Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Why Should Christians Stay Away From Sexual Immorality?

Why would tell your kids not to touch the stove? So they will not get burn. Why does a zoo say do not feed the animals? Because they will become aggressive and cause harm to other animals and humans? Why does the Bible say stay from sexual immorality? This is where some believers will draw a blank. Believe it or not, some Christians do not know why sexual immorality is sin.

Many cannot recall passages that says you should not have sex outside of marriage as was the case with my generation. Does the Bible tell us why we should stay away from sexual immorality? Yes, but before we get there, we need to be reminded that sex was God's idea. In the beginning, He told Adam and Eve, "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it" (Genesis 1:28). God also declared, "Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh" (Genesis 2:24), which was repeated by Jesus Christ in the gospels. Sex is not considered original sin, but how it is done can be sin.

So now comes the questions, why should Christians stay away from sexual immorality. First, it is the will of God. Paul wrote, "For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you" (1 Thesslonians 4:3-6). The Greek word for sexual immorality is "porneia," which is where we get the word "pornography." This word means any act outside of God's standard for marriage which includes adultery, lust (Jesus even said lust is the same as adultery), and fornication. God's standard of marriage between a man and woman is where the act of sex is permitted. Yes, our culture says otherwise in various ways, but the Bible will always outweigh culture even when they don't agree.

Second, sexual immorality is a form of idolatry. Idolatry is the worship of other gods rather than the God of the Bible. Many Christians don't see sexual immorality as idolatry but the Bible is clear on this. In Colossians 3, the Apostle Paul tells us to set our minds on things above which is where Christ is seated who is our life. Then he goes on to say, "Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry" (Colossians 3:5). He does not stop there. Paul says because of the sin idolatry which includes sexual immorality, "the wrath of God is coming" (Colossians 3:6). Paul addressed that many in the Colossian church use to live like this then challenges them to "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 3:8-10). Paul is not just addressing sexual immorality, but anything earthly in us that is against the will of God should be put to death.

Third, sexual immorality is not proper for the saints of God. When I say saint, I don't mean what the Catholics believe that one obtains sainthood when priests elect them after they are dead. Saints are those who God has redeemed. Saints are the people of God that Christ has saved from their sins and the wrath of God. The Bible says, "Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints" (Ephesians 5:1-3). We are called to be imitators of God as all impurity which includes sexual immorality are not to be named among the people of God. It is no secret when a pastor sexually sins. It is out in the open when the truth comes out. A study note to the ESV Study Bible says this, "Christians must be careful to guard their integrity and public reputation because public sins dishonor God, who has chosen them to be holy."

Finally, Christians must stay from sexual immorality because you body is meant for the Lord. Does this mean a life of singleness? No. When we give ourselves to someone sexually we are not just giving our bodies, we are giving them everything that we are. Remember sex was God's idea. The Bible says, "'Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food'"—and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body" (1 Corinthians 6:13). Paul wrote in Romans 6:13, "Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness." Sexual immorality is an act of unrighteousness which can cause some serious damage not spiritually, but mentally, psychologically, and, sometimes, physically. Paul wrote, "Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body" (1 Corinthians 6:18). Our bodies were meant to be used of God in the way he sees fit. Just because culture says you should do it this way does not make it right. If you are a Christian remember that your bodies is a temple of the Holy Spirit and we are called to honor God in our bodies (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

What if you have committed sexual immorality? Is this the unforgiveable? No. Jesus forgave a woman caught in adultery (John 7:53-8:11). Sexual immorality is not above the grace and mercy of God. Just as any other sin, God can wipe it away. Yes, you will still have reap the consequences of your sin, but with God there is forgiveness. The Bible promises, "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). I hope and pray, if you have committed some form of sexual immorality, run to the Father. His arms are opened wide ready to receive you. If you have not committed any sexual immorality, pray for those who do and keep "a close watch on yourself and on the teaching" (1 Timothy 4:16, especially those who are leaders in the church.

Recommended Reading:

Finally Free by Heath Lambert

What To Do When Struggling With Lust

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Two Most Beautful Words in The Bible

One of the most memorable moments in my first semester in college was being part of a small group Bible study that one of my friends put together. We studied many different topics from ministry to who Jesus is. I did not remember how this conversation came up, but we started talking about the grace of God. We went to Ephesians 2 where my friend said the most beautiful word in the Bible is "But."

The Bible says (Notice the word "But" is in bold as well as italics):

And you were 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. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:1-7).

It was not until a few years ago, I realized my friend was only half right. Lets read that passage again:

And you were 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. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

Did you notice anything different? Instead of "But" being in bold and italicized, it was the words "But God." What my friend did not realize that while "But" is a beautiful word in the Bible, the words "But God" are even more beautiful. Jon Bloom writes:

“But God.” These two words are overflowing with gospel. For sinners like you and me who were lost and completely unable to save ourselves from our dead-set rebellion against God, there may not be two more hopeful words that we could utter.

