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pastorway

And He Himself gave some to be....evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ...
- Ephesians 4:11-12

THIS BLOG HAS MOVED TO www.timeintheword.org

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Location: The Hill Country of Texas

Pastor - Providence Reformed Baptist Church
Director - TIME in the Word Ministries

Monday, July 31, 2006

Ask

TIME in the Word - Daily Devotional
Together for Inspiration, Motivation, and Encouragement

Verse of the Day - Matthew 15:15
Then Peter answered and said to Him, "Explain this parable to us."

Daily Scripture Reading - Matthew 7

Puritan Catechism
Question #34 - What is sanctification?

Answer - Sanctification is the work of God's Spirit (2 Thess. 2:13), whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God (Eph. 4:24), and are enabled more and more to die to sin, and live to righteousness (Rom. 6:11).

Confessing Our Faith
A daily reading from The Second London Baptist Confession of Faith, 1689, as amended by Charles Spurgeon.

Chapter 25 – Marriage

Devotional Thoughts
Amidst the discussion about the Pharisees and scribes, and the disciples noticing different reactions to what Christ had stated, Peter, as usual, spoke up for the group and came right out and asked a question. They had heard the tradition of the Pharisees and scribes. They had heard Jesus' reply and rebuke of their conscience binding traditions that attempted to invalidate the commands of God, and they were wondering what exactly Jesus was saying.

So Peter asked Jesus to explain the parable to them. A simple statement that revealed an eager heart. Eager to understand what Jesus was saying. This was after all a parable.

The Parable, a teaching style used frequently by Jesus, is a method of imparting truth by way of a story. The story may be true, or it may be fiction. And the "moral of the story" is often hidden. It is left to those who are mature, truly hungry for truth, and illumined by the Holy Spirit to understand what is being communicated. In fact, we would say that the lesson within a parable was there for discovery by those who have discernment!

The disciples in fact had asked Jesus earlier in Matthew 13 why He spoke in parables. Here is the exchange:

And the disciples came and said to Him, “Why do You speak to them in parables?” He answered and said to them, “Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. And in them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says:

‘Hearing you will hear and shall not understand,
And seeing you will see and not perceive;
For the hearts of this people have grown dull.
Their ears are hard of hearing,
And their eyes they have closed,
Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears,
Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn,
So that I should heal them.’

But blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears for they hear; for assuredly, I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.

The parable, you see, was an opportunity for Christ to teach and for those whom God had blessed with the ability to hear and see and understand to receive truth. When Jesus was ministering here on earth it was a fulfillment of the prophecy in Isaiah that not all who heard Him would hear Him - know what I mean? As we have discussed, they would hear but not understand. They would see but not comprehend what it was they were seeing.

As Jesus explains it, it had been given by God to the disciples to see and hear and understand the kingdom of God. But this was not given to everyone! Many in fact who heard Jesus parables learned nothing. Many left Him. But to those to whom God had given the ability, they heard, they saw, they learned, they believed!

We are indeed right back where we started with our study on discernment, for many in the crowd that heard the parables did not hear and understand. They were dull of hearing. Their ears were stopped. They could not understand. This is evidence of the fact that without the intervention of the Spirit, fallen men and women just do not get the cross or the gospel or the church!

The disciples at times, exhibiting what Jesus referred to as "little faith", also would miss the point. Many of the parables are followed in the text by a passage wherein the disciples came to Jesus after the telling of the parable and they asked for an explanation. They wanted to understand. They wanted to be taught by Him. They wanted to know the truth.

This is just such an occassion, only instead of waiting for a latter time in private Peter just came right to the point - in the very middle of the conversation Peter asked Jesus what the parable meant. He asked. He wanted to know. He desired to learn. He believed that what Jesus said was important.

This should remind us of course of Jesus' words in the sermon on the mount, in Matthew 7:

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him! Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.

Jesus told the disciples and those who would hear and understand the truth that they must ask, seek, and knock. If there is a need - ask. To find something - seek. To have the door opened - knock. Simple, yes? But so utterly profound. Because the lesson behind asking, seeking, and knocking is a lesson about the very nature and character of God and a lesson in faith. Who do we ask? Who gives to us? Who opens? It is God! We ask Him. We seek Him. We knock and He opens.

Here is a picture of God, our loving Father, who when we ask gives us the illustration of an earthly father. If a child asks his father for bread what will his father give him? A stone? If he asks for a fish will he receive a snake? Any semi-normal human father, though fallen, knows how to grant the request of his children. How much more then does God know how to give us what we need, what we want, and what will benefit us? He gives good things - and only good things. He answers those who ask.

In James 4:2-4 we learn that when we ask and do not receive from God it is because we either do not ask or we ask amiss. Think about this. How often do we pray expecting God to give us what we want when we want it, as if God were some heavenly ATM machine and if we have the right Bible code to punch in then He will give us whatever we ask? How many teachers and preachers teach and preach the Bible this way? They twist Scripture saying that if we delight in the Word and ask in faith in Jesus name then God is forced to give us what we want. But in truth, if we are delighting in the Word of God then our desires will be transformed and we will want what He wants.

If in our selfishness we ask and ask for the wrong things then we cannot expect God to give it to us. Just as an earthly father would not give his child a poisonous snake no matter how that child pleaded. There are times that God knows that we need to wait, to persevere in prayer, and to have our hearts tested before the answer comes. There are other times He just says no. And there are times when we are asking for the wrong thing. But in His time, asking according to His will for us, He will give us what we ask.

Here Peter simply asks. Explain the parable to us. And Jesus does just that. We will follow up with that throughout this week to see what He was teaching His disciples and those of us who have ears to hear. Until then, do not be afraid to ask! Need something? Ask. Want something? Ask. Don't understand the Scripture you are reading? Ask! While He may not answer in the way we think He should, we have this guarantee - He will answer.

Links for Further Study
(links to study each daily topic in more detail if you have the desire and the time)

Praying in the Name of Christ by Thomas Boston
What Shall I Give You? by Robert Hawker

Bible Reading For Further Study

Recommended Songs for Worship

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Don't Walk This Way

Continuing on in our series titled Learn to Discern, this morning our text will be taken from Ephesians 4:17-19 -

This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.


We have all heard the line "Walk this way." Usually followed by a comic walk copied by those who follow. But the Bible here tells us how we are NOT to walk. So as we work through these verses we will learn how to look for indications that we are walking in an improper manner as children of God. We are, after all, told in Eph. 4:1-16 to walk worthy of our calling, to walk in unity, and to walk in truth. So to walk in a manner not worthy, in disunity and deception, is to walk in a way that displeases God and discredits our profession of faith in Christ.

Through the course of the message we will learn what it means to not walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, studying what the Bible means when it tells us that the Gentiles walk in the futility of their mind with darkened understanding (a lack of discernment) due to their alienation from God. They are, we are told, ignorant, blind, past feeling, given over to lewdness, and are working all uncleanness with greediness.

We will then examine the cure for this cursed walk - which of course is the Cross of Christ!

Listen or download this sermon for free: Don't Walk This Way.

~pastorway

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Phillip's Phunnies - Superman, etc

A merry heart does good, like medicine... - Proverbs 17:22









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File This Under Eschatology

Friday, July 28, 2006

Blind Leaders

TIME in the Word - Daily Devotional
Together for Inspiration, Motivation, and Encouragement

Verse of the Day - Matthew 15:13-14
But He answered and said, "Every plant which My heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted. Let them alone. They are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch."

Daily Scripture Reading - Matthew 13

Puritan Catechism
Question #33 - What is adoption?

Answer - Adoption is an act of God's free grace (1 Jn. 3:1), whereby we are received into the number, and have a right to all the privileges of the sons of God (Jn. 1:12; Rom. 8:17).

Confessing Our Faith
A daily reading from The Second London Baptist Confession of Faith, 1689, as amended by Charles Spurgeon.

Chapter 24 – The Civil Magistrate

Devotional Thoughts
These two verses today, Matthew 15:13-14, are so packed with information that we must heed. They are not only relevant to our discussion about learning to discern or about how we are called to hear and understand and do the truth even though it may be offensive. These verses are relevant to so many areas of our lives. So let us look briefly at what Jesus says to His disciples.

