Our Independent God – October 23, 2020

As Americans, we love our independence. It’s the foundation of our country. We even have a document which declares we are free and independent. While this is true in some ways, no one is truly independent. We are all dependent on other people and other things for our existence. This, however, is not true with God. He is independent from everything.

What do we mean by God’s independence? God’s independence means that “God does not need us or the rest of creation for anything, yet we and the rest of creation can glorify him and bring him joy.”[i] Theologians also label this attribute as self-existence or aseity. Sometimes we view the creation narrative as though God created all things and mankind because he was lonely. As though he was incomplete without us. But we must understand that God does not need us. Paul addressed this in Acts 17:24-25 – The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.

Further, this means that God exists in and of himself. He does not need anything else for life. All of creation could cease to exist and he would remain. He is not dependent on human hands or mortal man. His being is not affected by any events in creation. He is independent from it all. The 11th century theologian Anslem commented, “[God] has of himself all that he has, while other things have nothing of themselves. And other things, having nothing of themselves, have only their reality from him.”[ii]

This also means that God is totally unique. Since God is independent from all creation, there is nothing in creation like God. The difference between God and his creation is vast because he exists in a fundamentally different order of being. This means that God must exist in a greater and more powerful way that everything else. This means that we cannot project any imperfections onto God. God is wholly different from everything.

Yet, God invites us to him for his glory. While God does not need us in any way, he wants us to come to him. We are meaningful to God. Isaiah 43:7 indicates that God created all things for his glory. Revelation 4:11 informs us that all things were created for God’s pleasure. This means that God actually delights in his people. We bring him pleasure.

Consider Isaiah 62:3-5:

You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord,
    and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.
You shall no more be termed Forsaken,
    and your land shall no more be termed Desolate,
but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her,
    and your land Married,
for the Lord delights in you,
    and your land shall be married.
For as a young man marries a young woman,
    so shall your sons marry you,
and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride,
    so shall your God rejoice over you.

God needs nothing else. He exists independent from everything. Yet, God has assigned value and significance to us. To be assigned value and significance by a being which needs nothing makes us significant in the ultimate sense. You have value because God assigned it to you. Nothing in the created world can change that. No trial, no mistake, no failure, no sin can change your value and significance. Because God remains independent from all those things. You matter because God says so.

[i] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology. (Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan, 1994), p. 160.

[ii] Anselm, On the Fall of the Devil 1 (Major Works, 194).

Knowing Our Incomprehensible God – October 16, 2020

A.W. Tozer rightly stated, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”[1] This is because your view of God will dictate your view of life. A resplendent view of God resulting in a passionate relationship with Him brings with it a calm assurance, peace, and joy through every circumstance in life. Unfortunately, we often view God in a distorted way. We emphasize certain attributes of God while minimizing (or ignoring) other attributes. Even more subtly, we often tame God into a being we can wrap our minds around.[2] When we do this, we reduce God to a finite being and bring needless anxiety into our lives. For this reason, we will be walking through the attributes of God over the next few weeks. Our goal is to reveal in God’s majesty, become overwhelmed by His mercy, and find hope in His person. When we come to a proper view of God, we will then be able to view life properly.

But we must ask the question, “Can we know God?” Scripture clearly teaches us that we can indeed know God. Romans 1:19 informs us that nature helps man know about God “because God has shown it to them.” Further, we can know God in a very personal way through salvation in Christ (Matt. 11:27). Yet, we often fail in our knowledge of God because we seek to know God through our own wisdom (1 Cor. 1:21). This is an important but subtle point to understand. This deals with the attribute of God known as God’s incomprehensibility.

Incomprehensibility states that while we can know God, we can never know Him fully. Psalm 145:3 informs us that God’s greatness is unsearchable. 1 Timothy 6:15-16 informs us that no one has seen God or can see Him because he dwells in unapproachable light. So, while we can know God, we can never know everything about God. Every aspect of our knowledge of God is limited by our finiteness.

