And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. (Rom 5:3-6)

Let not those who hope in you be put to shame through me, O Lord GOD of hosts; let not those who seek you be brought to dishonor through me, O God of Israel. (Psalm 69:6)

Monday, November 15, 2010

Part VI of A Critique of Evangelism via J C Ryle

Part 6

As we continue with Rev. Ryle let us now look at the next statement. Permit me here to get preachy. For I do agree with him that too often evangelism is watered down and ineffective.

"On the other side, many graceless people are deluded into thinking they are "converted," because under the pressure or animal excitement and temporary feelings they arc led to profess themselves Christians. And all this time the thoughtless and ungodly look on with contempt, and rind fresh reasons for neglecting religion altogether. The antidotes to the state of things I deplore are plain and few". J C Ryle

I can find no better evidence to support these statements than the parable of Christ known as the seed and the sower. I have witnessed many persons “come to faith” only to fall away. Unfortunately we often give these folks a false sense of security. My first church claimed to have over 450 members when they first described themselves in the church search process. Upon my arrival I found that their roles often consisted of simple names with no supporting information that were in a three ring binder. Several persons were found to be deceased, and even more were only listed by first and last name with no contact information. When pressed as to how they came to be considered members the reply was “they came forward and we voted on them”.

My dear Christian, this is a travesty and mockery of the church. Here people whom made an emotional decision or one in a time of working a deal with God were nowhere to be found. You too can surely attest to those who once were a part of the church whom have now fallen away. Surely the parable thus teaches us that they may give evidence but lack real sustaining root. These are not disciples. These are not Christians.

People in this state are looked at by the unconverted mockers as “having got religion”. I can attest that in my Godless days of seeing people “saved” and the mockers commenting that they will soon “get over it”. Thus we do the name of Christ a disservice by allowing folks to have a get saved quick ability. True people can be saved in an instant, but what are they saved with or to? Is it gospel lite? Is it a pitch that assures better prosperity? Was their sin ever dealt with by the Holy Spirit? These are the questions I ask.

We are easily given to impulses. Notice the catchy displays at the cash register in most stores. How about children., and adults alike, that “need’ a souvenir at some stopping place only to have it as garage sale fodder a year later? Many people wear Mickey Mouse shirts per capita at Disney world, but go to your average shopping mall and they will exist in very sparse numbers. Why, it is all because of group mentality. It is a desire to belong. But Christ is not Mickey Mouse. Christ is the atonement and He and his message are the crux of life.

I say all this to say that gimmicks and methods that are used to gain a response rarely lead to true conversion. Our evangelism must be complete in laying out the gospel. People should not add Christ to their list of mental occupations; they should abandon all these and cling to Him only.

Friday, November 12, 2010

A Critique of Evangelism via J C Ryle Part 5

Part 5
(5) Last, but not least, the sovereignty of God in saving sinners, and the absolute necessity of preventing grace, are far too much overlooked. Many talk as if conversions could be manufactured at man's pleasure, and as if there were no such text as this, "It is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy." (Rom. ix. 16.)

This is a great truth. Just the other day in a small group setting I encountered someone who is living with the struggle of sin keeping them from Christ. They were under the guilt of sin. So much so they had wrestled with the problem of sin that their unsaved condition led them to conclude that there is no point in trying to resist as they would only fail. Mind you they are a pretty “good” person on our human standards, and not looking to justify themselves. I think those who have overcome much by way of sanctification can identify with this issue. Many Christians do feel this way also. We hear how we are to be obedient, moral, and holy. Yet we fail again and again. We hear often sermons on Three or ten things to do to live a certain way. And herein lies the problem, too often we struggle with sin in our own strength. We can’t keep God list of ten commandments let alone a sinful man’s perspective list. What we need is the gospel!

My friend who is not under the direction of the Holy Spirit came to the logical humanistic conclusion of the problem. However, under the Holy Spirit we have a means of dealing with this.

As J C said, “but of God that showeth mercy”. So often we try to rid ourselves of sin in order to be pleasing to God in our own strength. What God desires, for His glory, is that we by faith take the promises confirmed by the cross and find our peach in them, not our own doings. The natural man tries to “do something”. The spiritual man sees what has been done already. We grow up in a society that fends for itself. God is glorified in what He has done, our job is to recognize it. When we see God for who He is then in thankfulness we act accordingly. (John 7:36-50)

We can not impress God. We can not compensate for our sin. The efforts to do so are sinful by presumption and taking another path to God, thus they themselves are sin. Simply put the way to God is through Christ. (John 14:6)

So here the Gospel has power, it reveals our need for God, the provision of God, and the grace of God. Anything less is man centered philosophy.

