Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Esau Made Life Bitter for his Parents

...Thus Esau despised his birthright.
Genesis 25:34 ESV
When Esau was forty years old, he took Judith the daughter of Beeri the Hittite to be his wife, and Basemath the daughter of Elon the Hittite, and they made life bitter for Isaac and Rebekah.
Genesis 26:34-35 ESV

Esau, raised up as part of God's covenantal community, rejects the faith of his parents.  Though he was not the son of promise, not chosen to mediate the Abrahamic covenant, he was still called to the faith of the covenant yet it appears he rejected it.  His rebellion against God made life bitter for his parents.  It is my prayer for my own children that they not just rent the faith of their parents but own it for themselves.  I can model it, teach it, encourage it, but ultimately they must walk their own walk and we must pray for and trust that God will work in their hearts to do the work we cannot.  The new birth is not just a decision, but faith is evidence that God has done the miraculous work of regeneration in their hearts (John 3:3; 1 John 5:1).   Faith is the fruit of the new birth! 

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Every Church Leader Has 3 Realms of Ministry

Great suggestions for church leadership by Rick Warren . . .

Healthy, growing churches are outwardly-focused, always thinking about how to communicate the gospel to a lost culture and bring the next unchurched person into a thriving relationship with God. In the same way, a healthy church staff thinks about more than just how to accomplish the next team project. Great church leaders are kingdom-thinkers with a global vision for God’s glory.
Since the earliest days of Saddleback Church, I’ve challenged every staff member to think about their role in at least 3 realms.

First, you have a ministry to the unchurched.

You may have a role in church leadership related to kids ministry volunteers, creating graphics and videos, or expanding the church’s small groups ministry, but your first ministry is always to those who are lost and far from God. Every church leader needs to “do the work of an evangelist” (2 Timothy 4:5) and share the Good News about Jesus with your friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers.
As a matter of fact, the reason why we strive to balance the five purposes and make more disciples is ultimately so that more disciples can be made. Every facet of church ministry fits together to create a healthy body that grows and reaches new, disconnected people. Whatever else you may do as part of a church’s ministry team, you have a ministry to those who don’t know Jesus yet.

Second, you have the ministry for which you were shaped and called.

Paul wrote in Colossians 3:23, “Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people“(NLT). This verse applies to anyone, working any kind of a job. Whatever you do in life, do it for God’s glory as though he is your boss (because he is!). At Saddleback, we tend to hire workaholics and then force them to calm down. We hire race horses. Don’t ever expect the people around you to carry the burden of motivating you to do the work of the ministry that God has assigned you.
If you can’t seem to get motivated, it could be that your relationship with Jesus has suffered, you aren’t in the role you’re really shaped for, or you’re physically or emotionally worn out. If you’re feeling unmotivated, talk to someone about it and get to the bottom of it so you can be sure to serve in your sweet spot – the spot for which you are gifted and called.

Third, you have a ministry to your peers.

Almost every church recognizes the first two areas of ministry, but some forget about this third realm. If you’re part of a church’s leadership, you have a third area of responsibility – to serve your peers in the kingdom. If you’re a senior pastor, you should be pouring into and drawing strength from other senior pastors. If you’re a church secretary, connect with other church secretaries. The same is true for youth ministry, kids ministry, small group ministry leaders, and every other area of church ministry.
Look around and learn from other churches. Share your knowledge and resources with other leaders. The kingdom benefits and churches grow when we’re sharpening each other.

Monday, July 11, 2016

The Goal and Value of Biblical Scholarship

The best known contribution to biblical scholarship of Erasmus (c.1466-1536 CE) is his edition of the Greek New Testament, first published in 1516. This, with his Latin translation, marked a significant move away from the dominance of the Vulgate to a new emphasis on the original languages of Christian scripture. It represented the flowering of a renewed interest in ancient languages and literature, which originated in Renaissance Italy and made its influence felt across Europe in the opening decades of the sixteenth century. Erasmus subsequent revisions of his New Testament and of the Annotations, which he published alongside it and continued to edit throughout his life, show his concern for careful philological and grammatical work as the basis for translation and interpretation. Erasmus was not, however, driven simply by the demands of scholarship, but by the conviction that a return to the wellspring of scripture would bring new life to the Church's ritual and worship, and provide the means for personal growth in holiness. He believed that knowledge of scripture should not be restricted to the clergy, but made available to all, if necessary by means of vernacular translations.  Allan K. Jenkins,
 Erasmus Commentary on Psalm 2

All scholarship, even my own feeble attempts, when driven by biblical faith, should lead to worship.  This was the goal of Erasmus, who did much to bring back the centrality of the Greek New Testament to the church and scholarship.  I recently had a conversation with a well meaning, but misguided, individual who was criticizing scholarship and my pursuit of further education.   Yet it has been good, biblical, scholarship that has brought the church back to orthodoxy from the beginning, whether that be Paul writing Galatians, the early church fathers writing against heretical views of the person of Christ, to the reformers like Luther and Calvin, to modern day scholars writing against open theism.  May God grant his church more Christ exalting scholars!


10 Things You Should Know about Election

I had Sam Storms come and teach at my church years ago.  I had him do a few question and answer times for different groups and was amazed at his ability to explain complicated in clear and simple ways.   This is from Crossway blog . . . This is a guest post by Sam Storms, author of Chosen for Life: The Case for Divine Election. This post is part of our 10 Things You Should Know blog series.

1. Election is a pre-temporal decision by God, a choice he made before any of us ever existed.

God chose us in Christ “before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:4). God “saved us,” said Paul, “and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began” (2 Tim. 1:9).

