“Lordship Salvation” pt 2

Spurgeon in his highly recommendable book “All of Grace” tells the story of a young pastor going to visit a very poor widow to give her a gift of money. He knocked at her door and there was no answer. Seeing her in church the next Sunday, the pastor told her he had come to give her the gift, but she wasn’t home. Realizing when he had come, she answered, “No. Actually I was there. But I thought you were the landlord coming to collect rent, and I had no money, so I hid.” When we preach “Turn from your sins and be saved,” honest hearts who would be saved if they heard the true gospel say to themselves, “I cannot turn from my sins. I am bogged down in sins. God is apparently requiring of me a debt I cannot pay.” And so they turn off the preacher’s voice and continue in sin and shame. Spurgeon rightly then tells the listener that yes, you have sinned, and God has come not to make you pay for it, but to announce to you His free gift that your debt has already been paid.

This by the way, was a paraphrase of Spurgeon, not a quote. I don’t have the book in front of me at the moment. But it’s just 99 cents if you have a kindle, and you will be very glad you read it.

The True Meaning of Christmas

My annual Christmas devotional greeting video looks at what Christmas is really all about (not about charity, love, and kindness, but something that results in those things), and about how to truly have a Merry Christmas.
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What is Your Passion in Life? Do you serve a worthy master?

What is your passion in life? A passion for many things enslaves us to unworthy masters. A passion for Christ sets us free from being controlled by lesser things, and lets us become servants of a Master who earned that place in our lives, buying it at an infinite price. What’s more, He makes His servants shareholders in the glory that is coming to Him for all that He produces through our labor for Him.

What is taking God’s Name in vain?

Today’s Rightly Dividing the Word:
Most of the 10 commandments didn’t come from God with an explicit threat of punishment attached to them. But this one does: “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.” (Exodus 20:7) If someone is wise, he will seek to be in obedience to the commandment. But to do that, we need to make sure we understand it. Just what is taking God’s name in vain? Well, one example is the obvious–shouting “Lordy, lordy” or “Oh my God!” in an irreverent manner when you are neither calling on Him nor praising Him would be taking His Name in vain. (And abbreviating it for texting as omg is the same, of course.) But taking His Name in vain isn’t limited to using the names of God the Father and Jesus Christ His Son as expletive curses when one is surprised or alarmed. It includes any abuse or misuse of the name of the Lord. A false profession of being a follower of Christ or a lover of God is taking His Name in vain. A false claim that “God told me to….” or “The Lord gave me peace with my decision to…” do something that His word forbids is taking His Name in vain. A TV preacher claiming “God will bless you for sending me money” is taking His Name in vain, abusing the name of the Creator for personal financial gain. Advising people of unbiblical claims like, “The Lord helps those who help themselves” or “God won’t give you any more than you can handle” is an abuse of His Name by attributing to Him traits that aren’t true of Him. Saying “I swear to God this is true…” as if His Name was your property to call upon to bolster your arguments is a misuse of His Name as well. It would also be taking His Name in vain to equate Him with false gods, by saying things like “The muslims’ Allah and God are the same one.”
The Name of the Lord is to be praised, honored, revered, and taken seriously at all times and in all circumstances. It is a Name never worthy of abuse, misuse, or misappropriation. So be careful how you use it.

Palm Sunday Video Greeting

My video below, filmed this week for Dallas Sunday at Five and for American churches supporting our ministry, is a brief Palm Sunday devotional and ministry update on what we’re doing as a church in Cluj this holiday week.

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Preaching the gospel, use words “when necessary”?

Today’s “Rightly dividing the Word” – A popular (for some reason) yet entirely misguided quote that circulates in Christian circles tells us to “preach the gospel everywhere you go” and “when necessary, use words.”
Just when it could be unnecessary to use words to proclaim the good news the quote fails to tell us, though. The gospel is the message that Christ died for our sins and rose again, so that all who put their trust in Him alone can be saved. As Christians who proclaim this truth, we should seek to live in such a way that our actions dress that message in an attractive outfit whenever possible, but we could never be so holy in our actions that it would excuse us of our responsibility to proclaim the gospel with words. We can give to the poor, but they cannot be saved by our generosity, so our giving cannot be called preaching the gospel. We can be kind, patient, loving, smiling, forgiving people; but no one under any circumstances could be saved by watching our actions. An answer explaining the reason for our hope will always have to accompany our actions if we will preach the gospel. With the gospel, it is show AND tell. So, as one pastor rightly put it, one could no more preach the gospel without words than he could give you his phone number without digits.
The Bible does not tell us that faith can come by seeing our good behavior, but only by hearing the word of God. God’s word asks how can anyone believe without hearing the word? The answer—they can’t. “How shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?”
While righteous acts are necessary, please don’t comfort yourself if you remain silent about Christ and the need of others around you to be saved by telling yourself, “I’m preaching the gospel by my actions, and if they want what I’ve got, they will approach me.” It is show AND tell, not one or the other.
So let’s start passing around a new quote: “To preach the gospel everywhere, remember that it is always, every time, without exception, necessary that you open your mouth and use words.” And then, more importantly, a quote from the Bible: “Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel.”

