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Archive for May, 2009

As the new, holy people of God, the church should be marked by pursuing holiness and fighting sin together (1 Corinthians 5:6-8).  The question, then, is how do we address sin in one another’s lives?

Here are some thoughts that I have adapted from Mark Lauterbach’s, The Transforming Community.

1.  Go to your brother/sister alone (Matthew 18:15). The entire process is meant to maintain dignity and guard reputations.  Going to your brother/sister alone guards against gossip/slander.

2.  Reprove from love (Proverbs 27:5-6; Galatians 5:13-15). Lauterbach encourages us to ask, “Knowing what I know, if I loved this brother or sister as Christ, what would I do to pursue their eternal good?”  If we are motivated by love, everything else tends to fall into place (Colossians 3:12-17).

3.  Proceed with gentleness (Galatians 6:1; Proverbs 15:4). Remember that people are fragile.

4.  Clothes yourself with humility (Galatians 6:2-5).

5.  Give the benefit of the doubt (Deuteronomy 17:2-7; Matthew 7:1-5). The principle of witnesses is there because one is innocent until proven guilty (Deut. 17:2-7).  Don’t be quick to judge (Matt. 7:1-5); assume you have misunderstood and ask for clarification.

6.  Be ready to forgive, but prepare yourself for a variety of responses (Luke 6:43-45). The heart is desperately wicked.  When you expose idols, anger usually ensues.  However, we hope and pray that the response will be one of genuine repentance.

7.  Aim for restoration (2 Corinthians 13:11). In other words, when confronting a brother or sister about sin, don’t aim for revenge; aim for restoration.  Restoration brings about the unity which so glorifies Christ, displays the gospel and tells the world of Jesus’ mission (John 17:20-21; 13:34-35).

Imagine a church that displays the glory of Christ through loving one another and being open and honest about sin.  What would that church look like?  What would it take for High Pointe to be such a church?

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How do people view the church today?

In They Like Jesus but Not the Church, Dan Kimball records the comments of a various people from the emerging generations who have real problems with the church, though not with Jesus.

Though Kimball’s book is primarily based on anecdotal evidence, LifeWay Research has the scientific data to uphold Kimball’s arguments.

While 64 percent of the respondents think “the Christian religion is a relevant and viable religion today,” writes Mark Kelly, 79 percent think Christianity “is more about organized religion than about loving God and loving people.”  Seventy-two percent said they think the church is “full of hypocrites, people who criticize others for doing the same things they do themselves,” and 86 percent believe they “can have a good relationship with God without being involved in church.”

So, there you have it!  They like Jesus but not the church.

As I mentioned in Sunday’s message, one of the reasons the church is in such disarray is ignorance or confusion over the nature of the church.  Yes, the church is full of hypocrites; however, the church is also full of people who love Christ but have not been well taught regarding the nature of the church as the new, holy people of God.  The church is to be different from the world.  When unbelievers look and see no difference between Christians and this world, they grow suspect.  What does the church offer that is any different than what the world offers?  And, further, why should they become a part of a group of people who are no different than the sinners in the world they already inhabit?  So, what is the church to do?  That is what Paul addresses in 1 Corinthians 5:6-8.

Clean out the old leaven (5:6-7). Utilizing the imagery of the feast of unleavened bread and passover, Paul urges the Corinthians to clean out the old leaven – the sin in the midst of their congregation.

Why?  In order to show that they are the new, holy people of God (5:7). Paul urges them to clean out the old leaven so that they may be a new lump, as they already are.

In other words, just at the initial sacrifice of the Passover lamb marked the creation of the people of God, liberated from slavery in Egypt, so now, Christ, our Passover, has been sacrificed, creating the new people of God by faith, liberating us from slavery to sin.