2. Divine election is not merely corporate, but also of individuals.

Whereas it is true that Christ is himself the Elect One, and whereas it is true that the Church is the chosen or elect people of God, individuals are themselves chosen by God to believe in Christ in order that they might become members of the church. In other words, God didn’t simply choose the church. He chose the specific individuals who would comprise the church.
On a related note, this glorious act of God’s grace in electing some is unto eternal salvation and not simply to temporal service. Paul gave thanks for the Thessalonians because “God chose” them “as the firstfruits to be saved” (2 Thess. 2:13). After the Gentiles heard the gospel preached, “as many as were appointed to eternal life believed” (Acts 13:48).

3. Everyone who believes the Bible believes in election.

The issue isn’t whether or not God chooses people to inherit eternal life. The issue is the basis on which that divine choice is made.
Some believe that God restores in the fallen human heart the ability or freedom of will to believe. Ultimately, then, whether or not they receive or finally reject Christ is up to them.
Others believe that the Bible nowhere teaches this notion of “prevenient grace” in which the depravity and moral corruption of the human heart is to some extent neutralized or overcome. Therefore, if anyone is to believe it must come about through the work of the Holy Spirit, who sovereignly regenerates their hearts and then effectually and unfailingly brings the elect individual to faith and repentance. Ultimately, then, whether or not they receive Christ is up to God.

4. Divine election is not an arbitrary choice made by God, as if there were no reasons why he chose some for eternal life but passed over others.

Election is “according to the purpose of his [God’s] will” (Eph. 1:5). The basis of this choice is “the mystery of his will” (v. 9). It was according to his “purpose” (vv. 9, 11) and “the counsel of his will” (v. 11).
So, why did God choose this person and not that one? It was his good pleasure and will that he do so. But why was he “pleased” to choose this one and not another? We only know that it wasn’t because of anything in one that was not in another. But whatever “reason” or “purpose” moved God to choose as he did, it was pleasing to him and in perfect harmony with both his justice and his love.

5. Divine election has the glory of God as its primary purpose.

In order to magnify his grace and make known the majesty of his mercy, God chose hell-deserving sinners to inherit eternal life and be joined in covenant union with his Son, Jesus Christ. He “predestined” them “for adoption as sons” (Eph. 1:5). Thus one purpose of election was to “save” hell-deserving sinners (2 Thess. 2:13; 2 Tim. 1:8-10).
But in a more ultimate sense, their salvation was designed to honor and magnify the grace and glory of God (Eph. 1:6, 12). Thus, our salvation is not the sole purpose of election. We were chosen for worship! We were chosen to “proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9).

6. Divine election is not based on God’s foreknowledge of your faith.

Faith isn’t the ground of election, but its fruit. It isn’t the cause of election, but its effect. We don’t get chosen by God because he foresees that we choose him. Rather we choose him because in eternity past he graciously chose us.
Thus, God’s choice of some hell-deserving sinners was not dependent on any will other than his own. Election “depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy” (Rom. 9:16). Thus, election is monergistic. It is the fruit or effect of one will, God’s will.

7. Divine election does not mean that people who want to have their sins forgiven and go to heaven when they die will instead go to hell.

No one goes to hell except those who deserve to. And no one goes to heaven except those who don’t deserve to. In other words, divine election does not mean that people who want to be saved will ultimately be lost.
God does not respond to people who repent and desire to trust Christ by saying: “Sorry. The quota of the elect is already full.” Jesus makes it clear that “whoever comes” to him shall be saved and “whoever comes” to him he “will never cast out” (John 6:35). Thus “everyone who looks upon the Son and believes in him” will have eternal life (John 6:40).

8. Election doesn’t render faith and repentance unnecessary; election is what makes them possible.

Faith and repentance are absolutely necessary if one is to experience the forgiveness of sins and inherit eternal life. They are produced in the heart of an elect individual by the secret, sovereign, and mysterious work of the Holy Spirit in which he regenerates the soul and works to overcome all resistance to Christ, enabling the previously hostile heart to see and relish and take supreme delight in the beauty of Jesus.

9. Divine election does not undermine or negate the importance of evangelism and prayer.

Election is what assures us that our evangelism will be successful (Acts 18:1-11). Divine election does not mean that we need not pray. God does not ordain a certain end (in this case, saving faith in the elect) apart from ordaining the necessary means (prayer and evangelism) by which that end is attained.

10. God loves election, and therefore so should we.

When the Bible says that election is according to God’s “will” it means, among other things, that he enjoyed choosing some for eternal life. He likes it. He wanted to do it and took delight in it. Jesus, while praying to his Father, rejoiced that God had hidden spiritual things from the “wise and understanding” and had sovereignly revealed them to “little children” (Matt. 11:25). This was God’s “gracious will” (v. 26). If it pleased Jesus, it should please us as well.

Sam Storms (PhD, University of Texas at Dallas) serves as lead pastor for preaching and vision at Bridgeway Church in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. He is president-elect of the Evangelical Theological Society, a council member of the Gospel Coalition, and the author of more than two-dozen books, including Chosen for Life: The Case for Divine Election.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; for the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish. Psalm 1

I love the details of the text and can get lost in them and miss the big picture. The last time I preached this psalm, I did it over three or four weeks! One thing I have learned over the past year that has helped my preaching is to look for the one big idea of a passage of Scripture. So the next time I preach Psalm 1, I probably will do so in one sermon.
I used to think that this psalm was about two ways of living but really the subject is about godly living and the contrast of the wicked is only to highlight and reinforce the godly life. The big idea of Psalm one is something like, "What the godly person looks like."
What struck me this morning in my reading of this psalm is that the primary means of fruitfulness in the life of the godly is the word of God. Too often we look for other means, ways, to gain fruitfulness apart from God's word but that is futile. Spend time in his word