Archive for August, 2009
We are commanded to be holy (Ephesians 4:1). The church knows this and has confessed to be one, HOLY, catholic and apostolic church. But how are we to pursue holiness? The most common approach to holiness has been legalism–the making of rules. Yet, experience (i.e., New Year’s resolutions) has taught us that external motivators have only limited value in changing behavior. This is, by the way, all that religion has to offer–“If you DO this, or DON’T DO this, then God will accept you.” That is not good news!
The good news is that salvation is not based upon what WE do, but upon what God has done for us in Christ. Thus, the only appropriate response is faith (Galatians 2:21): believe God and His offer of Christ in our place. However, Paul reminds us there is one problem–we are dead in our sins (Eph 2:1), so we cannot respond to God because we are depraved of mind (Eph 4:17), darkened in our understanding (Eph 4:18), thus alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in us due to hardness of heart (Eph 4:18). Nevertheless, the good news of the gospel is that because of God’s rich mercy, even while we were dead in our sins, God made us alive together with Christ–by grace we have been saved (Eph 2:4-5). This new life comes through the proclamation of the gospel (Romans 10:17; 2 Corinthians 4:1-6) and the power of the Spirit (John 3:1-15). When God makes us alive, we are truly new (2 Corinthians 5:17), having been united with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection to walk in newness of life (Romans 6:1-4). Newness of life means that the old person we were in Adam is now dead, crucified (Romans 6:5-11). Because we are truly new in Christ, we are no longer to walk in the old ways of unbelief (Eph 4:17)! The calloused unbeliever has delivered himself to sensuality for gain in covetous practice of every uncleanness (Eph 4:19), but this is no longer who we are in Christ. But, how are we to fight sin and pursue holiness? The good news–the same way we were accepted by God in the first place–by faith. This is how we heard Christ; this is how we learned Christ (Eph 4:21).
By faith, put off the old man (4:22). We must recognize by faith that God has made us new creatures through Christ. We are no longer associated with the old ways of Adam, the world and the old man (4:22). That person (eschatologically speaking) has been crucified with Christ (Galatians 2:20). So, recognizing the Spirit’s regenerating work in us, we trust that God has saved us and is making us new.
Allow the Spirit and word to renew your mind (4:23). In place of the old ways of thinking, God has awakened us to who He is through His revelation in Christ through His word, the Bible. Instead of filling our minds with the thinking of this world, we are to renew our minds with the knowledge of God and His word and promises (2 Peter 1:3-4; Romans 12:2).
By faith, put on the new man (4:24). By faith, we understand that we are a new creation in Christ, whom God is conforming to the image of His Son Jesus (4:24; Romans 8:29; 2 Corinthians 3:18). We entered into union with Christ by faith, and we keep battling sin by faith. Already, we have put off the old man and put on the new (Colossians 3:9-10). But we have not yet been removed from sins’ presence, so by faith we are now to put off the old man and his ways and put on the new man and his ways by renewing our minds with the truth of who God is for us in Christ. May God grant us such grace to believe in order to put off the old and put on the new.
Other Resources on Fighting Sin and Pursuing Holiness
Future Grace by John Piper
Fight Clubs by Jonathan Dodson
When the church is one, holy, catholic and apostolic, it will be an attractive witness to the glory of God (Acts 2:42-47). However, the church’s witness is not to be merely attractional, for God has chosen that the church both originate and continue to expand through the intentional witness to Christ through gospel proclamation. It is to this end that we have been commissioned (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:14-16; Luke 24:44-49; John 20:21; Acts 1:8). Be encouraged, though, for we have not only been commissioned, we have also been empowered for witness by the Holy Spirit to proclaim this gospel of Christ to the ends of the earth. Therefore, we go in faith, boldly proclaiming the gospel of Christ (1 Thessalonians 2:1-2). In this light, let me give you ten practices of intentional witness.
1. Know and understand the gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1-4)! The gospel is a message (word) about Christ, and if we are to share this word, then we must know and understand it!
2. Make the gospel central to all of life. In other words, as we apply the gospel to our marriages, parenting, relationship, etc., then our lives will be markedly different than the world and thereby attractive.
3. Know the culture (1 Corinthians 9:19-23). The apostle Paul said he became all things to all peoples that he may save some. We must seek to understand people and their cultures in order to reach them. That’s what good missionaries do.
4. Pray and fast for unbelievers (John 14:12-14; 15:7-8). Pray that God would break your heart for the lost in general and for specific people. Make a list of unbelieving people and pray, for it is God who saves.