Consider the statement of Isaiah, “To whom will you liken me and make me equal, and compare me, that we may be alike?” (Isaiah 46:5). When we describe something to someone who has never seen that thing, we are relegated to likeness descriptors. We begin to compare that thing to other things the individual is familiar with. Yet, we understand in that conversation that we are not doing the description justice. How much more is this the case with God. No man has seen him and there is nothing like Him. There is only one God. This is important for two reasons.

First, this assigns great value and majesty to God. Consider the narrative in Exodus 33 in which Moses requests to see God. God responded that no one can see Him and live. So, in Exodus 34, God placed Moses in a cave, passed by, and let Moses see the remnants of His glory. Confronted with God’s majesty, Moses was overwhelmed by the greatness of God. When Moses came down from the mountain, the people could not look at him because the remnants of God’s glory caused his face to shine like the sun. Do not minimize God. There is nothing in this world to which we can aptly compare God. Your God is great! So, do not put God in a box of your making. Do not limit God where He has not limited Himself.

Second, this ought to bring comfort. This incomprehensible God has entered into our lives, he has informed us about him. He has made aspects of His being comprehensible. We are not agnostic. We believe that we can know God and know about God because God has made Himself known to us. He does this through nature (Romans 1; Psalm 19), through Christ (John 1), and through His Word (2 Timothy 3:16-17). He does this because of His great love for you. But this means that we have the Supreme Being caring for us. In this midst of the storms of life, there is nothing that can overwhelm God. Who is like our God? No one! Who can overcome our God? No one! What can remove God from His place? Nothing! That’s your God! Incomprehensible, surpassing all we could ever imagine.

[1] A. W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy (San Francisco: Harper Collins Publishers, 1961), 1.

[2] This is the argument of Matthew Barrett in his book None Greater. Matthew Barrett, None Greater: The Undomesticated Attributes of God (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2019).

Responding to Correction – October 9, 2020

One week ago today, the Supreme Court in Michigan ruled that the Governor had overstepped her authority with the extended emergency declaration. While we still wait to see what this means for our everyday life, we can learn from the fallout about the proper way to respond to correction. In our jobs, in our homes, in our church, we all struggle with responding to correction properly. Inevitably, we will respond to correction in one (or more) of three ways: Denial, blame, or humility.

The response by our governor, and often by many of us to correction is one of denial. We claim that we were not in fact wrong. The other person has no idea what they are talking about. The one correcting us is, in fact, the one who is wrong. Yet this is the mark of foolishness. Proverbs has much to say on this subject. Proverbs 15:32, “Whoever ignores instruction despises himself.” Proverbs 13:1, “a scoffer does not listen to rebuke.” Proverbs 13:13, “Whoever despises the word brings destruction on himself.” Scripture states that we despise ourselves because we are not giving ourselves the opportunity to grow. In our arrogance, we believe that we have everything together. So, we scoff at those who would correct us. We despise their statements. And we are worse off for it. When your boss, spiritual leader, or family members bring correction, don’t dismiss it out of hand. This is the sign of foolishness.

A second response to correction is a response of blame. We see this most clearly in three Biblical narratives. In Genesis 3, after Adam and Eve directly disobeyed the command of God and in an effort to become gods themselves, they hid in shame. When they were confronted by God, their response was not one of accepting responsibility. Rather, their response was one of blame. Genesis 3:12-13, The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” 13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” Notice that Adam blames Eve and has the audacity to blame God himself. Eve blames the snake. No one accepts responsibility. Twice in 1 Samuel, Saul blames others for his own sin. In 1 Samuel 13, Saul made an unlawful sacrifice (putting himself in the place of the prophet) and then blamed Samuel for being late. In 1 Samuel 15, Saul disobeyed God’s command and then blamed his people for his sin. As a result, God removed the kingdom from Saul and his family and gave it to David. When we are corrected, we must be careful not to blame others for our sin.

