Monday, April 20, 2015

One Nation, Under God...
...the battle over the pledge heats up again

(An encore presentation)

I am pro-disestablishmentarianism (the doctrine or political position that advocates abrogating the establishment of a church by the state as the official state religion). Constitutionally, and biblically, there exists and should exist a divide between the activities of the church and the activities of the state. This dual world of citizenry for believers has produced much consternation and conflagration over the years. Yet, being citizens of earth and citizens of heaven is clear and unambiguous when derived from Scriptures. Here are a few examples:

-we are to honor the authorities over us for they are ministers of God to restrain evil and keep the social order (Roms. 13:1-3; Titus 3:1-2; 1 Peter 2:13-17)

-we are also to pray for those who occupy that authority for no authority exists except that which God has established (1 Tim. 2:1-4; Roms. 13:2)

-we are to pray for the welfare of the city and live peaceably in this world (Jer. 29:4-9; 1 Thess. 4:11)

-we are to honor those authorities established by God for all of society as long as they do not conflict with the authority of God’s Word.

-we may disobey government (civil obedience - Acts 4) when government establishes law that prohibits what God commands (prayer; worship; Bible possession, reading, and preaching; proclaiming the gospel; prayer; etc.) or commands what God prohibits (all families with two or more children that become pregnant must have an abortion; all disabled or elderly people should be denied life support, etc.). Then we are called Scripturally to obey God and deny man. Other than that, we are to live honorably under the governmental authority that God has established irrespective of what kind of government polity exists in that nation we reside.

The Issue
This issue of the pledge of allegiance with these facts presented so far:

-A federal judge declared Wednesday that the reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools with the words “under God” is unconstitutional (the Pledge with the words "under God" was inserted by Congress in 1954).

-The case was brought by the same atheist whose previous battle against the words "under God" was rejected last year by the Supreme Court on procedural grounds.

-U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton ruled that the pledge's reference to one nation "under God" violates school children's right to be "free from a coercive requirement to affirm God." (Where is this in the constitution?)

-Karlton said he was bound by precedent of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of -Appeals, which in 2002 ruled in favor of Sacramento atheist Michael Newdow that the pledge is unconstitutional when recited in public schools.

The Supreme Court dismissed the case last year, saying Newdow lacked standing because he did not have custody of his elementary school daughter he sued on behalf of.

-Newdow, an attorney and a medical doctor, filed an identical case on behalf of three unnamed parents and their children. Karlton said those families have the right to sue. Newdow hopes that will make it more likely the merits of his case will be addressed by the high court. "All it has to do is put the pledge as it was before, and say that we are one nation, indivisible, instead of dividing us on religious basis," Newdow told The Associated Press. "Imagine every morning if the teachers had the children stand up, place their hands over their hearts, and say, 'We are one nation that denies God exists,'" Newdow said.

David Limbaugh rightly has said, “I -- and all Christians I know -- am opposed to a government-mandated religion. The very concept is repugnant to Christianity, which is all about freedom of conscience. There is no such thing as forced conversion to Christianity, as the choice of Christianity is a matter of individual will (not discounting God's sovereignty in the process, by the way).

Thankfully, they did not adopt the enlightenment brand of liberty, equality and fraternity -- which amounts to abstract allegiance to freedom without the underlying moral foundations -- because it doubtlessly would have led us down the perilous French path. History has repeatedly shown that naked freedom, not grounded in morality and untempered by the rule of law, leads to survival of the fittest and the extinction of liberties.”

The Sacred -Secular Dichotomy
There has always been the sacred/secular dichotomy in this world. But what is unusual today, is that now religious opinion, conversation and beliefs are divorced from the issues of government, culture and education. The government cannot constitutionally establish any national religion—that is protected by the First Amendment (Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances). But that doesn’t mean nor mandate that religious speech should be silenced, stifled or abrogated. As with all speech, religious speech is protected by our constitution. That includes “one nation under God” in the pledge of allegiance. It doesn’t establish a national religion; it doesn’t specify any particular faith or denomination that people must worship according to. It simply makes a simple statement of the sovereignty of God over the affairs of men.

Take heart on this y’all, for politically this is a nonissue. It has no possibility of garnering any real political support from the Dem’s/liberals—and my guess is, it won’t even get to the Supreme Court or to the floor of Congress for consideration of repeal.

What shall we do in response to this concern?
1. Pray for this judge and the family who has brought the suit (1 Tim. 2:1-4). God does direct the heart of the king (Prov. 21:1); and in this case, the heart of our judges too.

2. The Lord can use this incident to bring the good news of the gospel of sola fide, sola gratia and solus Christus to the family and this judge. Wouldn’t it be tremendous if the Lord granted saving faith to the very ones challenging the mentioning of His name in the public arena? And tha they became witnesses for the Lord and His truth? He can do it... remember the Apostle Paul (Acts 9).

3. Rest in the knowledge that God is sovereign; and the courts are not.

4. All nations are “under God” – whether they recognize it or not. He controls His creatures, government and creation for His glory, pleasure and purposes alone.

What a time we live in for the church to be the church.

Because He lives,
Col. 1:9-14

The History of our nations' Pledge of Allegiance
The October 12, 1892 Columbus Day celebration of the 400th Anniversary of the discovery of America was planned for years in advance, and anticipated much as modern Americans look forward to and plan for the advent of a new century. The United States had recovered from most of the effects of its Civil War that began 30 years earlier, and people from around the world were flocking to the "Land of Opportunity". The previous year almost a half million immigrants had entered the United States through the Barge Office in Battery Park, New York and on New Years day of 1892 the new Federal Bureau of Receiving's station at Ellis Island had opened.

Two men interested in both education and planned Columbus Day celebrations around our Nation's 44 states were Francis Bellamy and James Upham. To this day it is still unknown which of the two men actually authored the words that were to become the Pledge of Allegiance. It was published anonymously and not copyrighted. James Upham was an employee of the Boston publishing firm that produced "The Youth's Companion" in which it first appeared. Francis Bellamy was an educator who served as chairman of the National committee of educators and civic leaders who were planning the Columbus Day activities. What we do know for certain is that the words first appeared in the September 8, 1892 issue of "The Youth's Companion", and a month later more than 12 million school children recited the words for the first time in schools across the nation. Our Pledge of Allegiance was born, but like anything new, it took many years to "reach maturity", and underwent several changes along the way. That first Pledge of Allegiance read:

I pledge allegiance to my Flag, and to the Republic for which it stands: one Nation indivisible, With Liberty and Justice for all.
October 11, 1892

After the Columbus Day celebration the Pledge to the Flag became a popular daily routine in America's public schools, but gained little attention elsewhere for almost 25 years. Finally, on Flag Day - June 14, 1923, the Pledge received major attention from adults who had gathered for the first National Flag Conference in Washington, D.C. Here their Conference agenda took note of the wording in the Pledge. There was concern that, with the number of immigrants now living in the United States, there might be some confusion when the words "My Flag" were recited. To correct this the pledge was altered to read:

I pledge allegiance to my the Flag of the United States, and to the Republic for which it stands: one Nation indivisible, With Liberty and Justice for all.
June 14, 1923

The following year the wording was changed again to read:

I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands: one Nation indivisible, With Liberty and Justice for all.
June 14, 1924

The Pledge of Allegiance continued to be recited daily by children in schools across America, and gained heightened popularity among adults during the patriotic fervor created by World War II. It still was an "unofficial" pledge until June 22, 1942 when the United States Congress included the Pledge to the Flag in the United States Flag Code (Title 36). This was the first Official sanction given to the words that had been recited each day by children for almost fifty years. One year after receiving this official sanction, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that school children could not be forced to recite the Pledge as part of their daily routine. In 1945 the Pledge to the Flag received its official title as: The Pledge of Allegiance

The last change in the Pledge of Allegiance occurred on June 14 (Flag Day), 1954 when President Dwight D. Eisenhower approved adding the words "under God". As he authorized this change he said:

"In this way we are reaffirming the transcendence of religious faith in America's heritage and future; in this way we shall constantly strengthen those spiritual weapons which forever will be our country's most powerful resource in peace and war."