Jesus has spoken the truth, contradicting the man made traditions with which the Pharisees and scribes were trying to discredit Him and His disciples. He stated the truth plainly and the disciples noticed that this offended the religious leaders who had come to challenge them. And when the disciples told Jesus that these religious hypocrites had indeed been offended, He replied:

Every plant which My heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted. Let them alone. They are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch.

He starts by telling His disciples that men are like plants, and if they have not been planted by God the Father then they will be uprooted. He then tells the disciples to leave them alone and identifies them as blind leaders who are leading the blind and when the blind lead the blind inevitably they both fall into a ditch. Let us see what He is saying here.

God's Garden

Throughout the Word of God we see parables and analogies that use plants to make a point. Isaiah and Jeremiah identify Judah as a vineyard planted by God. The Psalmist refers to those who meditate on the Word of God as a "tree planted by the rivers of water." And just a few chapters back, in Matthew 13, we read a list of parables about soils, seed, planting, and growing. John 15 speaks of Christ as the vine and we are His branches. And the Holy Spirit produces in us fruit. So this is not something new or unusual.

In Matthew 13 Jesus referred to the world as a field and said that a man planted some wheat and his enemy planted some tares. The wheat grew and the tares grew, and the only difference between the two is that wheat bears fruit but tares do not. Otherwise they look identical in the field while growing! So identical that the tares are not to be pulled up until the time of the harvest (judgment) for fear that wheat might be pulled with the tares.

And with that backdrop, in an agricultural society, Jesus says that the scribes and Pharisees who are seeking to discredit Him and who use the traditions of men to make void the Word of God are in fact plants that have not been planted by God! They are tares! The enemy is planting them and encouraging them in their mission to destroy Christ and the gospel.

However, we have this assurance - the tares will be pulled up, they will be uprooted, and they will be thrown into the fire and judged. They are not God's plant, they are not a branch in the vine, they are not in the vineyard of the Lord. He has not planted them and so they will be uprooted.

But let us then look at what Jesus says. I find this next phrase fascinating and am truly still trying to work through the significance of what it means!

Leave Them Alone

Jesus identifies the scribes and Pharisees as having not been planted by the Father. They will be uprooted. And so Jesus says next, "Let them alone." Leave them to their judgment. Leave them alone. Do not harass or bother them, do not mock or provoke them. Leave them alone. God will deal with them in time.

Now why would Jesus say this? What is the rationale behind leaving false teachers alone? Why should the disciples be told to leave them alone?

Often today it is believed that we are to actively work to confront false teachers and go after them for all we are worth, unmask them, fight them, debate them, expose them, and stand against them until they repent or die!

I understand that there is a proper place for apologetics. I have great respect for men like Ravi Zacharias and James White and others who do an excellent job at defending the Word of God in the face of the culture around us. But we do need to stop and think about this admonition. There are religious leaders spreading false doctrine, voiding the Word of God with their traditions, and Jesus says, "Leave them alone."

If we all took the time necessary to study every cult and false teaching out there and if we all worked around the clock to expose every error, then all we would do day in and day out would be to study heretics and heresies. And here is the truth that we can glean from this statement and from the testimony of Scripture. Within the church - get that? it is an important distinction - within the church there are to be safeguards against false teaching and false teachers. Without the church however we have a different responsibility.

Within the church we have been given pastors (elders) who have as part of their mandate from Christ the duty to protect the congregation against false teaching. Further, each member of that church is also responsible to test whatever the elders teach and preach against the Word of God so that they are sure that what is being taught is the truth.

Without the church are we then responsible to confront each error and stand against each heresy? No. Outside the church we are responsible to proclaim one message - the gospel of Jesus Christ. We have not been given a mandate to subdue the culture around us with a christian-like standard of living or even a Biblical system of morality and law. We have instead been called to preach the gospel and invite sinners to come to Christ so that they might be saved. Our goal is not subduing the false teachers or even refuting them at every turn. Our aim is to preach Christ, to present the gospel.

Why? Because the gospel is the power of God to salvation - and to be blunt, if the people in the culture around us are not regenerated by the power of the Holy Spirit then no amount of morality really matters at all! For without Christ there is no morality, no righteousness, and no goodness.

Within the church our goal is doctrinal purity - hearing and understanding and living (doing) the truth. Without the church our goal is evangelism!

So Jesus tells His disciples that these guys are going to be uprooted and judged. God the Father did not plant them. Leave them alone.

Blind Leaders

Jesus tells His disciples that these tares among the wheat are worse than just tares. They are in fact blind leaders. They do not know the truth (ever learning but never coming to a knowledge of the truth), they do not have wisdom, they surely do not have discernment (understanding), and so we see that they are blind. They cannot see the truth. They cannot see their error. They cannot see reality!

And the people who follow them are also blind. Their eyes are shut, they are ignorant of the truth, they have no wisdom or discernment, and they are being led far astray from the Word of God and reconciliation with Him.

Blind leaders are men and women who elevate tradition above the Word of God. They teach to tickle ears. They fear men more than God. They try to make the offensive truth appealing and at the same time deny the gospel and the Word of God. They center their theology on man instead of on God. They trust their own understanding and learning and reject truth. They refuse to retain a knowledge of God in their minds and they have been or will quickly be turned over to their own depravity.

Simply stated, blind leaders and blind followers are people without discernment. And what happens when the blind lead the blind? This almost sounds like a cruel joke but it is a serious reality. If a blind person leads another blind person, neither of them can see where they are going. And eventually they will both veer off a safe course and fall into a ditch!

Can you imagine people getting offended and upset because we would speak out against the idea that the blind should be lead by the blind? Well, Jesus makes His point. Those who worship tradition and deny the Word of God, those who have no discernment, truly they cannot see. And unless God opens their eyes they and those who follow them will slip off the the road into a ditch.

Don't let yourself be tripped up and dragged down into a doctrinal ditch! Ask God to open your eyes so that you can see! Learn to discern, for only then can you see the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

Links for Further Study
(links to study each daily topic in more detail if you have the desire and the time)

Exposition of Matthew 13 by John Gill
Reaching the Happy Thinking Pagan an interview with Ravi Zacharias

Bible Reading For Further Study

Recommended Songs for Worship

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Offensive Truth

TIME in the Word - Daily Devotional
Together for Inspiration, Motivation, and Encouragement

Verse of the Day - Matthew 15:11-12
"Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man." Then His disciples came and said to Him, "Do You know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?"

Daily Scripture Reading - John 14

Puritan Catechism
Question #33 - What is adoption?

Answer - Adoption is an act of God's free grace (1 Jn. 3:1), whereby we are received into the number, and have a right to all the privileges of the sons of God (Jn. 1:12; Rom. 8:17).

Confessing Our Faith
A daily reading from The Second London Baptist Confession of Faith, 1689, as amended by Charles Spurgeon.

Chapter 23 – Lawful Oaths and Vows

Devotional Thoughts
Sometimes the truth hurts! Sometimes we wish we could get away with a lie rather than tell the truth because the truth can be offensive. To come right out and tell the truth can wound feelings and damage relationships. And some people out there, all in the name of so-called apologetics, love to use the truth hurtfully. They enjoy hurling the truth at people and watching them recoil in offense.

Jesus was not that kind of apologist. Neither is any other apologist who is any good at what he does! Jesus, just as the prophets, the apostles, and other authors of Scripture, simply identified the problem and stated the truth in response. Here in our text we have seen that there was a tradition of men that had been taken to such extremes that it was being used to try and void the very Word of God. Among the many lessons we are able to learn from the account of this event, today we will focus on the offensive truth.

Jesus stated a fact. He contradicted the tradition of the elders, scribes, and Pharisees. Their doctrine, their commandment, was of human origin and was not equal to the Word of God. Neither was their tradition true. It was a lie. It was a fabrication. It was an addition to the Word of God in a man made attempt to make the Law more easy to follow when in reality this legalistic manuevering only clouded the issue and masked the true nature of indwelling sin.

