24 September 2010

Offending God

Matthew 16:23 But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.

One of the great challenges in witnessing is convincing “good” people that their lives are offensive to God. And it’s not unusual for them to be offended by our attempts to do so. But the Bible says, Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound (Romans 5:20).

Now I don’t know about you, but when I think of offending God, that’s what I think of. Either good lost people who think they don’t need Him (the sinner) or bad lost people who live in open defiance of His holiness (the ungodly).

But as I learned by reading Matthew 16:23, lost people aren’t the only ways who need to be made aware that they are offending God. Yes, drinking is offensive to God. Yes, cursing is offensive to God. Yes, blasphemy is offensive to God. Yes, immorality is offensive to God. Yes, religious pride and self-righteousness is offensive to God.

But according to Matthew 16:23, do you know what else is offensive to God? When a saved person has no appetite for the things of God. When a saved person has no hunger and thirst for righteousness. When a saved person is excited about carnal things and not spiritual things. When a saved person is invested in temporal things and not eternal things.

Our general lack of spiritual interest, the Bible says, is an offence to our Lord and Savior. God help us to please Him (Revelation 4:11), not offend Him. God help us to worship Him (John 4:23-24), not offend Him. God help us to glorify Him (1 Corinthians 10:31), not offend Him. Amen.

Click here for a sermon by the same title.

22 September 2010

The Just Man

Ecclesiastes 7:20 For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not.

I quote this verse often in my witness and my public preaching. But notice how removing the last half of the verse would render the first half untrue. The statement, “For there is not a just man upon the earth” doesn’t hold up without the further description “that doeth good, and sinneth not.”

The Bible says he that ruleth over men must be just (2 Samuel 23:3).

The Bible says that a bishop must be just (Titus 1:8).

The book of Proverbs lists 21 descriptions of the just man (Proverbs 3:3; 4:18; 9:9; 10:6; 10:7; 10:20; 10:31; 11:1; 11:9; 12:13; 12:21; 13:22; 16:11; 17:15; 17:26; 18:17; 20:7; 21:15; 24:16; 29:10; 29:27).

Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations (Genesis 6:9).

Joseph, the husband of Mary, was said to be a just man (Matthew 1:19).

Simeon, who saw the Lord’s Christ that day at the temple, was a just man (Luke 2:25).

Herod knew that John the Baptist was a just man (Mark 6:20).

The Holy Spirit called Joseph of Arimathaea a good man and a just (Luke 23:50).

Cornelius was called a just man (Acts 10:22).

Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked, was judicially a just man (2 Peter 2:7).

All these men were just. But not a one of them always did good and never sinned. The people we witness to might be just, in a sense, but all have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).

There’s only one man that ever defied the truth of Ecclesiastes 7:20. And that’s because He was God, manifest in the flesh. Praise the Lord, Jesus Christ offered himself, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God (1 Peter 3:18; Isaiah 45:21; Zechariah 9:9; Matthew 27:19, 24; Acts 3:14; Acts 7:52; Acts 22:14). And if we confess our sins – to Him – He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

20 September 2010

Caleb's Humility

Joshua 14:11-13 As yet I am as strong this day as I was in the day that Moses sent me: as my strength was then, even so is my strength now, for war, both to go out, and to come in. Now therefore give me this mountain, whereof the LORD spake in that day; for thou heardest in that day how the Anakims were there, and that the cities were great and fenced: if so be the LORD will be with me, then I shall be able to drive them out, as the LORD said. And Joshua blessed him, and gave unto Caleb the son of Jephunneh Hebron for an inheritance.

Was in the services at Sweet Springs Baptist Church in Ardmore, AL on Sunday, September 5 and heard national St. Lucian missionary Samuel Philbert preach a message on Caleb. I don’t recall every point made in the sermon, but one point stood out particularly, and that was a discussion on Caleb’s humility.

Remember when 12 men went to spy out Canaan, and 10 were bad, and 2 were good (can’t escape the Sunday school song)? The 2 that brought back the good report were Joshua and Caleb. Of all that escaped Egypt on Passover night, these 2 men were the only ones that actually made it into the promised land, because of their faithful stand in this instance.

Now if you read Numbers 13, you find that of the 2, Caleb was the spokesmen. Caleb was at the forefront. But when Moses passes on, it is Joshua who is chosen to replace him as the leader of the people. It is Joshua who is chosen to take charge of the conquest of the promised land. And because Caleb was a good man, because Caleb was a humble man, Caleb was totally fine with it.

He didn’t pout. He didn’t get upset. He didn’t start his own campaign. He didn’t quit.