This was the last change made to the Pledge of Allegiance. The 23 words what had been initially penned for a Columbus Day celebration now comprised a Thirty-one profession of loyalty and devotion to not only a flag, but to a way of life.... the American ideal. Those words now read:

I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands: one Nation under God, indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all.
June 14, 1954

In 1892, 1923, 1924 and 1954 the American people demonstrated enough concern about the actual words in the Pledge to make some necessary changes. Today there may be a tendency among many Americans to recite "by rote" with little thought for the words themselves. Before continuing with our tour, let's examine these 31 words a little more thoroughly.

I Pledge Allegiance
I Promise to be faithful and true (Promise my loyalty)

to the flag
to the emblem that stands for and represents

of the United States
all 50 states, each of them individual, and individually represented on the flag

of America
yet formed into a UNION of one Nation.

and to the Republic
And I also pledge my loyalty to the Government that is itself a Republic, a form of government where the PEOPLE are sovereign,

for which it stands,
this government also being represented by the Flag to which I promise loyalty.

one Nation under God,
These 50 individual states are united as a single Republic under the Divine providence of God, "our most powerful resource" (according to the words of President Eisenhower)

and can not be separated. (This part of the original version of the pledge was written just 50 years after the beginning of the Civil War and demonstrates the unity sought in the years after that divisive period in our history)

with Liberty
The people of this Nation being afforded the freedom to pursue "life, liberty, and happiness",

and Justice
And each person entitled to be treated justly, fairly, and according to proper law and principle,

for All.
And these principles afforded to EVERY AMERICAN, regardless of race, religion, color, creed, or any other criteria. Just as the flag represents 50 individual states that cannot be divided or separated, this Nation represents millions of people who cannot be separated or divided.

Thus it is that when you Pledge Allegiance to the United States Flag, You:
*Promise your loyalty to the Flag itself.
*Promise your loyalty to your own and the other 49 States.
*Promise your loyalty to the Government that unites us all,

Recognizing that we are ONE Nation under God, that we cannot or should not be divided or alone, and understanding the right to Liberty and Justice belongs to ALL of us.

Source for the above information:

"...God has made Him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified."

declaring the good news of the gospel of grace

For we are the circumcision, 
who worship by the Spirit of God 
and glory in Christ Jesus 
and put no confidence in the flesh—
-Phil. 3:3

I was watching a very disturbing live-broadcast last evening on which was featuring what has come to be known as The Florida Healing Outpouring. Some are saying this is genuine revival; others say there is real cause for concern. I am in the later camp on this. In fact, some things surrounding this "outpouring" are not only unbiblical, but grievously bazaar and cultic.

If you are a student of some of the great revivals throughout church history, there are a few common marks to them all:
1. a return to Christ-centered, God glorifying, Sprit filled biblical worship 
2. unrelenting Prayer 
3. Repentance from sin 
4. Recovery of the genuine gospel preached (justification by faith alone) 
5. Evangelism (the harvest of souls being saved) 
6. and, the lasting fruit of holiness and Christlikeness
This Florida Healing Outpouring is strained on most of these things. Is there worship? Yes, but it is far from being biblical. It is more hyped than holy. Is there unrelenting prayer taking place? Yes. But is more about getting something from God, mostly physical healing, than the prayer of contrition. Is there repentance from sin? Yes, but it is tertiary not primary. Is there the preaching of the genuine gospel? I haven't heard it yet though it may have occurred at some point. Is there evangelism taking place? Apparently, but it is difficult to know if this is easy believe Finneyism run a muck or genuine conversion. Time will tell. And lastly, is there holiness and Christlikeness being exhibited? Maybe in part, but certainly not from the platform. It is more of an arrogant, showy, entertaining, cockiness than one of a Christlike humility, brokenness, contrition, and a rejoicing with reverence.

What would mark genuine revival preaching? What would reformation proclamation embody? Here is the greatest sermon I could point to as a source of encouragement to you. We need revival beloved - no question. We need another sovereign move of God among His people in our nation. May we, by God's grace, see this happen in our day! Oh for another Great Awakening - amen?

Here is the greatest sermon I know on revival and reformation:
Acts 2:14 ¶ But Peter, taking his stand with the eleven, raised his voice and declared to them: “Men of Judea and all you who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you and give heed to my words.
Acts 2:15 “For these men are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only the third hour of the day;
Acts 2:16 but this is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel:
Acts 2:17 ‘AND IT SHALL BE IN THE LAST DAYS,’ God says,
And they shall prophesy.
Acts 2:22 ¶ “Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know—
Acts 2:23 this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.
Acts 2:24 “But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power.
Acts 2:25 “For David says of Him,
Acts 2:29 ¶ “Brethren, I may confidently say to you regarding the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day.
Acts 2:30 “And so, because he was a prophet and knew that GOD HAD SWORN TO HIM WITH AN OATH TO SEAT one OF HIS DESCENDANTS ON HIS THRONE,
Acts 2:31 he looked ahead and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that HE WAS NEITHER ABANDONED TO HADES, NOR DID His flesh SUFFER DECAY.
Acts 2:32 “This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses.
Acts 2:33 “Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear.
Acts 2:34 “For it was not David who ascended into heaven, but he himself says:
Acts 2:36 “Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ—this Jesus whom you crucified.”
Acts 2:37 ¶ Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?”
Acts 2:38 Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Acts 2:39 “For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.”
Acts 2:40 And with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation!”
Acts 2:41 So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls.
Acts 2:42 They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
Acts 2:43 ¶ Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles.
Acts 2:44 And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common;
Acts 2:45 and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need.
Acts 2:46 Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart,
Acts 2:47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.

Thursday, April 02, 2015

...on Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand

The Lord is risen... He has risen indeed!

The following article by my dear friend, John MacArthur, is a tremendous reminder of the importance of the resurrection and what it secures for every believer in Christ.

Shockingly, some evangelical leaders today deny that even knowing about the resurrection or affirming it is necessary for salvation. But pastor John powerfully reminds us,

"The real issue is not: can you prove the resurrection? The real issue is: what does the resurrection prove? You take out the resurrection and you have cut out the soul of the Christian faith and you have non-Christianity without the resurrection. All of God's complete redemptive plan depends on this key reality."
John pinpoints several key biblical reasons for the critical importance of this great essential of the faith. This is not only an encouragement to every believer in the Lord, but a passionate invitation to come to Christ for those who do not know Him.

The Apostle Paul expounds this profound and indispensable biblical truth when saying:

"If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men" -1 Cor. 15:13-19.
SJ Camp
2 Cor. 4:5-7

Resurrection, the Key to Everything
-by Dr. John MacArthur-

It's always a wonderful challenge for me when I come to this particular Sunday in the year to know what the Lord would have me say after being here 23 past Easters and sharing so many things about the resurrection of Jesus Christ. As I was meditating and seeking to know the mind of the Lord with regard to this Lord's day, I asked a simple question in the process of my musings and that is the question: what would God the Father desire me to say about the resurrection? Not so much what would the people like to hear, not so much what would gather their attention and hold it, not so much what might be a nuance in regard to Easter that they've not thought about, but what would the Father want me to say? What simple straight-forward direct message could I bring that the Father Himself would want me to say concerning the resurrection of His Son?

Certainly many books and many articles and theses and dissertations have been written through the years on the resurrection. There have been many lectures and speeches and sermons and discussions on the resurrection. Most of it focuses on how to prove the resurrection. In fact, the books that have been written on proving the resurrection would fill a myriad of library shelves. And that's not unusual because often at this time of the year the question comes up: how can we prove the resurrection? If it is so central to Christian faith, how do we prove it? What is it that proves Jesus really rose from the dead?

Well the answer to that question is very simple...the Bible. And now that we've dealt with that question I want to move to another question. I don't want to talk about how we prove the resurrection, the Bible proves the resurrection. It is the Word of God and it says Jesus Christ rose from the dead and that settles it. The issue, frankly, is not what proves the resurrection, the issue is what does the resurrection prove? What does the resurrection prove? And the answer is, basically, the full redemptive plan and purpose of God. In fact, the resurrection is the key to everything.

If you remove the resurrection of Jesus Christ from Christianity, you don't have Christianity. You literally take the heart out of it. We accept that the resurrection happened by faith, faith in the Scripture, faith that is given to us by the Holy Spirit. We have been convinced by the Holy Spirit that the Bible is true and the Bible says Jesus arose from the dead and that settles that issue. And on the pages of Scripture there is ample convincing evidence.