And so Jesus said, "Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man." This is truth. And Jesus will expand on the exact meaning of what He was saying later in the text. But for now He simply states the truth. He did not say, "You are all wrong and I am right. You are all idiots and I am brilliant. You are all morons and I have figured out the truth!" No. There were no theatrics, no pride, no accusations. He simply stated the truth.

The Pharisees and scribes claimed that to eat with unwashed hands caused defilement. Jesus replied that it was not how or what we eat that defiles us, but what comes out of the mouth - that is the trouble! And in contradicting the tradition of the day and the teachers of the day, Jesus' words caused offense! But please note, it was not He Himself who was offensive in the way He presented the truth. He did not malign, or curse, or shock. He did nothing to offend in His manner or the words He used. And yet the truth was offensive.

When He stated the truth His disciples confided to Him, "Do You know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?" The Pharisees did not like the truth. They were offended. They found what He said bothersome. They were irritated with the words He spoke. The disciples may have been concerned, or perhaps they did not think He knew they were offended by His reply. After all, there was nothing in the way He said it that was offensive.

Too often today we miss this lesson. There are preachers and apologists and seminary professors who offend with the way they say things. Instead of seeing that the Word of God, the truth, is in and of itself offensive to fallen, deceived, and sinful men they think that they must be "bull dogs" for the faith. I prefer to think of these blusterous windbags as snapping turtles who snap and snarl but hastily retreat into their shell if a true threat comes along!

They offend by virtue of their unpleasant personality, their pride, their own unteachability, and their utter and obvious ignorance! For even as they try to stand up for the truth they prove by their very manner that they haven't the foggiest notion about what truth really is. They are clueless. In fact, the Bible says that they have a form of godliness but deny the power thereof. And powerless godliness is really only ungodliness!

Again, Jesus did not offend by the way He said things. The offense was the truth itself. Those who were offended and recoiled in disgust did so when their tradition was attacked and disproved by a simple statement of truth.

We should not be surprized when the people around us react to the truth. The truth runs contrary to popular thought, fads, and self aggrandizement. And we should strive when presenting the truth to do so with love, grace, humility, and compassion! For if the way we present the truth is offensive then we become the issue and take the focus off of the truth.

If we have an opportunity to tell the truth, we should. And we should do so carefully! We should make every effort to see that it is the message and not the messenger that is offensive. We add nothing to the truth by presenting it in an offensive manner. The truth will offend. We should never offend! For if we do, we discredit the very truth we tell.

Links for Further Study
(links to study each daily topic in more detail if you have the desire and the time)

Honey in the Mouth by Charles Spurgeon
A Shocking Truth about the Making of Disciples by Pastor Way

Bible Reading For Further Study

Recommended Songs for Worship

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Hear and Understand

TIME in the Word - Daily Devotional
Together for Inspiration, Motivation, and Encouragement

Verse of the Day - Matthew 15:10-11
When He had called the multitude to Himself, He said to them, "Hear and understand: Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man."

Daily Scripture Reading - Proverbs 2

Puritan Catechism
Question #33 - What is adoption?

Answer - Adoption is an act of God's free grace (1 Jn. 3:1), whereby we are received into the number, and have a right to all the privileges of the sons of God (Jn. 1:12; Rom. 8:17).

Confessing Our Faith
A daily reading from The Second London Baptist Confession of Faith, 1689, as amended by Charles Spurgeon.

Chapter 22 – Worship and the Sabbath Day

Devotional Thoughts
Halfway through our text now we see that the Pharisees and scribes have attempted to discredit Jesus by way of His disciples as they were "caught" neglecting a tradition of the day. They did not wash their hands in the proper ceremonial way before eating and were therefore accused of being defiled. This traditional teaching had been elevated to a status equal with the Scriptures and now people were being offended!

Jesus responded to the accusatory question with a question of His own and flatly stated that there were some there using the traditions of men to work around and make void the Law of God. And we must not think that this was a problem only in His day for it is a plague in the church even today. There is nothing new under the sun and for some depraved reason men and women prefer to follow in Eve's footsteps. For in the garden when she was tempted Eve first was challenged to doubt the Word of God. The serpent started with the question, "Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?" And then what did Eve reply? She actually added to the Word of God! Eve was the first legalist. She repeated God's command but added a phrase of her own. She said, "We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’" Did you catch the addition? Don't eat, and don't touch!

We have no record that God instructed Adam and Eve not to touch the tree or its fruit. But there we have it. Eve added to the Word of God. She set up an extra rule. Surely this is a good thing, for is you do not touch the fruit you cannot eat the fruit. But in reality Eve went too far. She made her own law and superseded the Law of God.

Theological traditionalists do this even today. They make rules and more rules to help them in obeying the Word of God. This is a good motive but a bad battle plan! For to add to the Word is to make the Word secondary to our own self imposed traditions and soon we follow our word instead of God's Word. And we often condemn others who do not side with us in our traditions as if they were somehow most assuredly not as spiritual as we for they willingly break through all the barriers of protection we have erected in order that we might remain pure!! What self righteous hogwash. Believing and acting in this way serves only to make us disregard the Law and disobey the Word of God.

But now we hit upon a key that we must remember as we continue to examine the topic of discernment. For Jesus corrects their erroneous tradition by revealing it logical flaw. He states that the Pharisees and scribes as just wrong when they claim that eating with unwashed hands causes us to be defiled. He is simple and plain spoken in His refutation of the false belief that under girds the misleading tradition and falsely binds the consciences of men and women. He states:

Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man.”

To be sure He wil spend more time explaining the false belief and the truth that opposes it, but before He even said this He prefaced His remarks with this statement:

Hear and understand.

He called the multitude to Him so that they might hear the truth and He started by saying to them, "Hear and understand." He wanted them to listen, and to comprehend what He was about to say.

This is important. This is discernment in action. Too many in churches, even sound churches, listen really well. They hear the preaching and teaching of the Word of God. They take notes. They buy tapes and CDs. They download, upload, hotsinc, link, and podcast. And they hear, and hear, and hear.

But hearing, as we learned yesterday, is never enough. The Bible is clear, and Jesus makes the point here - we must hear AND UNDERSTAND. We must grasp and comprehend what is being said. And proof that we have heard and understood is seen in how we talk and live. Yes, that is right. If we hear and truly understand the truth then it shows in how we behave.

I have seen it proven in the life of church members who listen every week to sound sermons and challenging Sunday school lessons, they attend Bible studies and ask all the right questions and spur debate and discussion between the saints. They drain the church library of tapes and books and they fill their heads up with all sorts of things that they are listening to, and yet they never change. There is never a marked difference, a moment of maturing, or a time when they repent and amend their behavior. All of the hearing is useless because they do not understand what they hear.

I want to share an example that I borrowed from Charles Spurgeon and used in the wedding sermon I preached last Saturday. In that message I referenced a man who believes his house is on fire. Now think about this:

Imagine - anyone can say, "I believe my house in on fire," but if he wanders calmly down the hall and goes to bed and falls asleep, it surely does not look like he really believed his house was on fire. If a man’s house is on fire, he will spare nothing to escape!

Now let us think this through - for just as it is not enough to hear, it is likewise not enough to only do! There are many who do what appear to be right and good things but if we could see their hearts we would notice that there are misplaced and sinful and selfish motives at work, so even that which seems good outwardly is actually sinful inwardly. We do not only need to hear and then do what we hear - but we must hear and understand and then do.

See the progressions? Hear, understand, and do. This is discernment. To hear the Word, understand the Word, and then to do the Word. Understanding is crucial to having a proper motive and perspective. It is the difference between knowledge, wisdom, and understanding. We need them all, working together, on order to make sound decisions and live rightly before God. We need knowledge of the facts of God's Word. We need a right perspective, which is wisdom. And we need understanding. For understanding, that is discernment, bridges the gap between knowledge and wisdom.

Having right information is useless is we do not know what to do with those facts. Having a right perspective likewise is meaningless if we do not know how to translate that perspective into decisions and actions. This then is where knowledge and wisdom meet understanding.