Paul uses the imagery of leaven to represent sin and its corrupting effects.  Sin is also characteristic of the old age in Adam; however, as Christians, we are no longer in Adam, for we are in Christ (Romans 6:5-15).  Therefore, if we allow sin to remain in our midst and in our lives and profess to be Christians – the new people of God, then we are telling the world a lie about Christ, the gospel, and the nature of the church.  The church is the new, holy people of God.

The old covenant people of God were distinguished from the world/nations by their holiness or separateness from those nations.  Consequently, they maintained their distinction through their “Jewishness” (i.e., diet, government, etc.).

The new covenant people of God, composed of both Jew and Gentile by faith (Galatians 3:7-14), are distinguished from the world by their holiness as well.  However, we are no longer identified by “Jewishness” (Ephesians 2:11-22; Colossians 2:16-23) nor are we to isolate ourselves from the world (1 Corinthians 5:9-13).  Rather, we are to be in the world but not of it.  So, we maintain our distinction from the world by holy living (Romans 12:1-2), by cleaning out the old leaven of sin and malice and by keeping the festival daily through the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

As the new, holy people of God, the church (together) should be marked by fighting sin and pursuing holiness (5:8).

1.  By reminding ourselves of the saving gospel and who we are in Christ (1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Ephesians 4:17-32; Colossians 3:1-17).

2.  By renewing our minds with the word of the gospel (Ephesians 4:23; Colossians 3:10; Romans 12:1-2; 2 Peter 1:3-4).

3.  By relying on the power of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:1-24).

4.  By reproving one another when necessary (Hebrews 3:12-14).

These are the activities of a community of believers fighting sin and pursuing holiness together.  Let us, then, keep the festival continuously as we clean out the old leaven of evil and malice and display the unleavened character of the new, holy people of God – sincerity and truth.  May the Lord grant us much grace to fight the good fight of faith and display Christ’s glory.

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Speaking to One Another in Love about Sin
From The Transforming Community:
The Practise of the Gospel in Church Discipline
(85-92)

By Mark Lauterbach

The church must be a place where people can grow, can begin as immature, and come to maturity. No matter where we draw the line of “when to speak to a brother” we must do so in a context of the Gospel and knowing that we are all maturing in Christ. Every day believers need the Gospel.

The new community is not a place where people are perfect. It is a place where people are honest about their sin. It is not a place of perfection, but of humility and the cross.

Mark Lauterbach

How to wisely address concerns about sin with brothers and sisters in Christ:

1. It should be evident we are dealing with sin, not violation of church taboos or traditions [or personal preferences].

“Make sure that the sin you are seeing in the other can be addressed by reading a verse of Scripture, without commentary” (86).

2. Guard the church against an atmosphere that is always pointing out sin (Matthew 7:1-5).

“The call to reprove my fellow believer for sin must be put in the context of the call to encourage them and build them up” (88).

3. Remember that the general tone of the New Testament is encouragement.

“I find it helpful,” notes Lauterbach, “to assume that another believer wants to please God. Therefore, they welcome my encouragement. The attitude behind reproof is to help them grow in Christ, which they want to do” (89).

4. Remember there is sin that is the normal lapse of the believer in their state of remaining sin.

“The first question to ask is simple: Is this sin I am seeing part of the ordinary stumbling of the Christian? If so, then I need not speak to it immediately. Is it hardening their hearts or are they judging it themselves? If the latter, I may forbear” (89).

5. Remember to take into account the work of the Spirit.

“[The Spirit] is wisely shaping us into the likeness of Christ in his sovereign love. Rather than expose all our corruption at once, he is gentle. To see ourselves as God sees us would undo us. He points out one thing at a time. As I intend to reprove someone or speak to them of my concern for them in sin, I must be aware of this” (90).

6. Where the believer is judging his sin and admitting it, I have no reason to be harsh.

“They, like me, are seeking help and encouragement to keep on fighting the holy war. It is not helpful to rub salt in a wound” (92).