But the question is, what did the resurrection of Jesus Christ mean? What did it verify? What did it accomplish? What did it prove? Well I want us to look at several realities that are proven by the resurrection, several that are made incontrovertible and inarguable by the resurrection. And I think you'll find them very basic to the message of Scripture.

The Resurrection Proves the Truthfulness of the Word of God
First of all, the resurrection proves the truthfulness of the Word of proves the truthfulness of the Word of God. That's really reversing the normal approach. We might say, "Well, the Word of God proves the resurrection." But let's look at it in reverse and see how the resurrection proves the Word of God.

Turn in your Bible to Acts chapter 2. Acts chapter 2 takes us to a great day in the history of the church, it's first day, the day the church was born, the day of Pentecost. The believers had been filled with the power of the Holy Spirit and now Peter stands up to preach a great sermon, the hearing of which caused 3,000 people to be saved and the church was born.

But as he moves in to his sermon he quotes an Old Testament passage starting in verse 25 of Acts 2. He is speaking about Christ and His death in verse 23, speaks of His resurrection in verse 24 when he says, "God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power." So he is saying Jesus arose from the dead, death couldn't hold Him.

And then he goes on to quote from Psalm 16, "For David says of Him, I was always beholding the Lord in my presence for He is at my right hand that I may not be shaken. Therefore my heart was glad and my tongue exalted, moreover my flesh also will abide in hope because Thou wilt not abandon my soul to Hades nor allow Thy holy One to undergo decay. Thou hast made known to me the ways of life. Thou wilt make me full of gladness with Thy presence."

He is quoting David. David was the author of Psalm 16. And David was writing this. Now some might say, "Well David was writing it about himself." But that's not true because David's soul did go in to Hades and David's body did undergo decay and David, the man that he was in a physical body has not returned to the ways of life. So it could not refer to David.

Notice how Peter interprets it then in verse 29, "Brethren, I may confidently say to you regarding the patriarch David that he both died and was buried and his tomb is with us to this day." In other words, Peter is saying, "Now David couldn't be referring to himself, David has been abandoned, as it were, to death. He is still in the abode of the dead. His tomb is still present, still known to the people...they even knew its location...David has not returned to the ways of life. So he could not be referring to David."

Verse 30, "And so because he was a prophet and knew that God had sworn to him with an oath to seat one of his descendants upon his throne, he looked ahead and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ that He was neither abandoned to Hades, nor did His flesh suffer decay."
In other words, he says David was prophesying as a prophet the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It was Jesus Christ whose flesh would abide in hope, whose soul would not be abandoned in Hades and who as the Holy One would never undergo decay. It was Jesus Christ who would be given back the path of life and would come back full of gladness face-to-face into the presence of God. David didn't fulfill that. His tomb is still sealed over there near Siloam. But David was a prophet and David was predicting the resurrection of Messiah.

To sum up Peter's argument, his logic would go like this. Psalm 16 refers to someone being resurrected. It can't be David. Messiah was to come as David's greater son, out of David's loins. The Psalm refers to Messiah...Messiah will therefore be raised from the dead. And then he concludes in verse 32, "This Jesus God raised up again."

The Old Testament then in Psalm 16 predicts the resurrection of the Messiah. If the Messiah doesn't rise. If Jesus Christ doesn't rise from the grave, the Bible is not telling us the truth. But the resurrection of Christ proves that the Bible speaks truth.

What does the resurrection prove then? The truthfulness of the Word of God. Look at Acts chapter 13 and here we find the preacher, not Peter this time but Paul, and Paul in apostolic fashion consistent with Peter is also preaching the resurrection which, of course, was the heart of the Christian faith. And in Acts chapter 13, now I want you to notice verse 30, verse 29, of course, talking about the cross and Jesus being laid in a tomb, and then Paul says as he proclaims Christ to Jews, verse 30, "But God raised Him from the dead and for many days He appeared to those who came up with Him from Galilee to Jerusalem, the very ones who are now His witnesses to the people, and we preach to you the good news of the promise made to the fathers." There it is. We're preaching the resurrection. It is good news. We are witnesses to it. And it is that which was promised to the fathers, the Jewish fathers, the Old Testament saints.

Verse 33, that God has fulfilled this promise to our children in that He raised up Jesus as it is also written in the second Psalm, "Thou art My Son, today I have begotten Thee." And he is saying when the psalmist said that he was predicting that Jesus would be raised from the dead.

Verse 34, and as for the fact that He raised Him up from the dead, no more to return to decay, He has spoken in this way, "I will give you the holy and sure blessings of David." That is a prophecy from Isaiah 55 and verse 3 which promises that the Messiah will not perish but the Messiah will inherit the holy and sure blessings promised to David that is all the Kingdom promise.

And then he says, therefore he also says in another Psalm and goes back to the same Psalm 16 that we saw earlier, "Thou wilt not allow Thy holy One to undergo decay. For David after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation fell asleep and was laid among his fathers and underwent decay. But He whom God raised did not undergo decay." And again you see, here is Paul and based on three Old Testament prophecies he preaches the resurrection of Christ. The Scripture is at stake. If Jesus doesn't rise, Psalm 2 is wrong, Psalm 16 is wrong, Isaiah 55 is wrong, any other Old Testament passage indicating the resurrection of Jesus Christ is wrong, therefore the Bible cannot be trusted. It is not always true. Who then can discern when it is and when it isn't? And man is left with a hopelessly skewed confusing inadequate and inaccurate document in the scriptures. But if Jesus rises from the dead, the prophecies are true, the Word of God is confirmed as speaking truth.

In Acts chapter 26 we read, verse 22, "And so having obtained help from God, I stand to this day testifying both to small and great, stating nothing but what the prophets and Moses said was going to take place." And what did the prophets say and what did Moses say even back in the Pentateuch? "That the Christ was to suffer and that means of His resurrection from the dead He should be the first to proclaim light both to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles." All the way back in the law, all the way back in the prophets as well as the hagiographa, the holy writings, the Psalms, we see it in the law, the prophets and the writings, the Messiah will die and the Messiah will rise. The Scripture is at stake. When Jesus arose then all of these prophecies and many more were fulfilled and the Word of God was proven to be true.

Now I want you to turn to the second chapter of John's gospel, John chapter 2, and verse 19. Here our Lord Jesus is speaking, speaking to the Jews who are asking Him about a sign. Jesus answered and said to them, You want a sign? I'll give you one. "Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up." That is a prophecy, that is Scripture spoken by Christ recorded in the gospel of John. The Jews in their ignorance said, "It took 46 years to build this temple," they think He's talking about the physical temple of Herod, "and You will raise it up in three days? But He was speaking of the temple of His body." Then verse 22, "When therefore He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this and they believed the Scripture and the Word which Jesus had spoken." They knew the Scripture promised a resurrection. They knew Jesus in speaking New Testament scripture promised a resurrection. And when it happened, they believed the Scripture. The resurrection of Jesus Christ should affirm our faith and confidence in the veracity, the inerrancy of Scripture.

What does the resurrection prove? It proves that the Scripture is true. In Luke chapter 24, a familiar scene on the road to Emmaus as two woe-begone and saddened and grieving disciples walk along thinking their Lord has perished for good, not knowing of His resurrection. They are sad, all is lost. And as Jesus comes alongside in verse 25 of Luke 24 He says to them, "O foolish men and slow of heart, to believe in all that the prophets have spoken, was it not necessary for the Christ, the Messiah, to suffer these things and to enter into His glory? And beginning with Moses and with all the prophets He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the scriptures."

The picture of a dead and risen Messiah is all over the Old Testament. Every time there was a sacrifice of a lamb, every time such sacrifices noted in the Scripture, it speaks of a dying Messiah. But every time it talks about Messiah's reigning and ruling and kingdom, it speaks about a living Messiah, therefore it is obvious that the One who dies must come back to life. It is all over the Old Testament. And the Scripture's veracity is at stake in the resurrection.

In 1 Corinthians chapter 15, you remember these wonderful words, "I delivered to you...verse 3...of first importance what I received that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures and that He was buried and that He was raised on the third day according to the scriptures," just as the Old Testament said He would be...just as He Himself said and the New Testament writers said He would be.

