Fight for the Children

July 18th, 2011

From The Apologist:

Grace & Peace family, my name is Will (the apologist of Christcentric) and we were asked by a Christian pro choice coalition to record a song exposing the evils of late term abortion. We are making this song available as a free download, we are writing to you because we need your help to raise awareness by making this song available on your site as a free download. Hope to hear back from you. Grace & Peace

William Mendoza The Apologist of Christcentric

Download it from here

Refuting Reverend Rude

July 3rd, 2011

This is a follow up to the article The Difference Between Discipleship and Debate.

Proverbs 27:17As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.

An examination of this verse shows us that the foundations of a friendship, when based on mutual unconditional love, give us the ability to aid one another in the pursuit of holiness. It is speaking about working with each other and teaching each other so that we are becoming more and more like Christ, by the power of the Spirit through the application of the Word of God to our daily lives. It is, in short, a snapshot of what it means to be making disciples.

Discipleship is often misunderstand and even more often neglected in the Evangelical church today. So much that the church does is so far from the Biblical blueprint for ministry that the church seems to be losing its way. People pick a church as a consumer picks a restaurant. Do they serve my favorite foods? Is the service good? Do I leave feeling satisfied? Is the price paid a fair value for goods received? The corporate meeting of the local church has become more and more about what the congregation wants and less and less about what God commands!

Instead of coming to focus on God and give Him the glory and honor and praise due His name, people come to church to feel better about themselves and how God supposedly views them. They come to get, not give. They come with felt needs, seeking a solution to their problems, wanting encouragement that it will all turn out okay. In fact, people are very good at going to church but very bad at being the church. Why is this?

It is the evidence of a failure within the leadership of the church to uphold the Word of God. The simple, straightforward, foolish to the natural man Word of God. And the greatest area of neglect appears to be the area of disciple making. How can we make disciples when we are wanting to come and get instead of give? The process and the relationship of making disciples is very much a two way street. It is not just coming to get from the professional Christians whose job it is to teach us the Word of God and encourage us in living what we hear. Discipleship occurs inside and outside the meeting of the church. It occurs when two Christians work hard at building one another up. It is indeed Body Building. The work of service to each other in the Body of Christ for the purpose of edifying the whole church.

The leadership, our elders and pastors, are given by Christ to the church for the specific task of equipping us to build each other up. It is how Christ builds His church. Pastor-teachers work at “equipping the saints for the work of the ministry for the edifying of the Body of Christ” (Eph 4:11-12). That means that we are to be taught how to make disciples. So if we are failing to make disciples we must start where we see the root of the problem. And that root is the failure of those in leadership within the church to do things God’s way!

Understanding Discipleship

If it is true that many Christians are not being discipled or making disciples, then the church is not growing. No matter how many people are attending services, no matter how many members are on the roll, no matter how much money is given, no matter how large the building, and no matter how dedicated the congregation – if we are not making disciples we are failing to obey one of the primary and essential commands given by Christ to His Church.

Perhaps the truth is that we have not been taught how to disiple others. Perhaps we have had a wrong view of discipleship all along. Or maybe we are not being held accountable to actually go and make disciples. Whatever the case and wherever the problem, we need to see discipleship for what it is and that will help us to determine whether or not we are being equipped for service to one another in the body.

Disciple making is not about a teacher/student relationship. There is a false belief prevelant in much of the church today that it is the job only of those who are mature or who are assigned the role of teacher in the church to disciple those who are younger and perhaps weaker in the faith. While there is responsibility for the older (more mature) to teach the younger (babes in Christ), it is also at the same time true that within the body we are commanded, not expected, but commanded to esteem all others as better than ourself (Phil. 2:3). So when we work at making disciples, once people have been brought to saving faith in Christ by the work of the Spirit and the Word, we are now to teach them and be taught by them about the Lord we love and serve.

Discipleship is “teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you” (Matt 28:20). But it is also being taught! There is nothing worse in the church than an un-teachable teacher. Like it was stated already, discipleship is often misunderstood because we believe that it is a one way street. Either we believe that the leadership in the church is responsible to disciple us and therefore we bear none of the responsibility for disciple making. Or we believe that once we have arrived at a mature understanding of the Word of God then we are to teach others, looking down on them in their ignorance and need for instruction.

A shepherd does not look down on his sheep because they are hungry and need to be fed. He does not consider them dumb animals and despise them because he must be sure that they are provided for and fed nourishing meals. If he does, he should not be a shepherd. Jesus as our example, as the Good Shepherd, shows us the love and tenderness that a Shepherd has for His sheep (John 10:11-15).

So we need to approach discipleship from the point that we have something to give and to get from one another in the body. Our testimonies will be different, our growth at a different pace, our maturity at a different level. But we are all to be learning from one another. And there is the root of much that is leading to a lack of disciple making in the church, a wrong view of others members in the body.

What then can be done to make sure that we are being equipped to serve one another within the body of Christ?

Testing a Ministry and a Minister

It is not my intention to delve into a study of the role and duties of elders, nor to give specific details about the ministry of the Word from those who teach us. But it is my intention to show that we must be testing a ministry and a minister by the Word of God. As we know, to disciple someone and be discpled by them we must be interacting in a relationship built on trust and unconditional love. And here is the key for evaluating a ministry or a minister in their effectiveness at making disciples.

