Iain Murray and the Evangelical Discontentment

Iain Murray writes:  “An invariable characteristic of true preaching has been the assurance that the proclamation of the gospel is the divinely ordained means for the conviction and conversion of sinners.  ‘It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe’ (1 Corinthians 1:21), and in accordance with this persuasion evangelicals have never been content to preach the Word without seeing any change wrought in their hearers” (The Invitation System, pg 1).

As I read this earlier this morning, I was struck by the stark nature and realization that the evangelical church today is absolutely focused and dedicated to seeing results.  Many pastors of today’s mega-churches seem to insinuate that if your church is not growing and experiencing phenomenal “spontaneous” baptisms, well, then you are part of a dead, failing church.   But, what is worse is that pastors who are faithful to the Word of God, faithful to their congregation, faithful in their walk before the Lord, find themselves dealing with all the negativity and thoughts of failure that are projected on them by the evangelical, results oriented, culture we live in.

I find it fascinating that the writer of Hebrews, in the 11th chapter talks about Noah.  If the Bible were being written today (and in many ways it is being rewritten, and not for the better), Noah would not get any mention at all.  Yet the writer of Hebrews states that Noah “condemned the world” by his faithful obedience to his reverent fear of what God had revealed to him.  Peter even calls Noah a “herald of righteousness” (2 Pet 2:5).  Yet, only 6 people besides Noah entered the ark before “the Lord shut [them] in” (Gen 7:16).  By today’s pragmatic standards, Noah would be a colossal failure since he only “reached” 6 people in 120 years.

I write this as an encouragement to all of you pastors out there who don’t preach to 15000 people every Sunday, don’t have a staff of 50, don’t deal with a budget of millions; but constantly struggle with the bills every month, wonder if 20 people will show up to hear your sermon, and haven’t seen a baptism in a year.  Stay faithful!  The work is the Lords.  He is the one that is faithful to bring about His will, for His glory.  As I read His Word, I seem to find that God doesn’t “need” our help, matter of fact, if God needs anything, then He isn’t God at all.  The amazing thing is that He uses us as a means of bringing His good and perfect will to pass.

4 Messages From the Book of Hebrews

BorgmanDuring the last several weeks, during my commute to and from work, I have been listening to a sermon series by Brian Borgman of Grace Community Church, Minden, Nevada.  I have listened to many of Pastor Borgmans sermons in the last year, but I have never started an entire series until this one.  So far I have listened to 17 of the 189 sermons that Pastor Borgman preached on this book from June 2006 until May of 2011.  While it is obvious that there were breaks in the overall series for other topical sermons, I find it amazing that in today’s day and age, someone would spend that long in one book of the Bible because we have such short attention spans, right?  I’m not buying that at all as I think it has more to do with just plain laziness and lack of commitment on our parts.

Anyway,  here are 4 sermons that have made me stop in my tracks and change my mind on how, why and what I think about God. 

Jesus, The Firstborn

Jesus, The Enthroned God

Jesus, The Eternal, Unchanging God (This one was an especially good message in thinking about the implications of God’s immutability)

Jesus, the Exalted Reigning God

If you want to check out the entire series on Hebrews, here is the link.

 

Surrounded by Insanity

This weekend I listened to Tim Conway teach from Hebrews 11:6 which reads as follows: 

And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.”

While my wife and I listened to the sermon, I commented that the very first sermon I ever preached over 30 years ago was from this passage.  I look back on that now and cannot believe how badly I mangled the text.  Isn’t God gracious? 

I’ve heard it said over the years that the 3 laws of real estate are “Location, Location, Location.”  If you get the right location, you end up with a valuable piece of real estate.  Similar, but much more important, are what I call the 3 laws of the Bible, “Context, Context, Context!”  My mangling of the text 30 years ago was mainly due to the fact that I took the text out of the context it is in.  Now, my sermon didn’t go down the road of what is called the “Prosperity Gospel” that was so prevalent in the early 1980’s, because even then, I knew something was wrong with that, but it was not what it should have been.

Look back in verse 4 and you will read that:

By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained the testimony that he was righteous, God testifying about his gifts, and through faith, though he is dead, he still speaks.”