The Resurrection Proves the Deity of the Son of God
Secondly, the resurrection not only proves the truthfulness of the Word of God, it proves the deity of the Son of God...the deity of the Son of God. In fact, no greater proof exists for the divine nature of Jesus Christ then He rising from the dead. That is the most monumental thing that He did to verify that He was God, for only God can give life, only God can conquer death.

If you look in to the New Testament you will find a myriad of individuals giving testimony to Christ as God. Some are the most amazing, others we might expect.

For example, demons affirm the deity of Christ. In Mark 5 and 6...chapter 5 verse 6 and 7, I should say...the demons said, "Jesus, Son of the Most High God," even the demons, even the minions of hell, the fallen angels know of His deity, they know He is the Son of the Most High God.

In John chapter 9 you meet a man born blind, a man whom Jesus healed, a man who was sick for the glory of God. And Jesus says to him, "Do you believe in the Son of Man? And he answered and said, Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him? And Jesus said you've seen Him, and He is the one who is talking with you. And he said, Lord, I believe and he worshiped Him." He knew he was dealing with God. The rest of the people said, "We don't know where He's from." And the blind man said, "You mean He's opened my eyes and you don't know where He's from?"

And then there were the disciples who gave testimony. Peter on behalf of all of them said, "Thou art the Christ the Son of the living God." Thomas said, "My Lord and my God." Nathaniel said, "Thou art the Son of God." Matthew said, "He is God with us." Mark said, "He is Jesus Christ, the Son of God." Luke said, "He is the Son of God." The Apostles, the writers of the New Testament, affirm the deity of Christ.

There was John the Baptist, you'll remember, His cousin who said, "I saw and bear record that this is the Son of God." There was Martha the sister of Mary who said, very affirmingly, "I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world," John 11:27. There was the testimony of a Roman soldier at His crucifixion, "Truly this man is the Son of God." And Christ repeatedly made such claims. He said, "If you've seen Me you've seen the Father. I and the Father are one."

You have the testimony of all of these individuals to the deity of Christ. But none of them is as potent as the testimony of one other individual. Look at Romans chapter 1 and verse 4. In verse 1 we are introduced to the phrase, "The gospel of God," Romans 1:1. Verse 2 says, "God promised it through the prophets." Verse 3 says, "It was the gospel of God concerning God's Son." Then verse 4 says, "It was the gospel of God concerning His Son who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead." At His baptism the Father spoke out of heaven and said, "This is My beloved Son, listen to Him." And that was a strong word from God at His baptism. But an even stronger word from God was that God raised Him from the dead and God was in essence saying...This is My beloved Son and He is proven to be My Son in that He has been raised from the dead, now for sure and for every reason listen to Him.

Romans 1:4 is the testimony of God the Father. He is the supreme witness. In Acts 13:30 it says, "God raised Him from the dead." And God did it to give testimony to His deity. In Romans 6:4 it tells us as well that Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father. The Father wanted Him raised from the dead so through His glory or His power, His attributes, His essence, He raised Christ from the dead. Ephesians chapter 1 verse 19 talks about the surpassing greatness of God's power. How great is it? Verse 20, "It is the power with which He brought about the resurrection of Christ from the dead and seated Him at His right hand."

Again, God is the one who raised Christ. And He did it to give testimony to His deity. He is become in His resurrection both Lord and Christ. The resurrection, Peter says in Acts 2:36, shows Him to be Lord and Christ.

So, the resurrection not only proves that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, but it proves that He was God. Romans 4:25 may be the most wonderful, the most powerful verse with regard to the application of His resurrection...makes a third point, and I want you to get this third point. The first point, His resurrection proves the truthfulness of the Word of God. The second point, His resurrection proves the deity of the Son of God.

The Resurrection Proves the Completion of the Salvation of God
Listen to Romans 4, wonderful truth, truth on which we build our lives. "He was delivered up because of our transgressions and was raised because of our justification." In order for God to justify us, in order for God to declare us righteous, He had to raise Jesus from the dead. When it says His name shall be called Jesus for He shall save His people from their sins, that's exactly what God wanted. But in order to accomplish it, He had to raise Christ from the dead. That was indispensable evidence of the completion and efficacious value of His death. It was the Father's way of saying...Your death accomplished its intended purpose. It was God raising Him from the dead to affirm that what He did on the cross satisfied God's holy justice. If He didn't rise, then all He is is Jesus Christ Superstar and His death is the death of an ordinary man and has no saving value. But He did rise from the dead and He was raised by the Father for our justification. He was raised in order that in the sight of God we might be made righteous, in order that in the sight of God we might be without sin, in order that our sin might be dismissed and forgiven.

And when He was raised it was as if God said...I accept the sacrifice...I accept it.

There are so many essential features in our salvation contingent on the resurrection. I can take Romans 4:25 and split it into component parts.

Jesus had to raise from the dead to:
1. To Bestow to Us Eternal Life
Our justification, first of all, includes bestowing eternal life, does it not? Part of being justified before God means that we receive eternal life. Well, the bestowing of eternal life is dependent on the resurrection. As in Adam all died, so in Christ shall be made alive. Because I live you shall live also In other words, it was in the death of Christ and His resurrection that He granted to us eternal life. If He never rose then He showed He couldn't conquer death. If He never rose He wouldn't be alive. If He wasn't alive He couldn't give us life. But He did arise and He said in John 11:25, "I am the resurrection and the life, whoever believes in Me even though he dies shall live again."

So, eternal life is dependent upon the resurrection. That's a component in the completion of God's salvation.

2. To Send the Holy Spirit
Secondly, the sending of the Holy Spirit. If Jesus hadn't risen from the grave He never would have ascended back to the Father. If He hadn't ascended back to the Father, He never would have sent the Holy Spirit. He Himself said that He could not send the Holy Spirit until He had gone back to the Father, John 16:7, "I tell you truth, it is to your advantage that I go away. If I do not go away the Holy Spirit will not come to you. But if I go, I'll send Him to you." And when He comes He'll convict the world of sin and righteousness and judgment. When He comes He'll lead you into all truth. When He comes He'll bring all things into remembrance. When He comes He will place you into the body of Christ. When He comes He will become the guarantee of your eternal life. When He comes He will take up residence in you and you will become His temple. When He comes He will empower you for service. When He comes He will guide you. When He comes He will instruct you in the Word of God. He will be the anointing that teaches you so that you need no human teacher.

The whole full-blown ministry of the Holy Spirit was dependent upon the resurrection of Christ. If He didn't rise He couldn't ascend. If He couldn't ascend, He couldn't send the Spirit. No resurrection--no ascension--no Holy Holy Spirit--no church. When you talk about the resurrection proving the completion of the saving work of God, you're talking about the heart of Christianity. He had to rise to give us eternal life. He had to have the life to give it. He had to rise to go back to the Father to send us the Holy Spirit.

3. To Forgive Our Sins
Thirdly, He had to rise to forgive our sins. If He hadn't risen from the dead then we would know the Father was not pleased with His sacrifice, His sacrifice was not efficacious, it was not successful, it didn't work, it didn't atone for our sins and therefore the Father did not exalt Him and take Him to glory because He didn't do what He was supposed to do. On the other hand, if Jesus was raised from the dead, taken to the right hand of God, seated at the throne of God on His right hand, affirmed by God as having perfectly accomplished our redemption, then there is forgiveness of sins. Then it is accomplished. Then He who came for the expressed purpose of dying to put away death and sin accomplished His purpose. He, it says, was made like His brethren in all things that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God to make propitiation for the sins of His people, that's Hebrews 2. Later on it says in Hebrews that He has perfected forever them that are sanctified by the offering of Himself, that His sacrifice did work, our sins were completely covered and the Father affirmed it in the resurrection.

4. To Intercede For Us
Fourthly, Jesus must rise from the dead in order to be at the right hand of God interceding for us. His resurrection is inseparably linked to His work of intercession as He presents His petitions on behalf of the weak and tempted Christians and intercedes for them before the throne of grace. John says in 1 John 1...1 John 2:1 and 2, we have an advocate with the Father who is always pleading our case. Hebrews chapter 4 and Hebrews chapter 7 says we have a merciful and faithful high priest, in all points tempted like we are yet without sin, and He ever lives to make intercession for us. He is always at the right hand of God. Satan is there accusing us. He is there defending us. He is our lawyer, our advocate, our defender. If He didn't rise from the dead He wouldn't have ascended. If He didn't ascend we have no defender there. We have no one there pleading our case. We don't have the Holy Spirit in us pleading our case with groanings which cannot be uttered because He couldn't go back and send the Spirit and we don't have Him there advocating on our behalf either. The resurrection therefore is necessary not only for forgiveness of sins but for perpetual intercession that we might never be tempted above that we are able and that there always will be a way of escape.

