explains the important answer to that question.

Paragraph 3 explains that the way to have assurance depends on God keeping His promise.  Verse 13 says, “For He swore by himself,” and verse 17, “So he guaranteed it with an oath.”  In the same way that God promised to give Abraham a son, He also promised to save those who trust in Jesus.  Likewise, just as God kept his promise by giving Abraham a son, Isaac, He also keeps His promise and saves those who believe.  The words of verse 18, “It is impossible for God to lie” tell us that it is impossible for born again Christians to fall away and lose their salvation. 

This text is extremely helpful to the church.  There are many people who don’t have this “full assurance” but they should.  There are many churches and teachers who wrongly teach that the Bible says this “full assurance” does not exist.  They shouldn’t.  Praise be to God, we may have this full assurance!

Wednesday, 12 July 2017 10:00

The Surprisingly Great Power of God’s Love

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Here are some brief thoughts on God’s love found in Psalm 36, from my devotional reading this morning.  In my 49 years of life and 30 years of doing gospel ministry I have come to see two glaring realities in believers’ minds that need to be reversed:  1) they tend to see their troubles as bigger than Christ’s indwelling power and 2) they tend to see God’s love as very small and not very satisfying.

Now don’t get me wrong.  There is a lot of talk about “facing our giants” and thinking of ourselves like the Alex Kendrick’s movie.  Of course with God’s help we will overcome our obstacles.  Philippians 4:13 is our favorite verse, right?  “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”  Yes, there’s a lot of that.

But at the same time there’s also a lot of underlying discontent and unsettledness in LOTS of Christians because there is this one, particular problem they’re facing that is just too big to allow real joy to exist.  This has certainly been true in my own life over the years.  It’s as if there’s one category for the problems that aren’t big enough to take away all the joy.  Of course God enables me to rise above all of them.  But then there’s another category.  There’s this one problem, a big one, a hard one.  It never goes away.  It won’t die easy.  Though we know all of God’s good promises, nothing is enough to outweigh this one.

But what about God’s love?  Isn’t it enough to satisfy and make me live above the hardship?  Yea, right!  Suddenly all the great love of God just rings in our ears like an old cliché we hear grandma say all the time.  It’s just a “band-aid answer.”  God’s love sounds to us to be nowhere near enough to sustain us.

That’s what makes Psalm 36 so profound.  There are two topics in its twelve verses: 1) hardship caused by the wicked person and 2) the great love of God.  That’s it.  Really to the point, and eye-opening!  David rattles off four verses about the wicked person who denies God.  This person has no fear of God.  He flatters himself.  His words are great trouble.  He does really bad things to people.  He connives and schemes how he can hurt people and make himself look good.  He will even kill. 

When you have this kind of harmful person or problem in your life all the self-help books in the world just aren’t enough.  They tell you all those Facebook quotes like, “Get the negative people out of your life.”  Or, “Set boundaries to protect your relationships.”  Those just don’t work.  But often Christians read the Bible and listen to sermons and think the exact same things about God’s word.  “God’s love helping me face this life-altering problem?”  “Yea, right!”  “That’s easy for you to say, but you’re not the one dealing with it.”

And yet this is exactly what we see David report.  God’s love was enough to sustain him.  He didn’t lose his mind.  He didn’t run away and never come back.  He didn’t despair and shrivel up into a non-existent soul.  Instead listen to what he said.  “Your steadfast love, Oh Lord, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds (verse 5).”  After stating how big and damaging the acts of the wicked are.  He recounts how much more profoundly weighty God and His love are.  Think about these truths of God’s love, “extends to the heavens,” “like the mountains,” “like the great deep.”  David thought about how troubling his hardship was but then he put his thoughts on something far more awesome.  When he reflected on who God is and His great love, thoughts filled his mind that overshadowed his hardship, “how precious is your steadfast love, O God.”  It is a “refuge.”  He can “feast on the abundance.” There are “delights” that keep him from despair.  God’s “the fountain of life” brings him joy when there seems to be no way to have joy.

May God cause us more and more to see Himself for all that He is so that we are filled more and more with His joy.

“How precious is your steadfast love, O God!  The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings.  They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights.”  Psalm 36:7-8

Here is my simple outline of the text for this Sunday's sermon.  I hope it will help you do your own study of the text and prayerfully prepare your heart to worship God and be shaped by His Spirit.  So here goes.  

There are four main thoughts in this paragraph.  Notice how the word “for” (Greek gar) is an indicator that a reason is being offered to support the point that has just been made.

About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain

since you have become dull of hearing

For

You need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God

though by this time you ought to be teachers

You need milk, not solid food.

For everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness since he is a child

But solid food is for the mature

For those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to discern good from evil

There are four main thoughts stated.  The first main thought in verse 11 is the most important point of the paragraph, in my estimation.  The word “for” at the beginning of verse 12, I think, tells us that the next three thoughts all support the main thought in verse 11.

About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain

For

You need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God

You need milk, not solid food

But solid food is for the mature

Each of these thoughts is further explained by a supporting statement.  What do these things tell us about the problem of not listening and remaining childlike?  Can you connect these thoughts to other things the writer says elsewhere in the epistle?  Hint: there’s a major problem coming up in the next few verses that the “dull of hearing” are going to run into.  Chapter 11 tells many short stories of those who were not dull of hearing and the amazing ways they glorified God.  How should this speak to us?

How does this text impact you?  Please pray that these words will do God's work in yourself, your family and in our entire church.

I just finished a great little book on preparing men for pastoral ministry.  Prepare Them To Shepherd by Brian Croft should be read by all pastors, missionaries, church planters, and denominational leaders.  In it, Brian does a great job impressing on leaders the importance of churches taking the lead in preparing pastors for service.  “In other words,” he says, “seminaries do not and should not see themselves as the ones responsible for selecting, testing, and affirming ministerial callings.”  Instead, this is the role of the local church.

Al Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary agrees saying, “I emphatically believe that the best and most proper place for the education and preparation of pastors is in the local church.”  This book serves as a great tool helping churches improve their understanding and practice of training men for ministry.  It offers a look at how one church is doing it well.  Auburndale Baptist Church in Louisville, KY is the congregation from which this book’s example has sprung.  Pastor Croft, his fellow pastors, and the congregation practice the old art of simply applying the biblical text, specifically the qualifications for elders in 1 Timothy 3, to the lives of young men who have a desire to pursue a call to ministry.  There is much to be learned from this faithful church.

Croft quotes Basil Manly Jr., one of the founders of Southern Seminary,

In regard to these qualifications, the churches are usually better judges than the individual himself, and must exercise their judgment with prudence and fidelity, under a solemn sense of their accountability, and lay not careless hands on heads that cannot teach and will not learn.

The book gives attention to the calling to pastoral ministry and the need for the church to assess and affirm it in the one called.  It addresses the personal qualities where assessment and training are needed such as personal holiness, gospel-centered marriage, training one’s own children, and cultivating a heart of humility.  Then there are the ministry training needs such as preparing and preaching sermons, visiting the sick, encouraging the hurting, making disciples, even doing church discipline.  On the practice of church discipline which has been greatly missing in modern churches he quotes John Dagg, Baptist theologian of the eighteenth century, “when discipline leaves the church, Christ goes with it.”  The only kind of church that will be capable of training up biblically healthy pastors is a biblically healthy, and obedient, church.

The book has just over one hundred pages and has these chapter headings: 

To what is a pastor called?

Who is responsible for the call?

Who should receive the call?

Who gives the call?

How to proceed in the call?

What is at stake with this call?

I hope my own church benefits much from this book.  I recommend it for use by others as well.

I Timothy 3:1  “The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task.”

Wednesday, 28 June 2017 11:54

Preview For Sunday’s Sermon

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Some have requested a foretaste on the text for upcoming sermons so they may read and pray through it prior to worship.  I love this kind of hunger for God’s word!  This week I thought I’d offer up my simple exegesis of the text to see if it might be helpful to anyone.  My thoughts on how this could help are simple.  Noticing how the text fits together and how key words indicate how the thoughts fit together can help you do the same sort of examination in your own personal Bible study.  So take a look.  Mark up your own Bible with these ideas.  And find a way to use this thinking in your own study.

Exegesis of the text, Hebrews 4:14-5:10

There are three big ideas in this text.  Two are directions for people to take action.  One explains how Jesus’ superiority as priest should convince people to take those actions:

#1 "let us hold fast our confession" in 4:14

#2 "Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace" 4:16

#3 "For every high priest chosen from among men…So also Christ" 5:1-7

 

There are supporting thoughts for each of the three big ideas:

Big idea #1, "let us hold fast our confession" (4:14), is supported by two thoughts:

Since…we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God (v.14).

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin (v.15).

 

Big idea #2, "Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace" (4:16), is supported one thought:

that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need" (4:16).

 

Big idea #3 "For every high priest chosen from among men…So also Christ" (5:1-7), is explained by three ways Jesus is similar yet superior to the Old Testament priest.

  • "He can deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is beset with weakness.  Because of this he is obligated to offer sacrifice for his own sins just as he does for those of the people" (5:2-3).
  • "And no one takes this honor for himself, but only when called by God, just as Aaron was" (5:4-6).
  • "In the days of his flesh…he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him" (5:7-10).

 

Big idea #3 explains that the actions of big ideas #1 & #2 should be taken because Jesus is the superior high priest.  Here is a summary of the ways found throughout the text that Jesus is the greater higher priest.

  • 4:14 - Jesus entered through the heavens, a greater feat than Aaron entering through the veil of the tabernacle.
  • 4:15 - Jesus sympathizes with weak sinners perfectly since He is God, knowing all things. 
  • 4:15 - Jesus was tempted but unlike Aaron, He never sinned.
  • 5:1-3 - Jesus can help the ignorant and wayward in a far greater way. Since He is God, his atonement gives sinners perfect justification for their sins and perfect help against temptation.
  • 5:4 - Jesus' calling to the priesthood is far greater than Aaron's.  Aaron was Moses' finite brother but Jesus is God's eternal Son.
  • 5:7-10 - Jesus' prayers and help in suffering and temptation is far greater than Aaron's because He is the eternal priest advocating as a substitute in His own perfect suffering.

The details of Jesus’ superiority as our priest show us the importance of taking the actions in big idea #1 & #2.  We must hold fast our confession of Jesus because there is no other priest capable of doing these things for us.  We must draw near to the throne of grace to find help because there is no other way of finding help in our suffering and temptation.  These all fit into the bigger message of the epistle by showing why the warnings must be heeded.  Anyone giving up their confession of Christ will find no help from Him.  For the one not yet converted, there is no possible way for them to be saved if they turn away from Christ.  The one who truly has been converted, will be saved in the end but throughout their lifetime of suffering and temptation they will not experience Christ’s help in time of need.

“Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.”  Hebrews 4:14

The more you talk to people the more you realize everyone is looking for the same thing, basically.  We all want a happy, fulfilled, good life that we are satisfied with.  Whether it’s closeness with family or feeling good about our direction in life and career or being admired by those we respect because we are successful or a thousand other things, we really just want to be happy.  We find that a huge amount of our sadness in life is due, in some way, to not having as much of the good life as we wish we had.  God gave us the Psalms to address our heart on this very point and call us to Himself.

David, in Psalm 34, gives us the core, key truth for this life.  What person “desires life and loves many days, that he may see good?” he asks in verse 12.  The answer is to his question is – EVERYBODY does!  He has a surprising name for this good life.  He calls it “the fear of the Lord” (v.11).  In other words, if you want to have the life you love, with many days filled with goodness, then learn to fear the Lord.  This is life-giving to all of us.  We all need this!  The rest of the verses explain how to learn the fear of the Lord.

A huge eye-opener this psalm gives us is this.  If you think your good, fulfilled life will happen when you have trouble-free days of smooth sailing, you’ll be sadly mistaken and always feel let down.  The path to this good life and the fear of the Lord marches right through hardships.  Note how many times David mentions hardship = 7 times, “all my fears,” “all his troubles,” “suffer want and hunger,” “cry for help,” “broken hearted,” “crushed in spirit,” “many are the afflictions.”  In other words, DO NOT think anyone will find their “good life” without hardships.  It will never happen.

David of all people knew this first hand.  The heading of this psalm in the ESV identifies this prayer song as one written following the events of 1 Samuel 21.  David was fleeing for his life from one enemy and fell into the hands of another enemy, King Abimelech, who was sure to kill him.  God rescued him in a surprising and even funny way.  Go read it.

