Archives for August 2013

Grace Turning Legalism on its Head

The Gospel says you have nothing good in you, and you are in need of a savior.  That simply is not compatible with legalism.  

  • The sad part is most of us try and make the two match up all the time.  
    Today we see how God took Legalism and turned it on its head.  (Acts 16:1-5)
    In this we see that Grace is greater than Legalism.  But How did Paul do it?  How did Paul overcome the Legalistic spirit of the day?   (How will we overcome legalism today.)
    To overcome legalism, Paul:  
    Made Disciples.  (vv.1-2)

    • Timothy was actually already a disciple of Christ.  
      • First things first, Paul made new friends.  
      • He accepted Timothy despite his different background.
      • He made a priority of developing the new leader.
    • We are always looking to reproduce.
      • Paul sought out a leader to take with him. – Timothy- 
      • Timothy would go on to pastor the church in Ephesus.
    • So here is the question for you.
      • What do you do for the kingdom of God?
      • Are you good at it?
      • Are you teaching someone else to do it?
    • We are always looking to reproduce.  The more of us who can do what we do, the better.

    (Paul shows us that) Motive Matters.  (v.3)

    • Why this outward obedience to the law when they had just gone through such an ordeal about the law and grace?
      • Because they knew their audience.
        • The Jews would not have given Timothy a hearing if he had not been circumcised.  
      • As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 9:22….
        • Our lesson is that we do what is needed to share the life and death message of the gospel.
    • This is not a matter of legalism, but a matter of the heart.
      • Timothy was circumcised to reach the Jews, not to earn his salvation nor to attain a better possession with God.
    • Your Motive Matters but motive does not excuse sin.
      • Motive does determine if you are seeking your kingdom of Gods’.  
      • In 1 Samuel 16:7 we are reminded that The Lord judges not the outward appearance, but the heart.  
      • What is in your heart?  What motivates you to do what you do?  What drives you?
        • Is it a love for God, or for your own recognition?
        • Most of us will answer that question correctly on the surface, but it takes an amazingly honest heart to look at your own life and admit the amount of time you spend seeking your own glory.  
    • It is a matter of true humility and amazement that the God of all creation loves you.  
      • None of us deserve His mercy or salvation.  But by His grace, he gives it anyway.
      • Motive matters, and God judges the Heart.
      • Timothy was circumcised as a grown man, in order to take the message of salvation by faith in Christ alone to others.  
      • That was a selfless act, a gracious act.
        • Do you act in His Grace?

    (delivers a) Powerful Message.  (vv.4-5)

    • We need to recognize that our actions can add to or take away from the obstacles that people have to the faith.
      • Paul and Timothy worked to remove obstacles.  Not add to them.
      • That is important to Jesus.  
        • Look how he reprimanded the Pharisees in Matthew 23:2-4
      • We are to help people follow Jesus, not make it harder.
    • The message of Grace makes the church stronger.
      • The church is stronger with Grace as its motivating factor than with Legalism as its motivating factor.
      • Each of us have a natural tendency to be legalistic.  We want to draw lines that are not real in grace or in our culture.  
      • We have a list of expectations.  Not a written list, but its that unwritten list of expectations. (note, this will hurt.  But we need to see our legalistic tendencies.  If you hear one that you relate with, understand, you may have a biblical point with your point of view.  But we are not called to enforce these things on one another. Rather we are called to love people and call them to Christ regardless.)
        • We can be legalistic about our clothes, about our music, about who teaches when, about our views on divorce and things outside the church involving alcohol, tattoos, and even things like our work load and work place.  
        • These things have the potential to be hurtful to God, but we serve a God who is gracious and forgiving and we need to reflect that grace in our own lives. 
    • The church grows when we practice grace.
      • This is not a call to a life with no principles, But a call to a life with a single principle.
        • Love the Lord your God with all your Heart, Soul, Mind and Strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.
      • When Grace gets inside you, it finds it’s way into all you say and do.  
      • When Jesus is in your life, He is your Joy.
  • The Offense of the Cross

    Galatians 5:11b “… In that case the offense of the cross has been removed.” (ESV)

    I just listened to an audio blog online about some recent political events in the north-east.  One of the hosts comments were surrounding a statement made by a government official.  The statement was that there is nothing wrong with our [people] and they didn’t need to be fixed.  (I use the word people here in place of the actual words because this article is not about a specific group of people.)