7. Sometimes we must intervene quickly.

“Some sins have an unusual seriousness (and danger) to them. If I see a friend flirting with someone of the opposite sex, it is not time to be patient. It is time with wise and gracious words, to intervene, see if suspicions are correct, and seek their repentance before adultery is committed” (92).

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May
22

Welcome to the New & Improved S2H

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I want to welcome you to the new and improved Straight to the Heart blog courtesy of Bob Perez.  Thanks Bob for all your hard work!

I hope you enjoy the new format.

Grace and peace,

Juan
Acts 20:24

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May
21

New Blog!

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Actually, the same blog with a new look. I want to thank Bob Perez for all his hard work. The blog will still be Straight to the Heart, but it has a new address:

http://straighttotheheart.highpointeaustin.org

If you are presently subscribed to the blog you’ll have to re-subscribe in order to continue receiving updates.

I hope you enjoy the new look! Be sure to give it a couple of days before its up and running.

Grace and peace,

Pastor Juan
Acts 20:24

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May
20

The Truth about Angels and Demons

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The movie Angels and Demons (PG 13) directed by Ron Howard, starring Tom Hanks as professor Robert Langdon and based on a Dan Brown novel opened in theaters on May 15. Here is the movie description from Fandango:

When Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) discovers evidence of the resurgence of an ancient secret brotherhood known as the illuminati—the most powerful underground organization in history—he also faces a deadly threat to the existence of the secret organization’s most despised enemy: the Catholic Church. When Langdon learns that the clock is ticking on an unstoppable illuminati time bomb, he jets to Rome, where he joins forces with Vittoria Vetra, a beautiful and enigmatic Italian scientist. Embarking on a nonstop, action-packed hunt through sealed crypts, dangerous catacombs, deserted cathedrals, and even to the heart of the most secretive vault on earth, Langdon and Vetra will follow a 400-year-old train of ancient symbols that mark the Vatican’s only hope for survival.

Dan Brown, of course, is the author of the controversial novel The Da Vinci Code. When that movie came out in 2006, Westminster Theological Seminary put up a website called The Truth About Da Vinci.

Now that Angels and Demons is out, Westminster has put up a site called The Truth About Angels and Demons.

(ht: Justin Taylor)

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May
19

The Transforming Community

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Unfortunately, our trip to Cuba has been postponed due to the fact that Cuba is still not receiving flights from Mexico. We are tentatively shooting for a June 29-July 6, date to make our trip.

For High Pointe that means that I will have the privilege of continuing our study of 1 Corinthians this Lord’s Day morning. As I am studying 1 Corinthians 5 this week, I am re-reading Mark Lauterbach’s, The Transforming Community: The Practise of Church Discipline. It is a most biblical, gospel-centered and helpful study of the nature of the church and the role of church discipline. It is the best current treatment of church discipline that I have read, and I highly recommend it.

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May
18

Fighting Sin

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The Lord was gracious to us at High Pointe this Lord’s Day, May 17, as we sought to understand how to battle sin. By way of review, allow me to remind you of some important issues to understand as we battle sin.

A. How does sin enter into our lives and the life of the church?
Sin enters into our lives and the life of the church because we do what we most want to do (Genesis 3:6; James 1:13-16). In other words, desire is the fuel for sin (James 4:1-3). So, the question we must ask ourselves is, “What do we most desire (Matthew 6:19-21, 24)?

B. What should be our attitude toward sin?
We should grieve over sin (1 Corinthians 5:2; James 4:8-9) because sin corrupts, pollutes and ultimately kills (Genesis 3-11; 1 Corinthians 5:7).

We should also grieve over sin out of the fear of God and eternal punishment (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).

And as we see in Corinth, we should grieve over sin because sin distorts the testimony of Christ and His gospel and His church (1 Corinthians 5:1).