5. To Bestow Spiritual Gifts
Fifthly, the resurrection is crucial to the bestowal of spiritual the bestowal of spiritual gifts. What are those? Those are the divine enabling abilities that the Spirit of God gives to every Christian so that we can serve God. In Ephesians chapter 4 it says that Christ ascended and after He ascended He gave some as apostles and some as prophets and evangelists and pastor/teachers for the equipping of the saints, for the work of service, for the building up of the body of Christ. He went back to heaven and then He began to work through gifted men and spiritual gifts to built His church strong. To each one of us, verse 7 says, was given grace according to the measure of Christ's gift. And He gave us that gift when He ascended on high, when He led captivity a host of captives and gave gifts to men. Jesus, risen from the dead, ascends to heaven, sends back spiritual gifts, gifted men, so that we can serve God. That's all based on His resurrection. If He doesn't rise...arise, He doesn't ascend, He doesn't send gifts, nor the enabling Spirit.

6. To Grant Us Spiritual Power
Sixthly, the resurrection also grants spiritual power, spiritual power. Jesus said in Matthew 28:18, "All power is given unto Me in heaven and earth." Then in Acts 1:8 He says, "When the Spirit comes I'm passing it to you and you now are able to do exceeding, abundantly above all you can ask or think according to the power that works in you." You have the power, Ephesians 1 says, that raised Jesus from the dead working through you. Jesus Christ then sends us power, the enabling power and authority of the Spirit of God.

7. To Give Us A New Position of Blessing
I can give you a seventh component of the salvation of God and that is Jesus Christ in His resurrection has given to us a new position of blessing, a new position of blessing. In Ephesians chapter 1 and verse 3 it says we are blessed with all spiritual blessing in the heavenlies in Christ. Christ is in the heavenlies and because He is there He pours out all spiritual blessing on us. Chapter 2 of Ephesians and verse 7 says, "Forever He will pour out the surpassing riches of His grace in His kindness toward us."

What immense blessing. The salvation of God demanded eternal life, the coming of the Spirit, the forgiveness of sins, ongoing intercession, the bestowing of spiritual gifts, the granting of spiritual power and the outpouring of eternal blessing...and all of that hinges on the resurrection. If Christ doesn't rise, none of it happens...none of it.

The question then is not what proves the resurrection but what does the resurrection prove? It proves that the Word of God is true. It proves that the Son of God is deity. It proves that the salvation of God is complete.

The Resurrection Proves the Establishment of the Church of God
Fourthly, the resurrection proves the establishment of the church of God...the establishment of the church of God. Our Lord said He would build His church. Do you remember these words in Matthew 16? We preached on them a few weeks ago. "I will build My church and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it." What are the gates of Hades? It's a Jewish expression meaning what? Death. I'll build My church and death won't stop it...not your death and not Mine. Jesus was, in effect, saying...I'm going to die but I'm going to rise...death is not going to stop Me from building My church. Ephesians 1:20 says that Christ was raised from the dead, seated at the right hand in heavenly places, far above all rule, all authority, power, dominion, every name that is named not only in this age, in the age to come. And He's put all things into subjection under His feet and gave Him as head over all things to the church which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all. When He rose He took His seat, He became the head of the church. The resurrection is essential to the establishment of the church. If there's no resurrection there's no church. Anybody that says they belong to a church that doesn't believe the resurrection doesn't belong to a church. The true church is the church of those who have been given life through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

John Calvin wrote,
"This is the highest honor of the church that until He is united to us, the Son of God reckons Himself in some measure imperfect. Without consolation it is for us to learn that not until we are in His presence does He possess all His parts or does He wish to be regarded as complete."
In other words, the Messiah Himself is not complete without His body. He is a head without a body, the church is His completion. And that church was born in the resurrection. It was the resurrection that transformed the apostles from scattered, fearful, faithless doubters and cowards into world changing apostles. The little band of disciples maligned and persecuted grew to fill Jerusalem with their teaching and soon turned the world upside down. Jews meeting on Sabbath for centuries and millennia all of a sudden became Christians meeting on Sunday. Sabbath was no more the day, Sunday was because Jesus arose. And the church has marched through time triumphant in the power of its risen Christ.

Another wrote,

"God has always had a people, many a foolish conqueror has made the mistake of thinking that because he has driven the church of Jesus Christ out of sight, he has stilled its voice and snuffed out its life. But God has always had a people. The powerful current of a rushing river is not diminished because it's forced to flow under ground. The purest water is the stream that bursts crystal clear into the sunlight after it has fought its way through solid rock. There have been charlatans who like Simon the magician sought to barter on the open market that power which cannot be bought or sold. But God has always had a people. Men who could not be bought and women who are beyond purchase. God has always had a people. It has been misrepresented, His church, ridiculed, lauded and scorned, these followers of Jesus Christ have been escorted to the edge of the grace, accorded the whims of time, elevated as sacred leaders and martyred as heretics, yet through it all their marches on that powerful army of the meek, God's chosen people who could not be bought, murdered, martyred or stilled. On through the ages they marched, the church, God's church, triumphant, alive and well. And the church lives today despite constant attack and corruption and counterfeiting. It lives because it is sustained by resurrection power."
The resurrection then proves: the truthfulness of the Word of God; the deity of the Son of God; the completion of the salvation of God; the establishment of the church of God.

The Resurrection Proves the Inevitability of the Judgment of God
Fifthly and sadly, the resurrection proves the inevitability of the judgment of God...the inevitability of the judgment of God. When our Lord came into the world the first time, He was mocked and scorned, hated, a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief. He was humbled, He allowed Himself to be treated so terribly, the people said He was hell. They battered Him, they spit on Him, they pushed a crown of thorns into His head, they drove nails through His hands and feet, they rammed a spear into His side, they put Him on display naked as a laughing stock.

But that's not the last scene the world will have of Jesus. He rose from the dead to be their judge. They executed Him as a criminal. He will come back as their judge. Listen to John 8, a very, very powerful, powerful testimony. He says to the Jews who have rejected Him, verse 26, "I have many things to speak and to judge concerning you." This thing isn't over, He said. Back in verse 21 He said, "Because you do not know Me you will die in your sins and where I am going you cannot come." I have more to say to you, He says, and to judge concerning you.

Back in John chapter 5 He speaks specifically about that judgment. In verse 22 He says, "All judgment is given to the Son, God has made Him judge and given to Him all judgment." Verse 21, "Just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so the Son also gives life to whom He wishes and then not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son."

Down in verse 25, "Truly, truly I say to you, an hour is coming and now is when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear shall live for just as the Father has life in Himself, even so He gave to the Son to have life in Himself and He gave Him authority to execute judgment." What kind of judgment? Verse 28, "Some day the tombs are going to hear His voice, they're going to come forth, those who did good deeds to the resurrection of life, those who committed evil ones to a resurrection of judgment. "I can do nothing on my own initiative...verse 30 I hear I judge and My judgment is just." He's coming back as a just judge. He's coming back as judge, jury, sentencer, executioner. And God has testified to that. He was killed as a criminal. He will return as a resurrected judge.

Listen to Acts 10 verse 42, actually start at verse 40, "God raised Him up on the third day after being hanged on a cross...verse 39...God raised Him up on the third day...Acts 10 verse 40...and granted that He should become visible, not to all the people but to witnesses who were chosen before hand by God, that is to us who ate and drank with Him after He rose from the dead." Why did He appear to the apostles? Verse 42, "And He ordered us to preach to the people and solemnly to testify that this is the One who has been appointed by God as judge of the living and the dead." He will come back as a God- appointed judge. In Acts chapter 17 is preaching on the Areopagus known as Mars Hill in Athens and Paul says in verse 30 of that sermon that God has patiently overlooked the times of man's ignorance but He is now declaring to men that they just repent...verse 31 of Acts 17...because He has fixed a day, the day of the Lord, which He will judge the world in righteousness through a man He has appointed. And how did He furnish proof that Christ was the man? By raising Him from the dead, says Paul.