Today, as we read the Scriptures and meditate on them, let us pray that God would grant to us the ability to hear and understand what we read so that we might then act on the truth!


Links for Further Study
(links to study each daily topic in more detail if you have the desire and the time)

Understandest Thou What Thou Readest? by Charles Spurgeon
The Only Source of Wisdom by John MacArthur

Bible Reading For Further Study

Recommended Songs for Worship

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Vain Worship

TIME in the Word - Daily Devotional
Together for Inspiration, Motivation, and Encouragement

Verse of the Day - Matthew 15:8-9
These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.

Daily Scripture Reading - Ezekiel 33

Puritan Catechism
Question #33 - What is adoption?

Answer - Adoption is an act of God's free grace (1 Jn. 3:1), whereby we are received into the number, and have a right to all the privileges of the sons of God (Jn. 1:12; Rom. 8:17).

Confessing Our Faith
A daily reading from The Second London Baptist Confession of Faith, 1689, as amended by Charles Spurgeon.

Chapter 21 – Christian Liberty and Liberty of Conscience

Devotional Thoughts
Some tradition is good. In fact, in the Bible we are encouraged a number of times to keep traditions and to shun people who do not follow good traditions based on sound doctrine. But if we take human traditions and the teaching of men and make them equal to the Word of God then we have made a false god out of tradition! Too many people worship the tradition instead of worshipping God.

And as Jesus continues to attack tradition, especially where it attempts to make void the commands of God, He prepares to make a vivid point about defilement and the tradition of the Pharisees when it comes to the idea that one must wash his hands before eating lest he become defiled. But first, Jesus addresses those who would question Him. He says to them in Matthew 15:7-9:

Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying: "These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.'"

This follows the statement that those who are questioning Jesus are themselves making "the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition." They had elevated traditional teachings to the same level as authoratative Scripture. And the things they were teaching were so contrary to the Word of God that they in effect were making the Law of God null and void. People were learning how to sin and get around the requirements of Scripture thanks to these theological traditionalists.

And Jesus lets them have it! He identifies them in an exclamation - they are hypocrites! The word means a play-actor, a fraud. They wear a mask and pretend to be what they are not. They hide their true selves and their true sins behind a pretense of spirituality. This then is another reason we need to learn to discern! To tell the difference between the fakers and those who truly do walk with Christ.

They question Christ, having tried to discredit Him and His disciples, and they have the audacity to judge and condemn others based on their own self righteous standards. And Jesus quotes Isaiah to make His point - this great prophet who was killed by Manasseh for his godly life and message. Isaiah proclaimed the Word of God. And that Word tells us that those who are hypocrites may think that they worship God, they may say the right things and look like they are reverencing God. But in reality, there is a great gap between their lips and their heart. As Del Fehsenfeld, Jr, used to say - the 18 inches between the head and heart is often formed by a stiff neck!

These people, Jesus says, draw near to God with their mouths. They honor and glorify Him with their lips. But their heart, He says, is far from God! This is a serious issue. It is a defilement of worship. As we have studied before, the worship of God is not a matter of personal preference or style. It is not a matter of location. It is not a matter of even sounding right. Jesus said that God desires that those who worship Him do so in spirit and truth. What does it mean to worship God in spirit and truth? As I wrote earlier, to worship God in spirit and truth is to worship with a right heart attitude coupled with a right outward reverence! To read more about it, visit my previous blog post on the topic posted December 12, 2005.

Further Jesus makes the point that to elevate the traditions and commandements of men to the level of Biblical authority and infallibility is to worship God in vain!! Did you hear that? Whenever a church or a preacher elevates and magnifies the traditions of men as if they were the Word of God then that church or that preacher has made that worship VAIN - meaningless, futile, useless. And most definitely displeasing to God. All of that legalistic ranting and raving, all that emergent conversation, all that seeker sensitive platitudes and patronizing debases the Word of God, makes the preferences, commands, and traditions of men more important than Scripture, and therefore VOIDS worship! You will not please God if you attempt to worship Him your way instead of His. Likewise you will not please God by participating in "worship" that originates from a heart that is far from Him.

An intersting verse that touches in this topic of misplaced motives and worship is found in Ezekiel 33:30-33. There we read:

As for you, son of man, the children of your people are talking about you beside the walls and in the doors of the houses; and they speak to one another, everyone saying to his brother, ‘Please come and hear what the word is that comes from the LORD.’ So they come to you as people do, they sit before you as My people, and they hear your words, but they do not do them; for with their mouth they show much love, but their hearts pursue their own gain. Indeed you are to them as a very lovely song of one who has a pleasant voice and can play well on an instrument; for they hear your words, but they do not do them. And when this comes to pass—surely it will come—then they will know that a prophet has been among them.

Read that again. Go ahead. I'll wait.

Did you catch that? Especially in reformed circles and in churches where we value the Word of God we need to take these verses to heart! How many run after great preaching? Seriously? How many get books, tapes, CDs, and MP3s from Bible teachers who really are good preachers and good pastors? Just as in Ezekiel's day it happens today. In some circles it is a fad to chase after good preaching.

Don't misunderstand me. I am not knocking good preaching or good preachers. But look at what the Word of God says. Even when the preaching is right and eloquent, people can still void the worship of God!

They were flocking to hear Ezekiel and they talked about him and his messages everywhere. They came to hear him preach the Word of God with boldness and accuracy. And they did so all the while claiming to agree with what is being preached, identifying themselves as God's people. They are PROUD of the fact that they desire sound preaching. And the truth is that while they sit and truly enjoy sound preaching at the very same time they do it all for self instead of for God - for in reality, they hear the good preaching but do not do what the preacher and the Word of God says!! They hear but do not do.

Those of us who work hard at rightly handling the Word of Truth must be aware of this - just because people want to hear us does not mean that they are doing what we preach! These people, Ezekiel is told, show much love outwardly but in their heart they are pursuing their own gain. It is all about ME and not at all about GOD.

That is why I will continue to preach and write and work to presuade men and women in the church that worship is about GOD. We meet to focus upon, praise, glorify, magnify, uplift, and honor God. Worship is not a time to come get, it is a time to come give. And frankly, people who choose their church for selfish reasons (even if they are selfishly chasing after good things) need to be rebuked! They void the worship of God!!

What a thought. Hypocrites love to come to church and yet they refuse to be the church. They love to hear the Word preached but hate the thought of actually doing what the preachers tells them to do! They love themselves and ultimately make their own traditions the binding scripture that they follow. In fact, we could go so far as to say that people like this really do not worship God at all. They worship an idol. They worship a false, weak, beggarly, fleshly god. They worship themselves.

Today, follow the admonition of James:

Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.


Links for Further Study
(links to study each daily topic in more detail if you have the desire and the time)

The Purpose of Worship by Dr. Joseph Pipa
The Puritan Approach to Worship by J.I. Packer

Bible Reading For Further Study

Recommended Songs for Worship

Monday, July 24, 2006

Tradition

TIME in the Word - Daily Devotional
Together for Inspiration, Motivation, and Encouragement

Verse of the Day - Matthew 15:3
He answered and said to them, “Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition?

Daily Scripture Reading - Matthew 15:1-20

Puritan Catechism
Question #34 - What is sanctification?

Answer - Sanctification is the work of God's Spirit (2 Thess. 2:13), whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God (Eph. 4:24), and are enabled more and more to die to sin, and live to righteousness (Rom. 6:11).


Confessing Our Faith
A daily reading from The Second London Baptist Confession of Faith, 1689, as amended by Charles Spurgeon.

Chapter 20 – The Gospel and Its Influence

Devotional Thoughts
This week we will be working our way through Matthew 15:1-20 in a series of devotionals titled Discern or Be Defiled. In this text, Jesus confronts the Pharisees and scribes and then encourages and teaches His own disciples a valuable lesson about discernment. Remember that discernment is the ability to know the difference between good and evil, right and wrong, and sound and unsound doctrine. It involves the help of the Holy Spirit, wisdom (a right perspective), and maturity so that we might then act upon our knowledge. We know something is right so we embrace it and we know something else is evil so we shun it.