Once we were dead to any real love for God at all, buried under the compounding and disorienting blindness of our sins (Ephesians 2:1), but God. Once we were deceived by our own lust for glory and self-determination; once we were unknowingly led by the pied piper called “the prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2), but God. Once we lived enslaved to the passions of our flesh, being driven and tossed between the impulsive waves of our flesh and mind (Ephesians 2:3), but God. Once we were God’s enemies (Romans 5:10), hating him (Romans 1:30), children of his wrath. But God.

But God being rich in mercy, but God showing his incomprehensible “love for us in that while we were yet sinners” (Romans 5:8) he said to us God-dead, God-ignoring, God-rivaling, God-hating, dry-boned children of wrath: “live” (Ezekiel 37:5)! Live to true beauty, live to true glory, live to true hope, live to true pleasure, live to true joy! Live to God (Galatians 2:19) and live forever (John 6:58)!

And he did so by taking our God-deadening, God-ignoring, God-rivaling, God-hating, God-wrath inducing sin and placing it on his Son, the Life (John 14:6), and said: “die” (Romans 5:8). And so he who knew no sin became our sin for us — for an infinitely hellish moment became a child of wrath (Ephesians 2:3) for us — the righteous for the unrighteous, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him (2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 3:18). So that we might live forever (John 3:16)

These two words, “but God,” tell us that we have been saved only by God’s grace. Dead children of wrath do not become living, loving children of God but for God.

Revel in these two priceless words. Every thing, sweet and bitter, that will occur between now and the moment of your death God will work for your good (Romans 8:28), and every glorious pleasure that you will ever enjoy in your future eternal life in his presence (Psalm 16:11) because of the gospel of these two words: “but God.”

"But God" are the two most beautiful words in the Bible because they tell us that while we may be sinners, God is merciful, gracious, and compassionate.

Recommend Reading:

"But God...": The Two Words at the Heart of the Gospel by Casey Lute

Monday, January 26, 2015

Music Monday: New Again by Sojourn

This is a the latest album from Sojourn Community Church:

Book Review: Exalting Jesus in Galatians

B & H Publishing has produced a series of commentaries called, Christ-Centered Exposition. These commentaries are edited by David Platt, Tony Merida, and Daniel Akin who are highly respectable pastors and theologians. The purpose of this series is to get the reader to see Christ in every point of the Bible where they might have seen them before.

I decided to review Exalting Christ in Galatians because this is one of the books that convince Martin Luther that the gospel is not about works and Galatians is one of my favorite books of the Bible. This commentary is written by David Platt and Tony Merida. You can find which one wrote the chapters in the table of contents which is a good thing because it can get confusing at times when multiple authors write a book and not knowing who wrote what.

Each chapter goes over the main idea regarding the passages they are written about that break down topics they are discussing as well. You may think with a commentary, these chapters will be pretty long, but with Galatians they were not. Normally pastors and teachers would deal with commentaries but I think the editors have in mind for all believers to pick up these commentaries as they study the word of God without feeling they have been through a seminary class.

As you read these chapters, you feel like you are listening to a sermon and not a lecture. Each chapter is meant to, as the title says, exalt Christ. All chapters end with some questions to reflect as well as discuss if you are doing a Bible study.

If you are a pastor looking for a good commentary, pick this one up. If you are wanting to study the Bible for yourself and need a good commentary, pick this one up. In case you are wondering about cost, each commentary that is only $12.99, which is good if you are on a tight budget.

Thanks B & H Publishing for letting me review this book.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

How Can You Miss The Gospel In Hearing?

Yesterday, I ask those who are preachers of the gospel, how can you miss the gospel in sermon preparation?. Today, I want to address those who listen to preaching while the Bible is being preaching. As you hear the Word being taught, how can you miss the gospel in your hearing?

You might be thinking why is this such a big deal because I did not do any preaching. That is true but you can also miss the gospel while in a worship service and I am not talking about those who sit in a church where there is bad preaching. I am talking those who sit in a church where the gospel is faithfully preach. Can we miss the gospel as the Bible is being preached? We can if we are not careful.

Keep in mind that the gospel is not just for non-believers but for believers as well. Christians have a tendency to go back to a work-oriented mindset if they are not reminded of the gospel of grace and we can miss that. How can we? First, this is the most obvious one, we can miss the gospel in our hearing if the preacher does not preach the gospel just like the preacher I mention in the previous post. Ephesians 2 is saturated with the gospel and when a preacher fails to preach what that text means, we miss the gospel. This would also be a good time to be like the Bereans and examine the scriptures to see what the preacher is saying is true.

Second, we miss the gospel in our hearing when we are distracted and I am not talking about your kids bugging you during the service (give them grace). I am talking about thoughts on things you have to, how loud the preacher is, or how hungry you because you skipped breakfast. You might be also distracted from the argument you and your spouse had before worship. Many things can distract us from hearing the gospel in a sermon.

Third, we miss the gospel in our hearing because we are use to another form of preaching. You might use to hearing a sermon about having a quiet time and you grow in the Lord. You might have heard one on tithing that offers no grace because you think God is going to take your money as a result of you forgetting your tithe last week. I know for me, it can be difficult to hear the gospel faithfully preached because I always heard a sermon on being a better Christian or some idea that the Second Coming is upon because this happened in the news.

Finally, we miss the gospel because we have some sin in our lives that make us feel guilty. I think many come to church because they believe God will be appeased by their attendance. They believe their sin is so great they need to be in a "house of God" to make God like them even more and that is where they miss the gospel. The gospel tells us that Jesus forgives our sins and speaks to the Father on our behalf while the Holy Spirit testifies with our spirit we belong to God. The church is to be a people where they are encouraging and equipping saints not beating them up. A sermon should be a church's marching orders as well as a reminder of the gospel of grace to those who are God's adopted sons and daughters.

Romans 10:17 says, "Faith comes from hearing and hearing from the word of Christ." The word of Christ is the gospel of our salvation not just when we first believe, but also as we continue our exile on planet earth.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

How Can You Miss The Gospel In Sermon Preparation?

During this season where I am in the middle of getting a church plant started in Wichita Falls, my family and I have been visiting other churches in the city. We have friends in each church that has invited us and we have accepted their invitation to attend a worship service. We have visited some churches more than once while other we have visited and expressed never attend that church again for various reasons.

This past Sunday, we attended a church (which I will not name), where the pastor was my wife's former youth pastor and we have many friends there. The song portion of the worship service was alright. I had no problem with the songs they chose to lead the church in worship. Then came the sermon which was on Ephesians 2:1-13. One would think this would be a gospel-centered sermon talking about our spiritual condition before we met Jesus and who we are now in Christ. That was not the case.

The sermon was about hope and why we should not lose hope. The pastor did not even lead his congregation in a corporate reading of the text which is what some pastors in our area sometimes do. The approach in this sermon was not gospel-centered nor was it to equip the saints. It felt more like a counseling session where the pastor was just giving encouragement. Don't get me wrong, preachers need to be encouraging to their congregations with the hope of the gospel but not to the point where it almost sounds like Jesus is my boyfriend rather than our Lord and Savior.

My question, not just for this pastor, but to any pastor, is how can you miss the gospel in your sermon preparation? Take this sermon on Ephesians 2 for example. How can a preacher not see the beauty of the gospel in this passage? We were dead in our trespasses and sins while following Satan and the desires of our flesh (Ephesians 2:1-3). That's not good news. Now we are alive in Christ, seated in the heavenly places by God's grace not our works and God has called us in Christ to do good works which have been prepared beforehand (Ephesians 2:4-10). That's good news.

How can a preacher miss the gospel in that? For some, they are not looking for the gospel. I think the problem in a lot of churches is that they believe Christians have graduated from the gospel. Pastors, at times, present themselves as ones who have move beyond the gospel. Preachers should never think they have moved beyond the gospel because the gospel is what we need everyday regardless of how long we have been in the faith.

The gospel is the A to Z of the Christian faith as Tim Keller once said. Tullian Tchividjian said, "The gospel is the fuel for Christians to keep going and growing." Our churches need deep theological sermons but they also need the gospel. We need to address the issues of our day while preaching the gospel in our sermons. There is hope for those in Christ and it is show in the gospel.

Preachers and teachers, do not miss the gospel as you prepare your sermon, lesson, or whatever you are teaching. Christians need it today as they did when they first believed.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

What Opened My Eyes to Reformed Theology

It seems more and more Christians are coming out as reformed or Calvinistic. I am not sure if some do because it's the trend or other reasons. Others have become reformed because their eyes were opened to the doctrines of grace as they study the Bible.

Before I became reformed, I knew very little about Calvinism. The only thing I knew was that Calvinists believe God chooses those who are saved and their teachings were based on John Calvin.

What opened my eyes to reformed theology was after a six month battle with cancer. On September 11, 2007, of all days, I discovered two lumps on my neck. The next day I went to my doctor and he referred me to a specialist who performed a biopsy to determine what were these masses. Two days later, I was dialogized with Hodgkin's Lymphoma. After meeting with my oncologist, it was determined that I was stage two because there were no cells in my bone marrow.

I went through six months of Chemotherapy with no radiation, which is by God's grace. On February 2008, I has a PET scan that showed the cancer was gone. I had to do one more month of chemo followed by monthly appointments. In December 2008, I was given the thumps up from my oncologist to have my infusa-port removed. By God's grace, I surpassed the five year mark in 2013 and have been given a clean bill of health ever since.

Following my last chemo treatment, I began to question my faith. Not questioning God, but what about the things I believed in Christianity. I was a youth pastor at Arrowhead Baptist and have seen students come to Christ, but they were acting like they only got saved for the "fire insurance" (if you are from a Southern Baptist background, you know what I speak of). Then I came across a post by Tim Challies, which I cannot find that exact post, that said Christians cannot live on a diet of Christian Living books. That struck me for some reason, which now I see was the Spirit of God working in me.

I started reading Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology followed by Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion as well as many other theological books that I can find.

One thing that I really needed to grasp more was on suffering. Why do Christians suffer? I thought God was punishing me by giving me cancer which turns out that was not the case. Jesus took my punishment in my place on the cross. God used my cancer to mold me and gave me my own reformation. Regarding election, God used R.C. Sproul's Chosen By God to open my eyes about this tough teaching. Sproul was talking to someone debating the issue of election by stating, do you know you are denying the word of God? The Spirit reminded me of these words told to me years ago, "If there is one thing in the Bible you do not agree with, then you do not believe in the Bible at all." Those words came from my father who died from lung cancer in 2003 and never blamed God for his illness.

This year will mark seven years since my last chemo treatment and seven years since I began my journey into reformed theology. I can tell you it is a joy to be on this journey especially now as I am planting a church in Wichita Falls with two other reformed brothers in Christ. I still have questions and struggles, which is okay. I remember John MacArthur saying he still have questions and struggle over election, which gives me great comfort.

I praise God for the journey He has taken me on. Opening my eyes to reformed theology was not the only thing God used my battle with cancer. He also made me realize how religious I was and not gospel-centered, which will be another post for another time.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Ways Christians Can Serve a School

Derek & Colleen Hiebert:

One of the simplest ways to love a city is to serve its schools. Education, among other structures, is one of the main components on which a city thrives, creates culture, and builds the wellbeing of the population. We are called to seek the welfare of a city (Jer. 29:7), and you can do no better than to invest your time and energy into a local school. The school that my wife and I serve needs a fair amount of help. We have been serving there for the last seven years. We enjoy serving there, because of the relationships we get to build with normal everyday people, and the opportunities we get to bless them.

More than just the practical and social reasons, though, there are theological reasons. We get to serve there, because we have a great Lord and Savior who served us perfectly, laying down his life and dying for us while we were still sinful and rebellious. We would confess, however, that often our reasons for serving the school do not always fall in line with this truth. Sure we want to see the people of the school come to know Jesus; sure we want to see people’s lives changed and we want God to be glorified through us—all good evangelical notions. Sometimes we might have other practical or quasi-selfish reasons for serving the school, such as for the betterment of the school, or that our kids will benefit from our time there. Those are not bad reasons. However, in the gospel we need to remember that all our motivation, strength, and the resources we need to serve, come from how Jesus served us. This is the truth by which we are often convicted and what causes us to repent and seek the best reason.

With the gospel in mind, then, here are four ways to serve and bless a school. These simple methods are transferable for any school context in any city.

1. Pray for the school

2. Ask how to help and show up

3. Give generously of your time and resources

4. Practice hospitality

Read the entire post here.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Book Review: From This Day Forward by Craig & Amy Groeschel

Hollywood loves to make great love stories. Whether it is on television or a movie theater, people will watch a love story. Some people will read about a good love story and then go the midnight showing of the movie adaptation.

The problem with Hollywood is they give us a fairy tale ending to these love stories unless you are watching a Nicholas Sparks movie. A man and woman get together, after a few bits of drama in between, then they live happily ever after. Truth is sometimes marriage is not always happily ever after. There are struggles and there are conflicts in marriage.

No one marries a perfect spouse and live in a perfect home yet Hollywood gives us images of this when it is not absolutely true. Is there any real advice for single adults and young married couples? Craig Groeschel along with his wife, Amy, have written a simple book called, From This Day Forward, which deals with five areas that every couple needs to strive for in their marriage. Those areas are:

1. Seek God

2. Fight fair

3. Have fun

4. Stay pure

5. Never give up

Craig wrote most of the book with Amy doing a little follow-up regarding the topic Craig wrote. This book was very open and honest as the Groeschel's talk about their marriage and their own struggles in marriage. This is a very simple book for anyone to read, but not gospel-centered.

Thanks BookLook Bloggers for letting me review this book.

Monday, January 12, 2015