That encounter led David to write about God’s deliverance that restored him to a place of knowing he has a life he loves filled with good and peace.  How can this be?  He tells us.  In that hard moment he, personally, feared the Lord and sought refuge in Him.  Look at these statements he makes = 7 times, “I sought the Lord,” “this poor man cried [to the Lord],” looking for “refuge in Him.”

And when God’s people take refuge in Him, seeking Him, this is what He does.  At least 10 times the text says what God does, “He answered me,” “the Lord heard,” “the angel of the Lord encamps around” him, “the eyes of the Lord” are on me, “His ears” are open toward his cry, “the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles.”  By walking in faith through hardships, David sees God act and preserve Him according to the promises of Scripture.  This is what in turn brings David to a place of delight.  But it’s not a delight in a trouble-free life.  It’s a delight in something greater – knowledge that Almighty God is watching closely caring for every need.

Fear of God, walking in faith like this causes the one living in hardships to move beyond downcast sorrow.  Instead, David says, “I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.”  Instead of downcast emptiness, there is an overflowing joy in God.  In verse 2 he says, “My soul makes its boast in the Lord.”  Instead of grieving, there is boasting.  Verse 8 reveals what is filling his heart and mind, “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!”  He’s not harboring ill will toward God and everyone else because of his hardships.  He’s harboring, even boasting in all the good things he sees in God.

This is medicine for the downcast soul.  Anyone who lives by faith in God in these ways will also see God lifting their thoughts up and away from the things making them sad or fearful.  They also will begin to be filled more and more with a joyful boasting in God.  I recommend reading this text over and over until you’re able to turn it into your own prayer, crying out to God.  May God’s Spirit draw you closer to Him as you do.

I am thankful to be part of an association of churches across the United States that has grown to see the importance of upholding the glory of God and the truth of His gospel in light of the evil of abortion.  For many years our churches and leaders did not stand against the sin of racism.  In the same way they did not stand against the sin of abortion.  It is encouraging to see how the power of God’s word has changed hearts and minds so that more consistently God’s churches call sin what He calls sin.  As that happens those churches also more consistently demonstrate His unfailing love in a world wrecked by sin.

In a time when bold leadership is needed, SBC churches are giving that leadership.  At this year’s annual business meeting of the convention, some very important business happened.  A resolution was passed denouncing Planned Parenthood for its sinful practice of abortion.  That means tens of thousands of churches nationwide and millions of church members expressed their voices in unity through their messengers.  That voice calls our lawmakers to “Defund and investigate Planned Parenthood now!”  Killing babies is a sin against God.  Harvesting and selling their body parts is a crime against humanity.  Using taxpayer dollars to fund it forces us all to participate.

Nathan Finn wrote an article posted at the Ethics And Religious Liberties Commission website giving more of the details.  Go see it here:  Southern Baptists call for the defunding and investigating of Planned Parenthood.  Here is some of what you will see.

The resolution passed at the convention explains the following reasons for denouncing Planned Parenthood (read the full resolution text here):

  • Planned Parenthood is responsible for over 300,000 abortions per year, and the number has grown in recent years
  • Though the organization provides some legitimate healthcare services, such as cancer screenings, Planned Parenthood is primarily an abortion mill that generates considerable profits and receives significant funding from the federal government
  • For two years, the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) has been producing undercover videos that expose Planned Parenthood staff engaging in illegal practices such as harvesting fetal tissue and organs for profit
  • The abortion industry has attempted to have CMP censured and has brought numerous lawsuits against the organization, despite the fact no credible evidence CMP has done anything except expose the actual words and actions of Planned Parenthood employees
  • Both the U.S. House of Representatives Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives and the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee have made criminal referrals to the Department of Justice and the FBI related to illegal activities conducted by Planned Parenthood
  • The House of Representatives voted to approve H.R. 3134, Defund Planned Parenthood Act of 2015, though the legislation has languished and Planned Parenthood has continued to receive federal funding

The resolution states what we will do in response to these facts:

  • Reaffirm our commitment to the sanctity of human life
  • Denounce the “immoral agenda and practices” of Planned Parenthood and its affiliates
  • Urge Congress “to defund Planned Parenthood immediately and completely of all federal government support and that all state and local government funding that supports Planned Parenthood be withdrawn immediately and permanently”
  • Urge the Department of Justice “to pursue criminal charges against Planned Parenthood Federation of America and its affiliates for their use of illegal abortion methods, trafficking in and profiting from the harvesting of unborn babies’ tissues and organs, and any other actions that may be in violation of federal law”
  • Commend the ERLC for prioritizing the defunding of Planned Parenthood and tasked ERLC with distributing a copy of the resolution to the appropriate government leaders

Here are two things you can do now to put this into action.  One, forward this message to all church members and attendees in your contact list, both Southern Baptist and others.  Inform them of the actions to be taken and how they can speak against this evil with one voice.  Two, make contact with your senators and congressmen, both federal and state, and express these things to them.  Urge them to take the above actions.  You can do this by making a personal visit to their office at the capitol or at their local office.  You can also make a phone call to their office.  Find your U.S. representative here.  Find your U.S. senator here.  Find Ohio representatives hereFind Ohio senators here.

Thursday, 22 June 2017 10:54

The Kind Of Heroes We Need To Imitate

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We all imitate human examples we have known whether we realize it or not. Think about it.  You do it just like I do.  The question is, who are those examples, and are they the ones we should imitate?  

So I want to recommend one of the books I’m currently reading, Heroes, by Pastor Ian Murray (get the book here).  First of all, Pastor Ian is a great example of a man who loves the gospel, the church, and the lost.  And his book is filled with more great examples of people we should all strive to imitate.  There are eight easy-to-read, brief biographies that will fill your mind with godly examples to emulate.  Plus you will discover little known facts that will enhance your life and spiritual growth in many ways.  In fact, you’ll probably find yourself telling these stories to your family and friends around the dinner table or on long drives in the car.

Here's one example.  Chapter five records the story of two men of whom most modern Christians have never heard, William Hepburn Hewitson and Robert Reid Kalley, both from the 1800’s.  By the amazing providence of God, they both ended up traveling to a place most people have never heard of, the mountainous Mediterranean Island of Madeira, off the coast of North Africa.  An amazing move of God in gospel awakening happened there which is known by few.  But it will encourage you to read about it.  I won’t spoil it by telling you all the details, but here’s a clip.

Hundreds of men, after heavy labours in the fields, went to school at night, and in almost every case they were motivated by the desire not merely to read the words of men, but the Word of God.

In 1842, especially in the summer and autumn, people came in large numbers to hear the Scriptures read and explained.  Many walked ten or twelve hours and climbed over mountains three thousand feet high, in coming and returning to their homes.

There’s much more to their story that will amaze you, including severe persecution and how the gospel spread to South America.  And there are many more stories like these in the book.  Your life will be enriched to know more about these as well:

Jonathan Edwards

George Whitefield

John Newton

Thomas Charles

Charles Colcock Jones

Charles Haddon Spurgeon

As you read these stories, make sure to tell them to your children and those with whom you meet one-on-one.  They need good examples to imitate as well.  You’ll be a good example in pointing them to more good examples.  This is how discipleship happens.

1 Thessalonians 1:6-7  “And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.”

Wednesday, 21 June 2017 10:51

A GRACE Friend Changed My Life!

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Here’s a beautiful reason our church leaders frequently lead members to invest in the lives of their GRACE friends.  Once upon a time someone took an interest in their GRACE friend and it changed MY life, personally.  That GRACE friend was my mother!  On our recent trip to Tennessee, visiting my parents, I heard this story once again.

Betty Lil-Jean Newman is my mother.  When she was a child in rural West Tennessee, a simple country house on a dirt road in Curve, TN was her home.  At that time her family were not church-going people and were not Christians.  They were sharecroppers.  Life was hard.  There were few churches there, then.  A common occupation was moonshining which affected a lot of people through 1940’s-style organized crime.  But my mom’s life was about to change.

A neighbor, Nell Yancey, was a godly lady who memorized scripture, taught Sunday School in her church, and took seriously reaching out to GRACE friends.  One day, on that dirt road, that lady took the time to stop and have a conversation with a pre-teen, young girl.  She told her about Jesus.  She invited her to church.  God had already been putting that desire in my mom’s heart so she went.  It was really simple the way it all worked.  God did His work.  Nell took time to talk.  And now look what has happened.