We start then in our text looking at Matthew 15:1-6:
Then the scribes and Pharisees who were from Jerusalem came to Jesus, saying, “Why do Your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread.” He answered and said to them, “Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition? For God commanded, saying, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.’ But you say, ‘Whoever says to his father or mother, “Whatever profit you might have received from me is a gift to God”— then he need not honor his father or mother.’ Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition.


Scribes (Greek grammatais) were those teachers who were responsible for transcribing scrolls and teaching the finer points of the Law. They were skilled educators and public servants. Pharisees were of course religious leaders and members of a sect that held to rigid outward appearances in obedience to the Law but as Christ pointed out, suffered from inward depravity and vanity. And members of these two groups of men came from Jerusalem to find Jesus, looking to discredit Him and His disciples. They thought they had found a way for they came bringing an accusation against His disciples. This would reflect badly on Him since He was after all their Rabbi, their teacher.

The accusation was one made about a technical point founded in oral tradition (held to be equal to Scripture by the Pharisees). They claimed that the disciples of Christ did not wash their hands properly before they ate. *gasp*

And as important as cleanliness is, this was not about washing germs off of ones hands. No. It was about a tradition that was thought to bear equal weight with Divine Mandate from Scripture. The tradition of the elders was that before a meal was eaten a person had to wash their hands in a specific manner. The tradition stated that to eat with unwashed hands was an equivalent to commiting adultery, for in failing to wash the hands and then eating a meal a person was defiling themselves! Who knows what they may have touched that would make them unclean outwardly, and if the hands were not washed and the food was touched then that uncleaness would be taken into the body and the defilement would be both within and without!

The disciples of Jesus understood that this was only a tradition and had no Biblical weight at all. It was a tradition of men, not a command of God. But when the accusers asked Jesus about it in this manner He did not defend His disciples. Instead He answered their question with a question. Jesus asked them bluntly, "Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition?" There was a point to their traditions that He knew was a point of sin. Not just a ceremonious defilement. But a serious violation of the Law of God.

He explained that this sin was a tradition that lead to the transgression of the Law. Not a transgression of tradition mind you, but of God's Word! And the accusation? Jesus stated that God had commanded that each of us is to honor our father and mother to the point that the Mosaic Law required the death penalty for anyone who cursed their parents.

But the tradition of the day was a violation of this commandment, for the teachers of the Law had added to the Law. The Bible teaches very clearly that children are to take care of their parents later in their lives. This is a Biblical principle that should not be ignored. This is God's design and part of the foundation of the command to honor our father and mother. But the teachers developed a loophole. If a person had an amount of money or something that would benefit their parents who they were responsible for caring for, then if they dedicated that money or that possession to God and the work of the Temple "ministry" then they could claim that they could not give it to their parents!

Here is an example. Let us say a young man has come to have some means, he has been blessed in his business. And his parents need help buying food. He knows that this is his responsibility but the teachers of the day have presented a tradition that states that if he would set aside some of that money and designate it for God then he would not have to give it to his parents. What they needed he had given to God instead, which as it was being taught, was a higher use of the gift than to use in to honor and care for ones parents!

And Jesus calls it what it is - a tradition of men that violates the command of God. In fact, Jesus refers to it as if this tradition rendered the Law of God of no effect. Now we know that the Law cannot be undone, but it can be disobeyed, which is really built on the idea that we are not bound by the law and have a way around it, so to us, the law is irrelevent.

Before we move on in our text this week we need to discern! What traditions have we allowed to build up in our lives that in essence cause us to act as if the Word of God was irrelevent? What things do we insist upon to the disregard of the clear teaching of Scripture? As my mentor has put it often, "What is our drug of choice? Whether it be drugs, food, entertainment, sports, shopping, or any other substance - what draws our attention and tempts our lust?" What is our addiction? What drives us to fulfill our lust and disregard the Word of God?

Truthfully, we cannot undo the Word of God by our actions, but we can act as if the Bible was meaningless. And the world notices it when we do. We cannot pick and choose which Scripture commands we will and will not obey! As Spurgeon stated it, we must take it all or have none of it.

What traditions do you hold that quite possibly might be causing you to transgress the Word of God? Lay those traditions aside and stand on the firm foundation of the Word of God without hesitation. No tradition of men is worth violating the Word of God and the great and terrible penalties that will bring.

Links for Further Study
(links to study each daily topic in more detail if you have the desire and the time)

A Sermon to Open Neglectors and Nominal Followers of Religion by Charles Spurgeon
Commentary on Matthew 15 by John Gill

Bible Reading For Further Study

Recommended Songs for Worship

Sunday, July 23, 2006

How Did You Do? - Part 3

Now that I have a little time this afternoon I wanted to get back to the pop quiz we had this last week on discernment. We have examined several questions and statements in order to practice our skill at discerning the difference between right and wrong, good and evil, and sound and unsound doctrine. We should all readily admit that discernment requires the aid of the Holy Spirit and a working knowledge of the Word of God, and we should be teaching (discipling) those around us so that they too might learn to discern.

This week in our devotions we will be looking at a text in Matthew where Jesus will challenge His discples (including you and me) and show them that they will either learn to discern or they will be defiled by the traditions of men that attack the very Word of God itself. But for today, let us finish the quiz! Here is the last statement in our practice round:

5. For my sins to be forgiven I must ask Jesus to come into my heart.

I have heard preachers all my life give a gospel invitation and say to the congregation some arrangement of words that end up conveying this idea - that in order to be saved from our sin by Christ we must open the door and invite or ask Him to come into our hearts. I have heard pastors ask people who have walked the aisle, "Where is Jesus now?" and the answer fed to them is "In my heart."

Think about it. I grew up singing the hymn Since Jesus Came Into My Heart. And who knows how many times the text in Revelation 3:20 has been pulled out and pleaded:

Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.

This verse of course is said to be Jesus standing outside your heart, knocking on the door wanting so desperately to come in if you will but only open the door!

But wait. Does the Bible say anything at all about asking Jesus to come into our hearts? Is Jesus in our heart? Is He standing at the door of our heart, knocking, expecting and hoping that we will have the sense to open the door and ask Him in?

Well, let us do a search. First we need to go to the Online Bible. Then we need to enter a few words for a search of the whole Bible (preferrably in a good translation - suggestions include NKJV, ESV, or the NASB). What words should we search for? How about "heart"? Well that is good but there are 926 verses with the word heart in it. So how about we see if the words "Jesus" and "heart" appear together. Ah ha. Fifteen results. But not a one that says that Jesus is to be asked to come into our hearts!

Well, what about the verse in Revelation 3? At the Online Bible we should enter Revelation 3. There we get the whole chapter and can read the context (a very important concept to Biblical interpretation). And we see immediately that there is no heart here at all! In fact, the door is the door to the church at Laodicea! He, JESUS, has been locked out of the church!!! And He wants back in!!! So this verse has nothing to do with asking Jesus into your heart, or even salvation. It is a verse of discipline for the church that in its lukewarmness had forgotten their Savior. It is a verse about repentance for spiritual pride, apathy, and neglect of God and His Word. This verse is not evangelistic - it is revivalistic. It is about the church repenting and obeying her Master.

So what does the Bible say then that we must do in order to be saved? If it is not a matter of asking Jesus into our hearts, then what must we do?

Here are a few verses that will help us answer the question:

Mark 1:14-15
Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”

Acts 16:25-34
But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were loosed. And the keeper of the prison, awaking from sleep and seeing the prison doors open, supposing the prisoners had fled, drew his sword and was about to kill himself. But Paul called with a loud voice, saying, “Do yourself no harm, for we are all here.” Then he called for a light, ran in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. And he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized. Now when he had brought them into his house, he set food before them; and he rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household.

Romans 10:9-10, 13
That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

For “whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved."

