Christ Appeared

“You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin.” (1 John 3:5)

There is so much important truth packed into this one sentence. Three obvious truths are:

1. He (Jesus) appeared
2. Jesus took our sins away
3. He is sinless

His appearing is a reference to the incarnation. There are many religions that seek to deny the humanity of Jesus and they do so at their own peril. The incarnation of Jesus is absolutely necessary for Him to accomplish,
as a man, what no other person has been or will be able to do – obey the law of God perfectly as a human. Jesus is the perfect man and He is also divine. Let this be sweet to us!

We are not perfect. We are sinners. We deserve God’s wrath because of our rebellion against Him. We sin because we are sinners by nature. We are sinners by nature because our federal head, Adam, transgressed a clear command of God (Gen. 2:17, 3:1-13). Through Adam and Eve’s disobedience, sin and death entered creation (Rom 5:12). We must not only think of the act of eating fruit as sin. We must also think who was sinned against. Adam and Eve sinned against holy God. The offense was cosmic because of this reason. This is why the wages of sin is eternal death. Sin against eternal holy God deserves eternal righteous condemnation. Jesus’ humanity was necessary because as a man, He lived the life that we could never live and died the death we deserve. This is what the Apostle John meant when he said Jesus appeared to take away sins. It’s not that Jesus’ righteousness erases the sinful acts we have done. Rather, for those who cast themselves on God’s mercy and place their faith in Christ, their sins have been atoned for and the penalty for sin no longer remains. Christ has removed our guilt and our condemnation by becoming the guilty and the condemned one in our place. That was what the cross was all about. He became sin who knew no sin that we might become His righteousness (2 Cor. 5:21)!

Only Christ is qualified to do this because He is perfect! His perfection is what John meant by in him there is no sin. Under the Old Covenant, the Law required a perfect sacrifice to be slain for the guilty and offered to God by the high priest. Innocent blood for guilty blood has always been God’s way of forgiveness. This preserves His holiness and magnifies His grace, mercy, forgiveness and love. Jesus is our sacrifice and our high priest (Heb.10:1-18) and He clearly proclaimed that He is the way to the Father (Jhn. 14:6).

Jesus came to die so that those who are dead spiritually might live. Jesus came to undo the works of Satan and redeem a people for Himself. This is why He appeared. This is why we have and celebrate Christmas.

Let us rejoice!

Grace & Peace,

d.

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The Significance of Advent

adventI admit that I love the fall holidays, Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Perhaps it’s because of the joys I’ve experienced in the past and still do experience when I gather with loved ones, sharing time, space, and meals. Essentially, we’re sharing our lives and for a particular purpose – gratitude to God for the work accomplished through His Son, Jesus Christ.

That wasn’t always the case for me though. Before I was a Christian, the holidays served a selfish purpose for me. I was more concerned about being free from the responsibilities of school or work, and consumed with eating, drinking, being merry and getting gifts. I was a consummate  professional at being selfish. But that changed in 1998 when the LORD saved me and placed me in union with Christ.

This year, Advent season starts December 1st. Advent means “arrival” or “coming” and is the season that celebrates the coming or the birth of Jesus Christ. This is known as His First Advent. It also is a season that points to His promised Second Coming (Acts 1:11; 1 Thess. 3:11, 4:13-18).  Since becoming a Christian, this season of celebration is much more profound and special to me. It is a season that is well suited for sharing the gospel and reflecting on the greatest example of giving there was or ever will be. Of course, we should be sharing the gospel irrespective of holidays, but Advent rolls out the red carpet for gospel proclamation.

The coming of Jesus marked what some believe is the most significant event in human history. While His whole life was significant, including his death and resurrection, His coming marked a pivotal moment in God’s redemptive plan. The promised offspring (Gen. 3; Gal. 3:16), the Last Adam (Rom. 5:12-21), the True Israel and Son of God (Hos. 11:1; Matt. 2:13-14), the Promised King (2 Sam. 7:12-16; Zech. 9:9; Matt. 21:5; Rev. 19:11-16) came and dwelt among men to fulfill God’s Law in every way and defeat sin, thus securing eternal hope for His people.

To understand the significance of Advent, we must understand the coming of Jesus in light of God’s plan of redemption throughout human history.

Here is a great article providing an overview of the Bible, which gives us insight to God’s plan of redemption: Overview of The Bible

Desiring God has urecently re-released their Advent devotional, Good News of Great Joy, as a free PDF download.

