Thursday, August 27, 2015

5 Priorities for Christian College Students This Year

As college begins for college students all across our country, I am reminded about how overwhelming the experience was considering I was on my own and four hours away from home. I was ready for the challenges of the courses I was taking, which I underestimated, and also the opportunities God was going to give me. Looking back to my college years, I realized that my priorities, along with others, were mixed up. So I would like to offer a few priorities that Christian students, whether they attend a state or private college, need to have this coming year and for the rest of their time in college.

1. Keep God at the center of your life.

I am sure college students want to check out every organization when they get there as well as all the hangout places in their city, assuming they left their hometown. Also, I am sure college students are looking at their schedules wondering how to get to their classes and find out from others how the professor is. Regardless of the crazy schedules and the activities outside the classroom, Christian college students need to keep God as priority number one. Read the Bible, pray, memorize scripture, and grow in Christ. Also reading a good Christian book will help. I know with all the reading your have to do for class, who has time for extra reading. I know it may seem a little much for some of you, but it will be a benefit.

2. Plug into a church.

This Sunday is the first Sunday since the beginning of the college year and I challenge you to find a church and join it. If you live in the same city where you are a member and attend college, you are already ahead of some people. I challenge you to start this Sunday to look for a church the Holy Spirit is leading you not just to sit in the pew but also to serve. This may take a few weeks, but be prayerfully considering what church God will have you attend. Don't substitute the church with a parachurch organization such as the Baptist Student Ministries or Navigators, which are great organizations, but they are not the church.

3. Watch yourself.

College is where some Christian students will either yield to temptation or run away from it. Maintain purity in word, thought, and deed while in college. Yes, even you who attend a Christian college. You are not exempt. Guys, when you find a girlfriend, remember she is your sister in Christ. Girls, that guy is your brother in Christ. I strongly encourage that each of you have people that will hold you accountable during your college years. It could be an older saint, a fellow Christian student, or even a pastor at the church you are attending. I am not sure who said it, but there is an old saying, "Watch yourself before you wreck yourself."

4. Always be ready to give share Christ.

1 Peter 3:15 says, "always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect." You are going to have students and maybe some professors that might as you why are you a Christian. Always be ready to make your case whether they accept it or not is not up to you. One of the biggest unhealthy teachings of evangelism is you are successful when someone responds to your witness. Jesus told us to proclaim the gospel to all of creation (Mark 16:15). Not once did he tell us that their response was up to us.

5. Remember the gospel.

College student you are going to fail. No, I am not talking about failing your class unless you don't study. I am referring to the fact you are not perfect. You might get angry at someone or even had a lustful thought. Yes, your sin will have consequences, but God is faithful and just and will forgive you of your sins (see 1 John 1:9). The gospel is the message you are to proclaim on your campus but also the message that keeps you going. Don't ever get tired of the gospel message just because you have heard it over and over again like you get tired of hearing some things in history. The gospel is not the beginning of the Christian Life, it is the message of the Christian life. That message that has passed on for generations is your message as well.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Book Review: The NIV Zondervan Study Bible

The New International Version (NIV) turns 50 this year. The NIV is considered the most popular Bible translation and the most read for the last couple of decades. Many study and specialty Bible have been made in the NIV which I have a few of them myself. My first NIV Bible was a student Bible which my brother gave me as a middle school graduation present. I used that Bible day in and day out until I had to get a new one which was the NIV Study Bible.

God used the NIV during my early days as a Christian which I am thankful for because there was not as easy to read translation that was close to being as accurate as the NIV was at that time. There were many resources based on the NIV along with the study and specialty Bible as I mentioned earlier. Zondervan has released a new study Bible, the NIV Zondervan Study Bible. This is a different study Bible unlike anything Zondervan has produced in years passed.

This study Bible has D.A. Carson as the general edition, who happens to be a solid Bible teacher and a NIV user. What this Bible is focused is getting the reader to look at the Bible as one story instead of different stories in one book. Carson said this Bible focuses on Biblical theology where the ESV Study Bible focuses on systematic theology.

There are many positives to this study Bible. It has great book introductions and outlines of each book of the Bible. The study notes deal with each verse of the text whether its one verse or three verses. There are many great theological articles written by solid pastors and teachers such as Greg Gilbert, Sam Storms, Kevin DeYoung, and Tim Keller. There are even introductions to each section of scripture such as the gospels and the Pentateuch. You could say this almost like the ESV Study Bible in way.