These are a few that illustrate the point. Salvation is not a matter of inviting Jesus into your heart, praying a prayer, walking an aisle, or filling our a decision card. It is a matter of repenting of your sin and believing on Jesus Christ. Then it is a matter of being holy, loving God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and loving your neighbor as yourself. For we know that Jesus has told us that anyone who loves Him will obey Him! Have you obeyed the gospel by repenting of your sin and believing in Jesus Christ? For more details about the gospel command, be sure and check out yesterday's blog post where we took a look at John 14:15 during Dustin and Jamie's Wedding.

And now, for a bonus question to conclude our practice round of discerning:

Can you make Jesus Lord of your life?

Think about it and I will post an answer in the near future.

~pastorway

Saturday, July 22, 2006

The Wedding

For those of you wondering why the blog was rather silent this week, it was simply a matter of time - as in, not enough time! Beside working (I am a bi-vocational pastor remember) I was also preparing to officiate at the wedding of my good friends Dustin Butts and Jamie Moore.

I am happy to report that the wedding went off without a hitch! Mr. and Mrs. Dustin Butts are off on their honeymoon before returning in the very near future to Southern Seminary where Dustin will be continuing his education in pursuit of the call placed upon their lives for service in the ministry.

I have asked and received Dustin and Jamie's permission to post an audio file online of their wedding ceremony. It has been edited a little as some of the music did not record well on my DVR, but you will be able to hear most of the service. I am including here too the Order of Service.

Pray for Dustin and Jamie, and their family and friends as we rejoice with them in the formation of this new family. Pray also for those present at the service who do not know Christ. It was very important to this young couple that the gospel be presented clearly to those who need to be saved and so a gospel message was preached as part of the ceremony.

Here then is the link for the audio (available to listen to or download for free) followed by the Order of Service:

Dustin and Jamie's Wedding - July 22, 2006

The Wedding Ceremony
Officiated by Pastor Phillip M. Way
of Maranatha Community Church


Dustin Butts and Jamie Moore
July 22, 2006


* Prelude (Hymn Arrangements – Piano)
* Seating of Families (Song – Piano)
* “Praise to the Lord” (Gordon Moore, father of the bride)
* Pastor, Groom, and Groomsman Enter
* Processional (CD – “What a Beautiful God”)

*PW: “All rise”
as the father of the bride walks the bride down the isle.

* Bride enters escorted by Father (“Cannon in D” – Piano)

*PW: "Who gives this woman to be married to this man?"

*Gordon answers, "Her mother and I do."
He takes Jamie’s right hand, leads her forward, and places it in Phillip's hand, who motions for Dustin to come forward and in turn places her right hand in Dustin’s hand.

Statement of Purpose

"Dearly beloved, we are assembled here in the presence of God and these witnesses to join Dustin and Jamie in the covenant of holy marriage, which is instituted of God, regulated by His commandments, blessed by our Lord Jesus Christ, and is to be held in honor among all men. Let us therefore reverently remember that God has established and sanctified marriage for His glory and for the welfare and the happiness of mankind. Our Savior has declared that "a man shall leave his father and mother and shall cleave to his wife and the two shall become one flesh" , and by His apostles He has instructed those who enter into this covenant to cherish a mutual esteem and love ; to bear each other's infirmities and weaknesses ; to comfort each other in sickness, trouble and sorrow ; and in honesty and industry to provide for each other and for their household in temporal things ; to pray for and encourage each other in the things which pertain to God , and to live together as the heirs of the grace of life ."

Prayer for God’s Gracious Sanctification of the Union

"Almighty God, whose presence is the happiness of every condition and whose favor hallows every relation, be now present and favorable to these Your servants that they may be truly joined in the honorable estate of marriage in the covenant of their God. As You have brought them together by Your providence, sanctify them by Your Spirit, giving them a new frame of heart fit for their new estate, and enrich them with all grace whereby they may enjoy the comforts, undergo the cares, endure the trials, and perform the duties of life together as is fitting for Christians under Your heavenly guidance and protection through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

“You may be seated.”

Charge to the Couple

The first, the greatest, and the most sacred institution known to man is that of the home. In the sovereignty and wisdom of God it was the home, not the state or the school or even the church that was first created and divinely intended to become the cornerstone of all life on earth. You have expressed the desire to become one by entering together into this blessed covenant with the understanding that God has brought you together and that you are to build a home under God and for God. You are expressing to us that you fully believe it is the will of God that you be married. So you are here today to take your vows, not simply before me, or before these guests, but primarily before God and each other. The Bible teaches that marriage is to be a permanent relationship of one man and one woman dissolved naturally only by death. That is why the Bible tells us that what God is joining together today, no man can tear apart!

Dustin and Jamie, I remind you today that you are not entering into a social experiment or a living arrangement that might be terminated at will. This is a spiritual exercise that cannot be accomplished without submission to Jesus Christ and mutual submission to each other.

Part of that mutual submission and care is loving one another. We know that the Scriptures make it clear that love is not merely an emotion that comes and goes. Neither is it a circumstance you fall into or out of. Love is a decision. It is an act of the will wherein you decide to relate to each other based on a foundation that is truly spiritual, for true and unconditional love is a fruit of the Spirit.

When we speak about the love of God for His children, we are reminded from Romans 8:38-39 that it is impossible for you to be separated from the love of God shown in Christ Jesus. There is no change, no fluctuation, no gap in His love for you. And so now it is to be your daily goal to prevent any gap in your love for each other. To do this, you Dustin, must follow the Scriptural mandate to love your wife in the same way that Christ loves His Church and has given Himself for Her. This love then is a love of self-sacrifice. You are to lovingly lead and sacrificially give yourself for your family in any way possible.

And you, Jamie, must also work to obey the expectations of Scripture. You must submit willingly to the leadership of your husband. To do this in no way means that you are to lower yourself or become less of a person. To submit willingly is to do all that you can to fulfill God’s role for you as a helpmate as you honor your husband.

In order for you both to meet the expectations of Scripture, you must know and willingly fulfill your God given roles within this relationship. The role of the husband as the leader and the role of the wife as a submissive helpmate has been designed by God for your own good and His eternal glory. And you must remember that we are not here today proclaiming that “the man is the head of the home” for the Bible tells us that it is Jesus Christ who is the Head of your family and as you are joining yourselves to one another here in our presence today, you are also joining yourselves to Him in this new relationship. Ecclesiastes chapter 4 tells us that “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has no one to help him up. Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” It takes two to get married but it takes three for a marriage truly made in heaven! For you and God together make three.

The marriage covenant you are entering into today is also not a 50-50 business contract. It is both of you giving 100% of yourself to the one you love more than any other but God. And your marriage here today presents us with a picture of the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ. When God first ordained marriage, He designed it to serve as a witness of His grace. He knows we are born into this world as sinners. And even before time began, His love stretched out through eternity and found us in need of a Savior. He decided before we were even born to send His Son to die the death for sin we deserved and give us freely the forgiveness of our sins and eternal life with Him in heaven. We must only repent of our sin and believe in the Lord Jesus to enter into a New Covenant relationship with Him and be made a child of God.

And it is because you understand that God has created marriage in order to present us with a picture of the saving work of Christ upon the cross that you have asked me, as a minister of Jesus Christ, to preach a gospel message to those gathered here today.

Gospel Sermon

As we gather today for this most blessed occasion we are reminded of the goodness of belonging to a family. Even as we are here to witness the covenant that signifies the beginning of a new family, we have fond memories of past family gatherings, reunions, weddings, and holidays. Times when we were able to visit with relatives and share the company of those who have lived longer and learned more than we have.

At times like these, it is important to remember what “family” means. The family has been called the basic unit of our society. A husband and wife, perhaps with children, born to them or adopted by a choice of their love, all of who belong to a larger group, all related by blood or by marriage.

And just as important as it is to think about our families, it is likewise of use to us to think about those things families stand for and believe in. One generation inevitably influences the next. Parents teach their children what to expect, what to believe, what to doubt, how to feel, and even how to get along with others in society. Often it is said that our view of God is determined to a large extent by our relationships with our fathers.