The resurrection then is the act of the Father by which He appoints Christ to be the judge. Now you can see how man sweeping realities in the Christian faith are unlocked to us in the resurrection of Christ. He is raised not only for our justification who believe, but for the damnation of those who do not believe and the Father attested to Him as Savior, as Son and as judge by His resurrection from the dead.

I'm thinking of Romans 14:9 which says, "Christ died and lived again that He might be Lord both of the dead and of the living," and then the next verse says, "We must all stand before the judgment seat of God." He is not only the judge of the unbeliever, He is the judge of the believer. We must all stand before the judgment seat of Christ, Paul says in 2 Corinthians chapter 5, and He will be there to test our works to see if they're wood, hay and stubble or gold, silver and precious stones.

The Resurrection is the Guarantee of Heaven
The Lord Jesus Christ risen from the dead proves the truthfulness of the Word of God, the deity of the Son of God, the completion of the salvation of God, the establishment of the church of God, the inevitability of the judgment of God...and one last point: the eternal bliss of the people of God.

Listen to these wonderful and familiar words, Jesus speaking, John 14, "Let not your heart be troubled, believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father's house are many dwelling places, of it were not so I would have told you for I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, receive you to Myself that where I am there you may be also."

Right there Jesus is predicting His resurrection. He's headed to death but He says, "I'm going right through death into the Father's house to get a place ready for you and I'll be back to get you." If there's no resurrection, there's no place prepared for us. If there's no place prepared for us, there's no heaven for us. Everything depends on the resurrection.

And again I say what I said at the beginning. The real issue is not: Can you prove the resurrection? The real issue is: What does the resurrection prove? You take out the resurrection and you have cut out the soul of the Christian faith and you have non-Christianity without the resurrection. All of God's complete redemptive plan depends on this key reality.

And that brings it right down to us, doesn't it? All of the redemptive plan of God in its fullness, completed in the resurrection of Jesus Christ will either mean to you heaven or it will mean to you hell. He will either be back to take you to the place that He has prepared for you, or He will be back to send you to the place He has prepared for the devil and his angels. He will be back either to gather you into His heaven, or to send you to the hell that is outside of His presence forever. He will be back to pour upon you eternal blessing or eternal punishment. You will arise from the dead some day to the resurrection of life in His presence, to the resurrection of damnation our of His presence. All gospel realities hinge on His resurrection and your eternity is at stake. You can make your choice. It doesn't seem to me to be much of a choice, to choose heaven, forgiveness, blessedness, joy, fulfillment in His presence, or damnation, punishment, hell forever out of His presence. But that's the choice.

This is resurrection day, the day we celebrate the resurrection of Christ and the day we should celebrate your resurrection in Christ. Pray with me.

Our Father, as we bring this service to its conclusion, we're very much aware of the fact that this is not just a message, this is a command...believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved. The gospel is a command. When the Father said, "This is My beloved Son, listen to Him," that was a command. And either we obey it and respond in faith to Christ, give Him our lives, ask Him to save us from our sins and take us to heaven, or we reject it and disobey and are appointed place with the damned and the wicked. Father, I pray that Your Holy Spirit would work in every life, every heart, every mind so that no one can shirk this message, this truth. This is not just something that can be ignored, treated with indifference, eternal destiny turns on the issue of will I commit my life to the One who rose to be my Savior, or will I reject Him and face Him as my judge? Lord, I pray that all across this world today as the resurrection is being preached, heaven will be rejoicing because many will be turned from death to life, darkness to light, hell to heaven, despair to hope, sin to righteousness. Work Your work in every heart and for the glory of Christ we ask. Amen.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

...but as for me, I will never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ

by steve camp

Glory in the cross, our faithful High Priest
Went beyond the veil as our Prince of Peace
Clothed with our sin, its guilt and shame
Our sinless Substitute, Jesus His name

Glory in the cross, the law now fulfilled
Righteousness displayed on Calvary’s Hill
He, Son of Man and God the Son
The Lord and the Lamb, our victory won

Glory in the cross, where grace doth abound
Where the Man of Sorrows wore transgressions crown
Wounded and chastened for our iniquities
Our faithful Redeemer, God the Father pleased

Glory in the cross, marked by sin’s crimson stain
Grace and forgiveness flows from His precious veins
Perfect redemption once for all sacrifice
Salvation made secure by the Lord Jesus Christ

Glory in the cross, Satan’s power of death destroyed
Rendered impotent by The Incarnate Word
He crushed the Serpents head upon Golgotha’s tree
Our great and dreadful Sovereign, Champion is He

Glory in the cross, the elect have been redeemed
O covenant of grace from eternity decreed
Worthy is the Lamb slain from all ages past
Sinners reconciled, true worshippers at last

Glory in the cross, “It is finished”, the Victor, cried
God propitiated, forever satisfied
Once enemies now brethren, estranged but brought near
His judgment assuaged no bondage nor fear

Glory in the cross, God forsaken of God
Smitten and afflicted, bruised with Heaven’s rod
Resurrected triumphant, our Lord, God and King
Grave where is thy vict’ry, O death where is thy sting?

Saturday, February 07, 2015

...the great slave preacher

February is traditionally known as black history month. While some in our society unfortunately use it to play what has commonly become known as "the race card", as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, we can 'redeem' it by honoring one of the Lord's servants.

By God's grace, all who are Christ's were granted saving faith to salvation being reconciled to God through the once for all atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. And for that reason, He has also given us "the ministry of reconciliation" (proclaiming His gospel; urging all men everywhere to repent and follow Christ - 2 Cor. 5:17ff). Therefore, the powerful reality for the Christian, is that racism should not exist in the body of Christ. Why? God has chosen before the foundation of this world and marked out for Himself a people from every tribe, tongue, and nation. In the church beloved, "there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian nor Scythian, slave nor free; but Christ is all, and in all." (Colossians 3:11). Amen? i would like to introduce you to the life and ministry of John Jasper (1812 – 1901).

"If you is, what you was, then you ain’t."
-John Jasper, on genuine salvation must bear the fruit of a changed life.

"I have finished my work. I am waiting at the river, looking across for further orders." -John Jasper's last words.

John Jasper was born on July 4th in 1812. He was an African-American preacher, philosopher, and orator. He grew up in Fluvanna County, Virginia, the youngest of 24 children. He became a Christian on the July 4th 1839 in Capital Square of Richmond, Virginia. Tina, Jaspers mother - a godly woman, prayed that God would make her son a preacher as his father had been. For many years it seemed those prayers would not be answered. John had no interest in spiritual things. He had fallen in love with a girl from a neighboring plantation and been given permission to marry her. But on the day of their wedding, a slave uprising caused their masters to separate them, and John never saw her again. In bitterness he descended into evil living.

John was rebellious and constantly in trouble with his owners. It was while he was at work in a tobacco warehouse in 1839 that Jasper, stricken with "God's arrow of conviction," prayed and asked God to save him. Thirty days after his baptism in 1840, he was licensed to preach by the Old African Baptist Church, and he didn't stop for more than sixty years!
"My sins was piled on me like mountains; my feet was sinking down to the regions of despair, and I felt that of all sinners I was the worst. I thought that I would die right then, and with what I supposed was my last breath I flung up to heaven a cry for mercy..."
He was baptized in 1849 and on the same day, he preached a funeral, which immediately brought him fame. He taught himself to read and write, and although he delivered his sermons in the dialect of the southern slave, more educated ministers said that Jasper's vivid and dramatic sermons transcended "mere grammar."

One of the great Slave preachers, Jasper became a noted funeral preacher long before the Civil War. Noted for his fervid zeal, gifted imagery, and colorful oratory, as a speaker Jasper was much in demand. He preached in many sections of Virginia and adjoining states. During his August vacation, he conducted famous all-day camp meetings in the country. Sunday after Sunday he could be seen leading his flock to be baptized in the James River. He was known to have baptized as many as 300 people in four hours. He reached the height of his aspiration in 1867 when he organized the Sixth Mount Zion Baptist Church. He gained national distinction in 1878 when he first preached his famed "DE SUN DO MOVE" sermon, which he later delivered by invitation more than 250 times, and once before the entire Virginia General Assembly. This sermon was his effort to prove through biblical references that the sun revolves around the earth. Black men were not allowed to preach in regular churches in those days unless supervised by white ministers. But Jasper's pointed and powerful messages soon drew a growing crowd, black and white, to hear him preach.