Are we being taught and led by example, or does the leadership have a “Do as I say, not as I do” mentality? What are we being taught about disciple making? Are we being effectively equipped to humbly and lovingly serve one another as members of the same body?

A glaring fact that cannot be ignored is that those who teach us and model for us Christian behavior must be held to the standard of the Word of God. They must love those in their care unconditionally. They must be humble. They must be holy. They must be men of God!

I do not expect pastors to be perfect. I am a pastor and I assure you, I am far from perfect. But if a pastor is not being conformed into the image of Christ, if he is not modeling the Christian life for those in his care, then he needs to step aside. As an elder in the church, as one appointed by Christ to equip the saints for the building of the body, he must serve willingly, not by compulsion. He must be eager in his work, and not in it for what he can get for himself or for dishonest gain (gain in finances, reputation, etc). He must not lord it over those in his care but is commanded to be an example to them in his service to Christ (1 Peter 5:1-4). Only then can he expect to hear “Well done” when he stands before Christ, the Head of the Church. Only then will he receive a “crown of glory that does not fade away.”

And what is the purpose of this crown of glory? It is the mark of a faithful minister that will be thrown at the feet of Jesus in worship and adoration of the One who gave Himself for us and Who we were blessed to be serving as we cared for His body.

But today, the truth is that many who claim to be teachers, many who hold with a tight grip to the offices of the church, many who are responsible to be an example to the flock are setting a bad example! “How?”, you ask.

Love for Christ vs. Love for Self

The failure to understand and apply disciple making principles within the church stems from misdirected love within those who should be leading us by example. Those pastors and elders who know what unconditional love is but lavish it upon themselves instead of on Christ and those they shepherd!

Instead of fulfilling the mandate of 1 Peter 5:1-4, and serving willingly, they serve from compulsion. It is irresistable to them to be in a postion of power, authority, prestige, and leadership. They are drawn to the praise of men, the adoration of those who look up to them for their abilities to preach or teach or explain hard truths. They are in it for dishonest gain. Instead of seeking to build up Christ’s church they are seeking to build up their ministry. As a result they lord it over those in their care. Those who would trust them and follow their example are neglected and abused and trampled under this stampede towards self-magnification.

Instead of a self-sacrificing love for Christ and His people, these shepherds love themselves and their comfort and their ego. They know what unconditional love is, and it is how they think about themselves, pampering their flesh, praising their accomplishments, parading their abilities and talents, and failing to realise that it is all a gift from God. It is mis-directed love.

Peter is clear in his second epistle that we can tell a false teacher by the way he lives. 2 Peter 2 speaks about the depravity of false teachers. They have eyes are full of adultery and cannot cease from sin. They are never full of self or sin. They may appear holy on the outside, but what is in their hearts will eventually come out of their mouths (Matt 15:18-19), and what they truly believe will eventually be made manifest in their behavior.

The chief example I want to deal with in this article though is a matter of manners. These false teachers, these who neglect the Word and cannot teach others to make disciples, are often identified by their manners or the lack thereof. The shocking truth about the making of disciples is that too many teachers have abandoned the pathway of being a loving, consistent, self sacrificing example and have instead settled into the very bad habit of trying to shock people with their teaching.

We are seeing a rise in those in and out of reformed circles, usually noticed as those embroiled in the latest controversies and fads, who are just plain rude in their behavior. There are actually debates on Christian internet forums as to whether a Christian can use profanity in every day life, or how far we can go into sounding like the world while remaining distinct from it. Leaders in the Federal Vision movement and the Emergent/Emerging Church movement (just to name 2 current examples) thrive on controversy and on being crude.

It is a deliberate effort by “ministers of the gospel” who think that to engage the culture is to shock the culture and that to motivate the church to obedience is to harass her into action. They are not shepherds lovingly and sacrificially leading their flocks. They are brash cowboys who are driving mindless herds of people according to their own agenda. And a benchmark, a signal of the validity of their message and their ministry is seen in whether or not they are courteous and well mannered.

To be sure, a man’s message can sound right, but if his life and his attitudes are wrong he is still a false teacher and will mislead the church. That is why the qualifications for an elder in the church and a deacon in the church are based on his character, his relationships, and his personal holiness (1 Tim 3:1-13; Titus 1:5-16)! Notice, there is not a doctrinal summary or confession of faith listed in Scripture that a teacher must adhere to in order to be a teacher. But there is a list of character qualities that he must meet. Why is that? Because what you believe is manifest in how you behave, and sound doctrine always leads to sound living.

Here we see why a man can sound right but be wrong. If he is truly holding to sound doctrine, then what he teaches will lead to right living in his own life and in the lives of those who hear him. Sound doctrine is doctrine that leads to godliness.

This latest fad of shock jock preachers is nothing more than an abdication of the purest motive for ministry, unconditional love for Christ and His body. Because discipleship is based on love we need to know what love looks like. Sure, 1 Corinthians 13 is a common and well know passage, the definitive passage on love. But perhaps we have forgotten how love is defined. Let’s look there and see how a minister of the gospel is to behave as an evidence of his love for Christ and the church.

Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.