5. Be willing to share your life with unbelievers (1 Thessalonians. 2:1-8). We can’t just share the gospel word, we must also share our lives, investing in those we desire to reach. We must make evangelism a lifestyle, not a program! We need to take time to talk to people everywhere and invite them to a meal, small group, church, etc.
6. Share the gospel with urgency! We are on an urgent mission (2 Peter 3:8-10)! We must share the gospel naturally & clearly. Since the gospel is a word/message about Christ, then we must be word-centered and use the Bible. Also, the gospel is a word that must be proclaimed – mission! We cannot keep it to ourselves.
7. Invite unbelievers to repent and believe! We must recognize that the Bible calls people to repent and believe, and so must we.
8. Invite unbelievers to church. This goes along with sharing our lives with unbelievers and investing in them. Invite unbelievers and unchurched to come with you on the Lord’s day so that they may hear the gospel proclaimed.
9. Trust Christ for the results. Faithfulness, not results is what God requires of us. Salvation is of the Lord, so we must trust the sovereign Lord to do His work in the hearts of unbelieving people. Our responsibility is to share faithfully the gospel indiscriminately.
10. Share with others and ask them to join you in prayer. I have found it greatly encouraging to hear other Christians’ stories of evangelism and to know that I am accountable to someone for evangelism. Share your encounters and pray together for those souls. May the Lord grant us a great harvest of souls!
We have had a wonderful family vacation! For the first time in a long time I kept my phone off and left it on the shelf. It was a great blessing to Jeanine, and she noticed. We also kept being online to a minimum, which meant I only posted minimally.
We spend time reading, playing cards, talking and watching some select family shows on The Learning Channel. Most importantly, we played together! We swam at the pool and body surfed in the ocean. It was a joy to be together. We are cleaning up and doing laundry at the beach today; then, we’ll head to Gainesville to spend a few days with Jeanine’s parents.
I thank God for family, for play, for rest and for High Pointe who allows us this time so we can come home refreshed.
Now, it’s time to work. This Sunday morning we will look at the holiness of the church, so I will pick up Berkouwer again. I am also re-reading The Puritan Experiment by Francis Bremer (this is my favorite introduction to New England Puritanism) and their attempts to purify the church in their particular context. I look forward to seeing High Pointe this coming Lord’s Day!
Though the church has confessed her oneness from the beginning, history betrays a different reality. From the factions in Corinth to the split between the Western and Eastern churches in 1053 to the Protestant Reformation beginning with Luther’s 95 thesis to ongoing schism’s today, the church seems anything but one. Clearly, Paul’s plea for unity in Ephesians 4:3 exposes the real danger of division! Nevertheless, what Paul shows us in Ephesians 4:1-6, is that the basis for the church’s unity is the Triune work of the one God (4:4-6).
First, there is only one body brought together by the one Spirit (4:4). Though we were formerly separated from God and His promises (2:1-3, 11-12), we are now brought near by God’s work in Christ (2:4-9; 1:11-14; cf. John 3:5-8) through the effectual call of the Spirit. Thus, by the work of the Spirit, all believers are called and gathered into one body! In this one body all barriers are crushed: social, gender, ethnic (2:13-22; Gal. 3:25-29). So, each assembly of believers is a manifestation of the one body brought together by the one Spirit!
Secondly, there is only one Lord under which God is uniting all things (4:5). Since Christ, the one Lord, is the one under whom God is uniting all things (1:7-10; 2:20-23), there is only one faith – the one faith that is about Christ’s life, death, burial, resurrection and exaltation to the right hand of the Father (4:5). There is not one faith for Jews and one for Gentiles – there is only one gospel (Rom. 1:16). So, the church is united through the one gospel that testifies to the one Lord! This means our unity is a doctrinal unity – not a weak, emotional, feel-good, can’t we all get along unity! This is why Athanasius was willing to stand against the world when he stood against Arius; and this is why Lady Jane Grey, the nine day teenage queen, was willing to stand against bloody Mary – because there is only one faith and to deny that one faith is to deny the one Lord. The church is united to the one Lord by the one baptism of the one Spirit which comes through faith in the one Lord (Rom. 6:1-4; 1 Cor. 12:12-13).
Finally, there is one God who is the sovereign ruler over all things (4:6). The one God’s wisdom to unite all things under Christ is displayed to the entire cosmos (heaven, the world, hell) in the church (3:7-12).