The gospel message removes in hope in ourselves. It places all upon the back of Christ in the cross. In our next installment we will continue with looking at Rev. Ryles Gospel centered evangelism. We will see how it is evidenced and how it is not evidenced.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Sermon Notes From Sunday: Governments Exist Under the Soverignty of God for the Glory of God

Sunday I covered a few topics related to government and the Christian. The sermon audio can be found at Below I am posting my unedited notes. Some find these useful. Mind you neither the notes or sermon are the finished product. Both need some refinement by our living unto Christ.

Governments Exist Under the Sovereignty of God for the Glory of God

Luke 2:1-7

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. (Luke 2:1-7)

“Authority” in these verses

Caesar Augustus; -ruler

All the world registered- law and organization

Quirinius- Governor of Syria- sub ruler

House & Linage- organizational subset

Registered with betrothed – duty, in the legal bond of marriage

God was using the day and age to bring about fulfillment of His glory.

God in His glory governs all timing. He puts things together in the right moment for His purposes that all are in subjection to Him.

At this time there existed for the first time ever..

  • Pax Romans- Roman peace
  • Safe travel by highway, good roads (This would later aid in the spread of the gospel) (Do not squander such privileges)
  • Efficient sea travel
  • Abundance of food supplies- this afforded better travel and standards of living, thus education, and community gatherings
  • Good water could be found. Aqueduct systems
  • Rome allowed state governments and thus people could have a national identity within their country. The Jews were not persecuted as before.

Governments are subject to God’s plans. They are tools in His hand.

The divided kingdom of Israel and Judah was a result of David’s sin. However, each king had a choice to make. Those who glorified God were blessed, those who did not were condemned. God does not have to bless at all. But He do do so when we glorify Him.

Regarding Taxation

The scribes and the chief priests sought to lay hands on him at that very hour, for they perceived that he had told this parable against them, but they feared the people. So they watched him and sent spies, who pretended to be sincere, that they might catch him in something he said, so as to deliver him up to the authority and jurisdiction of the governor. So they asked him, "Teacher, we know that you speak and teach rightly, and show no partiality, but truly teach the way of God. Is it lawful for us to give tribute to Caesar, or not?" But he perceived their craftiness, and said to them, "Show me a denarius. Whose likeness and inscription does it have?" They said, "Caesar's." He said to them, "Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." And they were not able in the presence of the people to catch him in what he said, but marveling at his answer they became silent. (Luke 20:19-26)

Here, we can see that God’s laws are above those of the government. This will play into how or whether we should participate in civil disobedience.

Subject to Governments

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God's wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed. (Rom 13:1-7)

North Korea, Nazi Germany & Communism, as well as Babylon and Assyria?

Evil governments are also a tool of God. We see in the OT that Assyria, Babylon, the Philistines, all were used to bring about punishment on those who did not fear God. These governments were later punished themselves. The matter is is that bad governments rise when people fail to give God glory.

  • Nazi German rose to power in part because the churches in Germany were liberal in theology and sided with Hitler. (A few did not and it cost them)
  • Communism rose to power because the church failed to stand. Note that the first thing communism seeks is glory for itself and not acknowledgement of God.
  • I ask, is God glorified more in the secret house churches of China and North Korea, or by those in the USA that sniff at opportunities to gather and rarely “worship” without counting the cost?

Should we obey Laws of an unjust government? Well we must answer what is unjust. That that is unjust is still God’s portion. Vengeance is His, He will repay. However, we should oppose that which is clearly wrong with the proper means. For example, we should in no way support the holocaust of the times, abortion. But we also should not use means that are contrary to scripture; such as blowing up abortion clinics and shooting doctors.

Further; Bad government reveals our need for God. It shows what we sinners are capable of when not restrained by His glory.

Good government is a test- do we rely upon God or on the economy, or morality, or like mindedness and personal opinion for our peace and well being?

Good or bad is not the issue, the issue is will the people of God glorify God.

Here is the goal

Be oriented to the goal of making His glory known in the government

Take every advantage that God gives you in your local principality, county, state, civic group, school graduation, military, national government, stamp club, neighborhood watch program, and live to the glory of God.

To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him. (Eph 3:8-12)

All levels of Government are tools of opportunity for His glory.

Based upon these scriptures today……

If there is a ruler appointed above you, then seek to know how God is glorified in this. It may be in your enduring hardship and yet rejoicing in the hope of Him.