Will the devil leave you alone if you stop serving Christ?

Today’s “Rightly dividing the Word” — Sometimes I have heard teachings like this– “If you are serving the Lord, it is like putting a target on your back, calling you to Satan’s attention, and making you someone he wants to attack; so watch out!” Or, I’ve heard some say, “The devil doesn’t waste his energy bothering someone who isn’t a threat to him.”
Might sound logical to us at first, like so much of what passes for theological talk in a bumper-sticker-slogans-on-the-church-sign age. But it leads people facing struggles in serving the Lord to believe that if they stop serving Christ in a public way, then maybe the devil will leave them alone, and their lives will get easier and more peaceful, if not more fruitful.
But does the word of God say, “Resist God’s calling. Submit to the devil’s desire that you waste your life, and he will leave you alone?” Of course not. In fact, the true biblical formula for getting Satan off your back is exactly the opposite: “Submit yourselves therefore to God,” James says. “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.” –James 4:7-8a
Keep serving the Lord and obeying Him, even when times are tough, and even when the devil is opposing you. When Satan opposes you, oppose him back by obeying the Lord. Then yours, not Satan’s, will be the victory in the end.

You can’t be a “luke warm” individual

Today’s “rightly dividing the Word” — “Luke warm” is NOT a biblical term to describe a Christian individual who isn’t on fire for God. It’s a term for describing a Christless apostate church with Jesus stuck on the outside–knocking, hoping an individual within will hear Him, open the door, and have one-on-one fellowship with Him, despite the church as a whole being lost.

The term comes from Christ’s words in Revelation 3:
14 “And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation.
15 “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. 17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. 19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. 20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.

God of the Nations – Sunday @5 video devotional/greeting

This week the Dallas “Sunday at Five” monthly worship gathering celebrates its first anniversary. This video devotional, which was filmed Wednesday and aired at the event Feb. 27th, looks at the God of the Nations, and how He created the peoples of the world, so that all might find and worship Him.

Our daughter Briana makes a few cameo appearances in the background, as she played in the snow while we filmed it.

What’s new in the new year?

For most people, despite all the celebration of a year ending and another beginning, the turning of the calendar doesn’t really bring anything new. After the champagne buzz fades, they find themselves still facing the same problems, struggles, and difficulties they did last week. Even if they’ve resolved to change for the better (I’ll stop smoking, stop yelling at the kids, eat better, and exercise more), they soon find that nothing in them has changed. And if left to themselves and dependent on their own willpower and best effort, nothing ever will. The desire for a fresh, new start, and the peace and relief it should bring is universal in the human experience—that’s why there was such boisterous celebration around the world Friday night. But almost as universal is the letdown of realizing that peace and newness eluded you for yet another holiday season.
Is there anything that can give us the fresh start and deliverance from past aches, mistakes, and broken hearts that we all seek? Is there anything that can truly change us from the inside out, while also improving the circumstances of our life and surroundings?
There is one and only one. And thankfully, it is not dependent on the time of the year. Coming into a right relationship with God is something He offers to you every day, every moment, including now. You may have heard that being saved or born again will let you go to heaven instead of hell. That’s true, but that isn’t all of the benefit you’ll get from trusting Christ as your Savior. When you become a follower of Christ, you immediately receive a right relationship with the God who made you. All of your sins are erased forever. And the complete healing of every pain the sins of others have caused you begins. A new life of blessing begins. Your prayers will from then on be heard, so that you’re not just talking to a God who doesn’t really seem to be there. And He begins to guide your life, so that everything in the here and now goes better than it did before. Trials and tragedies decrease; and when they do come, you have a strength within you from God’s presence there that helps you endure and thrive in spite of the hardships that previously would have destroyed you. See for yourself—He makes all things new. And your celebration won’t just last for an evening, but for an eternity.
Christ died for your sins, and rose from the dead. That means the debt you owe God for your rebellion against Him has already been paid. And trusting in Him now, you can receive complete forgiveness and newness of life that will never be taken away. The all-powerful Creator and Controller of the universe will be your father, your friend, your provider, your guide, your protector, and your helper, from now on and forever.
Happy New Year? Not merely that. Happy New Always!