The Third Baptist Church in Petersburg, Virginia asked Jasper to preach twice a month, and other churches noticed a decline in their attendance on those Sundays. During the closing days of the Civil War, Jasper was asked to preach to the Confederate soldiers in the hospitals around Richmond. When the war ended, Jasper continued to preach.

Life never proceeded smoothly for Jasper. In addition to the problems inherent in being a black man in the post-war South, he endured jealous colleagues, failed marriages, and worldwide ridicule of his religious beliefs. But, he persisted. More than that, he triumphed. His congregation had swelled into the thousands, more than one third of whom were white.

In March of 1901, John Jasper preached to his congregation for the last time on the subject, "Ye Must Be Born Again." He urged his people to prepare for death, which he knew was coming soon for him. At his funeral, Dr. Hatcher said, "Every motion of his was made to exalt the Lord of his life." At his funeral, Reverend Hatcher delivered the eulogy, calling him "a prince of his tribe." Jasper is buried at Woodland Cemetery in Richmond, which also is the final resting place of tennis great Arthur Ashe.

In 1867 he founded the Sixth Mount Zion Baptist Church in Richmond. The church began with nine members. Fifteen years later there were more than 1,000 members, and at his death they numbered nearly 2,000. Sixth Mount Zion, the church he founded in 1867, is thriving today.

Source: here; here; and here.

Friday, January 23, 2015

...being salt and light in a pagan society

Let us press on then, beloved, to see how the Lord gave Paul clear instruction for young Titus facing a difficult culture and society on the island of Crete. The Apostle Paul answers the Evangelical Co-Belligerent dilemma completely in Titus 3:1-8. Four key things he instructs Christians learning to live in a pagan society: 1. recognize your duty; 2. remember your depravity; 3. rejoice in your deliverance; and 4. render good deeds.

1. Recognize Your Duty
Paul says in Titus 3:1-2, Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed, 2to malign no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men.

Notice here that the Apostle is calling for believers on this very troubled and immoral island of Crete to honor those in authority over them. Listen to how he describes their culture: “who must be silenced because they are upsetting whole families, teaching things they should not teach for the sake of sordid gain. 12One of themselves, a prophet of their own, said, "Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons." This testimony is true. For this reason reprove them severely so that they may be sound in the faith, 14not paying attention to Jewish myths and commandments of men who turn away from the truth. 15To the pure, all things are pure; but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their mind and their conscience are defiled. 16They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed” (Titus 1:11-16).

Their culture was full of false teachers propagating philosophies for money—destroying families; they were liars, evil beasts (in other words, slaves of depraved instincts) and lazy gluttons. They turned aside from the truth of God’s Word to myths and the commandments of men; their minds and conscience were defiled (tested, tried and found useless); they deny the Lord by their evil deeds; are detestable and disobedient—worthless of any good work. Even a form of “terrorism” was present; pagan gods abounded; evil was rampant in the streets; and sexual immorality was unbridled. This was a very corrupt and morally destitute place.

What does Paul offer as a solution to Crete’s unrestrained lasciviousness? Picket them? Boycott them? Try to bring a surface cultural spiritual morality through the political powers that be? No. He encourages Titus to do the unthinkable: evangelize! Bring them the transforming power of the gospel (Titus 2:11-13); call them back to sound doctrine refuting those who contradict (Titus 1:9); and live the transformed life in the marketplace of paganism (Titus 3:1-8). No political legislation could turn back the tide of moral decay; no governmental body would change the human heart and make it pure; no co-belligerent rally around even the most noble of social causes could add one drop of righteousness to please God and regenerate sinful mankind to new life—to moral rightness. Paul would never stoop to such trivial means as these in the struggle for the soul. He only took the spiritual weapons of prayer, the Word, the gospel, and the testimony of righteousness lived out by genuine believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. In short, only through life conversion through Christ Jesus the Lord can there be any real morality whether you reside on Crete, in Corinth, under Nero, in Washington D.C., in Wheaton, in Nashville or even in Colorado Springs. The new life in Christ evidenced by a new way of living is the “salt and light” that impacts our communities and brings glory to God (Matthew 5:13-20).

the Biblical imperative
Paul desires Titus, “[his] true child in the common faith”, to “speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1); “in all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds, with purity in doctrine, dignified, sound in speech which is beyond reproach, so that the opponent will be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us” (Titus 2:7-8); to be dedicated to “the knowledge of the truth which is according to godliness” (Titus 1:1b); and that he “would set in order what remains and appoint elders in every city as I directed you” (Titus 1:5).

And how does this transformed life manifest itself? Paul begins precisely at the crossroads of where church and culture find themselves today—in the arena of government—living under God’s appointed authority (Romans 13:1-2).

The Apostle Paul begins by saying, be subject to rulers, to authorities. He is speaking here of magistrates; governments and its leadership. He is encouraging submission to the governing authorities as a sign of their salvation (Titus 2:11-13). They were in danger of forgetting their duty, though knowing it. They were prone to disregard what is a basic principle in Christianity—submission. And here the Apostle says to be submissive to the powers that be—and even if those authorities are ungodly (cp, 1 Peter 2:11-17). Cretans were marked by what Diodorus Siculus calls a “riotous insubordination”—not a comfortable or easy place to live for the Lord. The Christian was not to be identified as being insubordinate to those whom God had sovereignly placed in society to restrain evil and keep societal order—but to be known for being submissive.

The fruit of that submissive will manifested itself by being obedient, ready for every good deed, to malign no one, to peaceable, gentle and showing consideration to all men. He is describing the fruit of real regeneration in how they are to live their lives in a culture that is adverse to the gospel and to Christ. All of these qualities are in direct response to the political authorities over them. Be obedient to them—that is, in all that is not contrary to the Word of God; ready for every good deed, willingly, in response to the magistrates, the governing laws and all that is good—beneficial in society; to malign no one – not speaking evil of others, especially of those in authority over you is prohibited. Peaceable, not a brawler, quarrelsome, not attacking others or being contentious; but in stark contrast be peaceable (not being a political agitator, (cp, 1 Peter 4:15). Showing consideration to all men, in acts, if at all possible, the opposite of passionate severity—demonstrating meekness (having a small opinion of self and a high esteem of God); and this to all people as a witness of the gospel of grace. There is no “selective consideration” in Christianity; it applies to all people equally (cp, Matthew 5:40-48).

One of the ways that submissiveness manifested itself was through being gentle. The word gentle here is very powerful. At face value, people may construe this to mean a soft, introverted, quiet, shy demeanor that is sheepishly easy going. However, that is not the case. Instead, it has a profound meaning, that by God’s grace, should characterize every believer in the Lord. It means: to submit to maltreatment, hardship, persecution; knowing that God is sovereignly in control of your situation; doing acts of kindness to your accusers; free from revenge, malice and retribution. It carries with it the idea of the complete personality of the individual brought into submission to Christ so that you are not demanding your own rights out of desire to get even through retaliation, but to stay in the provocation until the breach is mended. Wow! I don’t know about you, but I surely haven’t even begun to arrive at that quality in my life. No wonder the Apostle Paul says in 2 Cor. 10:1, “…I am mindful of the meekness and gentleness of Christ…” This is my daily prayer for my life—Lord make me a “gentle” man. And this can only be accomplished by God’s grace (cp, Titus 2:12). Living this way in society will make impact for the gospel and the cause of the Lord. Not co-belligerence—but Christlikeness!

2. Remember Your Depravity
What is the motivating factor to surrender your rights, trust in God’s sovereignty purposes and plans, living free from revenge and being able to submit to ungodly governmental authority? Because we were once foolish ourselves.

When unsaved people mistreat or take advantage of us; or are engaged in all kinds of acts of lasciviousness, that should not drive us to disdain or criticize them, but to show empathy for them. Why? Because “we were once foolish ourselves.” Listen to how Paul describes any believer in the Lord before coming to salvation in Christ: we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another.