Men have been giving offerings since the fall in the garden.  Some have been accepted of God, most have not and the question is why.  Let’s go back to Genesis 4 where we read:

Cain-AbleSo it came about in the course of time that Cain brought an offering to the LORD of the fruit of the ground. Abel, on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and for his offering; but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard. So Cain became very angry and his countenance fell. Then the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.” Cain told Abel his brother. And it came about when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him.
  Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” And he said, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” He said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to Me from the ground. Now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you cultivate the ground, it will no longer yield its strength to you; you will be a vagrant and a wanderer on the earth.” Cain said to the LORD, “My punishment is too great to bear! Behold, You have driven me this day from the face of the ground; and from Your face I will be hidden, and I will be a vagrant and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.” So the LORD said to him, “Therefore whoever kills Cain, vengeance will be taken on him sevenfold.” And the LORD appointed a sign for Cain, so that no one finding him would slay him.
  Then Cain went out from the presence of the LORD, and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden.

According to this narrative, Cain and Able brought their offerings “at the appointed time:  Abel brought ‘fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock’, for he was a shepherd, and Cain, who was an agriculturist, brought ‘some of the fruits of the soil’.  While each offering was appropriate to their respective vocations, the biblical text states that ‘The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor’”.[1]   John Calvin, in his commentary on Genesis 4 says:  “God is said to have respect unto the man to whom he vouchsafes his favor. We must, however, notice the order here observed by Moses; for he does not simply state that the worship which Abel had paid was pleasing to God, but he begins with the person of the offerer; by which he signifies, that God will regard no works with favor except those the doer of which is already previously accepted and approved by him. And no wonder; for man sees things which are apparent, but God looks into the heart, (1 Samuel 16:7) therefore, he estimates works no otherwise than as they proceed from the fountain of the heart. Whence also it happens, that he not only rejects but abhors the sacrifices of the wicked, however splendid they may appear in the eyes of men. For if he, who is polluted in his soul, by his mere touch contaminates, with his own impurities, things otherwise pure and clean, how can that but be impure which proceeds from himself?” So what was it that caused God to look on in favor of Able and disfavor of Cain?  While I have heard time and again that the reason was because Cain didn’t bring an animal sacrifice, scripture does not explicitly state that.  If we turn back to Hebrews 11 and look at the context, I think we could come to a different conclusion.

Hebrews 11:6b states: “for he who comes to God must believe that He is.”  According to F. F. Bruce, “Belief in the invisible spiritual order involves, first and foremost, belief in him who is ‘King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God’ (1 Tim 1:17); and belief in God carries with it necessarily belief in his word.  It is not belief in the existence of a God that is meant, but belief in the existence of the God who once declared his will to the fathers through the prophets and in these last days has spoken in his Son.” Basically, we have to have a correct view of God.  This is where Cain failed.  He, just like many today, invented God in his own image, which is why his offering was rejected.

What is amazing is that Cain had a discourse with God.  He actually talked with God.  But Cain did not believe what God had revealed Himself to be.  Paul makes this same indictment in Romans 1:18-31.  God’s wrath is revealed to man because men suppress the truth of God’s righteousness.  God’s righteousness is evident because God made it evident!  But because man refuses to see God as He is, Paul says 3 times that “God gave them over.” 

Abraham SacrificeIn Hebrews 11:8, we start reading about Abraham and his faith.  Think about it for a moment; God told Abraham to take his son, his only son, the son who was to be the heir of Abraham that would be a blessing to the nations, and sacrifice him.  The next day, according to Genesis 22:3, Abraham set off to obey the command of the Lord.  As Abraham and Isaac walked alone up Mount Moriah, Isaac asked where the offering was and Abraham said, by faith, “God will provide for Himself the lamb.”  Abraham, even with all his faults and sins, had a proper perspective of who God is and that God is faithful to what He had revealed about himself.  Even to the point of believing that God would resurrect Isaac if need be to fulfill His promise to Abraham.

I say all of this to say that our perspective of God needs to be faithful and true to what God has revealed about Himself in His Word.  If we major on just one attribute to the detriment of all that are revealed in Scripture, we will have a flawed view of God.  There are those that say God is a God of love, and He is.  But love requires justice.  There are those who say that God is a God of blessings, and again, He is.  But He is also a God who is ruthless in His desire to be glorified and honored and He will strip everything away if that is what needs to be done so that one might acknowledge Him properly. Nebuchadnezzar, learned this by spending 7 years living like a beast of the field only to finally acknowledge and bless the “Most High” (Dan 4:34-35).

