Monday, July 27, 2009

Good, Thoughtful Questions

From time to time I receive interesting, thoughtful questions in response to a particular sermon I've preached.  This past Sunday I made reference to Romans 5:18-19, which speaks of Adam's disobedience which led to many being made sinners.  In contrast, by one man's obedience (Jesus Christ), many will be made righteous.  In response to these verses, a question was posed: (I will paraphrase it)  If our being made sinners is automatic, through Adam's disobedience, then why aren't we made righteous automatically through Jesus' obedience – irregardless of whether we believe or not?

I can see how one could easily come to the conclusion that this is what the text is teaching.  However, a closer look suggests otherwise. First, let's notice verses 15 & 16.  Paul states, "But the gift is not like the trespass…".  The "gift" refers to justification by God's grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.  Paul has already stated this in chapter 3:24.  So we can see that Paul is warning his readers not to draw a strict comparison between Adam's disobedience ("the trespass") and Christ's obedience ("the gift").

Paul gives the same warning in verse 16, "And the free gift is not like the result of that one man's sin."  The result of the one man's sin was that many were made sinners.  However, the free gift is  not like this – it is to be "received" (note verse 17).

We conclude that this is a consistent theme throughout Scripture:

 "But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God…" (John 1:12).

Pastor Van

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

A Book All Parents Must Have

Over the years I've been asked by parents, "Can you recommend a good book I can read to my children that will help explain biblical truths that are a bit difficult?"  I can now.

The book is entitled Big Truths for Young Hearts: Teaching and Learning the Greatness of God.  The author is Dr. Bruce Ware, professor of Christian theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.   Dr. Ware is a gifted writer and has provided a tremendous resource for all parents.  I agree with the recommendation of Mark Driscoll:

"A theologically rich resource to aid parents in training their children.  Anyone who wants to help children grow in their love for Jesus and understanding of the Bible needs this book."

This book was born out of family discussions at dinner - those "daddy daughter dates"- with his two daughters.  Bruce was passionate about sharing truths that would give his daughters confidence in their Christian faith.  It was in large part through his daughters encouragement that this book came about.

Chapter titles include:

One God in Three Persons

Pain and Suffering in the World God Controls

How Sin Spread to All People

But Is Jesus really the Only Savior?

You will benefit from this book – and so will your children.

Pastor Van

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Why Do You Do That?

I had a conversation recently with a fellow believer who attends a church in another city.  He said he had received Christ as his Savior and had been baptized, however, he was currently struggling over tithing (giving 10% of his income).  He said that he had been able to do so a few times, and that when he did he "felt good" and that "it made him proud". 

I asked the young man how he felt when he failed to give.  He replied, "I feel guilty."  I then asked, "Why do you give?"  He seemed puzzled at first that I would ask such a question.  I assured him that I was just curious, and that it was a good thing to know the true motivation behind our actions.  With that, he answered, "After our pastor preached on tithing, I told my wife, 'We've got to do this – I don't want to go to hell!'". 

I then asked, "Didn't you say earlier that Jesus was your Savior?"  He answered, "Yes."  I then asked if he felt that his giving would help his standing before God on judgment day, to which he answered "Yes."  So I asked, "Then who is saving who?"  He responded, "I'm saving myself."  Then, as if he suddenly realized what he had said, he remarked, "That didn't sound good."

Before the Apostle Paul ever became a follower of Christ, he had amassed quite a religious resume'.  He wrote about in his letter to the church at Philippi: "…circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law; blameless.  But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.  Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.  For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith…"

Paul was not going to stand before God, relying in any sense upon his own record (a righteousness of my own).  Why not Paul?  Why not bring that along?  Just in case of course!  Isn't it because that the truth of the gospel is that Christ's righteousness has saved us from God's wrath and hell already, and there's nothing we can or should attempt to add to that?

So what about our giving, what should our motivation to give be?  Our giving, our service, all that we do for the glory of God is not to be done to keep ourselves saved.  No, no, never!  We who are "found in Him" are to be motivated by joy and gratitude for the grace we have received – both past and future grace.

Pastor Van