May we all reflect on the significance of Advent and worship Christ, our Lord, Savior and King!

Grace & Peace,

d.

Do You Really Love?

We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death.

(1 John 3:14 ESV)

What a penetrating fact!  The Apostle John, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, says that love for other believers is the marker of spiritual life or regeneration.  Not only that, but the presence of this love is a mark of assurance – we KNOW that we have passed out of death into life.  And in fact, a lack of love for other believers is an indicator that we’re not born again. John spends a significant portion of this epistle addressing love and also in his gospel account (Jhn. 13:33-34).

The Significance of Love for the Brothers

Some may wonder why love for other believers is significant.  Isn’t it possible to love God without getting involved in the messy affairs of other Christians? Can’t we just go to church, sing our praises, listen to the sermon, contribute to the offering and leave virtually unnoticed and do it all again the next Sunday? Is there any real harm in anonymity? Yes, and here’s why.

God’s Nature

1 John 4:7-8 says love is from God and God is love. It also says those who are born of God will love.  Galatians 5:22-23 says love, among other virtues, is fruit of the Spirit. In other words, love is a spiritual characteristic of those who possess the Spirit or those who have been born again. Perhaps the strongest argument we need to consider is not just that God is loving, but how God was expressing His love before the creation of creation. I contend that love existed in the Godhead from all eternity. In other words, love existed between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit perfectly before the foundation of the world.  The Scriptures speak of the Father’s love for the Son (Matt. 3:17, 17:5; Jhn 3:36; 5:20; 10:17; 17:24, 26; Col. 1:13), the submission of the Son to the Father (Jhn. 4:34, 14:31) and the glorification of Christ by the Spirit (Jhn. 16:14).

But God doesn’t just love Himself; He also loves us. Consider John 3:16 and 1 John 4:10, 19.

God’s Purpose

Genesis 1:27 says man was created in God’s image and likeness. Genesis 3 records the fall of man, which has distorted, but not destroyed the image of God in man. One of the goals of redemption is to be conformed to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29), who is the exact image of the Father (Col. 1:15; Heb. 1:3). Therefore, God’s purpose is to have His glory displayed in and through redeemed individuals and one way that glory is seen is how believers love one another.  Ephesians 3:10 says the church was created to display God’s manifold wisdom. What a grand purpose! Every believer is called to actively display the glory of God individually and also collectively as part of a local church body by loving other believers and being united for the mission of God. Paul prayed for believers in Philippi that their love for one another would abound so that their lives would be filled with the fruit of righteousness (Phil. 1:9-11).

What Love Looks Like

Biblically, love is doing good to and for others for their good, joy and progress in the faith. Love is not restricted to an emotional feeling, but involves self-sacrifice for the good of others (Mk. 10:45; Lk. 10:25-37; Rom. 5:8; 1 Cor. 13; 2 Cor. 5:21; Phil. 2:5-11; 1 Jhn. 3:16-18).

On Being Loved

Yesterday and today, my wife and I had the opportunity to visit dear friends of ours and we were loved in various ways. After meeting for dinner at a local Indian restaurant, we all headed back to their place for dessert – homemade carrot cake and coffee. We had a great time catching up and our conversation was filled with highs and lows.  As the night winded down, instead of going home, my wife and I headed to their spare bedroom to get rest. Yes, our friends invited us to stay the night instead of driving home late in inclement weather. The room and guest bathroom were prepared to accommodate whatever we needed. This morning, we were treated to a grand breakfast (see picture below) and we enjoyed each others’ company for the next several hours.  As my wife and I were about to leave, we all held hands, prayed and talked about the next time we would like to get together.

Breakfast

What a gift they are! What hospitality! What love!

What was more compelling about it all is that our friends are going through a trial now, and instead of being inwardly focused, they bended their love outward to us as an expression of  the gospel, their gratitude of our Father’s love and their love for us.  As I reflected on our time, I was reminded of the Apostle Peter’s words in 1 Peter 4:8-10.

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.

We were served well by our friends and may the Lord reward them richly for their genuine display of love and the gospel.

Anonymity doesn’t experience these type of blessings and encouragements. Anonymity doesn’t accurately paint a picture that portrays the beauties of the gospel. Anonymity’s root is selfishness and is a poor reflection of the character of God. This is why we need to know others and be known by other believers. We need to love and be loved for our own good and for God’s glory.  There is a direct connection between loving God and loving His people.

