Thursday, July 30, 2009

Evangelism from God's Perspective

Jason Farley sent me the link to this video with the comment that this is evangelism from God's perspective. Enjoy.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Mindless Repetition

“You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble!” James 2:19

In confessional churches there is an ever present danger – the danger of mindless repetition. The prophets in Israel were stern in their rebukes of the people of God for failing to draw near to God in their hearts and substituting external ritual for an inward love for Him. “Woe to those who draw near to me with their lips but whose hearts are far from me.”

Every Lord’s Day we have opportunity to confess our common faith with one of the ancient creeds. It is always good to remember why we do this, so consider just a few reasons:

1. Common confession is a fitting response of faith to God’s Word, a declaration of trust in the Sovereign Lord. As God’s Word continues to be spurned in our culture and in our churches more and more we need to confess--we trust in His Word. He is God; we are not. We shall do what He says and follow Him. The creeds are an excellent way to express this faith--we trust Him.

2. In light of the massive syncretism in our culture, the recitation of creeds is a forceful way to declare whom we worship. We will not bow to America’s idol, some general theistic deity. Neither shall we worship Vishnu, nor Zeus, nor Allah, nor the
universe. We will invoke the blessing of the Triune God and no other. We worship Him.

3. It enables us to verbalize our thankfulness to God for those who have gone before us. We worship the God of Abraham and Isaac, Peter and Paul, Ambrose and Augustine, Luther and Calvin, Edwards and Whitefield. When we confess the creeds, we acknowledge our indebtedness to our forefathers. They lived, breathed, suffered, and died to preserve this faith for us and we lay hold of it with everything we have. So we thank Him.
While remembering why we do this, it is also important to emphasize how we are to do it. And this brings us back to our opening danger – the danger of mindless repetition. As we recite the creed each Lord’s Day we declare, “We believe…” It is important to ask, believe it or not, what we mean by the word “believe”? For “believe” can be used in a variety of ways – as we see in our passage from James today: “You believe that God is one. You do well. The demons also believe and shudder!” There is a certain type of belief that will not deliver in the day of judgment. So when we confess the creed, the belief that we should be confessing is not a mere admission of intellectual assent, “Oh, yeah, this is what I think,” but rather an expression of heartfelt commitment, “This is the One I love, I trust, I cherish, I adore.”

And so, how are we doing? Children, how are you doing? Are you embracing and cherishing the One who calls you His own in the waters of baptism? Are you approaching worship each week in faith, hungering to hear the voice of Christ, to be changed and transformed? Adults, how are you doing? Is worship growing ever more sweet and lovely? Are you reciting the creed intelligently and faithfully or by rote? These are the questions that the different meanings of the word “believe” force us to ask. Our confession should be robust, lively, and full of faith. Beware lipping the words and losing their meaning.

Reminded of our propensity to draw near to God with our lips and fail to draw near Him with our hearts, let us seek His face and ask Him to forgive us and make the fruit of our lips a pleasing sacrifice in His sight.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Sleeping and Waking

Psalm 3:1-6 (NKJV)
1 A Psalm of David When He Fled from Absalom His Son. Lord, how they have increased who trouble me! Many are they who rise up against me. 2 Many are they who say of me, “There is no help for him in God.” Selah 3 But You, O Lord, are a shield for me, My glory and the One who lifts up my head. 4 I cried to the Lord with my voice, And He heard me from His holy hill. Selah 5 I lay down and slept; I awoke, for the Lord sustained me. 6 I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people Who have set themselves against me all around.

The text before us today was written by David when he was fleeing from his rebellious son Absalom. Few of us can imagine tasting the bitter fruit of a son who would become our personal enemy. The prospect is frightening and should cause us to be down on our knees, asking the Lord to spare us from such a fate.

You’ll notice that this is where we find David now – upon his knees, seeking help from God. His enemies have risen up against him – and O what a tragic set of enemies to have. David was in dire straits. Absalom had wooed the hearts of the sons of Israel away from David and managed to secure their affection for himself. He had the large army; he had the young and limber muscles; he had the loyalty of the people. David had little to nothing.

Ah, but David had the Lord. And so David comes before the Lord and seeks his assistance. My enemies have surrounded me, O Lord. Many are saying that my faith in you in the midst of this trial is folly. They are saying you won’t answer Me. And isn’t it the same for us? When we are in the midst of trial, do not our enemies – chief among them our own voices of doubt – scream to us, “There is no help for you in God!”

But notice what David declares in our psalm. “But You, O Lord, are a shield for me, My glory and the One who lifts up my head. I cried to the Lord with my voice, and He heard me from His holy hill.” In the midst of the trial David takes refuge in the Lord. You Lord are a shield for me; when I lifted up my voice to You, You heard me. David turned to the Lord and trusted in Him, knowing that come what may the Lord was on His side.

And so notice the incredible peace that this trust in the Lord fostered in David’s life at the time. Here he was fleeeing from Absalom, his own son. His kingdom had been taken away; his glory diminished; his life threatened. And yet what does he say? “I lay down and slept; I awoke, for the Lord sustained me. I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around.” David was able – in the midst of personal and political disaster – to sleep and to awake in peace, for the Lord sustained him. Though David had little to no earthly comfort, he had the abiding presence of the Lord – and having the Lord was to have everything.