My mom went to that church and heard a country preacher faithfully proclaim the gospel of Jesus’ death and resurrection.  Very soon she began believing that gospel message and has continued in it to this day as a grandmother in her eighties.  That was Woodville Baptist Church just up the road from Curve, TN.  In the photo above you can see the amazing story of God’s grace working itself out in some rich history.

Woodville Baptist Church was planted in 1827 – THAT WAS BEFORE THE CIVIL WAR!  That was only a few years after the Revolutionary War and the signing of the Declaration of Independence!  My mom came to faith in Jesus, there, in the mid 1940’s.  As a result, she married a Christian young man, Wilson Newman, and together they gave birth to a son who would come to faith in Jesus in the 1970’s - me.  The gospel would so shape my life that I would later marry a Christian young lady, Jenifer Vliet.  Together we had a baby girl, Julia (Jujie).  She is now growing up in a home and church where she is being discipled in the gospel day by day and desires to live her life serving Jesus in any way possible.

These three generations of gospel transformation were made possible by Nell Yancey faithfully showing God’s love to a GRACE friend.  When we look at history like this it makes us all want to get up and go right away and make that same investment in the lives of our own friends.  So, with God’s help, let’s do that and watch God literally shape history with the gospel.

Remember how to be a GRACE friend…

G – go spend time with them.

R – respond to the needs in their life.

A – accept them into your home and friendships.

C – care enough to explain the gospel to them.

E – encourage them to trust Christ.

Romans 1:16 “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”

This past Sunday my sermon was on Hebrews 3, “do not harden your heart.”  This topic always stirs in people questions and fears about their own eternal destiny and that of others.  But this is a good thing, not bad.  God wants His word to stir people causing them to examine themselves and, “pay much closer attention to what we have heard” (Hebrews 2:1).  So here’s a bit more to think about as you may still be mulling these things over in your mind.

Will a person miss heaven if they “harden” their heart against God?  The answer the Bible gives is, “yes” and “no.”  Some will harden their hearts so that they never receive the gospel and are never saved and so will miss heaven.  Yet others will receive the gospel, be saved by faith, and yet as a redeemed child of God momentarily harden their heart against God.  These will not miss heaven because hardening the heart cannot make a born-again believer lose the salvation God has given to them by His grace.  This is a huge truth of God’s word He is teaching His people.  If this question is stirring in your mind, GOOD!  God wants you to wrestle with it so that it causes you to see His grace more clearly.

First, there are those who harden their heart and miss heaven – Hebrews 3:7-11 warns, “do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness.”  This refers to the Israelites who refused to believe God and wouldn’t enter the promised land (Numbers 13-14).  The hardening of their heart led to their refusal to believe God.  So God declared that none of their generation would be allowed to enter the promised land, ever (Numbers 14:22-23).  The Bible uses this image of entering the promised land or entering God’s rest to describe entering God’s rest of heaven and eternal life (see Hebrews 4).  Not entering the promised land means more than just not going into the land of Canaan.  Because of their unbelief, they didn’t belong to God at all and did not go to heaven when they died.  We also see this in Romans 9:6 – many Hebrews don’t belong to God at all because they don’t believe.

But not all those Hebrews fit the first category.  Some of them truly did believe God and because they belonged to Him through faith did in fact receive eternal life because of that faith.  Although they had saving faith, they also became weak in their faith and were caught up in the rebellion of the others.  Yet their unbelieving rebellion was momentary.  It resulted in them not entering the promised land.  But it did not result in them missing heaven after their death.  We know this because Hebrews 11:23-28 makes it clear that Moses was counted as one with genuine, saving faith though his momentary unbelief and rebellion caused him not to enter Canaan.  It seems clear there were others who fit this second category:  Moses’ wife, Miriam, Aaron, and likely others who are unnamed.