A ministry and a minister motivated by love will suffer long. There is patience and a willingness to set self aside and even allow self to be abused for the sake of those we lead and teach. There will be kindness, acting and speaking with gentleness. There will not be envy of the work, ministry, or success of others, trusting that as the Word is consistently sown God will give the increase. There will not be a a parade of self for others to see, seeking opportunities to increase ministry or influence by building a reputation. There will not be a puffing up. A man who is puffed up is a man who has knowledge without love (1 Cor. 13:1-3). There will never be rude behavior! There is no crudeness, no hard exterior that is rough and gruff, there is no desire to shock or appall people with the latest new theology. There are manners and common courtesy. There is not a motive do it for what one can get. It isn’t for show or for self. There is not a easy provocation into arguments where one is known to live to fight and argue, as if the fun were in the battle and wounding sheep was sport. There is not a thought toward evil. The term evil means “that which harms.” There is never an intention or motive toward harming someone else. There is not rejoicing in iniquity – iniquity is using Christian liberty as an occasion for the flesh, it is a sin of the self will, so that even good things can be iniquity if they are done for the wrong reason. There is however rejoicing in the truth. There is a desire for the truth to be taught clearly and embraced willingly. And when one is motivated by love for Christ and His church, there is a willingness to bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, and endure all things, because godly self sacrificing love never fails.

We need ministries and ministers who are motivated by love for Christ, not self. We need men who are humble in carrying out their duty and who are loving toward those they lead and serve. We need men who shock people by the depth of the sacrifice instead of by their choice of words or their unseemly behavior. We need shepherds who look like Christ!

May 22nd Message. For those deceived by Harold Camping….

Really ? Yes, really.

April 22nd, 2011

The God of the Universe took on human flesh, lived among us, was spat upon, kicked, mocked and killed by His own creation. He did this for people who infinitely offended Him with their choices to disobey and not bow the knee to Him as Creator and Lord.

Not one bit of anything in that equation makes Him more glorious than He already is (in other words, He would be infinitely beautiful and glorious even if He never did those things).

He did it anyway.

He was not obligated to do it. He could’ve just sent everyone to hell….as He will do with the fallen angels.

Aside from asking ‘WHY ?’ the other thing that contemplation of this fact does for me as a believer is remove any nagging temptation to drift into cold fatalistic determinism. One cannot be, for example, a hypercalvinist and logically deal with this fact.

Everyone caught up on the fact that reformed theology teaches that God is ACTUALLY Sovereign….skips over this fact in their attempt to bash Calvinism for ‘destroying free will’ (and other nonsensical arguments).  No one who opposes Calvinism ever notices this fact.  No one.

So why did He choose to love ?  I have no idea. I just sit down, shut up and praise Him for doing so.

Deut. 29:29.

Faith & Works

January 21st, 2011

For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also. – James 2:26

Everybody believes something. And whether what we believe is true or false, right or wrong, we will act on what we believe. That is to say that faith affects behavior. As we learned how the Scriptures define faith, now we will take a look at how faith works it way out in our daily living.

Those given to us as examples of faith in the Scripture did things as a result of their faith. Faith produces action. Faith works. Faith is not a work in and of itself. We are not saved by works (Ephesians 2:8-9). Faith is trust; it is belief. Specifically as we discuss it, faith is trust in the person of Jesus Christ. So while faith is not a work, faith does work. If it is alive and active and real, then faith will result in good works. Why is this? Faith leads to behavior. If we believe something it shows in how we live.

James tells us in his letter in the New Testament that faith that does not work is dead. Dead faith is useless. It cannot save. It is dead, lifeless, meaningless, and void. On the other hand, faith that results in works is living and active faith.

Let’s make a practical application here. If we claim to believe something but that belief does not result in action or behavior then we really do not believe what we claim to believe. The best example I ever heard of this came from my mentor in the ministry who stated it this way:

If you are in the woods and believe that you hear a bear coming to get you, you will run just as fast as if a bear is really there coming to get you.

Belief results in action, in works, in behavior. If we really believe something to be true, we act accordingly. This truth can have a kick to it when we start to examine our belief system. If we claim to believe something but it does not have a direct effect on what we do, then we really do not believe it. As I stated, everybody believes something, whether it is true or false, and we act on what we believe.

There is a two-fold danger here of which we need to be aware. First there is a danger in believing a lie. If we have a false belief in our belief system then how will that affect the way we act? For example, in the Old Testament King Saul became jealous and thought that David was out to kill him. He acted accordingly, becoming suspicious to the point that he tried to kill David by throwing a spear at him while he sat at the dinner table. Saul’s false belief led to murderous intent and actions (1 Samuel 18:9-12).

Secondly there is a danger that we will think that we believe something, but in reality we do not believe it. How do we know? If we think we believe but do not act, then we do not really believe. This happens when we mentally assent to something accepting in our minds that it is true, but we really do not embrace this belief with true faith, and as a result, we do not act on what we claim we believe. Assent without belief makes no difference in the way we think, talk, act, or live.

This would be exemplified in the life of a person who believed that a bear was coming through the woods to eat them and they just sat there. It makes no sense to think that your life is in danger and not try to fight or flee. Yet when it comes to doctrine, people claim to believe sound doctrine while in truth they may not even understand that doctrine at all. They think they believe the truth, but it does not affect the way they live. They hear, but do not do (James 1:22).

The real, eternal danger here is that we either believe a lie (false doctrine) or we think we are trusting Christ when we really are not. If we believe a lie, we are doomed, for only the truth makes us free (John 8:32). If we think we believe the truth but do not actually believe it, then we are self deceived and are in danger of hearing those most awful words in Scripture, “I never knew you, depart from Me” (Matthew 7:23).