What are the negatives? While the study notes are good, they don't go over the literal meaning of a Greek word and difference in translation. As many of you are aware the NIV went through an update after the gender-natural, Today's New International Version (TNIV), went bust. Zondervan admit mistakes were made and they wanted to correct them in an updated NIV. One of the words taken out was Saints and was replaced with God's people or God's holy people, which is what a saint is. The study notes do not give a good explanation as to what a saint is but then again this study Bible is based on the NIV and not other literal translations.

Another negative is I feel this is another marketing ploy by Zondervan to gain sales. Sure this Bible will sale in a Christian bookstore or Amazon, but with the ESV Study Bible gaining ground as the study Bible for Christians, I felt this was Zondervan's way of getting more people to buy their product. Not to mention this Bible and the ESV Study Bible is about the same size. I don't think Carson's intention or focus in making a new study Bible was to make a profit but to get people something they could use to study Biblical theology.

In 2008, I switched from the NIV to the ESV because I felt the ESV was a better translation as far as accuracy and readability was concerned. I do use the NIV from time to time in studying the Word but not as often I did when I first believed. The ESV Study Bible will remain my first go-to study Bible, but this Bible will come along side it. There are many Christians who benefit from this Bible especially if your church still uses the NIV. I am surprised that some Reformed/Calvinistic Pastors and teachers, such as Daniel Montgomery, Tim Keller, and Tim Chester, use the NIV in their preaching and teaching where the majority use the ESV, New American Standard Bible (NASB), or New King James Version (NKJV).

I know I will be reading the articles in the study Bible and most likely use them in teaching and preaching. Who knows they might show up on the blog. My overall assessment of the NIV Zondervan Study Bible is it is a good tool to have in studying Biblical theology. I really appreciate D.A. Carson's commitment in making a theological study Bible.

Thanks Booklook Bloggers for letting me review this study Bible.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

"New Passions, New Affections Produces New Conduct"

Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:13-16)

Recommended Reading:

The Pursuit of Holiness by Jerry Bridges

Hole In Our Holiness by Kevin DeYoung

Finally Free by Heath Lambert

The Greatest Thing is Knowing God

What were we made for? To know God.

What aim should we set ourselves in life? To know God.

What is the "eternal life" that Jesus gives? Knowledge of God. "And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent" (John 17:3).

What is the best thing in life, bringing more joy, delight, and contentment than anything else? Knowledge of God. "Thus says the Lord: 'Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me'" (Jeremiah 9:23-24).

What, of all the states God ever sees man in, given God most pleasure? Knowledge of himself. "For I desire...the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings" (Hosea 6:6).

J.I. Packer, Knowing God

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Christian, You Are Not At War With God

Christians, I have good news for you. If you have truly put your faith in Jesus Christ, you are at peace with God. The Apostle Paul wrote, "Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ" (Romans 5:1).

The Bible tells us we are hostile to God in word, thought, and deed because of our sin. We were at one time, "dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind" (Ephesians 2:1-3). God was ready and willing to pour out His wrath on us.

Thanks be to God, the war between us and God is over. Romans 5:1 says we have peace with God because of our faith in Jesus. Faith knowing that He is who He said He is and the work He has done is finished. Many Christians may think God is out to get them. God is only out to get to you conform to the image of His Son, Jesus, but never out to get you because you sinned. Yes, we will still wrestle with our flesh and the sin that "clings so closely" (Hebrews 12:1), but God will never cast us out.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Salvation Is Not That Personal

If you have been around church like me for a great majority of your life, I am sure you have heard one of the following phrases:

Accept Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savoir.

God wants you to be in a personal relationship with him.

Notice both of these phrases have a certain word in common: personal. The first time I heard the term "personal Savior" was from Charles Stanley during his InTouch TV program. I never gave it much thought because it almost sounded like what many in the church said during my teenage years. Thankfully, I was never in a church as a youth pastor where that phrase was used, however, the phrase "personal relationship" was used quite often.

When you look in the Bible, those two phrases don't show anyway. Jesus never referred to himself as our "personal Savior." Peter on the day of Pentecost never preached God wants you in a personal relationship by accepting Jesus as your personal Savior. The Apostle Paul, who wrote majority of the New Testament under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, never used those phrases.

So the question is this: Is Salvation personal? Yes and no. It is personal because God has revealed himself to you through the preaching, teaching, and reading of His Word. He is personal because He has made himself known. He is not the unknown God as it was inscribed in Athens that Paul mentioned in Acts 17. God has revealed Himself through His Word which is called Special Revelation. He has also revealed Himself through creation which is called General Revelation. Psalm 19:1 says, "The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork." Paul wrote, "For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse" (Romans 1:20).