The biblical response to correction is humility. Proverbs 9:9, “Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning.” Proverbs 10:8, “The wise of heart will receive commandments.” Proverbs 13;1, “A wise son hears his father’s instruction, but a scoffer does not listen to rebuke.” Proverbs 13:13, “Whoever despises the word[e] brings destruction on himself, but he who reveres the commandment will be rewarded.” Proverbs 15:32, “Whoever ignores instruction despises himself, but he who listens to reproof gains intelligence.” A wise man once told me that every correction has at least a grain of truth in it. A wise man will seize that grain of truth and grow.

It takes humility to admit that we are wrong. Yet, God grants grace to those who are humble. The next time you are corrected, respond with humility. Don’t bristle. Don’t get angry. Don’t ignore the correction. Don’t blame others. Humble yourself and accept the correction. Only then can we grow in our walk with God.

Speaking Like a Believer – October 2, 2020

One commentator described this week’s presidential debate as a hot mess, inside of a dumpster fire, inside of a train wreck. The debate sounded like two toddlers (or maybe jr. highers) arguing. Unfortunately, the debate was a microcosm of our culture. We don’t listen, and we speak poorly. This ought not be the case for believers. A major indicator that should set the believer apart from the unbeliever is the use of speech. However, this has been a struggle for believers from day one. For this reason, Paul challenged the church in Colossae about their witness to outsiders due to their speech.

Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.

~ Colossians 4:5-6

Walking with wisdom toward outsiders directly refers to our witness to unbelievers. We are to live in such a way that unbelievers recognize that we are different. Paul describes this as making the most of every opportunity. The identifying mark that makes us different is the way we interact with them in our speech. We live in a culture in which the one who yells the loudest gets to define truth for the culture. Sadly, many Christians seem to believe that if they will yell the loudest, they will get to define truth. But they will always be shouted down. The gospel does not spread through harsh and angry speech.

Rather, Christian speech is to be marked by grace. At its basic level, gracious refers to speech that is kind and charming. However, as Paul uses this word, it means much more. As Christians, God has bestowed unfathomable grace upon us through Christ. We are to reflect that gift of grace through the way that we interact with others. As God bestows grace to us, so we are to bestow grace to others.

Consider God’s grace. He bestows it upon his enemies (Romans 5:8). He lavishes it on us (Ephesians 1:7-8). And he never removes it (Ephesians 1:14). This means then that we ought to fill our speech with this kindness, grace, and care with everyone. The most depraved sinner, the political opponent, the immigrant, the foolish, the annoying, and the mean-spirited ought to all be beneficiaries of our gracious speech. Is your speech marked by love or anger? Does your speech build up or tear down? Is your speech marked by gratefulness or complaining?

Further, our speech is to be seasoned with salt. The idea correlates to the usefulness of salt. However, it is most likely related to its use with food. In the first century, salt served as both a preservative and an additive. First, it was placed on meat to preserve it and make it last with the lack of refrigeration. A primary reason for culture’s degradation is the failure of Christians to have a preservative affect through their speech. Sadly, many Christians are known as mean spirited and rude. As with today, salt also served as an additive. Some put salt on everything because it enhances the flavor of whatever is being eaten. So also our speech should be an enhancer. It should add flavor to life. Through your speech, do you build up or tear down? Do people enjoy when you talk or when you stop talking?

Don’t be like the contestants of the last presidential debate. Instead be like Christ. Before you speak, consider what you are about to say. Before you post on social media, consider what you type. Live wisely, speak with grace and benefit. Through this, opportunities for Gospel witness will flourish.  

The Answer to Our Culture: Walk Humbly with Your God – September 25, 2020

What is your goal in life? What is it that motivates and drives you? A good friend states, “We do what we do because we want what we want.” Our actions and our reactions to the circumstances around us always come down to what we want. When we want the wrong thing, trouble ensues. When we are depending on the wrong thing to bring us peace, satisfaction, and joy, the result is chaos and frustration. This has rarely been more evident than the last few months.

Over the past few weeks, we have been analyzing our current cultural situation and seeking God’s answer for how Christians ought to respond. As always, the Gospel is the foundational answer to the problems of society. But the Christian response does not stop there. The Christian must also live out the Gospel. To help us understand what this looks like, we turned back to Old Testament Israel. Their society was broken. Through the prophet Micah, God instructed His people how they were to respond. The answer is no different for God’s people today.