It is true. Families know what to discuss and not discuss – and are wise to forewarn visitors and guests. Politics, religion, and sports usually top the list! But of those, only one area that quickly exposes differences and varied opinions is actually of any value. Politicians will all one day leave office, willingly of not. Sports empires come and go. But religion – that one topic is of eternal importance! You see, your religion is either right or wrong. And whichever it may be for you, your eternity is at stake.

I want to take this brief moment to ask you each a question. Do you love Jesus Christ?

Many will hastily confess that they believe in God. Many will agree that Jesus is an important person in history. And there are some of you who will answer this question by thinking to yourself just now, “Of course I love Jesus.” But I want you to think about the question. Do you love Jesus?

In turning to the Word of God I take for my text this afternoon John 14:15. There Jesus says to us, “If you love Me, keep My Commandments.” Also in verse 21 we read, “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me.” To further make the clear case, 1 John 5:3 tells us “this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments.” So the Bible equates love for God and love for Christ with obedience to the commands of Holy Scripture. To love God is to obey Him.

So in order for us to answer the question by proclaiming “I love Jesus” we must see if we meet the test of loving Jesus that He Himself gives to us. Are we today giving evidence by our lives that we love Jesus? Are our lives decorated as it were with acts of obedience to the Word of God? Or do we instead live in rebellion to His Word and apathetic disregard His commands. If so, we cannot claim to love Christ. For no matter how we feel about it, love is not a feeling! To love God is to obey Him.

No one should take it for granted that he loves Christ or is a Christian today because he has joined a church and helped swell the numbers of any specific denomination. Judge for yourself – what does your life say about the confession of your mouth? And let us be clear – we either love Christ or we do not love Him! To each one of you I say with all my heart, let the separation be made by your own conscience as to whether you love God or not. Ask yourself right now, “Am I on the Lord’s side? Am I for Christ, or for His enemies?” There is no other answer, no middle ground. No purgatory, only heaven or hell. True or false, right or wrong. No ambiguity.

How can we know? What is the test? Can we be sure that we truly love God and have not been deceived? Again, the Bible gives us our answer. The first command that we must obey if we really love Christ is also the first word of the gospel. What is the gospel? It is the “good news” that Jesus Christ has come to seek and save that which was lost. The gospel is necessary because it tells us what God has done to free us from our sin and its consequences. He is a perfectly holy God and we are each born sinners, lost and doomed. We are by nature sinners and we deserve nothing less than God’s full wrath for our sin. Our sin separates us from Him. And our sin will indeed doom us to the torments of hell forever if we rely upon ourselves to pay the price for our wickedness.

Because we are all sinners the first word of the gospel, the first command we must obey if we love Christ, is the first word He preached when He began His ministry. He said, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” John the Baptizer preached the same message. The Apostle Peter at Pentecost preached the same message. The Apostle Paul preached the same message. This then is the first word, the first command of the gospel. Repent.

To repent means to reject our sin. It is literally a change of mind. We realize that we are wicked and sinful as we turn away from our sin instead of chasing after and loving our sin. We repent. Have you repented? Remember, if you love Jesus then you must obey Him and His first command and His last command in the Bible is that we repent of our sin.

The second command that we must obey if we are to love Christ is the command that immediately follows repent – it is believe! When Paul and Silas were in jail for preaching the gospel and the Lord sent an earthquake to open the cell doors, the jailor thinking all the prisoners had escaped cried out “What must I do to be saved?” The immediate answer is also a gospel command, “Believe on the Lord Jesus and you will be saved.” As we repent and turn away from our sin we must also turn in faith to Christ. We must trust Him to save us. We must believe Jesus. To love Him is to take Him at His Word and do what He says, and He tells us that we must have faith, we must trust Him.

The next command we will examine gives us no room for error. It is the command that just as God is holy so we too must be holy! We must be fleeing sin and embracing righteousness. We must hate sin. To claim to love Christ and at the same time to be engulfed in unholiness is a great contradiction. We are commanded in Ephesians 5 to be imitators of God by walking in love. How can we do this if we are unholy? Unholiness and love do not co-exist. Love is never unholy!

Again, to be very clear, even though you may have attended church or listened to preachers before, you may not know God’s plan for pardoning sinners. You may claim to love Christ without ever thinking that this means you must obey Him! And the first command that we obey to evidence our love for Him is the command that we refer to as the gospel – the command to repent of your sin and believe in Jesus Christ. Do you know the plan of salvation? Hear it and live by it. You have offended God; God must punish sin; how can God have mercy on you, a sinner? Only this way: Jesus Christ came from heaven and He suffered in the place of all who trust Him; He suffered what they ought to have suffered, so that God is just and yet at the same time able to forgive the very worst sinners through His dear Son.

Your debts, if you be a believer in Him, Christ has paid on your behalf when you were not able. If you will but come and rest upon Jesus, rest upon Him fully and only, God cannot punish you for your sins, for He punished Jesus for them on the cross, and it would not be just of Him to punish Christ and then to punish you, too.

My dear hearer, whoever you may be, whatever you have done in your life, how ever you have lived, if you will repent and trust Christ you will be saved from all your sin and guilt in a single moment and your whole past will be blotted out, forgotten by God and paid in full by Christ. There will not remain with God a single charge against you unanswered because “Jesus paid it all.” If you believe today, He has taken your guilt and left you justified and clean before God.

Another way to look at this is to see that if you believe something then you will act on it. If you believe that you love Christ then you will act like you love Christ! Imagine - anyone can say, “I believe my house in on fire,” but if he wanders calmly down the hall and goes to bed and falls asleep, it surely does not look like he really believed his house was on fire. If a man’s house is on fire, he will try to escape!

Many of you may say, “I do love Christ,” and you will cry at our sermons and feel passionately the conviction of sin, but then you will go home and remain unchanged. Your confession to love that is not followed by obedience will be revealed when your facade melts in the heat of trials and temptations. For you sin and sin often, and then go to church and worship, then you go and sin and go and worship again. You feel the power of the gospel and yet revile it with your way of life. You have been telling lies to God all these years by saying, “I love You,” while you still have not obeyed His voice.

Some of you know this is true. You know that while you have the appearance of being a Christian you are not. You know your life has not changed and you have no power over the evil desires of you heart. You give every evidence of being dead in sin instead of alive to God and yet you do not feel alarmed by this state of affairs! You know the truth. You know and know and know. And you feel and feel and feel again, yet your sins, your self-righteousness, your carelessness, and your wicked willfulness cause you to say, “I love God,” while you never really do. You lie to God with your very life. Your faith is dead or it would produce the fruit of good works and obedience. Dead faith cannot save you.

As I have taken the time to speak clearly to you, if you claim to love Christ but do not obey Him, then you are dead in sin. God will not need any witnesses against you before you are cast into the Lake of Fire. You have incriminated yourself well enough. Before it is too late flee this self-condemnation!

While you have remained unsaved, you have seen others saved, you know others who claim to love Christ and who live like it! The worst of men and women have found the grace that has had no effect or power on you. You know you are not saved. You may not have ever been accused of murder or the like, nothing so bold and evil. But you are still unconverted! You are still saying to Christ, “I love You,” and yet you are still not obeying His Word. You are without God. What a dangerous thing to live life content without God! You are lost!

But remember, I have good news for you. For although for many years you may have made false professions before God there is yet room in the gospel for you. If the Lord will break your heart you will be willing to love the Lord Jesus. If He moves upon your heart in grace you will be willing to rest by faith in the completed works of Christ alone.

As we are here surrounded by the theme of love, let me ask one last time, do you love Jesus Christ? Does your life prove that you love Him? If you are not sure, please make it a point to find me after this ceremony, find Pastor Steve, or Gordon, the father of the bride, or any of the members of this wedding party. For while we celebrate this wedding today we remember that there is nothing greater than for a sinner to come to Christ. The Bible tells us that marriage itself is a picture of the gospel, and this marriage today will be even more blessed if you will confess your love for Christ here for the first time. In fact, Dustin and Jamie have asked that I preach this message for this very reason. Nothing would please them more than for you this 22nd day of July to proclaim, “By the grace of God I will not be a pretender any longer; I will give myself up to those dear hands that bled for me, and that dear heart that was pierced for me, and I will this day submit to Jesus’ way.”