Remember the Parable of the Soils from Matthew 13? Two of the four soils mentioned embraced the Word quickly but then died without bearing fruit – the shallow soil where the seed had no root and the thorny soil where the cares of this world choked the plant – they represent people who emotionally or mentally embrace the preaching of the gospel but do not actually have faith. They do not really believe what they have heard. What proof do we have of this? There is no root and no fruit. They wither and die with no root, or they never bear fruit being choked out by the cares of this world. If they had true faith, they would yield fruit (good works).

In order to understand faith we must strive to believe what God tells us so that we might rightly inform our belief system. We must be sure that what we claim to believe affects the way we live. In the Scriptures this is the idea that a good tree bears good fruit. If we have faith in Jesus Christ, we will bear good fruit. If we do not bear good fruit, then we need to examine what we really believe. We may believe in ourselves all the while thinking that this misplaced faith is the same thing as faith in Christ.

Saving faith is alive, it produces spiritual fruit, it is active and real because it is faith in the Word of God and in God Himself. Saving faith has no room for self, for pride, or for licentiousness (using grace as a license to sin). Saving faith is a gift from God. It is trust in Christ. It is proof of what we cannot see and the reality behind that for which we hope (Hebrews 11:1).

Broken Hearts, Dating and Being a Believer….

January 2nd, 2011

On another message board I occasionally visit, a member posted this question a while back (minor edits such as spelling out words added):

Didn’t have anyone else to talk to so i thought I’d try here…Just ended a two year relationship with this girl.

She basically told me she didn’t believe in God anymore and she was going to return to her old lifestyle (ie. going out partying, drinking, etc.). So I told her we couldn’t be together, unless she was with Christ. She knew it was coming [because] she knew my convictions on this type of stuff, so it ended well and there was a mutual understanding, but we both were on the phone crying for hours (yeah I’m not gonna lie, I cried like a baby lol) because it sucked that it wasn’t working out.

We’d actually been on and off for a while and I know two years isn’t long but she was my first love and I’m really having a hard time dealing with this…could use some encouragement from other believers.

Anyone got any help getting through this? I know this is God’s plan and I’m doing the right thing…I just need help and a lil support at the moment.

I responded:

Sup fam.

As someone who more than once has been in your shoes, I empathize with your situation.

Be of good cheer. Your heart will heal in time and life will go on. It’s always hard at first.

Just for reference sake, I’m 37 [at the time this was written]. My ‘first love’ broke my heart in 9th grade and I cried like a baby. I had my heart broken again about two years later with one girl I dated, who ended up cheating on me…twice. My high school sweetheart and I (my senior year) broke up when I was on my way to freshmen year in college, so I left high school feeling I had everything (I even asked her to marry me, we had the ‘perfect’ prom, etc….) and entered college to a new culture, no girlfriend and no friends (since most of the people I went to HS with ended up going to another college). I had one major relationship in college and just KNEW she and I would grow old together….until she moved away and we broke up (I later found out she’d cheated on me, gotten pregnant and didn’t want to tell me). I was so jacked up, I literally wasted two years of college (still paying back loans for that time period NOW….) and then dropped out for 2 years. Christian walk floundered somethin’ terrible – one minute I’m on the internet debating atheists, then after I shut my computer down, I’m in bed with my girlfriend.

Fast forward through 2 more major relationships (I’m purposely excluding all the minor ones) and I’m here in 2010, sitting next to my wife, supposed to be putting grades in for students, but I’m posting on HCR. A few days back, I told my wife that these (the times she and I were having now) are some of the happiest times in my life.

I look back at 20 years (literally – from 88 until now) of how I handled relationships, who I allowed myself to get close to, how much of myself I invested in people emotionally, etc…. and realize that a lot of the heartbreak I endured over the years, I could’ve avoided. Hindsight is always 20/20….

I forget how old you are, fam…but let me hit you with a few words of wisdom I’ve learned over the years.

Guard your heart.

The world’s model is ‘boyfriend-girlfriend, invest your feelings and time and ‘self’ into the relationship….just like you would if you’re married…and it’ll eventually lead there.’ The problem is…these relationships AREN’T marriage. They ACT like marriage…to the point where ‘breaking up’ almost feels like a DIVORCE in some cases (emotionally, mentally and psychologically, since you feel yourself breaking a ‘bond’ you’ve established with that person). Too often, people (including Christian folk), in the absence of better and wiser counsel, simply assume ‘well, that’s the way we did it, we ended up married and ok’ and they let their kids do it or they themselves do it.

We ‘date’ for long periods of time, emotionally testing out each other, but never leading to a commitment (in scripture, the only commitments are betrothal – which is way more than engagment…and marriage. There are no ‘dating’ relationships). What that does is actually make it harder later in life for you to ‘attach correctly’ to anyone once you do get married. Dating-invest your emotions- breakup – dating – invest your emotions – break up…..(repeat) eventually trains your heart, body and emotions that attachment is temporary. But the way God designed us, the concept of ‘one flesh’ was meant to be permanent. It didn’t just involve sex and all that we are physically, but also our emotional and mental oneness with another person. So even in relationships where people don’t have sex, if they are investing themselves emotionally with people they aren’t married to and have no immediate intention of marrying, they are setting themselves up for heartbreak.