The only way we can love this way is to first be loved by God and then ponder how Christ didn’t remain anonymous, but came, dwelt, taught, and sacrificed His life for His people.

Grace & Peace,

d.

Response to “What is Biblical Preaching? Pt. 1”

osteenIn Part 1 of  What is Biblical Preaching?, I shared a video of one of Joel Osteen’s sermons.  I also asked five questions about the sermon.  The reason why I posted that video and asked those questions was to hopefully generate critical thinking and conversation and perhaps help some learn how to listen to sermons. Learning how to listen to sermons is critical for every believer if they are going to discern truth, mature and properly worship the LORD.  However, learning how to listen to sermons first involves knowing the authority of sermons and the purpose of sermons. By authority, I mean where does the sermon originate or get its content.  All sermons are to be rooted in the authoritative Scriptures and taught according to the intent of the author.  The purpose of sermons  is to instruct the head, affect the heart and move the hands of every believer to the end that they worship God and look more like Christ (2 Tim. 3:16-17). Sermons are also to convict the unbeliever of their rebellious state and call for the responses of repentance and faith.

If sermons do not include an exposition of a biblical text and application for the listener, the preacher/pastor has not dealt faithfully with God’s Word and has not helped the listener understand who God is and what God demands. Unfortunately, the globe is littered with pastors who mishandle the Scriptures and deceive their congregations and listeners.  In addition to erring pastors, there also are people who willingly desire false teaching for their own personal interests (2 Tim. 4:3-4).

Joel Osteen’s sermon was titled “Remove Negative Labels” and here are my answers to the questions I posed.

1.  What text was he preaching from?

After viewing this video more than once, I honestly cannot find where Osteen presents a chief text or passage of Scripture that communicates “removing negative labels”.  The only time that he touched his Bible was in the very beginning of the message, but HE NEVER OPENED IT AND READ FROM IT.  His message was not rooted in Scripture, but rather was a topic of interest whereby he sprinkled a few verses to justify his message. That kind of preaching is not faithful to the Bible nor ultimately helpful to the listener.  What drove his agenda was his own desire, not the Bible.

2.  What image of God did he paint?

One of the greatest benefits of reading Scripture is being exposed to the nature and character of God. Too often we create images of God in our own minds that simply aren’t true. The Scriptures, more so Jesus, give us the best image of the invisible God. Unfortunately because Joel didn’t faithfully teach the Bible, he didn’t communicate a fully biblical image of God/Christ. He painted a picture that God exists ultimately for our well-being on earth and as a means to a better life. He also said that God needed us to accomplish His will (14:50-15:17).  If God needed us to accomplish His will, He would cease being God.

3.  What image of man did he paint?

Again, the Scriptures clearly communicate the nature of man and man is best understood as God is understood. In other words, we can’t fully know ourselves until we know the One who created us.  Osteen paints a picture of man having the power to remove negative labels simply by believing what God says we are.  Although man was created good, he fell when he transgressed a command of God (Gen. 3) and several places in Scripture qualify man as a sinner, a rebel, evil, spiritual adulterers, murderers, liars, etc. This is our nature prior to salvation. Joel would’ve served his congregation better by telling them of the hope found in Jesus Christ. Outside of Christ we are condemned because of our sin.

4.  Was the gospel presented?

Sadly, it wasn’t. Osteen’s sermon was a self-help message mixed with a few passages from the Scriptures taken severely out of context. The only way to “remove negative labels” is to repent of sin and become a new creation in Christ. This is what the gospel communicates and accomplishes because of the work of Christ and the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit. Osteen didn’t mention sin, repentance, faith, God’s holiness, the cross, the resurrection, etc.

5.  How can we know if his teaching is true?

Be students of your Bible. I can’t say this enough. Be like the Bereans (Acts 17:10-11) who tested even what Paul preached to them. Get some great study tools like an ESV Study Bible and Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem. Also, learn the fundamental rules of biblical hermeneutics. There is an abundance of resources, but our primary resource is the Bible and the teaching ministry of the Holy Spirit.

Grace & Peace,

d.