He kept serving God. He kept trusting God’s word. He kept gaining ground. He kept moving forward. He kept doing what God gave him to do.

Praise the Lord. God give us more Calebs.

16 September 2010

Scofield's Introduction to the Gospels

Been enjoying many of Scofield’s study notes as I’ve been reading through my Bible. These notes are now in the public domain and can be accessed online (click here). The below introduction to the four gospels contains some good study material, and I wanted to pass it along.

The Four Gospels

The four Gospels record the eternal being, human ancestry, birth, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus the Christ, Son of God, and Son of Man. They record also a selection from the incidents of His life, and from His words and works. Taken together, they set forth, not a biography, but a Personality.

These two facts, that we have in the four Gospels a complete Personality, but not a complete biography, indicate the spirit and intent in which we should approach them. What is important is that through these narratives we should come to see and know Him whom they reveal. It is of relatively small importance that we should be able to piece together out of these confessedly incomplete records (John 21:25) a connected story of His life. For some adequate reason -- perhaps lest we should be too much occupied with "Christ after the flesh"-- it did not please God to cause to be written a biography of His Son. The twenty-nine formative years are passed over in a silence which is broken but once, and that in but twelve brief verses of Luke's Gospel. It may be well to respect the divine reticencies.

But the four Gospels, though designedly incomplete as a story, are divinely perfect as a revelation. We may not through them know everything that He did, but we may know the Doer. In four great characters, each of which completes the other three, we have Jesus Christ Himself. The Evangelists never describe Christ--they set Him forth. They tell us almost nothing of what they thought about Him, they let Him speak and act for himself.

This is the essential respect in which these narratives differ from mere biography or portraiture. "The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life." The student in whom dwells an ungrieved Spirit finds here the living Christ.

The distinctive part which each Evangelist bears in this presentation of the living Christ is briefly note in separated Introductions, but it may be profitable to add certain general suggestions.

I. The Old Testament is a divinely provided Introduction to the New; and whoever comes to the study of the four Gospels with a mind saturated with the Old Testament foreview of the Christ, His person, work, and kingdom, with find them open books.

For the Gospels are woven of Old Testament quotation, allusion, and type. The very first verse of the New Testament drives the thoughtful reader back to the Old; and the risen Christ sent His disciples to the ancient oracles for an explanation of His sufferings and glory (Luke 24:27; Luke 24:44; Luke 24:45). One of His last ministries was the opening of their understandings to understand the Old Testament.

Therefore, in approaching the study of the Gospels the mind should be freed, so far as possible, from mere theological concepts and presuppositions. Especially is it necessary to exclude the notion – a legacy in Protestant thought from post apostolic and Roman Catholic theology – that the church is the true Israel, and that the Old Testament foreview of the kingdom is fulfilled in the Church.

Do not, therefore, assume interpretations to be true because familiar. Do not assume that "the throne of David" (Luke 1:32) is synonymous with "My Father's throne" (Revelation 3:21) or that "the house of Jacob" (Luke 1:33) is the Church composed both of Jew and Gentile.

II. The mission of Jesus was, primarily, to the Jews (Matthew 10:5 Matthew 10:6; 15:23-25; John 1:11) He was "made under the law" (Galatians 4:4) and was a "minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers" (Romans 15:8) and to fulfil the law that grace might flow out.

Expect, therefore, a strong legal and Jewish colouring up to the cross (Matthew 5:17-19; 6:12; cf. Ephesians 4:32; Matthew 10:5-6; 15:22-28; Mark 1:44; Matthew 23:2). The Sermon on the Mount is law, not grace, for it demands as the condition of blessing (Matthew 5:3-9) that perfect character which grace, through divine power, creates (Galatians 5:22-23).

III. The doctrines of grace are to be sought in the Epistles, not in the Gospels; but those doctrines rest back upon the death and resurrection of Christ, and upon the great germ- truths to which He gave utterance, and of which the Epistles are the unfolding. Furthermore, the only perfect example of perfect grace is the Christ of the Gospels.

IV. The Gospels do not unfold the doctrine of the Church. The word occurs in Matthew only. After His rejection as King and Saviour by the Jews, our Lord, announcing a mystery until that moment "hid in God" (Ephesians 3:3-10) said, "I will build my church." (Matthew 16:16-18). It was, therefore, yet future; but His personal ministry had gathered out the believers who were, on the day of Pentecost, by the baptism with the Spirit, made the first members of "the church which is his body" (1 Corinthians 12:12-13; Ephesians 1:23).