I’m not saying all of this to jump on you – I’m the LAST person to jump on someone in this area, as it’s literally taken me all these years to figure out a lot of this stuff (even though I’d read some of it in Don Raunikar’s book Choosing God’s Best and Josh Harris’s I Kissed Dating Goodbye). I share all of this to warn you, as a younger brother, and others reading who may think that ‘people who advocate courtship are too strict’. There’s a reason (always is) behind the things that older folks tell younger folks and younger folks think it’s stupid.

As far as how you handled things….praise God. You chose well, especially in light of 1 Cor. 6:9-10 [2 Cor. 6:14-18 as well]. God will honor your decision to serve Him rather than yourself. You already know it was the right thing to do….so for now… life will go on.

One huge part of helping with this is to spend some time establishing relationships with oldersame age and younger folks in your church. I say this as the guy who, back in the late 90’s, had more ‘internet friends’ than friends physically present in my life.  Invest yourself in the lives of others. There’s some kid younger than you (12-13) who is about to start ‘dating’ and having a girlfriend and think that ‘this is what you’re supposed to do’ and ‘there ain’t nothin’ wrong with dating non-Christians’. Do you want to see him where you are (emotionally) right now ? He needs you. There are older believers who would be more than willing to pour into your life right now from their life experience. Fellowship with the rest of the body can be some of the sweetest times in life, bro. And by fellowship, I mean shut down the computer, sit in person with folks, eat and talk theology, life, doctrine, problems and encourage each other from scripture. The less time you have alone to fixate on your heart being broken, the faster it will heal.

I say this as the guy who used to listen to Metallica back in high school whenever I got depressed, especially if it was over a girl. It’s a wonder I didn’t become suicidal at the time.

Now for the future…guard your heart better. Boyfriends and Girlfriends aren’t the healthiest (emotionally) thing for folks who aren’t ready for marriage, to be engaged in seeking out. Key words. If you’re ready for marriage, seek with a purpose and move toward it quickly (That’s a WHOLE SEPARATE conversation). Otherwise, keep the relationships brother-sister, as scripture says we’re to treat those we ain’t married to (1 Tim. 5:2). You don’t invest your heart and emotions in a sister like you would a wife. Now when THAT sister comes along, then yes. This will save you from a lot of heartbreak in the future AND free you up to love your WIFE the way you should in the future when you do get married.

Hope this helped and encouraged you, fam.

Can Our Experience Contradict Our Belief?

December 14th, 2010

Habakkuk knew that God could be trusted. He believed that God was watching over His people and would ultimately deliver them from sin and judgment. He hoped and prayed for revival and restoration as he had seen under the reign of Josiah, but as God warned him of the coming judgment at the hands of the Chaldeans (Babylon) this presented a perplexing problem for Habakkuk. We see the drama unfold in Habakkuk 1:12-2:1.

This crisis of faith sprouted from his attempt to reconcile in his own mind two things that he believed were incompatible. Knowing all that he did about God and His holy character, Habakkuk simply could not understand how God could use the Chaldeans to accomplish anything good. God is good, holy, just, righteous, and perfect. He is so pure that He cannot even look on sin. Not that He doesn’t see it, but He does not look approvingly at it. God does not ever condone wickedness. However, God had just told Habakkuk that He was going to use the wicked, evil, perverse, murderous, proud Chaldeans as a tool for bringing judgment upon Judah for their sin.

Habakkuk basically asked God, “How could You?” How could God even tolerate the Chaldeans, much less use them to judge Judah. He knew it was true that Judah had sinned and that God had promised judgment. But how could God use a much more wicked nation to bring about this judgment. If God had used the same standards for judging Babylon as He was using to judge Judah then Babylon should have already been wiped off the face of the earth. In comparison, Judah was righteous!

Often times, problems arise that appear as if they will derail our faith. We find what we think are contradictions in the Bible, or our faith does not match our experience. Something happens and it causes us to doubt what we believe, either generally in terms of our overall view of life, God, the church, etc. Or specifically as it relates to certain doctrines which we thought we knew and understood. What are we to do when our experience does not match our belief? Should we change what we believe? Abandon doctrine, or faith, or church altogether? Or should we doubt our experience? Can we truly take an experience at face value if it challenges everything we have been taught and believe?

The answer is that we should stop and wait! In the midst of this dilemma, Habakkuk did five things to resolve his seeming contradiction between the nature of God and His use of the wicked Chaldeans. He determined to face his problem and to maintain a right view of God. We need to see what he did so that we can learn to face problems in a manner that glorifies God, even when we do not understand what God is doing or why He is doing it.

We can think of it this way: Habakkuk gives us five things we must do when faced with problems in order to keep our faith (and sanity) on track. In fact, we will use the word TRACK to help us remember Habakkuk’s solution to his problem.

T – Think

The first thing Habakkuk did was to stop and think. Instead of flying off the handle and making accusations against God, or jumping to the defense of Judah in light of their obvious sin and rebellion, Habakkuk waited and very deliberately thought about what God had told him. We know this because of the way he wrestles with the answer God gave him after his first line of questioning earlier in chapter one. We see the depth of his perplexity. He asked questions, not to accuse God, but to seek the truth that he knew he was missing. How could a holy God use an unholy nation to accomplish a holy purpose? In thinking about these things we see that Habakkuk models for us James 1:19:

So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.