It is on these Triune grounds that Paul pleads with the Ephesians (and us) to walk worthily of the calling to which we have been called by the one Spirit, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (4:1-3). By our lives we display the wisdom of God’s plan to unite all things under Christ (4:1-3). Therefore, for the church to display disunity is blasphemy! When the church is not united, we are saying God is NOT wise; God is NOT able to transform the formerly separated into one new man; God did NOT send his Son (John 17:20-21)!
We fight to maintain this unity by growing in the Word of the gospel (4:11-16). Those who are contentious and divide do not understand what the church is (1 Tim. 6:3-5; Jude 14-23 – they don’t have the Spirit)! As the Word of the gospel renews our minds and we put off the old self, we will walk in the works which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them (2:10). We will walk in purity/holiness (4:17-32; 5:3-14), love (4:23-5:2) and wisdom (5:15-20). What does the way you walk/live say about what you believe? Do you spare no effort to maintain the unity of the church? Let us spare no effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace so that the world will know that God is wise and worthy of all praise and glory!
From Sermon Series: Ancient-Future Church
Title: The One Apostolic Church: Unity
Date Preached: August 9, 2009
Last Sunday morning’s message in our Ancient-Future Church series is now up – The One Apostolic Church: Unity, Ephesians 4:1-6.
Grandchildren are the crown of the aged . . . (Proverbs 17:6). The truth of this proverb came to life today as I am visiting my parents. After ten days of remaining behind working, Gabrielle and I joined Jeanine and the girls in Florida for vacation.
I flew into Orlando yesterday, where Jeanine and the girls picked us up and we began the hour and a half drive to Avon Park to spend a few days with my parents. My parents love their grandchildren, ALL their grandchildren – I have two other sisters and a brother who has a brand new baby. So I understood that grandchildren are the crown of the aged; however, coming from a Latin family, our family extends beyond my parents home. My grandmother lives with my parents, so all of us are spending a few days together – my five girls with their grandparents and their great grandmother. What a joy!
My grandmother grew up in a house of eleven siblings (I think, I lost count), and I had the privilege of having known my great grandmother to a certain extent (we have good genes). Several of my grandmother’s sisters and a brother live here in Avon Park, so this morning we set out to visit with them. It was a great joy to see all their eyes sparkle as they saw my children. We sat down, talked about family, introduced and re-introduced the girls several times, but I saw how children are a crown to “grand parents.”
This was especially true when we went into the nursing home to visit my grandmother’s brother. It wasn’t just my great uncle whose eyes light up; it was all of the people in the nursing home – all of the “grand parents.”
What a joy it is to be with family. We remember the good, the bad and the ugly. Most of all, I recall God’s amazing grace in my life. For me I lived out the rest of Proverbs 17:6 – And the glory of children is their fathers.
Earlier this year our family memorized 1 Peter 3:1-7. It was in the midst of that exercise that I understood the passage more clearly and coined the concept of a daughter of Sarah. A daughter of Sarah is a woman who adorns herself with submission.
The inner beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit (3:4) is an imperishable beauty that never fades, unlike external beauty (3:3). This is what a daughter of Sarah adorns herself with. Verse 5 clarifies it further. “The holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves by submitting to their own husbands” (3:5). The example is Sarah (as Sarah obeyed Abraham calling him lord – 3:6).
AND YOU ARE HER CHILDREN if you do good (I take this good to be submission) and do not fear anything that is frightening. Now, this last phrase is odd at first. The world, which hates submission, would not put submission together with fearlessness, but there they are. A daughter of Sarah submits without fear.
When I put this together for my girls, I told them that this is my prayer for them – to be a daughter of Sarah: a woman who adorns herself with the imperishable beauty of submission to the man in her life and that because she hopes in God she need not fear that man in authority over her. To summarize it another way, a daughter of Sarah is a woman who follows leadership and fears no man (or thing) because she fears God in whom she hopes.
That is what I want for my five daughters. Therefore, as I prepare to join them on vacation, I am taking a copy of Five Women of the English Reformation by Paul Zahl in order to read it together so they can see other examples of women who followed leadership and feared no one or no thing because they feared God.
The woman who caught my attention first was Lady Jane Grey who was queen for nine days before “Bloody” Mary ascended to the throne. Mary sent her Catholic priest to Lady Jane to seek her conversion and spare her life, but Lady Jane, who was a teenager, refused to recant that salvation was by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. So Mary had her executed, making Lady Jane Grey a teenage martyr. I am praying that my girls would become daughters of Sarah as was Lady Jane.
Texas is number 2, so living in Austin as a Gator will be pretty hard this season. Let’s hope the championship game will be Florida vs. Texas. Until then, let the trash-talk begin . . .