The Gospels present a group of Jewish disciples, associated on earth with a Messiah in humiliation; the Epistles a Church which is the body of Christ in glory, associated with Him in the heavenlies, co-heirs with Him of the Father, co-rulers with Him over the coming kingdom, and, as to the earth, pilgrims and strangers (1 Corinthians 12:12-13; Ephesians 1:3-14, 20-23; 2:4-6; 1 Peter 2:11).

V. The Gospels present Christ in His three offices of Prophet, Priest and King.

As Prophet His ministry does not differ in kind from that of the Old Testament prophets. It is the dignity of His person that which makes him the unique Prophet. Of old, God spoke through the prophets; now He speaks in the Son (Hebrews 1:1-2). The old prophet was a voice from God; the Son is God himself (Deuteronomy 18:18-19).

The prophet in any dispensation is God's messenger to His people, first to establish truth, and secondly, when they are in declension and apostasy to call them back to truth. His message, therefore, is, usually, one of rebuke and appeal. Only when these fall on deaf ears does he become a foreteller of things to come. In this, too, Christ is at one with the other prophets. His predictive ministry follows His rejection as King.

The sphere and character of Christ's Kingly Office are defined in the Davidic Covenant (2 Samuel 7:8-16) and refs, as interpreted by the prophets, and confirmed by the New Testament. The latter in no way abrogates or modifies either the Davidic Covenant or its prophetic interpretation. It adds details which were not in the prophet's vision. The Sermon on the Mount is an elaboration of the idea of "righteousness" as the predominant characteristic of the Messianic kingdom (Isaiah 11:2-5; Jeremiah 23:5-6; 33:14-16). The Old Testament prophet was perplexed by seeing in one horizon, so to speak, the suffering and glory of Messiah (1 Peter 1:10-11). The New Testament shows that these are separated by the present church-age, and points forward to the Lord's return as the time when the Davidic Covenant of blessing through power will be fulfilled (Luke 1:30-33; Acts 2:29-36; 15:14-17) just as the Abrahamic Covenant of blessing through suffering was fulfilled at His first coming (Acts 3:25; Galatians 3:6-14).

Christ is never called King of the Church. "The King" is indeed one of the divine titles, and the Church in her worship joins Israel in exalting "the king, eternal, immortal, invisible" (Psalms 10:16; 1 Timothy 1:17). But the church is to reign with Him. The Holy Spirit is now calling out, not the subjects, but the co-heirs and co-rulers of the kingdom (2 Timothy 2:11-12; Revelation 1:6; 3:21; 5:10; Romans 8:15-18; 1 Corinthians 6:2 1 Corinthians 6:3).

Christ's priestly office is the complement of His prophetic office. The prophet is God's representative with the people; the priest is the people's representative with God. Because they are sinful he must be a sacrificer; because they are needy he must be a compassionate intercessor (Hebrews 5:1-2; 8:1-3).

So Christ, on the cross, entered upon his high-priestly work, offering Himself without spot unto God (Hebrews 9:14) as now He compassionates His people in an ever-living intercession (Hebrews 7:23). Of that intercession, John 17 is the pattern (John 17:1-26).

VI. Distinguish, in the Gospels, interpretation from moral application. Much in the Gospels which belongs in strictness of interpretation to the Jew or the kingdom is yet such a revelation of the mind of God, and so based on eternal principles, as to have a moral application to the people of God, whatever their position dispensationally. It is always true that the "pure in heart" are happy because they "see God," and that "woe" is the portion of the religious formalists whether under law or grace.

VII. Especial emphasis rests upon that to which all four Gospels bear a united testimony. That united testimony is sevenfold:

1. In all alike is revealed the one unique Personality. The one Jesus is King in Matthew, Servant in Mark, Man in Luke, and God in John. But not only so; for Matthew's King is also Servant, Man, and God; and Mark's Servant is also King, and Man, and God; Luke's Man is also King and Servant, and God; and John's eternal Son is also King, and Servant, and Man.

The pen is a different pen; the incidents in which He is seen are sometimes different incidents; the distinctive character in which He is presented is a different character; but He is always the same Christ. That fact alone would mark these books as inspired.

2. All the Evangelists record the ministry of John the Baptist.

3. All record the feeding of the five thousand.

4. All record Christ's offer of Himself as King, according to Micah.

5. All record the betrayal by Judas; the denial by Peter; the trial, crucifixion, and literal resurrection of Christ. And this record is so made as to testify that the death of Christ was the supreme business which brought Him into the world; that all which precedes that death is but preparation for it; and that from it flow all the blessings which God ever has or ever will bestow upon man.

6. All record the resurrection ministry of Christ; a ministry which reveals Him as unchanged by the tremendous event of his passion, but a ministry keyed to a new note of universality, and of power.

7. All point forward to His second coming.