50 Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die |reason 1|

To Absorb the Wrath of God

Key TextsGalatians 3:13, Romans 3:25 and 1 John 4:10

Piper strategically starts off the book stating this reason – Jesus came to die to absorb God’s wrath.  This is no small thing and is loaded with several important implications.  The implications are  (1) God is holy and righteous (2) He has been offended (sinned against) (3) God is just and therefore He must judge offenses (4) He is loving, gracious and merciful to send Jesus to absorb His wrath (5) Christ loved the Father and sacrificed His own life as a guilt offering, though He is sinless (6) God’s wrath is satisfied by the death of His Beloved Son.

These 6 implications provide a shell of the gospel, but also much more than that.  These 6 implications help us to see something about the three parties involved  – God the Father, man, and God the Son – Jesus Christ.  Two things we see about God are He is wrathful and He is loving. We see man is a sinner. We see Christ is loving, perfect, and God’s ordained Sacrifice for sin.

It seems reasonable for Piper to begin here because the world’s biggest problem is sin.  It is imperative that we know that we are naturally rebellious to God and worthy of His eternal wrath.  Yes, God is full of wrath.  Piper makes mention that sin is no light thing and it is not light because of whom we sin against – Sovereign God.  Sin is great because God is great.  One of the terrible tragedies of sin is that it blinds us to the perfections of God and the beauty of Christ.  We are all born with sin-stained views of God and of ourselves. The stain of sin hides the true essence of God from us and blinds us to our own sin.  Sin is exceedingly sinful.

However, God is also love and in love He sent His Son to rescue rebels from His wrath. God poured out His just wrath against sin on His Son, the Sinless One.  This is the meaning of John 3:16 and Romans 5:8.   He sent His one and only Son to soak up His wrath for the sins we commit.  God pouring out His wrath on Christ exhibits His justice (sin must be dealt with) and His gracious and merciful love (He sent Christ to stand in our place to absorb His wrath) toward those who place their faith in Christ.  Those who admit their rebellion (sin) and accept God’s provision of righteousness (Jesus Christ) by faith, their unrighteousness is atoned for in Christ’s death and Christ’s righteousness is imputed or credited to that person. It’s the great exchange! (See 2 Corinthians 5:21)

But we cannot fail to mention one important issue. Behind every act that God does is a reason.  That reason is to glorify Himself. In sending Christ, the Father is drawing attention to many of His excellencies – His justice, His holiness, His righteousness, His patience, His love, His mercy, and His grace.  Though believers are the beneficiaries of salvation, the chief end of salvation is the glory of God! (See Romans 11:36)

Next Reason:  Jesus came to die to please His heavenly Father.

Grace & Peace,

d.

Big Momma, Church Hats and the Glory of God

For many, including myself, this picture is a familiar scene – strong black women in the church. If you’re familiar, you know how African-American church culture is. The pastor or reverend in the pulpit is smiling one minute and whoopin’ the next beckoning the congregation with, “Can I get an amen!?!” “Amen!”, shouts back the congregation.  He casually wipes the sweat off of his brow with his handkerchief, looks at the congregation and pauses…..“Wellllll!”, says Big Momma as she fans herself. You know who Big Momma is. She’s been a member for 40 years, well respected, makes the best chicken dinners and peach cobblers and has that unofficial reserved parking spot. She walks in the church in her Sunday best, church hat, gloves, smelling good, and a warm friendly smile for everyone as she makes her way to her pew.  You know Big Momma! She likes to gently sway her body during praise & worship and hum throughout the service. In fact, I saw many Big Mommas growing up in the church, but besides the deacons, the “rev” and “ursher” board, I don’t recall seeing many men in the church.

I recently had a conversation with a dear brother in the Lord and I was sharing my heart about my concerns for the African American church – one of which is the general lack of expositional teaching. What he said to me was something I didn’t expect to hear. He said, “David, just about every week, I hear stories of African-American men pursuing pastoral ministry who grieve over the lack of solid exposition in the pulpit. But the biggest problem you’ll face in the African-American church culture is an acceptance of complementarianism.”

That answer caused me to significantly reconsider my approach concerning my desires for the African-American church culture. One of the greatest tragedies, due to sin, in the African-American culture is the lack of fathers in the home. Statistics have been recorded about how the African-American community has been and is affected by the absence of strong male leadership and the church is not immune.  It is because of this very reason that women have had to step up to be the “momma” and the “daddy” of their homes and in the culture. So we can see how this gets messy in matters of the church. While we applaud the women and Big Mommas in our culture for taking necessary responsibility, we must understand that God’s way is better and His way is for men to lovingly lead their families for the stability of society and ultimately for the glory of God.