God is sovereign and He will share his glory with no other.  We who call upon his name must realize this and the implications that come along with it.  We must study the attributes of God!  We must acknowledge that at times the attributes of God are not easy to accept and cause us to chafe.  But, to ignore them is to our peril.  So many times we think ignorance is bliss and sometimes that is true.  But when it comes to eternity, ignorance will lead you straight into hell.  God has revealed himself to man and for man to remain willfully ignorant is insanity, which, by definition, is what most people in this world are.


[1] O’Brien, P. T. The Letter To The Hebrews. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2010. 403. Print.

A special thanks goes out to Pastor Kent Harding of Sovereign Grace Reformed Church for graciously proofing this for me!

Daily Roundup

Christ’s Death Guarantees Justification & Glorification for the Elect – I know that in this day and age, many do not believe that Christ died only for an elect group.  I used to not believe in this doctrine, but the more I read and studied the Word of God, the more I believe it to be true.

How To Read the Bible – What is the Bible all about?  There are two ways of reading it and Tim Keller shows that the Bible is ultimately about Christ.

Who’s Worse, Oprah Winfrey or Joel Osteen? – Todd Friel takes a look at Joel and Oprah on Oprah’s Lifeclass.

Two Recommended Free Resources from Desiring God Ministries – Go grab these two resources and be blessed.

Brothers, Live a Visible, Exemplary, Everyday Life – How do we live our lives as Christians?  This ought to make you think about that, especially those who lead the Church.

To be an atheist… – It sure does require a lot of faith, and pride in that faith, to be an atheist. 

Does Hebrews 6 Teach That A Christian Can Lose Their Salvation? – Better know the backstory when you read through this passage of Hebrews.

Quote:

And shall we not rejoice and give thanks? Should we refuse, would not the stones cry out against us? Rejoice then we may and ought. But, O let our rejoicing be in the Lord and run in a religious channel. This, we find, has been the practice of God’s people in all ages. When he was pleased, with a mighty hand and out-stretched arm to lead the Israelites through the Red Sea, as on dry ground, ‘Then sang Moses and the children of Israel. And Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a timbrel in her hand and all the women went out after her. And Miriam answered them, Sing ye to the Lord. For he hath triumphed gloriously.’ When God subdued Jabin, the King of Canaan, before the children of Israel, ‘then sang Deborah and Barak on that day, saying, “Praise ye the Lord for the avenging of Israel.”’ When the ark was brought back out of the hands of the Philistines, David, though a king, danced before it.

And, to mention but one instance more, which may serve as a general directory to us on this and such-like occasions: when the great head of the church had rescued his people from the general massacre intended to be executed upon them by a cruel and ambitious Haman, ‘Mordecai sent letters unto all the Jews that were in all the provinces of the King Ahasuerus, both nigh and far, to establish among them, that they should keep the fourteenth day of the month Adar and the fifteenth day of the same yearly, as the days wherein the Jews rested from their enemies and the month which was turned unto them from sorrow unto joy and from mourning into a good day: that they should make them days of feasting and joy and of sending portions one to another and gifts to the poor’ [Esther 9:20-22]. And why should we not go and do likewise? – George Whitefield

Theme Verse: Heb. 1:1-2

Theme Verse: Heb. 1:1-2

by Jared Oliphint

No short quote or biblical passage can exhaustively include every theological topic, but the reason I chose Hebrews 1:1-2 as the theme verse is because it covers so much ground in such a short space: revelation, eschatology, theology proper, hermeneutics, cosmology.

  • Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets… God spoke, which in itself is an immeasurable thesis, but he did so in history, in time. His speech was directed to our fathers. His speech was mediated through the prophets. His speech was diverse in epoch and in mode.
  • …but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son… The author indicates we are in a different epoch than the one he just described and there will be none after it. These days are the last, things are coming to a close, and the reason for this is bound up in the Mediator of God’s speech, his own Son. God himself has spoken both mediately and immediately by his Son. There is a contrast in the mode of revelation between what was long ago and what is now final.
  • …whom he appointed heir of all things…God’s Son has inherited everything and is the center of everything, and this was by appointment from the Father. Creation is the inheritance given to the Son from the Father.
  • …through whom also he created the world. God is the creator of everything, the giver of everything, and the world was created through the Son to be given to the Son.