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

A Promise for Success – August 14, 2020

What does it take to be a success in life? There are a variety of answers to this question: Hard work, initiative, creativity, luck, education, etc. The Bible gives a very different answer. In Joshua 1:8, God informed Joshua that success in life is the result of meditating on the Bible. In that verse, we see that we are to meditate on the Bible continually (Day and Night). Meditation on the Word is the idea of mulling over something. Many of you have worked with cows. You understand their digestive system. They have multiple stomachs and eat the same meal over and over. This is a picture of meditation. We are to feed on the Word, and then go over it again and again throughout the day. When this happens, the Bible dominates our thinking.

Further we are to do this with purpose. God told Joshua that he was to meditate on the Bible so that he would obey it. Too many of us know the Bible while allowing it to impact our lives very little. Part of are meditation should be the working out of the question, “So what?” Paul informed Timothy that the Word is profitable for every area of life (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Peter informs us that it contains everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). We need to see the Bible as necessary for our everyday lives.

When we do this, then God promises that we will be a success in life. The Psalmist in Psalm 1 states that we will be like a well watered tree. We will flourish and thrive. Sadly, Christians have bought into cultures answers alone for success. Hard work is important, initiative is vital, creativity is helpful, luck is nice, education is necessary, but none of these promise success. Only mediation on the Bible brings the promise of success. Yet, Christians go day after day without reading their Bibles. This should not be. So, start today. And when you miss a day, start again. Ask questions of the text. Mull it over. Be amazed at the riches you find there.

How Great Thou Art – August 7, 2020

This week I was reminded of the old hymn: How Great Thou Art.

O Lord my God,
When I in awesome wonder
Consider all
The works Thy Hand hath made,
I see the stars,
I hear the mighty thunder,
Thy pow’r throughout
The universe displayed,

Then sings my soul,
My Savior God, to Thee,
How great Thou art!
How great Thou art!

Through this unusual time, we find it easy to lose sight of our great God. Economic tolls, virus reports, government orders, media reports, and school questions cause us anxiety and frustration. Often we turn to social media or the news to vent our pent up feelings. But what if we did something different? This week I had the opportunity to unplug in God’s amazing creation and I was reminded of His mighty power. The God who created this amazing world with the word of His mouth is certainly in control of this current situation. So instead of frustration and anxiety, go out tonight and look up into the night sky. As you look at the stars, consider their maker. Go into the woods and observe the animals and plants. Be reminded of their maker. Go to the beach and watch the waves reach the shore. Be reminded of God’s amazing control. While the world seems to fall apart, God keeps all things together through His own power. Remember our great God.

Peace in a World of Anxiety – July 31, 2020

Anxiety is a major problem today. It is estimated that 20% of adults suffer from some form of neurotic anxiety. Why do we struggle so much with this issue? I often wonder if it is not an issue of control. We fear things we cannot control. We fear harm, the future, the and the present. Anxious thoughts keep us up at night, dominate our thinking through the day, and can even have harmful physical affects. The more we try not to think about those things, the more we do. Over the past six months, it seems as though these anxious thoughts have increased. Is our job safe? Will our kids go to school? How will we pay our bills? What will happen in our country? Will we get sick? What kind of place will our kids grow up in?

How can we overcome this anxiety? Modern psychology seeks to treat this anxiety with medication. They correctly understand that if you feel nothing you will not feel anxiety. But then you will not feel anything. What if there is a better way? Scripture contains everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). As a result, it contains an answer for us in this as well. The cure for anxiety is found in two glorious passages. The first passage is Hebrews 12:1-3. In this text we are given instruction so that, “We will not grow weary or faint in our minds” (v. 3). When life overwhelms us, God has given us an answer. In the first two verses of Hebrews 12 we are told to lay aside every weight (the things that steal our attention and affection from God even though they may not be sinful) and every sin. Instead we are to focus on Jesus. We are to focus on His person, His cross work, and His position as sovereign ruler of all things. In other words, we need to develop a proper view of God. We are reminded that He created it all, He sustains it all, He redeemed us, and He sovereignly reigns. While our circumstances may be out of our control, they are never out of God’s control.

