Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Expositors' Conference 2009 Day Two

George Whitefield, the great revivalist preacher of the great awakening died this day in history in 1770.

Yesterday at the Expositors’ Conference Steve Lawson was scheduled to speak on two of the great preachers of the great awakening. He began with Jonathan Edwards and filled the entire hour with an exposition of his life and ministry. We were pleased and encouraged by this remembrance of this great American theologian/preacher.
The next session Dr Lawson was scheduled to share with us lessons from two preachers of the 19th century, however many requested that we hear about Whitfield. Steve Lawson agreed and said that really Whitfield was one of his favorites. The next hour Lawson painted a clear picture of this preacher from the Great Awakening. Whitfield was theologian committed to the sovereignty of God in all things. This theology was one of the driving forces that empowered him to preach the gospel to all men and call for repentance and faith. Whitefield knew that his pleadings were not the cause of faith but they were the instrumental witness used by the Holy Spirit to bring repentance and faith. For example, in his sermon about the conversion of Zaccheus Whitefield said,
With what different emotions of heart may we suppose Zaccheus received this invitation? Think you not that he was surprised to hear Jesus Christ call him by name, and not only so, but invite himself to his house? Surely, thinks Zaccheus, I dream: it cannot be; how should he know me? I never saw him before: besides, I shall undergo much contempt, if I receive him under my rood. Thus, I say, we may suppose Zaccheus thought within himself. But what saith the scripture? "I will make a willing people in the day of my power." With this outward call, there went an efficacious power from God, which sweetly over-ruled his natural will: and therefore, verse 6, "He made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully;" not only into his house, but also into his heart.

Thus it is the great God brings home his children. He calls them by name, by his word or providence; he speaks to them also by his spirit. Hereby they are enabled to open their hearts, and are made willing to receive the King of glory. For Zaccheus's sake, let us not entirely condemn people that come under the word, out of no better principle than curiosity. Who knows but God may call them? It is good to be where the Lord is passing by. May all who are now present out of this principle, hear the voice of the Son of God speaking to their souls, and so hear that they may live! Not that men ought therefore to take encouragement to come out of curiosity. 

For perhaps a thousand more, at other times, came to see Christ out of curiosity, as well as Zaccheus, who were not effectually called by his grace. I only mention this for the encouragement of my own soul, and the consolation of God's children, who are too apt to be angry with those who do not attend on the word out of love to God: but let them alone. Brethren, pray for them. How do you know but Jesus Christ may speak to their hearts! A few words from Christ, applied by his spirit, will save their souls. "Zaccheus, says Christ, make haste and come down. And he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully."

 Biblical theology provides a solid foundation for Biblical passion or as Martin Lloyd Jones said, “preaching is theology on fire.”
An article published today in Christian History noted, “These were no ordinary sermons. He portrayed the lives of biblical characters with a realism no one had seen before. He cried, he danced, he screamed. Among the enthralled was David Garrick, then the most famous actor in Britain. "I would give a hundred guineas," he said, "if I could say 'Oh' like Mr. Whitefield."
Well, we cannot hear Whitefield but we can read a number of his sermons. I think I will listen to Whitefield today.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Expositors' Conference 2009 Day One

I am currently attending the Expositors' Conference hosted by Steven Lawson in Mobile, Alabama. This is my third pilgrimage here and things are exceeding my expectations already. This particular conference is relatively small. I am not exactly sure, but it is around 500. Other conferences such as the Shepherds or Together for the Gospel have about 5,000. I actually prefer the smaller number. It gives you a chance to interact more with the speakers, hosts, and other pastors.
Last night we heard from Steve Lawson and Joel Beeke. I knew what to expect with Steve. He taught a fiery exposition of encouragement from two great preachers, Luther and Calvin. Steve pointed out that these men were different in demeanor but similar in passion. Both had a passion for the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth. We were challenged to stand in our pulpits and proclaim the whole counsel of the living Word of God from the shore of Genesis to the shore of Revelation and all the shining sea of truth between.
This was my first encounter with Joel Beeke. His presentation was just as riveting, perhaps even more so. Joel’s mission was to give us a sense of Puritan preaching. The Puritans were those divines who renewed and expanded the Reformation a 100 years after the fire started and during a time when the flames began to wane. They stoked the fire of Reformation by calling God’s people to apply every aspect of God’s Truth to every aspect of their lives. The Puritan pulpits were on fire with truth and the pews caught that the ember of those passions and applied the principles taught to every aspect of their lives.
Joel encouraged me to look at the Puritans in a new light. They were a people who loved sermons. Perhaps one of the reasons the folks would sit for hours listening or reading sermons is because the content was compelling. The content of their sermons was not based on stories or anecdotes but the living breathing Word of God. The Word of God has a saving and sanctifying power. May it be unleashed as we preach as the Puritan Richard Baxter said as “a dying man to dying men.”
They feed us well at this conference. It is time that I go off to be fed a great Southern breast of sausage gravy, biscuits, eggs, pancakes and such. The volunteers at Christ Fellowship are so special. It is a joy to see them serve us with joy and treat us as if we are special servants. Following this meal we will be served another message about the Puritan divines. I am looking forward more to the second meal. That is saying a lot for a guy who doesn’t miss many meals.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Got Insurance?