R – Restate

The second thing Habakkuk did was to restate the basic principles that he knew to be true. He went back in his mind before the problem had arisen and he recalled to his mind the truth that he was sure of before this came up. No matter what God was telling him and no matter how difficult it seemed that what God was saying was right, he knew for a fact that God was holy, pure, sovereign, faithful, and good. He asks a question and makes several statements about who God is to remind himself of these basic principles about God’s character.

Are You not from everlasting, O LORD my God, my Holy One? We shall not die. O LORD, You have appointed them for judgment; O Rock, You have marked them for correction. You are of purer eyes than to behold evil, And cannot look on wickedness. (Hab 1:12-13a)

A – Apply

The third thing Habakkuk did was to apply the principles to the problem. If God was from everlasting, with an eternal perspective, then this judgment was not the final chapter in His dealings with Judah. If God was pure and holy, then this coming judgment is not in itself evil, but will accomplish some good. If God really was sovereign, then this chapter of history, dark as it may seem, was not happening by accident or chance. And if God was unchanging (“O Rock”) then He would not abandon His people but would still fulfill His promises to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and David. He went back to basics and applied them to what He knew to be true, hoping that his faith would mature in the process so that he could see what God was doing and why He was doing it.

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food.

Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God…(Heb 5:12; 6:1)

C – Commit

The fourth thing that Habakkuk did was to commit it to God by faith. This invasion of Judah by the Chaldeans was a tool in God’s hand for correcting and purifying His people. God meant to do good to them by using a wicked people to accomplish His purposes. How could He do this? Habakkuk did not know. So he went to his watchtower (Hab 2:1).

The watchtower represents two things we must do in order to truly commit a problem to the Lord. First, he went away to wait for an answer, expecting God to answer him. And he also detached himself from the problem. He was up in a tall tower with a rampart, high above the city wall. From there he had a clear view, was all alone, had time to think, and sought for answers from the Lord.

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said that detaching himself from the problem for a time was “one of the most important principles in the psychology of the Christian life.” He went on to say:

It may be the problem of what we are to do with our lives; or it may be some situation that is confronting us which involves a difficult decision. Having failed to reach a solution, despite seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit, there is nothing more to do but to take it to God in prayer. But what so frequently happens is this. We go on our knees and tell God about the thing that is worrying us; we tell Him that we cannot solve the difficulty ourselves, that we cannot understand; and we ask Him to deal with it to show us His way. Then the moment we get up from our knees we begin to worry about the problem again. We also tell other people about it.

If we are doing this, we have not left the problem with God. If you have a problem like this, leave it with God. You do not have the right to talk about it or brood over it any longer.

In getting away from the problem, either by physical proximity, or mentally and emotionally, we need to learn the truth that just because we have a problem that does not mean that anything is wrong! God is still in control, and at times we simply must trust that He knows best.

Commit your way to the LORD, Trust also in Him, And He shall bring it to pass. (Psalm 37:5)

Commit your works to the LORD, And your thoughts will be established. (Prov 16:3)

K – Keep

The last thing Habakkuk did was to keep His commandments. He would obediently wait for God to answer, and in humility he even admits that when God answers He will likely have to be corrected. He was ready to give an appropriate answer when God corrected him. If something was wrong, if there was a contradiction between Habakkuk’s belief about the character of God and his experience of what God said He was going to do, then obviously the fault was not with God. Habakkuk needed to be corrected and he was ready to be obedient, humble, and teachable. In fact, we know from Scripture that we cannot say that we love God if we are not willing to obey Him. So Habakkuk expresses an obedient attitude and in so doing proves his love for God as he waits for an answer to his problem.

Whatever problem we face, we must be sure to do what we know to do while we are waiting for the answer. We must be obedient to the Word of God, and to our conscience. And if we come to understand truth, and are corrected by the Spirit through the Word of God and we have to change our minds about something, we must be ready and willing to cast off false doctrine and wrong beliefs for the sake of the truth out of love and obedience to our Lord.

For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome. (1 John 5:3)

You are my portion, O LORD; I have said that I would keep Your words. (Psalm 119:57)

These thoughts are highlights from the sermon “Perplexing Problems”. Listen online or download it for later – always FREE.

Be Renewed in the Spirit of Your Mind

November 26th, 2010

and be renewed in the spirit of your mind…Ephesians 4:23

Paul told us in Ephesians 4 that we are not to walk like “the Gentiles” (ie. those without Christ) walk but are instead to walk in a manner that is fitting for saints. We are to walk like we have heard and learned the truth from Jesus. This means that as we come to faith in Christ we must first repent. We must put off our former way of life, turning from our sin and turning to Christ in faith.

Continuing on with that theme here in verse 23, Paul tells us that after we put off that former conduct, our “old man” that only grows more and more corrupt, then we are to “be renewed in the spirit of your mind.” This is a rich verse so we will take a few minutes today to take it apart, looking at the two phrases he uses.

Be Renewed

Notice he does not say “act renewed.” It is not a command to learn about renewal or to start a renewal ministry or to find the secret of renewal. No. He says, be renenwed. And the way he says it the reader should already know how to be renewed and that their duty then is to actually “be renewed.”

When the Holy Spirit regenerates us we are indeed “born again.” Now we understand that when we repent and believe in Christ it is because we have been made a new creation. There is renewal. But being renewed in the spirit of our mind is not a one time act of renewal as when we are born again. This word means that from the time we repent and put on the new man (Eph 4:24), continuing through the rest of our life we are being renewed. It is the renewing of the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5) as an ongoing part of the new walk of the new man in this new life.

