Arminian Today

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Posts Tagged ‘Preaching

A Contrast In Pastors

I recently did my own little project.  I spoke to two very different pastors of traditional churches (traditional in the sense that they are not house churches).  I asked them the same basic questions.  I wanted to highlight their answers (which I have summarized here) and show the contrasts in their thinking.  The first pastor I will call John and the second I will call Rob.  John pastors a traditional Reformed church.  Rob pastors a seeker sensitive church.

John, age is late 50’s, Reformed in his theology.

What books are you reading?

I’m reading several books by a few Puritans.  Right now, I am reading Thomas Watson.  I just finished a book on the humor of Charles Spurgeon which I found delightful.

What style is your preaching?

Expository.

What are you preaching right now?

Through the Gospel of Mark.

How often do you preach on doctrine?

I try to deal with my text and include sound exegesis and doctrine in every sermon.  Sometimes, depending on the text, doctrine comes up more.  Sometimes not.  I want the text to lead me.

Lastly, how much time you spend in prayer and study in a given week on average?  

I would say 10 to 15 hours.

Rob, age is early 40’s, Baptist in his theology.  Non-Calvinist.

What books are you reading?

Right now I am reading Mark Batterson.  My favorite author is John Ortberg.

What style is your preaching?

Topical and series.

What are you preaching right now?

Actually we are working through the Gospel of John.  (Side question I asked: Is this expository preaching through John?  He said not in the technical sense but more focused on long sections).

How often do you preach on doctrine?

Um….I know doctrine is vital.  Not downplaying it at all.  We have a lot of seekers coming to church so I try to avoid anything that would lose them.  We talk about doctrine a lot in our home groups.

Lastly, how much time to you spend in prayer and study in a given week on average?  

I would say about 5 hours.  Sometimes more, sometimes less.  Just depends on how busy I am.

Conclusions

First, let me state that I am not trying to attack Rob though it will appear that way.  I disagree with him and his church.  I am not a Calvinist so I didn’t agree with John either but it shows me why Calvinists are seeing a resurgence and we Arminians are not at this point.  I know of few Arminians preachers who actually preach Arminianism from the pulpit.

In this case, Rob is not an Arminian.  He is a seeker sensitive church plant from the SBC.  He would say that he is a non-Calvinist though he stated that he enjoys John Piper and David Platt.  Rob, however, often reflects non-Calvinist churches.  That are often shallow, lacking theological depth, and focused on getting results (in this case pragmatically) for the purpose of numbers.

John was very gracious.  He is a scholar.  He deeply loves the Lord (though I think Rob does too).  Both men want to see Jesus glorified though I believe John is more God-centered in his approach.  John, unlike Rob, seems to not care what the numbers say.  John’s church is only about 35.  Rob is running near 500.  That said, the theological depth of the average person in John’s church is deep while Rob’s is seriously lacking.  Even the music was noticeably different.  John’s church sang deep theological hymns while Rob’s sang the latest praise songs from the popular praise singers.

One final point.  What I found interesting in this short study was even the Bibles these men used.  John preaches from the King James Version.  Rob preaches from the New Living Translation.  Yet John dealt with his text.  Rob only skims it.  John developed his points from the text and allowed the text to dictate him.  Rob read the text and then only touched on points here and there from it.  John preached with Christ and His gospel as the focus.  Rob preached, it seemed to me, with the hearers as this focus.

My call to my fellow Arminians is learn from this.  Preach doctrine (2 Timothy 3:16-4:2).  Let us not shy away from the Word of God.  Furthermore, I pray for a revival of expository preaching among my fellow Arminians.  This goes for house churches as well.  God’s Word is the final authority and we must preach the Word with unction and to the glory of God.  Care not for the attention of men but rather long for the glory of God to be exalted.

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Written by The Seeking Disciple

04/12/2016 at 11:47 AM

The Shallowness of Seeker Churches

Over the past ten years or more we have been witnessing a revival in Calvinism and Reformed theology.  I can remember in college back in the 1990’s when neither Arminianism nor Calvinism was a big issue.  The issue in those days was the Lordship controversy with John MacArthur and the Dallas Theological Seminary teachers such as Charles Ryrie and Zane Hodges.  There were debates over spiritual gifts (charismatic vs. non-charismatic) and debates here and there over the security of the believer but by in large the issues related to Arminianism and Calvinism were not much of an issue.

Fast forward to now.  The debate couldn’t be much hotter.  I do appreciate that more and more brothers and sisters are learning to debate with grace toward each other as Scripture commands (2 Timothy 2:24-25).  Philippians 2:3 is becoming a passage we all need to heed.  Philippians 4:2 needs to be preached more.

On the one hand, I as an Arminian do not rejoice in the revival of Calvinism I see around me.  After all, I oppose the “doctrines of grace.”  But I do rejoice that disciples of Jesus are longing for more, wanting to go deeper in their theological knowledge, wanting to explore the deeper things of God.  And while I confess that I believe Arminianism to be deeper than Calvinism on many issues, I do believe that Calvinism is a move past the basics that are often not even being preached in the Western churches.

In my neck of the woods, we have a very large seeker sensitive church.  They would likely argue that they are not seeker sensitive but “Spirit sensitive” but their sermons, their music, etc. are all focused on attracting people to church.  They don’t care if you love Jesus or not (though they say they want to introduce you to Him).  Their point is to make church cool again, to get you in the doors, to get you “plugged in” with small groups, prayer, etc.  Some of what they do is good.  Jesus is mentioned a lot.  I appreciate that.

Recently I have subscribed to their podcast to listen to their preaching.  I have been listening to two different seeker sensitive churches in my area both of which are large.  After hearing a few of their sermons, I see why so many young people move toward Calvinism.  Calvinism is readily out there with podcasts, apps, study Bibles, Bible conferences, etc.  The works of John Piper are even quoted a few times by one of the speakers.  Tim Keller is mentioned much.  Matt Chandler seems to be a favorite.  All three men are Calvinists.

The preaching is typically focused on the people.  The text does not drive their preaching.  While they will occasionally quote from the Bible, the focus is the hearer.  The audience is their focus.  These are not dying men preaching to dying people about the living Savior.  These are showmen offering products to consumers.  That is the bottom line.  The sermons can be heard at any Amway presentation.  “You can make it.”  “You can do it!”  “You will survive this!”  “You got this.”  “Jesus will help you!”

So I can see a young person sitting in these churches just coming to faith in Christ.  They were drawn to the church by the women, the men, the cool music, the awesome logo, the lights, the sounds, the largeness of it all.  They came broken by a world that offers nothing and takes all.  They heard about Jesus, thought they would give Him a try and so they take the preacher up on his offer and they raise their hand, say a prayer, get baptized in a mass baptism, and start going to a small group.  While I would not say these people are saved at this point, they are are just what John Wesley described as “awakened sinners.”  They know they are lost, know that they are sinners, know that they need a Savior.  They have been brought to Christ by the traditions of men and not the Bible.

That said, they start to listen to the sermons, download the podcasts and they take a chance on hearing John Piper.  Piper blows them away!  He is actually preaching the Bible!  Piper begins to teach them and they become his students (or his cubs as Roger Olson puts it).  Soon they are reading Piper, listening to other Calvinists, and the door is opened to a new life in Calvinism.  Like Austin Fischer, they plunge into the world of Calvinism out of the shallowness of the seeker church.

The young person moves up!  Some of them actually repent at this point and get truly saved.  They leave their shallow seeker church to go to a Reformed church.  Some of them remain here.  Some move on higher out of Calvinism.

The seeker church has been a source for the revival of Calvinism.  I listened to just three sermons from a large seeker church and I was done.  It was not good.  The guy is a pretty good public speaker but he is no elder (1 Timothy 3:2 with an emphasis on teaching here).  The duty of biblical elders is to shepherd the flock of God (1 Peter 5:1-2) which includes teaching the Word (2 Timothy 3:16-4:5; Titus 1:5-9; 2:15).  I heard talks but didn’t hear exegesis of the texts.  I heard much talk about people but little emphasis on the sinfulness of mankind in light of the perfection of God’s holiness.  I heard much about Jesus coming and what He has done for us but I heard little in way of repentance and faith in His saving work.  I heard much about praying the sinner’s prayer but no emphasis on the Lordship of Christ and our submission to Him when we repent (Luke 6:46-49; Acts 2:36-41; 3:19-20).

The Arminian church must preach sound doctrine.  Now is not the time to become pragmatic and want to copy the seeker churches to gain the crowds.  Our duty is to preach Christ to the lost (2 Corinthians 5:18-21).  Our duty is not to gain crowds.  Our duty is to be faithful to our King and not to this world (John 14:15).  What you win them with is what you win them to.  If you preach Jesus and His Lordship, this often doesn’t draw crowds.  In fact, it often draws hate.  People love Jesus so long as He is their “god” that they worship and they created.  People often despise the true Jesus when He is preached in the power of the Spirit (John 15:18-16:4).  There are many counterfeit Jesus’ being preached by many (Matthew 24:23-24).  Our duty is to preach the true Jesus by preaching His inerrant and infallible Word.

May the Lord help us all, whether Arminian or not, to preach the Word of God faithfully and to exalt the one true and living God.  Jesus alone can save sinners and we must proclaim Him and His glory!

The Awakened State of Sinners

John Wesley called the awakened state of man as “the almost Christian.”  Wesley believed that most people in the church were that way, they were aware of their sins but they had not truly become children of God.  They were servants of Christ but not sons.  All sons are servants but not all servants are sons.

Wesley believed that Romans 7 described the awakened state.  While nearly all Calvinists that I know of teach that Romans 7 is the normal state for Christians and Martin Luther taught that a Christian is both a sinner and a saint at the same time, Wesley taught (along with Arminius I might add) that Romans 7 describes people who are not saved.  This is what Wesley deemed the awakened state, where a person is aware of their sins and aware that they are not pleasing to God so they seek to please God by their works or by their flesh.  This cannot merit salvation (Romans 4:5).  Those who are in the flesh cannot please God (Romans 8:7-8).

Sadly many in the modern church are in that state as well.  Many of the seeker sensitive churches preach an easy gospel that is without conviction, without true repentance, without a true knowledge of God’s holiness and our sinfulness before God.  They preach a message of “come to Christ” but they fail to convict sinners of their sins.  They ignore the Bible’s call to repentance (Mark 1:15-16).  They fail to preach repentance for the forgiveness of their sins (Luke 24:47; Acts 2:38; 3:19).  They seek to lead people to Christ using the goodness of God but fail to preach His just wrath nor His forbearance and patience with sinners (Romans 2:4).  Just this week I listened to two local seeker churches “sermons” and both were focused on the flesh rather than God, on what the sinner can get from God rather than repentance from their sins, and they both gave “altar calls” where the sinners just said a prayer and were said to be saved by grace.  Both failed to preach the gospel where sinners see their sins and repent of their sins against God.  Both failed to present Christ as the propitiation for our sins (John 1:29).  Both preached a message of “Christ wants to fill the void in your life.”  That is not the gospel.  That is what many people are hearing week after week in many churches.

The Arminian should preach the law of God to produce the awakened state.  Of course, the Spirit of God is the one who produces mighty conviction of sin (John 16:8-11).  The almost Christian will see their sins and their need for Christ but they don’t know how to respond to the call of God to salvation.  People believe (because of their sinfulness) that they must do something to earn salvation.  This is human thought through and through.  World religions attest to this fact.  Religious people are consistently trying to earn God’s favor, His forgiveness, or His salvation.  They think that they will be saved if their good works out number their bad works.  Others believe that their actions (sacrifices, prayers, etc.) will bring salvation.

The truth is that only Jesus Christ can save us from the wrath of God (1 Thessalonians 1:10).  Isaiah the prophet saw the work of Christ in Isaiah 53:4-6:

4 Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.

5 But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.

6 All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.

The Lord Jesus is the hope for our salvation.  Jesus is the hope for the awakened sinner who sees his sins but doesn’t know how to flee from them.   The hope for the sinner is not rehabilitation or reform.  The hope for the sinner is to be born from above (John 3:3-7).  The hope is for the Spirit of God to regenerate the sinner to bring about new life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Titus 3:5-7) and this only comes through faith.

Romans 3:21-26 is full of the richness of God’s mercy and grace given freely to the sinner in Christ Jesus our Lord:

21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

The sinner is justified before God only grace through faith in Christ alone (Romans 5:1).  The sinner is not justified before God by a combination of human works and God’s grace (as many cults teach).  We are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.  Why is this?  Because the sinner cannot merit God’s salvation.  Consider good works for a moment.  How many good works must we do to earn God’s forgiveness?  What works qualify as “good” works?  How do we know that our wicked hearts will not produce pride in our “good” works?  How will we know if God approves of our “good” works?  Are there any “good” works which we consider good but God considers as bad?  How can we know?

The awakened sinner, writes Wesley, fears God but does not love Him.  The Christian loves God and fears Him (Romans 11:20-22; 1 John 4:18).  The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 1:7) and the Christian has a healthy fear of God (Hebrews 10:31).  Too many do not fear God but sadly few actually love Him either.  The awakened sinner fears God and knows that the judgment of God is just in punishment of their sins but they do not love God.  They seek to win God’s approval by reforms, by vows, by religion.  They find Romans 7 to be true, that they are too sinful to do any “good” works.  Their flesh simply will never please God.  They find in their awakened state that they are fully aware that they are sinners but have no peace with God.

The gospel is the solution.  The gospel brings peace.  Jesus is the prince of peace (Isaiah 9:6).  Jesus came to bring peace (Ephesians 2:14).  Jesus came to bring us not just peace in the storms of life (as many seekers preach) but He came to bring us peace with God whom we have greatly offended by our wicked sins.  The holy God of the universe is the one that we have violated.  He is the offended one.  When we talk about salvation we are saying that we are being saved from something and that something is the wrath of God that we justly deserve for breaking His laws and shaking our fists at Him.

The awakened sinner is not saved.  The duty of the evangelist is to preach Christ to the awakened sinner and call the sinner to faith and repentance through Christ.  The blessed Holy Spirit aids us in this preaching.  The Spirit works on the sinner’s heart to free the will to believe freely the gospel of God’s grace and mercy.  May we preach Christ and Him crucified for our sins.

The Purpose of Signs and Wonders By the Apostles

The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with utmost patience, with signs and wonders and mighty works.
– 2 Corinthians 12:12

While God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.
– Hebrews 2:4

In the previous post, I pointed out that Jesus did signs to point to Him being the Messiah sent from God.  Certainly one could also agree that Jesus healed people because He was God and He loves people (Matthew 4:24).  This is true of God hearing our prayers and answering them even for healing.  If God heals, He heals because He loves us and desires to glorify His name through our healing.  I also pointed out that Jesus’ signs and wonders provoked people to faith (John 2:11, 23) and the Jews to anger (John 12:37-38).  My question was, if divine determinism is true, why would Jesus need signs and wonders at all?  If the elect are chosen by God before time, why does the elect need a sign?  Will the elect not believe simply because God has chosen them beforehand?  Signs and wonders point to the reality of free choice among humans.  God is giving people signs and wonders in the ministry of Jesus to cause them to question and either come to Jesus for life or reject Him.  Whenever a person reads the Gospels now, the same is still true regarding signs and wonders.  They point to Jesus as Lord and Christ (Acts 10:38) but they cause people to either accept Jesus as the Messiah of God or reject Him but one cannot be neutral about Jesus.

In this post, I want to examine the purpose of signs and wonders done by the Apostles.  I am not debating whether signs and wonders continue today.  That is not my point here.  My point is simply to point to signs and wonders done by the Apostles and why God allowed them.

We must remember that the Apostles were chosen by Jesus Himself (John 15:16).  Matthew 10:1 tells us that Jesus gave His Apostles the authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction.  This power came from God and was given by the Lord to those whom He had chosen.  Even Judas (Matthew 10:4).  Signs and wonders then do not prove one is elected to salvation despite the choosing here by Jesus.  Signs and wonders do not prove one is a true disciple (Matthew 7:21-23).

The Apostles continued this display of unique power after the Lord’s resurrection and ascension to the Father’s right hand.  The Book of Acts is filled with healings and signs and wonders.  Acts 14:3 tells us:

So they remained for a long time, speaking boldly for the Lord, who bore witness to the word of his grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands.

The Lord was bearing witness to His Word by allowing the Apostles to do signs and wonders.  Acts 19:11-12 reads:

11 And God was doing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, 12 so that even handkerchiefs or aprons that had touched his skin were carried away to the sick, and their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them.

The signs and wonders were true signs to point to two truths.  First, the Apostles were preaching without a New Testament.  The signs validated their gospel message as we read in Acts 14:3 or Hebrews 2:4.  The signs pointed to the Apostles being chosen by Jesus Himself (2 Corinthians 12:12).

Secondly, the signs pointed to the risen Messiah.  Peter the Apostle is clear in Acts 3:12-16 after the healing of the lame beggar:

12 And when Peter saw it he addressed the people: “Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we have made him walk? 13 The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him. 14 But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, 15 and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. 16 And his name—by faith in his name—has made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all.

The signs continued to point to Jesus.  The Apostles did not make money off the signs nor did they advertise their signs.  They simply obeyed the Lord, He granted them power to perform miracles, and the signs pointed to the greatest sign of all: Jesus Christ, the mighty Son of God.

But again, why?  If divine determinism is true then why did God allow for signs and wonders?  Could not God have merely granted faith and repentance to His elect without signs?  If men are born totally dead in their sins without any ability whatsoever to come to faith in Christ, why does God need signs and wonders?  Who are the signs for?  The elect need none.  The elect in Calvinism will come no matter what.  One need not even preach for the elect to come.  Calvinists, to be fair, are not consistent here and preach the gospel to all and even call all to repent while believing that only the elect will come and be saved.  They hold that God has sovereignly chosen both the elect and the means to their election.  However, in the end, God, in His arbitrary choice, chooses whom He will save and whom He will damn (or pass over and leave in their sins).  The means, while sovereignly chosen by God, is not what saves the elect.  What saves the elect is the election of God before time.  I believe that consistent Calvinism should hold to eternal justification since God foreknows His elect and counted them as justified in Christ (the Lamb chosen by God’s sovereign choice even before time).

Yet why signs and wonders?  Would could argue that God has merely chosen in His sovereignty to allow for signs and wonders among the Apostles but this ignores the question of why.  It simply takes Deuteronomy 29:29 and applies it here too.  The elect will be saved.  This not debatable among Calvinists.  The elect will come to faith in Christ when God sovereignly decrees it so.  Whether the elect comes by hearing a gospel sermon or seeing a sign is not the point.  The point is that God chose the sinner for salvation by His own sovereign decree and placed the elect’s sins on Christ even from the foundation of the world.

The Arminian answer is easy and simple.  Signs and wonders are given by God to point to the Lord Jesus Christ as the Messiah of God sent to die for our sins.  The gospel is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16-17) and the gospel saves sinners who repent and believe (John 3:16).  Signs and wonders in Acts are pointing to the reality of the gospel and God is bearing witness to the message of His grace (Acts 14:3).  Signs then validate the Apostles as from God.

Signs of a Good Sermon

I listen to preaching a lot.  I mean a lot!  I drive for a living so I spend hours on the road so I fill my phone with preaching.  I listen to all types of preaching from Pentecostals to hard core Calvinists.  I subscribe to a few podcasts but I don’t mind finding a sermon title and just downloading it onto my phone and off I go.  While I am not a perfect critic of sermons, I have listened enough to know when I am about to hear a good sermon.  A few have surprised me along the way and started out bad but turned good or vise versa.  Yet I still enjoy listening to good preaching.

So what does it take for me to say a sermon is good?  Let me just run through some points.

1.  The Text of Scripture.

First, does the teacher open with the text of Scripture.  Seeker guys and poor preachers often open with goofy skits, clips from television shows or movies, man-centered stories, or just an illustration that is neither good nor bad.  They just don’t start with the text.  A good teacher will always begin with the Bible, stay true to the Bible, and teach the text.  The text dominates.  The text is the focus.  The text produces the points.

Secondly, the Bible remains the focus throughout the sermon.  The focus is not on pleasing flesh.  The focus remains from the start to the end, the glory of God in His Word (2 Corinthians 4:5).  The Scriptures alone speak for God (2 Timothy 3:16-17).  A good sermon will stay focused throughout on the Word of God.  The focus is not on “seven points to your joy” but the focus is the text to the glory of the King.

2.  Knowledge of the Text.

Does the teacher own the text?  Is it clear that the teacher has studied the text and they know it?  I love it when a good Bible teacher has even memorized the text because they have poured over the text over and over and over again.  Lazy teachers don’t do that.  They just pick out their title, find their points, find their proof-texts, and go.  The faithful Bible teacher (2 Timothy 2:2) will study the text until he has drained every ounce of life from it (and he will still find more when he comes back to it).  The faithful Bible teacher is hungry to hear from God in His holy Word (Psalm 1:1-2; 119:30).  The good Bible teacher will draw from the text, teach the text, show the context of the text, use proper exegesis to teach from the text, and never uses his text as a pre-text.

3.  Few Illustrations.

Illustrations are fine but some rob God of His glory.  Some illustrations make the illustration the focus rather than the text of Scripture.  The good Bible teacher wants you to remember his text and the teaching from the text instead of their illustrations.  This is why I think illustrations should be few and never take away from the glory of God in His Word.  Further, a good sermon will have biblical illustrations that show how the text is revealed in other parts of the Word of God.  Biblical illustrations are timeless while others often are not.  And again, you want people to hear the Word of God and not your word.  Your word doesn’t save sinners.  God’s Word saves sinners (Romans 10:17).

4.  Exaltation of Christ and Deification of Man.

The good sermon will always focus on the glory of Jesus Christ.  Jesus showed His disciples how He was revealed in all of Scripture (Luke 24:27).  From Genesis to Revelation, the focus is on the Lord Jesus Christ.  Jesus is our everything!  Jesus is the very reason we live and breath and He is our life (Colossians 3:1-3).  Jesus is the wisdom of God (Colossians 2:3).  Jesus must be the One that we want people to adore and honor.

And yet poor sermons will focus on man.  They will focus often on the teacher with the teacher constantly telling you stories about themselves or other people.  The sermon is full of points aimed at us rather than Christ.  The poor sermon will focus on how the text helps us.  The poor sermon will focus on flesh rather than the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Was this the preaching of Paul (1 Corinthians 2:1-5)?  Was this the preaching of Peter (2 Peter 1:16-21)?

Sermons should focus on Jesus and honor Him as Lord and Savior.

5.  Is the Gospel Preached?

Many sermons start off good but turn to law.  The well-meaning teacher wants to help us pray more, to witness more, to love our wives more, to honor God with our money more, to help us to sing more, etc. yet they turn to law instead of gospel to produce this.  The motivation for the disciple of Jesus is not law but gospel.  Every sermon should focus on the gospel and how the gospel helps us along the way.  None of us are capable of perfectly pleasing the Father.  Jesus did that for us.  None of us are perfectly able to keep the law.  Jesus did that for us.  Jesus is our salvation and when He said, “It is finished” (John 19:30), it was done!  We now keep the law of Christ but not out of works mentality trying to produce righteous from God (Romans 4:5) but out of love for the Savior (John 14:15).  And yet we still struggle to perfectly obey Christ (1 John 2:1).  Thankfully, Jesus is our salvation and He is our high priest before God the Father (1 John 2:2).

The gospel then must take precedence over the law.  The law reveals my sinfulness before a holy God (1 Timothy 1:8-11) but the grace of God is what helps (or assists me in the words of Charles Wesley) to obey the Lord God (Titus 2:12).  Because we are now under grace and not law, we aim to please the Lord (Romans 6:1-4).  The gospel is our focus and Jesus is our perfect example that we walked after (1 John 2:6).  However, we are not saved by our works but by the grace of God given to us freely in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:8-9) so that we might now do good works (Ephesians 2:10).  To quote the Lutherans: God doesn’t need your good works, your neighbor does.  Grace works in us (1 Corinthians 15:10).  Grace is what the good sermon must proclaim!

6.  A Call to Repent.

I think a good sermon should also include a call to repent.  Not all agree with me here.  I have heard many good sermons that didn’t end with a call to repent.  Some just end.  Yet I think that we should always call people to forsake their sins and place their faith in Christ alone for salvation.  We don’t have to do an altar call but we should call people to repentance.  The Lord may be gracious to save the humble (2 Timothy 2:24-26).  I understand that not every text of Scripture is dealing with salvation but if our focus is on Christ (as it should be), then we will glorify Christ who is the Savior of all men but especially of those who believe (1 Timothy 4:10). If Christ is truly glorified, how can we not proclaim that He will save sinners who come to Him (Luke 19:10)?  How can we preach Christ but miss calling people to repent of their sins (Acts 17:30-31)?

Conclusion

I suppose I could write more (and I know I could).  Good sermons are hard to find.  The seeker church has destroyed good preaching.  Since pragmatism now reigns in the Western Church, poor preaching is often passed along as good preaching (because of the crowds).  Good expository preaching is hard to find.  I have been asking the Father to raise up more and more faithful Bible teachers who will be expositors of His inerrant and infallible Word.  The duty of the Bible teacher is not to entertain.  It is to train (Ephesians 4:11-16; 2 Timothy 4:2).  I pray that you don’t find yourself in Luke 6:26!

In All Thy Doing, Give Them the Gospel

Handing out water bottles.  Painting an older woman’s house for her.  Cleaning the side of the roads.  Giving food and provisions to the poor. Helping the sick.  Taking care of poor people’s children so they can have a date night.  Washing cars for free.  Changing the oil of single woman’s cars (and not to meet them).  Buying groceries for a neighborhood and leaving them on their door steps with nothing asked in return.  Giving the guy at the corner of the intersection some money (he is holding a sign for it anyway).

All these are good works that people often do.  I could write more.  I even give out of my weekly pay to a charity (yes I am good).  Churches have long been the place for good works.  Most of the hospitals were started by Christians.  I was born in Baptist Hospital (Columbia, SC).  Many of the homeless shelters are run by Christians.  Many soup kitchens are maintained by Christians.  Many outreaches to run aways, to prostitutes, to homosexuals are run by Christians.  Clinics for drug addicts (such as Teen Challenge) are run by Christians.  Clinics for people with sexual addictions are run by Christians.

The fact is that the Spirit of God leads us to do good works (Ephesians 2:10).  None would deny that good works flow from our salvation (James 2:14-26).  Good works do not save us (Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5) but they show our love for God.  Good works flow from a heart that has been washed by the precious blood of Jesus.  Even Paul the Apostle was clear that he cared for the poor (Galatians 2:10).

My fear in all this is that in all our doing, we miss the one thing that is vastly important above all others and that is the gospel.  Good works should never replace the gospel.  In fact, the gospel should be our first work.  The sinner must hear the gospel (Romans 10:14-17).  The sinner doesn’t first need our testimony or our good works.  They first need the gospel.  While we should help people (Galatians 6:10), we should never replace that with the gospel or for the gospel.

I know of some who claim to be sharing the gospel with the lost but they are only doing good works.  They are not preaching Christ to the lost.  They are not pointing sinners to the Savior.  They would say they are by their light (Matthew 5:13-16) but they are not verbally preaching the gospel to the lost.  This is where they fail.

Still others say that the we must “earn” the right to share the gospel with the lost.  The old quote is, “They don’t know how much you love till you show them how much you care.”  We are told that we must first do good works for people to earn their trust and respect.  Without this, the gospel comes across as meaningless (or so we are told).

Yet we don’t get angry with doctors who are forthright.  We don’t question doctors who appear as unfriendly or unkind.  We don’t question doctors who warn us of our lifestyles without first giving us a meal or building us a house.  We just listen to them and doctors leave it to us to follow their advice.

The Bible is clear that we must preach the gospel to the lost.  We must not hold back.  Isaiah 58:1 reads, “Cry loudly, do not hold back; Raise your voice like a trumpet, and declare to My people their transgression and to the house of Jacob their sins” (NASB).  Jesus said that He had come to bring good news (Isaiah 61:1; Luke 4:18) and we are to be His witnesses in this world (John 20:21).  The Spirit of God empowers us to be His witnesses (Acts 1:8).  We witness by declaring His gospel to the lost.  Good works help us but they are not the gospel in of themselves.

When we read the book of Acts we find the disciples preaching the gospel.  The Lord sent them to preach the gospel (Matthew 28:19-20). The gospel is a verbal message of redemption (1 Corinthians 15:1-3).  The gospel focuses entirely on the Lord Jesus and His work in saving us (Romans 4:6).  Our gospel must be the verbal truth of the Lord Jesus Christ.

So here is my point.  Good works are good.  Good works flow from a truly redeemed life (Ephesians 2:10; James 2:14-26).  Good works do not save us (Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5).  Good works can never earn God’s perfect righteousness (Isaiah 64:6) and even if we did good works all our lives and never sinned again, we have sinned enough to receive His wrath upon us (James 2:10).  This is not a case of our good works out doing our bad works.  Our sinfulness is not just in our works but in us (Romans 3:10-18, 23).  WE are sinful at heart and not merely in our actions (Genesis 6:5; Ephesians 2:1-3).  No good works can ever atone for our sins.  We have simply sinned too much and are sinful at heart.  This is why we look to Christ alone to save us.  Jesus was perfect and He never sinned (2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 2:22).  Jesus bore our sins on the cross (Galatians 1:4) and His blood alone cleanses us from all sin (Ephesians 1:7).  The blood of Jesus alone is able to wash us from dead works (Hebrews 9:14) that we might serve the living God.  We must be born again (John 3:5; Titus 3:5; 1 Peter 1:3).  This happens by the grace of God alone.  We cannot earn salvation.  We cannot add to the work of Christ for saving us.  We must look by faith to Him alone to save us (John 6:29).

God saves us by His grace.  We the Lord saves us from sin, He transforms us completely (2 Corinthians 5:17).  This is why Jesus described this as the new birth.  We are born from above.  The Spirit of God comes into us and He makes us alive with Christ (Ephesians 2:4-5).  The Lord washes away our sins and forgives us completely (Hebrews 8:12).  The Holy Spirit now empowers toward holiness.  We are holy in Christ but are also being made holy by the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9-17; Hebrews 10:10, 14).  We are complete in Christ (Colossians 3:1-4).  But this doesn’t mean that we are not being sanctified.  We are.  The Holy Spirit is helping us to be more like Christ.  He is taking us from being sinful enemies of God to being children of the King.  Good works flow from this relationship with Christ.  In Colossians, for example, Paul the Apostle lays our how Christ transform us.  He shows how we flee from sinning and toward godliness and holiness in all that we do (Colossians 3:5-17).  Paul shows us that our relationships are transformed because of the gospel (Colossians 3:18-4:1).  The gospel makes me new in Christ and I am able to obey the Lord because of the gospel.  The gospel is my motivation for good works.

This should flow forth in my evangelism as well.  The gospel is my foundation and authority.  I preach the gospel because of the Word of God and its truth.  I can proclaim that Jesus will save sinners because His Word clearly says that He will (Romans 10:13).  I can proclaim repentance because the Bible calls people to repentance (Acts 17:30-31; Romans 2:4; 2 Corinthians 7:10).  I can proclaim the wrath of God against sin because the Bible clearly teaches His wrath against sin (Romans 1:18-32).  I can preach against lawlessness because the Bible calls sin lawlessness (1 John 3:4).  I can call sinners to repent of their sins because they have sinned against the law of God (Romans 3:19-20; 1 Timothy 1:8-11).

Now good works toward sinners flows from the gospel.  The gospel is the first good work they need to hear and see.  I come to the lost sinner with love for them and compassion on them because the Bible calls me to do this (Titus 3:1-7).  Sinners are bound in their sins because they are blinded by Satan (2 Corinthians 4:3-4).  Sinners must hear the gospel and the Spirit of God must open their hearts to the gospel (Acts 16:14-15).  I can build them a house.  I can buy them groceries.  I can give them a book full of testimonies from other disciples.  But ultimately, I have failed that sinner if I don’t preach the gospel to them.  How can I say I love God yet ignore my fellow human being created in God’s image and deny them the gospel (1 John 3:16-18)? The gospel saves and I must preach to the lost the gospel (1 Corinthians 9:16).

The bottom line is this: good works flow from salvation.  Good works cannot earn salvation nor secure our salvation.  Jesus died to save us from our sins which brings on us God’s just wrath but the Son of God bore our sins on the cross and we are saved from the wrath of God in Him (1 Thessalonians 1:10).  Good works then flow from our salvation (Ephesians 2:10; James 2:14-26).  Part of good works is the preaching of the gospel and this is the greatest way we can love sinners and that is to preach to them.  Sinners are going to hell without Christ and we must preach the gospel to warn them of the wrath to come.  We must preach the truth that Christ came to save sinners (Luke 19:10) and He will save sinners by His grace (John 6:37).  The Holy Spirit will empower us to preach the gospel (Acts 1:8) and He will help us to reach the lost.  The Holy Spirit opens sinners hearts for the gospel (John 6:44: 16:8-11).  I pray that I would be found faithful in preaching the gospel to sinners of whom I am chief (1 Timothy 1:15).

Written by The Seeking Disciple

01/26/2015 at 1:26 PM

Don’t Be Holy In Theory Only

I think that most disciples of Christ acknowledge that God calls His people to holiness.  1 Peter 1:15-16 is clear enough that we understand that God calls me to holiness.  Psalm 24:3-4 is also clear that the only one that can approach the holy throne of God is those who have clean hands and a pure heart.  Jesus blessed those who are pure in heart by saying that they would see God (Matthew 5:8).  The Bible also calls us to follow the example of the Lord Jesus Christ and His example was one of perfection (1 Peter 2:21-22).  Paul said wrote that the Corinthians were to follow his example as he followed the example of Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1).

So in theory we know that God calls to holiness.  We know that the people of God are to flee from sin (Romans 6).  We know that we are to set our affections on Christ above (Colossians 3:1-4).  We are to strive for holiness without which no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14).  We read passages such as 1 Peter 2:11-12 and agree that they are good and right.

Yet theory is not practice.  To simply hold to a theory of holiness is not enough.  Strange how I have met “holiness” people who are not holy.  I have met people who ascribed to a theology of holiness yet were not living holy lives.  They looked, acted, loved, adored, and were striving for the same things as the worldly-minded church.  They wanted to sip their latte and shake their head to some “worship” music but they didn’t want to be holy.  They wanted to read their study Bible but never practice what the Bible says.  They wanted to “share their testimony” with the lost but didn’t even have the strength to exhort sinners to flee the wrath to come.  They want to have a theory of holiness in which they say that Christ is their holiness and He is their salvation without actually repenting of their sins and being holy themselves.  They talk about holiness in some circles but then they sit at their computer screen or movie screen and fill their minds with filth, compromise, and worldliness.

Oh to be holy!  Oh for a people of holiness to rise up and preach the gospel!  Oh for saints to truly be saints (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).  I am so thankful for Jesus shedding His blood for my sins (Galatians 1:4).  I rejoice in Isaiah 53:11, that I am justified before God because of the work of the Lord Jesus.  Nothing can take from His work and nothing can add to His work (Galatians 1:6-9).  Truly Jesus is my salvation (John 19:30; 1 Corinthians 1:30-31).

However, this doesn’t negate holiness.  Holiness is still required.  Just as God called His people to holiness in the Old Testament (Leviticus 11:44-45), so He calls His people to holiness in the New Testament (1 Peter 1:15-16).  The blessing of the gospel is that holiness is now accomplished not by my keeping the laws of the Old Testament but by keeping the law of Christ (Galatians 5:24-25).  We now are empowered by the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8; Galatians 5:16-17) to be holy.  We have been crucified with Christ (Galatians 2:20; 6:14).  We are to be dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus (Romans 6:11).  The wages of sin remains death (Romans 6:23) and we are to flee from sin (Galatians 6:7-8).  The one who lives for their flesh will die (Romans 8:12-13).

The call then must be repent of our sins!  We must bear fruit in keeping with repentance (Matthew 3:8).  We must turn from our wicked ways (Ezekiel 18:30-31).  We must call sinners to repentance (Acts 2:38; 3:19; 17:30-31).  We must reveal to sinners the greatness of God in His giving of His Son for our sins (Romans 2:4).  We must call sinners to repent and take up their cross and follow Jesus (Luke 14:25-35).  We must call the people of God back to holiness not just in theory but in practice.  Theory is useless with the practice of holiness (1 John 2:3-6).  We must warn the saints of God to flee from sin (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) and to be holy (1 John 3:6-10).

I pray to God that He would empower us to holiness (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24).  Oh for holiness to be preached in the power of the Holy Spirit!

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