Vows

Dustin, do you take this woman to be your lawfully wedded wife, to live together after God’s ordinance in the holy estate of matrimony? Do you promise from this day forward to provide for her spiritual leadership? Do you promise to perform unto her all the obligations and responsibilities of a Christian husband? Do you pledge yourself to love her, comfort her, honor and keep her, in sickness and in health, and forsaking all others, keep yourself only for her so long as you both shall live?

Dustin: I do

Jamie, do you take this man to be your lawfully wedded husband, to live together after God’s ordinance in the holy estate of matrimony? Do you promise from this day forward to follow him as your spiritual leader? Do you promise to perform unto him all the obligations and responsibilities of a Christian wife? Do you pledge to love him, comfort him, honor and keep him, in sickness and in health, and forsaking all others, keep yourself only for him so long as you both shall live?

Jamie: I do

Dustin, please repeat after me:

"I, Dustin, take you, Jamie, to be my lawfully wedded wife, and I do promise and covenant before God and these witnesses to be your loving and faithful husband in plenty and in want, in joy and in sorrow, in sickness and in health as long as we both shall live."

Jamie, please repeat after me:

"I, Jamie, take you, Dustin, to be my lawfully wedded husband, and I do promise and covenant before God and these witnesses to be your loving and faithful wife in plenty and in want, in joy and in sorrow, in sickness and in health as long as we both shall live."

Rings

As a sign and symbol of your love and commitment to each other you have selected a ring of gold. The ring does not make you married, it reveals you to be married. It tells the world that you belong to each other. It represents these very vows you have taken today.

Dustin, if you would place the ring on Jamie’s finger and while holding it there, repeat after me:

“With this ring, I thee wed – in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

Jamie, if you would place the ring on Dustin’s finger and while holding it there, repeat after me:

“With this ring, I thee wed – in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”


Prayer for God’s Assistance

"Most merciful and gracious God, bestow upon these your servants the seal of Your approval and Your fatherly benediction, granting unto them grace to fulfill with pure and steadfast affection the vow and covenant between them made. Guide them together in the way of righteousness and peace, that loving and serving You with one heart and mind all the days of their life they may be abundantly enriched with the token of Your everlasting favor in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."


The Declaration and Kiss

“By the authority committed unto me by Jesus Christ as a minister of His church and by the authority of the State of Texas, I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may kiss your bride.”

* Song: “Thy Mercy” – Katherine Adams – Piano Accompaniment

*“Dustin and Jamie would like to begin their marriage by dedicating it to the Lord in prayer and would invite you to pray for them silently.”

Presentation

It is my great joy and privilege to present to you Mr. and Mrs. Dustin Butts. Whom therefore God has this day joined together, let no man ever put asunder

*Recessional

Dismissal

“Dustin and Jamie would like to thank you for joining them in celebrating this joyous occasion and would like to invite you to join them for their reception. The wedding party and their extended families including cousins need to remain in the sanctuary in order for pictures to proceed in a timely manner. All others may proceed through the doors directly behind me to the parlor where we will be joining you shortly.”

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

How Did You Do? - Part 2

Ready to continue? Today we will look at the next 2 points taken from our pop quiz on discernment. As we continue to practice understanding and acting upon the differences between right and wrong, let us look at these points and see what we can learn.

3. God helps those who help themselves.

How often have you heard this phrase quoted? Too often I am afraid I have heard it prefaced with the statement, "Doesn't it say somewhere in the Bible....?" And it is actually fairly common for people to not only repeat this phrase but also to believe it!

So let us ask the question - is this statement in the Bible? The answer is no. Further, a study of Scripture proves that the idea put forth in this statement is not even Biblical at all. It is a woefully erroneous statement. The Bible does not ever say anything close to this and cannot be used to defend the logic or the conclusions that might be reached from embracing this philosophy.

God gives grace to those who do not deserve it - that is why it is grace. He helps those who depend upon Him in humble submission. He resists the proud and tells us that our own righteousness amounts to a stinking filthy rag when compared to His holiness and righteousness. So no, God does not ever say that He will help those who make the effort to help themselves. God would have us depend upon Him, for without Christ we can do nothing anyway. The truth is that God helps those who DIE to themselves.

So where does this phrase come from? It originated in one of Aesop's Fables titled "Hercules and the Wagoner." In that fable we read:

A Wagoner was once driving a heavy load along a very muddy way. He came to a part of the road where the wheels sank half-way into the mire, and the more the horses pulled, the deeper sank the wheels. So the Wagoner threw down his whip, and knelt down and prayed to Hercules the Strong. 'O Hercules, help me in this my hour of distress." But Hercules appeared to him, and said: 'Man, don't sprawl there. Get up and put your shoulder to the wheel. The gods help them that help themselves.

So from a fabled prayer to a half god/half man in Greek mythology we come around to believing that the Bible actually teaches self help.

But don't let the secret out. If we tell the church that her members must be KILLING self instead of helping self, the "christian" bookstore might have to close up shop!


4. I don't have to go to church because I can worship God anywhere.

Now let us discern the truth here. And it might be tricky, because within this statement is a mixture of truth and error. It is true that we can and should worship God anywhere. In the Book of Acts we see believers meeting together for worship and fellowship from house to house daily. They also gathered corporately as a body on the first day of the week to worship and commemorate the ressurection of the Lord.

Before Sunday became the last day of the weekend it used to be the first day of the week! Many calendars now even put Sunday last and Monday first in the arrangement of the week. But built upon this timely tradition, the church met together to worship on Sunday.

And then there came along those who thought they could best worship God anywhere but "at church." Whether it be among the hills and rivers fishing, or the greens and roughs golfing, men decided that they would rather enjoy a spiritual moment in nature away from "organized religion."

Well, considering it is the Lord that organized His church we need to understand that worship is not an option! It is an obligation. And point blank, if we love God we obey God and want to worship Him with His people. Hebrews 10:24-25 is enough to prove the necessity of meeting with the church for worship.

And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.

We must admit as we look at this question that often the excuse is indeed offered by those who simply do not have any desire to obey God or His Word. We must also admit that worship is not about the place! Consider what Jesus said in John 4:19-24:

The woman said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”

Don't get me wrong. I am not using this to say that we should not meet for worship. But as I have written in the past, we must understand what kind of worship God commands if we are to be pleasing to Him when we offer it to Him! Here is a link for further review of the topic: Worship in Spirit and Truth.

And now for the final question from the last post:

How many of each clean and unclean animal did Noah take on the ark?

Was it 2 of each, a male and female? Was it 2 of each unclean animal, a male and female? Was it 7 of each, three couples and one single? Was it 7 of each clean animal?

The answer? None of the above. Sometimes it is amazing what the Bible actually tells us. Here is the text - you do the math:

Genesis 6:19-20
And of every living thing of all flesh you shall bring two of every sort into the ark, to keep them alive with you; they shall be male and female. Of the birds after their kind, of animals after their kind, and of every creeping thing of the earth after its kind, two of every kind will come to you to keep them alive.

This does not say that Noah only took 2 of every kind. It says, as we shall see in the next text, that Noah took the animals is pairs. If he took a male he also took a female.

Genesis 7:2-3; 7-9
You shall take with you seven each of every clean animal, a male and his female; two each of animals that are unclean, a male and his female; also seven each of birds of the air, male and female, to keep the species alive on the face of all the earth.

So Noah, with his sons, his wife, and his sons’ wives, went into the ark because of the waters of the flood. Of clean animals, of animals that are unclean, of birds, and of everything that creeps on the earth, two by two they went into the ark to Noah, male and female, as God had commanded Noah.

If we do the math we see that for each kind of animal Noah took pairs, a male and female. Further we see that he took 7 pairs of each kind of clean animals and 2 pairs of each kind of unclean animals. So how many of each animal did Noah take on the ark?

Fourteen of each kind of clean animal, in seven pairs of a male and a female, and four of each kind of unclean animal, in two pairs of a male and a female.

And they entered the ark two at a time - as couples!

The last question is next. See you soon.


~pastorway