He has told you, O man, what is good;
    and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
    and to walk humbly with your God?

~ Micah 6:8

Over the past two weeks, we looked at the first two responses: do justice and love kindness. However, it is impossible to respond in these ways if we are not responding with the final challenge: walk humbly with your God. We were created to glorify God (Rev. 4:11). When we are not fulfilling our created purpose, it is impossible to find peace, satisfaction, and joy. We are like a fish out of water. Yet, so often, believers live for this world and forget that we are citizens of a different kingdom. So, we must walk humbly with our God. 

First, we are to walk. This entails an everyday lifestyle. American Christianity has taken a buffet mentality. Take what you want and leave what you want as long as you are happy. So, we rely on God when we need him. But until then, our families, political party, social media, jobs, money, and toys are the spice of life. But walking with God necessitates an all day, everyday action.

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 

~ Ephesians 5:15-17

We are to live each day with wisdom. We are to seek God’s will in all things. This, however, necessitates humility. We are to walk humbly. We must note that the word translated “humbly” here has a deeper meaning than what we normally associate with humility. It carries along with it the idea of loyalty. We are to submit ourselves to God as our King and Father. We are to remember that life is not about us, but about God.

As we respond to the world around us, we are to live in such a way that it is evident that we serve God. This means that we respond with appropriate humility to government mandates. When they infringe on obedience to the Word (telling us to disobey a clear command from God), then we render to God the things that are God’s. But when they ask us to do something stupid, but not sinful, we submit in humble obedience to the King of kings. As we view the justice conversations around us, we do not run to the simple answer. Nor do we seek the answer from modern anthropological theories. We seek the answer from God’s Word. We recognize that not every situation is the same. We acknowledge true injustice, and we stand for truth.

Finally, we remember that the strength and motivation for this comes from the knowledge that God is our God. We do not serve an impersonal God. He has promised never to leave us or forsake us (Heb. 13:5). He takes sovereign interest in our lives and circumstances. He gives us freely of everything good we need (Rom. 8:32). We can act differently because we have a God who is close. We must remember that no political party can change the world. No president or supreme court justice can change culture. Only God can do that. So instead of responding with exacerbation, spite, or rebellion, walk humbly with your God!

The Answer to Our Culture: Love Kindness – September 18, 2020

We live in an antagonistic world. According to our culture, truth is not absolute. Rather, truth is defined by whoever can yell the loudest. This results in a perpetual shouting match of ideas. Unfortunately, the further outcome is a culture which is angry, indifferent, and unkind. Even Christians are marked by trying to get the upper hand or being incredibly unkind to their “opponents.”

Over the past few weeks, we have been analyzing our current cultural situation and seeking God’s answer for how Christians ought to respond. As always, the Gospel is the foundational answer to the problems of society. But the Christian response does not stop there. The Christian must also live out the Gospel. To help us understand what this looks like, we turned back to Old Testament Israel. Their society was broken. Through the prophet Micah, God instructed His people how they were to respond. The answer is no different for God’s people today.

He has told you, O man, what is good;
    and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
    and to walk humbly with your God?

~ Micah 6:8

Last week we examined what it means to do justice. Next, we move to the command to love kindness. Many translate this phrase as loving mercy. This past week, the satire sight, The Onion, posted a story which poked at “Evangelical Christians.” The foundation of satire is an element of truth (or at least perceived truth). This story confronted the perception (and I believe the reality) that American Evangelical Christians are unkind towards those they see as wrong. How do you speak about the homosexual, the welfare recipient, the rioter, the republicans or democrats, or our Governor? Are your statements marked by kindness and mercy or by vitriol and meanness? Are you praying for our Governor or putting a “My Governor is an Idiot!” sign in your yard? Are you listening to the plight of the less fortunate or ethnic minority or are you coldly stating that they need to “get to work and earn it”? Are you marked by mercy and kindness? One man states it this way, “to love mercy adds the thought that anyone who is in a weaker position due to some misfortune or other should be delivered, not reluctantly, but out of a spirit of generosity, grace, and loyalty.”[i]  

One reason that the gospel seems ineffective today is that the Christian church is marked by unkindness. Our social media is filled with vitriol and foolishness. Our conversations with our neighbors and coworkers are riddled with distain towards our “opponents” and the less fortunate. In our county we see the drug addict, the homeless, children who are acting out, and the poorer elements and respond with distain. We shake our heads and bemoan the fact that they can’t get their act together. Even in the house of God, the church is quick to fight and be angry when our rights are violated, or the church is not serving us.