This week life has been interrupted quite a bit by the rains that have fallen resulting in considerable flooding. The photo above was taken today on Brainerd road a few blocks down from my insurance office (for those of you who may not know, my vocation is a pastor and my occupation is an insurance agent). Fortunately, our insurance office is on a hill and though the flood waters will continue to rise until eight this evening it is not likely to reach us.

We have had plenty of flood related claims called into the office this week. Several cars were flooded and many more homes received some flood damage. We have been able to help those who purchased flood coverage. Those who had losses who did not purchase coverage wish they did. Hindsight is 20/20.

I often tell folks that “you have to buy insurance when you don’t need it, because when you need it you can’t buy it.” Or to put it another way, “no one will sell you a fire policy when your house is on fire” or “flood insurance when your basement is full of water.”

Many in Chattanooga learned a tough lesson this week on being prepared for natural disasters.

There is another cataclysmic event on the horizon for which everyone needs to be prepared. It will not be a local event it will be a global event. The consequences of this event are even more severe in that they are eternal and final.

What event? The return of Jesus Christ can happen at any moment. He will crush Satan and the forces of evil and usher in the eternal state. Those who are clothed in the righteousness of Christ will be admitted to His kingdom and those who are not will be banished in eternal judgment forever. Jesus illustrated this event in several parables. For example, the ten virgins in Matthew 25:

" “Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Now five of them were wise, and five were foolish. Those who were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them, but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept. “And at midnight a cry was heard: ‘Behold, the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him!’ Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise answered, saying, ‘No, lest there should not be enough for us and you; but go rather to those who sell, and buy for yourselves.’ And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut. “Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open to us!’ But he answered and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming." (Matthew 25:1-13, NKJV)

The point of this story is that only those who were prepared received blessings. In the mundane insurance world which occupies much of my time only the people who were properly insured received benefits. Those who were not prepared were denied benefits. Likewise there will be two groups of people at Christ’s return, those who are prepared and those who are not prepared. In which group do you belong?

If you have doubts you can read the good news of how to be prepared to meet the Lord by following this link. If you have no doubts about your preparation do you know of someone who may? I encourage you to encourage them.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Gospel According to Rome

On occasion you may hear me state from the pulpit that the Roman Catholic Church teaches another gospel and thus I provide the warning that Paul gave in the first century to the church at Galatia.
Galatians 1:8-9 But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.