Salvation is also personal because of the work of the Holy Spirit in sanctifying you to conform into the image of Jesus. The Bible says, "For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers" (Romans 8:29). God is working in you to be more like Jesus.

Why is salvation not personal? When I think of the phrase "personal Savior," I think of a wealthy family having a personal chef. That chef is reserved for them and their schedule. The chef knows what the family likes and doesn't like. The goal of chef is to please his/her clients. Jesus is not a Savoir like that. Yes, Jesus meets our needs but not in a sense that will dishonor him. Salvation means leaving what is hindering your fellowship with God so that you can be more like Jesus. The Rich Young Man in the gospel of Mark wanted some other means to inherit eternal life besides the commandments he kept since he was a child. Then Jesus told him, to sell all of his possessions. The Bible says, "Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions" (Mark 10:22). If Jesus was a Savoir that catered to our desires, he would have told the rich guy something else.

Salvation is not personal in a sense that it is not private. It is not private in two ways, first, evangelism. We are commanded to go and make disciples. We are given the task to share Jesus with everyone on earth. If salvation was personal, Jesus would not have told us to go. Our culture wants Christians to keep their faith to themselves, but like Peter and John, we say, "for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard" (Acts 4:20).

Second, salvation is not private because we are saved into a people. Consider Ephesians 2:8-9, "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast." We believe that God has saved us by His grace and not our own merit. In verse 8, Paul uses the word "you." Paul was writing to a group of Christians, not an individual. So the "you" used in verse 8 is plural. In Texas, we use the phrase "Y'all" when referring to more than one person. Then Paul said in verse 10, "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." The "we" is Paul, the Ephesian church, and every true believer in Christ. We, the church, are God's workmanship.

The Apostle Peter wrote, "As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ...But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy" (1 Peter 2:4-5, 9-10). God has called us to be a people and saved us to be a people.

Salvation maybe personal in a sense, but it is not that personal.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Why Does Sin Easily Entangles Us?

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2, NIV).

Many Christians think that because we are born again, sin will be long gone from our presence. I really wish that was the case, but it is not. The Bible says that we are to throw off everything that hinders us and the sin that easily entangles us. The ESV has it translated as "sin which clings so closely."

Why does sin easily entangle us as we walk with Jesus? First, we are at war with the flesh. Like it or not, we are still in our earthly bodies which is corrupted by sin. The Apostle Paul told the Galatian church, "For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do" (Galatians 5:17). Our fallen nature will always want us to turn away from the Lord and appease our fleshly desires. I am not just talking lust or any other sexual sin, I am also talking about gluttony, gossip, and fits of rage.

Second, we allow it to happen. Yes, we deliberately sin. Sin can look good, taste good, smell good, and feel good, but it will result in rebellion against God. When that temptation comes, we think it must be a gift of God which goes against what scripture teaches. James tells us, "Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death" (James 1:13-15).

Finally, we question what God says. What? I am Christian committed to Biblical truth, why should I question what God says? When you allow sin to come in, do you ask did God really mean...? You know what He said, do you know what He meant by it. If you are a parent, I am sure you have told your kids "no means no" right. When God commands us in scripture to walk away or run from, He is did not stutter or second guess Himself. "For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart" (Hebrews 4:12). When the serpent tempted Eve by questioning what God said, it lead to destruction and the sin that has been passed down from every generation since then.

There is good news. We can fight the sin that easily entangles us. One way is to kill it. The Bible says, "Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator" (Colossians 3:5, 8-10). John Owen once said, "Be killing sin, or sin be killing you." We are to kill the sin that easily entangles us. Paul wrote that "those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires" (Galatians 5:24).

Next, set our minds on the Spirit, not the flesh. Romans tells us, "For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God" (Romans 8:5-8). The Spirit will also lead us to holiness in obedience to the Word of God, never away from it.

Finally, remember the gospel. The gospel tells us that Jesus died for sins once for all. Even though sin clings to us so closely, we have a Savior that clings even closer. He will never cast us out because we sin intentional or not. The Bible says, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9), and "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death" (Romans 8:1-2). We are free from the penalty sin. We are being set from the power of sin. One day, we will be set free from the presence of sin. That is our gospel hope.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

To The Jew First?

Earlier this week, I started reading the book of Romans which is one of may favorites in all of scripture. As I read chapter one, I came up the most quoted verse in the entire chapter:

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek (Romans 1:16).

Noticed that salvation is to everyone who believes, then the Apostle Paul said, "to the Jew first and also to the Greek." I thought salvation is for everyone, and it is. So what is Paul talking about?