So the Holy Spirit continually renews and refreshes us. But how? The Word of God read, heard, obeyed, memorized, and meditated upon is the tool that the Holy Spirit uses to renew us and conform us to the image of Christ. As we are renewed we are indeed transformed (Rom 12:1-2) and as we are transformed our lives prove that God’s will is perfect, acceptable, and holy.

Do you need reviving? Do you need to rekindle your love for Christ? Do you need to grow in grace and get beyond a dry stagnant place in your walk with Christ?

Get into the Word!

Is it that simple? Yes. It really is.

At times when things are dry and it seems as though God does not hear our prayers or care about us – during those times we often are fooled and deceived into thinking that the Word of God is dry we do not pick it up and read it. We fail to understand that the Word of God is alive, active, powerful, effective, and sufficient. Don’t believe me? Try me! The next time you find yourself in that place of spiritual barrenness – read your Bible. Anywhere. Just pick a book or chapter and read it. Ask the Holy Spirit to open your mind to the truth and just read.

The truth is that we cannot read the Word of God and remain the same. The Word in the hands of the Spirit is used to bring about a continuing renewal. And we all know that we need renewal as often as the Spirit will renew us.

In the Spirit of Your Mind

The second phrase in verse 23 tells us where we are to continually be renewed. In the spirit of our mind. Okay. What is that? Our spirit? Our soul? Our mind? What exactly is “the spirit of your mind.”

This is a phrase that refers to the inner man, the very deepest part of who we are that determines how we think and what we do. This is our heart of hearts. And this is what is renewed day by day through the power of the Spirit applying the Word to our lives.

This deepest part of who we are must be renewed. True saving faith and repentance will be followed with this ongoing renewal which in fact began when we put on the new man. It must continue, for who we are, the spirit of our mind, is still embodied in this fallen flesh. And while the spirit wars against the flesh and the flesh against the spirit it is here in the spirit of our mind that we will win or lose the battle. For the spirit of our mind is that inner man, that part of us that determines what it is that we want (desire) and therefore what we do. Our motives and desires flow from the spirit of our mind.

How interesting then that the contrast here in these verses is that of the difference between how those with and without Christ walk. The lost man walks in the futility of his mind. The repenter walks with the spirit of his mind being renewed over and over again!

Where before we were unable to desire and do what was pleasing to God, now with the Spirit’s help we are in our very inner man motivated and empowered to both want to do what is right, and to do it. We now have a moral capability that before we did not. Whereas we were dead in sin now we are alive to God. Where we were ambivalently apathetic toward righteousness now righteousness is what we crave as though it were as necessary for life as hunger or thirst.

Interesting also that the very thing that the Spirit uses to call us to this new life is what He uses to continually renew us in our inner man. The “gospel” is “the power of God to salvation.” The Word of God cleanses us, sanctifies us, renews us, transforms us, convicts us, breaks us, motivates us, and empowers us. The Word never returns void. It always accomplishes the purposes for which God sends it forth. The written Word of God presents and reveals to us the Living Word of God.

Jesus once rebuked the Pharisees saying that they searched the Scriptures for law after law to obey so that they might be saved, but He said of the Scriptures, “they testify of Me” (John 5:39). The Word does not give us eternal life through a system of obedience and good works. No. It is used by the Spirit to prove that we cannot save ourselves, that we need a Savior, and that that Savior is Jesus Christ! The Word in the hands of the Spirit calls us to Christ.

No wonder then that the devil started in the garden by casting doubt on the Word of God. “Did God really say?” Do not underestimate the Word of God!

So as we repent and believe in Him we enter that continuing process of being renewed over and over again until the final redemption of our bodies at our glorification. This renewal continues until our salvation is complete. Of course, in God’s eyes it is complete, for Jesus declared from the cross, “It is finished.” He even refers to glorification in the past tense in Romans 8:30. But for us this must be worked out in time. And the way that it is worked out is through our sanctification. It is through the Spirit renewing and transforming us daily to the image of Christ.

So the secret is out – if we want to be renewed we must only pick up and read our Bibles, with the mindset to hear and do what it says. How many self help books can we toss out now? Is it really that simple? Yes it is. Paul tells us as simply as he is able by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit: “Be renewed in the spirit of your mind.”

B-Doe: Open Your Ears

October 23rd, 2010

Baltimore native B-Doe drops his first project – a freebie! Enjoy it.

B-Doe: Open Your Ears

Download the mixtape here: http://www.mediafire.com/file/0t4h15…our%20Ears.zip

The Breastplate of Righteousness

September 13th, 2010

Remember that we are at war. We cannot afford to forget the fight, or to become lazy, apathetic, or complacent. All around us spiritual battles are raging as the enemy seeks to disable us in our pursuit of pleasing God and to derail our work to proclaim the good news that Christ has come to set the prisoners free. This war has eternal ramifications. We are fighting to honor our King, to defend His truth, to advance His Kingdom, and to rescue captives. If we falter and fail we dishonor the One who bought us with His blood!