When we remember the gospel, we are reminded of the seriousness of sin, for the wages of sin is death (Genesis 2:15-17; Genesis 5; Romans 6:23). It is for this reason that the LORD gave Israel the sacrificial system. The blood of the sacrifices atoned for sin because sin must be punished by death. Therefore, when someone brought a sacrifice to the temple, the blood of that sacrifice atoned for their sin. The sacrifice was penal in that God was punishing sin by the death of the animal, but the sacrifice was also substitutionary because the sacrificial animal was receiving the punishment of God in the sinner’s place (Leviticus 17:10-11).

These sacrifices were temporary and pointed forward to the time Christ would come and be the once for all penal substitutionary sacrifice (Romans 3:21-26; Hebrews 9).

So then, as we take sin seriously, we grieve over our sin and we look to Christ to save us from sin’s penalty as the one who stood in our place as the receiver of God’s wrath for us. Now we are to continue living in light of this gospel by battling sin.

C. How do we battle sin?
1. We battle sin by faith in the Christ of the gospel (Galatians 2:20).
Since the heart wants what it most desires, we must desire Christ above all (John 6:35; Matthew 22:36-38). Just as desire is the fuel for sin, so also, desire is the fuel for worship and holiness. We worship what we most desire, and if we most desire Christ, we will delight in Him and follow Him and pursue holiness in His name.

2. We battle sin with the word of the gospel (Ephesians 6:10-18; 2 Peter 1:3-4).
When Christ was tempted by Satan in the wilderness he fought the devil with the word of God. When we consider that the LORD has given us His armor, we are to don His armor in defense of the devil and his schemes. Interestingly enough, there is one offensive weapon in this list – the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God (Ephesians 6:17).

Therefore, we must know this gospel, this word of God if we are to wield it against the devil. I believe one of the major reasons for our defeats in our battle against sin is that we are lazy and do not know the word sufficiently to use it against the devil. So, let us read God’s Word, and meditate on it and memorize it so that we would be able to wield the sword of the Spirit against the devil and his schemes.

3. We battle sin in the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:1-14).
The victory over sin is not dependent upon our own strength; it is dependent upon our reliance upon the Spirit of God. Therefore, let us look to the Spirit for grace to strengthen us in this battle.

4. We battle sin together (1 Corinthians 5; Hebrews 10:24-25).
The LORD has given us Christ, His Word, His Spirit and His church by which we do battle against the enemy. Let us, therefore, gather together in the assembly of God’s people, in small groups, one with another, seeking godly counsel and encouragement and accountability.

Do not exclude yourself from God’s people, for it will lead to your eventual death. To learn how to fight sin with others, read Jonathan Dodson’s article on Fight Clubs. Then find a trusted follower of Christ of the same gender as you and fight sin together.

Grace and peace,

Pastor Juan
Acts 20:24

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May
14

Has the "Notion of Sin" Been Lost?

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As I prepare to preach from 1 Corinthians 5:1-2, this coming Lord’s Day morning, I am spending a lot of time contemplating the doctrine of sin. Just this morning I came across this article by the USA Today, asking Has the “notion of sin” been lost?

From the Side Bar:

WHAT AMERICANS CALL SIN

• Adultery: 81%

• Racism: 74%

• Using “hard” drugs, such as cocaine, LSD: 65%

• Not saying anything if a cashier gives you too much change: 63%

• Having an abortion: 56%

• Homosexual activity or sex: 52%

• Not reporting some income on your tax returns: 52%

• Reading or watching pornography: 50%

• Gossip: 47%

• Swearing: 46%

• Sex before marriage: 45%

• Homosexual thoughts: 44%

• Sexual thoughts about someone you are not married to: 43%

• Doing things as a consumer that harm the environment: 41%

• Smoking marijuana: 41%

• Getting drunk: 41%

• Gambling: 30%

• Not attending church or religious services regularly: 18%

• Drinking any alcohol: 14%

Source: Ellison Research, August 2007, based on 1,007 adults through a representative online panel ad adjusted to be demographically representative of the USA Margin of error: ±3.1 percentage points.

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May
12

Piper on Preaching

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