This then leads to the second passage: Philippians 4:6-7.  In this text, Paul instructs us not to be anxious about anything. Instead we are to take these burdens to God. We are to do this through prayer (taking the requests to God and sharing our burden with him) and supplication (coming in such a way as to acknowledge that we are completely dependent on Him). There is a glorious promise if we do this. God will keep our hearts and minds. He will protect us. He will care for us. He will not let us go. And the result is peace. When you are anxious, adjust your focus from this world to God, and take your requests to Him. We have a God who is completely sovereign and unendingly loving. Don’t look to social media; look to God. You can find peace.

Our Brains: A Tribute to God’s Glory – July 24, 2020

The brain is an amazing creation of God. Thousands of individual neurons fire electric pulses to surrounding neurons through synapses causing the various functions of the body and memory. Further the brain is divided into various regions which control various functions and communicate those functions instantaneously to the rest of the brain and body. All the while, the brain works simultaneously and mysteriously with the immaterial part of us, our soul. Scientists search aimlessly to explain how such a complex organism exists and works through evolution. However, we understand that someone far greater is responsible for all this amazing design. All of creation screams out the glory of God. Our complex brain function stands as a tribute to His amazing power and design. It also reminds us of God’s daily care for us. If God created our brains so complex and so perfect, why would He leave us or forsake us? God’s intricate creation argues not only for His power and sovereignty as Creator, but also His love and compassion for man. Often our anxiety lies at the feet of a faulty view of God. We forget that He is in complete control. We forget that He is good. We forget that He holds all power. So as you read this, and the neurons are firing in your brain, processing what is here, remember the all-powerful, all-loving, ingenious God who gave you this brain, loved you so much He sent His Son to die for you. What an amazing God we serve!

The Self Esteem Culture – July 17, 2020

Over the past few weeks, I have heard these terms used a lot: Self-Care, Self-Image, Self-Esteem, Authentic-Self, etc. These terms have drifted into christianity as well through many of the TBN preachers and the so-called girlfriend theology of individuals like Rachel Hollis. How are Christians to think about these things? If we are speaking of self-care in the sense that we are evaluating our problems and rooting out sin in our lives, then we would agree whole-heartedly. If we are talking about setting biblical goals regarding serving others or growing our relationship with God, then this is wonderful. However, if we are speaking (as Hollis and the TBN preacher are) of seeking to care for ourselves by demanding that the world conform to our happiness and setting self-centered hedonistic goals, then the consequences are eternally dire. For this fails to align with what God says about me. Romans 3 informs us that there is no one good, not even one! That includes me. I am not actually special. Except through Christ. When I find my identity in Christ, that is when I discover my immeasurable worth. Christ declares me valuable. Not because of my intrinsic worth, but because of the value He places on me. The result is that I should seek to pass that value on to others through sacrificial service (Ephesians 2:10). The best self-care, the way to come to a right self-image, or to build the best self-esteem, begins by denying myself and taking up my cross to follow Jesus. But when we do this, we discover the source of true lasting peace and joy. 
As a past script, I would recommend to all our ladies a helpful podcast for ladies produced by The Master’s University called Women’s Hope. You can find it by clicking here or on any podcast directory. 
~ Pastor Dave

You Are What You Consume – July 10, 2020

Every Sunday my phone gives me a report on my screen time usage the past week. This past week it made me wonder what today’s world would be like without the 24 hour news cycle or social media. The more these venues are consumed, the more it seems one’s anxiety is raised. I have observed that as this becomes the primary source of one’s information and determines one’s reactions they respond with either anger or anxiety. As believers we are called to something different. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 informs us that all of Scripture is inspired (created and determined) by God. As a result it is sufficient for us. It informs our thinking, addresses our failures, points us in the right direction, and equips us to follow that direction. Paul then tells us it is all we need to be completely equipped for the task God has called us to. As a result we are to give ourselves to the Word. Sadly, too many Christians don’t read the Word. day after day goes by without picking it up. We feed ourselves news and social media while ignoring the Word and then wonder at our anger and anxiety. Most of those that do pick up the Word either don’t actually read the Word (but instead read books about the Word) or do a quick five minute read and call it good. But is this sufficient? On the other hand, I have found that when I make the Word my primary source of information and allow it to determine what I think on any subject, I am amazingly calm. So what would happen in your life and in our church if we decided to make the Word central to our everyday lives? My goal this week is this: When I am tempted to turn on the news or look at social media, I will read the Word first. Will you join me?
~ Pastor Dave