Humanity, man and woman, was the only part of creation that was created in God’s image (Genesis 1:26-27). In very specific ways, we have been given or share some of the same attributes of God as His image bearers. These are known as communicable attributes. Such are love, peace, patience, kindness, anger, reasoning, etc.  But we don’t image God in those ways alone, but also in our functions according to our roles.  Humanity was given the task to be fruitful and multiply, to subdue and have dominion (authority) over the earth as a picture of God’s authority (Genesis 1:28) and woman was given to man to help him with this task (Genesis 2:18-23). This explicitly points to male leadership and female submission, which we can rightly assume functioned well before sin entered the world.  Adam was given the charge to lead, protect and provide and Eve was given the charge to submit to him and assist him with his God given mandate to subdue and have dominion.  Some have said it like this – God orients man to the task and orients woman to the man. Paul lays out the theology of marriage in Ephesians 5:22-32 and clearly men and women are called to function in a way toward one another that points to Christ’s submission to the Father in the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is what I meant by God’s glory in the beginning.  Humanity, gender differences and gender roles all point to the magnificence of God’s glory and any deviation from what God intended is a marring of His glory. For the church, it’s the same.  Men are called to lead as women are not permitted to occupy the leadership offices of elders, which function as pastors, or have any type of authority over man in the church (1 Timothy 2:12). These are reserved for men alone (1 Timothy 3:1-13 & Titus 1:5-9) as a means of displaying the order within the Godhead.  In part, due to the absence of men, egalitarianism is often practiced within the African-American church culture, but unfortunately it is also practiced when males are present. This is owing to poor biblical hermeneutics and comfortable cultural traditions.

So the problem seems have two sides. Side 1 – Black communities, churches included, lack the presence of male leadership for various reasons, therefore women are forced to lead and protect that leadership vigorously. Side 2 – Women lead or are viewed as co-leaders because of biblical ignorance and passivity among the black men that are present. So what is the solution?

While I am aware that the issue is far more complex that what I’ve outlined above, the gospel is the solution to this problem. Solid expositional teaching needs to be the steady diet in African-American pulpits so the gospel can be recovered. We need correct orthodoxy and correct orthopraxy.

Perhaps we should consider the African-American male as an unreached people group as Eric Redmond has as he assessed this problem in his book, Where Are All the Brothers?

The gospel needs to go forth in the African-American church community and men need to step up so we can give Big Momma a break.

Grace & Peace,

d.

Resources 

*  For more information on complementarianism, egalitarianism, biblical manhood and womanhood, consider reading Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood editors John Piper and Wayne Grudem. (Free PDF of book at link courtesy of Desiring God)

Together for the Gospel | Complementarianism Panel Discussion 

Why Marriage?

One of the hot-button issues in our culture is marriage.  It’s not so much that our culture is generally in favor of marriage, but rather the conversation is, for those who desire to marry, who is legally able to marry.  Are we really asking this question?  Yes, this is where our culture is and the conversation, in whisper form, started in the late 60’s.  Imagine that!  But to effectively, logically and truthfully answer this question, a better question needs to precede the who can marry question.  That better question is – What is marriage?   This is the foundation that must be laid before we build upon it.  The what is gives way to the who can.  Perhaps an even better is question is why marriage?  Why does marriage exist?

The Beginning

Where did marriage come from?  This is a worthy question to consider.  The answer to this question shapes our view of marriage.  If we think marriage was birthed in the minds of man, we’ll give way to the subjective definitions and functions of marriage.  If this view is correct, marriage is a matter of private interpretation and is essentially undefinable and unreliable.  The other alternative is marriage was created by God, and by His very nature, marriage is objective and has an unchanging definition and purpose.

But before we talk further about marriage, we must talk about the origin of people. God created humanity.

Genesis 1:26-27 says,

So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.

 

Genesis 2:7 says,

…the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.

Clearly, God created man (collective term for humanity) and he created a distinction within humanity – male and female.  Not only did He create distinction between them, but we are created in the image of God.  In matters of essence and worth, there is no inferiority, but equality.  Males and females both equally image God.  In matters of roles, God created distinction. Males and females, by design, have God ordained roles in marriage.