    This idea goes directly against the gospel and the faith.  All of us have something that is wrong, something that “needs fixed.”  To deny that is to claim perfection.  The offense of the gospel is not only the terrible way Christ is treated when executed, but has far more to do with the fact that the cross smacks against human pride.

    The reason Christ dies on the cross is because human beings have to much wrong with them to have and maintain a relationship with God.  God the Father recognizes this and sends God the Son (Jesus Christ) to live a holy life, become and take our sin on himself and die for it, then to rise again all the while calling us to follow Him.

    In short, the problem with the whole idea that ‘there is nothing wrong with me’ is that if you really believe that then you really believe you do not need a savior.  Which means you see no need for Jesus in your life.  Hence you have no relationship with God.

    But the truth is we all have something wrong with us, an unholy, self-centered, arrogant bent to us that deep down shows, we want to be god of our own little universe.  In short we fall for the same temptation as did Satan so long ago.  We need to recognize these traits and admit our need for a savior in the first place.  Then as we learn who Jesus is and what He has done for us, deal with the offense of the cross, come follow Him and be changed.  Because that is exactly what we need.

    One of my favorite ideas from Spurgeon

    “Jesus in the dark is just as good as Jesus in the Light.” – My Paraphrase from the following:

    Remember there is the same Christ for big sinners as for little sinners; the same Christ for grey heads as for babes; the same Christ for poor as for rich; the same Christ for chimney sweeps as for monarchs; the same Christ for prostitutes as for saints: “Whosoever.” I use broad words that I may take a broad range, and sweep the whole universe of sinners through—whosoever looketh to Christ shall live. And remember it does not say that if they looked but little they should not live. Perhaps there was some of them so bitten that their eyelids were swollen and they could scarcely see. Old Christopher Ness says, “There may have been some of them that had so little sight that they could but squint from one eye.” Says he, in his strange language, “If they did but dart a little glance at the brazen serpent, they lived.” And you who say you cannot believe; if God gives you only half a grain of faith, that will carry you to heaven. If you can only say, “O Lord, I would believe, help thou mine unbelief;” if you can but put out your hand with Simon Peter, and say, “Lord save, or I perish,” it is enough. If you can only pray that poor publican’s prayer—” God be merciful to me a sinner,” that will do. ~C.H. Spurgeon in “The Mysteries of the Brazen Serpent.” A sermon on John 3:14-16

    The Dangers of making one verse your flagship

    There is a danger of making a particular verse, or part of a verse, your flagship (aka, your purpose statement).  When you pull out just a small snip-it of scripture and build all you think, believe or do around that one piece you can easily loose sight of what that scripture means as a whole.  Making a verse our flagship inadvertently fosters leaving out pieces of what that verse means. Instead we wind up treating that verse like the meaning we assign to it is the whole truth of what the verse means.  The overarching mistake in this is we fail to understand the verse in light of context and other biblical passages.

    All of the Bible is true.  But not one part of the word stands alone apart from the rest.  The word of God is given to us as a whole, as a unit.  Within that unit there are subsections that are individual books, then chapters, then verses.  (note: your favorite verse is in a book and chapter in the bible.  Therefore, as good as that verse is, it does not stand alone apart from the Bible or the book or the chapter, or the paragraph or even (if applicable) the verse it is in.)  Each verse has a context.  Have you studied and considered the context that your favorite verse is in?

    The dangers of making your verse your flagship:

    • You miss the actual meaning of the verse.
      • It usually doesn’t start that way, but it often ends that way.
      • Example: John 3:16
        • The point of John 3:16 is Gods love and our surrender.
        • But many have grabbed this verse and tried to force it into a box that says, ‘my will be done’ on the side rather than God’s will.
        • We hear it all the time, ‘whosoever will.’  As though the only question in the issue of Salvation is the will of the person.  But that is not true.
        • In John 3:16 we see this: “For God so loved (Gods heart) the world (the object of His affection) that He gave (His action) His only begotten Son (What God gave for the object of His affection) that whosoever believes (the description of those who are the recipients of the gift) in Him (The Gift) shall not perish, (Our deliverance from eternal suffering by God’s grace) but have eternal life. (our salvation given to us by God.)
        • See how much is in John 3:16?  The vast majority of it is actually about God.  The only part that is about us is an implied part of our surrender to this Great God and His gift of Grace.
      • So when we start saying ‘whosoever will’ as a rallying cry, we focus all our energy and understanding about this verse on one part of the verse that is actually far outweighed by other points in the verse when we look at just how much Jesus was saying.
    • You run the risk of misleading new believers.
      • New believers don’t know.  Many of our churches are unaware of this.  They think that everybody went to VBS as a kid and knows the basics.  Not true.  We live in an age where more and more are completely unfamiliar with the church.  All they know of you is what their atheist neighbor told them and what the news said about a church in another state.  (Yes, it is a shock to some of them to learn you are not like a certain protesting church in Kansas.)
      • So when we teach people scripture, we have to teach the actual, contextual meaning of the passage or verse.  It is the primary way people receive biblical education.
      • Our flagship verses are often mishandled, misrepresented, and therefore misunderstood.
      • Our goal is to not proliferate those wrong teachings (ok, you didn’t like me saying ‘wrong teaching,’ how about incomplete?) incomplete teaching among those who do not know the scriptures to begin with.
    • You force your teachers and leaders to handle your flagship verse in ways they otherwise might not.
      • Depending on the teacher, you might remove this verse from the pastors arsenal of verses because of the misconceptions tied to it.
      • Verses that are treated as a flagship are often used in one side of a debate.  Hence they are divisive.
      • This forces your teacher to make choices that are not usually the best use of his time or yours.
        • Example 1: A pastor may abandon the use of this verse.  – Not wanting to be seen as taking sides in a disagreement between two groups of people, both of whom he must pastor.
        • Example 2: He may have to devote extra time to explain your flagship verse and the questions it is intended to answer biblically.  This is no doubt a needed effort, but still better if the misconception had never been introduced to the church in the first place.

    Flagship verses are usually intended to convey a point.  But they are often pulled out of context so badly that the original meaning of the text is lost.  You wind up using the verse to make your point and convey your view, but Christ’s view has been (usually unintentionally) discarded.

    So when you study the Bible, when you memorize scripture, when you share verses with others, be sure you have understood the context and shared it along with the context that is found in the Bible.

    Context matters.  Learn what your Bible really says.


    Trusting Him on hard days.

    “Though he slay me, I will hope in him.” – Job 13:15

    When things are good, it is easy to offer thanks to God for his blessings.  But when things go wrong, we immediately start asking what we did wrong to deserve this, or why God would be so uncaring toward us?  But at no point are we told that we should respond this way.

    I know when I struggle I find myself turning inward.  I do not pray or trust or read His word.  I find someway to be focussed on myself.  Now don’t get me wrong, I could justify any of it… I might say, I’ll go visit so and so to encourage them.  Or I might say, I need a break, I’ll go see a movie.  Not that these are bad things, and sometimes I do it out of a sincere heart.  But not all the time.  Sometimes, I am hiding from my discomfort, my pain, my struggle.  Instead of turning to Christ and trusting Him on days like that, I turn to my own ideas.  The result is just that much more time spent away from where I need to be.

    The bottom line in my mind is this is a personal temptation.  Temptation to put my faith in myself instead of God.  This is exactly what the Devil would have me do.  But Christ was clear when he said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”  I trust him with my eternal soul, why not with my daily peace?  The answer is I should in fact trust him with my daily peace.  To choose not to is to turn essentially to a false god.  (a false god named ‘self.’)

    Turning to that false god is often taken lightly in our world.  But turning to false gods is a life and death situation.  Ex.  “You shall have no other gods before me.”  and  “You shall love The Lord your God with all your heart, all your mind, all your soul and all your strength.”   Life and death.  Do we look at it as a life and death question?

    I know three men who understood it.

    Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter.  If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king.  But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

    – Daniel 3:16-18


    Bible Translation Chart

    We live in a time, just like hundreds of years prior, where Bible translation is a sensitive issue.  I encourage you to consider the page below for info on current Bible translations.

    – update 8-21-13 –

    Consider these words from Spurgeon (largely considered the last of the puritan preachers.) spoke Sept. 27 1857 and think about how long we have been arguing over whether or not it is good to update translations of the Bible.

    The gospel! oh, that must not be preached to the poor! “The Bible,” says the Church of Rome, “must not be read by the vulgar crowd! How can they understand it? It is a thing too sacred for the common people to see! No, wrap up the brazen serpent; wrap it up in a cloth, do not let it be exhibited.” “No,” say our Protestant ministers, many of them, “the Bible must he given, but we must never alter the translation of it!” There are some passages in the present translation that are so dark, that no man can understand them without an explanation. “But no,” say the divines of this age, “we will not have the Bible translated properly, the people must always put up with a faulty translation. The brazen serpent must be wrapped up, because it would a little unsettle matters, if we were to have a new translation!” “No,” say others, “we will have a new translation, if need be; but there are some parts of the truth that ought not to be preached!”