As we continue to look at each individual piece of armor that has been given to us by God in Christ, we now move to the second piece, the breastplate of righteousness. Remember from last week that the belt was foundational for the Roman soldier’s armor. The breastplate, and helmet were fastened to the belt, and the sheath for the sword was also attached within easy reach. Just as we learned about the belt of truth, so now we see that the breastplate is crucial for defense.

For the Roman soldier the breastplate was made of think layers of leather and fabric, or for higher ranking men, it was made of molded metal. It offered protection against swords, spears, and arrows. It protected the body from the neck to the waist, covering the chest and stomach as it protected vital organs like the heart, lungs, liver, and intestines. If anything got through the armor a wound to this section of the body could be devastatingly fatal at worst, or it could cause severe and disabling injury, removing the soldier from action.

For the believer, the breastplate is a breastplate of righteousness. Righteousness is a term that expresses rightness. In relation to God, to be righteous is to be holy. It is to be in a right state in our relationship with Him. So we see that to hunger and thirst after righteousness is to desire to be right with God.

Specifically to Scripture, there are three kinds of righteousness. There is imputed righteousness, imparted righteousness, and un-righteousness.

To compare the first two, we see that imputed righteousness is a right standing with God that is given to us, it is imputed. It is not our own righteousness. It is not righteous acts that we do. It is the righteousness of Christ that is given to us freely by grace as we are saved.

Christ lived a perfect and sinless life in obedience to the will and Word of God. When He died on the cross as our substitute taking our sin and its penalty upon Himself, there was a great exchange. He took from us that which kept us from a holy God, and He gave to us that which gives us access to a holy God. He took our sin and gave us His righteousness, His own obedience and right standing with God. When that righteousness was imputed to us and we were counted righteous, when we were justified by faith in Christ, God looked at us and saw Christ’s perfection.

Imparted righteousness is righteousness that results from our obedience to the Word of God. God has made us a new creation. He says in His Word that we are a new man created in righteousness and holiness. He even tells us that He has prepared good works for us by grace so that we might walk in them. From the Word of God we are sanctified, that is made more and more like Christ. And as we grow in this grace we learn to do what is right for the right reasons. These works, imparted to us and accomplished through us by the Spirit are pleasing to God.

Think of it this way – imputed righteousness refers to our position in Our Lord and imparted righteousness refers to our practice in our life. One speaks of who and what we are in Jesus. The other speaks of how we live as a result of who we are. We see then that imputed righteousness is necessary for imparted righteousness.

Our right standing with God motivates us and gives us the ability and power to do what is right. This is practical righteousness – practicing, that is doing over and over again, what is right in God’s sight. In order to do these good works we have to be obedient to principles of righteousness. We have to know the difference between good and evil, between that which pleases God and that which displeases Him.

Imputed righteousness opens the door for imparted righteousness, which in turn motivates us to apply principles of practical righteousness and results in our being obedient and therefore holy. Do we remember on a daily basis that God commands us to be holy? (1 Peter 1:15-16).

Holiness is easy, right? I mean, if we study the Scriptures we learn that God has given us everything that we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:2-4). So why is holiness so hard?

Holiness is difficult because when we look at what God’s Word says, it tells us just how many people without God are holy. Who is righteous without Christ?

There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one. – Romans 3:10-12 (quoting Psalm 14:2-3).

We see then that Christ alone is righteous. All that we have to offer outside of Christ is disgustingly evil and wicked (Isaiah 64:6). We might think that we can accomplish good things without God, and we may attribute good things to men and women who do not know Christ. But the truth is that without Christ we have nothing righteous to offer or to do. Even the good that we attempt for all the “right reasons” are but iniquity, sins of the self will, tainted by sin, and unholy.

We have looked at imputed righteousness and imparted righteousness, but what about the third type, that which is unrighteous?

Unrighteousness is wickedness, evil, and sin. We all know this unrighteousness when we see it, or at least we should. But sometimes unrighteousness disguises itself. At times it presents itself as self-righteousness, that form of righteousness that we have on our own without Christ. It may look good on the outside. It may look like we are doing what is right, being obedient to God. But when our heart is wrong, our attitude is selfish, and our motivation is driven by lust for the praise of men, then we see that the righteousness we have on our own is actually the complete lack of righteousness. It is the opposite of what it right.

When it comes to righteousness there are three kinds of people: Pharisees, Phonies, and Peculiar People.

The Pharisees were self righteous. They had no fear of men or God. All that mattered was that they were good and right and respected and looked up to and envied by others. It is a self serving code of works built upon the notion that we can work our way to heaven, pleasing God by all that we do and sacrifice for Him.

The Phonies are those who have a false righteousness. It is powerless morality based on the fear of men or on a desire to please God on our own terms. These are phony because they have an outward form of godliness but deny the very power that imputes and imparts righteousness to us.

The Peculiar People are those who fear God and have had Christ’s righteousness given to them. The have imputed righteousness and so are right with God and they see imparted righteousness working its way out in their daily lives as they seek to please and glorify God in all they do. They are peculiar because they are holy. They are separate from the world, they are different, they are full of power and joy and all the fruit of the spirit.

Do we desire to be right with God? Do we know the difference between the different kinds of righteousness? Are we trusting in Christ to save us as He gives us His righteousness, or are we foolish enough to think that we can be good enough on our own to please a holy God?

We have the breastplate of righteousness. Do we use it?

Sermon Series: The Whole Armor of God

Message 6 – The Breastplate of Righteousness – Eph 6:14

« Prev - Next »