The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.
– 1 Timothy 1:15
I find comfort in reading in the Bible that I am a sinner and that Christ came to die for me and my sins (Galatians 1:4). I know many people read the Bible looking for “keys” to a deeper life, keys to victory, keys to a happier marriage, keys to a stronger prayer life, etc. but I read the Bible looking for my sins. I want the mirror of God’s law to show me my ugliness and my sins so that I can repent and be refreshed (Acts 3:19-20; 1 John 1:9). There is something wonderful about seeing God’s holiness in the light of my sins. There is something beautiful that comes from confessing my sins.
Psalm 32:15-18 reads:
15 The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous
and his ears toward their cry.
16 The face of the Lord is against those who do evil,
to cut off the memory of them from the earth.
17 When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears
and delivers them out of all their troubles.
18 The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
and saves the crushed in spirit.
When the Spirit of God confronts me about my sins, I love it! I really do! It shows me His great love for me, that He would not leave me as I am. Hebrews 12:7-11 reads:
7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
Notice verse 10. The Lord disciplines us so that we might share in His holiness. Amazing!
Tonight I could sit here and write all about my sins. I don’t need to. The point is not about me. The point is about why I need Jesus and you do as well. If Jesus came to save only the righteous, none of us would be saved (Romans 3:10-18). I have met people who think they never sin after getting saved but I have found that they were mostly prideful, arrogant, condescending, and full of their own flesh. They focused so much on themselves “not sinning” that they lost sight of their sins. I am not advocating living in blatant sin but I am calling us to recognize the truth that Jesus came to save sinners. Of course there is truth that those whom He saves become saints in Him (1 Corinthians 1:2). Jesus saves us out of a life of sin (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). That I know but He is also still saving me out of a life of sin. Sin is not out of me yet completely nor is it out of you. Let’s face it, we like sinning. No, we love sinning. That is why Jesus had to die for us. Because we enjoy sin.
And that is why I need Jesus. I like sinning. I don’t want to like it. In fact, I want to hate it. Yet I find that I enjoy sinning. I have sinned in many ways. I have let many people down over the years. Those who know me best know I am not perfect. I never confess to be. Oh there was a time I thought I was all that. Not anymore. I see my sins. I know my sins. I hate my sins.
It’s funny how people think that we Christians are suppose to be perfect. I have yet to meet a perfect Christian. I have met arrogant Christians. I have met prideful Christians. I have been those myself. Yet I have never met a perfect saint. Every person I have known who truly loved Jesus needed Him. They knew it. I knew it. Jesus knows it. Even the godliest people I have known, once you get close to them you can just smell the flesh. They hate it. I hate it. Jesus still saves them.
So here I sit writing at nearly 2 AM in the morning. I can’t sleep. I am pondering the truth that Jesus loves me and died for my sins. Yet I still struggle with sin. I recently had lunch with a godly man and I asked him how about sanctification. I want to be holy, I told him, but I struggle to be holy. I see my sins and I see how far I am from being like Jesus. Yet I still want to be holy (1 Peter 1:15-16). So how can I be holy? His reply: look to Jesus and love Him and obey Him. He died for you while you were still a sinner (Romans 5:8). His love hasn’t changed since the day I first believed the gospel and He saved me.
So tonight I issue this call to all who know me: you know I am a sinner. You know that I sin. Yet that is why I need Jesus. I am not perfect. I am not a perfect father. I am not a perfect worker. I am not a perfect saint. I am not a perfect “deacon” (as a guy at work calls me). I am a sinner in need of a Savior. I thank God for sending such a Savior. I cannot earn His forgiveness (Titus 3:5). My salvation is based on the Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9) and He alone is my salvation and assurance before a holy and just G0d (1 Corinthians 1:30-31).
The Son of Man came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10). That is me.
Jeff Durbin is a brother I greatly admire. His zeal for the gospel blesses me. His passion to end abortion, share the gospel with Mormons and atheists has inspired me. I truly count Jeff a brother in the Lord. I’m thankful that Jesus saves sinners (1 Timothy 1:15) and not merely Arminians or Calvinists. Jesus came to save sinners (Luke 19:10) and not our theological camps.
In the past I have asked Jeff to have godly non-Calvinists on his podcast. He has never responded. He has interacted with KJV-only Steven Anderson (whom Durbin labels an Arminian though Anderson himself denies being an Arminian). This is the extent of Jeff’s “Arminian” interactions. I’ve asked Jeff to have Leighton Flowers on after Jeff posted negative comments about Flowers. He has refused.
So what will it take for Jeff Durbin to change his views on us Arminians? I’ve tried to reason with Jeff but since he views me as ignorant of the “truth,” he doesn’t listen to me. I believe it will take a godly Calvinist calling out Jeff. Ironically, Jeff is a disciple of James White and while White can use language like Durbin’s, White regards Arminian Michael Brown as his brother in Christ. Perhaps Durbin could learn from White here.
When I was a boy, I was raised in the Assemblies of God. My family attended an AG church that was miles from us and we would wake up on Sunday mornings and drive over an hour to church. We did it twice on Sunday and then again on Wednesday evening. Eventually they planted an AG church on our side of town and we ceased driving that far.
In those days, our AG churches were clearly AG. Every AG church had the name “Assembly of God” somewhere in their name. Whether it was Airport Assembly of God, Trinity Assembly of God, Calvary Assembly of God, Northeast Christian Assembly of God, etc., the name “Assembly of God” was incorporated into the church. I remember the first AG church to not use “AG” in their name (Christian Outreach Center) and it was controversial to say the least. I remember hearing people say that COC was compromising and they were moving away from being Pentecostal.
Fast forward to today. In my city there are about 10 AG churches. Only two have the AG name. COC is gone but after COC, other churches begin to drop the AG name. This moved started in the late 1990’s when Rick Warren’s book The Purpose Driven Church was making its rounds among AG pastors. Soon they too were dropping the AG name in favor of “community church” names or just “Trinity Church.”
Now in fairness, I don’t think they all did this to be popular. Some would still gladly claim to be AG while not using AG in their names. Some were pragmatic and did see the “community church” movement and jumped in. I see it a different way and I’ll explain in this post.
First, in the late 1990’s there were two “moves” among the AG churches I was familiar with. There was the revival movement coming out from Brownsville Assembly in Pensacola, FL. Many thought Brownsville would drop the AG name or even leave the Assemblies of God altogether but they never did and still remain to this day in the AG with the name “Brownsville Assembly of God.” The Brownsville revival died out around 2002 and the other stream took over. This was the Rick Warren stream. Warren had even been invited to the General Council of the Assemblies of God, the first non-Pentecostal speaker ever to the Assemblies of God. Warren did not know it but he became the chief of church growth to many in the AG churches. I still remember pastors at AG ministers meetings I would attend in those days all boasting about reading and implementing Warren’s purpose driven styles. Some AG pastors I knew were even following Warren’s preaching style to the point of wearing Hawaiian shirts like Warren did. They dropped preaching out of the King James Version in favor of the New Living Translation because of Warren.
Secondly, this led to churches uniting around methodology and not theology. When I was a boy, the Assemblies of God were clearly Pentecostal churches. Our church was very Pentecostal in the worship and in the preaching. I remember talking to my father about the Baptist or Presbyterian churches and he would tell me they were indeed Christians but they didn’t know much about the Holy Ghost. Pentecostal theology was vital. I still remember hearing a Pentecostal pastor preach, “I fear the day when we will be Pentecostal in theology but not experience.” At every turn, Pentecostal theology was taught and emphasized. When a person got saved at our church, they were baptized in water and they told to seek God for the Holy Ghost. The wording might be wrong but they clearly knew their theology even if you don’t agree.
Fast forward to today. Most AG churches I am familiar with no longer emphasize doctrine at all. In fact, doctrine is often avoided at all costs. I personally have had an AG pastor tell me that theology does not matter. He felt doctrine was not livable and so he wanted to preach “life application sermons” rather than theology to his church. Where does this come from? Rick Warren!
I had another AG pastor friend who was going to plant an AG church. What did he do? In the old days, the AG’s would set up a tent and have the preacher hold tent meetings. This would usually draw small crowds at first and the preacher would preach on the need of the people to be saved and baptized in the Holy Ghost. Those who came and got saved or baptized in the Spirit were then included in the new church plant. The preacher would work until the church could support him (most stayed bi-vocational their entire lives). Now AG church planters usually get some money from the District and plant the church. They will attend numerous church growth conferences to learn the latest gimmicks to church growth. Gone are the days of fasting and prayer (though they say they still pray). In my friends case, he traveled to all sorts of churches many of them non-AG to learn their gimmicks. At one point I asked him (after he traveled to a large seeker church in the West) why he would want to learn from them since they are theological different than the AG’s? He replied, “Because they are growing and we can learn from them.” The bottom line is this: growth is desire and whoever is growing is who we look to. Theology is not the issue. Prayer and preaching is not the issue. Pragmatism is.
Now my point here is not to boaster the Assemblies of God. I have no dog in the fight. I am simply observing the church world from the bleachers. I understand the desire of pastors to be full-time. I was there. I am thankful I am not now. The pressure to grow your church (and yes its viewed as “your” church) is immense. Rather than learning how to preach, how to pray, how to fast, how to evangelize, etc. the emphasis is on the latest gimmicks to get people in the door. My friend above who planted an AG church uses every gimmick you can imagine from dropping Easter eggs from helicopters (thanks to Steven Furtick for that gimmick) to offering free movie tickets to attendees to giving away a new car. All gimmicks designed to get people in the door. Once they are there, he preaches goofy sermon series’ designed to “get them hooked to church.” Sin, repentance, holiness, even AG doctrines such as the baptism in the Spirit are not emphasized. Their “worship”service is am emotional rollercoaster full of sappy love songs to Jesus and make you feel like your a 14 year old at a junior high school dance rather than church. And my friend has one goal: numbers. It’s all about the growth. His mentors are all seeker sensitive pastors and he idolizes men such as Perry Noble and Andy Stanley.
Go back 50 years and not one AG pastor would have listened to a Perry Noble or Andy Stanley. Why? Because they were not Pentecostals! Pentecostals only listened to Pentecostals in those days. The attitude was that Pentecostals have the baptism in the Holy Ghost and Baptists do not.
Some see all of this “unity” as good. I don’t. Again, I’m not arguing for Pentecostal theology. In many ways, my theology is more Wesleyan now than Pentecostal. I still love Pentecostal people and while I do see theological errors among them (mainly among those who claim Pentecostal such as those in the Word-Faith camp), I would not classify myself as Pentecostal. What I see taking place is not unity around the gospel. I see unity around methods. John MacArthur warned that churches today are uniting around methodology and not theology. I agree. The lines are not blurred between the distinctives of the Pentecostal movement and those in the Baptist churches. Yet it is not theological unity that is taking place. It is emotional experiences that are unifying them.
There is no doubt that Jesus prayed for unity of His body in John 17:22-23. In 1 Corinthians 1:10 Paul the Apostle emphasized unity in theology. The people of God are unified who have been saved by the grace of God (Ephesians 2:14-21). Jesus is Head over His Church (Colossians 1:15-20). Jesus also knows those who are His own (John 10:27; 2 Timothy 2:19). Unity in the local church must be around theology. We must know what we believe and speak the same beliefs. Obviously, as sinful humans, we are not perfect in our understanding and we all need correction. This is why we need the church. The church helps us to know what we believe and maintain that belief through faithfulness and good works (Hebrews 10:23-25). The elders of the church help us to obtain this unity by teaching us the Word of God (Ephesians 4:11-16). Doctrine does matter (1 Timothy 4:16).
The balance of all this is to have both sound doctrine (Titus 2:1) and sound experiences. I don’t want to go to church to hear a theological lecture every time. We need a balance of sound doctrine with practical living. Notice this is how Paul taught in his epistles. He would teach theology and how to put it into practice. For example, Ephesians is six chapters. The first three chapters of Ephesians are theological in nature. The last three are application in nature. Our theology transforms our lives for better or for worst. This is why Paul would issue such a condemnation as in Galatians 1:6-9 over the issue of the gospel. Without sound doctrine, the gospel is lost. Salvation is gone. The Lordship of Jesus is robbed. Life is hopeless.
My friends, I urge you to pray for the Church of Jesus Christ. Pray for God to show us the need for sound doctrine. Pray for the Lord to us godly elders who are not leading for gain but for the love of Christ (1 Peter 5:1-5). Peter the Apostle wrote in 1 Peter 4:8, “Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.” I want all this for myself and the church of God.
May the Lord be glorified in and among His Church!
Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” 2 And he said to them, “When you pray, say:
“Father, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
3 Give us each day our daily bread,
4 and forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us.
And lead us not into temptation.”
5 And he said to them, “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, 6 for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; 7 and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything’? 8 I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence he will rise and give him whatever he needs.
– Luke 11:1-8
Persistence in prayer is something I think many of us need. I know I do. My prayer life tends to go up and down depending on many issues. There have been seasons of prayer in my life where I was praying earnestly and full of faith. Then there are times of prayerlessness.
In Luke 11 we find the disciples asking Jesus to teach them how to pray. He gives them a model of prayer in verses 2-4 which are similar though not the same as Matthew 6:9-13. The New King James along with the KJV add words to make these two texts match. Most Greek texts do not have these additions. I think this is important because the “Lord’s prayer” is not a magical prayer meant to be uttered and repeated over and over again. The Lord Jesus is teaching His disciples a model prayer. Prayer is not just reciting words. Prayer is not just reading prayers. Prayer flows from the child of God to our Father who hears our cries. The disciples surely knew this having watched the Lord Jesus pray. It was His prayer life that they asked for Him to teach them. Not His miracles. Not His teaching style. Not His leadership style. It was the prayer life of our Lord that the disciples saw and asked Him to teach them about.
I have been around saints of God who knew how to pray. They would walk and talk with God all the day (1 Thessalonians 5:17). There was a persistence in their prayer life that was continually. They walked with God like Enoch of old (Genesis 5:24). Prayer was like breathing to many of these saints of God. I have heard the stories of the great prayer warriors such as Leonard Ravenhill and E.M. Bounds. I have heard of the prayer life of David Brainerd and David Livingstone. I have heard of the prayer lives of John Wesley and George Whitefield. Their ministries were marked with souls but also with prayer. Wesley would often rise up early in the morning before the sun came up to pray. Martin Luther would labor for hours in prayer.
Where are the men of prayer today? In fact, many of the intercessors I know of are women. I praise God for them. I thank God for godly women who pray like Hannah in 1 Samuel 2:1-10. The Holy Spirit placed women among the Apostles as they waited for the promise of the Father in Acts 1:14. These women were praying along with the men of God. We need mighty women of God. But where are the men who pray? Where are the men known for their prayer lives and the ministries marked by prayer?
Our Lord teaches us here in Luke 11 that prayer is to be marked with persistence (v.8). The ESV translates the word as “impudence.” I like the old KJV here as it translates it “importunity.” The MacArthur Study Bible states it like this:
It conveys the ideas of urgency, audacity, earnestness, boldness, and relentlessness – like the persistence asking of a desperate beggar.
I like that image. Beggars tend to just ask and then move along. They don’t tend to be very persistent. Jesus states that we are to be persistence in our praying. It is not because God is not willing to hear us nor answer us. In fact, that is the opposite of what Jesus is saying. Our Father hears us and He knows our needs. Jesus said in Matthew 6:8 that our Father knows what we need even before we ask Him. If a friend will get up to give to the beggar what he needs, how much more will our Father give us what we need?
The balance is to pray the will of God. The Lord Jesus is not saying that if we are persistent in asking for something, God will relent and give in. As we pray the will of the Father, the Father hears us and He answers according to His will (1 John 5:14-15). Jesus said that He always did the will of Him who sent Him (John 6:38). Jesus prayed to be close to His Father and to do His will. Jesus submitted Himself completely to the Father to do His will (Hebrews 5:7-10).
As we persist in prayer, we are submitting our selves to God. We want to do His will. Prayer prepares us to do that will. When we truly pray, we are wanting to honor the Lord and to bring glory to Him. This is not about us. This isn’t praying about foolish things. This is about praying for the glory and honor God. This is gospel-centered praying. Like beggars, we know that our Father is the best and He is our reward. This is not about finding bread. This is about finding and seeking the One who gives us bread.
Finally, a word about praying. I don’t want condemnation to come over you. I have lived before under condemnation about prayer. When I was in college I read that if a minister doesn’t pray for two hours a day, they are not worth a dime a dozen. I wept at that because I was not praying for two hours a day so I made up my mind to pray for two hours a day. I was a failure to say the least. My “prayer life” was more about staring at the clock to get in my two hours. At one point I was up to praying an hour a day but I was not praying. I was hitting the clock. I was doing my praying for others to notice my “prayer life.” I wanted others to pat me on the back for my prayer life. I look back now with sadness on those times. My prayer times were not powerful times with the Lord. They were just words uttered for others to notice me (Matthew 6:5).
I long to just walk with God now. I long to talk to Him like a friend, like a brother, like a father. My little boys can just cry out and I’ll run to them. They don’t have to say over and over again “Daddy” for me to run. If they were in trouble, I would not come to them and say, “Do you really believe I am able to help you? Seems to me that you haven’t been talking to me much and so I’m going to leave you be.” No! I help my boys because I love my boys and I want what is best for them. The same is true of God our Father.
Hebrews 4:14-16 is so precious to me now. My prayer life will never match the Lord Jesus’ prayer life. He was perfect in every single way. He bore my sins including my prayerlessness. I am not advocating laziness in prayer. Luke 11:1-8 shatters that. There is a persistence in prayer lives. In fact, Luke 11:9-10 speaks of this persistence further:
9 And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.
But the balance of this is to see that our Father is good and He wants to answer our prayers as the Lord Jesus states in verses 11-13 where He contrasts our earthly fathers with our heavenly Father:
11 What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; 12 or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!
If our earthly fathers would not be evil toward us (we hope), will our heavenly Father be evil toward us? Of course not! Our Father is good and He is loving and kind. The Lord Jesus demonstrated that perfect love (Romans 5:8-9).
The gospel enables us to pray. We don’t come before our Father with our righteousness. We come in the name of Jesus who is our salvation, our righteousness before a holy God (1 Corinthians 1:30-31). We come in the name of Jesus because He is our high priest before the Father (Hebrews 10:10-14). We come in the name of Jesus because He is our advocate and our friend (John 14:12-14). Through the Lord Jesus, we are able to approach the throne of God and He hears our cries.
I rejoice in the Lord that He hears our prayers! May God be glorified through the prayers of the saints of God (Revelation 5:8).
In 2 Kings 21:1-9 we read:
Manasseh was twelve years old when he began to reign, and he reigned fifty-five years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Hephzibah. 2 And he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, according to the despicable practices of the nations whom the Lord drove out before the people of Israel. 3 For he rebuilt the high places that Hezekiah his father had destroyed, and he erected altars for Baal and made an Asherah, as Ahab king of Israel had done, and worshiped all the host of heaven and served them. 4 And he built altars in the house of the Lord, of which the Lord had said, “In Jerusalem will I put my name.” 5 And he built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of the Lord. 6 And he burned his son as an offering and used fortune-telling and omens and dealt with mediums and with necromancers. He did much evil in the sight of the Lord, provoking him to anger. 7 And the carved image of Asherah that he had made he set in the house of which the Lord said to David and to Solomon his son, “In this house, and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, I will put my name forever. 8 And I will not cause the feet of Israel to wander anymore out of the land that I gave to their fathers, if only they will be careful to do according to all that I have commanded them, and according to all the Law that my servant Moses commanded them.” 9 But they did not listen, and Manasseh led them astray to do more evil than the nations had done whom the Lord destroyed before the people of Israel.
In our wicked world it is easy to look around at our wicked, sinful leaders and see the judgment of God. I look around at my own culture and I see evidence of Romans 1. People are full of sin.
However, my hope is in the Lord God and in His Word. I have hope in the gospel. I know that Jesus will triumph and He alone is King of kings and He alone is Lord of lords (1 Timothy 6:15-16). Jesus reigns even now from heaven (Acts 3:19-21). His reign includes all His enemies coming under His feet (Psalm 110:1; 1 Corinthians 15:24-26). I look around at the wicked world and I can easily be full of despair but my hope is that the gospel will go forth and the reign of Jesus will never be stopped.
In 2 Kings 21:1-9 we read of the wicked king of Judah, Manasseh. I have yet to live under such a wicked king. We have had wicked men and women in the past but few compare to the wickedness of Manasseh. Manasseh went so far in his idolatry that he built altars in Jerusalem in the temple of Yahweh to his false gods. He offered his own sons on the altars to his false gods. 2 Kings 21:16 says, “Moreover, Manasseh shed very much innocent blood, till he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another, besides the sin that he made Judah to sin so that they did what was evil in the sight of the LORD.”
After Manasseh, his son Amon reigned as king over Judah and he followed in the footsteps of Manasseh. Amon was a wicked king.
After Amon, however, comes Josiah. 2 Kings 22:2 says, “And he what was right in the eyes of the LORD and walked in all the way of David his father, and he did not turn aside to the right or to the left.”
The Lord raised up a Josiah after the wickedness of Manasseh and Amon. This gives me hope. This encourages me.
In my own wicked nation, I see our leaders full of sin. They are full of idolatry, greed, corruption, they support the murdering of millions of babies at the altars of the gods of conveyance and sex. Our leaders are just like Manasseh in many ways. They even shed innocent blood not just in unjust wars and wicked attacks on citizens but they support the abortion mill industries which murder innocent babies each and every day. In my own state and in my own city I see the wickedness of our leaders even on a local level. They give in to the sexually perverted who want their “rights” and they support the wickedness of racism and abortion on demand. Yes it is easy to be discouraged.
But I have hope that God can raise up a Josiah. My hope is not in politicians. They are corrupt. My hope is not in men. They are corrupt. My hope is in the Lord God who can turn the tide through His gospel. My hope is in the gospel (Romans 1:16-17). Josiah was a mighty man of God. We need mighty men of God to turn not just my own nation but he nations of this fallen, sinful world to the Lord God. This will not come through politicians or through political reform (though they will happen through the gospel) but will only come through a man of God being faithful to God.
My hope is that the wicked nations of this world (which is all of them) will turn to the Lord Jesus Christ. The gospel transformed the Roman Empire and turned them away from idolatry to the truth of the gospel. Over time, corrupt church leaders corrupted the gospel and turned the church in Rome away from the gospel to idolatry that we now see as the Roman Catholic Church but I have hope that Catholics will repent and be saved. I have hope that the nations will be saved by the grace of God.
We read in many places that the nations will bow down to the Lord God (see Psalm 22:27; 86:8-9; Isaiah 2:3; Revelation 15:4). Jesus has conquered the nations by His death and resurrection and He now commands us to make disciples in every nation until He reigns forevermore (Matthew 28:18-20).
May God send a revival of His truth!