What an encouragement this text should be to us who are in the midst of personal or corporate trial. Need we lose sleep, so anxious and worried for the chain of events that we cannot keep our thoughts from racing? Or need we sleep all the time in order to forget what is before us and hide from the trials that confront us? David sets us a pattern and shows us that we need neither avoid sleep nor wallow in it – for the Lord Himself is our sustainer. If the Lord is for us, who can be against us?

Our confidence in the midst of trial is not in our circumstances. Our confidence in the midst of trial is not our own wisdom. Our confidence in trial is not in the kindness of our enemies. Our confidence in trial is not the certainty of a favorable outcome. Our confidence is in the Lord God, who sustains us, and promises to bless us – though ten thousands of people should set themselves against us round about.

And so, how are we doing? Are we trusting the Lord? When enemies rise up against us, are we despairing? Reminded of our failure to trust in the Lord when our enemies go on the attack, let us kneel and confess our sins in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, seeking the forgiveness of our Heavenly Father.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Do not fret

"1 Do not fret because of evildoers,
Nor be envious of the workers of iniquity.
2 For they shall soon be cut down like the grass,
And wither as the green herb.
3 Trust in the LORD, and do good;
Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness.
4 Delight yourself also in the LORD,
And He shall give you the desires of your heart.
5 Commit your way to the LORD,
Trust also in Him,
And He shall bring it to pass.
6 He shall bring forth your righteousness as the light,
And your justice as the noonday.
7 Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for Him;
Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way,
Because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass.
8 Cease from anger, and forsake wrath;
Do not fret—it only causes harm.”
Psalm 37:1-8

Within our current cultural climate it is easy to grow discouraged and to lose perspective. Whether it is the triumph of unprincipled and immoral men and women in politics, or the support of sinful behaviors in business, the compromise and corruption that have permeated the Church, the wholesale immorality in the entertainment industry, or the miserable failure of our judicial system to secure justice. We look around us at the growth of such wickedness and can be tempted to anger, anxiety, or envy.

David was no stranger to these temptations and addresses them in our psalm today by putting the momentary triumph of the wicked in its proper perspective. It is important for us as the people of God to pay very close attention to David’s words and learn from them how we ought to respond to the wickedness that surrounds us. Ought we to become angry? Ought we to be anxious? Ought we to envy their triumph?

David’s answer to each of these questions is a resounding, “No.” “Cease from anger,” he tells us, “and forsake wrath. Do not fret – it only causes harm.” Why is it that we are tempted to anger when we see the wicked triumphing? Why are we anxious? Is it because we see God’s name being defamed and have a sense of righteous indignation? Is it because we fear what they shall do when they get in power? Because their triumph just doesn’t seem right? Whatever the reason, David reminds us that no matter how great our indignation may, it does not compare with the righteous indignation our Lord Himself has. And so we are called to rest in the knowledge that the very God whose name is defamed, is the one who rules and orchestrates history and who shall cause every man to give an account for His idle words. God sees, brothers and sisters; He hears; He knows – and He tells us not to grow angry or anxious – they only cause harm. Trust Him; believe Him; look to Him.

But sometimes our response to the triumph of the wicked is neither anger nor anxiety, it is envy. Why is it that those wicked folks have that nice house? Why are they making all the good movies? Why do they have control of the paper? Why do they have the nice building? But David tells us, “Do not be envious of evildoers” because their lot really is not enviable. Verses 12 – 17 say:

12 The wicked plots against the just,
And gnashes at him with his teeth.
13 The Lord laughs at him,
For He sees that his day is coming.
14 The wicked have drawn the sword
And have bent their bow,
To cast down the poor and needy,
To slay those who are of upright conduct.
15 Their sword shall enter their own heart,
And their bows shall be broken.
16 A little that a righteous man has
Is better than the riches of many wicked.
17 For the arms of the wicked shall be broken,
But the LORD upholds the righteous.
Why then ought we to put away our anger, anxiety, and envy? Because, David reminds us, the triumph of the wicked is temporary. The wicked shall be cut down like the grass; their plans will not be victorious. They shall be destroyed. And so, what is the point of growing angry, anxious, or envious? God has so made the world and He so orchestrates history and eternity, that those who honor Him and His law will prosper while those who rebel against Him and spurn Him will perish. Our Lord Jesus Himself promised us, quoting from later in this very psalm, “The meek shall inherit the earth.” Note that the promise is not that the meek shall inherit heaven – as true as this is – the promise is that the meek shall inherit the earth. The triumph of the wicked is temporary. Oh sure, it may last a while – perhaps even our lifetimes – but God shall win for He is Lord. And He calls us to trust Him in these times of history when His ways are being scorned; to trust in His sovereign ordering of history and that everything – even this momentary triumph of the wicked – shall abound the the glory of the Lord and the filling of the earth with the knowledge of Him. As Wycliffe once said, “Great is the truth, and it shall prevail.”

Reminded of our failure to trust less in God’s promises than in our own feeble assessment of our cultural situation, let us seek His face and ask Him to forgive us and begin to fulfill His promises in our own lifetime.