We cannot minimize this beloved. This was you and I before we met the Lord. This is our testimony. We were foolish (thoughtless, wicked, living without God), disobedient (to law, to parents, to civil authority, to God), deceived (by the enemy Satan, by false teachers, by our own hearts, by the flattery of others), lustful (indulging corrupt passions and propensities—slaves to…), malicious (in evil intent), envious (displeasure of the prosperity or happiness of others), hateful and hating (our conduct was worthy of the hatred of others; with no real brotherly love or true affection of others).

This is a hopeless condition that all have; worthy only of inheriting hell itself for all eternity (Romans 3:10-18; Ephesians 2:1-3). The Apostle Paul also described the sinfulness of sinful mankind in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 as made up of fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, effeminate, homosexuals, thieves, covetous, drunkards, revilers and swindlers. In Galatians chapter 5 he describes human fallenness as engaging itself in immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing and things like that. And to the Ephesians he gives this description, they are futile in their minds, darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God, ignorant, hard of heart, callous, sensual, practicing every kind of impurity with greediness.

And in Ephesians 2:1-3 Paul sums up the depraved life we are all conceived into (Psalm 51:5) by saying, “they walk according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit now working in the sons of disobedience. They are driven by the lusts of their flesh, the desires of the flesh and of the mind and are by nature the children of wrath.” That is a description of man before he is rescued, before he is saved. I was born in a wonderful Christian family and raised in a very religious town—Wheaton, Il. But even with that evangelical pedigree, I had known a more hellish iniquity than any prostitute that ever walked the evening boulevards; I had a worse sin issue than any heroine addict ever dreamed of having; and I was more trapped in sin than any alcoholic could imagine. What was my transgression against the Lord? I was full of self-righteous religious pride! It’s the worse of all sins, isn’t it? It’s the cocaine of the church; we sell, snort it, and call it “normal” Christianity. It took a profound work of God’s grace to save this wretched man; religion numbed my sin sick soul to the wrathful condition I was truly in. Don’t minimize this. There are millions of people in churches all over America in the same state I was—they are what Matthew Mead calls, “the almost Christian.” They come to church, but have never come to Christ. They love religious things, but have not taken up their cross, denied themselves and followed the Lord. They give Sunday to God, but Monday through Saturday is “their” time. Almost Christians…

Paul completely shatters the notion that good works are sufficient enough to produce salvation for anyone. In order for us to be saved we had to be regenerated, invaded by the grace of our Lord, granted saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. No Pope could redeem us; no prayer to Mary could help us; no purgatory could cleanse us; no Treasury of Merit could make us righteous; no mass could propitiate our sin; no saint could pray for us or us to them; no priest could absolve us of our sins (mortal or venial). We were hardened in the clay of our rebellion against a holy God. We were enslaved with various lusts, terribly lost. This is how the Lord found you; this is how He found me.

Therefore, shouldn’t this produce empathy in our lives for those that don’t know Christ? We shouldn’t display attitudes towards unsaved people which are full of self-righteous religious pride; spiritual arrogance; or a Pharisaic condescending manner of “I am glad I am not like that sinner…” This is sadly, though maybe unwitting, the attitude that pervades much of ECBers and especially the tone of FOTF’s attitude toward those they challenge in the marketplace—homosexuals, politicians, abortionists, etc. We should rightly ask the sobering question of FOTF, “How would you all be living if you didn’t know the Lord?” The Apostle Paul gives us sobering words about the unregenerate: “For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness” (Romans 6:20). Did you hear that? Unsaved people are free in regards to righteousness before coming to Christ. We should not be accusing an unbelieving world for acting like an unbelieving world; but we should be concerned when Christians are living like an unbelieving world when claiming to know Christ (1 Corinthians 5). That is why church discipline is invaluable for dealing with unrepentant sin and guarding the purity of the church (Matthew 18:15-20; Galatians 6:1-3).

If we have tasted and drank deeply of His grace (1 Peter 2:3) isn’t the natural inclination of our hearts to share that good news with another so that they can be free from their sins and know the sure forgiveness of a living God for eternity rather then condemn them for being faithful to their depravity?

3. Rejoice in Your Deliverance
This is praise and worship to the Lord for the great salvation He has wrought for us. Paul says here, “But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, 5He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, 6whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

This is one of the richest passages of our great salvation we have in Christ Jesus our Lord found anywhere in all of Scripture. Notice the banner of our salvation surmised in three key words: He saved us… This again is cause for great humility. We couldn’t save ourselves not [even] on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness. Our best works, our best religious works are filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6) sufficient only to damn us to hell, but save us? Never! This is the nail in the coffin of Romanism—of any good works/human achievement system of obtaining favor with God. All our good works, even religious ones, are nothing but rubbish, human excrement compared to knowing Christ Jesus as Lord of our lives by grace through faith alone (cp, Phil. 3:1-8). We were only saved according to His mercy (not our works); by the washing and renewing of the Holy Spirit (not by our merits plus grace or our works plus faith); through Jesus Christ our Savior (not through a surrogate Christ in the Roman Church; or Mary; or Papal infallibility); justified by His grace (not through infused righteousness of works, but through the imputed righteousness of Christ alone) made heirs according to the hope of eternal life (not through the suffering in purgatory to be purged of our sins and then maybe one day will be made good enough to enter glory). We have hope beloved, eternal hope, in the Lord alone!

4. Render Good Deeds
What is the Christian’s responsibility in a pagan society? How are we to live? What does the Lord require of His people? Paul doesn’t say, “Organize, boycott, picket and petition against sinful, immoral, cultural moorings. Make sure you politically align yourselves with the right conservative constituency so that you can create a good and pure social goodness for your fellow man to ward off the wayward indulgences of a liberal society.” Nonsense! Here is what the Apostle calls, a “trustworthy statement”: This is a trustworthy statement; and concerning these things I want you to speak confidently, so that those who have believed God will be careful to engage in good deeds. These things are good and profitable for men. The trustworthy statement is what has been stated in verses 4-7—the great doctrine concerning our salvation. Paul is saying that it is the highest of importance; entirely worthy of belief; and is God’s gratuitous gift to us. This is what the Holy Spirit places as a priority to what should occupy our speech; our emphasis in message is the gospel of Christ. Concerning these things I want you to speak confidently… This is what the gospel produces and what we are to declare with confidence—that it leads people to holy living. No wonder he commands us all to be careful to engage in good deeds. Good deeds is all that is holy, true, honest, upright and good—the fruit of regeneration in our sanctification. We are to render works concomitant with our salvation. This is good and profitable for men. Is there anything sweeter, more joyous or hopeful to the ears of sinful man than forgiveness and peace before a holy righteous God is possible through our Lord Jesus Christ?

Jesus Is the Answer
This is how we are to live in a pagan society. Not in prideful arrogance, battling the powers that be to insure our religious rights or produce the veneer of morality absent of Christ; but in submissiveness to all authorities for they are ministers of God. We are not to live in prideful self-righteousness forgetting the depth of depravity we have been saved from. The world does not need to hear our scorn over their immorality or wayward living. They need to hear the good news of the gospel of grace; they need to hear of Christ and Him crucified; they need to hear of repentance from sin and eternal life through faith in Christ alone. And lastly, as we rejoice in our deliverance from sin, we should always remember that it was He who saved us and not we ourselves. Again, this should give us a burden to call others to salvation—not to a political civil cultural form of Pharisaic righteous morality.

Political reform, Evangelical Co-Belligerence, moral rightness, culture of life is nothing but the crumbs off the “rich man’s c0-belligerent” table to the hurting Lazarus’s of this world. They can offer no hope, no peace, no promise of life, no genuine morality, no impact on society. It is the message of pubescent believers who are either ashamed of the gospel; who’ve lost their confidence in the gospel; or have an integrated view of “culture plus Christ” that is unbiblical at its core values.

The secret longing of all God’s creatures is how to have peace with God; and the great work of the church is to bring that “good news” of the gospel to all, urging all men everywhere to repent from their sin and turn to Christ to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. God is sovereign over all earthly governments beloved. May we each dedicate ourselves afresh to do the work of the gospel and in doing so you will love our neighbor as our Lord Jesus Christ has intended.

As the Day draws near,
2 Cor. 4:5-7