Genesis 2:18-25 says,

18 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit forhim.” 19 Now out of the ground the Lord God had formedevery beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. 20 The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. 21 So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. 22 And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he madeinto a woman and brought her to the man.23 Then the man said,

“This at last is bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called Woman,
because she was taken out of Man.”
 

24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. 25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.

 

Here we see the origin of marriage, its design, its “players” and their roles.  Taking a closer look at this passage reveals very key issues that our culture needs to understand.  Let’s peer into this passage.

  • Verse 18 tells us that marriage was God’s idea.
  • Verse 18 also tells us that Adam had a job and needed help.
  • Verse 18 also tells us what the chief role a wife is to play – a helper. She is needed to complement her husband for God’s given assignment for humanity – to be fruitful and multiply (have offspring) and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over it. (Genesis 1:28)
  • Verses 19-20 tell us that the animal kingdom is insufficient to be man’s helper. That rules out bestiality.
  • Verses 21-22 tell us that God caused Adam to enter a deep sleep and He fashioned woman, not another man, from Adam’s rib and presented her to Adam.  That rules out homosexuality.
  • Verse 23 tells us of Adam’s excitement in seeing this woman.
  • Verse 24 tells us that a man shall hold fast to his wife, not wives, and they shall become one flesh. That rules out polygamy.
  • Verse 25 “naked and not ashamed” means there was a great deal of transparency and trust.

The Purpose

Now, looking back at Genesis 1, verse 28 says,

28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

God created woman for man for a very specific reason – to help him subdue the earth and have dominion.  As we know, their initial dwelling place was the Garden of Eden, but this command to subdue the earth and have dominion over it obviously implies their work would extend beyond the borders of the Garden of Eden.  Therefore, we see the necessity to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.  The offspring of Adam and Eve were also image bearers called to take part in subduing and having dominion over the earth.  This in turn means that through humanity, God’s image bearers, God’s glory would fill the whole earth.  That was the intention of the creation of man, marriage and bearing children – that God would be glorified in a very unique way through His image bearers as they function as His representatives on the earth.

However, Genesis 3 comes. Sin is introduced in humanity and distorts God’s image in humanity and distorts man and woman’s roles and functions.  This is why we have such distortions of marriage now, including the attempt to redefine it.  Instead of men leading, protecting and providing, they are passive, irresponsible “boys” or tyrants.  Instead of women joyfully complementing their husbands by being helpful, submissive (not mousy) and respectful, women are “wearing the pants” emasculating their husbands or allowing themselves to be sinfully dominated.  Instead of one man being faithfully married to one woman, man wants many women and vice versa. Instead of one man marrying one woman, men desire marriage with other men and women desire marriage with other women. Sin is the reason why our culture is trying to re-define marriage and even distort human sexuality.  At the core, it’s rebellion against God.  But, thankfully, all is not lost.  God sent His Son Jesus Christ to provide redemption for man from sin and with that comes the redemption of marriage.

The Pointer

In the New Testament, Ephesians 5:31, the Apostle Paul quotes Genesis 2:24 calling marriage a profound mystery pointing to Christ and the church. Christians are said to be in union with Christ by faith and the indwelling Holy Spirit and Paul takes that “union” or “one flesh” language from Genesis 2:24 and applies it in Ephesians.  To sum up what the Scriptures ultimately say about marriage – it is a God ordained covenantal institution between one man and one woman designed to point to or image the covenantal relationship between Christ and the church. As Christ gave His life as a ransom for the church, so a husband is to sacrificially love his wife for her growth in godliness.  As the church joyfully submits to Christ as He leads us, so a wife joyfully submits to her husband as he leads her.  As Christ intimately loves His church, physical intimacy between a husband and wife is a picture of that. Therefore, human marriage is ultimately a picture of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is the glorious reality of marriage!

So marriage is not ultimate. Did you get that?  Human marriage is not ultimate! It’s merely a shadow pointing to a far greater reality. That reality is the marriage of Christ and the church in the new heavens and the new earth, where human marriage doesn’t exist. (Matthew 22:30)  There is no need for shadows, when the substance is present. God is ultimate!