Brethren, this is not how you learned Christ! That is the way of Fox News, CNN, Facebook, and Twitter. That is not the way of Christ! Every individual is a soul made in the image of God. Christ’s response towards those who crucified him (mocking and humiliating him as he hung bleeding and dying on the cross) was not anger, vitriol, or retribution. Christ’s response was forgiveness and love. So, don’t hate the sinner. Love the sinner and seek to share Gospel with them. We ought to be a people marked by supernatural kindness and mercy. I am thankful for the many in our congregation who have a heart for the unfortunate in our county. I am thankful for those of you who are sacrificially investing in these people. Let us all be like these fellow members. Let us be marked by kindness and mercy.

[i] Bruce Waltke, Micah. Tyndale Old Testament Commentary. p. 213

The Answer to Our Culture: Do Justice – September 11, 2020

Nineteen years ago today, our world was forever changed. As I think back on that day, I am reminded of a line from President George W. Bush’s memoir. He looked at those around him and said that those who committed this atrocity would pay. Later that day, he told the American people that justice would prevail. Over the rest of the years of his presidency, he sought to fulfill that promise.

Today, we seem to have forgotten what justice means. We see injustice all around us. Racial injustice, political injustice, and judicial injustice dominate the daily news. Over the past few weeks, we have been discussing the way Christians should respond to all that is happening around us. We spent significant time discussing the reality that our response must start with the gospel. However, our response does not end there. For the next several aspects to our response, we must turn to Micah 6. Here God informs Israel that he is not impressed with their extravagant acts of religion. He was not impressed, because they forgot the heart of what it means to be the people of God. In Micah 6:8 God informs them, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

God requires that we do justice. However, I am fully convinced that Christians and our culture have completely forgotten what justice means. We have come to define justice as, “others doing whatever I think they ought to do.” This is more than a wrong definition. This leads us to completely misunderstand God himself. For, justice is the very nature of God.

Justice is defined as “the quality of being fair or reasonable and the administration of the law or authority in maintaining this”. When we speak of the justice of God, we are speaking of God following and upholding His righteous law. Here is why this is important. Often, we decry as injustice, things that are not injustice because we don’t like them. Other times we call things just that are not just because we don’t like the people that have been unjustly treated. Each incident must be looked at in accordance with God’s law and civil law.

When we speak about racial justice, we tend to run to extremes. Either everything is racial injustice, or there is no racial injustice. We fail to do the hard, mental work to nuance the situations, and realize that racial injustice does exist. But that does not mean that everything is racial injustice. So, the response as believers cannot be to fall in line with Black Lives Matter and call every police shooting a case of racial injustice. But neither should we respond callously with the statement that All Live Matter and ignore the racial injustice that is a part of the history of this country. Of course, all lives matter. Of course, black lives matter. When a person (regardless of race) threatens and attacks a law enforcement officer and is shot, that is not injustice. However, we should be able to admit that there are sometimes that bad law enforcement officers respond unjustly. And we should seek to see those law enforcement officers held accountable through our judicial system.

This raises the next issue of justice: time. Because we are depraved, finite humans, justice requires time. We must allow the court proceedings to take their course. This is the major issue with the racial tensions today. No one is willing to allow justice to take time. We want it immediately. This also falls into the category of political injustice. Some feel that all the executive orders laid down are unjust. But we must be reminded that just because we don’t like it, does not make it unjust. Again, we must be willing to nuance the situation. Some orders are unjust. Some are not. Christians ought to love justice enough to be able to nuance between the two. We haven’t! And it has hurt our gospel witness. If we believe that a law is unjust because it violates the law of God, we ought to stand against it, work to change it, and, if the time calls for it, to defy it . But if the law does not violate the law of God and we simply don’t like it, we ought to humble submit to it, while we work to see it changed.