One note from the ESV Study Bible said this "indicates the priority of the Jews in salvation history and their election as God’s people." The Jews were the chosen people of God. Israel was the elect nation that was to proclaim His greatness and build a house for His name.

Does this mean that Jews get Salvation before anyone else? What does Paul mean, "to the Jew first?" John Piper preached a sermon in 1998 on Romans 1:16 and addresses that very question:

Paul has just used that wonderful word "everyone" in Romans 1:16, "The gospel is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes." O, what an exhilarating word to those of us in this room who feel that there is something about us that rules us out! Wrong family, wrong background, wrong education, wrong language, wrong race, wrong culture, wrong sexual preference, wrong moral track record. Then to hear the word, "Everyone who believes." Everyone! One thing can rule you out: unbelief. Not trusting Jesus. But nothing else has to. The good news that Christ died for our sins, and that he rose from the dead to open eternal life, and that salvation is by grace through faith – all that is for everyone who believes. Not just Jews and not just Gentiles and no one race or social class or culture, but everyone who believes.

Then in What Ways Do the Jews Have Priority?

So why then does he follow this exhilarating word "everyone" with a word that seems to give priority to Jews? "The gospel is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek." How does he mean, "To the Jew first"? What kind of priority, what kind of "firstness" do they have? And why does he say this? What effect does he want this to have on us?

To answer this let me suggest six ways that the Jews are first in experiencing the salvation of God. And then we will look at a few ways that they are not first. Finally we will see what effect this should have on us today.

You can read or listen to the sermon in it's entirety here.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Music Monday: No Grave Could Keep by Kenwood Music

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Quotes from "You Can Pray" by Tim Chester

One of my favorite books that I have read this year is You Can Pray by Tim Chester. Here are some of the best quotes from the book.

Prayer is a child asking her father for help-nothing more, nothing less (pg. 16).

The Father will no more reject our prayers than he will reject the prayers of his own Son, Jesus (pg. 17).

Unbelievers can pray, but our heavenly Father only guarantees to hear the prayers of his children. When we pray, we need to believe that God is a gracious Father who delights to hear our prayers and a sovereign Father who can answer our prayers (pg. 21).

True faith trusts our sovereign Father and trusts that he will do what is best (pg. 22).

There is nothing we can do to make our prayers more effective before God. Our prayers are only effective and wholly effective through Christ's work (pg. 36).

Prayer is the embodiment or outworking of the gospel (pg. 46).

Prayer is easy. All the hard work was done by Jesus at the cross (pg. 54).

We don't pray because we don't really believe one or both of these two truths: that God is powerful and that God is loving (pg. 56).

We don't enjoy prayer because we misunderstand what it is (pg. 58).

Sin is not always the reason for unanswered prayer (pg. 87).

If you're a Christian, then God is not punishing you. But unanswered prayer may be his discipline, a call to turn back from sin to God (pg. 88).

God is not working on our timescales. He has all the time in the world (pg. 93).

Don Carson says, "Much Praying is not done because we don't plan to pray" (pg. 109).

Other books by Tim Chester:

1 Samuel for You

Titus for You

Good News to the Poor

Total Church with Steve Timmis

Everyday Church with Steve Timmis

A Meal with Jesus

You Can Change

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Who is the Israel of God?

For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. And as for all who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God (Galatians 6:15-16).

When I first read this passage I thought it was a misprint because it said, "the Israel of God," because the Old Testament always referred to the Lord as "The God of Israel." Looking at the context, I realized that this is not a misprint, which leaves the question, what is the Israel of God? A better question would be, who is the Israel of God?

The book of Galatians was written to Christians who have allowed false teachers to come in their church and teach a false gospel which points back to their works rather than the grace of God. These men taught that faith in Christ is not enough, you must be circumcised and obey the Law. Paul used the entire letter to teller his readers that they are recipients of grace through faith in Jesus Christ not based on circumcision.

Paul said made reference to Abraham who trusted in God by faith was credited to him as righteousness and has stated that "those of faith who are the sons of Abraham" (Galatians 3:7). Those who are truly believers in Christ are "Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise" (Galatians 3:29). Abraham was uncircumcised when he first believed showing that circumcision in not a necessity to come to faith in Jesus Christ. Paul in Galatians 6:15 says what counts is being a new creation in Christ, not any outward sign. This is good news for us because our works can never save us (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Who is the Israel of God? The Israel of God is the community of faith. That's right, the church. God's design for the church is to be one people saved by his grace through Jesus Christ for all nations. There is no dominate nation in the church, we are all one in Christ who rest in the grace of God.