“Marriage is not about being or staying in love. It’s mainly about telling the truth with our lives. It’s about portraying something true about Jesus Christ and the way He relates to His people. It’s about showing in real life the glory of the gospel.”   – (John Piper, This Momentary Marriage, p.26)

We understand that this truth is not accepted by most people. We understand that this may sound totally foreign, given our culture’s misunderstanding of marriage.  I have to believe that even people who desire to marry, but don’t believe in God’s purpose of marriage, esteem marriage as something special. Think about it. One can experience some of the benefits of marriage (i.e. finances, physical intimacy, shared lives, etc.) without being officially married. So why get married?  What is it that makes people want to publicly and officially declare their commitment to one another?

My fiance and I are convinced that God’s word is true and our desire is that our marriage would put the glory of God’s gospel on display.  I love my bride-to-be and she loves me and by God’s grace, the way that we grow in our committed faithful love of each other, we’ll give some people a glimpse of Christ’s committed faithful love for His bride – the church.

That’s why marriage.

d.

*Here are a couple of books we recommend that have greatly benefitted us.

  1. This Momentary Marriage by John Piper (free download)
  2. Love that Lasts: When Marriage Meets Grace by Gary and Betsy Ricucci

Philippians 2:1-4 : Part 2

A Call to Unity & Humility: Implications of the Gospel

“1So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of your look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:1-4 ESV)

Having seen the five realities of the Philippians’ relationship with God through Christ and the Holy Spirit and to one another as the church, Paul expresses that his joy would be satisfied seeing the implications of these realities demonstrated in their lives.  These implications are:  (1) being of the same mind, etc. – v2, (2) the absence of rivalry or conceit – v3a, (3) considering others more significant than themselves – v3b and (4) being concerned about the interests of others – v4.

When we read these exhortations, it should be readily apparent that Paul is calling for the demonstration of unity by way of humility displayed through selflessness or being others-centered.  Also, it should be apparent that these exhortations are linked to one another for a glorious reason.

As previously mentioned, redemption not only reconciles believers to God, but also to one another.  We are members of one body (Rom. 12:5), where Christ functions as the head (Eph. 4:15).  Redemption also calls us away from autonomous rebellion and into loving submission to Christ and the mission of God, which is to call a people to Himself through the proclamation of the gospel.  The church is a product of God’s mission and is also called to be His agent of mission until the 2nd advent of Christ. If the church is going to carry that out by the power of the Spirit, and manifest the wisdom of God (Eph. 3:10-11) and the Lordship of Christ (Phil. 2:11), then we must understand the significance of Paul’s exhortation to be of the same mind, maintaining the same love, being united in spirit and intent on one purpose.

Countering his positive command in verse 2, Paul offers a negative command at the beginning of verse 3.  To fulfill Paul’s desire, the Philippian church is also called to move away from their natural propensity to be self-absorbed.  For rivalry, Paul used the Greek word eritheia, which carries the idea of promoting oneself as in a political election through unfair means.  For empty conceit, the Greek word kenodoxia literally means a groundless vain opinion of oneself.  These two sins are nothing more than two types of pride.  The former being destructive and the latter being deceptive.  How can the church be effective in its mission if we are more concerned about promoting ourselves, demoting others and insistent on thinking unjustifiably more highly of ourselves than we do of Christ?  Posturing oneself for personal glory is antithetical to the faith. Essentially, it’s satanic.  For this is what ushered the fall of man – a desire to be like God.  James’s epistle gives us some added insight to rivalry as the same Greek word is used in 3:14 and 3:16 for selfish ambition.
 

14But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. 15 This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.

 

How sobering is this? Selfish ambition is unspiritual, demonic and the source of disorder and every vile practice.  Wherever we see the lack of fruit in our lives or in the church collectively, be sure that selfish ambition is a reason.  Wherever we see a pattern of sin in our lives or the in the church collectively, be sure selfish ambition is a reason.  When we have set our faces against God in rebellion, a host of rebellions will surely follow. This is why James says that that kind of “wisdom” is not from above and this is why Paul is exhorting the Philippians to not conduct themselves that way.  Instead, wisdom from above looks like James 3:17-18 and shows itself not standing in contradiction to the the sum of the Law, but identical to it.

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”
(Matt. 22:37-40)

In carrying out these two commands by the power of the Spirit, we will not be rivalrous or conceited, but indeed make manifest the beauty of the gospel.

Grace & Peace,

d.

Relevance & Irrelevance

A few years ago, I began noticing a trend in church liturgy among Western Christianity. I tend to describe it as pop culture pragmatism. In an effort to be relevant to a younger technologically driven generation, many churches and their staff members underwent makeovers. Church services took on the flavor of a mini-rock concert with a cool little message tucked in. Pulpits were now equipped with trendy furniture from IKEA, the attire of the pastor and other leaders consisted of screen print tees and trendy jeans, bottles of hair gel were obviously en vogue, and some of the the worship teams looked more like a glam-rock throwback or something along lines of metrosexuality. I’m serious. Sermons were no longer expositional, convicting and Christocentric. Instead, the sermon was reduced to quaint little talks about God peppered with the latest slang. I’m serious. This is a horrible attempt at relevancy. It was highly irrelevant!

Pragmatism is simply using certain means to reach certain ends.  It’s a “whatever works” philosophy.  So on one hand pragmatism is not necessarily wrong, but the context must be understood to see when it is wrong. When it comes to matters of the Christian faith, pragmatism is referenced as a departure from God’s means to reach God’s ends and instead utilizing other means (whatever works) to reach God’s ends.  These other means always appeal to the flesh and the temporal, which is why a pragmatic approach to ministry is ultimately evidence of a lack of faith in God, His Word and pride. It simply fails to get to the heart of man’s issue – his sin and rebellion against God.  The church doesn’t need to put on a new outfit every time the trends of culture changes in order to be effective and relevant.

Relevant churches are churches that unashamedly preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and the whole counsel of Scripture trusting God will accomplish His means through the power of the Holy Spirit.

16For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes,…… (Romans 1:16)

Grace & Peace,

d.

Recovering the Gospel….in the Black Church

I remember a conversation that I had with a friend shortly after I got saved and started serving at my former church. I had begun serving in the youth ministry that culturally didn’t look anything like me. I had my concerns initially, but those quickly subsided when I pondered the reality of the gospel and got to know those kids, who accepted me unconditionally. I treasure those days and lasting relationships. My friend said, “Dave, how come you don’t do youth ministry at a black church? You could be so useful there because they would be able to see a young black man who loves the Lord. You could be a role model.” Perhaps, from his perspective, I appeared to be some sort of sellout. My primary defense then, which would be appropriate now, was that I was serving at the church I attended. Seems simple enough, right? Being as astute as you are, I bet you guessed that his next question was, “Why don’t you go to a black church?”  Even as a relatively new believer sitting under expository teaching, I knew that I couldn’t get that in the black church. Yes, I said it.

I grew up attending an all black Baptist church in southwest Houston and as I recollect there was a lot of tradition, I did hear the gospel proclaimed, but I didn’t see the implications of the gospel. “Big Mama” falling out in the aisle, smiling deacons, great choir, Cadillacs, church hats, chicken dinners, and Sunday school is about all I remember from those days. It was definitely social and as a young boy, I couldn’t figure out why only black people went to my church. I lived in a very multicultural neighborhood, went to school and played Little League with the children from my neighborhood. Church was vastly different and I really didn’t care for it too much.

So why didn’t I gravitate toward a black church after my conversion? Or why didn’t I try to find one after some time?  The overarching reason was that I was not going to sacrifice sound doctrine for cultural comforts.

I’d rather sit under sound doctrine among people of a different ethnic composure, than sit under a deficient gospel among my own ethnicity. The gospel trumps ethnocentrism and cultural comforts.

However, I must be fair.  All doctrinally deficient chuches aren’t black churches and all black churches are not doctrinally deficient. There is a remnant, but generally speaking, we need a return to the biblical gospel and a turn from one of the fruits of a racially divided nation.  That fruit is Black Liberation Theology (BLT).  It is the dangerous fruit of a racially charged era that prohibited blacks from attending doctrinally sound seminaries, and instead attending liberal seminaries like Union Theological Seminary, Chicago Theological Seminary and Crozer Theological Seminary, later to be named Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School.  In summary, BLT teaches that the gospel is that God will deliver blacks from white oppression and injustice.  Ironically, that “gospel” can’t be preached globally.  That “gospel” is comprehensively irrelevant in Europe, Africa and Asia.

Unfortunately, many black churches today are preaching a message of social liberation, rather than the liberation from sin through the atoning work of Christ. Liberation theology is a blasphemous distortion of the true gospel and we must contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.

Contributing author to Glory Road, Anthony B. Bradley, visiting professor at King’s College New York, provides a clear analysis of Black Liberation Theology and the hope for those who may be held captive by it  in his new book Liberating Black Theology. I strongly recommend it!