Justice is a hard row to hoe. Holding to justice will regularly place us at odds with the secular culture and (sadly) with the Christian culture. If we are going to obey God in this world, we must do justice. We must be willing to admit that just because we don’t like something does not make it unjust. We must also be willing to admit that just because it fits our political proclivities does not make it just. We need to ask the question, “Does this align with the law of God and civil law.” And we ought to vote, encourage our legislators, and lobby to see our civil laws align with God’s laws. Be a person who loves justice.

The Answer to Our Culture: The Power of God – September 4, 2020

The world seems to be losing its mind. Last week we looked at how we got here. We learned from Romans 1 that the world seems to be losing its mind because it has. Our culture has suppressed the truth, become futile in their thinking, and their understanding has been darkened. The result is a debased mind left to work all manner of evil they can invent. So, what is the answer? Is there no hope? If you ask most believers this question, they will give you a myriad of answers. Some will state that the answer is to vote for conservative politicians who will do a better job of legislating morality. Some will state that the answer is to focus on your family, keep your head down, and live life. Some will simply throw their hands up in exasperation. All of these answers can be seen every day on social media. Sadly, each of these answers are wrong.

Scripture gives clear answer to our question of how to respond. Over the next few weeks, we will walk through the answers that God gives us. The first response which we will look at this week is found in the statement which led to Paul’s breakdown of culture in Romans 1. In Romans 1:16-17, Paul states, “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. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” The first response is the gospel. As I stated last week, the fault for the state in which our culture finds itself sits squarely on the shoulders of the church. We have forgotten the Gospel. The church has forgotten the Gospel because it no longer understands what the Gospel is. The American Church pedals several forms of a false gospel. Some forms add to the Gospel, some subtract from the Gospel, and some miss the Gospel altogether.

In the early 1900’s a major battle occurred in the American church between a group known as the Modernists and a group known as the Fundamentalists. Modernists had subtracted from the Gospel and missed the Gospel altogether. The Fundamentalists of the early 1900’s rightly stood on the Gospel as God presents it in the Scripture. The result was a massive split in American Christianity. Over the years following the split, however, the Fundamentalists began to fracture because many of them began to add to the gospel. They began to make extra biblical rules (such as music, dress, movies, church attendance, etc.) measuring sticks to determine if one was a Christian who loved Jesus. They began to add to the Gospel.

On the other end of the spectrum, there is a group that subtracts from the Gospel. This group removed the need for repentance from sin and made the gospel simply about praying a prayer or “believing.” They missed the foundational need to recognize that you are lost before you can be found. The result is churches filled with unbelievers who believe that they are saved.

Finally, there are some who miss the Gospel all together. This is marked by those who are trying to make the church palatable to the unsaved. They believe that the church should seek to get the unsaved in the doors by any means necessary. They say things like, “We spent time talking to them, that’s what it’s all about.” But getting people in church is not the Gospel. Others view the gospel as something that is not about changing lives, but about changing culture. Not about saving people from sin, but about saving people from the ghetto. This is not the Gospel.

What is the Gospel? Paul proceeds through the rest of the Book of Romans to present the Gospel. That which is the true power of God.  He begins with the depravity of man. As we have seen, Romans 1 presents the sinfulness of our culture. Romans 2 presents the depravity of those who claim to be religious. And Romans 3 then comes to this conclusion, “10None is righteous, no, not one; 11 no one understands; no one seeks for God. 12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” The Gospel must begin with the understanding that man is not basically good. Man is all bad. We cannot come to God on our own terms. In Ephesians 2, Paul describes it as being dead in trespasses and sins. He also informs us that because of this problem, we stand condemned before God. He is just to inflict His full wrath on us. In Romans 6, we learn that this involves death (physical death and eternal death in hell).

Paul also informs us, in Romans 4, that this problem cannot be solved through our own efforts. Nothing we do can be good enough to atone for this sin. Only through faith can this sin be covered. But this faith is more than mental acknowledgement. Using the illustration of Abraham, Paul illustrates that this faith involves repentance and full trust in God. In chapter 10 Paul concludes that this means we submit to Christ as our Lord (our full authority) over our life.

Romans 5 demonstrates that this faith is in the sufficient sacrifice of Christ on the Cross. When we repent and believe, through the cross, Christ’s righteousness is placed on our account. Romans 6 states that we are actually made new people. And Romans 7-9 demonstrates that we demonstrate this faith by living in obedience to God. This is the Gospel. This is what we must proclaim first and foremost to the world around us.

The problem is that some of us don’t actually believe this Gospel. We believe a lot of almost gospels. And as a result, we are denied the power of God. The first response to all we see around us is to share the Gospel. Are you doing this?

What’s Going On with This Insane World? – August 28, 2020

Just when we think that the year cannot get any stranger, another day occurs. At the end of May, in response to George Floyd’s murder, riots broke out across the country. However, it quickly became evident that there was more going on. Not long after this, a group of anarchists took over a section of downtown Seattle and claimed it as an autonomous zone. Finally, after a few months, when things seemed to be settling a bit, another black man was shot by police in Kenosha, WI. Details are still coming out about this police shooting, and we would be wise to wait for information before we make any dogmatic statements regarding the shooting itself. However, this did not stop the riots from picking up with gusto.

Perhaps the most glaring aspect in the midst of this crisis is the lack of clarity on what exactly justice means. For the past two days, most professional sporting events have been cancelled as the teams “stand in solidarity against racism.” They state, “Something must change.” But when asked what must change, then the answers begin to wildly vary (if a cognizant answer is given at all). This is a microcosm of society as a whole. Opinions vary from eliminating the police to encouraged police brutality and everything in between. As believers, this can be an incredibly confusing situation. How did we get here as a society? How is it possible that all of society has seemingly lost their minds? This question comes into stark clarity when we consider that for the past few months, churches have been discouraged (and in some states outright banned) from meeting. They have been called dangerous health hazards. Simultaneously, these riots have been labelled as “peaceful protests,” and have been encouraged (and even at times participated in) by the ruling authorities. How could this happen? And what is the answer? How should we as Christians respond?

Over the past few weeks, I have really been contemplating the question, “How did we get to the place where society has lost its mind?” As with everything, the Bible contains the clear answer. Romans 1 reads like a modern assessment of today’s culture.

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.

For decades, our culture has suppressed the truth of God. Turning to humanism, our culture placed the individual as the absolute authority and denied the truths of Scripture. With each step of unrighteousness, they moved further from that which holds society together. For several decades, the post-modern idea of relative truth has been mainstreamed. Today we are reaping the natural consequences of that view. When truth does not exist, nothing can be defined. Ideas like justice have no foundation upon which to stand. Justice becomes a codeword for whatever the individual thinks or feels should happen. And so, God’s wrath is poured out on that culture as it self-destructs through a denial of truth. This leads then to,

21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools,

When truth is denied, thinking become futile. Without its foundation, rational thought becomes impossible. Culture seems insane today, because, by definition, it is. The denial of absolute truth has led to a darkening of their hearts and a futility of minds. They relish and promote evil and begin to think in ways that seem to defy logic itself. But society does not recognize this insanity. Rather, they call it wisdom. Sound like today? Yet the slope does not end:

28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

The only natural outcome is for society to follow the logical conclusions of their thinking which leads to anarchy. Society becomes filled with all manner of wickedness. Verses 29-32 read like a description of our day. A day in which lawlessness is encouraged and morality is discouraged. Murder, deceit, maliciousness, arrogance, despising authority, and ruthlessness reign. This is the natural outcome of a society which denies God, Truth, and His Power. So how did we get here? Romans 1 provides the answer to this as well. The entire section we have referenced begins with this statement:

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. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith] as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

How did we get here? The church forfeited its power. In an effort to seek relevance in this society, the church turned to all manner of other power sources. Some churches (from Al Sharpton to Robert Jeffress) turned their pulpits into political dogma platforms. Other churches went with the entertainment and seeker sensitive model. Programs, plays, dances, music, hip attire, and coffee bars became the means to relevance and church growth. Still other churches focused on the “social gospel.” God came to change lives so they must enact this social change. But all these views forfeited the power of the church: the gospel.

The gospel is not a popular message. It begins with the offensive news that we are not good people. In fact, we are depraved and absolutely wicked. Only when we recognize this and surrender our lives completely to Christ, can the saving grace of Christ purchased through the cross justify us, regenerate us, and sanctify us. The church needs to emphasize the gospel (found only in the Word of God) for power. The church has lost its power and culture has suffered. As we look around and ask the question, “How did we get here?” we must begin by looking at the mirror. The blame lies at the feet of the church.

Next week we will seek to begin answering the question, “How do we fix this? What’s the answer?” As you have probably deduced from this letter, the answer does not lie in politics, police reform, or education. The answer must begin with the church and the gospel. The church must return to its source of power: The Word of God. And we must recognize our responsibility as individuals to regularly share the gospel.

The Miracle of Regeneration – August 21, 2020

Often, we view our salvation in a way that is too narrow. We view our salvation only in terms of our justification. Justification is the declarative aspect of salvation. When I turn to Christ for salvation, He declares me to be righteous. On the basis of Christ’s payment on the cross, God releases me from the punishment of my sin, and instead places it onto Christ. I am now justified. Many view salvation only through the lens of justification. Viewing salvation only in terms of justification leads to two damaging outcomes. First, when we limit salvation to justification alone, this turns salvation into simply a way to escape the eternal damnation of hell. From this narrow view comes the belief referred to as “easy believism.” All one must do is pray a prayer, and now they are no longer going to hell. According to this view, following the way of discipleship is optional. Recommended, but if ignored that person is still going to heaven.

Many choose the route of not following the way of discipleship because it is too hard. This is due to the second unfortunate outcome. And it is this second outcome I want to focus on. They have not been regenerated. When one views salvation only through the lens of justification, they miss the glories of regeneration. Now, justification is a glorious aspect of salvation. It is an amazing work of grace by God. Through Christ, I am declared righteous. But there is a second and equally amazing act of grace by God in salvation: regeneration. It is through regeneration that I am able to actually become righteous. Prior to salvation, I was spiritually dead (Eph. 4:1-3). I was separated from God by my sin. I did not even have the ability to do anything that pleased God (Rom. 3:10-18). This is why we cannot be saved by works of righteousness we have done (Titus 3:5). We are incapable of doing any actual acts of righteousness. Even the good things we do are stained by our sin and rebellion against God. When I come to God for salvation, accepting Him as my Lord (Rom. 10:9-13), I was regenerated. This means I was made alive in my spirit. Jesus referred to this as being born again (John 3). Through the work of the Holy Spirit, my spirit was moved from a placed of separation from God into a place of fellowship with God (Titus 3:5). But this new man is now able to do acts of righteousness.

Through regeneration, I am now able to walk the road of discipleship. In fact, not only am I able, it is now who I really am. I have been reborn as a disciple of Christ! This has several important ramifications. First, this means that I don’t have to sin. Prior to salvation, I was a slave to sin and sin was who I was. Now I am by nature a child of God and to sin actually goes against my nature. So while I will always struggle with it while in my flesh, I don’t have to do it. Second, this means that I can point to my desire to fight and overcome sin as a mark of my salvation. Third, this means that we can know people by their fruit. One who has been born again will seek to walk with God.

So, where do you stand? Have you truly been saved and are you seeking to live by your true nature and fight sin? If you really have no desire for spiritual things, you need to examine if you are truly saved. Further, you can win this battle against sin. You have been made into a new person. Finally, this means that there is more than this world. We have been born into a new world. One that lasts for eternity. So live for that one and don’t get discouraged by this one.
– Pastor Dave