It is not that we do not appreciate the dedication and devotion to those who comprise the Church of Rome. The good works that the church provides all over the world is to be commended. However, because those works are done to merit justifying favor with God the motive for them must be condemned.
Nathan Businitz wrote a brief but good article on this topic posted at the Shepherds’ Fellowship that is worth reading.
Tuesday, Sep 15, 2009
(By Nathan Busenitz)
When it comes to an understanding of the gospel, the critical difference between the Reformed view and the Roman Catholic view centers on the role that good works play in the sinner's justification.
The Reformers taught that justification is by "faith alone" (hence, the Reformation principle of sola fide). By this, they meant that the believer's righteous standing before God is based solely on the imputed righteousness of Christ; and that salvation is received by grace alone through faith apart from any human effort or merit. This is not to say that good works were unimportant to the Reformers. But they saw good works as the fruit of justification, and not as a basis for it or a contributor to it.
By contrast, the Roman Catholic church teaches that good works participate in and contribute to the sinner's justification. As a result, the believer's righteous standing before God is largely based on his or her own good works (in addition to Christ's work on the Cross). Thus, from the Roman Catholic perspective, justification is not by faith alone, but rather by "faith co-operating with works" (to borrow a phrase from the Council of Trent). 
That is a major distinction. So, is salvation by grace alone through faith apart from works? Or is eternal life is gained through faith PLUS good works?
According to Rome, the answer is faith PLUS works. Thus, the Catholic Catechism states:
The Council of Trent teaches that the Ten Commandments are obligatory for Christians and that the justified man is still bound to keep them [fn, Cf. DS 1569-1570]; the Second Vatican Council confirms: "The bishops, succors of the apostles, receive from the Lord . . . the mission of teaching all peoples, and of preaching the Gospel to every creature, so that all men may attain salvation through faith, Baptism and the observance of the Commandments" (P 2068; ellipsis in original).
Notice how "Baptism and the observance of the Commandments" (in context, the Ten Commandments) have been added to "faith" for what is required to "attain salvation."
Along these same lines, The Catholic Answers website notes that “good works are meritorious,” stating that “our obedience and love, combined with our faith, will be rewarded with eternal life.” The Catholic Encyclopedia (in an article entitled “Sanctifying Grace”) further states that the sinner “is formally justified and made holy by his own personal justice and holiness.” The article adds that “over and above faith other acts are necessary for justification” including fear, hope, charity, penance with contrition, and almsgiving.
Such sources help provide context for the words of Catholic theologian Ludwig Ott:
The Council of Trent teaches that for the justified eternal life is both a gift of grace promised by God and a reward for his own good works and merits. As God's grace is the presupposition and foundation of good works, by which man merits eternal life, so salutary works are, at the same time gifts of God and meritorious acts of man. . . . Blessedness in heaven is the reward for good works performed on this earth, and rewards and merit are correlative concepts. . . . A just man merits for himself through each good work . . . eternal life (if he dies in a state of grace). (Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, 264, 267)
On the one hand, Ott wants us to believe that "eternal life is . . . a gift of grace." But on the other hand, it is also "a reward for his [the sinner's] own good works and merits." This, then, underscores the inherent contradiction in Roman Catholic soteriology. On the one hand, salvation is by grace. On the other hand, salvation is by works (as faith co-operates with good deeds to merit eternal life).
But, biblically speaking, both cannot be true. As the apostle Paul explains in Romans 11:6, "If it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace."
The New Testament gospel stresses the fact that "by grace you have been saved, through faith, it is the gift of God, not a result of works" (Ephesians 2:8-9); and that salvation is received "not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy" (Titus 3:5).
When we compare the gospel according to Rome with the gospel of the New Testament we quickly find that the two are not compatible. By adding works into the equation, the Roman Catholic Church nullifies true grace. 

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Amazing Grace

"For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast." (Ephesians 2:8-9, NKJV)

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Emergent Preaching

On Wednesday evenings here at LABC we are discussing what it means to be a Biblically healthy church. Next week we will finish reviewing why Expository Preaching is Biblically healthy and so necessary for the pulpits of our churches. One glaring example of unhealthy preaching is that of Brian Mclaren, one of the leaders of the emergent church. Brian is encouraging Christians to participate in the Muslim holy month of fasting known as Ramadan. His justification for his actions is a clear misunderstanding of the Bible. Maclaren writes,

Just as Jesus, a devout Jew, overcame religious prejudice and learned from a Syrophonecian woman and was inspired by her faith two thousand years ago (Matthew 15:21 ff, Mark 7:24 ff), we seek to learn from our Muslim sisters and brothers today.”

I have a few questions for you to consider.

Can you see what is wrong with this line of thinking? [Try reading the texts that are cited.]

Can you provide some Biblical texts that may counter his premise? [Consider 2 Cor 6:14-15]

One of the problems with this line of thinking is that it begins with an idea or ideology and then attempts to find a text to support that concept. Expository preaching begins with the text to discover its meaning, explains the text, and allows the implications to be directly deduced from Scripture.

We will discuss this and more next Wednesday.