Make your hope in Him your motivation, not a personal rest. Be the diamond standing out against that black velvet of opposition, reflecting the brightness of His glory.

Live without complaining. But rather make a case for the Gospel. Show how the values of God are better than the laws of the land. That laws of community and government ought to be based upon the ten commandments and the glory of the Creator.

  • If you disagree with welfare systems, don’t just criticize, but illustrate the superiority of the church meeting needs unto the glory of God. Also show how when a person is paid to be lazy it removes form the an illustration of their need for a Savior. They become more self absorbed thinking they deserve special treatment, rather work to see how dependant we are on His goodness.
  • Don’t just call a politician corrupt, but show how the service of self and special interests exalts man and the majority suffers, Show how when God is glorified the nation prospers.

Additional Scriptures

For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities--all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

(Col 1:16-20)

Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. (Tit 3:1-3)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Part IV: A Critique of Evangelism via J C Ryle

Part 4

J C Ryle states…..

(4) The possession of inward joy and assurance is made essential to believing. Yet assurance is certainly not of the essence of saving faith. There may be faith when there is no assurance. To insist on all believers at once "rejoicing," as soon as they believe, is most unsafe. Some, I am quite sure, will rejoice without believing, while others will believe who cannot at once rejoice.

“How do you feel”? It is a question posed over and over to the newly converted. Though well meaning it can have a cancerous effect. To equate the salvation of a person with a feeling is most counter productive. It alludes that our salvation is in proportion to our joy. What about those days when you just don’t “feel like it”? When problems arise and you are angry, agitated, nervous, stressed, or despondent, have you lost your salvation”? The answer of course is no.

I can honestly remember dozens of times that “sales pitch” evangelism has been made only to follow a commitment prayer with “How do you feel”? It has even happened to me. I praise God for 1 John. Lately as I reread this great book I am reminded that with great compassion John writes to remind us of where our assurances lie. They reside within the working of the Holy Spirit abiding within us.

Now do not get me wrong. Emotions are highly important, especially joy. Remember, we were created to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. How can we enjoy someone and glorify them without joy in them?

When Jesus spoke to the woman at the well He made a profound truth known, “God seeks worshippers who will worship Him in spirit and in truth”. The truth is the doctrines, the correct theology, and adherence to the word of God. The spirit is that joy and treasuring, that love for God that glorifies Him above all the entrapments of the world or pleasures of sin. Thus as Ryle states, it is essential to have joy. A worshipper without inward joy is a fake, or at best confused. I often tell our people to wake up every day and realize that their greatest need has been met in Christ upon the cross. With that perspective we ought ot have overcoming joy in our trials, we ought to be worshipping in whatever we do, and unto the glory of God.

As C S Lewis states, “Joy is not complete till expressed”. Thus, to be a worshipper means that joy from within is then poured forth. Out of the heart the mouth speaks. Let the joy of the Lord be the strength to worship, and do so based upon His truths. True worship is an upward spiral. Truth brings joy which brings a deeper understanding of truth that brings more joy. Praise God that we were created to be worshippers in spirit and in truth.

Let us return to the topic of assurance. Ryle notes that assurance is not necessarily saving faith. You can believe something and be wrong. Columbus believed he had made the voyage to India. Doctors once believed that by bleeding patients they would save them. We need to believe and find assurances in Christ. We grow in this by discipleship. And yet, you can truly believe and not have assurance. I think of the father who came to Christ after the disciples could not help his son. He cried to Jesus “I believe, help my unbelief”. We are told that if we have faith like a mustard seed we can be saved. Remember, new Christians are often marked by a lack of knowledge, which is born through experience with Christ.

We all have moments when we lack assurance. These can be most beneficial. That is to say we do need to question our salvation. Are we trusting in ourselves or totally in Christ? We need to look at motives, experiences, and at the moment of commitment were our emotions getting the best of us. Then we need to call again upon Christ. Beg for His presence and saving work. We need to see our need of Him and treasure Him, thus making it certain to “work out our salvation with fear and trembling”. Questioning my salvation at times has served to further reveal my need for Him and to wane my self reliance. This moves us from making salvation a moment in time experience (the get out of Hell Free Card) to a changed life experience.

Truly, we can not ascertain in the experiential moment if someone is truly saved.

The solution is time abiding in Christ. Just like 1 John reveals as well as the parable of the seed and sewer. Those who abide, last, and bear fruit can be then assured of their salvation.