    These arguments may always be with us.  But I urge you not to fall subject to them.


    Sunday Morning, August 4th, Grace in Acts 15

    Acts 15:1-12.

    The dangers of adding to grace. vv.1-5

    • Why did Paul believe that this was worthy of such conflict?
      • Because He recognized that if the people succeeded in requiring all followers of Christ to observe the Law, that Christ essentially freed his followers from nothing in this world.
      • Because He recognized that if these people succeeded in requiring all followers of Christ to observe the Law, then they would begin relying on their own works to please God rather than relying on the completed work of Jesus Christ.
      • Because the work is finished. Their is no more to add to it.  When Jesus on the cross, cried out just before His death, “It is finished.” That is just what he meant.
      • Because Paul knew that allowing a requirement of observing the OT Law to stand would burden the people and damage understanding of the Glory of God in the eyes of the people.
    • So what is the warning here for us?
      • Never try and add to what is necessary for a person to come follow Christ.
      • This does not mean easy believism, because a life truly spent following Christ will not be easy.
      • It does mean to be on guard against the temptation to add to the requirements of the faith because you will find yourself working against the glory of God.


    Living with a full view of Grace. vv.6-12

    • The question they are faced with here is, are they to seek God by their own efforts and works or by that of Christ. (v.10)
      • God knows the heart. (v.8)  He knows our thoughts and desires and our very nature – who we are deep down. He knows that at some point we will choose to live for ourselves rather than God.  We will at some point choose to be self centered rather than God centered.
      • If we are going to point to the Law, as these men would have us do, then choosing that self centered life, even for a ver short time is a violation of the First Command. (You shall have no other Gods before me.).  That is true because is you are living for you, you are your own god.
      • But we are made clean, or righteous, before God by faith alone. (v.9)  (examples: John 3:16, Romans 3:28, Romans 10:9, Galatians 2:16)
    • Faith comes from God. Because He is a gracious God. (v.11)
      • You are saved by His grace. It is completely sufficient to pay for all you have done and all you will do.  Grace, Faith, and works come together most clearly in this way… see Ephesians 2:8-10.  1st comes Grace, then Faith, then Works.  Our flawed human logic often tries to reverse the order, as though we work to gain faith and with that faith we receive the grace of God.  But this is not what God says.  Focus on the order of Eph. 2:8-10.

    The Omni-presence of Christ

    Omni-present = to be present in all places at all times.

    In Matthew 18:20 Jesus says, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” And again in Matthew 28:20 he says, “… And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

    But Jesus was born fully human. He was killed and resurrected fully human. He ascended into Heaven and remains there… fully Human. (John 1:1-4&14, John 19:16-30, John 20:1-18, Acts 1:9, Revelation 5:5-14) So how can anyone, even God the Son be Omni-present and in a human body at the same time?

    Is this a question of the deity of Christ? Yes, but there is more. It is a question of the Trinity and the relationship between the three who are one. God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. God the Father is spirit, Jesus is clear about that in John 4:24. God the Son became one of us, human and God at the same time. In Colossians 1:15-19 we see Christ as both God and Man. Then we look at God the Holy Spirit. He is active in the world throughout time and present in all believers since the day of Pentecost in Acts 2. But the promise of the Spirit is not about flaming tongues. It is about God’s presence in our lives all the time. In John 14:16-28, Jesus explains the role of the Holy Spirit.

    Notice in John 14 how Jesus explains to us that He will not leave us… (seemingly even though he is…???) First, His promise in v.18, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” But in verse 28, He tells them to rejoice for Him because He is going to The Father. How is He going to remain with them? Through the Holy Spirit. In v.28 he reminds them that he has said, “I will come to you.” And in verses 16 and 17 He tells them how the Spirit will come and dwell with them and be in them. So Jesus is teaching that He is present through the Holy Spirit. His promise not to leave us as orphans combined with the presence of the Holy Spirit is the fulfillment and actuality of the omni-presence of Christ.

    If anytime we doubt his presence or simply feel alone, we must remember these promises and how they have been fulfilled. Christ is always with us, through the presence of the Holy Spirit. You are never alone.

    For additional reading on the Trinity: