A Blessed Memory

“The memory of the righteous is a blessing, 

but the name of the wicked will rot.”

Proverbs 10:7

The righteous are those who belong to God, have godly wisdom, and live in accordance with God’s ways. Throughout Proverbs, the righteous are those who fear God (1:7), carry out justice (8:20), increase in learning (9:9), speak profitable things (10:11, 21), remain steadfast (10:30), bear fruit like a tree (11:30), care for their neighbor (12:26), hate falsehood (13:50), and walk in integrity (20:7). 

The righteous live eminently godly lives filled with acts of service to King Jesus. They offer up their bodies as living sacrifices to the Lord (Romans 12:1). Their lives are filled with such godly virtues that they become paradigms of some of the virtues that God works in us by the Spirit. In essence, the righteous are those who truly live in this life.

Nonetheless, though the righteous truly live in this life, they still end up dying. Once they are gone, all we have are memories of them. These memories become blessings to the people of God. This is one of the ways that God honors those who honor him (Psalm 112:6). God sees to it that blessed men and women leave behind blessed memories; memories that are so profitable to the people of God that they are regarded as blessings from God.

We are blessed when we remember how Abraham was willing to offer up Isaac because he was confident that God would raise his son from the dead (Hebrews 11:17-20). Our spirits are encouraged when we think about how Moses chose to be mistreated with the people of God rather than enjoying the fleeting pleasures of sin in Egypt (Hebrews 11:24-25). Our souls are renewed with zeal when we remember the steadfastness of Job in the midst of an onslaught of fiery trials (James 5:11).

Sweet Memories of William Tyndale

This is also one of the chief reasons so many Christians have benefited from reading biographies of righteous men and women throughout history. Just the other day I was reading about William Tyndale. Throughout the 1520s and 1530s, Tyndale’s main ambition was to translate both the Old and New Testament into English. Though this was illegal and punishable by death during his time, he was filled with a godly resolve to get the Bible into the language of the common man. Before he began this extraordinarily difficult task, Tyndale famously said to a very learned man, “If God spare my life, in a few years I will cause a boy that drives the plough to know more of the Scripture than you do.”

To enable the plough boy to know more Scripture than the learned man proved to be an audacious endeavor. Tyndale had to live as a fugitive on the run, he had to master the Greek and Hebrew language, and he had to find men that would print his translations even though it could cost them their lives. In all of this, Tyndale did not waver. Before long, his English Bible was circulating throughout England. As the Bible was placed into the plough boy’s hands, the plough boy began to know more Scripture than the Pope!

Although this was a remarkable feat, it proved to cost Tyndale his life. Because of his translation work, in 1536 he was tied to a stake, strangled to death by an iron chain, and then burned. William Tyndale gave up his life for the cause of Christ, the Word of God, and the building up of the church. Even though he is gone, we still hear his voice every time we read our English Bible. As you can see, “The memory of the righteous is a blessing” (Proverbs 10:7).

Not so With the Wicked

This is not so with the wicked. For those who do not belong to God, lack godly wisdom, and rebel against God’s good design, their names will rot. When they die, both their body and their names will decay. God will see to it that the wicked are either forgotten (2 Kings 9:30-37; Job 18:5-17; Psalm 9:5), or that they will be remembered with shame and detestation (Romans 9:13; 2 Timothy 3:8-9; Revelation 2:20).

The Stench of Henry Phillips

Take Henry Phillips for example. This is the wicked man who was hired to befriend William Tyndale for the express purpose of betraying him. The same money loving spirit that drove Judas to betray the Son of God fueled Henry Phillips to betray Tyndale, a translator of the Word of God. After Phillips gambled away a large sum of money that his father had entrusted to him, he was willing to do anything to pay off his debt. Knowing this, a wealthy man that abhorred the reformers offered Phillips a sizable amount of money to spy on, befriend, and betray Tyndale. In love with money, Phillips agreed. 

He proved to be remarkably successful in this endeavor. Before long, he lured Tyndale into a trap. Tyndale was then arrested and jailed. As we mentioned earlier, he was then tied to a stake, strangled to death, and then set ablaze. For the church, the memory of Tyndale is a blessing. The memory of Henry Phillips, however, has faded into oblivion. Even when Henry Phillips’ name is mentioned, it is remembered with sense of disgrace.

Righteousness Receives The Crown

“Gray hair is a crown of glory;

it is gained in a righteous life.”

Proverbs 16:31

Even at a very young age, C.H. Spurgeon was a great preacher. As pastors throughout the area became aware of how powerfully Spurgeon preached, they would invite him to come preach in their pulpits. One of the pastors that invited Spurgeon to come fill his pulpit was Mr. Sutton, of Cottenham. Though Sutton had never placed his eyes on Spurgeon, he was eager for Spurgeon to come preach one of his anniversary sermons.

When Sutton’s eyes finally landed on Spurgeon, Sutton was a bit shocked to find that Spurgeon was only a teenager. He immediately regretted inviting this boy preacher to come preach one of his anniversary sermons to a congregation that was jam packed in the sanctuary. The gray-haired Mr. Sutton told Spurgeon, “I shouldn’t have asked you here, had I known you were such a bit of a boy.” To which the young fiery eyed Spurgeon quipped, “I can go back as easily as I came.” Mr. Sutton, however, did not ask Spurgeon to leave. He unexcitedly went ahead and let Spurgeon address his congregation. Though he did rudely and impolitely let Spurgeon know that he didn’t expect much from a young preacher that still had his mother’s milk in his mouth!

When it came time for Spurgeon to preach, he picked up the book of Proverbs and read aloud, “Gray hair is a crown of glory” (16:31a). After reading he looked at the congregation and said, “I doubt it, for, this morning, I met with a man who has a hoary (gray) head, yet he has not learnt common civility to his fellow-men.” Then Spurgeon proceeded to read the second half of the verse, “it is gained in a righteous life” (16:31b). He then said boldly, “Ah! that’s another thing; a hoary head would then be a crown of glory, and, for the matter of that, so would a red head, or a head of any other color.” 

A Saucy Dog!

After these initial comments, Spurgeon went on to preach the sermon he had originally planned to herald. Mr. Sutton came up afterwards and said, “Bless your heart! I have been a minister nearly forty years, and I was never better pleased with a sermon in all my life, but you are the sauciest dog that ever barked in the pulpit.”

Spurgeon was a saucy dog, and this saucy dog taught Mr. Sutton two lessons that day. The first lesson was that gray hair is only a crown of glory when it is gained by years of righteous living. This is the main meaning of the proverb above. The second lesson was that a dark headed teenager with a passion for righteousness is worth listening to! This is an implication of the proverb that Spurgeon felt the freedom to draw out. For our purposes, we will focus on the main meaning.

Gray Hair – Crown of Glory

The Christian that lives a righteous life enters into his latter years with gray hair that is a crown of glory. They have spent decades meditating on and memorizing the Bible. Their constant devouring of the word of God allows them to speak the word of Christ to those around them. As they have lived in God’s world, God has refined and further conformed them into the image of Christ through fiery trials. Faced with difficult situations where it actually costs them to obey God, they have steadfastly remained faithful to Christ despite the costs.

Throughout all of this, God has slowly rid them of pride and produced within them ever increasing humility. They “flourish like the palm tree”, they “grow like a cedar”, and “they bear fruit in old age” (Psalm 92:12,14). Spending time with them is one of the greatest blessings in this earthly life. Their gray hair is a crown of glory, and those within the church ought to esteem them as paradigms of godly wisdom and virtue.

Gray Hair – Not Necessarily a Crown Of Glory

Nevertheless, just because a person is aged does not mean they possess the crown of glory. Apart from a righteous life, their gray hair is merely a crown that lies debased in the dust of the earth. Rather than living righteously to attain the crown of glory, they have lived wickedly storing up the wrath of God. Their “white hairs of ungodliness bespeak ripeness for wrath.” With this in mind, Charles Bridges said, “For what is a more lamentable spectacle, than a graceless old man.” Bridges is right. There is not a more lamentable sight that a graceless old man that has squandered decades of his life in service to the world, the flesh, and the devil.

This is not to say that the young are not to honor and respect even the ungodliest of older men. As followers of Christ, younger Christians should honor and respect them. However, nobody should be so foolish as to think that, just because someone is older, they possess godly wisdom, understanding, and counsel. If they have not live righteously, they lack the crown of glory that comes with old age. This means that Christians should not view them as paradigms of godly wisdom and virtue.

The Different Christians on Social Media

As Jesus addressed the religious leaders of his day, he said to them, “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Mt. 12:34). In saying this, Jesus is informing us that our words reveal our hearts. Whether our heart is evil or good will be evidenced by our words. Simple enough, huh? But what about social media? Would Jesus say, “For out of the abundance of the heart the fingers type and post?”

He most certainly would! Our use of social media evidences a great deal about our hearts. It reveals our passions, our sin patterns, our likes, and even our dislikes. To peruse someone’s social media account is to probe the inner workings of their heart, and it allows you to really get to know them. The sad reality, however, is that our social media usage usually doesn’t reveal the good within us. It usually magnifies the evil in us. As I have followed Christ for ten years, I have noticed this in my own life as well as in the lives of others. In what follows, I have described certain Christian’s use of social media. As I wrote this, I noticed that I myself have been guilty of some of these uses of social media. I am sure you will see that you have been guilty of some of these as well. So let’s look at our first individual.

Mr. Intellect

Mr. Intellect has seen that contemporary evangelicalism is filled with shallow theology and rampant pragmatism. He has perceived that many Christians on his social media timeline spend a bulk of their time grasping after spiritual experiences that will give them glory-bumps (goosebumps from the Holy Spirit). He has become cognizant that most of the Christians he follows look for thrills from the Holy Spirit rather than doctrinal understanding from the Holy Spirit.

As he sees this, he develops a resolve to use his intellect mightily in knowing the things of God. His end, however, is not to know God. It is to know theology, to post about theology, and to destroy those who have neglected to study theology. In every post, Mr. Intellect seems rigid, argumentative, and critical. In his social media interactions, he is precise doctrinally, but he lacks the fruit of the Spirit. Though you find yourself agreeing with him in matters of theology, you also find yourself squirming at the trail of destruction he leaves behind.

Mr. Hypocrite

Mr. Hypocrite knows his stuff. He can tell you that a husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the church. As a parent, he can inform you that a parent is to raise their kids up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. And he uses his social media platform to show you that he knows and even seemingly does these things. He’s always posting pictures of both he and his wife with a hashtag saying, “#simplyblessed!” And he’s always eager to share a video of his kids quoting the latest memory verses from Awana.

Before long, though, you find that Mr. Hypocrite has another face. His marriage lies in ruins because he has had an affair with another woman. In the midst of this, he finds himself in a divorce that has become public knowledge. Not only this, it is apparent that his kids have gone off the deep end. Of course, this is not entirely his fault. The kids have a sin nature that pulls them towards sin. However, people can’t help but see that many of their ungodly mannerisms come from their father. Even though Mr. Hypocrite’s other face is becoming public knowledge, he steadily post spiritual things on Facebook in hopes to maintain some semblance of Christian character.

Mr. Doomsday

Mr. Doomsday loves the apocalyptic writings of the Bible, and he has dedicated himself to studying these notoriously difficult sections of Scripture. Finally, his laborious study has paid off. Though Jesus Christ said that no one knows the day or hour of His second coming, Mr. Doomsday has finally unlocked the mysterious time.

After linking his religious, political, and American heritage together, he has discovered that Christ’s second coming is directly linked to the mark of the beast, the conservative party, and America as a whole. After making these remarkably in depth connections, every social media post is used as a means to propagate his understanding of the end times.

Mr. Self-Pity

Mr. Self-pity intellectually believes in a good and sovereign God that is working all things in accordance with His inscrutable will. He intellectually believes that Christ loved him and gave His life for him. These, though, are not enough for him to be content and satisfied in this life. He also needs the pity of others.

With this in mind, he always takes to social media to seek the pity of his followers in regard to his current life circumstances. In his efforts to seek pity, he does what any socially aware person would never do. . . he takes to mainstream social media platforms in order to tell everybody about how terrible his day has been, how unfortunate he is, and how discouraged he has been. Slowly but surely somebody takes the bait and begins to pity him. As this happens, he comforts himself knowing that there are people out there that really care about how terrible his life is.

Mr. Passive Aggressive

Mr. Passive Aggressive prides himself as being a religious zealot. He is fanatically committed to attacking the thoughts and beliefs of other people. . . . especially other Christians. In his own eyes, he is a religious reformer zealously seeking the advancement of truth in the midst of a world of falsehood. Though certain aspects of Mr. Passive Aggressive are admirable, he tends to be somewhat of a spiritual coward.

Rather than attacking the thoughts and beliefs of other people to their face, he takes to his social media platforms to do it. Since he knows that it would be frowned upon to aggressively attack someone directly on social media, he does it passively. Behind all of his posts and tweets there’s a target. Those who know him well know the target he is aiming at. Those who do not know him well are unaware of his target, and of the passive aggressive nature of his post. And after each social media post, he takes off his spiritual armor thinking of himself as a conquering warrior in the battle for the truth.

Mr. Narcissist

Mr. Narcissist believes in a self-giving God that loves and cherishes humility in His children. He prays earnestly and consistently for humility just so that he can be admired for it. And he has an intense desire to advance the kingdom of God so that both he and God might be known among the nations.

One of the key methods that Mr. Narcissist uses for the advancement of the kingdom of God is the promotion of self. His social media pages are laden with pictures and videos of himself. Every single post that he sends out onto the timeline of others has something to do with himself. He knows deep down in the inner recesses of his heart that, if he could just get people to understand that evangelical Christianity looks a lot like him, then the kingdom of God would begin to grow.

Mr. Facetious

Mr. Facetious is a funny guy and he knows it. Though he takes great joy in joking about sports, politics, t.v. shows, and the latest movies, he at times jokes about heavenly things. Granted, there are times where sarcasm and humor can be used well and for the glory of God, but this guy has a knack for being facetious about weighty eternal truths.

Mr. Facetious finds the most humorous GIFs or memes when talking about Jesus, hell, unbelief, sexual immorality, and homosexuality. Solemnity is foreign to his social media accounts. As one wades through his social media platforms, it becomes apparent that Mr. Facetious has one agenda. . . . making people laugh. . . .regardless of what heavenly topic he has to trivialize in doing so.

Mr. Political

Mr. Political is a citizen of the kingdom of God, but he is also overwhelmingly preoccupied with current events. He reads, investigates, and evaluates what is going on in the kingdoms of this world. . . . especially with America (God’s chosen kingdom of this world). And Mr. Political is not content to keep this information to himself. He must use his social media platforms to inform everybody of his latest political insights.

As one looks through his social media accounts, it seems that Mr. Political believes that God is sovereign over the rise and fall of kings and their kingdoms, but that he also believes that the latest political event is going to destroy and thwart God’s sovereign plan. He seemingly believes that God works all things for good, but that the current political policies being passed are going to ruin the lives of all Christians. Of all the political pundits one should listen too, Mr. Political tops them all. He has no biases or presuppositions that cloud his judgments, posts, or political ideologies.

Mr. Pot-Stirrer

Mr. Pot-Stirrer is well aware that the Bible contains hundreds, even thousands, of encouraging and edifying teachings. He knows and understands that he could post helpful and encouring insights from the Bible on his social media timeline. This use of social media, however, is unappealing to him.

He would rather use his social media influence to talk about the latest and most controversial topic. In doing this, he knows that heated discussions will follow. His minions will love his posts while his critics will be enraged by them. His minions will be stirred up to like his insights on the latest and most controversial topic. His critics will be stirred up to get in a heated exchange with him over his insights on the latest and most controversial topic. And as his followers, both his minions and his critics, are stirred up, it stirs him up to continue being the pot-stirrer he is!

Who Are You?

We could creatively come up with more, but with what has been said, who are you? How might you strive to use social media in a way that honors God? How might you utilize your social media platforms to adorn the gospel of Jesus Christ? A proper use of social media is possible. It just takes intentionality and prayer!

The Necessity of Rebuke

To rebuke somebody is to tell somebody that they have done wrong. It is, figuratively speaking, a verbal spanking (Ps. 141:5)! A godly rebuke, one that honors the Lord, is to lovingly tell somebody they have done wrong with the aim of bringing them to repentance and restoration (Gal. 6:1). An ungodly rebuke, one that dishonors the Lord, is to angrily or bitterly tell somebody they have done wrong with the aim of tearing them down. The important point is this: if either rebuke, the godly or the ungodly, is true, then it is for the benefit of the Christian.

An Illustration

Think about it this way, surgery is one of God’s ordained means to heal a person from an illness, infection, or injury that’s wreaking havoc on the body. Generally speaking, if there was no surgery, then there would be no healing. In the same way, rebuke is one of God’s ordained means to a heal a person of a spiritual malady that’s inflicting harm on the soul. So if there is no rebuke, then there will be no spiritual healing.

An Example

This truth becomes evident as one looks at the Bible. Take David for example; David was languishing in unconfessed sin after he quenched his sinful sexual passions by having intercourse with Bathsheba, another man’s wife (Ps. 32:3-4). As David languished, the Lord mercifully sent Nathan to use the scalpel of rebuke in order to expose David to the spiritual danger that he was in (2 Sam. 12:1-5). Afterwards, David confessed his sin and found restoration and forgiveness (Ps. 32:5). Nathan’s rebuke proved to bring healing. As Proverbs says, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend” (Prov. 27:6).

Rebuke…..A Despised Thing

Though what I am saying is biblically accurate, I should let you in on something. Our sin nature abhors rebuke. Since we often times desire the approval of man, we don’t like giving nor receiving rebukes, and this is understandable. Giving a rebuke is kind of like doing surgery on somebody that is not under anesthesia. You can visibly see the pain that you are causing them, so you want to stop or even avoid the surgery. And receiving a rebuke is like being under surgery without anesthesia. You feel every bit of the pain.

Despite the fact that our sin nature is repulsed by both giving and receiving rebukes, we must remember that our sin nature doesn’t desire our spiritual well-being. Our Heavenly Father desires our spiritual well-being, and those who are his children must understand God’s ordained means for rebuke in the Christian life. It is clear from the Bible that rebuke is necessary if we want to grow spiritually. And it is clear from the Bible that the godly man both gives and takes heed to rebukes, and that the ungodly man refuses to both give and listen to rebukes (Ps. 141:5; Pr. 13:1; Pr. 17:10).

How To Rebuke

So how are we supposed to rebuke people? Here’s some advice:

  1. Examine yourself to make sure you aren’t in the same sin you are about to rebuke
  2. Make sure what you are about to rebuke is actually sin, and not merely some man-made standard you have for people
  3. Make sure the sin you are about to rebuke is actually deserving of a face to face rebuke
    1. Simply put, you can’t rebuke every sin that somebody commits. I mean, you could……people just wouldn’t hangout with you anymore
  4. Be as gentle and loving as possible when you rebuke
  5. Have useful Scripture
    1. One of the purposes of the Bible is to reprove and rebuke, so let the Bible do the rebuking
  6. Expect the person you are rebuking to get defensive (this will allow you to remain calm when they actually do get defensive…….because they probably will)
  7. Do not expect the person to appreciate your rebuke immediately
    1. Often times the person will come to appreciate your rebuke hours, days, weeks, or even months later
  8. Trust God for their repentance
    1. God is the one that grants repentance, so trust him for the other person’s repentance

How to Receive Rebuke

And here is how we can receive rebuke:

  1. Be in a constant pattern of repentance
    1. This produces humility and a spirit that is willing to receive rebuke
  2. Have friends that are willing to wound you
    1. Gather godly friends around you that are willing to rebuke you when it is necessary
  3. When rebuked, in either a godly way or ungodly way, weigh the rebuke to see if there’s any truth in it
  4. If the rebuke is valid, repent as soon as possible
  5. Thank the one that rebuked you, and tell them that God used it to bring you to repentance
  6. Memorize Psalm 141:5 which says, “Let a righteous man strike me—it is a kindness; let him rebuke me—it is oil for my head; let my head not refuse it.”

The Danger of Theological Indifference

The Christian faith lends itself to mental effort. Just think about this: we serve a God that has revealed himself in the Bible. In other words, we serve a God that has revealed himself in letters, words, sentences, paragraphs, books, and one body of books…the Bible!

And the Bible is filled with rebukes of false doctrines and explanations of sound doctrines. It is filled with arguments against certain systems of beliefs as well as clarifications on what to believe. It is filled with inferences, explanations, and reason. It is loaded with certain biblical themes that span across all its sixty-six books.

Because God has revealed himself this way, it is an invitation for us to use intellectual exertion; to toil and labor to acquire knowledge. He is calling us to follow the evidence that led to the inference; to follow the reason that made up the argument. He is enticing us to trace the themes that span across all sixty-six books of the Bible. He is bidding us to use our God given mental capacities in order to rightly know Him and the teachings He has left us.

Contemporary Christianity-Anti Intellectual

Though the Christian faith lends itself to mental effort, there does seem to be a growing anti-intellectualism in the church today. There are many in the church that distrust the Christian that spends his time reading, memorizing, developing arguments, and striving to become a good theologian. You can hear people say, “We don’t care about all the details. Just stick to the main things like the Bible, the gospel, the cross, salvation, and heaven.” Or maybe they say, “We can’t possibly know things like the Incarnation, Trinity, or God’s purpose in election. Those things are mysterious. Just stick to Jesus, Jesus, Jesus!” And when a Christian persists in studying and talking about the particulars of certain theological beliefs, fellow Christians begin to distrust him.

Now, for those of you that may not agree that there is an anti-intellectualism in the church today, maybe you will agree with me when I say there is a growing disinterest in intellectual toil within the church today. People seem to be indifferent to the things of God. They have reduced the Christian faith to the Bible, the gospel, the cross, Jesus, salvation, and heaven. They are not interested in anything other than these aspects of the Christian faith. And, in all honesty, they are not interested in studying these in too much detail.

Right Emphases in Light of the Whole

Here is the thing though, throughout Church history, Christians realized that what they emphasized was important. Therefore, the main emphases throughout Church history have been on the Bible, the gospel, the cross, Jesus Christ, salvation, and heaven. They were not reducing Christianity to these teachings. They were not intending on isolating these points of emphases in order to make them the whole of the Christian faith. Rather, after a thorough study of the Bible, they realized that, at the end of the day, these where the key points of the whole. As a result, they emphasized them.

But, and this is very important, they viewed these key points in light of the whole. These emphases were viewed in light of a good and proper understanding of the Biblical narrative. Behind these key points, there were good arguments for what each point meant in light of what God has revealed in the Bible as a whole.

Right Emphases Without the Whole

Within the contemporary church, we still make the right emphases. We emphasize the Bible, the cross, Jesus Christ, salvation, and heaven. However, due to many Christians’ anti-intellectualism or indifference, these main topics have been separated from the whole of the Christian faith.

At first glance, this doesn’t seem that bad, but, upon further study, it is very bad. Since we have isolated these key points of the Christian faith, they have begun to be understood apart from the whole. As a result, they have begun taking on different meanings; meanings that are quite contrary to the biblical narrative.

A Test Case-Heaven

To get a better understanding of what I have been saying throughout this brief blog, let’s think about heaven. Heaven is an emphasis throughout church history as well as the contemporary church. Yet, the contemporary church has developed a concept of heaven that is quite different from what we find in the Bible. In all seriousness, the present church’s understanding of heaven is in line with what we find in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

At one point in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Miss Watson explains heaven to Huck. According to Huckleberry, “She went on and told me all about the good place. She said all a body would have to do there was go around all day long with a harp and sing, forever and ever.” As you can see, Huckleberry wasn’t that intrigued by heaven. And honestly, because of most Christians’ similar misconceptions of heaven, they aren’t intrigued either.

For instance, as one pastor was talking to Randy Alcorn about heaven he said, “Whenever I think about Heaven, it makes me depressed. I’d rather just cease to exist when I die.” But what was his reasoning for this? Well, the pastor goes on to say, “I can’t stand the thought of that endless tedium. To float around in the clouds with nothing to do but strum a harp. . . . it’s all so terribly boring. Heaven doesn’t sound much better than Hell. I’d rather be annihilated than spend eternity in a place like that.”

This is honestly what many people believe. They still emphasize heaven, but they have isolated heaven from the biblical narrative. As a result, it has taken on a different meaning than what we find in the Bible. They speak of a heaven as a disembodied spiritual existence where we sing Amazing Grace for 10,000 years; as an endless church service where we grow in our ability to play a harp! This is what happens when an important biblical emphasis becomes isolated. It begins to take on an unbiblical meaning.

The heaven the Bible talks about is a restoration of all that Adam lost……and then some! Adam was supposed to dwell on earth, exercise a God honoring rule as a king, and spread the knowledge of the glory of God over creation. Adam failed at this God given commission. With Adam’s sin, humanity fell from its original royal dignity.

Then Christ came to redeem humanity and to restore humanity back to its royal dignity. In Christ, human beings are being enabled to fulfill God’s original purpose for them. As Alcorn said, “God never gave up on his original plan for human beings to dwell on Earth. In fact, the climax of history will be the creation of the new heavens and a new earth, a resurrected universe inhabited by resurrected people living with a resurrected Jesus.” And as we, a resurrected humanity, reign on a non-cursed new earth with Jesus Christ, our resurrected King, we will dwell everlastingly in complete bliss.

This is the heaven that the Bible teaches about. It deserves to be emphasized, but it must be emphasized in light of the whole. My fear is that we have detached it from the whole, continued to emphasize it, and allowed it to lose its biblical meaning!

Where Do We Go from Here?

We must begin realizing that the Christian faith lends itself to mental exertion, and we must be willing to exert our mental capacities in order to better understand the things of God. As we do this, we will not merely emphasize what needs to be emphasized (the Bible, Jesus, the cross, salvation, heaven), we will have proper understandings of these key tenets of the Christian faith in light of the overall biblical narrative. In doing this, we will emphasize them for the same reasons Christians throughout history have emphasized them, rather than simply emphasizing them as a crutch to avoid mental effort.

Childcare Volunteers-Missed People on Sunday Mornings

Sundays During Quarantine

For our church in Louisiana, we have not been able to gather together for four weeks. It has been even longer for other churches in our area as well as around the country. This means that Christian families have had numerous Sunday mornings where they wake up, try to cultivate some type of normalcy, and then sit down as a family to watch their pastor preach to them from a screen.

Of course we can romanticize this by saying we get our hot cup of coffee, sit down on our cozy couch, offer up some eloquent prayers as a Christian family, and then intently listen to our pastor preach the Word of God while our love for Christ is inflamed anew. But let’s be honest, for families with infants and toddlers, Sunday mornings do not look like this.

Sunday mornings are filled with distractions. An infant or toddler needs to be attended too at many points throughout the sermon. They need milk warmed up, or perhaps they need the regular stipend of goldfish that the childcare workers in church normally gives them. Maybe their sinful flesh begins to oppose authority and they take all the attention in the room. This is what Sunday mornings looks like for many families during this time.

Meanwhile, the pastor’s words continue to be unheard. Those nuggets of spiritual truths that nourish our souls simply slide past us. Those life given exhortations from our pastor go out into the unknown. Those theological truths in worship songs go on being heard but not grasped.

Childcare-An Undesirable Service Opportunity

Childcare…………

Let’s be honest, most Christians don’t desire to serve in childcare. I think I can speak on behalf of churches all around the country when I say that the ministry that is always in need of volunteers is the children’s ministry. And I get it, it is hard to serve in a ministry where there is very little affirmation, self-fulfillment, or attention. It is hard to serve in a ministry where you see very little tangible spiritual fruit.

And then there are these other erroneous thoughts that run through our minds. We say to ourselves:

Surely God will not look at the rocking of a toddler on a Sunday morning and give eternal rewards. There is no way God will reward the changing of a diaper on a Sunday morning. Plus, even if God sees these things, not many other people do. Sure, the preacher gets some flack as he serves, but he still gets a ton of affirmation and praise from people too. But just look at the childcare volunteer.  People do not praise them. Shoot, I’d be shocked if even God praises them.

These types of thoughts leave our nursery with very few volunteers. They leave the leader of the children’s ministry hastily sending out texts, emails, and Facebook posts trying to find somebody to fill a spot on a Sunday morning.

Childcare-A Missed Ministry During Quarantine

But during these hectic Sunday mornings during quarantine, it is evident that the unglamorous ministry of childcare is deeply missed. People are realizing the sacrifices that childcare volunteers make in rocking other’s people’s children so that members of the church, as well as guests, can be attentive to the Word of God. They are realizing how blessed they are to have vetted childcare volunteers to change their baby’s diaper so that they can join together in corporate prayer during worship. In sum, Christian families are realizing how grateful they ought to be for brothers and sisters in Christ that die to themselves, walk down to the childcare/nursery area, and serve in the unnoticed and often overlooked childcare ministry.

Encouragement to Childcare Volunteers

The church needs you. You are a vital aspect to our Sunday morning gatherings. Because of you, believers and unbelievers have the opportunity to sit through corporate worship, listen to biblical truth, and hear life giving exhortations from the Word of God. With this in mind, know that your labor is not in vain. When you, in faith, volunteer in the children’s ministry, your Heavenly Father sees you, and your sacrificial service pleases Him.

Exhortations to Childcare Avoiders

If you are a member of a local church and have long avoided opportunities to serve in childcare, I hope Sundays during quarantine changes your thinking. When we are once again able to gather together, I hope you seriously consider volunteering in childcare. This is a wonderful and greatly needed way to serve the local church.

 

 

The First Commandment

“You shall have no other gods before me.”

Last year I wrote a blog on the seventh commandment that listed out its meaning as well as some applications that followed. Within this blog, I want to do something similar with the first commandment. Let’s begin looking at this famous commandment.

The Importance of this Commandment

The importance of this commandment cannot be overstated. Our God is an orderly God and, in his infinite wisdom, He placed this commandment at the beginning of the Ten Commandments. This led J.I. Packer to say that the first commandment is, “the fundamental commandment, first in importance as well as in order, and basic to every other. . . .true religion starts with accepting it as one’s rule of life.” And Packer is simply drawing from Thomas Watson who, when looking at the first commandment said, “This may well lead the van, and be set in the front of all the commandments, because it is the foundation of all true religion.”

In essence, Packer and Watson are saying that the essence of true religion is placing the God of Israel, the God of the Bible, as the exclusive object of our worship. If we make the God of the Bible anything less than the exclusive object of our worship, then we have swerved into a false religion.

These truths lead me to say this: in order for us to be obedient to any other commandment, we must be obedient to this commandment. Every other commandment must be obeyed because we have the God of the Bible as the sole object of our worship. To attempt to obey every other commandment without obeying the first commandment is considered sin, and is worthy of eternal condemnation. This is why this commandment is so very important.

The Uniqueness of this Commandment

As one looks at the gods of the ancient world, it is evident that none of them make the kind of assertion that our God makes in the first commandment. The God of the Bible is saying that you must worship Him and only Him. None of the other religions said anything like this. The cult of Baal, Asherah, and Molech never made such statements.

So when God said, “You shall have no other gods before me,” He was saying something quite unique. Ryken makes this even clearer when he says, “This command was without precedent. None of the other nations in the ancient world prohibited the worship of other gods. The God of Israel refused to acknowledge the legitimacy of any ofter God.” As you can tell, the God of the Bible is not a man pleaser! He will have you worship Him and Him alone because all the gods of the nations are false and illegitimate; completely unworthy of the worship of men and women made in he image of the one true God.

The Commandment in Light of the Trinity

We have briefly covered the importance and the uniqueness of the first commandment. Let’s now look at this commandment in light of the Trinity. This will be important when we start addressing what this commandment is requiring of us.

God has revealed Himself as the triune God. The One true God that gave us the first commandment eternally exists as three distinct persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Each person within the Trinity is fully God and is worthy of our worship, allegiance, and trust.

So, the Son is worthy of the same honor as the Father (Jn 5:23). The Spirit is worthy of the same honor as the Son. All three distinct persons of the Trinity, since they have the same essence, are worthy of the allegiance that the first commandment requires. And it is when our lives are dominated by our relationship with the one true triune God, that we are walking in faithfulness to the first commandment.

Now that we have a general overview of this commandment, let’s try to understand what the first commandment is forbidding us from doing, as well as what the first commandment is commanding us to do. In order to do this, we will use the two-sided rule.

The Two-Sided Rule

This is one of the interpretive methods we use in studying the Ten Commandments. This rule teaches that, when something is forbidden, the opposite is also commanded. It also teaches that, when something is commanded, the opposite is forbidden. In essence, there are always two sides to each commandment; a negative side and a positive side. We will begin with the negative side of this commandment.

The Negative Side

First, this commandment is forbidding us from worshipping any other so called “god.” When the Lord says, “You shall have no other gods before me,” He is forbidding us from worshipping any and all false gods. With that said, false gods come in many different shapes and sizes.

-Obvious False “Gods”

This is important to understand because some people merely think of false gods as statues of certain gods and goddesses, or they think about all the gods of other religions. Though the worship of these statues and gods of other religions is clearly forbidden by the first commandment, there are other false gods out there that are a little more subtle.

-Subtle False “Gods”

False gods that are a little more subtle are ones that have Christian terminology attached to them. For example, in 2 Corinthians 11:3-4, the Apostle Paul talks about Satan’s craftiness in deceiving people. One way he deceives people is by placing a different Jesus out there than the Jesus the apostles were preaching about.

Also, in Galatians 1:7, Paul admonished the Galatians for turning to a different gospel than the one he originally preached to them. These false teachers in the region of Galatia are using Christian terminology, but they are preaching and teaching about a different gospel than the one handed down by the apostles. And the first commandment is forbidding us from worshipping these different “Jesuses” and different “gospels.”

This means that the first commandment is forbidding us from worshipping the Jesus of the Jehovah witnesses. They do not believe in the Trinity, that Jesus is God, or that Jesus resurrected bodily from the grave. They preach a distorted gospel with a distorted Jesus.

This also means that the first commandment is forbidding us from worshipping the Jesus of the Mormons. They believe that god used to be a man and that, after obedience to the law, was eventually elevated to a god. They believe that god had sex with his goddess wife and they produced offspring (Jesus and Lucifer). Jesus obeyed god’s laws and became a god himself. This is also a distorted gospel with a different Jesus.

This also means that the first commandment is forbidding us from worshipping the Jesus of the prosperity gospel. The prosperity gospel preaches that the Abrahamic covenant brings material wealth, that prayer forces God’s hand, that faith is not a gift from God, and that Jesus’ atonement brings physical healing and financial prosperity. As Jones states, “In light of Scripture, the prosperity gospel is fundamentally flawed. At bottom, it is a false gospel because its faulty view of the relationship of God and man.” The Jesus of the prosperity gospel is different than the one recorded in the gospels and preached by the apostles.

And lastly, for subtle false gods, the first commandment is also forbidding us from worshipping the Jesus of theological liberalism. The Jesus of theological liberalism is not God over all, a being most glorious and worthy of our exclusive allegiance. Rather, he is merely a moral example; a paragon of virtue. His death was not substitutionary. It did not accomplish anything. It merely teaches and models what it means to be sacrificial and to look after the interests of others. Simply put, the god of theological liberalism is not the God of the Bible.

-The “God” of the Muslims or Jews

I would also say that worshipping the god of the Muslims or the Jews is a breaking of the first commandment. Sure, both Muslims and Jews say that they worship the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but as Christians we must reiterate that they are worshipping a god other than the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. When you look at the Bible, it is clear that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob has revealed Himself as the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. And Jesus clearly teaches that to dishonor the Son is to dishonor the Father (Jn 5:23). Therefore, both Muslims and Jews are worshipping a false god, and not the God of the Bible. They are worshipping a god that is other than the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

-“God” Substitutes

The last category that I want to hone in on when it comes to things forbidden by the first commandment is god substitutes. God substitutes do not present themselves as gods, but we end up relying, trusting, and worshipping them as though they were gods. At the outset, let me just say that these are the predominant idols that gain our allegiance and affection in the west.

A god substitute can be strength (Hab 1:11), money (Job 31:24; Dan 5:23; Mt 6:24), possessions (Lk 12:16-21), pleasure (1 Tim 3:4), or entertainment. The scripture clearly teaches that our sin nature delights in elevating these things to unhealthy places in our heart. When we do this, we then trust and rely on these god substitutes as though they were the one true God. When we do this, we are breaking the first commandment.

The Positive Side

Now that we are done with the negative side of this commandment (looking at what this commandment is forbidding us from doing), let’s look at the positive side (what this commandment is positively commanding us to do). This will be much shorter so bear with me!

The first commandment is positively commanding us to place our allegiance, affections, and love on God and God alone. God is to be the chief object of our love. Our loyalty is to be to Him and Him alone. I love how one author put it when he said, “The commandment calls for a style of life dominated by a relationship with God….the relationship to one God must dominate every sphere of life, whether the life of action, of thought, or of emotion.” So the first commandment is commanding us to have a life that is dominated by our relationship with the triune God of the Bible.

This means that our entire lives are to be consecrated to the Lord; completely set apart for the purposes of glorifying and magnifying Him. Like Jesus, we should seek to be obedient to the Lord in every sphere of life: thoughts, actions, motives, and words. When we eat and drink, we are to do so to the glory of God (1 Cor 10:31). When we work, we are to work heartily as for the Lord (Col 3:23). While we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord (Rom 14:8). Our entire life is to be dominated by our relationship with the one true God that has eternally existed as three distinct persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It is when we are doing this that we are walking in obedience to the first commandment.

Gospel Hope

With that said, it is evident that there is no commandment that we break more often than the first commandment. As a matter of fact, anytime we break any other God given commandment, the root of our sinful disobedience can ultimately be found in a breach of the first commandment. It is when God is not the supreme object of our affections that we dishonor our parents, murder, commit adultery, steal, or covet our neighbor’s wife and possessions. So, though this commandment comes first and is of utmost importance, there is no commandment that we have violated more frequently than this one.

And the Bible teaches that only a curse awaits those who violate God’s law. When we commit cosmic treason by elevating other gods and god substitutes to the place of Almighty God, we deserve everlasting torment in the lake of fire. However, the good news of the gospel is that, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us” (Gal 3:13).

After Christ faithfully obeyed the first commandment throughout his life, he hung on a tree; bearing our violations of the first commandment and suffering under the lawbreakers curse. God the Father willed for Jesus, his beloved Son, to die this way so that violators of the first commandment might be redeemed and restored to a proper relationship with Him. This is the hope of the Gospel, and this ought to lead us to praise and glorify our Savior, who loved us and gave himself for us! Indeed, this ought to lead us to joyfully and wholeheartedly live a life that is dominated by our relationship with the God that saved us by His grace.

 

A COVID-19 Spiritual Care Package

God’s Ordained Means to Satisfaction in Christ

Within the Christian life, God has ordained that certain disciplines, when done in faith, will further our sanctification and give us ever increasing joy and satisfaction in Christ. Here are some of those disciplines:

    • Bible Intake (Reading, Meditating, Memorizing, & Listening to the Bible)
    • Preaching & Teaching
    • Prayer (Personal Prayer & Corporate Prayer)
    • Worship (Personal Worship & Corporate Worship)
    • Singing
    • Fellowship
    • Fasting (Personal Fasting & Corporate Fasting)
    • Evangelism & Missions
    • Giving (To the Ministries of the Church, the Needy, & Missions)
    • Service
    • Ordinances (Baptism & the Lord’s Supper)
    • Discipleship

As we discipline ourselves, in faith, to make use of these disciplines, we will progressively be conformed into the image of Jesus and find satisfaction in Jesus.

COVID-19 Presents Some Problems

With one cursory reading through the New Testament, you will realize that God’s Plan-A for spiritual growth and satisfaction in Christ is the local church. Most of the godly disciplines mentioned above take place in the local church:

    • Listening to the Word
    • Preaching & Teaching
    • Fellowship
    • Corporate Prayer
    • Corporate Fasting
    • Corporate Worship
    • Ordinances

This is why, when you see a Christian that is not faithfully involved in the life of a local church, they are spiritually immature and find very little satisfaction in Jesus. They are neglecting God’s Plan-A for spiritual growth and satisfaction in Jesus!

With that said, here is the problem that COVID-19 presents: Most churches, out of love for God and love for neighbor, are canceling services. These cancelations could last a couple weeks or they could possibly last for months. Nobody is really sure in light of the volatility of the situation. This means that most Christians are not going to be able to faithfully participate in the life of the local church. Thus, Christians are not going to be able to participate in God’s Plan-A for christian maturity and satisfaction in Christ.

A Spiritual Care Package

With this in mind, I thought it would be helpful to create a spiritual care package that God might use to nourish our souls. So, rather than languishing spiritually during this time, this care package is meant to sustain your joy, contentment, and satisfaction in Christ. This care package will contain advise as well as specific recommendations.

First, consistently intake the Bible. At a time like this, it is tempting to have your face glued to your phone to catch the latest news article, tweet, or Facebook post about COVID-19. Resist that temptation and seek the Lord. Read through whole books of the Bible. Meditate on comforting truths from the Bible. Memorize sections of the Bible that you can share with others. Bible intake is, without a doubt, the chief means that God uses to both mature and satisfy His people.

Second, pray regularly. Make a weekly prayer guide to strategically pray for the following things:

    • those at high-risk in your local church body,
    • those that may feel lonely,
    • those entrusted to lead the church through this trying time,
    • those in your community,
    • those working in medical facilities,
    • those entrusted to lead our country,
    • those missionaries all over the world,
    • and unbelievers.

As you do this, you will bear the burdens of others. You will be petitioning a great King that has limitless resources to act on behalf of others!

Third, listen to good preaching. I do have one caveat here. Though there are a variety of godly pastors out there that are gifted preachers and teachers, be sure to listen to the specific pastor that God has entrusted to the care of your soul. He knows, loves, and cares for you a great deal. He is thinking about how to specifically shepherd you during this time. So listen to him. With that caveat out the way, here are some good sermons that have made a profound impact on Kahlie (my wife) and I personally:

Fourth, read good books written by good teachers. God has gifted the universal church with many godly men and women throughout the centuries that are gifted with writing. God has given them the ability to put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard) to pump out helpful literature for the church. Here are some books, none of which are academic, that have been helpful or encouraging in Kahlie and I’s life:

Fifth, listen and sing some hymns that were penned in troubled times throughout history. Matt Merker actually published an article of 25 hymns to sing. Each hymn has a link that takes you to a website where you can read the lyrics as well as listen to the song. Click on this link and find some hymns to joyfully sing to the Lord.

Sixth, serve the local church and the surrounding community. A global pandemic does not just hinder us as individuals. It hinders those around us. It hinders fellow members in our local church as well as fellow individuals in our community. Health care workers get exhausted, small business owners get anxious, and the elderly get concerned. In light of this, we are presented with some opportunities to serve. Here are some opportunities that I have been thinking through:

    • Offer to go get groceries for the elderly in your church
    • Offer to go get prescription medicine for the elderly in your church
    • Adopt a widow in your church and check up on her every 2-3 days
    • Give generously toward the benevolence fund at your local church
    • Order carry-out food or gift cards from local businesses in your area
    • Send encouraging texts or emails to those in your Sunday school class
    • Thank those who work in health care, the police department, grocery stores, etc.

Joy in Christ in the Midst of COVID-19

I am confident that if you, in faith, make use of this spiritual care package, then you will find joy and satisfaction in Jesus. In the midst of all the turmoil and volatility, you will be a well of living water that benefits and nourishes other people in these dark days.

Becoming an Evangelist

I would define evangelism as teaching the gospel to unbelievers with the aim of persuading them to repent of their sins and to believe in Jesus Christ for the salvation of their souls. We are to do this type of evangelism with our family members, friends, enemies, acquaintances, and strangers. As Christians, we have an obligation to bear witness to the glorious work of Christ to a lost and dying world.

Even though most Christians have a sense of this obligation, evangelism is something that most Christians find notoriously difficult. With this in mind, I wanted to point out six things that we can do in order to become faithful evangelists.

1) Know the Bible

Evangelism is largely a teaching moment. Whether you are seeking to evangelize your kids, co-workers, acquaintances, or strangers, you are going to have to teach them about God, Christ, sin, judgment, righteousness, faith, repentance, forgiveness, etc. These are weighty theological topics that fall within core doctrines of the Christian faith: creation, anthropology, soteriology, eschatology, etc. And if you are going to evangelize, you are going to have to be able to teach these topics to non-Christians.

Before you get overwhelmed by what you just read, it is important to add that you don’t have to know all aspects of every one of these doctrines! You don’t have to have the best definition, explanation, or argumentation of all the terms that I mentioned above. In all honesty, you don’t even have to have the best presentation of these doctrines. Nevertheless, you should strive to be the best teacher that you can possibly be as you articulate these biblical truths to unbelievers.

Therefore, seek to know the Bible. Become well acquainted with the teachings of Scripture. Listen to good sermons when you have time. Ask knowledgeable people weighty questions and allow them to teach you. Memorize simple definitions of certain biblical terms like repentance, faith, justification, and reconciliation. This will equip you to teach biblical truths in winsome ways. Simply put, the more you know the Bible the better you will be at evangelism.

2) Be in Prayer

As a child of God, you have access to God’s throne. He is the King of the universe. Make petitions to Him. Make big petitions to Him. Request great things from Him. Ask Him to give you opportunities to speak about Christ. Ask Him to give you wisdom, boldness, and clarity as you teach people about Christ during evangelistic encounters. Ask Him to save those whom you have the opportunity to teach about Jesus. You must be in prayer for these things.

The importance of this is seen in the life of the apostle Paul. Paul asked the churches to whom he was writing to pray these types of prayers on his behalf. And trust me, if the apostle Paul needed the church to pray on his behalf in regard to some of these things, then we most certainly need to be praying for them!

We also need others praying for us. Get a couple of friends that you attend church with and begin praying for one another’s evangelistic efforts. After one of you has the opportunity to evangelize, be sure to encourage your friends by telling them that God was gracious in answering their prayers. If somebody you evangelize ends up confessing that Jesus is Lord, be sure to tell your friends. This will create a culture of evangelism that fosters encouragement and endurance.

3) Be Holy

Personal holiness is, by far, what is left out of most conversations when it comes to evangelism. This shouldn’t be the case! Our personal holiness is instrumental in our evangelistic efforts. As Christians, we are to be a distinct people. Our citizenship is in heaven, and we take orders from a King that reigns over all. In light of this, we are to be a people that are other-worldly.

We are to speak in a manner that reflects the goodness, graciousness, and compassion of our King. We are to live in accordance with our King’s ethic; being careful to walk in our King’s statutes. We are to look carefully at how we use our time, and we are to live such godly lives that those outside of Christ take notice. This is why, when it comes to personal witnessing, the Bible often assumes that we are going to be responding to unbelievers as they ask us questions.

You see, when we live in such a way that is consistent with biblical teaching, people are convicted. People begin to ask questions. When we answer their questions, our answers have credibility because it is backed up by a holy life. This means that, if we are going to be faithful evangelists, then we need to be holy evangelists.

4) Be a Conversationalist

Far too often we strive to get through our days seeking to have the least amount of meaningful conversations as possible. We go to work, do our job, participate in small talk, and then go home. We go to retail businesses, keep our conversations brief, and then head home. We go to family events, look at our watches, stay away from substantive conversations, and then get back in our cars. This is not good!

If we are going to be faithful evangelists, then we must change our conversation habits. We must become conversationalists. We need to be intentional in carrying conversations longer than 1-2 minutes. We need to ask questions that allow for further conversation. We also need to ask questions that intentionally guide the conversation to something substantive and helpful. If we want to do this, we’ll have to learn how to steer conversations beyond the shallow waters of everyday small talk and into the sea of meaningful discussions! If we can do this, then we will have many more opportunities to speak to people about Christ.

5) Take a Genuine Interest in People

If you have ever purchased a used car, then you know what it is like for an individual to ask you questions, seem friendly, talk with you, and laugh with you, all the while not caring a lick about you. This happened to me recently. Kahlie and I thought we had a new best friend. We were having a good time with this used car salesmen. Then, once I told him we weren’t interested in buying the car he was showing us (I had already told him in the beginning that I was not looking to buy a car that day), he completely shut down. His whole demeanor changed . . . . talk about awkward!

We, as Christians, cannot afford to be this way. We don’t merely want to have substantive conversations with people just so we can sneak the gospel in. Rather, we want to genuinely take an interest in people! With this in mind, spend time with people. Buy them lunch. Go out for coffee with them. Ask them how their family is doing. See if there is any way that you can serve them when they are going through a difficult season. Just be a friend to them. Simply and sincerely treat them as image bearers of God! And as we do this, we will have more and more opportunities to speak to them about Christ. Also, they will be much more inclined to listen to us.

6) Persevere

During my Christian walk, I have noticed that people are more likely to serve Christ when: 1) The task is relatively short and simple, 2) The fruit born from the task is quickly seen, and 3) The service opportunity will end with encouragement and affirmation.

Because of what I just mentioned about, most Christians do not evangelize. Evangelism is not short and simple. Evangelism takes time, and to engage somebody in a conversation about spiritual things is pretty difficult. And if that wasn’t bad enough, in evangelism, you rarely see fruit. You speak to people, you love them, you serve them, but you rarely see them come to faith in Christ. This can be debilitating. And here is the real kicker, the people you are talking to usually aren’t going to encourage or affirm you for what you’re doing! In all honesty, they’ll more than likely discourage you and disagree with what you are doing. They may even personally attack you.

Consequently, if we want to be faithful evangelists then we must persevere. We must persevere through the difficulty of evangelizing. We must persevere through the seasons of evangelism where we don’t see fruit. And lastly, we must persevere through the endless amount of times people will dislike us because of our evangelism. If we can persevere through all of these, then we will be faithful evangelists.

Conclusion

Though more could be said, I believe the six things mentioned above could help you become a faithful evangelist. Whether you are in high school, on a college campus, in the work place, parenting children, or in a retirement home, doing these six things in faith could help you live a faithful and fruitful evangelistic life that brings glory to God!

We, Too, Shall Rise

Today is Easter Sunday. Many Christians all over the world are going to gather together to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. In light of this, I just wanted to write a blog about how our resurrection is directly tied to the resurrection of Christ. In other words, because our Lord rose from the dead, we too shall rise from the dead. This is clearly seen throughout the Bible, but it is most clearly seen in 1 Corinthians 15.

In 1 Corinthians 15 Paul even tells us what our resurrection bodies are going to be like. And let’s just say it is absolutely glorious and should leave us filled with hope. But before we get to the description of the resurrection body, let’s get some context.

Context

The people within Corinth were denying a physical resurrection body. They were saying that Christ had been raised from the dead, but that we will not be raised from the dead. This is why Paul says, “Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead” (1 Cor. 15:12)? Those in Corinth could not wrap their minds around the fact that we are going to have a physical resurrection body because the belief of their day was that the flesh was evil, and that the spirit was good. Therefore, they believed that death was the moment their spirit was liberated from this evil flesh so that it could then go into heaven to be with Jesus forever.

Throughout 1 Corinthians 15, Paul is destroying their unbiblical thinking! He begins by saying that the most important aspect of his teaching was that Christ died for our sins, was buried, and then resurrected bodily (1 Cor. 15:3). Then he shows the Corinthians that many people witnessed Christ’s resurrection body (1 Cor. 15:5-9). He moves from there to explain to them that if there is no resurrection of the dead then not even Christ has been raised from the dead, and that if Christ is not raised from the dead then everything we do is in vain (1 Cor. 15:12-19). That is a dreadful thought!

Praise God that this is not the case though. Christ most certainly rose from the dead and because He rose from the dead, we too will rise from the dead. He is the first-fruits of the resurrection. So, Christ first and then we who are in Christ later on (1 Cor. 15:20-23). Then Paul pretty much says, “Since my resurrection is absolutely tied to the resurrection of Christ, I risk my life every single day for Christ’s sake, and so should you. So wake up Corinthians” (1 Cor. 15:30-34)!

After this, Paul is supposing that there is going to be some wise guy among the Corinthians that will ask a question at this point saying, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come? How in the world does a rotten and decayed corpse resurrect? That would be a bit ridiculous and horrifying!” (1 Cor. 15:35). Paul responds, “You foolish person! This is not far-fetched so quit talking like it would be! This kind of thing happens all the time. What you sow does not come to life unless it dies” (1 Cor. 15:36).

Then Paul gives the Corinthians a lesson in agriculture. He basically tells them to go to the farmer and watch him sow seed. That seed he sows goes into the ground where it then dies and begins to decay, and from that decay comes a beautiful harvest! So, that stock of wheat that sprouts from the ground comes from the seed you sowed. Therefore, there is continuity between the seed and the stock of wheat. However, there is difference as well. That wheat sure looks different than the seed. And this is how the resurrection works. Our current body is the seed, and the resurrection body is what this body will be. There will be continuity. I will be Philip! It will be this body that I am in as I am typing this blog. However, there will be a difference. The body that is to be will be way better than this current body!

After this, Paul tells them to look at the many different bodies that we see on a day to day basis. Look at the body of a human, the body of a fish, and the body of a bird. They all have different bodies. God does this intentionally and easily. Then Paul tells them to look at the stars in the heavens. Stars differ from stars in glory (1 Cor. 15:41). Some are big and some are small. Some are brighter than others. They simply have different glory. So, the key here is to understand that God gives different bodies for different reasons! He then uses all this to tell us that this is how it will be with the resurrection of the dead. This body that we are currently in is what God has sown and it is made for this world. However, the body that will resurrect, though it will have continuity with this current body, will also be different and made for the world that is to come. Then Paul explains what he means, which, in my opinion, is one of the most incredible teachings in all the Bible!

1 Cor. 15:42 “What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable.”

Now many of us do not think about this body that we currently have as being perishable, but I am telling you, your body is perishable. The older you get the more this verse will resonate with you. You might begin having a receding hair line, your teeth will begin to decay, and your bones will begin to ache. Some of you, undoubtedly, will be diagnosed with a terminal disease that makes your body wither like a fall leaf as it approaches winter. And those of you who are most healthy, and remain relatively healthy, will ultimately breathe your last breath and be lowered six feet beneath the surface of the earth with the rest of the dead. And even after that, your body will continue to perish as worms and maggots feast on your flesh until nothing but bone is left. This is how God has made this earthly body that we have. He has sown a body that is perishable.

However, this perishable body that we have will be resurrected as an imperishable body. It will be a body that will never notice the beginning of a receding hair line and never feel the effects of a rotting tooth. This resurrection body will have ears that never lose their capacity to hear. You will never have to hear a doctor as he gives a diagnosis for a terminal disease. This imperishable body will never see a coffin again, nor will it ever have to frequent a cemetery. It will never have to mourn at the loss of a loved one. No, God is going to give us a body that will be imperishable. And after 10,000 years of enjoying perfect fellowship with Jesus and other believers on the New Earth in this imperishable body, we will look as we first did when we rose up out of the grave. As Spurgeon puts it, “In heaven every nerve of the new body shall cry, ‘Immortality.’”

1 Corinthians 15:43 “It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory.”

So this body is dishonorable. It has lost its state of honor and dignity. This has come about because of Adam’s sin in the beginning. And to get an idea of just how dishonorable this body is, think about this: God gave us this body to honor him, but we have used it to perpetually sin against him. In perpetually sinning against him, we waged war against Him with the very body he gave us. Then, while we were at enmity with him, God, in His great love for us, reconciled us to Himself through the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. And even after He justified us, adopted us, and placed His Holy Spirit in us, we still sinned against him. Then, after years and years of walking with Christ and progressively being made holy by the Spirit, we will continue to commit sins against our heavenly Father. Sadly, even up to the moment of death, we are going to be dishonoring God with some type of sin. This body is sown in dishonor.

However, this dishonorable body is going to be raised a glorious body that does not even conceive of sinning against our Heavenly Father or our blessed Savior. Rather, we are going radiate with the glory of God. We are going shine like the brightness of the sky above, like the stars in the heavens (Dn. 12:3). And like Christ said, “The righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their father” (Mt. 13:43). This dishonorable body that will return to dust, will rise forth like the morning sun radiating the glory of God forever more. As John Newton says in his hymn:

When we’ve been there ten thousand years

Bright shining as the sun.

We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise

Then when we’ve first begun.

1 Corinthians 15:43 “It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power.”

This body that God has sown is also weak. We get wearied and tired easily. We run a mile and are worn out. We put in a day’s worth of work and need to go to bed. We study for a test and we get mentally exhausted. Another aspect of this is that we seek to work hard, our bodies get tired, and we end up injuring something. We play baseball, get hit by a pitch, and end up bruising. And when we are near the end of this life, we are so weak that we cannot take care of our self. Other people have to tend to us. And the ultimate weakness of this body is most evident when we die, for we cannot even bury ourselves, our family and friends must do it for us!

But this weak body that God has sown is going to be raised up a powerful body. You will be able to run miles upon miles without growing weary. You will be able to work for years upon years without growing faint. In all your endeavors, you will neither wear out nor give out. Your body will be able to do anything that your mind conceives of. If your mind looks at the highest mountain and desires to climb it, your body will prove to be powerful enough to do it. If your mind looks down into a deep valley and desires to scale it, your body will prove powerful enough to do it. And after you do all that your mind conceives of, your body will be ready to go again. Exhaustion and fatigue will be a foreign concept to one who’s body has been raised in power!

1 Corinthians 15:44 “It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.”

Now the meaning of this is best revealed in the next few verses, but for the sake of time I just want to sum up what is being said here. The body that we have now is a natural body. It is like Adam’s body in every way. What that means is that this natural body is made for this earth. So, we can put it like this: the natural body is made for the natural realm. Though this body works for us here, it will not work for us in the life that is to come when we are on the New Earth.

Since this is the case, our resurrection body will be a spiritual body. God will graciously give us a spiritual body for the spiritual realm. It will be like the resurrection body of Jesus Christ. Christ’s resurrection body was wonderful. He could eat and drink. He could touch and be touched. And he could also walk through walls and ascend into the heavens! Now we do not know exactly how much our resurrection body will be like Christ’s resurrection body. Christ may be able to do more with his resurrection body than we will be able to do with ours. However, we do know with utmost certainty that our resurrection body will be like His to some extent. That alone is enough to bring great yearning!

So this is the resurrection body that God has promised to his people. Therefore, if you are a child of God, this is the resurrection body that you are guaranteed by a loving God who cannot lie! With that in mind, think about this quote from Thomas Watson, “The body shall rise again; we are not so sure to rise out of our beds—as we are to rise out of our graves.”

Application

There are many ways to apply this. Paul applies this passage beautifully in verse 58 when he says, “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” In other words, if this is the truth about the resurrection of the dead, you should always be overflowing in good works that bring glory to God and honor to Christ.

I want to apply this with a story from church history that I think is incredibly powerful. Martin Luther, the German reformer, had a little 14-year-old daughter named Magdalena that he loved dearly. As a plague was making its way through Germany, Magdalena fell into its grasp. This was one of the lowest points in Luther’s life.

Watching his little 14-year-old daughter suffer from this deadly plague was hard for him. He was constantly petitioning God to take away her pain. And then, one day, the Lord did just that by way of death. His little girl breathed her last breath, and Magdalena went home to her Heavenly Father while her earthly father wept by her bedside. Luther was absolutely devastated, but he still had an incredible hope. And that hope was in the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead. When the carpenters were nailing down the lid of Magdalena’s coffin, he screamed, “Hammer away! On doomsday she’ll rise again.” You see, Luther knew that, because of Christ’s resurrection, Magdalena’s cold, lifeless body was also going to rise up an imperishable, glorious, powerful, and spiritual body with every nerve shouting immortality! Such is the hope that the resurrection of the dead brings.