When we read this text we should apply it with the same meaning for people in these two categories today.  Category 1:  some people harden their heart and will not receive the gospel.  This hardening means they are unsaved and remain unsaved.  Because they reject the gospel, they will miss heaven.  Category 2:  some receive the gospel and have the promise of eternal life in heaven when they die.  Yet as true believers, they may momentarily harden their hearts and sin against God.  This momentary hardening is like that of Moses.  It is sinful unbelief but it does not cause them to lose the salvation God gave them because of their lasting faith in Him.

Here's a reassuring promise from Jesus for those who are in category 2, above:

John 10:28-29 “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.  My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.”

News From The Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting

Our church belongs to the Southern Baptist Convention of about 40,000 churches across the country.  If you are new to our church or don’t know much about the SBC, these news tidbits will give you some insight.  You’ll likely have questions so please ask any time. 

The SBC’s unofficial, Phoenix registration of messengers was 5,018, down from 7,321 last year.  Read the story here.

The Pastors’ Conference always kicks off the conference.  Sunday and Monday were filled with 12 expository sermons through the book of Philippians all by pastors from smaller and average size churches.  Keith and Kristyn Getty lead the worship music parts.  Read the story here.

Pastor Steve Gaines of Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis, TN was reelected to his second year as president leading a diverse slate of officers.  It is encouraging to see our convention embracing leaders from different ethnic groups and younger generations.  Read the story here.

The International Mission Board has reached financially stability, IMB President David Platt told the entity's trustees after more than $250 million has been given from Southern Baptist churches for the spread of the Gospel among the nations.  Thirty one missionaries were appointed.  Read the story here.

The National African American Fellowship (NAAF) is a 4,000-church strong organization of black SBC churches which seeks to bring more black churches into the SBC and promote those pastors into positions of leadership within the convention.  This is a result of convention actions in recent past years to embrace greater ethnic diversity.  Thank God for the gospel’s work to transform His people to truly love their neighbors.  Yes, there is still more work to be done but good work is being done.  Read more here.

The National Hispanic Baptist Fellowship is an organization of SBC Hispanic churches that encourages participation of Latino churches and the planting of new congregations.  Augusto Valverde, pastor of Iglesia Bautista Nuevo Amanecer in Miami, was elected as the fellowship's new president. Valverde served as NHBF president from 2002-2004 and again in 2006.  In 2013-2014 58% of new churches planted in the SBC were non-Caucasian ethnicities.  Read more here.

Pastor Greg Laurie and Harvest Christian Fellowship Church in Riverside, California join the Southern Baptist Convention.  I love Pastor Greg though I’ve never met him.  He is a champion of the gospel.  Read the story here.

There was a protest by an LGBT advocacy group.  About 10-15 people handed out fliers to convention goers asking the SBC to remove homosexuality from their list of sins.  Pastor James Merritt from Georgia said he thought it was a blessing from God that they chose to come because it gave many Christians the opportunity to speak peacefully and lovingly with them.  He added, “They really were respectful. They have a right to be here."  Read more here.

Convention messengers voted to pass resolutions on some important matters.  This means that church members representing their churches spoke officially as the voice of the SBC to say, among other things, the following.

We denounced and repudiated all forms of racism and the alt-right, white supremacy and every form of racial and ethnic hatred as of the devil.  Read more on it here.  

We reaffirm the doctrine of penal substitutionary atonement which says Jesus took upon Himself in His death the divine punishment due sinners "as the burning core of the Gospel message and the only hope of a fallen race."

We denounced Planned Parenthood's "immoral agenda and practices," in addition to urging all government defunding and commending the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) for making federal removal of money for the country's leading abortion provider a priority in its legislative agenda.

We voiced gratitude to God on the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation for its courageous leaders and urged recommitment to its convictions while advocating for religious liberty for all.

For more news stories, go here.

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  • Hebrews: Jesus Is Superior, Pursue Him
    Johnathan Newman
    Hebrews: Jesus Is Superior, Pursue Him
  • Hebrews: Jesus Is Superior, Pursue Him
    Johnathan Newman
    Hebrews: Jesus Is Superior, Pursue Him
  • Hebrews: Jesus Is Superior, Pursue Him
    Johnathan Newman
    Hebrews: Jesus Is Superior, Pursue Him
  • Hebrews: Jesus Is Superior, Pursue Him
    Johnathan Newman
    Hebrews: Jesus Is Superior, Pursue Him